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27 January 2021

Doorstop interview, ACT Jewish Community Centre

Note

Topics: Funding for Canberra Holocaust Museum and Education Centre; National Party; coal mines; travel restrictions; climate change; Australia-China relationship; vaccine

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

I’m joined here today at the ACT Jewish Community Centre with my friend and colleague, the Minister for Education, Alan Tudge. Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day; a solemn day that has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005 to remember the innocent victims of the Holocaust and to collectively say “never again,” to unite against prejudice, racism and anti-Semitism and xenophobia. 

The Holocaust was not just a crime against the Jewish people, but a crime against humanity. Roma, Sinti, homosexuals, the disabled, Jehovah’s Witnesses, political and religious leaders all fell afoul of the Nazi killing machine, as well as 6 million Jews and tragically and heartbreakingly, 1.5 million Jewish children. If a minute silence was observed for every Jewish victim of the Holocaust, that silence would last for more than eleven years. 

That is why we are here today to commemorate the Holocaust, but also to commit on behalf of the Morrison Government $750,000 to be matched, to be in partnership, with the ACT Government to establish a Holocaust museum here in the ACT. General Dwight Eisenhower when he came upon those horrific images of the concentration camps as the allied commander back in 1945, he said there would come a time when people would deny that the Holocaust ever happened. 

We have to stand firm against that historical revisionism and against the rise in anti-Semitism and hate and that is why education is so important. So, Alan, thank you for your support. Thank you to the state and territory governments who have partnered with the Morrison Government on establishing this network of Holocaust museums. We want all Australian school children to understand the lessons of the past so that they can’t be repeated into the future. 

ALAN TUDGE:

Thank you, Josh. Just let me add a few words in relation to the announcement today of the $750,000 for the new museum and education centre here. We must never forget the Holocaust. We must never forget the six million people who were murdered during that brutal time by the Nazi regime. But equally, we must always remember the lessons of history and the best way to do this is through education. It’s education starting with our children and it’s also going through to adults as well. Today’s $750,000 commitment will contribute to that end. It will establish a Holocaust museum and education centre right here in the ACT and it will enable to people to walk through that centre, learn about the Holocaust, read about the stories and understand how it was able to occur. It will also enable school children to come here as part of their curriculum, and equally do the same so that they learn those lessons of history so that it can never, ever be repeated. Our ambition is to have such centres right around the country. They’re already now in four locations where funding has been committed for four locations and we hope to see them in every major city in Australia so that every child and every adult can learn those lessons of history so it will never be repeated. 

QUESTION:

Treasurer, Barnaby Joyce says the Coalition is an unhappy marriage of convenience and seemed to think the junior party is being dudded out of portfolios it should have. Is that the way you see it?  

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

The Coalition between the Liberal Party and the National Party has been very successful. In fact at the last election, under Michael McCormack’s leadership, the National Party not only held its existing seats, but actually increased their margins. What we have seen is Scott Morrison and Michael McCormack being a very strong partnership that has delivered jobs and support through the COVID pandemic for regional Australia indeed, for broader Australia. It was through the drought, through the bushfires, through the pandemic, the Coalition, Liberals and Nationals together, have delivered for regional Australia. 

QUESTION:

Well their policy committee wants coal mines in Australia. Do you have any interest inbuilding a coal mine in Queensland or any other part of Australia or funding it or giving some Government money towards it? 

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

We have no plans to pay for, build a new coal mine or a new coal fired power station in Australia. These will be commercial decisions. I have spoken to the Energy Minister and as he’s pointed out, and as I am pointing out now, getting those approvals for those new power stations would be a matter that would rest with the states. 

QUESTION:

What do you make of the group of tourists who visited Parliament House from a COVID infected area in New South Wales, looking like they may have breached ACT travel restrictions?   

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Again, that is a matter you would have to take up with the ACT Government. Of course, there are travel restrictions and they differ between states. But what we have seen across Australia is the virus has come under control. It has been challenging but by working through the National Cabinet, working through the AHPPC, following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, we’ve seen Australia so successfully manage both the health and the economic impacts of this virus, to the point now, we have avoided the fate of so many other nations. From the Treasury’s perspective, as Treasurer, we have always recognised this is primarily a health crisis with a very severe economic impact. But as the restrictions have eased, the jobs have come back. So much so that 90 per cent of the 1.3 million Australians who either lost their jobs or saw their working hours reduced to zero at the start of the pandemic, are now back at work. What we did see overnight was an upgraded economic growth forecast from the IMF. To put it in perspective for you, the IMF is forecasting that the economy of Spain will contract by about 11 per cent in 2020, the economy of the United Kingdom by 10 per cent, the economies of Italy and France will contract by around 9 per cent and the economies of Germany, Japan and Canada will contract by more than 5 per cent. The United States is expected to contract by 3.4 per cent. In stark contrast, here in Australia, when we released the Midyear Economic and Fiscal Outlook just before Christmas, the Australian economy is expected to contract by just 2.5 per cent. That is a function of our effective management of the health crisis, but also the unprecedented financial and economic support being provided by the Morrison Government.

