PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot, Kristy (McSweeney). Well, it's great to be here with my colleagues. It's also great to be here at Sanwell and to all of those who've welcomed us this morning, I want to say thank you and showing their wares on the tools, which is great to see. It's always thrilling when I walk into any place like this, anywhere in the country, just seeing so many young people, young men, young women getting involved, getting a trade, getting a traineeship, setting themselves up for their future, and that is particularly the case here in Western Australia.
It's great to be back in Western Australia so soon, and it's great to be making these announcements by further extending our support for apprenticeships here, not just in Western Australia, but all around the country. Because here in Western Australia, where we've got big projects ahead; the resources sector, the infrastructure sector, the residential building sector, so many different parts of the Western Australian economy needing more and more of these skilled tradespeople. And if I go back to just two years ago, as we were facing and staring into the abyss of the pandemic and the first measures which the Treasurer and I put in place to combat the impact of that pandemic was actually for apprentices. We knew, and it was Michaelia Cash who was the Minister at the time, we knew, together with the treasurer, that they would be likely last on, first off and we could have lost a generation of skills. Apprentices who had started their training, who were mid during their training, or looking to complete it. It could have been the first victims, economic victims of the pandemic, and the great fear was we'd never see them come back and they'd be lost to those trades and Australia as we came out of the pandemic, as we are now coming back strongly, that we wouldn't have those skilled tradespeople to drive our economic opportunities on the other side of the pandemic.
Even from those early days of the pandemic, we understood that you needed to have an economic plan to address the here and now, and you had to have an economic plan to follow through on to lead Australia in the recovery process and see Australia's economy strengthen for the decades ahead. We always understood that dealing with the pandemic was about saving lives. Yes, definitely, saved over 40,000 lives. It was also about saving livelihoods. So we did the Retaining Apprenticeships Scheme and that was followed up by the Boosting Apprenticeships and the Commencing Apprenticeships Scheme. And all of that has now meant that over the course of this pandemic, in just the last two years, my government has invested $7.6 billion in keeping our apprentices in our trades by getting apprentices into trades and boosting the numbers of apprentices that we have in trades. $7.6 billion, and that has touched the lives of over half a million Australians. Now that's what I call a commitment to skills and training in the Australian economy. $7.6 billion and over half a million Australians directly supported, and the businesses that depend on those tradespeople coming through.
Right now, we have more trades apprentices in training, 220,000 right now, than at any other time in Australia's recorded economic history, and those records go back to 1963. So our government has not only ensured that we've come through this pandemic, that we've been able to retain those apprentices. Apprentices that would have had to walk off the job. We would never have seen them again. I've met them all around the country. Those are in their first year, two years ago. Those are in their second year. Those are in their third year. And now in those latter groups, they have completed their apprenticeships like young Drew, who it's his last day as an apprentice today, and now he goes on to a full-time job as a fully ticketed plumber here in Western Australia and a great example to indigenous young boys and girls all over the country. Him demonstrating just what is achievable, particularly through a trade. So we're very proud today that we are now extending our successful Boosting Apprenticeships and Commencing Apprenticeship Scheme, which I'll ask Minister Robert to go through the detail of, by an extra $350 million. And that brings, as I said, the total investment to some $7.6 billion backing in Australia apprentices like no government has ever done before.
The great beneficiary is all Australians, not just those who are directly supported by these measures, but those companies who now benefit from those skills and those trades. And as we go into the Budget this year, in just a couple of days’ time, and the Treasurer outlines the measures in the budget, this is a key part of what we're seeking to do. The Budget is all about ensuring we deal with those immediate cost of living pressures, which Australians are feeling all around the country because of what we're seeing in Ukraine, the impacts on, on fuel prices. We know this is biting and that we've done the homework and spent the time to get the right design on the packages to support Australians right now when it comes to cost of living pressures. The Budget is also about our ongoing and successful economic plan that deals with the challenges into the future, like the measures we are announcing here today, backing apprentices, backing skills, backing trades, backing small businesses.
But it's also about guaranteeing record investment in the essential services that Australians rely on, and in particular today we've been talking about in other places the listing of new medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme that are a life- changing event for people with cystic fibrosis. Absolutely enormously essential medicines, and we achieve that by having a strong economy and fourthly the Budget will be continuing to ensure that our plan to keep Australians safe by investing in the security and defence of Australia remains at record levels. And all this is achieved by having a strong economy because a strong economy means a stronger future, and that's what this year's Budget is all about. And with that, I'll pass you on to Minister Robert.
