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Television Interview - Flashpoint WA

Working for Western Australia | Prime Minister of Australia

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

I am proud to lead a Government that will give every Australian the opportunity to vote for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at a referendum later this year.

I’m delighted to be here with all of you this morning, on another beautiful day in WA.

I acknowledge all my colleagues here this morning, particularly my outstanding Western Australian colleagues.

From my first day as Labor Leader, winning in Western Australia was at the heart of our campaign for Government.

And from my first day as Prime Minister, backing Western Australia to win in the world has been central to our agenda in Government.

Many of you will remember we launched our Federal campaign here in Perth last year, with apologies to the West Coast and Freo supporters in the house – it’s probably the happiest crowd there’s been at Optus Stadium in a while.

But my team and I have always understood that Western Australia is so much more than Perth.

This is a huge state – and it makes a huge contribution.

Hard working people in Western Australia’s regional communities are helping drive the prosperity of our nation – and shaping the transformation of our region.

The great privilege and also the fundamental responsibility of being a Government pledged to work for all Australians, is making sure your policies serve these communities and the people who call them home.

So, when floods hit Broome and Fitzroy Crossing in January, Senator Patrick Dodson and I went to meet with the locals, to make sure the right support was being delivered then and there – but also to get the right plans for rebuilding in place.

Our whole Federal Cabinet went to Port Hedland in February for community meetings – and to deliver on our commitment of a $565 million port upgrade.

Some might look at that as big money for a town with 16,000 people.

But over 3 per cent of Australia’s total GDP moves through that port alone.

And by making the right investments in renewable energy technology and the supporting infrastructure, this will continue to grow: bringing more jobs and opportunities to Port Hedland and the Pilbara as a whole.

Indeed, I visited the Rio Tinto facility in Karratha on Sunday – and the scale of those operations speaks to the size of the contribution Western Australia makes to our national economy.

In the south west, we’ve made Albany a focal point for the upgrades we are delivering to the NBN.

Connecting more homes and small businesses to the best possible fibre technology, so we can continue to break down the tyranny of distance and boost our national productivity.

I’m pleased that we have already opened three Medicare Urgent Care Clinics in Perth City, Rockingham and yesterday at Clarkson, and we’ll be opening four more in the growing suburbs of Midland and Murdoch as well as Bunbury and Broome.

Bulk-billed, open seven days a week, for extended hours.

This helps with the cost-of-living, it takes pressure off families and gives peace of mind.

But it’s also a really important way of taking pressure off emergency departments – and the people who work in them.

Nearly half of all presentations to WA emergency departments are for semi-urgent or non-urgent conditions, things that could be – and will be – resolved by a GP at a clinic.

The investments we’re making in Telehealth services for mental health work the same way.

Instead of putting the burden on people in the regions to make multiple trips in search of referrals and support, they can make a call from home.

And we will be strengthening Medicare even further in November, when we triple the bulk-billing incentive for GPs.

This is the biggest investment in Medicare since it was created – and it will help around 1.2 million Western Australians see a doctor for free.

Our investments in health are designed to complement the efforts of Roger Cook’s Government – and indeed all the states and territories.

So that we are improving services where both levels of government share responsibility. 

Because when you look at the challenges ahead for our country with an ageing population, growing demand for housing and greater pressure on health care and aged care and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, it’s very clear that we need stronger co-operation between every level of government, so that every dollar goes to the services that make a difference to the people who need them.

And I consider the work we did at National Cabinet on Housing a valuable model for future reforms in these other priority areas.

The Commonwealth can’t dictate progress on planning or zoning or approvals.

What we have done is bring together the decision-makers, find agreement on a way forward and incentivise results by rewarding action.

Our New Homes Bonus working in concert with our Housing Accord and our National Planning Reform Blueprint.  

Getting new building work and development underway in areas where people want to live – close to good jobs, served by reliable public transport and near their family and friends.

Employers appreciate that more affordable housing serves their interests – like all good infrastructure, it boosts productivity.

And it also gives employees and customers a greater sense of stability and confidence, which strengthens our economy as a whole.

This is what we can achieve through co-operation. When we look for solutions, not arguments.

And in that same spirit, today I am pleased to announce a ground breaking new agreement between our Government and the Western Australian Government.

A new Commonwealth-WA Rewiring the Nation deal that will provide up to $3 billion to expand and modernise the electricity grids in the South West and the North West.

New money for major projects, creating thousands of new jobs right around this state.

New infrastructure and economic development in Geraldton and Albany, Karratha and Port Hedland.

Making the energy grid work better, getting more renewables into the system – and getting prices down for families, businesses and industry.

At the turn of the 20th Century, the people of Western Australia had a vision for a pipeline to bring water to the Goldfields.

Providing an essential service to a region rich in possibility and making it possible for the whole state and our whole nation to share in its opportunities.

That same vision underpins Rewiring the Nation.

Building the renewable energy infrastructure which will power growth north and south.

The clean, reliable energy that will enable us to grow export industries, in energy-intensive sectors, while still reducing our emissions.

Unlocking greater prosperity today – and investing in sustainability for tomorrow.

That’s a priority here in WA – and it’s an urgent task for the nation as a whole.

Because in 2023, Australia has an energy grid built for a time when solar panels powered pocket calculators and not households.

A network our predecessors ran-down and neglected, watching 4 gigawatts of generation leave the system, while only 1 gigawatt came in.

My colleagues and I are working with Roger Cook and his team to turn this around.

Building on the ideas and momentum of the Pilbara Industry Roundtable to deliver the modern, efficient renewable energy network Western Australia needs and deserves.

Western Australia is helping power our economy.

Our Government is going to invest in powering Western Australia. 

