Doorstop with Premier Baird
As we were just saying, what Mike and I have signed today – and we’re here of course with our Ministers – what we’ve signed today is an important, really a historic step in the way the federal government works with state and, indeed, with local governments.
The federal government has always been an investor in infrastructure, in cities. But historically, there has been very little cooperation. The levels of government have often been passing each other like ships in the night, without sufficient communication and collaboration.
Now, this is a very big change that I have made as Prime Minister to the way the Federal Government approaches investment in cities.
We know that Mike and local government leaders in Sydney have a big vision for this city.
We know that the importance of our investment - well over $3 billion in Western Sydney transport infrastructure alone to date - we know how important it is. But it's critical that we collaborate and work together, and we're doing that. We're doing that for example in the planning for the rail to the Western Sydney Airport.
We will be working with the Western Sydney City deal to ensure that we achieve, in every respect,
the agreed outcomes. They are; greater housing availability; greater employment opportunities; better transport infrastructure; greater amenity, greater liveability. The big difference is that, in years past, all too often, population has spread into areas, development has occurred, without the infrastructure.
When people complained in Sydney about congestion, what they are really complaining about is a failure of past governments to invest in the infrastructure. Mike has been a leader, a visionary leader, in terms of building the infrastructure that I regret to say his Labor predecessors neglected for decades. He's got in, he's building that road and rail and we're supporting him, and we're going to work even more closely together.
So, Mike, it's wonderful to be here and agree on this MOU, and I know there's a lot more that we're going to do together because we share your vision and we support it for this great city.
Absolutely, thanks, PM. It is a very important day for this city. Can I commend the Prime Minister for his vision in this area.
The cities plan is something he is passionate about. He strongly believes, to have a stronger country, we need to have stronger cities. A big part of that is how state governments and commonwealth governments can work together.
The big difference here is we are moving from an approach where - let's look at infrastructure piece by infrastructure piece and work out whether we can get some additional funding from the Commonwealth government to help us to get this done - it's moved into a much more strategic framework. It's saying - if we are going to require infrastructure, how can we make it the best we possibly can be, let's strategically work on improving this city, growing this city, enhancing this city.
As you build infrastructure, you look for the jobs, you look for the housing, you look for the amenity, you look for the green spaces which obviously are part of that. Collectively, you end up with a much stronger city.
So I think this is a very historic moment in terms of the partnership between the Commonwealth Government and state governments more broadly, and it shows that it's not just about trying to tip dollars in, it's about trying to make a great city even greater and that's something I'm absolutely delighted to sign up to today.
Certainly, the first start, looking at the western city and moving around the airport. The reason that is so important is that's not just going to be an economic driver for this city. I strongly believe, in the next 20-25 years, it's going to be the economic driver for this nation. So collectively, how can we make it the best we possibly can? How can we connect housing? How can we connect employment zones? What infrastructure is required? Already, there's significant details on the infrastructure that we're going through at the moment in terms of trains and accessibility across the region. But that is what this vision delivers.
Clearly, yesterday was a great day for this state because, in terms of financial capacity, we now have financial capacity to do more. So, the great thing about this framework - and I won't ask the Prime Minister to commit right now - but clearly, there are more opportunities.
So, from a New South Wales Government point of view, there are more opportunities to do more, and doing more under this framework, we are setting up this city for a generation.
So, PM, thank you for coming to this great city. I know it's yours.
But clearly, this is going to change the way we interact going forward and on the back of it, I strongly believe we're going to end up with an even greater city, so, thank you.
You both want to create the 30-minute city. Premier, you just mentioned you came into quite a lot of money yesterday, what infrastructure can you commit to over and above what you've already announced, to create the 30-minute city?
Well, I mean, obviously it's too early to commit to specific projects. The exciting thing is we now have more opportunities and it's quite rare in government to be in a position where not only are you going to build and deliver your existing commitments, but to start to look for more. That's an exciting time.
We're already starting to undertake a significant amount of work with the Prime Minister and his team and clearly the next stage is - what can we do, and how quickly can we do it? That is why it is perfect timing, in many respects, to be announcing this, because we have the capacity to do more.
So the question is, what can we do that's new? What can we bring forward? How can we ensure that we're connecting the city and preparing - as the Prime Minister outlined - for the growth? In Western Sydney - 1 million extra people over the next 20 years. We have to have the infrastructure, we have to have the jobs, we have to have the community amenity.
Now is the perfect time to be planning it. With those additional funds, we're in a much better capacity to address it.