THE HON. STUART ROBERT MP, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, WORKFORCE, SKILLS, SMALL AND FAMILY BUSINESS: Yeah, thanks PM. It's great to be in Perth. Kristy, lovely to once again join you and of course, my great mate, Steve and to thank you for the work you've done and great to be at Sanwell. I thank Brendan, the CEO here and of course, Ben, who's the head of MPA skills, where so many of the apprentices are. The Morrison government truly is the best friend that tradies have ever had. The Boosting Apprenticeship Commencement Program has seen over 350,000 apprentices and trainees come in to that area of skill and importantly, over 220,000 trade apprentices in trades like plumbing that we're seeing here today. That program was ending in four days. Today, of course, we're announcing we will extend the very successful Boosting Apprenticeship Commencement through to the end of this financial year, to 30th of June. And, of course, the Completing Apprenticeship Commencement, which provides 10 per cent of the wage in the second year and five per cent in the first year, and the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencement announcement today. The federal government is partnering with industries and businesses just like Sanwell and providing 50 per cent of the first wage for first year wage and that'll extend right through to the 30th of June. It gives businesses more time now to bring on apprentices. We believe 35,000 extra apprentices will commence under this program between now and the 30th of June to take the numbers to 385,000 apprentices and trainees at the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencement Program has put. Right here in the seat of Swan there's 2,400 trade apprentices, the highest number in recorded history right now because of what the Morrison government has done backing in Australia's young men and women, backing in women into non-traditional trades, backing in great young men like Drew from Indigenous communities, from country who want to get a trade and get ahead. Now the Budget on Tuesday night will talk through the government's next steps post 30 June on exactly how we'll continue to lock in the great benefits of what we've done. But employers have got an extra three months now to get those young Australians, to get mature age Australians, to get women from non-traditional trades, to get people into trades and give them the opportunities they need, it's a great announcement Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. Happy to take some questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you've flagged cost of living relief in the Budget.
PRIME MINISTER: Yes.
JOURNALIST: What good will one-off payments do for low and middle-income earners once inflation kicks up later this year?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Budget's on Tuesday night and the announcements in the Budget will be then. I'm not making them today. So you're speculating on, on things that is fairly normal at this time of the year, before a Budget is handed down and so I'm not going to join that speculation. I'll leave the announcements to the Treasurer. But what I do know is this, throughout the course of this pandemic, when we have had to put in place the biggest economic support an Australian Government has ever had to do to frankly save the economy. Whether it was the Retaining Apprenticeship Scheme that I mentioned before, the cash flow boost, which was done at exactly the same time. Then there was the JobKeeper investments and there was the health investments. These were record investments that we put in place. And you'd think that with the nature of those outlays that Australia, Australia's AAA credit rating, would have been put at risk just because of the sheer scale of the spending we had to undertake. But that's not what happened.
Throughout the course of the pandemic our government retained Australia's AAA credit rating and we did that because of the design and of the careful economic management that was behind what we did. And the ratings agencies were able to look at our economic strategy and our financial strategy, and they could see what we were doing. We were investing in, in nurturing and supporting the Australian economy to get through so on the other side, it could grow again. And on growing on the other side, that would support Australia's revenues, and that would actually keep the pressure down on things like inflation and as a result, rises in interest rates that might otherwise occur well beyond any return to normal levels. And so my message is pretty clear.
When you've got a government that has demonstrated its financial management to keep a AAA credit rating in the worst economic crisis we've seen since the Great Depression, then that's a government you can have confidence in to keep the pressures on inflation down. Our alternative, the Labor Party, they were proposing to spend $6 billion to pay people to have a vaccination that they'd already had. That's the sort of Albo-nomics that you can expect from a Labor-led government. That is not the sort of thing that keeps inflation, the pressure down on inflation. That is not the sort of financial management that keeps the pressure down on rising interest rates. And so our government has demonstrated that we have the financial management experience to be able to deal with the very significant challenges that are ahead. The global economy is going through some absolutely disruptive and upheaved times, and our government has demonstrated the ability to manage that in the middle of a crisis, keep Australians in work to record levels, record levels. We are going to an unemployment rate with a three in front of it, and that will be the first time in 50 years that that's been achieved. And we've kept our AAA credit rating and we've been able to keep record investment in the National Disability Insurance Scheme, in Medicare, in schools, in hospitals. And we've fought off a pandemic which has enabled us to save 40,000 lives, achieve one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, particularly here in Western Australia, and has ensured that our economy has come out of this stronger, both in jobs and the strength of our economy, than the United States even, Canada, Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom.
This is what our economic management and our financial management has been able to steward Australia through, and we've done that with one simple premise. We back Australians. And we back Australians and the choices they're making, like the young apprentices you've seen here. We back their employers and we back them to keep them in the job. Now they're finishing their training and they will be able to tool up our economy for the decades ahead.
JOURNALIST: I suppose the question is now, will they back you? Does your Prime Ministership live or die on this Budget?
