Doorstop interview - Brisbane

01 Apr 2023
Brisbane, QLD
Prime Minister
National Reconstruction Fund; Minimum Wage; Housing; Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games; Aston By-election.

JANE HUNTER, TRITUM: Good morning, everyone and welcome to Tritium's Brisbane campus here in Brisbane. Tritium is an advanced manufacturing company that designs builds and sells electric vehicle chargers. And we actually have the number two global market share across Europe, North America and Australia, New Zealand. So this is a successful export business. We've been exporting chargers from the factory two minutes across the road here in Murrarie, since 2014. And in that time we've now created a thousand jobs. 600 of them are here in Australia, 200 engineering jobs, 200 manufacturing jobs. So this is really the type of export business that Australia wants to see. We bring in Euro, we bring in US Dollars, we bring in Great British Pounds into the country and we create Australian jobs and Australian skills. We have all sorts of engineers here, and the Prime Minister just met some of them: communications engineers, electronics engineers, electrical, mechatronics, mechanical, software. So a very diverse workforce, and also a workforce that staff can walk in off the street, and we can train them up in two to three weeks into manufacturing jobs. So we're very excited about that. The chargers were developed here in Australia for the rugged Australian condition. So we can see some of them today: harsh sun, humidity, we've got snow, we've got everything here in Australia. And it's the right environment to develop these ruggedised chargers using the world-leading university system that we have here in Australia producing brilliant engineers. And thanks to that homegrown engineering talent, we have technology moats. So these chargers that you can see behind us are the only chargers in the world which are fully Ingress Protection 65 rated. That means that the environment can't get into them. And that's because they're fully liquid cooled. There's no other charger globally on market that can do that. This is a complex piece of power electronics that has technology moats. And why has that allowed us to sell to global customers? That's allowed us to sell to Shell to BP to Enel to Siemens, to global quality of customers. And if you think about the success of an Australian IP-based business that's now exporting to the world and selling to customers of those calibre, it really is an unusual but wonderful story. That export business is now at a point where $300 million is forecast for this year as revenue. We've secured 240 million of fixed orders above that. And our tech is helping to enable a zero transport business for transportation across the world with zero emissions in 42 countries. And we have stuff across nine countries. But again, the majority of them are here in Australia. So we're super excited to see the National Reconstruction Fund that the government's talking about. That fund is going to again enable Australian jobs and skills and reinvigorate Australian advanced manufacturing. And I was just speaking to the Prime Minister about Buy Australia and Made in Australia for procurement. That also is really exciting to us because we want to see more Tritiums. We've got to see more businesses like this. We need to see more advanced manufacturing where we keep the IP that's developed here and we make the benefits from that IP. So that intellectual property, instead of selling it to another country to take all the economic benefits that you get from the jobs, from growing and diversifying the economy, from growing your skills, should sit here. So let's keep our IP in Australia and use it for our benefit. So ultimately, these are the types of businesses we want to see Australia grow and support more of. So without further ado, I'd really like to introduce our very honoured guest, the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks so much. And I almost feel like standing here and saying 'What she said,' because that was a perfect exposition of what we are about here. This week has been a great week for Australian manufacturing jobs. The National Reconstruction Fund is aimed at assisting businesses like this. We are a smart country. This company Tritium which has grown in a very short period of time to operate in 42 different countries. It is a growing company in one of the growth industries globally that we are seeing. And the capacity that they have to grow further is just extraordinary. What we have behind us is the best electric vehicle charging stations in the world - in the world - right here. Intellectual property made here in Australia with engineers and smart people. Made here in Australia with manufacturing just across the road and then tested here in Australia, creating jobs here in Australia. That's what we need to do. We have an enormous opportunity. I'm incredibly optimistic about Australia's future, but only if we seize the opportunity, not if we're scared of it or if we run from it. If we seize the opportunity for the transition that is occurring, for cheaper, cleaner energy, including in the renewable sector. And what we see here behind us is something that will assist with the growth that's occurring globally. In the United States, their Inflation Reduction Act is seeing a massive shift towards electric vehicles away from internal combustion engines. That is a fact that will occur globally. It's happening here in Australia as well. We need to prepare and seize the opportunities that come from that. The National Reconstruction Fund, $15 billion to support industries, new industries and existing industries, to transform, provides an incredible opportunity. We've got Trevor St Baker here with us today who was able to raise capital. But the truth is for a lot of companies that are startups, they need that initial investment. That's the work that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has done, the work that ARENA has done. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has been a great success. It was established by the former Labor government. The Coalition tried to get rid of it three times, thank goodness they weren't successful. Because what it's done, not only is it investing in companies that create jobs, it actually produces a return to the taxpayer as well. Government support for businesses like this will produce a return. But it's also an investment in who we are. It's an investment in our national resilience. And that's why our Buy Australia Plan, our procurement policy of making sure that, wherever possible, government businesses buy Australian is also smart policy, because it means that the money stays here and the jobs are created here. Now, Senator Nita Green and I are very passionate about this, and thanks to the Senate for passing this legislation along with our safeguards mechanism. This week, two important pieces of legislation. The safeguards mechanism, making sure that Australia does have that trajectory to a 43 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 and to net zero by 2050. But the National Reconstruction Fund is about supporting industries, as our economy and those jobs transition as well. In addition to that, what we have is 20,000 additional university places in areas like engineering, the sort of people and professions with good, secure, well paid jobs that work for Tritium, we need to replicate. Also 180,000 fee-free TAFE place, we have 10,000 New Energy Apprenticeships, providing $10,000 to encourage electricians to go into new energy, so that they can repair things, as well as manufacturing that is connected with renewable energy. All of this fits together are what our vision of Australia going forward is, an Australia that had takes the opportunity to be a renewable energy superpower, an Australia that manufactures things here and creates jobs here, an Australia that is able to provide a skilled workforce for companies that are innovative like this. This is my third visit to Tritium. Every time I come back, I hear about more revenue, more jobs being created, more and more countries where Australia is exporting to. This is a great success story here. And I congratulate everyone here at Tritium for their achievement.

