COAG Agreement On Indigenous Truancy And One-Stop Shops For Projects

The first meeting of the Council of Australian Governments since the election of the Abbott government has taken place in Canberra today.

COAG agreed to tackled indigenous truancy and to cut “green tape” by implementing “one stop shops”.

COAG

State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers also agreed to sign on to the government’s paid parental scheme.

The meeting also agreed to examine ways to fast-track infrastructure projects.

Speaking at a joint press conference, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said COAG had felt like a “meeting of equals”. He described himself as a “pragmatic federalist” who wanted the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to get on with dealing with issues in their own jurisdictions.

Abbott said: “Where there is overlap, where there is the necessity of cooperation, it should be constructive, it should be collegial and it should be motivated by a concern for the overall best interests of our states and our country.”

  • Download the COAG Communique (PDF)
  • Listen to the COAG press conference (46m)
  • Listen to NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell speaking before COAG (2m)
  • Listen to WA Premier Colin Barnett (4m)
  • Listen to Queensland Premier Campbell Newman (6m)
  • Listen to Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings (2m)
  • Listen to Victorian Premier Denis Napthine (8m)

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Transcript of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers at their press conference in Canberra today.

PRIME MINISTER TONY ABBOTT: Thanks everyone for being here. This was my first COAG and I have to say that I regarded myself as in very good company this morning. This was a meeting of equals. It certainly wasn’t a meeting of antagonists. It was a meeting of people who were united to try to bring about better outcomes for our states and territories and for our country. So, it was a very constructive and collegial meeting and I certainly hope that all future COAGs under my Chairmanship can be as constructive and as collegial as this one was today.

We had some difficult issues to discuss, but I think we made some good progress. The most difficult issue is obviously the situation that is particularly impacting on Victoria and South Australia because of Holden’s announcement earlier this week. We are agreed that it is important to respond swiftly to this. We are agreed that as well as trying to ensure that there are specific initiatives put in place to respond to the particular difficulties that Adelaide will face and that parts of Victoria will face, it is very important that we improve efficiency in our manufacturing sector generally and that means as you all know getting taxes down, getting regulation down and getting productivity up.

When it comes to getting regulation down, I would draw your attention to the process that we’ve just engaged in. All States now have signed memoranda of understanding towards a one-stop shop process for environmental approvals. Queensland and New South Wales have gone further and we have got assessment bilaterals in place and under those assessment bilaterals, the states will do all the assessment work and we hope that in the not-too-distant future, we will have approvals bilaterals in place which will mean that the states will not only do the assessment, but they will also be able to do the approvals – same high standards of environmental approval but much less red and green tape, much less paperwork for the applicant and a much swifter outcome, we hope, which means more investment and more jobs.

The only other issue that I want to really refer to here other than drawing your attention to the communique is the very constructive discussion we had today on indigenous issues. Indigenous issues will be a standing item for COAG as long as I am Prime Minister. There’s great enthusiasm amongst premiers and chief ministers for more work to get much better practical outcomes for indigenous people in this country. We are absolutely agreed that it is essential that every Australian child goes to school, not just occasionally, not just when it suits the child or the child’s parents, but every day. Every child must be in school unless there is a very serious reason for that child not being there. We all know that for far too long, too many excuses have been made for indigenous kids in particular not being at school. This must stop. It must stop soon. So, we will be working urgently together to ensure that all kids, indigenous and non-indigenous, all kids, whether they’re living in metropolitan areas, regional areas or remote areas do go to school every day, because a good education is the start of a good life and you cannot have a good education if you do not go to school.

So, I want to thank my fellow heads of government. I want to thank the premiers and the chief ministers for the enthusiasm with which they approach this task and I want to say in conclusion before I hand over to Denis, as the head of the council of the federation what a pleasure and a privilege it was to work with my fellow first ministers last night and again today.

PREMIER DENIS NAPTHINE: Thank you very much, Tony and can I congratulate the Prime Minister on his conduct of his first COAG meeting. It was a very constructive meeting with a very full agenda. But the Prime Minister handled it with efficiency and with productivity which gives us all significant hope for the future of his Prime Ministership.

I can also say on behalf of the premiers and chief ministers, it was a spirit of working together as equals to doing the best for our states and territories and doing the best for Australia.