PRIME MINISTER: Every single Budget, every decision that we take as a government is important, and this Budget is important like the many before it, like the Budget we introduced to save the Australian economy during the course of the pandemic. The Budgets we've introduced to guarantee the essential services and ensure that the important medicines that Australians rely on to change their lives and to make them affordable. The Budget that has seen us invest $21 billion over the next decade to ensure we not only achieve our emissions reductions target, but we set up Australia to be a major energy exporter with hydrogen and the many other new energy technologies over the next 50 years and beyond. Every Budget we've delivered has made Australia stronger, and this Budget will make Australia stronger because a stronger economy means a stronger future.
JOURNALIST: How are you planning to tackle inflation then and make sure real wages aren't falling backwards?
PRIME MINISTER: We will continue to tackle inflation through strong financial management that we have demonstrated. You know, before the pandemic, it took us all the way to the pandemic hitting to deal with the mess that we inherited from the Labor Party when they were last in government. We had to deal with the fiscal and financial mess that they left behind, and the failed programs that they put in place. And it took, by the time we got to the pandemic, we had been able to balance the budget, and we did that by ensuring that we managed our spending well and we supported the growth of the Australian economy, and that has been the right formula to ensure that we can grow our economy, that we can get our budget under control, and that we can keep the downward pressure on inflation. Problem with Labor is, when they start spending, they can never stop. They have, they don't have the discipline. During the pandemic, Labor would have spent an extra $81 billion. You'll remember, when JobKeeper was coming to an end, they said you can't, you can't stop JobKeeper, you must extend it. Otherwise, there will be hundreds of thousands of people who lose their jobs. Well, they were wrong. Hundreds of thousands of people went into jobs, and we were able to turn JobKeeper off when it should have been turned off because the Australian economy needed people back at work. And so we have the discipline to know when you need to spend and when you need to stop. Labor have never demonstrated that discipline in government.
JOURNALIST: So will pensioners get that bonus payment on Tuesday?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have got a cost of living package, which works right across the Australian community, and the Treasurer will be outlining that on Tuesday night.
JOURNALIST: Is there a reason this apprenticeship scheme is only lasting for three months and not into the next year?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think that shows a bit of a misunderstanding of the scheme, because this scheme has been running for about two years now and it enables people to come into apprenticeships and be in those apprenticeships. I mean, these payments don't stop on the 30th of June. These payments keep going well beyond the 30th of June and keeping people in apprenticeships in the years ahead. And we'll have, we'll have more to say about how we are, as the Minister said, going to be continuing our record investments in apprenticeships and traineeships and in skills education in this country. We'll have more to say about that on Tuesday night. Today, what we're saying is the very successful program that we've been running, we're going to extend it. And the $7.6 billion supporting more than half a million Australians to be in trades, to be in training, to be skilled, that's going to continue. No government has been able to get more apprentices in trade training at any one time than this government has for as long as economic records have been kept.
JOURNALIST: You say every budget is important but is this is more important for you going forward?
PRIME MINISTER: It's important for the Australian people. Budgets are not about governments. They are not about me. They're not about Josh Frydenberg. They're not about Anthony Albanese or anyone else that sits in the parliamentary chamber. The budgets that I've been involved in, and this will be my eighth, I did three budgets as a Treasurer and this will be my fourth as a Prime Minister. For Josh Frydenberg as Treasurer, this is his fourth as a Treasurer. Those who would seek to hold this office after the next election from the Labor party, they've never done a budget, never done a budget. They've never had to face the decisions that we have faced over these very difficult years and made the hard calls that we have made that have put the Australian economy in a stronger position than the most advanced economies and nations in the world. And so this budget once again, is about Australians. The pressures they face, the cost of living pressures that they're having to deal with, to guarantee the essential services that they rely on to ensure that we can keep them safe, that we can support the Defence forces that secure our position in a very volatile Indo-Pacific region. It's about the economic plan which is going to guarantee their economic success, not just over the next couple of years, but for the decade ahead. But so you're right though, the next election, it is a choice, not a referendum. It's a choice. And all choices have consequences and the choice for the Liberals and Nationals and particularly Kristy McSweeney here in Swan, the choice at this election, a choice to vote for Kristy McSweeney or Ben or the rest of our team in Western Australia here and right around the country. That is a choice for a stronger economy. That is a choice for a stronger future. A choice for Labor will have the consequence of all the risks that go with that. A leader of the Labor Party who frankly doesn't know who he is and if he doesn't know then, how on earth can you know, because he's not being straight with you and you know, with me what you see is what you get. People either like it or they don't like it, but they're never unclear about where I stand, particularly when it comes to issues of the economy and national security. Anyway, we'll be standing up again. I will anyway in a few hours’ time to make a very important announcement here about health services here in Western Australia. But I want to thank particularly all the apprentices who joined us today and I want I wish them all the best. They've got a massive future ahead of them, and we want to ensure that we can guarantee that future by ensuring they've got a strong economy to live and work in. Thank you, everyone.