The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP – Our success as a multicultural nation

The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP – Our success as a multicultural nation

PRIME MINISTER:

Well jobs and growth in Townsville. Our economic plan is committed to ensuring that we have stronger economic growth and more jobs. Here in this great port, this port city of Townsville, 11 million tonnes being exported at the moment, rising to 40 million tonnes in the decades ahead.

The new rail corridor is going to enable that to happen. 1.4km trains will be enabled now. This is a $150 million commitment on a project that has massive economic benefits for this city. It has been on the Infrastructure Australia priority list – in fact it has been one of those projects that successive Queensland governments have identified as having to be built.

Its time has come. We are committing $150 million to it and we expect to be working with the Queensland Government to make it happen. It is going to drive jobs and growth here in Townsville.

This is the largest sugar export port. It’s a massive exporter of minerals and of course it is the second largest export port for live cattle.

This port is vital to the economy of North Queensland and our commitment here adds on to the already substantial commitments we are making to infrastructure here in North Queensland. Over a billion into local defence establishments and in addition to that, we have $1.2 billion that is going to be invested into the facilities at the Townsville field training area by the Singaporean Government following the new upgraded comprehensive strategic partnership concluded between my Government and that of the Singapore Government just a few weeks ago.

This is big investment, big economic infrastructure here in North Queensland, driving jobs and growth.

JOURNALIST:

This will help go towards the section inside the port and then a business case. Is that correct?

PRIME MINISTER:

The commitment is the $150 million, which we estimate is at least 50 per cent of the cost of the project. It will – there are a number of potential alignments through the State development area, as you know, coming around to the south of the city. That will – we will conclude that with the State Government but putting that money on the table means the project should now go ahead. This has been a top priority. Anna Bligh has talked about it. The current Premier has talked about it. This is a very high priority for Townsville as my colleagues, as Ewen and George and Ian Macdonald and the Minister for Infrastructure Darren Chester are all here attesting to the importance of this project.

JOURNALIST:

Labor is claiming that this is a project with no detail. You are saying that is not the case at all?

PRIME MINISTER:

There is a full cost benefit analysis done as long ago as 2011 by GHD. It is on the Infrastructure Australia priority list. This is a project that will be built at some point. It is one of those projects that has to be built. It is like the project we committed to in South Australia recently – the Tonsley rail extension. These are absolutely rolled, gold, economic infrastructure with a big payoff in jobs and growth. What you need is strong economic leadership to get them built. That is what we’re providing.

JOURNALIST:

Labor is also saying that the money committed to the super stadium – that would have been enough to completely fund the stadium project. What do you say to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Economic infrastructure, the Port of Townsville, exports; these are all part of our economic plan. I can understand the Labor Party would rather support a football stadium. Let me say to you that this economic infrastructure is going to drive jobs and growth in this city. The future of Townsville is as a great port. This is the great export port of North Queensland. This rail corridor adds to that potential enormously. Everyone who understands the future of Townsville and its importance recognises that.

As we were discussing a moment ago with Adrian Gabrielli there is the big opportunity for urban renewal to replace the old rail yards and the old rail alignment which runs through the middle of the city. Ewen was explaining how, as you know living here, you would know how often people get held up by the long trains going through the city. That won’t happen in the future. There will be a new rail corridor, longer trains, more trains, more exports and more jobs. That is why we have opened up the big markets in Asia with our trade export deals. We are committed to that.

JOURNALIST:

Will there be money for a super stadium in the Coalition’s campaign?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have received the business case and are looking at it very carefully.

JOURNALIST:

With the situation overseas, there have been concerns raised as far back as December about the security situation at Baghdad embassy. A man has now been shot dead. Are you concerned about the situation there and are you going to launch an inquiry into the matter?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Australian Federal Police are currently investigating the matter. The inquiry or investigation is underway right now.

JOURNALIST:

Do you back the Immigration Minister’s comments on refugees?

PRIME MINISTER:

Peter Dutton is an outstanding Immigration Minister. For more than 600 days, there has not been one successful people smuggler operation bringing unauthorised arrivals to Australia. He has done an outstanding job as Immigration Minister.

Let me say something about our immigration program. We are one of the most generous host countries for refugees. We take our responsibilities to refugees very seriously.

As Peter was saying earlier today, many of them come to Australia from shattered areas of the world. They are from dreadful, devastated, war-torn regions of the world and many of them, large percentages of them have no English skills at all. Many of them are illiterate in their own language. Many of them have not completed high school. That is no fault of theirs. That is why we are reaching out to help them with compassion.