JOURNALIST: Is a 7 per cent increase to the minimum wage too high?

PRIME MINISTER: That is up to the Fair Work Commission. The Fair Work Commission will take into account a range of factors, including the fact that people who are on the minimum wage are doing it tough. The Fair Work Commission, I'm sure will take that into account. We'll make our submission. It won't put a figure on it, as governments haven't done. But what we haven't done, and a difference with the Coalition who talk about the cost of living, but never ever stand up or support increases in the minimum wage, ever. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, will the Pinkenba quarantine facility be used to help Queensland housing crisis?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's a matter for the Queensland Government. But what we know is that on housing, my government is putting in place a range of measures. We will have the negotiations around the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement. We also have a National Housing Accord that's looking at the building of a million additional homes going forward. That's working with the private sector to encourage investment. We've got a Housing Supply and Affordability Council that we want to create, to work with state and local government on issues like land relations supply. We have our Housing Australia Future Fund, again, a fund that will invest in social and affordable housing, 30,000 additional social and affordable housing units, 4 000 specifically for women and children escaping domestic violence, as well as housing for veterans, as well as housing funding to fix up some of the remote housing in Indigenous communities. This is good legislation that is before the Parliament at the moment. The other parties, the Coalition and the Greens Political Party are all saying that they're refusing to support that legislation, even though they say they want more social affordable housing. Well, if they do, they should vote for the legislation.

JOURNALIST: That facility is a Commonwealth facility, is it not? The Pinkenba quarantine facility, it is operated by the Commonwealth?

PRIME MINISTER: We are not making decisions about what happens at Pinkenba in absence of of working with the state government.

JOURNALIST: Well the State Government, the Premier, said that you haven't done enough for Queenslanders to fix the issue. Have you spoken with the Premier about that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I haven't spoken with the Premier about that. But I speak to the Premier very regularly. I'm very conscious of the fact that on housing issues, we need to do more to work across different levels of government. That's what we're doing with the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement. That's what we do with private rental assistance. That's what we're doing with the Housing Australia Future Fund. That's what we're doing with the National Housing Accord. We'll continue to work with different levels of government, as well as with the private sector, to make sure that we address issues such as supply. We inherited a decline in housing investment from the Commonwealth in public housing going forward.