Among the significant issues that we dealt with were issues addressed by the Prime Minister, but from the states and territories’ point of view, the signing of an agreement about dealing with environmental approvals in a one-stop-shop process will certainly reduce red tape, reduce cost and reduce delays for important projects.

The Prime Minister has again shown his personal passion and commitment for indigenous issues and that was shared around the room as people representing all the states and territories clearly supported the efforts to improve the lot of the indigenous communities, starting with children going to school on a regular basis.

There was significant and positive discussions about making a COAG operate more efficiently, with a rationalisation of the number of standing COAG councils, although I’m pleased to say the Prime Minister agreed with the states and territories to ensure that there was an ongoing role for an industries and skills council, because we believe that’s in the broadest best interests of states, territories and Australia.

I also welcome, on behalf of my fellow first ministers, the commitment of the Prime Minister and his Government to key infrastructure for the states that will improve productivity, efficiency and quality of life in our states and across Australia. And the Prime Minister certainly left us with no misunderstanding that he stands ready to support these infrastructure projects, but he wants us to get on with the job and we certainly will take up that challenge.

Finally, from a Victorian perspective and a states’ perspective, I can say thank you very much to the Prime Minister and my fellow first ministers for the response to the issue in the automotive industry. There was a recognition across the room of the importance of the automotive sector and the broader manufacturing sector and manufacturing skills and capability. There was a recognition that the decision earlier this year by Ford and more recently by General Motors Holden, will have a significant effect on jobs in the automotive industry and across the supply chain, and there was a recognition from the Prime Minister for the need for urgent action from the Commonwealth working with Victoria and South Australia in terms of a structural adjustment package, an assistance package, focussed at four levels – certainly, to look at assistance for the effected workers, in terms of their re-training opportunities and new job opportunities, and also the supply chain sector and of course, the broader jobs growth opportunities across Victoria, South Australia and across all states and territories, and the opportunities that that provides for all of us in Australia.

Finally on that matter, I also welcome the comments from the Prime Minister with regard to the need to work with Toyota to try and work with them in securing their future as we go forward.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: [inaudible]

ABBOTT: Michelle, my anticipation is that there will be something to say early next week that will involve numbers.

Phil?

QUESTION: I draw your attention to one of the agenda items on paid parental leave. I mean we’re now including state government employees into the scheme, is that going to change the cost of the scheme from a federal perspective?

ABBOTT: No, the costing of the scheme always anticipated that state public servants would be included. We’re talking about the best way to ensure that that is the case, with an equitable sharing of the costs.

QUESTION: Just on that, can I ask Premier Napthine to also address this question? Have any of the states agreed to contribute to the federal scheme on paid parental leave?

NAPTHINE: What was discussed was the recognition of the mandate that the Prime Minister has for his innovative paid parental leave scheme and the benefit that will provide for families and the broader Australian community.

Chief Ministers and Premiers discussed the need to have an ongoing working relationship between states and territories and the Commonwealth about how to administer, in the most efficient and effective way, this paid parental scheme and these discussions will be ongoing.

QUESTION: [inaudible] to report on progress with trials including options to improve the implementation of the scheme. Would you expect that those report-backs would include possible recommendations for cost-savings, or major changes to the architecture of the NDIS?

ABBOTT: We’re not pre-judging how the trials are going, but we do note, at this early stage, that there does seem to be a higher than anticipated demand and higher than anticipated costs. We are all absolutely committed to the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We are absolutely committed to this scheme. We all think this is an idea whose time has come. We all think this is a very important social and economic reform, but we’ve got to implement it in a way which is fair and in a way which is sustainable and that’s why we are closely monitoring these trials, to see how we can best make that happen. These are trials – you’ll notice that the language has changed we’re describing these as trial sites rather than launch sites – because we will learn from what’s happening in these sites and we will incorporate the learnings from these sites into the design of the final scheme.

QUESTION: Can you explain then how you could potentially deal with that, with the cost overrun because the demand is higher and the cost per-person is higher? And also, yesterday Premier Weatherill certainly and I think Premier Napthine also, talked about the possibility of fast-tracking infrastructure projects in their states to help sort of cope with the closure of Holden. Did you get anywhere on that? Have you given any commitments on that?

ABBOTT: Well, the Premiers have put some proposals forward for expediting already agreed infrastructure spending and for bringing forward other cost-effective infrastructure spending and we’re going to mull over those proposals for a couple of days and we’ll have a response early next week.

