Source: Australia Government Ministerial Statements
Photo: AAP Image/Marc McCormack
THE HON WARREN ENTSCH MP: Well thank you very much indeed for being here. It’s another red letter day for Cairns and for far North Queensland. I have here our Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Professor Chris Cocklin from James Cook University and we are welcoming the Prime Minister to make a statement here today which is going to have a very positive and profound impact on our future, particularly in relation to medical science and for our hospital system in Cairns. So over to you.
PRIME MINISTER: Well thank very much Warren and thanks Chris for having here and to all the amazing scientists here who are doing tremendous work, not just for Australia but right across the regions. It’s tremendous to get a bit of an update on the work that they’ve been doing. Not that long ago I was here, Warren, as the JCU as well announcing $10 million for the innovation hub and I was which is being spent and those projects are happening.
But you know, since the last election, youth unemployment here has fallen from 28 per cent to 15.6 per cent. That’s what’s happened under our Government. Youth unemployment here in North Queensland, in Warren’s electorate has fallen from 28 per cent to 15.6 per cent. Now you might say why are you talking about that? Aren’t you going to talk about hospitals today? Yes I am going to talk about hospitals today. The reason I can announce today $60 million to support the James Cook University Tropical Enterprise Centre, that will free up 150 beds in Cairns Hospital and enable the fusion between the wonderful work we are seeing here done here with a teaching hospital and university here in North Queensland, the reason I can do that is because we’re running a strong economy and we’re running a strong Budget and with a strong economy youth unemployment falls, you get record employment growth, particularly for young people, which is what our Government, and the careful stewardship of our economy, is being is able to deliver. I am very pleased because we are running a strong economy we can invest and we can guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on.
Yesterday I was talking about critical new PBS listings for Australians suffering with lung cancer. Today, I can talk about freeing up 150 beds in Cairns Hospital here for the health treatment of locals here in North Queensland but also building on the incredible work being done by JCU as becoming an absolute centre of excellence when it comes to all things tropical. Tropical business, tropical research into medicines and diseases. Linking up with other parts of the world. Becoming an internationally recognised hub for all of this which will only further compound the opportunities and grow those opportunities here in far North Queensland. I want to thank Warren, I want to thank Con, I want to thank the whole team for the way they have focused on this project and bringing all the strands together. We’re doing this today because we’re able to do it because of a strong economy and I’m going to remain absolutely focused on continuing to deliver that strong economy which means we can have Medicare bulk billing rates at their highest on record. We can be funding hospitals here with increased funding. Up here since 2017, I think it is, by $39 million. And at the same time, the State Government has cut funding to hospitals up here. So when it comes to who you can rely on to increase funding for health without increasing your taxes, it’s the Liberals and the LNP here in Queensland.
So I want to thank you for the opportunity to be here today and make the announcement today and very happy to be doing so. Great work to Warren and the team up here in the north. And I want to thank, particularly Advance Cairns for the work they have done with in working with us on working up these proposals. We have had many meetings with Advance Cairns. I first met Trent years ago when I was Treasurer and we would come up and talk about the priorities and you can see the vision that Advance Cairns has right across the region. I know Warren has worked hand in glove with Advance Cairns to ensure that we can deliver, whether it is this project, the project I announced last time I was here last time which just means the north can continue to grow stronger and with greater capability in future for the young people getting those jobs, the scientists and researchers coming from all around the world and from just people every day getting who need good quality health care and they’re getting it because of our strong economy which I am absolutely determined to continue.
PROFESSOR CHRIS COCKLIN: Thank you, welcome, Prime Minister, to James Cook University. What a great day it is for Cairns today. We are announcing… the Government is announcing a $60 million investment in the Cairns Hospital, which as the Prime Minister indicated is going to free up bed space. But as importantly, it is going to also enable the growth, diversification and strengthening of the Cairns Hospital in a way that really is warranted I think in this particular location and this particular region. It is something that absolutely has to happen.
So, what we’re talking about here is the bringing together of technologies and research in health and health-related disciplines, and particularly with the digital enabling of those capabilities, health capabilities. And so, the Prime Minister’s used the word “fusion”. We will be bringing together the work that is done through our IOT, our Internet Of Things disciplines and putting that together with our health-related disciplines to establish a centre, the Cairns Tropical Enterprise Centre, that will enable us in Cairns to establish this location as a national and indeed an international leader in digital connections with health. And so things like being able to provide remote diagnosis to people at great distance, to using sensor technology to be able to better diagnose and indeed to be able to prescribe treatments for people at large.
The other element of this particular investment from the Morrison Government is that it’s going to create a place in which we can advance another national priority which is in STEM education, science, technology, engineering, maths education. What we aspire to with the CTEC is to create a facility in which we can work with the local high school to create a leading edge international capability to provide STEM education to students in Cairns and that’s the foundation on which that employment that the Prime Minister has referred to will actually grow and prosper.
