Subjects: Visit to the Central Coast; new jobactive services to help more jobseekers into work; NorthConnex; Budget 2015; Growing Jobs and Small Business package; same sex marriage; Gosford Tax Office; insurance premiums; media ownership laws.
LUCY WICKS: Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for being here. It is a great pleasure to be able to welcome the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, to the Central Coast and also the Assistant Minister for Employment, Luke Hartsuyker. May I join with Karen McNamara, our outstanding Member for Dobell, in welcoming all of you to the best region in the best country in the world.
I really do want to say thank you to Kieran and to Rob. They do an outstanding job. This is a great local business that is not only seeing an increase in its annual turnover and doing an outstanding job here on the Central Coast, but is also helping our young job seekers have a go and get ahead.
I just loved hearing some of the stories, including Aaron's story who, after one day of having a go, getting an opportunity right here, in an outstanding local business, has been working full-time here for nearly two years now. This is an example of what jobactive can do.
I’d like to pass over to the Prime Minister to say a few more words about that. Before I do, can I say how proud I am to be part of a Coalition Government that is so determined to deliver jobs for the Central Coast. We see that because we know that we have got 600 new jobs coming into Gosford, creating an additional hundreds of more jobs as a result of this by the end of 2017. We know this because of the investment of $10 million announced in this year's Budget into the Somersby Industrial Park just up the road – a great local partnership project with Gosford City Council. The economic modelling demonstrates that this investment will create around 3,000 new jobs for the Central Coast. We know this because nationally since the election there has already been around 290,000 new jobs created across Australia.
This it is a Government that is determined to deliver on more jobs here for people on the Central Coast and it is a great privilege to be able to welcome the Prime Minister here today.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you so much, Lucy and, yes, it is great to be here with you and with Karen McNamara – the members for Robertson and Dobell. It’s also great to be here with Luke Hartsuyker the Assistant Minister for Employment, the Minister who is most responsible for the new jobactive system, which is about connecting the job seekers of Australia with the employers of Australia and doing it more effectively than ever before.
Just a few words about the Central Coast before I talk about jobactive. This is a national government which is very much focused on the Central Coast. We have got two very active local members who are determined to ensure that the Central Coast is never forgotten.
Yes, Lucy's just mentioned the move of one of our major agencies up to Gosford – that will create 600 direct jobs. But we are not just trying to create jobs on the Central Coast, we are better connecting the Central Coast to Sydney, we are better connecting the Central Coast to other places where there are jobs through our investment in NorthConnex. NorthConnex would not be happening without a good Coalition state government working with a good Coalition national government to give the Central Coast, along with the rest of Australia, the modern infrastructure that it needs.
We need physical infrastructure, we need human infrastructure and that's where jobactive comes in. I had the honour of being the Employment Minister for several years in the Howard Government and one of the great legacies of the Howard Government was the Job Network which was a great improvement on the old Commonwealth Employment Service, but jobactive builds on the foundation of Job Network and Job Services Australia.
There are three key differences in our jobactive system which I would like to draw people's attention to. The first is that the jobactive providers are going to be absolutely focused on getting people into work. The vast majority of their funding, and there is more than $1.5 billion a year available, but the vast majority of their funding will be for actually putting people into work, not on just processing people, not on training for training’s sake, but putting people into work.
There's also for the job seekers going to be a real stress on taking the opportunities that are available. It's great that we have got people here at this business, who have taken the opportunities that are available and have transformed their lives as a result of that.
The third feature of jobactive is going to be the stress on work for the dole. It's very important that we focus not on what people can't do, but on what they can do, and that's what work for the dole is all about. Every long-term unemployed person under 50 will be expected to be involved in work for the dole or to be otherwise active to help himself or herself and to help the community.
One of the features of jobactive is going to be that you will be able to stay on benefit and do up to four weeks of work experience with a private sector employer. So, this is going to give unemployed people a much better chance than ever before to connect with someone who can set up their future by giving them a job.
So, I'm very pleased and proud to be here with Luke Hartsuyker. Luke and Eric Abetz have worked very, very hard on this. I think they are entitled to be very proud of the work they have done and I might now ask Minister Luke Hartsuyker to support these remarks.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT: Thank you, Prime Minister. Certainly, the commencement of jobactive is a great day for job seekers and employers. We see a massive $6.8 billion investment in getting more people from welfare into work, to deliver a better service to job seekers and a better service to employers. And part of jobactive is the way we have brought the components together. We have the potential for people to transition through work for the dole, seamlessly into a work experience placement in a commercial enterprise and then potentially on to a subsidised job. So, we have worked very hard to bring the components together to maximise the chances of getting people into employment, to mean that our employers can see jobactive providers as a first port of call when they are seeking to fill a vacancy. That's very important. Our jobactive providers are targeted with giving a quality service to employers, so that they can put on a participant who is seeking to find work through the employment services system that jobactive represents.
So, it's a great new system. It will deliver better outcomes. It is absolutely focused on delivering people into work.
PRIME MINISTER: Karen?
KAREN MCNAMARA: Thank you. Unfortunately, for too long the unemployment rate on the Central Coast has been unacceptable levels when you look, it's well above the national and state level. It's fantastic that we now have this jobactive programme and I commend the Prime Minister and also the Assistant Minister for Employment because I have been knocking on their doors for the last two years saying we need to do something about this.
Unfortunately, previous programmes by the previous government failed. Now we are seeing a quality programme introduced where we'll get value for money as well. So, I have already started working with work for the dole. It's been in Dobell now for quite a while and I must say it's an extremely successful programme. What this is about is giving opportunities to people on the Central Coast. We have so many of our young people leaving the coast because they can't get employment. So, this is opportunity now to, hopefully, get employment on the Central Coast, but it also works in conjunction with small business.