On the NDIS, look, we all support it. We all absolutely accept that people with serious disabilities deserve a much better deal than in the future than they’ve had in the past, but it’s got to be done on a sustainable basis and that’s why we’ve got these trials; that’s why we need to learn from these trials, and while we’re very happy that these trials are taking place and there will be more extensive trials in the months ahead, we do have to monitor them to try to ensure that we are continually learning the lessons, and as I said, the early suggestions are that there is more access and more cost than was originally anticipated and we’ve got to note that and at the right time, respond accordingly.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, will the funding to help South Australia and Victoria come out of money that otherwise would have gone to the automotive industry?

ABBOTT: There is obviously a level of ongoing support for Ford and Holden which will continue for a couple of years at least. We all want Toyota to continue and expand and we note that Toyota has a rather different business model to the other manufacturers and we think that gives Toyota a much more realistic chance of a long-term viable future as a manufacturer in this country. Nevertheless, we accept that support at current levels will be necessary for Toyota into the future. Nevertheless, obviously there have been budget allocations for the automotive industry and I dare say that there will be funding available to respond appropriately to the immediate difficulties of the regions that will be impacted by the close-down of Ford in 2016 and Holden in 2017.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, the next COAG meeting has schools funding on its agenda. What are the parameters for that discussion and to what extent was it discussed today?

ABBOTT:There was a limited discussion today. Obviously, some states in particular are very anxious to see agreements made by the former government continue. I simply pointed out that we would act in accordance with the policy that we took to the election and that was for a four year funding agreement, not a six year funding agreement, but nevertheless, we all have a very strong shared interest in ensuring that the money that is going into schools is as productive as possible. There’s a lot of experience that can be shared between different jurisdictions on what seems to work well and I think the lessons of the last few years, particularly from Western Australia, that not only is money important in good schools, but we’ve got to have more principal autonomy, more parental and community involvement, we’ve got to have better teachers and we’ve got to have strong curriculum, and they’re all issues that are worth discussing in a COAG context.

QUESTION: Would Barry O’Farrell would like to make a comment in relation to that issue?

PREMIER BARRY O’FARRELL: I’m happy with what the Prime Minister said, you know as someone who signed up to the agreement, as someone welcomed the announcement during the federal campaign of the Coalition’s commitment to four years – I’m very comfortable with what the Prime Minister said.

QUESTION: Prime Minister…

ABBOTT: David?

QUESTION: …what you’ll announce next week, which you’re still obviously mulling over, as you say. Will that come at a net cost to the federal budget bottom-line? And can I also invite you to comment on Phil Coorey’s piece this morning, suggesting Holden was after $80 million a year to keep going. Is that correct?

ABBOTT: Look, I’m not sure that it profits us now to rake over the coals of what may or may not have been said, in whatever context, between Holden and the Federal Government. Since all of those discussions, Holden has said that they’re leaving because they’ve been hit by a perfect storm of high costs, high dollar, low volumes and they’ve said that there was no action or inaction of Government which is responsible for that decision.

So, look, we will make an announcement early next week that, I think, will help to restore confidence in the areas most impacted by the impending departure of Ford and Holden. We’ll make an announcement because I don’t believe for a second, that these are areas without fundamental economic strengths and I don’t believe that the staff at Ford and Holden are in any way incapable of being redeployed to really sustainable, satisfying employment in the future. Our objective is to transition people from one good job to another good job, not simply to help them out of a job and into retirement; that’s not our objective.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, on indigenous education, your communique talks about minimum school attendance benchmarks. I’m wondering, have you actually set those benchmarks, and if you have, what are they? And, you mentioned compliance in the sense of truancy officers, I’m wondering what discussions have first ministers had about compliance? How do you get indigenous kids to stay at school, and might the first ministers have a view on that?

ABBOTT: Well, I think that every first minister does have a view and I guess, one of the first ministers, Adam Giles, has a particularly strong view on this and I welcome Adam’s contribution. But, my point is that really, 100 per cent attendance is what we should be aiming at. Something over 90 per cent probably indicates that just about every kid is there, just about every day. So I would say that if a school had 90 per cent attendance, that would be an indicator that was broadly satisfactory.

