Topics: National Careers Ambassador; infrastructure programmes; Syria and Turkey; NSW and QLD bushfires; Drought; Dams and water infrastructure.
RICHARD YARAD, LENDLEASE CONSTRUCTION MANAGER: Good morning everyone. My name is Richard Yarad and I’m the construction manager for Lendlease. Welcome to Randwick campus redevelopment where we're building a new acute services building. We’re committed here at Lendlease to promote apprenticeships through our company and today is an important announcement being prepared that encourages apprentices training through Lendlease and I'd like to welcome the Prime Minister to our site. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much. It's great to be here on yet another building site here in New South Wales. There are just so many of these sites, so many cranes on the Sydney skyline, so many projects that are going ahead and it's tremendous to see and we want to see more of those projects because those projects mean jobs and we're investing just shy of $10 billion this year alone in transport infrastructure projects right around the country, including right here in New South Wales. And those projects, many of which have been accelerated, are projects that are providing new opportunities for people young and later in their careers to get involved in the building and construction industry. And a key part of that is ensuring that companies, whether it's like Lendlease or your smaller builder or others in the industry, are getting access to the people with the skills they need so they can meet this significant demand. This significant demand for all of these civil and other commercial building projects and residential projects that are happening right across the country. And that means it's a call to young Australians and people across their career to get involved in the building and construction industry and to be part of our initiative to get more apprentices and more people trained with the skills that they need to be able to participate in this very successful industry. That's why since before the last election we have been engaged in a process to really rejuvenate skills training in this country. It's one of the biggest pieces of the economic plan that we need to pursue particularly during this term in Parliament. It goes together with lowering taxes, reducing business costs through deregulation, expanding our trade, building the infrastructure we need to enable our economy to grow. The centrepiece of all of that is ensuring that our economy has the skills and the people that are needed to ensure that our economy can grow. And for that, we need to get across an important message and that is the opportunities there are in becoming an apprentice. The National Careers Institute was set up on the 1st of July of this year as part of a series of recommendations we’ve responded to from the Joyce Review that was looking at these skills issues in Australia. We’ve got a very clear message, we want people to understand that choosing an apprenticeship, choosing a skill, choosing a trade, is a very successful decision for them and for their future and there's no difference between whether you get a technical or skills education or you get a university education. They are both involved in giving people high-level skills that our economy needs and can set people up for the future. And one of the great things about a trade and skills education, and I know this being a representative of southern Sydney where there are so many who've made that choice and been so successful in life starting their own businesses, that a trade education can lead you to be able to be your own boss and to set up your own company, to run your own show, to be in control of your own economic future. Not just that but by providing those same opportunities to others, taking on your own apprentices and passing on that knowledge. And as we've talked to some of the apprentices here, be able to drive down whether it's here locally or somewhere else and say, ‘You know what? I built that, I was part of the team that built that.’ Whether it was the shopping centre redevelopment or a big major commercial building or a hospital or a block of flats or whatever it happens to be. So there's a lot of pride involved in working in this industry. And who better to actually get that message across and help us get those 80,000 apprentices that we've committed to being established here in Australia than Scott Cam? Scott is someone who made that decision or as he told us today the decision was made for him by his dad to work with his brother. But I tell you what, there's been no looking back for him and he has demonstrated over the course of his professional life about what you can achieve and he's been a true champion for trades education and the opportunities that are there for people who are going to work hard and get that skill and work in, whether it's a company like Lendlease who do a tremendous job in bringing trades people through the industry, pulling them through the industry, many stay going into senior positions, others go off to run their own businesses. And so we're very pleased that Scott is taking on this role of our skills ambassador as part of the National Careers Institute to help us get that message across to change that mindset, for people to look at a career in trades as something that is very viable for them. It's great to see so many people doing it but we need more Australians to do it. So I'm really thrilled that Scott is taking on that role and I want to thank you very much for doing it, mate, and you've got a great profile right across the Australian community. Much loved, of course, but importantly much trusted, and I think that trusted message from Scott and the way of his own life experience being able to back up that message is hopefully going to encourage not just younger Australians but people through all walks of life. Our economy is changing and people are making decisions mid-career about moving into different skills areas. We know also in the rural sector, particularly which is going under tough circumstance at the moment, there are those who've been working on the land and particularly farmers themselves who've been looking to reskill as well and I announced some measures to support that just a week or so ago. So I'm happy to announce that Scott's taking on that role with us. We're very pleased that he has done so. I'm going to ask Michaelia Cash, the Minister, to explain a bit more about those details, then Scott will have a bit more to say about his role and then Steve will come and speak as the Assistant Minister, also a tradie, also someone who ran his own business as a sparky and then we're happy to take questions. Thanks very much.
SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, SKILLS, SMALL AND FAMILY BUSINESS: Well thank you Prime Minister, and ladies and gentlemen it's fantastic to be here today hosted by Lendlease on their Randwick site. But in particular with the Prime Minister, with my friend and colleague Steve Irons, a former apprentice himself, but to make this sensational announcement the appointment of Australia's inaugural National Careers Ambassador in that household name Scott Cam. This is a Government that is determined to shine a light on how fantastic vocational education and training is in Australia and as part of that we've enlisted Scott to work with us to really get that message out. And it's not just to students, as the Prime Minister said. It’s to parents, it’s for people thinking of upskilling or reskilling, those great career opportunities offered by vocational education and training in Australia. Scott Cam himself, a former apprentice around 40 years ago now, but look at what his apprenticeship has offered to him. He's literally a household name in Australia. He's someone who has run his own business. He has employed people, he's employed apprentices, but more than that Scott understands the value of getting career advice right. And that is what the Joyce Review in vocational education and training has told us. There is a plethora of information out there in Australia. What we need to do is bring that together so that students, parents, anybody who is thinking of upskilling or reskilling, understands the choices that are available to them. And they understand the career pathways that they are going to be about to embark upon. So it's fantastic that Scott Cam has undertaken this role. I'm looking forward to working really closely with him. We're going to be working across government, across industry, with parents, with students, to get those career pathways right. But on top of that, over the next 15 months I really look forward to being out and about there with Scott attending high-profile events and really shining that light on exactly how fantastic a vocational education is and the career opportunities, the really successful career opportunities, that a VET education offers you in Australia.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Michaelia, Scott?
SCOTT CAM: Thanks very much Minister Cash, Prime Minister. I'm very privileged to be in this role, to be asked to be in this role. I'm passionate about apprenticeships and trade life and trade work. I - as the Prime Minister said - my career advice when I was 17 years old was my father saying, ‘You start work with your brother on Monday.’ And that's how I got my apprenticeship. My brother was a carpenter. These days there's so many opportunities out there, so much information out there for young people, older people, people that are changing careers. Where do they get that information from? I think it's all over the place, and now the National Careers Institute is a one stop shop for information about training, about education, about career changes, about careers. My job, my role is to get the information out there to people to let them know that it's there. To let them know that it's available for young people. I have three children, all at university. My youngest son is doing a course only because he doesn't know what he wants to do, like so many people that are doing that. You know, kids come out of school, they're not sure what they want to do. So my young bloke, who is pretty smart, he’s just taken on a business course because he's not sure what he wants to do. With the National Careers Institute he’ll be able to go to that one stop shop, look over everything, his opportunities, his career opportunities, his training opportunities, and maybe get a better idea of where he wants to go in his life. I'm again very privileged to have this role, I'm not taking it lightly, I'm going to get it out there, I want to get the information out to everybody, all Australians, young and old, and from every background so they can get more opportunities within their careers. Thank you very much for having me on board everybody, thanks again.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Scott, thank you mate.
THE HON. STEVE IRONS MP, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION, TRAINING, AND APPRENTICESHIPS: Well, it's great to be here for the announcement of Scott Cam as our ambassador for the National Careers Institute. As a former tradesman myself, it's great that even though he’s a chippy - and I was a sparky - I'll be pleased to look forward to working with him during the process of implementing the Joyce Review recommendations that the Morrison Government has undertaken to do. It's great that the Prime Minister is so on board with these recommendations as well as the excitement I get from Minister Cash whenever she speaks about the pathways and careers for young people and having Scott on board to assist us in that process will be absolutely fantastic. Scott, you would know being a tradie, being on building sites, you always get nicknames. So now we've got ScoMo and we’ve got ScoCam working on this project for implementing the Joyce Review and I think that will be a great endorsement
having Scott out there and about, talking to people about their career pathways, particularly for parents as well. The parents need to have that discussion with their children and guide them - as your father did, a very short one - but we can start these discussions a lot earlier, particularly in schools and areas as well. So I'm excited by this announcement and I look forward to working with you Scott, so thanks so much.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, well we’re happy to take some questions on this. I then want to make a few statements about some other quite serious issues as well. We can turn to those issues after that, so happy to take questions on the matter of our announcement today on skills.
JOURNALIST: I have a question for Minister Cash if that’s OK? Yeah, in Scott Cam’s ambassador role will he be paid for that?
SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, SKILLS, SMALL AND FAMILY BUSINESS: The answer is yes. We’ve entered into commercial terms with Mr Cam. But ultimately this is about shining a light on vocational education and training in Australia, really highlighting just how successful you can be in particular if you take on an apprenticeship. Scott Cam – a household name. The feedback that I have had even just this morning in relation to this announcement has been really sensational. This is what people have been looking for, someone that they can look to see who's been there, who's done that, who's been successful, that can really show Australians what a vocational education can provide you with. So we're just absolutely delighted that Scott himself has agreed to come on board and be the inaugural National Careers Ambassador in Australia and as he said, he is committed to getting that information out there. So that parents, so that kids, so that people, you know, wanting to upskill and reskill really understand the pathways that they can undertake but more than that, just how successful they can be in undertaking a vocational education in Australia.
JOURNALIST: How much will this role cost the government?
SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, SKILLS, SMALL AND FAMILY BUSINESS: Well, like any role, it’s commercial in confidence. But again, it’s about outcomes. One of the highest profile people in Australia taking on board this role, someone who 40 years ago himself understood the value of an apprenticeship, someone that… it doesn't matter how old you are, or who you are, you can look up to and say, ‘Wow, this guy undertook an apprenticeship and look where he is today.’ He's an employer. He's employed other people, he's employed apprentices. This is all about shining that light on vocational education and we’re just delighted that Scott Cam has come on board.
JOURNALIST: Do you think a student should leave school in Year 10 and pursue a trade and if so, why?
SENATOR THE HON. MICHAELIA CASH, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, SKILLS, SMALL AND FAMILY BUSINESS: Yeah no, it's a really good question. I think what Scott's role in particular with the National Careers Institute is all about is people understanding the choices available to them. So many parents across Australia, and in particular young kids as well, say to me, ‘Michaelia, I’m really only aware of one pathway. It’s the pathway of leaving school and going to university. Where are the other pathways?’ There are so many different pathways that you can undertake and just being here today on the Lendlease site we've met a number of apprentices, each one undertaking a different pathway. A school-based apprenticeship, leaving school and going straight into an apprenticeship, and then a mature-aged gentleman who has actually already got a trade but he's now upskilling and doing another trade. So it's making sure Australians understand there are so many different pathways for you and we’re going to get all of that information together so you can [inaudible] and understand exactly what you can do, but more than that, how successful you can be.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned there’s a lot of infrastructure programmes on the fast track, is the problem that the Government’s created a lot of projects that don’t have the skills and the amount of workers needed to get them done?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we do need more people in the industry with the right skills to ensure that we can meet the challenges that we have, not just in the building and construction industry, [inaudible] than that. Our economy is growing, we want to see it continue to grow, and for that to happen we do need to build this infrastructure. And it’s important transport infrastructure, whether it’s the Western Sydney International Airport, or Snowy redevelopment of the hydro project in NSW, or it’s those big projects like the inland rail. These are massive projects. I mean, there’s massive road construction projects that are going on, rail projects. That means we need more people, we need them trained, we need them skilled, we need them entering the industry. And so yeah, it is, I suppose, a good problem to have that we’re building so much that we need more people to help us build it. The problem is not that we're not committing to building enough, the problem is we've got to ensure that we can get people into the industry to ensure that we can make those commitments, and not just for today but for the next decade and more. This is why we outlined, going back several years now, when it was a $75 billion plan, that was over 10 years. This is a $100 billion plan now over 10 years and you add that to the $200 billion we're putting into re-capitalizing our defence industries, all of this shows long term commitments that business and industry can now engage with, knowing that the work is there, that they can take on apprentices, they can train people, they can make the investments in expanding the capability of the building and construction sector. And so this is a key part of helping to do that.
JOURNALIST: And if you don't get the local jobs filled, will you have to look at increasing skilled migrants coming in?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the migration program, the permanent migration program, is capped at 160,000. That hasn’t changed, that’s what we’ve committed to doing this parliamentary term and we took it to the election and we’re certainly going to honour that. This is why it's important that we get Australians into these jobs and we train Australians to get into these jobs. The migration program will continue to play its role in supporting the Australian economy. The great thing about Australia's immigration program, and the reason it's been such a success, is because it's always been focussed on the skills needs of Australia. And that's not just recent, that's been going on for decades, and that's why we have one of the most cohesive and most successful multicultural societies in the world today. It's because we have an immigration program that is focused on skills. But our first priority is to ensure we're training Australians to have the jobs that are there, both today and into the future, and this is an important part of doing that.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on building infrastructure, can we expect there to be some new dams up around the Tenterfield area?
