Jun 16, 2020
Australia PM Scott Morrison “State of the Nation 2020” June 15 Digital Forum
Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a “State of the Nation 2020” digital forum for Australia today, June 16. Read the full briefing speech here.
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Melinda Cilento: (03:59)
Well good morning ladies and gentlemen. I’m Melinda Cilento, I’m the Chief Executive of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. And I would like to welcome all of you in the room today as well as the viewers on our livestream. This is of course the opening session of CEDA’s annual State of the Nation forum and it is really fantastic to be here. Can I also welcome and acknowledge the Honorable Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, the Honorable Josh Frydenberg, Treasurer. Can I start of course by acknowledging that we meet in the land of the Ngunnawal and the Ngambri people and pay my respects to elders past, present and future in the spirit of reconciliation.
Melinda Cilento: (04:45)
Now of course to lead off State of the Nation, it is my great pleasure to welcome the Honorable Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia who’s- Thank you. Who’s going to speak and then we’ll do some questions, both from some of our members here in the audience but also some of the two and a half thousand viewers who have joined on livestream. Thank you, Prime Minister.
Scott Morrison: (05:12)
Thank you. Well, thank you very much for the introduction and it’s very good to be here today. It’s a pleasure to speak on CEDA’s 60th anniversary and can I acknowledge and pay my respects to the Ngunnawal people, to their elders past, present, and always importantly emerging. And can I acknowledge any serving members of our defense forces or any veterans who are here with us, which is my custom and to simply say on behalf of a very grateful nation, thank you for your service. I of course acknowledge the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and my Assistant Minister, Ben Morton who is also with us today.
Scott Morrison: (05:54)
For 60 years, the Committee for Economic Development Australia has been part of the debates that have shaped the Australian economy. And now in 2020 facing the greatest economic challenge and shock our nation has seen since The Great Depression, CEDA is again well-placed to inform the policies needed for Australia’s recovery. CEDA’s founder, Sir Douglas Copland spoke of chasing what he called the adventure of growth. It is a quest that I think aligns precisely with today’s challenge, as we look to recover from the health and economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scott Morrison: (06:43)
Today I want to share with you some further thoughts on where as a government we see the economy at this point in the COVID-19 crisis, and the implications for the many decisions we will need to make in the months ahead. I also want to take the opportunity to focus on the role that infrastructure investment and due regulation will play in our Job Maker plan. Building on my recent Job Maker announcements made here at the National Press Club some weeks ago, on skills, on industrial relations, but also since on housing and construction and reform of federal decision making and the Federation, Australia has shown incredible resilience in the face of our twin crisis.
Scott Morrison: (07:27)
We are saving lives and we are saving livelihoods. We’ve managed to do better than our fears and even our hopes. In Australia, our actions have limited COVID-19 infections to just over 7,000, fewer than 500 active cases today. And if we’ve reduced our daily infection rate to less than 0.2% and even lower, from a peak of more than 25%. Sadly of course, 102 Australians have died. Mercifully, this is a long way short of the predictions of hundreds of thousands of Australians contracting the virus, tens of thousands of deaths, and a health system in crisis. Our health response has been undoubtedly world-class working together between states and territories in the Commonwealth, bettering those of similar developed and sophisticated economies around the world as you can see from the chart, looking at the comparison of COVID cases. But not just those large developed economies. We are one of a handful of countries that have achieved this level of success on the health front.
Scott Morrison: (08:47)
And as you can see from this chart, it was not a foregone conclusion. As you can see in the early days of the epidemic as it hit Australia, you can see the line they’re sitting with all the other countries. All heading in one direction to catastrophe. And then you’ve seen what Australia has been able to achieve. Bettering not just a few countries but frankly most of the countries around the world. This has saved lives. Our death rate of just four people per million of our population is a fraction of other developed economies around the world. And in some cases, their death rate is more than 100 times what Australia’s is. Our response has followed a uniquely Australian path as we promised it would, getting the balance right between our health and our economic objectives, as this new global stringency index demonstrates by comparison, closing the borders, quarantining, building our health system capacity, social distancing, sensible restrictions, measured restrictions and strong testing, tracing, and local health response capabilities.