JOURNALIST: In relation to the 2032 Olympics in Queensland and a Senate inquiry looking into the Games including accountability: are you comfortable with the accountability measures currently in place? And should the Senate inquiries propose increased oversight, will you be open to discussing that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm comfortable with the mechanisms that are there. I've met with Andrew Liveris. I've met with the Premier. I've met with the Deputy Premier. And we have got, now, a funding agreement going forward. When we came to office, to be very clear, there was not $1 allocated by the Federal Government for the Olympics. Lines in media releases don't build new infrastructure, new facilities. I'm a big supporter of the Brisbane Olympics. This is an opportunity to showcase this global city and global state to the world. It's not just about Brisbane, of course. We will be supporting 19 separate facilities throughout Brisbane and regional Queensland because we see this as an opportunity. And with the arena that will be funded by the Commonwealth, that will provide a piece of infrastructure with a drop-in pool while the Olympics around but then it being removed with the facility for entertainment and activities for Queenslanders for a long period of time into the future. That's what we need to do, make sure that the investment which is made produces a return, obviously assisting the Olympics to be the great success I'm sure it will be in 2032, but an ongoing benefit for the people of Queensland and indeed the people of the nation.

JOURNALIST: Your government has advocated for a rise to the minimum wage in line inflation.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we haven't actually. You haven't seen the submission.

JOURNALIST: But that's what you have flagged you're going to do.

PRIME MINISTER: The submission will be released later today. So we should be clear about what it will do. And when you see the submission, you'll see it's in line with the values that my government have. The Fair Work Commission will make its decision independently of the government.

JOURNALIST: Are you confident of Labor's chances in Aston this weekend?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Ashton, of course, is a by-election in a seat that's held by the Opposition. A government has not won a seat off the Opposition in a by-election for more than 100 years. So history tells you what the chances are of success. If it happens, it will be a more than one in a century event. This is a seat that has been a very safe Liberal Party seat. The former Member, Mr. Tudge received 54.7 per cent of the primary vote, the primary vote, in 2019 just four years ago. So how it is that the Liberal Party aren't expecting a two party preferred vote with a six in front is what you would expect. The average swing away from governments when Labor has been in government in by-elections is around about between five and 6 per cent away from the government. So that having been said though, Mary Doyle is a great candidate. She hasn't shopped around for seats. She stood in Aston last time in the election less than a year ago. She's single mum, who knows what it's like to do it tough. She's a cancer survivor, who's come through all of that to raise her family in the outer Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, where she's lived for 35 years. She's a great candidate. And I'm hoping, and I would ask the people of Aston, firstly, make sure you vote, because the voting turnout appears to be very low at this point in time compared with a year ago. Make sure you vote. And when you do, send a message to the Opposition that they need to do better than Peter Dutton because all we see from the Coalition is just saying no to everything. This week, they said no to the National Reconstruction Fund. They said no to manufacturing jobs. They said no to the safeguard mechanism, which is their policy that was established by Tony Abbott. They're saying no to the Housing Australia Future Fund for more affordable housing. They just sit there. They don't participate in any of the debates or negotiations that occur in the Parliament. And having one more person sitting there saying no, won't do anything, Mary Doyle will be able to be an advocate, as a member of the government, will be able to get things done for the people of Aston. And I would encourage people to vote for Mary Doyle tomorrow. Number one, make sure you fill in all the squares. And then to send a message that the Liberal Party needs to do better than just disappearing, which is what Peter Dutton's strategy seems to be.