The work we are doing in energy and housing and health and jobs and skills is all designed to strengthen Australia’s economic security.

And we are investing in Australia’s capability and investing our relationships, to strengthen security, peace and prosperity in our region.

Again, we have put Western Australia at the centre of these efforts.

In March, when I was alongside President Biden and Prime Minister Sunak, outlining the details of the AUKUS agreement for our future submarines, our Treasurer Jim Chalmers was here in Western Australia, spelling-out the key upgrades to be delivered to HMAS Stirling Naval Base and the new jobs this will bring.

This is part of the comprehensive work we are doing through our Defence Strategic Review to put a focus on our north-west coast.

Western Australia has also been at the forefront of our diplomacy.

Not just because this is a fantastic place to bring international visitors, like when we hosted Prime Minister Kishida here in October.

But because WA has such a powerful, recognisable presence in our region.

The defining economic change of the past two decades has been the growth and transformation we’ve seen in the economies of north Asia.

And it’s Western Australian resources that have helped build the infrastructure, power the factories and remake the skylines of the biggest cities in the world and some of the fastest-growing economies in human history.

We showed the Prime Minister of Japan BHP’s Kwinana Refinery because that’s where Panasonic and Toyota get their nickel.

The Japanese Government – like the South Korean Government – know that Australia is one of their most trusted providers of energy, particularly gas.

And when I reflect on the work our Government has undertaken to stabilise Australia’s relationship with China, there is no question that the commercial relationships built over decades by the businesses and people in this room, have given strength to our efforts.

Because you are a powerful proof point that a fair and open trading relationship with China serves the prosperity and progress of both our nations. 

And friends, even as all this growth and modernisation in our region continues, the defining economic change of the next two decades – and beyond – is already underway.

The move to net zero, the embrace of clean energy and renewable technology and the global race to make green hydrogen work.

Our Government’s vision is for Australia to be a renewable energy superpower and an advanced manufacturing powerhouse – and so much of that depends on Western Australia.

For example, 50 per cent of the world’s lithium extraction occurs in Western Australia.

And I know businesses in this room are already building new connections with economies that need these resources, nations seeking to industrialise and decarbonise at the same time.

Our Government has been focused on building a framework to support these efforts.

Forming new critical minerals and green hydrogen partnerships with India.

And new clean energy partnerships with the United States and Japan.

But while it is genuinely inspiring to point to technology changing the world and say that the lithium or the nickel or the rare earths it depends on, come from Australia.  

In the years ahead, I want us to build on that. I want us to go beyond it.

I want us to be able to say that the next generation of batteries and charging technology and the innovations that will maximise their power and speed and capacity and efficiency, come from Australia. 

Designed in Australia. Made in Australia.  

The product of Australian skills and Australian workers and Australian research.

We shouldn’t settle for a role in the beginning and end of someone else’s story.

Instead, wherever possible, let’s work together to write our own.

From exploration and extraction, to innovation and commercialisation, to design and manufacturing.

Of course, we’re not the only country in the world thinking this way.

The United States, in particular, has embarked on massive investment in their industrial base.

But there’s a vital and inescapable difference between us and virtually every other country – we’re the ones with the raw materials.

What’s more we are a trusted provider, with a reputation built over generations and a demonstrated sense of responsibility and sustainability that will be vital in future trade relationships.

Other nations cannot invest or train or program their way to the resources we have here in Australia.

But Australia can train our people and grow our industries and broaden our manufacturing and develop our technology, to make the most of the start we’ve been given.

To build on this unprecedented comparative advantage by investing in the skills of our workforce.

At North Metropolitan TAFE, earlier this year we launched our New Energy Apprenticeship Program.

An incentive for workers in Western Australia – and around Australia – to train in the skills our country needs to build and install the infrastructure of a clean energy future.

10,000 new apprenticeships for metal fitters and machinists, structural steel and welding, electricians and motor mechanics.

And yesterday at Bentley TAFE I was really pleased to confirm that Western Australia has exceeded its 19,000 fee-free TAFE places for 2023 already, with 34,500 enrolments.

Western Australians – women and young people in particular – have absolutely jumped at the chance to learn new skills in areas of national priority.

That’s great for people – and it’s a win for WA employers too, it means we are addressing shortages in areas of high demand and strengthening our national skills base.

Which is why we are going to build on this success with 300,000 fee-free TAFE places from next year.

And just as our Government is investing in the skills and workers of the future – we want to drive greater investment in the jobs and industries of the future too.

This is where our National Reconstruction Fund is so important.

A $15 billion vehicle to unlock private capital in growth industries and build on our strengths as well as diversifying our export opportunities. 

Moving us up the international value chain.

Value-adding in resources, mining science technologies and processing raw materials.

Agriculture, forestry and fisheries – areas where WA already sets world standards in quality.

Defence capabilities, medical manufacturing – and renewable energy technology.

All fields where Australia can compete and win in a global market, on our terms.

Our strategic approach means the taxpayer will get a return on their investment – and Australian companies will be able to seize the chance to innovate and grow.

I know Australia can do this – and I know Western Australia can lead the way.

I’ve seen what it can look like, a few months ago at the Resource Technology Showcase.

Breakthroughs in research, software and technology, driving productivity, improving safety and boosting sustainability.

Opportunities for young people to build rewarding careers in thriving businesses.

And products, services and expertise that Australia can offer the world.

Building our economic security and energy security and national security, even in uncertain times. 

This is how we can work together to shape the future – not wait for the future to shape us.

Western Australia was central to our campaign for Government.

And Western Australia will always be central to our work in Government.

Because the workers and employers and industries of Western Australia are central to our Government’s vision for shaping the future of Australia.

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