Scott Morrison: (10:14)
And whereas other countries impose strict lockdowns, we have been able to keep large sectors of our economy open and functioning, including construction, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, as well as large parts of the retail sector which were not closed. Now, this has not just yielded enviable health outcomes as I’ve pointed out, but it has limited the economic impact of the COVID crisis and put us in a position to emerge more quickly and more strongly. The recent national accounts showed that the Australian economy shrunk by 9.3% in the March quarter. Now, while the damage to the economy is heartbreaking at that level, it has been far less than so many other countries as you can see by the comparative performance on international growth across major developed economies.
Scott Morrison: (11:10)
Looking forward, Australia is expected to have the third lowest fall in GDP in 2020 of all economies served by the OECD. But the hit to our economy we must understand is significant despite our relatively stronger performance, and the road ahead will be very hard. There is a mountain yet to climb. Compared with the midyear update, it is expected that over a hundred billion dollars of economic activity has been lost in this year and that it will take us an estimated two years at least just to get back to the level we were at prior to the fall from COVID-19. And that’s why we have a plan to lift that growth, not just for the next few months, just not for now, but the next five years.
Scott Morrison: (12:09)
We need to lift our economic growth rate by more than one percentage point above trend to beat the expected pre-COVID-19 GDP position by 2025. To catch back up to where we were before COVID hit. Now, the restoration of growth is also critical to our public finances. We are looking at a record deficit this year and next, and not just because of record COVID-19 expenditures. Revenues have taken an equally large hit. And while our expenditure measures have been designed to be targeted and time-limited in accordance with the principles we set out as we [inaudible 00:12:56] the crisis, the impacts on revenue will be longer lived as the economy makes its way back.
Scott Morrison: (13:03)
… [inaudible 00:13:00] will be longer lived as the economy makes its way back. This will require us to recalibrate our fiscal strategy. This does not mean stepping back from our commitment to essential services and addressing the further needs in aged and disability care. We remain committed to those essential services and supports within the Australian community. Such expenditure where carefully planned and controlled will support growth and it will boost confidence, but we must be extremely cautious about our expenditure, especially as we navigate our way back from the record fiscal supports now in place. There will always be a case made for spending more and spending for longer. And there are plenty of people who are happy to make that case, but it is not a wise or responsible course. Such a path is dangerous and will prejudice medium and longer term capacity to deliver on core essential services like health, hospitals, schools, education, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, our social security supports. Overextending on the fiscal supports puts those longer term and medium term supportive services at risk.
Scott Morrison: (14:33)
Our budget will be balanced again by keeping expenses under control while boosting revenues through pro growth policies that lift investment and get Australians back into jobs just like we did it last time. Neither excessive austerity nor higher taxes are the path that our government will pursue. We will pursue growth and responsible budget management that ensure that governments live within their means and guarantee the essentials that Australians rely on as ever.
Scott Morrison: (15:11)
Now growing economy all comes back to getting people back into jobs. This is where we must start. And having created more than 1.5 million jobs before COVID-19 hit, we have done it before and as a government, we will do it again, working together with Australians right across this country. In April, we lost the equivalent of 30 months, 30 months of average jobs growth, devastating. May’s jobs numbers on Thursday I’m sure will show just how large this challenge remains. There is still worse news ahead of us. The impacts are across all states and territories, and so far worst in Victoria. Our jobs challenge is a truly national task and it is now the primary focus of the National Cabinet, which we have agreed to now make permanent. Recognizing the threat to jobs and businesses, we announced Job Keeper and the Job Seeker COVID-19 supplement early designed for Australia when uncertainty I should say was at its highest.