PRIME MINISTER: We've been working very closely with the New South Wales Government, as we have the Queensland government and other state governments. Because as you rightly point out, it is state governments that decide when and where dams are built. The Commonwealth Government can’t dig a hole anywhere for building a dam unless the state government is on board. And we've been working closely with the New South Wales Government, the Premier and I have been in very close contact on this issue for some time now and we look forward to making some announcements.
JOURNALIST: Would you want to see dams built in New South Wales in particular?
PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely. I want to see more dams built in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, right across the country. We need to do that in co-operation with state and territory governments. That's their job, just as it is their job to build hospitals and to build schools and we support them in those tasks with record levels of funding going into both. We’re standing in the middle of one of the big redevelopments of one of Sydney’s biggest hospitals. This is happening also with the support of the Commonwealth government in partnership with the state government, which is not only creating a great opportunity for Lendlease here to bring other people through and develop their skills but also to provide world-class health services to children and others right throughout this part of Sydney.
JOURNALIST: In Northern New South Wales we’ve just seen the area ravaged by bushfire, what is your response to news…
PRIME MINISTER: I’m going to come to that issue in just one second, I'm happy to do that. Are there any other questions on skills or the announcement we’re making today?
JOURNALIST: Just one more, construction is one of a lot of vocational education training. It seems like construction is your focus at the moment because there is that skill shortage. Is it right for the Government to be persuading school leavers, young people or even middle-aged people seeking more jobs into one private sector over others?
PRIME MINISTER: What's important is that young people make good decisions for their future and it’s their decision. See, my Government is all about enabling the aspirations and choices of individual Australians and their families and what they want for them and their future. And so we want them to have the choice, we want them to have the information, we want them to have the opportunity and should they choose to go down this path, good for them. Fantastic news. It's good for the Australian economy. If they want to make other choices, that's up to them. We support the choices they want to make and opening up the pathways so they can make those choices. That's what we're very committed to and it's great to have Scott on board in helping young people think about this as a career pathway and to ask themselves the questions about what they want for the future. I mean, one of my regrets when I was coming through school and leaving school is that back in that time - it was a long time ago now - there was never much conversation or talk with your careers advisor about, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about starting your own business?’ And what we need in this country is a lot more of that entrepreneurialism and I think we are seeing it more recently, young people actually a lot more entrepreneurial in their outlook. They like working for themselves, they like running their own show. I think that's one of the key characteristics of millennials these days. And that's a good thing. It shows a confidence and it shows an independence. One of the great things I think about trades education and skills education, as Scott has demonstrated and I can tell you countless others down in the Shire, has been doing that opens up the pathway to run your own business and employ other Australians. And I've never seen a bigger smile on the face of an Australian than when they’ve employed another Australian, particularly a young Australian, and are training them to give them the skills so they can have the opportunities they have. That's a great legacy to leave - not just building something wonderful but that satisfaction, and I know you’d know, when you get a young person on. Through your efforts, you've been able to give them a job and give them the same opportunities in life. It's a real buzz for business and so it's tremendous. So on that, I'm going to thank Scott for being here with us today. I’m going to thank our friends from Lendlease for being with us today and I’m going to make a few comments about a few other issues, so thanks very much guys. Appreciate your time. Look, on a couple of other very serious issues today, the events in Syria are very concerning. The Australian Government has been in close contact both with the Turkish Government and with the US Government, as recently with the US as this morning. I've been in direct contact on these matters, as the Foreign Minister has also been following up these issues. We are concerned about what we're seeing of the actions of the Turkish Government moving into Syria and what that can mean for the safety of people in that area. We are also very concerned about what this could potentially mean for the Kurdish people. We're concerned about what this can mean for the potential for the resurgence of Da’esh and we will be working through all diplomatic channels, working with our colleagues whether in Europe or the United States or elsewhere where we have been in partnership in the Middle East for some time to closely monitor these developments and get some clear understanding of the situation on the ground, and consider what possible international responses there are to these issues and so we are in close contact. We are deeply concerned about the actions of the Turkish Government and we have conveyed those concerns and will continue to convey those concerns directly and we will continue to work closely with the United States and others in terms of what any potential response is to that quite serious situation on the ground. On the matter of bushfires, it is also very troubling. Yesterday I made some remarks on this and while the fires themselves have been abating and the risk level decreasing, I have received the same reports that you would have received about the number of unaccounted people there are, particularly