Prime Minister, the Premier has been quite vocal about the lack of commitment from the Commonwealth Government on Gonski funding. Are you any closer to coming to a commitment with Premier Baird in funding it long-term?
You have to remember that the Federal Government has been funding in accordance with the previous arrangements, in accordance with what you might call the Gonski funding. But let me be clear about this - the arrangements that the Labor Government put in place, the Gillard Government put in place, in fact, that Bill Shorten, as a minister, put in place - were not David Gonski's plan.
Let me be very clear about this. There were 27 separate arrangements which are all inconsistent across the country. You've got similarly situated schools in one part of the country, receiving very different levels of Commonwealth funding. Now, what we are working with the states to do -
my Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, is doing this - is to ensure that we will agree on levels of funding which are consistent with the principle that David Gonski set out, which requires there to be funding that is equitable, funding that is needs-based, and funding that is done in a way that ensures we improve educational outcomes. This is really the biggest issue. The fact is, the melancholy truth of the matter is this - state and federal governments have been spending more money on school education for a long time, and educational outcomes have not been improving. They have, in fact, been deteriorating. The gap between our best students and our least successful students has been widening. That's wrong. That's not good enough. We're very focused on an equitable funding method - one that is needs-based, and one that drives the great outcomes for our kids and our grandkids that I know Mike and I are absolutely committed to.
Premier, you don't agree with that, though, do you?
I absolutely agree with what the Commonwealth Government has done in the sense that we have agreed on the four years and importantly, in the election campaign, what the Commonwealth Government agreed to was needs-based funding beyond. That is the core and that is the principle. We strongly believe that every student - it doesn't matter what their income, doesn’t matter what school, they deserve the best opportunities.
What we have said constructively with the Commonwealth, we are obviously in discussions beyond those four years, and how that looks. Certainly, from our point of view, that if, and the Prime Minister's absolutely right to say you don't just put additional money in without seeing improved outcomes. Our argument would be as that, if outcomes are proven and we're starting to see some results come in in terms of the funding, as those here would know this week, at Hurstville South Public School, we saw improvement in NAPLANs of about 20 per cent.
If we start to see those improvements consistently, directly attributed to these fundings, well, clearly as we engage with the Commonwealth Government we will be arguing that the funding must continue. It's a question of how much and what form. We will continue to work constructively with the Commonwealth Government on that.
Prime Minister, from what you understand, did Tony Abbott mislead the parliament yesterday?
I've got nothing to add to what I said in parliament yesterday. But let me deal with the issue of…the real issue that's at the heart of this.
In August of last year, the Abbott Government imposed an import ban on lever-action shotguns with more than five rounds. This is the Adler seven shot lever-action shotgun. In September of last year, the Abbott Government varied that ban to impose a sunset clause so that the ban ran for 12 months. When that sunset clause was coming close to its conclusion in August of this year, I brought the matter to my Cabinet and we resolved that's to say, the Turnbull Government resolved to continue the import ban indefinitely.
The Abbott Government was committed to banning the importation of the shotgun, the Turnbull Government is committed to banning the importation of the shotgun. The ban has always been expressed to be temporary, in the sense that we are awaiting the agreement of state and territory police ministers to the reclassification of these weapons under the 1996 National Firearms Agreement. Everybody agrees that the classifications should be strengthened from where they are at the moment. Unless there's been some developments today, there are to date, they have not reached agreement. Until the State Ministers do, and it's their legislation - the import ban will stay in place.
But you're clearly not all on the same page in terms of what actually happened last year. Did you instruct Peter Dutton to confront Tony Abbott about this?
The ministers both answered questions in the House, as did I, and I've got nothing further to add to the answers that I gave.
Have you seen emails from his office?
I was just going to ask - do you believe that Tony Abbott has kept his commitment which he made not to engage in sniping?
Well, I'm not going to - I'm very happy to deal with the facts. I'm not going to run a commentary on any other members of parliament. So, if you have questions about the facts, I think I've described the facts fairly, and the history. If you've got any other questions on the facts, I'm happy to entertain them.
On the facts Prime Minister, were you aware of the deal last year at all?
The arrangement - the decision to impose the sunset clause was not a Cabinet decision last year.
Well yes, the regulations were in both August and in September and, indeed recently, of course, were decisions by the executive council. So formal decisions of government, but it was not the - the sunset clause - it wasn't a decision of the Abbott Cabinet. I ensured that the extension of the ban that was made by my government was a decision of the Cabinet.