Scott Morrison: (16:26)
Once again, getting the balance right for Australia’s circumstances, not cutting and pasting from other jurisdictions. Along with other measures, the government injected some $260 billion into the economy over three tranches in the space of just three weeks. For now, businesses have rightly called on this emergency support and has proved to be an invaluable economic lifeline, buying them time to come to terms with the impact of COVID-19 and plan their way back. Those plans are now starting to be put in place by Australian businesses, small and large.
Scott Morrison: (17:11)
The [inaudible 00:17:11] via businesses found more than half of all small and medium sized businesses accessing wage subsidies. They have also benefited from cashflow supports and the deferral of loan and lease repayments, keeping these businesses alive and keeping jobs in place. Without these measures, businesses would have simply fallen over, fallen victim, never to open again. This still may ultimately be the experience for some, but for many more, these measures will have provided the bridge that those businesses and their employees needed. And that is why these supports have been put in place. But it’s also why they’re only temporary. Left in place for too long, not only will that damage the capacity of the budget to deal with important essential services, but it will also dull the dynamism of the economy and prevent the adjustments that must necessarily take place to enable new jobs to be created and our economy to move forward.
Scott Morrison: (18:19)
Similarly, individuals who have sadly not been able to retain their jobs have been supported by an enhanced safety net through the effective doubling of Job Seeker through the COVID-19 supplement and the relaxation of eligibility criteria. Around 1.6 million Australians are now on Job Seeker and around half accessing those payments over the past few months, and many have done it for the first time in their lives. And as you can see, it has been young people who have had the greatest increase in the demand for Job Seeker.
Scott Morrison: (18:56)
Now, this is also when you include those still employed, but working zero hours. We know there is a disproportionate impact on women and younger Australians and those with lower skills attainment, which identify key parts of the labor force, key parts of the Australian community we need to focus on as we prepare and plan our way out and make our way out. These workers are of course in the worst hit sectors in particular accommodation, hospitality and retail where more than 600,000 Australians have either lost their job or are working zero hours.
Scott Morrison: (19:36)
As can be seen also from the most recent national accounts, household consumption of services was what plummeted in the March quarter. Those services are in those sectors that have been most effected that I just pointed to. And there is worst expected in the June quarter when so many businesses had to shut down or obviously couldn’t remain open. And as you can see, nondiscretionary spending took an absolute hammering, even though spending on essentials actually increased during the quarter.
Scott Morrison: (20:10)
Now the good news, and there is because we’re an aspirational and we’re a positive people. Good news is we are now coming back. Australia is opening up again. Australians are once again, as this chart demonstrates, on the move as states and territories work together to implement our National Cabinet three-step plan to open up the economy. And this is boosting consumer confidence. Job Keeper and Job Seeker put a floor under the fall in consumer confidence back in March. And we have now recovered that lost ground in consumer confidence, both on both the Westpac and on the ANZ indices. High frequency spending data shows that this is being increasingly translated into increased retail sales. Now that’s good news for those young people and women working in hospitality and retail, who will be the first to benefit from the reopening. And this especially means those people. Now while trailing, the improvement in consumer sentiment, business confidence and conditions are also clawing their way back. The easing of restrictions and Australians emerging from isolation, confident in the health measures taken by governments will continue to drive up demand and indicate to businesses that they can once again open their doors and make a go of it. See it’s not just enough for the businesses to be able to be open. They’ve got to have confidence to open, to bring the staff back, to get the orders in for their inventories. We have to put the investments in, including through the instant asset write off which the treasury is extended out until the end of the year. That requires confidence that people are coming back.
Scott Morrison: (22:11)
We will be supported by the efforts we have made in that task to boost that confidence through the connections we’ve had with supply chains that better aid our growth. Now while global growth forecasts are weak and bleak, those of our major trading partners are much stronger, which is important for the outlook. And our mining sector has also been able to keep on running. Export volumes and prices are encouraging, as you can see from these charts and will provide much needed income for the country. And the same is true for many other export sectors. And with plans to reengage international education and our tourist industry opening up again, at least for domestic travelers, many more can see the road ahead.
