TRANSCRIPT: Bigger Tax Cuts for More Australians; Operation Sovereign Borders; Defence Strategic Review; Live Music in Australia; Fee Free Tafe; Death of Alexei Navalny


SUBJECTS: Bigger Tax Cuts for More Australians; Operation Sovereign Borders; Defence Strategic Review; Live Music in Australia; Fee Free Tafe; Death of Alexei Navalny

SHARON CLAYDON MP, MEMBER FOR NEWCASTLE: All right, that is brilliant. So that is the big welcome to Newcastle siren, Prime Minister, East End Boardriders have got the show underway. So delighted to have you back to Newcastle, and just this morning having an opportunity to meet with so many Novocastrians, from all different kinds of professions, who stand to benefit from the reconsideration of the stage three tax cuts. I've got to tell you, it has been a hoot to have so many conversations, you know, with so many people that have great appreciation really, that the Government has listened, has listened to, you know, the pain that some people have been experienced in terms of cost and living pressures. And this has been a really welcome relief. So handing straight across to you Prime Minister, a long-time friend of Newcastle, and it's just fabulous to have you back.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much, Sharon. And it is great to be back in Newcastle. Can I thank the hundreds of people who came to the Hunter Nexus dinner last night at Newcastle Town Hall. It was members of the Hunter business community, the academic community, people came from Muswellbrook, from Singleton, right throughout the region, talking about the great future that this great region has, as our economy transforms, this is an era of opportunity for the Hunter. And just like when the Hunter sees the opportunities that were there, when in the late 90s the steelworks closed, many people wrote off this great city, but no one in this city did anything but become more determined, and more, more conscious of the need to diversify the economy, to create jobs, to create a new economy here in the Hunter. And they did that. In the coming decades again, that can happen. This region is really well positioned to benefit from the changes in our economy. And last night, what I got out of that event was the sense of optimism that was there from business, from investors, from the University, from TAFE sector, from others here in Hunter, and I do want to thank the Hunter Business Community in particular for hosting us there yesterday evening. Now, this morning, we've been talking, just near here, with local constituents, about the impact of Labor's cost of living tax cuts, because they will make an enormous difference for people here in the Hunter. We want every taxpayer to receive a tax cut, not just some. And under Labor's plan, people will earn more, and they'll get to keep more of what they earn. Peter Dutton wants people to work longer for less. That's a great divide in Australian politics at the moment. Now this morning, we met David, an account manager from Lambton - he'll be $1,300 better off from July one. Sarah - Sarah from Waratah, a working mum, she told me she's worked it all out dollar for dollar - $2,868 better off. Working hard to make ends meet, this will make an enormous difference. And the other difference it will make, is people who will now be encouraged to go back and work part time, or work an extra day. All those people, and we met two family groups this morning as well as singles, who will benefit as well. Those family groups, as the mums return to work, will return to work for an extra day, and will keep more of what they earn, making an enormous difference to those family budgets. It was so pleasing to meet people here in Newcastle, for whom our tax cuts are welcomed, because they will make that difference. Now, this wasn't an easy decision that the Government made. It was the right decision, done for the right reasons, at the right time. And every worker who I meet, who expresses gratitude for the Government being prepared to take a different position to benefit them, particularly low and middle income earners, it gives me great heart that we have done the right thing. And that's what we're elected to do, to make the tough decisions, not the easy ones, so my Government's been prepared to do that. We're happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Albanese, what can you tell us about the boat of asylum seekers that arrived off of WA yesterday?
PRIME MINISTER: I have spoken with the Minister, Claire O'Neil, but I've also spoken with the Commander of the Joint Agency Task Force Operations on Sovereign Borders, Rear Admiral Brett Sonter, and I've been fully briefed on what's occurred. We don't talk about the detail of operational matters, but I'm very comfortable that the Operation Sovereign Borders has been put in place. It's the same system that operated before. And we will make announcements about what has occurred there through Operation Sovereign Borders, imminently, when that occurs.
JOURNALIST: Are you worried that people are exploiting the NZYQ decision to entice people to take the dangerous journey to Australia?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we - our position on Operation Sovereign Borders is very clear, and people who attempt to arrive here by boat will not settle here. Our position is clear. And, I do say for people in public life to have a look at the very clear, strong and unequivocal message sent by Rear Admiral Sonter last night in the very clear statement that he made. We do not seek to politicise national security issues. And it is unfortunate when any politician seeks to do so. And I'd ask them to have a look at the clear statements that were made by the Chief of Operation Sovereign Borders.