in relation to the fire in the Casino area. Obviously the NSW state government and those affected [inaudible] on those issues and we’ll stay in close contact with them on what assistance is necessary. And on the third issue I wanted to mention is, of course, our response to the drought. The Minister for Drought David Littleproud has I think put a very clear and concise report through The Daily Telegraph today, setting out again what our response is to the drought. We do not set and forget when it comes to the drought. We have announced over $7 billion worth of initiatives and we will continue to announce them. The drought is the first call on our Budget. The reason you get the Budget into surplus, which we've been doing now for the last six years, is to ensure that you can respond to these urgent issues in responding to the drought and be able to do it not just now but into the future. This drought has been going for several years now in New South Wales, for longer in Queensland. It has now moved in quite substantively into Victoria and into South Australia. We're providing direct financial assistance and have increased the financial assistance both to farm households themselves and to farming communities through our Drought Communities Program. We're investing both in on-farm water infrastructure as well as off-farm water infrastructure with broader water infrastructure projects. There are some 20 projects currently worth just shy of $2 billion that are either underway or soon to commence and as I said, we'll be making further announcements about those issues as a result of the engagements we've had with the New South Wales government in the not too distant future. So it's about dealing with the immediate assistance, the financial assistance that is necessary to help sustain both farmers on the land and people living in drought-affected communities across rural and regional New South Wales. But it's also about building the resilience of the future. The Drought Fund is a key part of that. But our broader National Water Grid and the money we’re putting into it with the state governments, the water infrastructure is sizeable. It's real. They're real projects, they’re proceeding and that is an important way of planning for the future. One thing we can't do is make it rain. There’s nothing we can do about that. But what we can do is invest in the mental health and the care in our communities, their financial support to sustain themselves. The real change’s alone we’ve made to the Farm Household Allowance which means that you can get four years now out of ten. Before this drought and before our response it was three years forever.
It's now four years out of ten and we've relaxed the rules, and increased the amount that people can earn off the farm, up to $100,000 you can earn off the farm and still be eligible for the support of financial assistance through the Farm Household Allowance. So these are important changes. It's not set and forget. We’ll continue to make responses for as long as the drought continues and then we'll be there to help rebuild.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on Syria, is this action by Turkey undermining the progress against ISIS in that region?
PRIME MINISTER: I think that is exactly our concern that it will have that effect and that is a concern that has been expressed by Australia and by many others and that is what we've expressed directly to our partners and allies and certainly to the Turkish Government.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the U.S. decision to pull its troops out given the immediate repercussions?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the decision of the United States is a matter for them. It’s a sovereign decision of the United States. It's not for me to run a commentary on it. They’re their troops, they are deployed by the U.S. Government, not by Australia or anyone else, and the U.S. has been doing the lion's share of the lifting when it has come to the efforts in the Middle East. And as I said yesterday it's just a simple statement of fact, not a statement of commentary, that this decision is consistent with statements that the President has been making for some time. That is just a statement of reality. So they have made that decision and now it's important that we work together to ensure that our fears of the actions of the Turkish Government - let's be clear, it's the Turkish Government that is taking action here to create an unstable situation. They're the ones who are actually deploying and seeking to walk across a border and to take actions in another nation-state. It is the Turkish Government that is doing that and it's the actions of the Turkish Government that concern Australia very seriously.
JOURNALIST: If this is a matter for the United States and the actions of Turkey, what was the basis of your conversation with delegates from the US this morning that you mentioned?
PRIME MINISTER: We’re just seeking clarity on a number of points, as you do with allies, and an understanding of what the next steps could be. And that's I think entirely appropriate.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of comments though made by Donald Trump that the Kurds didn't help fight with the U.S. in the Second World War and in Normandy and therefore this justifies the US's decision to pull out of Syria?
PRIME MINISTER: I'm not making a running commentary on everything the President says and does. What I do know is that when Australia makes decisions about our deployments, we do so in our national interest. And my concern and my focus is on what Australia's purposes are and the safety of our men and women who serve in our Defence Forces. And I would expect any of our partners or allies to respect any decision that I made or my Government made in relation to our deployments. And I'm simply showing that same respect.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you clarify where there are [inaudible] to infant children...
PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, I couldn't hear you.
JOURNALIST: Can you clarify whether [inaudible] infant babies will be stateless after her citizenship was cancelled?
PRIME MINISTER: My advice is that the citizenship of children of those for whom their citizenship is cancelled of their parents is unaffected. So any reporting that suggests otherwise, based on my advice, is false. Thanks very much.