Scott Morrison: (22:58)
As we come out of this COVID crisis and as we are on this road ahead, infrastructure development will play a critical role in our job maker plan. Our government has already committed nearly $180 billion on economic infrastructure over the next decade. And I’ll have the next slide. With more than half allocated across the four years of the [inaudible 00:10:25]. This isn’t just roads and rail that get us to work and get us to school and get goods to market and to ports. It’s dams that improve water security and underpin an expansion of high value agriculture as part of our 2030 agriculture plan. The telecommunication services that keep us connected, the poles and wires, which are critical to removing bottlenecks in our electricity grid and improving competition and driving down prices. Defense assets, which keep our nation secure and supporting many regional economies, advanced manufacturing. As we come to the end of this financial year, the Commonwealth will have invested more than $24 billion for key infrastructure projects in key government portfolios.
Scott Morrison: (24:13)
And as we move into 2021, we are pushing to do even more. Since last November, we have worked with state, territory and local governments to bring forward or inject additional investment totalling… This on top of what we’re doing… some $7.8 billion. That includes $4.2 billion for joint priority projects with the states and territories at [inaudible 00:00:24:35]. $1.75 billion in additional funding for Sydney Metro, Western Sydney Airport, fast-tracking a nearly $11 billion project that will support 14,000 jobs in the heart of Western Sydney. A $1.3 billion bring forward of the financial assistance it’s program that Deputy Prime Minister announced recently providing untied funds for all councils across Australia to use at their discretion. And that comes on top of the support as the DPM remind you of what has been done to support councils through both drought and bush fire recovery assistance.
Scott Morrison: (25:14)
$500 million in new funding to establish a new program supporting all councils to undertake local road and community infrastructure, upgrades that previously weren’t in their forward schedules, new spending. And today, I’m committing a further $1.5 billion to immediately start work on small priority projects, identified by the states and the territories as part of our partnership. As part of this package, $1 billion will be allocated to priority projects, which are shovel-ready. And being smaller projects, they’re ready to go with 500 million reserves specifically to target road safety works. This is an important opportunity to make our roads safer right across the country, not just in rural and regional areas where it is critically important.
Scott Morrison: (26:03)
… not just in rural and regional areas where it is critically important, but also in other parts of the country. Further announcements on these specific projects that will be made in coming days and soon. And the result being we will have brought forward or provided additional funding of some $9.33 billion in infrastructure investment in just the past eight months to build the pipeline of future projects. We’re determined though, to get out of the way and speed up progress by improving approvals processes. One area in which the Commonwealth has a direct regulatory role for relevant projects is through approvals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. According to departmental estimates, delays associated with these approvals alone costs industry over $300 million, just in 2019 and that’s not good enough.
Scott Morrison: (26:55)
The Commonwealth has already taken steps to cut project approval times under the EPBC Act. And at the end of 2019 approval decisions took 90 days on average today they take 40. That is what we achieved this year in 2020. Our goal is to cut these times by a further 25% by the end of this year and get it down to 35 for major projects. Ultimately, our objective is the streamlining of Commonwealth and state processes to a point of single touch approvals. The national cabinet has had already early discussions on how we can achieve this objective and there is already, I can assure you a high level of interest and engagement and indeed even agreement. The national cabinet will come back to this issue very shortly informed by the current review of the EPBC Act, being conducted by Graham Samuel. Now, when it comes to major projects, of course, focusing on Commonwealth approvals, won’t do much to deliver projects faster if we also don’t address the state approval processes.
Scott Morrison: (28:03)
And today I announced a priority list of 15 major projects that are now on a fast track for approval under a bilateral model between the Commonwealth States and territories. Joint assessment teams will work on accelerating these projects worth more than $72 billion in public and private investment. Projects that will support 66,000 direct and indirect jobs under. Our new project, this investment and most importantly, these jobs will be brought to market earlier by targeting a 50% reduction in Commonwealth assessment and approval times for major projects from an average of three and a half years to 21 months. Now this priority list includes the inland rail from Melbourne to Brisbane. The Meritus link between Tasmania and Victoria, Olympic dam extension in South Australia, emergency town water projects in new South Wales and road rail and iron ore projects in Western Australia. Early examples of this approach are already paying dividends and are very encouraging.