But again, it’s one thing to have a good overall indicator. Really, if there is any child who is routinely absent from school, at the level of the school and if necessary, at the level of the relevant enforcement authority, that’s something that needs to be looked into, because I said on election night, no one should be left behind and anyone who doesn’t go to school regularly is inevitably going to be left behind. And our commitment to build a stronger and better society as well as a stronger and better economy absolutely requires much more effort, particularly with indigenous kids, to ensure that they are at school every day. I mean, we can talk – and we did – about all the other factors that are at play in low indigenous school attendance rates, the employment issue, the housing issue, the health issue, but it doesn’t matter what your situation is, it is going to be worse if you’re not going to school. It doesn’t matter what your situation is, it’s going to be better if you are going to school.

So, we just have to say is it is simply unacceptable; it is simply intolerable for any Australian child not to be going to school every day. Simply unacceptable.

Adam, would you like to add to that?

CHIEF MINISTER ADAM GILES: Thanks, Tony. Can I say, it is refreshing to see the Prime Minister express such an interest in this area and also for first ministers to want to accelerate the issues around indigenous affairs on a broad scale. In particular, we spoke about school attendance, and your question went to the point of setting targets about school attendance.

Now, the best target we can set is 100 per cent and put all efforts into reaching as close to that goal as we can. There’s no doubt in the Northern Territory that our school attendance and enrolment figures are appalling. There needs to be a great deal of effort put into that regard. We are working with the Prime Minister and Minister Scullion on a joint basis about what measures we can put in place to work to encourage greater school attendance. Remove some disincentives, but also put in place a few punitive measures to encourage parents to send their kids to school.

In the development of northern Australia, in particular, we need to make sure that we’ve got a solid work force for the future and on current projections we don’t have that solid work force coming through. So, we will ensure that we make reforms from a territory point of view to the education system in remote areas, to increase school attendance but also school performance and ensure that we have better outcomes for the future. It is a work in progress but I have to re-stipulate what the Prime Minister said and that is that it is of fundamental importance that every kid must go to school and we will now maintain that communication to all parents in the Northern Territory, and I know that other first ministers will also maintain the same level of language to get the kids to school and we will be putting all our efforts intensively to make sure that that occurs.

PREMIER LARA GIDDINGS: Obviously in Tasmania we have a different issue in regards to education, but some of these issues should be seen as a problem as well we do need all Australian children to go to school. Some of the detail, I think, is yet to be really resolved in that respect and there is a lot more work to be done as to how you ensure that does actually happen, as well. There was certainly some wide discussion around understanding the need to have solutions for particular communities and I think that is absolutely fundamental- that there is consultation with individual communities as to how best to get their children into schools. And I would also advocate that there is a role here for the NBN in relation to being able to expand opportunities for children around Australia and particularly in remote parts of Tasmania, to have access to the world through the NBN and to me, nothing is more critical than those children you are speaking about in that environment and from a Tasmanian perspective, certainly for my Tasmanian students, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to have access to that level of technology – both in the school environment but also in their homes.

QUESTION: [Inaudible] urgent work on infrastructure have you asked the states and territories to give you a list of two or three projects. And also, you are thinking on listing overseas adoption of children at the next meeting. What do you hope to achieve?

ABBOTT: As you know Sabra, it is my hope to be known subsequently as the infrastructure Prime Minister. Wherever you look in this country there is a yawning gap between the infrastructure we have got and the infrastructure that we need. The Coalition went into the election with a number of very specific substantial infrastructure proposals. What we discussed both in last night’s dinner and again this morning is what we can do to expedite the construction of those particular projects. We also spoke about what we could do to, over time, make more money available on an appropriate and fiscally responsible basis for infrastructure projects and every jurisdiction is thinking about what it can do to ensure that the projects that are decided upon progress from idea to planning and approval, to execution and completion stages as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: On the overseas adoption?

ABBOTT: This is an issue which is very important to a lot of people in our community. And one of the oddities about a modern Australia is that there are so many people who would love to be parents but for all sorts of reasons it’s very that difficult. There is no doubt that there are a lot of children – both here and abroad – that would benefit from a good home. Now, it’s been very difficult to adopt both domestically and it’s not easy to adopt from overseas. I think this is an issue that could benefit from attention at the highest levels of government. That’s what it will be getting between now and the next meeting of COAG, and hopefully we will have something to say after the next COAG meeting.