JOURNALIST: Just on that, the Opposition Leader says people smugglers, quote: “pick out a weak leader." What's your response to that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think that says more about him than anything else. The clear statement by the leader of the Operation Sovereign Borders operations, is very clear, that was made last night.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Albanese is Defence looking to offload prime real estate to fund military acquisitions and the updating of bases?
PRIME MINISTER: No, we are operating very clearly in accordance with the Defence Review that took place. When we have surplus land of course, from time to time, that will be dealt with, in order to build housing, as one of the things that we need to do with public land in general whether it’s Commonwealth or State land. So, we are very confident that we have got the Defence Strategic Review, it provides a roadmap going forward, and that's what we're operating from.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Albanese there was sad news here in Newcastle this week, that Groovin the Moo Regional Music Festival was cancelled. It’s the second festival to be cancelled here in Newcastle. What can your Government potentially do to support regional music and music festivals?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, if you look at what we've done, as part of our review, and our support for the arts sector, we're creating Music Australia. My Government thinks that people's quality of life is about, the economy first and second, and their standard of living, but we recognise as well that culture and creative activity is an important component of leading a fulfilling life. And that's why, under Tony Burke you're seeing a massive change from the Government. We support live music, we support events, we support the creation of the structures through Music Australia. I did see that and of course Groovin the Moo was also a, it's a regional festival that goes to Canberra, and I know that people in Canberra, now my home, were really regretting it. I did note when I came into Newcastle, the billboard still there with Alice in Wonderland, leading what was a pretty handy line-up, I must say, of artists there. So I think that will be disappointing. But we do have an incredible live music scene here in Australia. And I think the quality of artists coming up through the ranks is just extraordinary. The new albums from G Flip and Angie McMahon, I recommend both of them to anyone watching this interview. They are sensational. And I think that for young people as well, these music festivals are an opportunity for people to get together, enjoy each other's company, and meet a whole range of people they wouldn't meet otherwise. And there are of course festivals aimed not just at young people, but the Byron Bay Blues Festival and others as well. We have a fantastic live music scene in this country. I think it is rivalling the music scene that I was lucky enough to come from the generation of Oils and Chisels and INXS and others, seeing them at local pubs. But I think now, it's different through these music festivals. But I want to see them continue and to be held wherever possible.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you're here to speak about tax changes and obviously cost of living. Newcastle has a massive, it's a massive university town, will there be any consideration on freezing indexation to help with student loans?
PRIME MINISTER: We think, one of the things I spoke about last night at Newcastle University is that Newcastle University has a nation leading system of having essentially fee free courses in order to attract students. And over the years, something like 50,000 people have gone through Newcastle University. One of those is someone called Jodie Haydon, who I'm close to, as you might have noticed over the last week, a graduate of Newcastle University. So I'm very conscious about the fantastic role that Newcastle Uni plays here as a driver of the economy as well, not just in terms of students, but the work that it does in research, the work that it does in collaboration with the mining sector and with industry, is so important for this town. And additional to that, the campus down there at Ourimbah is where we launched our policy for Fee Free TAFE - 300,000 Australians last year began courses for free through TAFE. That's made an incredible difference to them as individuals, but tell you what it’ll do, it'll make a big difference to our economy as well. Because people in the care sector, aged care, child care, as well as our carpenters, our plumbers, our electricians, have all been given those apprenticeships, given those starts, and they've done it free of charge. An enormous difference, and we have an additional 300,000 places beginning this year,
JOURNALIST: Who do you hold responsible for Alexei Navalny’s death?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is of course, a tragedy. And Australia is shocked and saddened by the news of Alexei Navalny’s death, and we hold Vladimir Putin and the Russian regime responsible for this death in prison. Vladimir Putin is an authoritarian, and we have a divide in the world between authoritarian regimes and democracies. Just to our north, we've seen the greatest democratic exercise on a single day in human history, with the election of a new president of Indonesia on February 14. And it stands in stark contrast, we cannot take democracy for granted we need to cherish it and nurture it. And we need to call out the behaviour of authoritarians like Vladimir Putin. Thanks very much.