Scott Morrison: (29:09)
And I commend the New South Wales government whom we’ve been working with and we are on track to complete Commonwealth assessment and approval for the snowy 2.0 project in under two years, unlocking over 2000 regional jobs. Now successful deregulation has increased competition and economic efficiency, raising productivity, and ultimately supporting jobs and wages. Early gains have been made in the process I established with assistant minister Morton last year through the establishment of the deregulation task force.
Scott Morrison: (29:43)
Now this has already included simplifying business registers, streamlining export documentation and making it easier for a sole trader and micro business to employ people. In most cases, their first ever employee. The next phase of the task force work will zero in on areas to exist COVID-19 economic recovery. So for example, occupational licensing and registration requirements often vary across States and territories, which increases cost on business and workers who operate or move across Australia. Greater mutual recognition of qualifications and improved information flows between jurisdictions will be vital to allow Australians to take up job opportunities in coming months.
Scott Morrison: (30:27)
Secondly, COVID has shown that our laws have not kept pace with digital technology when it comes to business communications. For example, by requiring business to use paper for storing information, instead of using electronic delivery or adopting new technologies like blockchain, these laws to are right for modernization. And so today I announce that I’m bringing the deregulation task force into my own department, into the department of prime minister and cabinet as part of the government’s job maker agenda. This will further drive a whole of government approach to how regulatory policy is prosecuted supporting the assistant minister Ben Morton.
Scott Morrison: (31:05)
Our focus applies as much to the culture also of regulators as it does to the content of regulations. Sure anyone in business would understand that point that this crisis has shown what can be achieved when regulators are pragmatic and responsive solving problems without compromising safeguards. As the treasurer I know would reinforce opera in particular with the major banks to ensure that we could be dealing with deferral of loan payments and how that affects banks or capital adequacy ratios and all of these issues. Just working constructively together to solve quite a serious problem that was going to have a significant impact on whether businesses could keep their doors open.
Scott Morrison: (31:53)
The attitude of the regulator mattered as much as the regulations themselves. And so I’ve asked the assistant minister to report back on lessons learned in recent months highlighting cases where governments and regulators have responded to the COVID crisis and it’s economic fallout with urgency and with common sense. And there are many encouraging examples beyond the ones I’ve mentioned. Shop trading hours were deregulated in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia so people didn’t have to spend so long in the queues. Practical problem, practical solution by practical people.
Scott Morrison: (32:29)
Tracks were allowed to resupply along roads and during hours where they were previously burned and the sun came up the next day, it’s extraordinary. Steps were taken to ensure unnecessary professional requirements did not block nurses coming back into the workforce, common sense. At the Commonwealth level, we fast tracked approvals for drug trials, changes were made to the medical benefits scheme to promote the use of telehealth. We cut red tape to allow companies to use overseas standards for hand sanitizer. Cooperation between business and unions meant employers were empowered to reduce hours and reconfigure tasks that their employees are allowed to do, keeping people in jobs.
Scott Morrison: (33:20)
And we reduced financial reporting and other requirements that would have hit firms struggling to survive the shock as I said. As a result, businesses are able to sign documents also with electronic signatures and can conduct virtual AGM. Far from weakening high performance, this agility has helped our economy function, save jobs and has demonstrated what can be done when necessity is presented. At last Friday’s national cabinet I committed the Commonwealth to bring forward further priority is for deregulation in the Commonwealth sphere with specific targets. And I’ve asked them to match me and I’ll expect them to do the same. And I don’t believe I’ll be disappointed at all because there is a unity of purpose amongst national cabinet to get things moving, to get the jobs back.