QUESTION: Did you receive the comfort you were looking for today from the meeting in regards to the help that South Australia needs?

PREMIER JAY WEATHERILL: Well happy doesn’t really describe my emotions this week, but my objective this week, today and yesterday was to communicate really the enormity of what is happening to both the South Australian economy, and I would argue the national economy because of the loss our this critical component of our manufacturing capability. I wanted to do that at a number of levels to demonstrate the significance of the effect on the local South Australian economy and the need for an urgent and immediate response so that the South Australian community understands that the national government understands the significance of this issue for South Australia.

I also wanted to communicate a sense of urgency about what needs to happen now for Holden and its supply base. This isn’t just about a car plant in Elizabeth. It’s about the estimates today before COAG, 45,000 employees associated with the supply chain. Now, the overwhelming majority of those are actually outside of Holden.

The advice we have from those components suppliers is that they will need every second of that period between now and 2017 to make the adjustment. Chillingly for us, those same components suppliers say that only about 25 per cent of them will make that journey to the end of that period and being able to survive beyond that period. And that 25 per cent are going to have going their own challenges. They’re going to have to find something to actually replace the automotive work. There is 75 per cent of those other companies that are unlikely to make it.

Now, those companies will have to negotiate all of the change associated with that, plus manage essentially the end of their principal supplier which will be Holden. Now, this is an incredibly challenging task. It’s going to require both levels of government to cooperate in and the work needs to commence immediately. I tried to communicate some of the sense of that, and at a broader level we have joined with Victoria in the series of propositions we put to the Commonwealth about what that structural adjustment package should look like and also a broader conversation about what sort of country we want to be. Do we want to be a country that manufactures things, and what our industry base should look like?

So, there’s a lot of work to be done. We don’t have a minute to lose.

QUESTION: [Inaudible]

WEATHERILL: If you look at the communique, you will see that we’ve been able to communicate the enormity of the problem, the urgency of the problem and the substantial nature of the response. All of those things are in the communique and I look forward in the next few days to seeing how the Commonwealth responds.

QUESTION: Premier Barnett, going into this morning’s meeting you said that you were concerned the Nation was moving into a period of structural change in which real wages would fall. Could you expand on what you see as the concerns there, what sectors you are you talking about and what should you be doing about it? Prime Minister, I wonder if you might be able to comment on the reflection that the economy is moving into a phase where real wages will fall.

PREMIER COLIN BARNETT: I think over the last two to three years we’ve seen a lot of closures in the manufacturing industry in the eastern states, a lot of famous Australian names disappearing. I think we have to accept the reality of that. You could argue that Australia is living beyond its means right now. That means if you don’t get some other changes you are probably going to see real wages decline, not by a large amount but I think Australia is going to see a slip in real wage income over the next few years. And there’s an immediate issue to deal with as Jay and others have been talking about, the car industry but I think the focus should shift on to what comes next. And as I said this morning, it’s no good blaming governments or blaming the workers or unions or the Australian dollar or the mining industry or anything else. We have to look to see where the new categories of skilled, high-end engineering is going to come.

Now, obviously from Western Australia I focus on the mineral processing industry and also gas processing and LNG developments and there’s no doubt there are thousands of jobs to be had in those sectors. By 2020 Australia will be clearly the world’s leading producer of natural gas for exports and there will be tens of thousands of jobs around that. Pretty well every other country in the world ensures that the host economy benefits, both in the construction of component production modules, ongoing local content, and using the gas within Australia. I mean what an irony it is that Australia has probably the world’s greatest energy resources and yet we’re talking about shortages of gas. So, I think there is a policy role to be taken there and that’s a big part of the future of skilled employment in this state and country.

ABBOTT: I think Premier Barnett is right to be concerned. What I want to try to ensure is that we don’t actually get ourselves into this position. And the best way to ensure that real wages do not fall, that in fact real wages increase is to boost productivity. That’s why it’s so important to get taxes down, to get regulation down, and to adopt a sensible and constructive position inside our workplaces.

QUESTION: [inaudible] incentives for the states to privatise infrastructure, and can I also ask the Queensland Premier whether possible federal incentives would play any role in your own decision making about asset sales?