So we’re very pleased that the Centre not only will bring together the health and the digital agendas but also provide a wonderful facility for young people in Cairns to prosper in their science education. Look, I would also like to express first, thanks to the Morrison Government for this wonderful, inspired, innovative investment in the Cairns region. We are deeply grateful, Prime Minister, for what you have announced today. I express thanks also to our colleague and friend, Mr Warren Entsch, Member for Leichhardt and I would like to express considerable thanks to Advance Cairns who have worked so hard on this particular initiative. So we look forward to working with Cairns health and hospital service in now developing and refining the plans and forging ahead with great speed and alacrity. Thank you very much.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, please give our regards to the Vice Chancellor who I was here with last time. Obviously this project is done with partners. One of the great thing about JCU is how they work with partners in the commercial sector and the teaching sector, the hospital sector and so on. But it also needs the support of the State Government, some $90 million for this project, the Commonwealth is stumping up for our part, $10 million for this land and $50 million for the construction of the new facilities for the CTEC. So we just want to get on with the project. It’s a great project for North Queensland.
Happy to take some questions on this announcement today. If there are other questions you’d like to talk about, we might excuse the acting Vice Chancellor for that, he doesn’t need to be quizzed on those matters but we can deal with those things then.
JOURNALIST: Obviously we’ve seen quite a lot of news about the ramping rates rising here in the far north, would you care to speak about how this development will help resolve some of those issues?
PRIME MINISTER: I missed that start of that question.
JOURNALIST: We have seen a lot of issues with the ramping rate here at Cairns Hospital rising and other staffing issues come up. How will this development help in that regard?
PRIME MINISTER: For a start, we’re freeing up 150 beds. If you’re out there in Cairns today and around in the region and say what does it mean for me? 150 extra beds that will be there in the Cairns Hospital which is incredibly important. As I said, we’ve put over $30 million extra into hospitals here in North Queensland. It is disappointing the State Government has actually cut funds to hospitals here. So they need to step up, that’s what they need to do. But Warren, you are the local member and might want to comment?
THE HON WARREN ENTSCH MP: Yeah and the other thing is of course a lot of the JCU teaching staff will coming out from the hospital to this dedicated building so it that then provides more opportunities there for the State Government to be able to put more people into front-line services, nurses and doctors etc. Because not only is there space for the beds, those additional beds, but there will also be space for the support to have with it. And I hope and expect that they would take advantage of that opportunity and ramp up the numbers because that’s where the problems lie. And so it is a great opportunity and I think this is something to… that we can really grab with both hands. This is a major step forward in becoming a tier 6 hospital and this is what we’re aspiring to do. This is what we are all targeting for and of course this then puts us up there on a bigger footing than anywhere else in the country. Because of the location with the international connections, particularly the regional connections that we have, it really puts us into an international forum as well which is very exciting.
PRIME MINISTER: They can also sign up for the hospitals agreement, the State Government, there is $7 billion of funding for the Queensland hospitals in that agreement which they are still yet to sign over the next five years and I hope they take up the opportunities as other states and territories have.
JOURNALIST: What about staffing pressures? How will it alleviate that at the Cairns Hospital, this announcement?
PRIME MINISTER: Again, what we are doing is we’re freeing up the beds, we’re freeing up the room. The State Government, we’ve offered a $7 billion hospitals agreement right across the state so they can get on with the job. This is record funding for hospitals across Queensland. They need to sign and get access to that money, which we want to provide them. We are standing there with the cheque book and the deal and saying, “Sign up, let’s get on with it” and then they should exercise their responsibilities to meet the health and needs of North Queenslanders.
THE HON WARREN ENTSCH MP: We provide the money, we do not actually employ the staff. We do not build the hospitals, we just provide the funds. So it is up to them, the money is there, the space is there, the opportunity is being created for what is being announced today. All they need to do now is start recruiting.
JOURNALIST: What was your take on Bill Shorten saying he would match the same funding if elected?
PRIME MINISTER: I would say to the people of North Queensland, don’t take Bill Shorten’s carbon copy with higher taxes, take the real thing. This is what we have been working on for some time with Advance Cairns and Warren. He can follow me around the country and pretend he can do these things. But I’ll tell you what he can’t do, he can’t do it without lifting people taxes and he can’t do it under a stronger economy. You cannot guarantee health services with a weaker economy. If you’re going to put $200 billion of higher taxes on the Australian economy, that weakens it. That weakens your ability to deliver these important health and education services, disability services, providing important welfare supports throughout the community. You deliver this through a stronger economy. So what I’m announcing here today, I’m announcing on the back of strong economic management. Any time Bill Shorten opens his mouth, what he is talking about is doing things with you paying higher taxes. So as he gets around Queensland in his tax bus, he should be explaining to people why taxes have to go up because he can’t manage money. He can’t manage his own Budget so he will take money out of yours.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, will this be – the $60 million – be in the April Budget?