What we do, in a way that many other countries do not, we invest hundreds of millions of dollars – $800 million a year – in ensuring they get the settlement services they need, so they learn English, so they are integrated into our society. That is why we are the most successful multicultural society in the world.

You see, our immigration program is built on a pillar of compassion which means that we take the refugees and their needs seriously and we invest in them.

Now, what the Labor Party is proposing to do, as you know, is to double the refugee intake. That is presumably some gesture to the Greens who of course want to quadruple it. But they have made no estimation of what the additional cost would be. It will run into billions of dollars. Nor have they considered whether we have the capacity in our settlement services to ensure those additional refugees are settled here.

And if I just conclude on this point – we should never forget this – our success as a multicultural nation, our success depends upon secure borders. Australians accept this high level of refugee intake, this large humanitarian program because they know that their Government keeps their borders secure. We keep the borders secure. Peter Dutton, as Immigration Minister, is keeping the borders secure. Mr Shorten on the other hand, leads a party that is utterly divided on this issue and would, once again, were they to be in government, once again fail Australians at the border.

JOURNALIST:

[Speaks indistinctly] many of them are illiterate and can’t speak English. Do you honestly believe, as Peter Dutton does, they would take the jobs of Australians if it is increased?

PRIME MINISTER:

The reality that many of the immigrants are – this is no criticism – can I be quite clear about this? There is no criticism. People that are coming out of the war-ravaged areas – out of the Horn of Africa and other places in the world, of course, many of them have never been employed. Many of them have not had very much education. Many of them are illiterate in their own languages. That is no fault of theirs. That is not a basis for criticising them.

What it is, as Peter has identified, is a basis for us taking our responsibilities seriously and ensuring that we take into Australia the number of refugees that we can effectively settle.

You see, Labor’s approach to immigration is one of gesture politics. I mean, today of course Mr Shorten is being shrill and carrying on because he wants to distract from Mr Feeney’s omissions, who overlooked a $2.3 million negatively geared house. Well, that is quite a lot to overlook but I will leave that to Mr Feeney and Mr Shorten to explain. What Australians want to know is that the immigration program is being well run, it is being well resourced. Refugees are getting the support they need to integrate into the community and of course our borders are secure.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Dutton also said that they will take Australian jobs. That creates an element of fear. Surely that language is not appropriate to be used?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let’s be quite clear about this. Everybody that comes to Australia, we want them to be able to seek employment. We want to be sure that they have got the skills to do so. We have seen strong employment growth in Australia because of our economic plan, because of the focus we have on growth and jobs. The trade export deals I have talked about, innovation, supporting business, all of these measures, economic infrastructure like this, this is what is driving jobs and growth and immigrants, whether they come through the refugee channel or otherwise, we want them to become part of our work force. We want them, and I am sure they do to –

JOURNALIST:

But you can see how that wording does create fear.

PRIME MINISTER:

Please

JOURNALIST:

Immigration and border protection is notoriously hot as an election issue in this country over recent history. Do you, as our Prime Minister seriously want a deeply hot and divisive asylum and border protection argument running for the next six weeks?

PRIME MINISTER:

Border protection and immigration are and always have been key political issues. But our position is very straightforward. We have a strong border protection policy. We have denied the people smugglers the product they want to market. They cannot get their boats to Australia. That is why we are not seeing thousands of people put on boats, leaky boats, many of them drowning at sea. That has been a profoundly humanitarian act and we have been successful.

Now the last time the Australian people entrusted the Labor Party with Government, despite our warnings and my warnings in particular, I was the Leader of the Opposition at the time. I remember this debate keenly. I begged Kevin Rudd not to abandon our border protection policy and he did. And we saw what happened. He did because his party does not have a commitment to strong borders any more than Mr Shorten’s party does. That is Labor’s fundamental problem.

In terms of migration and refugees, we are increasing our refugee intake, as you know from 13,000 up to 18,000 over the next few years. In addition to that, we are taking 12,000 from the Syrian conflict zone. And the point that Peter Dutton makes is a very important one, that so many of those who come lack English skills, they lack often literacy in their own language, they have come from war ravaged, war torn areas, they deserve our compassion and our support and believe me, we give that to them. That is why we have a successful immigration program.