ABBOTT: Well Steven as you know, treasurers have been discussing this issue. We certainly have had further discussions, but no decisions have been made, but certainly the issue has been well and truly canvassed.

QUESTION: Can I ask about mechanics here? With regards to the PPL, what mechanism are you proposing to take money from the states with regards to the payment of the… I mean I’m sure that the Premier of WA would be very interested if it was to do with GST. Secondly, what mechanism are you proposing for clamping down on truancy? Would that be withdrawal of productivity payments and so on?

ABBOTT: Well Andrew, we haven’t got to that stage yet of working out how any adjustment between the Commonwealth and the states might be made for the Commonwealth assuming some of the burden of the state public service paid parental leave schemes. We haven’t got to that point. Let’s face it, the Coalition’s fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme doesn’t become operational until the 1st of July 2015, and there’s more work to be done by our officials before we get to actually agreeing on mechanisms. So that’s that one.

On truancy – look, I think what we need is an absolute commitment at every level for action to be taken to ensure that every kid gets to school every day. How this is actually going to be done will depend a bit upon the particular place. In some places, truancy officers might be the best way forward. In other places, maybe a community-based scheme might be the best way forward. We’ve already got, it was started under the former government – it was one of the initiatives of the former government which the Coalition supported – we’ve already got forms of income management in place where families don’t consistently send their children to school. So what we’ve got is a strong national agreement by all jurisdictions on the importance of ensuring that every child goes to school every day and we are now going to work intensely together to develop much more effective mechanisms for making this happen.

QUESTION: On the PPL Mr Barnett, can I ask you about the prospect of having some of your payments withheld for paying the PPL?

BARNETT: I think the Prime Minister’s made it clear that we aren’t at that point, but there is an issue with the states and certainly with Western Australia that state public servants are state government employees and therefore we have a direct relationship and responsibility with their workforce entitlements. One of the issues, I know that the Commonwealth may prefer the states to simply hand over the money. I don’t believe that will happen, but maybe there will be some pooling or some agreement that jointly we fund the PPL scheme. But I think what is very true is that every state agrees that the scheme is a reality, it’s going to happen, and every state is willing to work cooperatively to achieve that.

QUESTION: [inaudible] and Premier Newman as premiers of non-car manufacturing states, just putting aside the measures that are being planned to try and alleviate what may happen, there are numerous studies to pointing to widespread job losses and potentially recession in one or two of the afflicted states. If those scenarios are realised, do either of you worry the impact on your own state economies by perhaps having to cut the pie more broadly to prop up South Australia and Victoria?

O’FARRELL: Well as I said on the way in today, we know there will be impacts in New South Wales, there will be impacts upon companies in western Sydney as a result of the decision by Holden. Clearly they are matters that we will work with the federal government to seek to address, but I also made the point this morning that as terrible as this is and certainly COAG today recognised the seriousness of the problem, recognised the need for the state and federal governments to – particularly in Victoria and South Australia- examine the issue, there have been shocks to state and national economies in past and in New South Wales, Newcastle is perhaps the best example which had a significant shock to its economy and Newcastle today is a thriving employment center in my State of which I’m very proud. So the important thing here is that the relevant state government and the relevant federal government get together and work their way through and ultimately that’s how we do survive.

PREMIER CAMPBELL NEWMAN: Just my five cents worth…. firstly I very clearly support the need for South Australia and Victoria to receive a package of assistance to assist the workers, the families and really try and repair this hole. That goes without saying. In relation to Queensland, I point to the unemployment figures yesterday which were very positive. Queensland is going ahead. The policies we’ve implemented over the past 20 months of deregulation, keeping taxes low and making sure the door is open for investment are paying off, and contrary to things that former Prime Minister Rudd said about job losses in the public sector, the proof is in the pudding now. Queensland is powering on. Tourism has leapt forward, a billion dollars greater spend in the figures just out this week from a year ago. Construction is taking off as well. So I’m actually very, very positive about 2014 for Queensland, notwithstanding the bad news for Victoria and South Australia.

QUESTION: [inaudible] High court ruling and wondering, did you have any discussion even informally today about the whole issue of same-sex marriage? It obviously has implications for other jurisdictions and can we hear your view on the court’s specific determination that it’s now a matter for Federal Parliament? Does it make you any more inclined to hold a conscience vote or to deal with it in Federal Parliament?