PRIME MINISTER: It is already factored in. The decision has already been taken and it is already in the forwards.
JOURNALIST: Has a school been chosen that is going to partner with JCU? You’d think Cairns High from a proxy meeting would be a logical choice?
PROFESSOR CHRIS COCKLIN: Certainly, Cairns State High is one that we have already had some conversations with about STEM education and the principal is here today. We will certainly be taking those conversations further in terms of partners. It is an important priority for the region, for the city. As you say, proximity counts for a lot in this particular case.
THE HON WARREN ENTSCH MP: And we have the Executive Principal of Cairns State High standing there looking very slim.
Can I get Advance Cairns to make a comment?
TRENT TWOMEY, ADVANCE CAIRNS: Thank you, Prime Minister and thank you, James Cook University and of course to our Federal Member. This has been a long time in the making. Two years we have been talking to the Federal Government about this, both when you were Treasurer, PM, and now that you’re in the big chair. But what does it mean for North Queensland? A university hospital by any other name is a teaching hospital and is a level six tertiary facility. So what does it mean? What that means for the average Cairns resident, for the average far North Queensland resident is they no longer have to travel south to get the health services that they need, whether it be special orthopaedics, specialty paediatrics or specialty ophthalmology, what it means is you will get the very best, world-class healthcare right here at our own university hospital. So that’s what it means for you. The other point from an economic point that we would like to make is health and community services is the largest sector in the far North Queensland economy. So the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service is the largest employer in far North Queensland. So there are more tables in more kitchens that have food on them because of the employer that is the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service. So thank you very much Prime Minister, for announcement today. We look forward to working with you.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much Trent. OK, I think Trent has covered that very, very well. In the last Budget, just to pick up on the point that Trent mentioned, the medical industry economic plan was a key part of that Budget recognising exactly that point Trent was making. People are saying, “Where are the new jobs coming from? Where is the record jobs growth coming from?” It has come from sectors like the medical industry, the human services industry, the disability support care sector. A lot more of those jobs are coming out of those sectors and particularly in regional parts of the country. So you make the point very well, Trent. It is one of the reasons why I said at the outset of this media conference, that youth unemployment is falling because of initiatives like this. OK, well I will excuse our friends and thank you all very much for your participation.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask one question if I may Prime Minister, Paul Makin FAB FM Port Douglas. This is a very serious thing. She has encouraged people on Australia Day to wear thongs and shorts in tropical weather.
PRIME MINISTER: She, sorry?
JOURNALIST: Julia Leu, the local Mayor of Port Douglas has said that in tropical weather we need shorts and thongs.
PRIME MINISTER: Look, what is important is that people treat the day with respect. Now, I have been and I am sure Warren has been to even more, and particularly up here, citizenship ceremonies. When I go the citizenship ceremonies, whether it is in hot weather or whether it is in cold weather, the vast majority of people come and they dress a bit like people are dressed here. They do that out of respect.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, Prime Minister…
You are in the minority today. You are the only one here wearing thongs and shorts. I suspect it was behind the question.
JOURNALIST: I apologise.
PRIME MINISTER: Nevertheless, the point is it is a day for respect and citizenship is an important institution. I wouldn’t go along to my kids’ graduation wearing boardies and thongs. I wouldn’t do that, I would respect the work they have put in and the seriousness of the day and what they have achieved and I am simply making an obvious point that the code and the guidelines are there to ensure that citizenship and its institution is treated with respect. So if other people want to play games with it and make cheap points about it, they can. My point is simple – respect citizenship, respect the day.
JOURNALIST: You have criticised the Canberra bubble in the past. Do you think you are you adding to the culture wars through this Australia Day debate?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I am just calling it as I see it. I have had this view for a very long time. I was the Minister for Immigration. It was my signature on people’s citizenships. In fact when I was at Kakadu the other day I has couple came up to me and they wanted to meet me because I had signed their citizenship form and their certificate that they have. This is a very significant gift given by the people of Australia to welcome someone as a citizen. It is one of the most, if not the most, important thing as a nation we can give to anyone in the world and when you do it, when you provide that gift, we would expect anyone who is receiving it to treat Australia with respect.