Can I tell you, many countries in the world, accept many refugees into their countries and effectively forget them. We don’t. We spend a lot of our tax money on our refugee program to make sure that they are educated, that they are integrated, that they have got the chance to get ahead and be part of Australian society as they want to be and we want them to be also. That is why this is – when the left and the Labor Party and their friends in the Greens, their future partners perhaps in the Greens, play gesture politics with that.

Let me tell you, what we’re concerned about in the Coalition is nation building. We are concerned about ensuring that our extraordinarily successful multicultural society continues to be successful. And one of the pillars upon which that has been based is our immigration program and the way in which we invest in those refugees and we give them the support.

So Peter is right to draw attention to that. We have got to do the job properly. Labor does not. For Labor it is all gestures and of course at the moment, gestures to the Greens. They are targeting Green voters and that is why you are seeing Bill Shorten shriller every day, more personal every day and moving further to the left every day.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister just on superannuation, do you think that the $1.6 million pension transfer limit is appropriate when interest rates are so low? And are you worried that this will result in not much retirement income at all for some?

PRIME MINISTER:

It has been calculated by Treasury that that amount would provide an income around four times – equal to four times the aged pension. On that basis, my answer is yes, that is a substantial amount. You have to remember that while there is only 1% of Australians have more than $1.6 million in their superannuation account, if somebody had more than $1.6 million in their retirement account, for

example under our changes, which are fair and are equitable, they would be paying no tax on the earnings from the $1.6 million. They would be paying 15% which is still a low rate of tax on the earnings from the balance in excess of $1.6 million. So yes, people on very high incomes, people with large superannuation balances, will have to pay a bit more tax. But we believe that is fair and it enables us to make the super system work better for people on lower incomes, for women in particular, for older Australians. It also enables us to back business and back the small and medium businesses whose enterprise and whose energy and investment is driving jobs across the country.

JOURNALIST:

Was Mr Dutton sent out to make those comments as part of a deliberate strategy as Mr Shorten suggested or is he freelancing?

PRIME MINISTER:

Mr Shorten, I’m afraid, is freelancing at the moment. It is a long campaign. He is getting shriller every day. It is going to be quite challenging I think for you to deal with him by the time we get to the end of the campaign, unless he slows up a bit.

JOURNALIST:

When you became Prime Minister, you promised a new wave of positivity and optimism and intelligent debate and there is a Minister engaging in what some are calling as xenophobic dialogue which you haven’t distanced yourself from today. Is this the campaign you wanted to run?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me just repeat a few facts of life.

We are the most successful multicultural society in the world. We are an immigrant society. We take a large number of refugees through the humanitarian channel. We integrate them and settle them better than any other country. The reason we do that is because we invest a lot of money and a lot of time, a lot of hand holding in supporting them. That pays dividends – both for the immigrants, the humanitarian immigrants, the refugees and for all Australia. We make no bones about the fact that we have a very generous immigration policy, a generous refugee policy, but you have got to do it right.

If you start, as Labor is proposing, wanting to double the refugee intake – and the Greens wanting to more than quadruple it – if you do that and you don’t have the capacity or the resources to provide the settlement services we do, then you will get a very, very adverse outcome. I don’t need to elaborate on that. I just want to make the point that we, all of us Australians, every single one of us, every one of our 24 million Australians should be proud of what we have achieved with our immigration policies and the humanitarian channel and the way in which we have reached out to people. We have settled over 850,000 refugees since the Second World War in this country and we have done so very successfully. We have done so because we have invested in the services that support them. I repeat, many countries allow refugees in and then forget about them. We don’t. We make sure that it works and Peter is doing an outstanding job as Immigration Minister, both at the border and in terms of settling those immigrants when they come here.

Just one more please.

JOURNALIST:

On the Greens Prime Minister, they’ve announced that they’re going to fully fund the Safe Schools

Program. Are you concerned about that or should Labor rule it out?

PRIME MINISTER:

As you know, what we have done – what Minister Birmingham, Senator Birmingham had an independent review of the Safe Schools Program and it’s been modified only really to the extent that there is more parental involvement and consent in it, which I think most parents would find reassuring. But obviously Labor’s – Labor and the Greens are heading in a trajectory of their own.

We are committed to schools that are safe. Bullying of any kind, whatever the basis, whether it is on gender or appearance or race or religion or sexual orientation, bullying is unacceptable in any school.

Thank you all very much for being here today. It’s a great day for Townsville. Thank you.

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