ABBOTT: Look, the issue was not formally discussed by the COAG. Plainly, as a result of the decision of the Hugh Court yesterday, it is a matter. Should it be changed for the Federal Parliament? You know my position. I don’t think that it should change. I suspect even up here amongst my fellow first Ministers there would be a range of views. If we have a Bill come before the Parliament, it will be dealt with by the Coalition in the usual way. It will go before our party room and there will be a discussion and we’ll come to a position on it.

QUESTION: Those couples that married in those five days, what are your thoughts about how they might feel? What would you say to them given they were married for five days and now they’re not?

ABBOTT: Well, I suppose they knew that there was this possibility that their marriages might fall foul of the High Court and obviously it’s disappointing for them. Let’s see what the future holds.

QUESTION: Can you explain why you’ve decided to scrap [inaudible] authority and isn’t that something that would be beneficial giving that you’re trying to find new jobs for Holden workers?

ABBOTT: There are some things which make a lot of sense in theory and if they could be brought about, would make a lot of sense in practice. But the difficulty of getting from where we are to where we would like to be outweighs the benefit. Now, the important thing as far as I’m concerned is that we should have a seamless national economy and I would like a lawyer who’s entitled to practice in Sydney, be able to practice in Melbourne, a plumber who’s entitled to ply his or her trade in Brisbane, to be entitled to do it in Perth and Adelaide as well. And mutual recognition brings that about, without the extraordinary difficulty and just endless process that these national schemes seem inevitably to involve. I’ve been around in this Federal Parliament as a member and as a staffer since 1990. It was in fact, Nick Greiner and Bob Hawke who kicked this whole process off in 1989. So this process has been going for almost a quarter of a century and frankly, we still haven’t come to a landing place. So let’s try to do it- let’s try to bring about the same outcome in a less cumbersome, less time consuming and ultimately more productive way and I think that’s what we’re going to now.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, what do you think about the RBA Governor’s comments on the Australian Dollar, suggesting 85 cents might be where it should go? Do you agree with that?

ABBOTT: Look, the market should determine the value of the dollar. In the end, I don’t believe that we should try to buck the market. That doesn’t mean, though, that the Reserve Bank shouldn’t from time to time prudently involve itself in the market to encourage what it thinks is the right market development. So I’m very comfortable with what the Governor has to say and I don’t believe that it’s appropriate for me to add to it or subtract from it.

QUESTION: [inaudible]

ABBOTT: [inaudible] Premier Lara Giddings talk about the importance of the NBN. The NBN was raised by Lara tangentially and look, we all want the NBN to be rolled out as soon as possible and under the announcements that minister Turnbull has made, we’re going to get much faster broadband, much more affordably, much more quickly than would otherwise have been the case.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, the Royal Commission into the home insulation scheme. What more do you hope to learn from that Royal Commission that hasn’t already been discovered by coronial inquests and I think it is seven other inquiries? One of the key findings of the inquiries is the failure of state OH&S procedures. Are the states also in your purview or is it just your political opponents?

ABBOTT: It’s a very fair question Paul and I’ll do my best to answer it. Could I just suggest out of courtesy to my fellow chief ministers if we could kind of maintain the focus today on things that are COAG related. Look, what we want to do with this Royal Commission is learn the appropriate lessons from this disastrous episode in our history and make sure that it never happens again, and that’s the purpose of this Royal Commission. Now that the Royal Commission’s up and running, where it goes really depends upon the Royal Commissioner, but as far as I’m concerned, what the Royal Commission is about is ensuring that the right lessons are learned by all jurisdiction and as far as is humanly possible, those mistakes never again happen.

QUESTION: Can I just get Premier Newman’s response to the terms of reference for that Royal Commission.

NEWMAN: The Royal Commission into the insulation?

QUESTION: Yeah.

NEWMAN: I must say notwithstanding that, Queensland already has conducted a coronial inquiry. We actually made that happen. When we got into office, and a very damning report was handed down some time ago which pointed to huge problems at the federal level of the previous government and problems with the former Labor Government with Anna Bligh. So, it’s there for you all to see. So we welcome a further look at the thing because it wasn’t just a Queensland issue, it’s a national issue but what happened in Queensland is there for everyone to see once more and there are recommendations that my government is taking in so far as we have responsibilities.

ABBOTT: Thank you so much.

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