Scott Morrison: (34:11)
It’s amazing what focus, unity and purpose can deliver. And we want to keep that going. Government of Western Australia already has bills before its legislative council to accelerate major projects, reduce red tape and facilitate bilateral agreements with the Commonwealth to remove duplication between our assessment and approval processes. And my simple message to the Western Australian parliament is passed the bill it’s good for jobs. It provides a model I believe for other state and territory jurisdictions. The productivity commission will also be tasked with informing and developing this Federation wide deregulation agenda.
Scott Morrison: (34:50)
The bringing in of experts and Brendan Murphy is now I suspect a household name, nothing I suspect he ever anticipated when venturing into his career as a public health professional many years ago. But those experts have been incredibly important to our government, to the national cabinet governments, governments all around the country. And I’ve asked the commissions chair, Michael Brennan, to brief the next national cabinet meeting on priority areas where we can work together to unlock investment and create jobs. And I look forward to his presentations as I know the premiers and the chief ministers also do. So in conclusion, Australia faces an immense challenge as we look to recover from our first recession in three decades. Those words are hard to say. For many of us, I think for most Australians, it still sinks in.
Scott Morrison: (35:45)
We worked so hard to get Australia back on the right track one and a half million jobs, a budget brought back into balance and then within space of days, it shows how important economic resilience must be for the future. It shows how we must never let the tension and the cord slacking when it comes to the important economic changes we need to make to secure Australians lives and livelihoods. We need to return that growth that will support real sustainable jobs. The wages that support families with all the decisions they want to make. And importantly, the essential services that Australians rely on. Our governments five-year job make a plan chats the way forward for a new generation of economic success. We are weathering this storm. It’s now time to gather that momentum to continue to build the confidence that we need to resume Douglas Copeland’s great adventure. Thank you very much for your attention.
Melinda Cilento: (37:02)
Well, thank you, prime minister. I think it probably goes without saying that for the committee for economic development of Australia, we’re pretty excited to hear that series investments in infrastructure. But also I think the points that you were making about acknowledging the things that people have been able to do, businesses and governments have been able to do, I think you talked about changes of attitudes. I think that’s absolutely a really important call out. And we at CEDA by virtue of this forum, you can see we’re doing things differently and there’s whole bunch of things that we’re hoping to do differently in the future as well. But I think the other point I wanted to make is that I’m hearing from a lot of businesses that obviously is they deal with the COVID crisis, there’s a lot of new costs coming to their business.
Melinda Cilento: (37:48)
So having a deregulation agenda, that’s going to help them to manage that and to be more agile, I think is critically important. I mentioned we’re doing things a little bit differently. We have got people on live stream as well. So we are going to ask them to ask some questions, just a quick reminder to those of you who are on live stream, CEDA.pigeonhole.80 and the code is SON1. Also, we’re going to look for a question from the room. I’ve got Ellen Derrick, who is the Deloitte national leader of public sector and public policy for the first question. Thank you, Helen.
Thanks Melinda. And thank you, prime minister for your remarks. And it was great to hear the portfolio of announcements, both click ready, digital projects and shovel ready. So thank you. Given where at CEDA as state of the nation audience is a number of organizations, cross sector academia and given we’re on this country’s growth adventure together, do you have a particular ask or call to action for us today, particularly given work kicking off this great day of debate through CEDA?
Scott Morrison: (38:53)
What has CEDA Australia apart I believe in the last few months, what we’ve been able to achieve where others haven’t is I haven’t experienced-
Scott Morrison: (39:03)
… where others haven’t, is I haven’t experienced, at least in my time in public life, are coming together. Whether it’s regulators, business, employers, employees, unions, scientists, medical professionals, manufacturers, defense forces, this has been a time, I think, of great togetherness more than just the issue of isolation with our families at home. There has been a broader bringing together, and that has been a high priority for me, to bring people together. Now, of course, there are some who will chip from the sidelines and choose not to participate, that’s for them. But I think the broader experience has been one of coming together, and that’s what we need to maintain. There is an active debate about the path we’re taking forward. I think I’ve set out this morning some clear direction on that path as I did when I was last here in this room just a few weeks ago, the [inaudible 00:40:02] program is all about the enabling parts of our economy.