JOURNALIST: On Aston, do you think the result will speak volumes about your government's management of cost of living, considering it's the first time your government has gone up against the Opposition under Peter Dutton?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we'll see what the outcome is, of course, that's up to the people of Aston. As I said, the average swing away from a government when Labor has been in government has between five and 6 per cent. So you would expect a Coalition vote pretty close to 60 per cent two party preferred, which is what it's been for most of the last 30 years. It's been a very safe Liberal Party seat, let's be clear here. But Labor is having a crack. We're giving the people of Aston a choice, because we think that the Liberal Party in Victoria are a mess. Federally, they just sit there and vote no to everything. What we actually need as a country, and this company shows what opportunities we have. This company wasn't built by people sitting down and just going 'it's all too hard'. I mean, they're Eeyors of Australian politics and Peter Dutton is the angry Eeyore. He just sits there saying 'woe is me, the sky is falling in'. I mean, no wonder they don't support solar energy because they think the sky is falling all the time. Every time there's an initiative put forward, the responses are, 'it's apocalypse soon, it's all too hard'. They just oppose things. Not a constructive idea. I was Opposition Leader for three years. We came up with policies, as Opposition Leader in Budget Replies, like the National Reconstruction Fund, like the Housing Australia Future Fund. We came up with our climate change policy. They've been in opposition for a year, they haven't changed one thing from the government that was rejected by people last year.

JOURNALIST: Should Peter Dutton step down then as Opposition Leader if the Liberals lose Aston?

PRIME MINISTER: That's a matter for the Liberal Party. 

JOURNALIST: How do you think the Reconstruction Fund can help create more companies like Tritium and position Australia as a leader in the move towards clean energy?

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, what the National Reconstruction Fund can do is if you've got a company out there a startup that is looking for capital investment, it can provide that financial support to make sure that that company can go from being a startup, to the sort of growth that we see here. It's about providing support for businesses just like this one, that began as an idea and a startup but with fantastic IP. This is the best product in the world. We should be so proud. I'm proud, as the Australian Prime Minister, to stand next to an electric vehicle charging station that is the best in the world. How good is that? Everyone knows this is going to be an enormous growth industry going forward. What we need to do is to maximise those opportunities, to seize them and provide support for the private sector, because it's the private sector that drives innovation. But what good government can do is facilitate that private sector activity. And if we do that, then we'll produce a return. Anyone who invested in Tritium in the early years is not saying that was a bad decision, because it's a good decision for them. And it's a good decision for the Australian government to invest in Australian innovation and Australian know-how.

JOURNALIST: If the Libs retain Aston, based on all the things you've said this morning, is that a vote of no confidence in all the things that you put forward since being in government?

PRIME MINISTER: The Liberals should retain Aston with a massive majority, everything points towards that. There has not been a government win a seat off the Opposition in any by-election for more than 100 years. So what my government is doing, we're getting on with the job. All of the expectations are, of course, that the Opposition should retain Aston and they should retain Aston with an increase of at least five to six per cent. There was a huge swing last time around in Aston, in part because of the controversy around Mr Tudge that's pretty well known and known by the voters of Aston. So you had this huge swing that started off in 2019 with 60 per cent, the margin was above 60. You would expect in a by-election that it'd be even higher for the Liberal Party. The fact that the Liberal Party having to spend so much money, and they have massively outspent Labor in this by-election, in order to hang on to one of their heartland seats, says everything about the state of the Liberal Party brand. We saw that last week in New South Wales, where the Liberal Party lost but Peter Dutton couldn't be seen with Dominic Perrottet since October 2022. So it's just an extraordinary position that you had a state election in the largest state of Australia, where the Opposition Leader couldn't be seen with the Premier. I certainly was seen with Premier Perrottet on multiple occasions, including in this year. And I wish him well, I had a constructive relationship with Premier Perrottet. Of course I wanted now-Premier Minns to win the election and I was very happy to be seen with, not just with Chris Minns, but with multiple candidates in South Coast, Kiama, Penrith, Oatley, Riverstone, Ryde, Drummoyne, Strathfield, Balmain and multiple other seats. People will make their own judgement about why it is that people don't want to be seen with Peter Dutton. But I'd say to the Opposition, they need to change their tactic. This week, sitting there and just voting no to everything including the National Reconstruction Fund. Australia deserves better.