THE HON WARREN ENTSCH MP: And it says quite clearly, while you get all of the rights, there are obligations and while you might sort of be light-hearted about an individual in how they want to appear, you also have got to be respectful for all of the others that are standing in line, whether they be in their traditional dress of their homeland. They all fought very, very hard and worked very hard to earn the right to become citizens of this country and I think even out of respect for the other people that are getting that certificate it is not unreasonable to ask that people be dressed in the appropriate manner. Now, would we have a coat and tie up here? Of course not.
PRIME MINISTER: Of course not.
THE HON WARREN ENTSCH MP: That’s be ridiculous. But, you can be smart dressed and appropriately dressed. As I say, it looks great to have the colour of a lot of the original homelands in their traditional dress, but out of respect for those, I think everybody should be at least dressed in an appropriate manner. I 100 per cent support what the Prime Minister says.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Warren.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how dismayed were you to hear about the release of Abu Bakar Bashir?
PRIME MINISTER: I don’t want to make too much comment on that today. We are working and have been in close contact with the Indonesian Government as I said in my press conference on Saturday. That continues. We have been consistent, always, Governments of both persuasions over a long period of time about our concerns about Abu Bakar Bashir and that he should serve what the Indonesian justice system has delivered to him as his sentence. In these cases, when prisoners have served about two-thirds of their sentence, it is not uncommon for them to get parole, but we would be very… we have been very clear about the need to ensure that as part of our joint counterterrorism efforts – we have an excellent counterterrorism partnership with Indonesia – that Abu Bakar Bashir would not be in any position or any in way able to influence or incite anything. Let’s not forget that that Bali bombing led to the deaths of Indonesians as well. Australians died horrifically on that night and I think Australians everywhere would be expecting that this matter was treated with the utmost seriousness. Of course by our Government, which it is, and I have had direct contact over this matter, but also that the Indonesian Government would show great respect for Australia in how they manage this issue also.
JOURNALIST: In light of the pill testing debate, New South Wales Greens MP Cate Faehrmann has admitted to taking illegal drugs. Have you ever taken illegal drugs?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I haven’t. And look, we go through those questions every time when we get around elections. But what is serious is young people are dying takings these drugs. As a parent, these things always cause you great anxiety. My children, they are young. They are nine and eleven. They will go through that time in high school and those other times when they are older where they will be exposed to all sorts of things which I wish as a father I could shield them from. I met Aiia’s father in a completely different context, who was brutally murdered in Melbourne. As a father to father, we sat and spoke and we were dealing with some practical issues, but also just to extend my deep sorrow for him and his family. Look, as parents, it is the best job in the world, but it is also the hardest job in the world, but you love your kids and you want them to be safe. I can assure you that our Government will do everything within our power to keep our kids safe, but and we will endeavour to do that by leading by example.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, more recently at the Australian Open did seem to boo when you did appear on screen is that a concern to you?
PRIME MINISTER: I don’t think they liked the line call.
It is a great tradition. I would be disappointed if they didn’t. Bob Hawke and everyone else got the same treatment at games. I enjoyed being there last night. It was a fantastic game. With the million or so Greek Australians, they would have been pretty excited about the outcome and Jenny and I certainly enjoyed the contest, but nowhere near as much as we enjoyed Ash Barty’s win and to meet Ash afterwards, she is delightful. We are looking forward to the return game tomorrow, for the quarterfinal. Hopefully she can go all the way. But let’s not put too much pressure on her. She is a pretty focused young Australian and she is a great Queenslander, too. We are hoping for the best for Ash as she goes up in the contest on Tuesday.
But I have got to say, the Australian Open I have got to tell you is the most significant international event that Australia hosts. It is on every single screen throughout our region, around the world and it is on there for weeks and weeks. I know this from my time as being head of Tourism Australia. It is the single biggest event that speaks to the world about Australia and I want to commend the organisers and the work that has been done. It was an outstanding event during my attendance yesterday and I was pleased to be able to announce $12 million to support 3,000 more young girls staying in tennis, playing tennis, making sure they have female coaches and we are bridging the gap having competitions more in their local area. We know that young girls join tennis to play with their friends and spend time with their. That is what the research tells us. The program is around that. So I was there to happy to be supporting tennis, supporting Ash and supporting Australia.
JOURNALIST: As you say, it is an international event that does broadcast globally. It does send a message to the world. Is that message that Australians are not happy with the current leadership?
PRIME MINISTER: No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t.
JOURNALIST: Kelly O’Dwyer is resigning. Will you insist she will be are placed by another woman in her seat of Higgins?
PRIME MINISTER: That’s what I believe is going to happen.
JOURNALIST: So Peter Costello is not a potential candidate?
PRIME MINISTER: I haven’t heard anything to that effect.
JOURNALIST: Have you been given any assurances that Julie Bishop intends to stay on after the election?
PRIME MINISTER: Julie has made her own statement on that. I just refer to her statement on that. Thanks very much.
MIL OSI Australia –