Scott Morrison: (40:06)
Sure, in the short term, we have significant fiscal supports that are in place to support demand in the economy, that has a role to play. Particularly, given that monetary policy is more or less spent. And… So, we understand the role that fiscal policy has to play in that, but that doesn’t always have to take the form that it began with. And our investments in pharmaceuticals, in hospitals, major new agreement we’ve just announced, in infrastructure and all of these, the tax cuts, are still rolling out. That’s an important fiscal support to the economy. Not just now, but when we announced that, we’re several years into that plan now, and that plan extends over the next five years and synchronizes nicely with the [inaudible 00:40:50] plan. That’s all fiscal supports. But the supply side reforms that we’re talking about and we’re seeking to pursue collaboratively, I think will be very important for the next whole generation. So, I’d encourage CEDA, to do what it’s always done. And those [inaudible 00:41:03], to continue to engage to find that common ground on some of these changes. The government, obviously, at the end of the day will have to make calls on them, and we will, and we won’t delay, because we need to move forward on it. But in the first instance, I’m very keen to bring as much out of the community as we possibly can. My job is to bring Australians together wherever we can, but ultimately as a government, to make a call and get on with it.
Melinda Cilento: (41:30)
Thanks, Ellen. Prime Minister, one of the questions we’ve got through the live stream audience, I think follows on nicely from that, which is really picking up this [inaudible 00:41:39] of bipartisanship, of all in this together, we’ve seen this throughout the crisis. A lot of the things that you’ve announced today really require that to continue.
Scott Morrison: (41:48)
Melinda Cilento: (41:49)
National cabinets working well. I’m really interested in how you see that cooperation continuing going forward. And if you look at, even on infrastructure, you’ve got the eye bodies around the country, you’ve got different departments, you’ve got states, you’ve got federal, you’ve got the transport and infrastructure council, how do you see that all knitting together? And how… What do you… What role are you going to play in trying to kind of keep everyone on the straight and narrow, so to speak?
Scott Morrison: (42:15)
Well, our role federally, and my roles as Prime Minister, Josh as Treasurer, Michael as Deputy Prime Minister, and the ministers in my cabinet, is really to set the direction. When we announced the changes to moving up past the COAG era and into the new National Cabinet and National Federation Reform Council era, the big change is that there will be much stronger direction coming from the leadership. Not just from, obviously, from the federal government but from the state and territories as well. What we’ve seen through the actions of the national cabinet, has been an elevation of state interests into a national interest. And so, when Premiers and I get around a table, it is not to discuss the parochial concerns of one jurisdiction, but what the national task is and how they all can play a part in it. I think that is a big shift.
Melinda Cilento: (43:05)
Scott Morrison: (43:06)
And frankly, I think… Look, the bipartisanship issue, there isn’t a lot of that, I’ve got to say. I mean, there is great difference of view about the economic pathway forward, that’s politics. That’s part of our democracy. What I’ve sought to do, was brought together the institutions of government and society. Whether it will be our scientific community, our medical community, our state and territory governments, local governments, indeed, as Michael and his ministers colleagues in the National Party, have been working with local governments. This has been very important.
Scott Morrison: (43:44)
We are bringing people together who have very serious jobs to do, and are responsible for things. And that occurs whether it’s Larry over at the CSIRO or anyone else. And the COVID commission, which will translate into a new mode soon, that has proved also to be very valuable contributor to our thinking. And I see a broader role from that and a broader participation in that. It operated in an early phase of a very small group, but I see that group having an onward life and having a few more voices included in it, which I think will be very productive. And it started off as a very, frankly, tactical problem solving crew, because we had problems with getting food to grocery stores.
