..


Politics

  • Written by DARYL MANZIE


Our next guest will be, in fact he’s on the line now, we’ve got Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Good morning to you Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Daryl, great to be on the show with you.

DARYL MANZIE:

Indeed. It’s great to see you in Darwin and of course last night you had a pretty successful evening at the Lizards Bar they tell me.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah it went very well. It was great to meet lots of Darwinians and Territorians, it was fantastic. It was really good. Natasha, it was very good of her to introduce me to so many people. We had a good lively discussion. You know we streamed it on Facebook, so a lot of other people saw it as well. I think some of the TV networks broadcast in to it. I had a great walk this morning by the way Daryl, I hadn’t seen the new waterfront precinct before.

DARYL MANZIE:

It’s pretty good isn’t it.

PRIME MINISTER:

They’ve done a beautiful job. It really is, it’s a very interesting to walk around it. You know, it’s a great scale and you can see real evidence that the way in which Darwin is growing and thriving and benefiting from many of the elements of our economic plan, which is focused on the big open markets in Asia, which you are the gateway to. Focused on obviously on investing in our defence, our defence industries and our defence establishments which of course is a big part of the local economy here. So it’s been good.

I’ve just been with Natasha talking with cancer patients and people who’ve recovered from cancer about the importance of the new PET scanner that we are going to provide for the fund for the hospital.

DARYL MANZIE:

That was an announcement which I think was welcomed by just about everyone, there’s no doubt about that. Now listen, just talking about the development that has occurred here and of course with the Free Trade Agreements and treaties that have been, you know, Andrew Robb’s put together. Developing the north, I mean there was disappointment expressed by a number of commentators, that the budget didn’t sort of mention anything in relation to developing the North. What actually is your perspective on what’s going to happen here and what sort of, I guess, future we’ve got in the short term and the long term in regards to that development.

 

PRIME MINISTER:

Developing northern Australia Darryl is an absolutely central part of our economic plan. You mentioned the big trade export deals, of which northern Australia is a big beneficiary. You’re right that’s providing growth right across the country. Obviously another good example of what we’ve done there is re-opening the large cattle export trade to Indonesia, which the Labor party so recklessly shut down, and undermined our relations with our nearest neighbour as well.

But can I say that in terms of the funding, we have - I mentioned defence earlier - over $8 billion going in to defence establishments here in the territory, over the next decade. That’s part of an upgrading of the ADF’s capabilities right around the country. Also we have specifically the Northern Australia Infrastructure fund, that’s got $5 billion which will be made available in concessional loans, to support investment in economic infrastructure, including for example, water infrastructure, irrigation projects, which are really are a huge opportunity. As you know, most of Australia’s water falls in Northern Australia but we capture and manage very, very little of it. Now there is enormous potential there, I’m a bit of a water fanatic myself. If you remember we talked about this when I was the Water Minister years ago I think. So there is a big commitment. You have the Northern Australia taskforce which of course headquartered in Darwin. Northern Australia is our frontier. It is in many respects Australia’s future, because our economic future is so tied in to those big open markets in Asia and you are, right here in Darwin in particular, the gateway to Asia.

 

Daryl Manzie:

 

You talked about defence spend of course. That has always been significant in the Territory but the presence of the marines which are pretty much welcomed by everyone in the North here, what is happening there? There hasn’t been any great growth in that, but I think the agreement talks about increasing numbers substantially over the years. What is going on with that and the arrangements in terms of cost sharing?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well in terms of the cost sharing that is being negotiated. This is cost sharing in terms of the facilities at Robertson and so forth that is all being negotiated and is in the course of being settled. But the commitment from the US to rotate the marines through Darwin, through you know Northern Australia and Darwin in particular, is there. I mean there has been no change to that. We are seeing closer collaboration with the US in that regard all the time.

 

Daryl Manzie:

 

It’s good to hear that. Because I guess you can’t talk out loud about the details and things like that but I just think it’s something that we need to ensure that support continues and grows and the message is getting around. Look the other thing I was going to ask with defence – obviously upgrading the naval patrol boats will require a different facility to service them because the present one won’t be capable of handling the size of vessel that the new patrol boats will be. Is there a commitment to ensure that we get those upgrades to enable us to carry out the servicing, rather than say send them off to Singapore or off to Perth?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Daryl you’re right. The new Offshore Patrol Vessels which are being built initially in Adelaide and the balance in Perth, they are larger vessels and they will require larger facilities for docking and maintenance wherever they are stationed. Of course that includes Darwin principally and also Cairns. So yes that is part of the $8 billion of additional investment over the next decade.

 

Daryl Manzie:

 

Well that’s good to hear too. The thing that has been raised several times I think you, we are hoping that you might make an announcement now about it, is the backpacker tax and the need for us to attract people to work in our tourism and fruit picking areas especially mango season. What is happening there? Because there is an undercurrent on the social media which is really signalling young people, don’t come to Australia, go somewhere else. What is going to be happening there because it’s a pretty important point?

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well what we are doing is we are going to delay the changes for 6 months. So there is no, the backpacker tax as it were is not going to apply for 6 months. We are going to postpone that and in the course of that period there is going to be a review. Barnaby Joyce’s department, the Deputy Prime Minister’s Department of Agriculture will oversee, will obviously liaising with tourism and other departments to ensure that we get the right balance because clearly there is a legitimate concern from businesses in not just the hospitality sector but in particular in horticulture and agriculture that collecting tax at this level on these working holiday visitors is going to, you know, result in labour shortages and we don’t want to have that. So we have listened and we are going to review it over the next 6 months.

 

DARYL MANZIE:

 

Prime Minister I thank you for your time I know that you’re very, very busy. We appreciate talking to you and we look forward to talking to you again. One last question, I was just talking to Marie Brett-Howe who is the head of early childhood Australia. She asked me what – to ask you – what are you going to do about raising the status of early childhood professionals in Australia and in the Territory in particular.

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Well can I just say we have a childcare policy which we’ve not been able to introduce, we’ve not been able to enact because of the opposition in the Senate. That hopefully will be different in the next parliament. What that would do is increase the level of the childcare benefit, the childcare subsidy, to people on lower and lower-middle incomes up to 85 percent of the cost. That is going to make it a lot easier for families on lower and lower middle incomes to access childcare and thereby increase participation in the workforce. So we’re putting a lot more resources behind childcare to do that. It’s a very important part of our policy, but as I said we’ve been blocked because of the Senate. But we’ll have a new Senate after the 2nd of July. In terms of the status of those workers, I’m not sure what she means by that. Can I just say that anyone who is working with our children and looking after our children has the highest status. You know, the teachers. All of us are the product of our parents of course, but behind our parents comes our teachers and the people that care for us as little children. I was just nursing a couple of little boys out with Natasha Griggs earlier at the museum. You know those little guys, they’re being moulded by their mothers and their fathers and their grandmother was there, but of course the people who care for them right through their education.

 

DARYL MANZIE:

 

Prime Minister we do thank you very much for spending some time with our audience and we hope you enjoy your time here and also we want to see you back again before the next election.

 

PRIME MINISTER:

 

Thank you Daryl I’ll be back. Looking forward to it and look forward to seeing you again.