As you know, the Budget we announced some great things for small business. So, it's about making sure people are job-ready and there are actually jobs available. As you know, small business is the engine room of our economy, and I'm proud to be part of a Government that supports small business as well.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Karen. Do we have any questions?
QUESTION: Prime Minister you made your way around the room this morning. Any issues brought up by the community that stood out for you?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, it was a very broad-based group that Karen had brought together at the Mingara Club and, obviously, it's good to have the chance to meet with such a wide range of local leaders and later on this afternoon I'll be doing something similar with Lucy Wicks in her area.
I guess the great concern is: what do we do for the young people of Australia? How do we ensure that their futures are as bright and as exciting as the futures that we had to look forward to 10, 20 or 30 years ago? That’s where this jobactive is so important because so many of us get a large sense of self, a large sense of our identity, our purpose, our role in life, from the work we do. So, that's why I'm so pleased to have this jobactive system. It's yet another example of how the Government is getting on with doing what it was elected to do – which is all about jobs, growth, national security – and jobactive is a key part of that plan.
QUESTION: The biggest talking point in Australia at the moment, arguably, is that of gay marriage. Will your Party Room debate whether to have a free vote on gay marriage?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm not sure that it's the only talking point, or even that it's the biggest one, but certainly, over the last 12 or 24 hours, it has excited a lot of the media and I certainly accept that it's an important issue. It's an important issue upon which decent people can differ. There are a lot of views in the community –
strongly-held views – on both sides of this issue. There are some strongly-held views on both sides of this issue in the Parliament.
I just want to offer two thoughts. The first is that it's quite unusual for private members’ bills to come on for debate and vote in the Parliament. I have been in the Parliament now for 21 years and there's only been, from memory, two or three occasions when a private members’ bill has come on for debate and vote.
The other point I want to make is that this Government was elected to grow jobs, to promote a stronger economy, to secure our nation against the various challenges that we face at home and abroad, and that's what we are doing: we are getting on with the job that we were elected to do and, as far as I'm concerned, that will always be the focus of this Government.
QUESTION: Do you expect the Selection of Bills Committee will kill this off?
PRIME MINISTER: The normal processes will be followed. I think that this is an important subject, but so are all the subjects that people bring to the Parliament by way of private members’ legislation. Let's see what the selection committee decides, but the point I make is that we will treat this in an absolutely normal and straightforward way.
QUESTION: Would you call on frontbenchers supporting gay marriage to resign, or do you support them to have their opinions?
PRIME MINISTER: Obviously, there are a range of views in the community. There are a very, very wide range of views in the community on a whole host of subjects, but there are certainly strong and different views in the community on this and that certainly extends to our Parliament. We have a very representative Parliament. We have quite representative political parties. My point is that the Government will remain absolutely focused on the things that we were elected for: to produce more jobs, to get economic growth up and to secure our nation against the various challenges that we face at home and abroad.
QUESTION: What's the latest with the Tax Office in Gosford?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the latest is that it's on track and I hope that we will start to see the fit-out work begin next year and those 600 staff moving in the year after that. So, it is on track. This was at the heart of our commitment to the Central Coast along with the NorthConnex project, which is finally going to end the horrific bottleneck at Hornsby which has bedevilled people on the Central Coast for years and years and years, and thank God that we didn't just succumb to analysis paralysis which is what’s bedevilled infrastructure in this state for far too long.
QUESTION: You had an opportunity to tour Dungog yesterday. Have you had an opportunity to look at the images coming out of the Coast during the storm?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, I haven't yet, but I know that Lucy Wicks herself was one of the local people who was badly impacted by that storm and I expect to get a briefing from Lucy shortly on this. But, this was a once-in-a-decade storm, or worse. Certainly, in Dungog, it's the worst storm in living memory. It's great to see that at every level our community rallied to support those who suffered and the point I make is that after an event like this, the rest of the country has got to support the people who were hurt. I particularly draw that to the attention of the insurance industry. Insurers love us when we’re paying our premiums, but they don't always love us when we’re making a claim and I think it's very important that insurers treat people fairly and pay up promptly.
QUESTION: Mr Abbott, will you rethink your Opposition to the changing media laws in Australia at the moment in the face of the campaign that is going to be run by networks Win and Prime next week?
PRIME MINISTER: I'm determined to ensure that we get a fair go for regional Australia. Obviously, it's very important that we get a fair go for regional Australia and I'm very conscious of the fact that under the licences that media providers operate under, local content – including local news – is very important. So, I certainly expect to see continued strong local content and local news from regional media providers.
Look, the trouble with media reform is that all too often it is a question of picking one business's interests against another business's interests, and that's why I would urge all of those who would like to see change here to sit down, hammer out something which is good for everyone, hammer out something which has something for everyone, and once that's done, obviously, the Government is prepared to look at it.
QUESTION: There were rumours locally that your appearance today might be hinting at a possible early election. Any truth to that?
PRIME MINISTER: No, there is no truth to that. The point I have been making is that we’ve just had the most productive fortnight in this term of Parliament. We had the small business boost pass through the Parliament and that's great news for all the small businesses of Australia, many of whom are out there spending $20,000 again and again and again because they are going to get the instant asset write-off. We also got some moves towards a fairer and more sustainable pension through the Parliament. There were various sensible savings measures that went through the Parliament – more than $14 billion worth of sensible savings went through the Parliament in the last fortnight. So, this has been a very, very productive fortnight for this Parliament and why would you close it down just when it’s starting to perform?
Thank you so much.