QUESTION:

Are you concerned at all the visit by this tour group could disrupt the first sitting week of the year?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, I’m very hopeful and optimistic about that first sitting week going ahead as planned.

QUESTION:

The latest figures from the ABS show that out of pocket child care expenses have returned to pre-COVID levels. Does the Federal Government need to do more to support those families struggling to cover costs? 

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well we provide billions of dollars every year in childcare subsidies and we have increased that support to record levels. That money has gone towards those who need it most. It’s been based on income and it has obviously had an effect on boosting workforce participation. We saw pre COVID, female workforce participation reach record high. So our support for childcare is substantial and obviously through the COVID crisis, we’ve provided free childcare.

ALAN TUDGE:

I’ll just add further to that that out of pocket expenses today are still 1.8 percentage points lower than they were when we first introduced the new childcare subsidy which was in 2018. That’s what counts, the out of pocket expenses and we’re proud of the system we’ve put in place, it’s over $10 billion of direct support that goes towards the childcare system, and then obviously does support, particularly women’s workforce participation, which as the Treasurer said, is at record levels.

QUESTION:

Josh, the Climate Council have put together a report tallying up the impact of climate change on the economy. They say that damage has doubled since the 1970s, it could go further. Are you concerned about the impact of climate change on the economy’s bottom line in the future?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well climate change is real and that’s why the Morrison Government is focused on reducing Australia’s carbon footprint. Based on current estimates, Australia will beat its 2030 targets by more than 400 million tonnes, and we’ve seen a significant transition across the energy sector. So much so that in Australia, about 19 per cent of our electricity is being generated across the network by wind and solar. This compares to about an 11 per cent average across the OECD, and less than 10 per cent across the rest of the world.We’re seeing billions of dollars, around $9 billion a year being invested in renewables across the sector. We’ve got the highest penetration of household rooftop solar in the world on a per capita basis - one in four households have rooftop solar. So the transition is underway. The market is determining that change. What we have done is committed to technology, not taxation when it comes to our new investment technology roadmap, and that is designed to not only reduce household expenses with lower electricity prices - which is happening - but to boost the reliability of the grid, which is why we are supporting for example more gas into the system as a form of baseload power but also reducing our carbon footprint.

QUESTION:

President Xi Jinping says that big nations should not bully small ones. Do you find that a somewhat ironic statement given the experience that Australia has had over the course of last year?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well we agree with that sentiment, that big nations should not bully small ones but there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the words and the actions. The reality is, Australia has been on the receiving end of some pretty harsh actions when it comes to trade, but we won’t compromise on the national interest, we won't compromise on our values. As you know, China released a list of various demands that they had on Australia, those are non negotiable issues for us. The fact that a politician, elected democratically into the Parliament should have a right to speak as they see fit, the fact that we are taking decisions on foreign investment that are very much in our national interest and of course on human rights we continue to speak out when there are injustices as we’ve done in the past, as we’ll do in the future.

QUESTION:

Just on the vaccine campaign that was released today, do you have faith that  that campaign will be enough to convince the public to get the jab?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well firstly, when it comes to the vaccine, we’ve adopted a portfolio of opportunities. As you know, we didn’t have any shortcuts, we didn't rush the TGA approval process, we allowed that process to take place because the situation here in Australia is quite different to what we’ve seen in the United Kingdom and the United States. We welcome the TGA’s announcement about approval for the Pfizer vaccine but it is important that there is an information campaign to encourage awareness and to put some of people’s concerns at ease. But if you look at our immunisation rates, our vaccination rates for five year olds, they’re among the highest in the world. In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, more than 97 per cent, across the general community, more than 95 per cent. Record highs that we saw at the end of last year. This augurs well for the rollout of the vaccine here in Australia, because it shows that people not only have the capacity to deliver vaccines, but they also have the confidence in the TGA as the key regulator. Thank you.