There's no way that Tony Abbott wouldn't have known about that back then?
I was asked questions about this yesterday, and I've got nothing further to add to them. I think I was a very clear.
Do you hope the states maintain the ban on the Adler? What do you hope they will come to a decision on there?
As I said – in 1996, shotguns - including lever-action shotguns - let's say - in 1996, lever-action shotguns were included in what is known as Category A. Now, let's be very clear about this; gun licences are not easy to get in Australia. We have the strictest gun legislation - there is no comparable country I can think of that has stricter gun legislation. It's one of John Howard's great achievements.
The classification and the regulation of firearms in New South Wales is a matter for the New South Wales Government and New South Wales Parliament. So all of these gun laws are state laws. The Federal Government controls importation. So, the lever-action shotguns were in Category A.
Last year, the police became aware that a large number of these lever-action guns, the Adler guns so-called, were going to be imported, and the Federal Government took decisive action and in August imposed an import ban, which was expressed to be a temporary ban until the state and territory police ministers - and of course part of that council is the Federal Minister - agreed on a reclassification. I don't think there's ever been any question that the classification for these guns should be increased. So they should move from A into higher categories, into more restricted categories.
That agreement has not yet been reached, and until it is - until it is - the ban, which I renewed, my government renewed, my Cabinet renewed - will stay in place. That's the fact.
Can I quickly touch on the compromise you and the Premier reached regarding more grassroots input into preselection in this state?
Well I'll speak to this and then - Mike, they've been letting you off lightly, Mike, you haven't had a question yet. You don't mind. You’ll be next.
I should do more of these with you!
We should work together more!
Okay, look, Mike and I are absolutely committed to our great grassroots political movement - the Liberal Party having many more members. We wanted to have many more members. We want members to be more engaged. We want to be able to reach out so that the party can have the levels of membership it did a generation ago.
When I first joined the Liberal Party, it had six or seven times more members in this state and around the country than it does today. Now, the truth is that my generation and my children's generation are not joiners of organisations in the same way as our parents were. That's true. And that goes across the board. But we are a great grassroots political movement - we still are. We want the Liberal Party to be greater. And so, Mike and I have that - we have that ambition to have members having more say in every respect.
Does that mean plebiscites for pre-selection?
Look it does. I think the important point is that our party has a great opportunity, but it's a matter for our party. Tomorrow, we'll be engaging directly with our membership, who - both of us are incredibly appreciative for the work they do.
We wouldn't be here without them.
Absolutely right. Importantly and what we have said consistently is we strongly believe that every member should have more opportunities to have a vote in relation to pre-selection. So, one member, one vote is a principle we both absolutely agree with. There's a chance to reform the party and that's what we're going to discuss with our membership. Certainly that is something that we're both excited about. We believe in the party, its history, but there's a great future, and we're going to do that collectively with our membership.
I'll just put one question, one comment, just to finish off on the guns issue. Look, clearly the New South Wales Government supports the ban remaining in place. My encouragement in all of this debate is for Federal Labor to have a discussion with their State Labor colleagues who are in the midst, as I understand it, of negotiating a preference deal for a by-election with the Shooters and Fishers Party. That is quite an incredible development for this State Labor Party, but I'll put nothing past them on that. They're happy to do anything to gain some form of political opportunity - forget about what they believe in. I think that's something that we should be focusing very clearly on. Their Federal Labor colleagues seem to have a different view to what is going on right here in this state.
Premier, just a quick question – a staff member of one of your MPs has been accused of switching his gender identity to win a student election. Is this appropriate behaviour from one of your staffers, and how do you think LGBTI people feel about this?
I mean, I've seen those reports today. I don't know the details. For those that have been observing student politics for generations - I mean, all types of activities are got up to, many of which are inappropriate. If it is the case, clearly this is inappropriate.
Can I just say Mike, just one thing just to wrap up.
The important thing in terms of the party reform issue is that we are absolutely on the same page. Each of us have advocated members having a direct say in pre-selections for a long time. But we've talked about reform of the party - the party needs reform because it's a modern organisation, and every organisation constantly needs to be modernising and renewing itself. This is not a criticism of the party. It's a great grassroots political movement. Its members do remarkable work and we want to honour them, support them and encourage others to join their ranks by giving them a greater say.
We want this great grassroots political movement - which we are privileged to lead in New South Wales and federally. We want it to be greater still.
Thanks very much.