Melinda Cilento: (44:35)
Scott Morrison: (44:35)
That had to be fixed. Now, they have been working very closely with us on the very things we’ve been talking about today, the broader industrial relations changes that we are working with people to achieve. And… So, it is providing those opportunities and those platforms for people to come together, we’re doing that. But it’s also about providing the clear direction and leadership on top of that, so those processes can be guided and they just don’t meander off forever. There’s a time for having the discussion and then we’ll make a decision, and then we’ll get on with it.
Melinda Cilento: (45:14)
Well unfortunately, we’re out of time, I think. I’ve got a long list of questions here. If you don’t mind, I’m just going to give you a bit of a flavor on them.
Scott Morrison: (45:21)
Melinda Cilento: (45:21)
I’m sure in future statements and in future work you’ll address them, but just so you get a sense of what people are interested in. I’m obviously really interested to see how these infrastructure projects play out. A couple of people sort of talking a little bit about youth unemployment, and obviously very concerned about making sure we get the jobs for young people. And I think people are probably mindful of some of the experiences we saw in Europe after the global financial crisis, and really keen to make sure that the stimulus flows through to young people and also women who’ve had drops in employment faster than others in the community, so that’s a bit of a sense. I think lurking beneath that is some interest, obviously, of course, looking at the Treasurer, what we do with job keeper and job seeker in due course. That’s really a couple of the key themes that are coming up. And then, not surprisingly, people interested to understand how we rebuild manufacturing in Australia.
Scott Morrison: (46:14)
Well, let me just touch on a couple of those. We absolutely acknowledge, and you would have seen that from identifying it in the slides that I put up. It has been younger people, and it has been women who have been more impacted in the initial shock of this crisis so much. And this recession is quite different from the last, in that respect. It was often those going through structural transition, and was middle aged males coming out of older industries and things like that, that were mainly impacted in that. This one is very different. And I think that also is a sign of the times and that our workforce is completely different today. We’re at record levels of female workforce participation, the lowest gender pay gap we’ve seen in this country before the COVID crisis hit. So we’re making great gains there.
Scott Morrison: (47:03)
And, those jobs have been hit very hard. And so, that is obviously a key focus now, as I said, as their economy, particularly in those industries which are heavily employing of women, start to revive again, then we would hope to see at least the… An initial improvement in that situation. But, we will need to maintain a clean focus on our women’s economic security plan, which we were the first to introduce. And that will get a refresh. On top of that, the focus we need to put on youth employment, and we already have a number of programs in this area. The Apprentice Wage Subsidy, was one of the first… Was the first thing we did together with the first stimulus package we put back in several months ago. Because we knew it would be young people who’d be worst hit. And particularly, things like the home builder program and things like that, will support young people into jobs.
Scott Morrison: (48:02)
But, the young people… I remember this from when I was Social Services Minister, you’ve got to get young people into jobs before they’re 22, and no later than they’re 25. Because the simple analysis of it is, if you don’t, their chances of spinning a lifetime on welfare go through the roof. I’m very conscious of that. That has been a statistic. First time I heard it when I was Social Services Minister, that has never left my head. And so, how our social services operate, how our employment services operate, how our welfare system operates, has to get these young people back into jobs. For their own sake, for their family’s sake, but also for the nation’s economic stake and its fiscal stake. Because, the impacts of lifelong welfare dependency, are crippling.
Scott Morrison: (48:57)
And so, we are very conscious of those issues and I’m sure the DPM will be taking many opportunities to tell the country about how these programs are going to roll out, particularly with the states and territories. But let me finish by thanking you Melinda, and thanking CEDA, for the opportunity to be here today, and to thank my colleagues for joining me here this morning, and look forward to working together on the road back.
Melinda Cilento: (49:19)
Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Please join me in thanking the Prime Minister of Australia. Thank you. We’ll be back in a minute or two, thank you. I think we’ve [inaudible 00:49:32] this way.