Press conference - Luddenham, NSW
MELISSA MCINTOSH, MEMBER FOR LINDSAY: Welcome, everyone. It's a beautiful day to be here in Western Sydney and as the Federal Member for Lindsay, who has three stations in their electorate, I'm really excited about the jobs that are coming to Western Sydney with the new rail link. And importantly, at Orchard Hills, we'll have a new town centre which will create new jobs for small businesses in our community and a revitalisation of St Marys. And at Luddenham, we'll have a new innovation and health and education precinct. And as we emerge from this coronavirus pandemic, it’ll be a real investment into jobs for local people who are currently, there’s 300,000 locals commuting out of our area every day, I did that commute for over 10 years. So I'm really excited to have the Prime Minister here today, the Premier of New South Wales and state and federal colleagues, to announce this very exciting phase in the transformation of Western Sydney. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you, Melissa and to Stuart Ayres as well, of course, as our local MPs out here in Western Sydney, and to Premier Berejiklian, who's been such a tremendous partner in the work of the National Cabinet.
And it's great to be here in the open state of New South Wales Gladys, I'm sure you'd agree and Ministers would agree. And as we go about this task of reopening our economy, but no more so here than in New South Wales, the effort to ensure we got on top of COVID-19. New South Wales faced the biggest challenges in dealing with COVID-19. Their response has been tremendous, and they've been a great partner to work with through these many, many months. And I want to thank you, Gladys, for your leadership, not just, as we manage the pandemic, but your leadership in opening New South Wales up and getting our economy moving again. It's incredibly, incredibly important. And today is another key step in this process.
When I talk about the federation working together, we’re governments working together, this is what we're talking about, $14 billion dollars the Commonwealth Government is investing here in western Sydney, $5.3 billion dollars to build this airport. We’re spending some $3.3 billion dollars together with the State Government, coming on top of that to see the many roads here that have been developed in and around this airport. And then there is the additional investment that we're putting in, and that's an investment into the rail projects. And today we're announcing from the commonwealth perspective, we're putting in another $1.75 billion dollars into this programme, which will take our total investment in the rail projects to $5.25 billion dollars.
These are job making investments. When I talk about a JobMaker program, it's about projects like this. It's about the partnerships we're bringing together not just with the New South Wales state government here in Western Sydney, but right across the country bringing forward programmes of investment. Last year we worked to bring forward $4.2 billion dollars in infrastructure works. Just a week and a half ago, we announced another $1.2 billion dollars in bring forward works for local government. And here we're putting in another $1.75 billion dollars. This means we are getting more projects happening now because that's the job making agenda that Australia needs, that New South Wales needs and that Western Sydney needs. And we couldn't hope for a better partner in our job making programme than the New South Wales government, they get projects, they get projects done. And they get the job, some 14,000 jobs are part of this rail initiative that will connect Sydney's second airport, the Western Sydney Nancy Bird Walton Airport, which we've been out here on many occasions as different stages of the projects have proceeded and you can see the earth moving equipment in the back. You can see that it's all happening.
This is how Australia makes its way back out of the COVID-19 crisis. Infrastructure projects like this one making sure they keep up to the mark. This project, I'm advised and we understand and it's a key part of today's announcement is we'll be able to commence this year, which is great news for jobs. The other important part of this partnership is that we share the load on this investment. The ultimate cost of this project of the rail project is 50/50 between the Commonwealth and the State Government here in New South Wales. But the shares in the early phase of the project will be principally carried by the Federal Government and later in the project then it will be picked up by the state. So overall, you've got a 50/50 partnership, but we want to make sure this is happening now. And that's why the Commonwealth has made the decision we have to put in the extra investment and make sure we're pushing that investment and in the early phases, that project.
So with that, it's great to have my National Cabinet partner here in Gladys Berejiklian. And and we thank you very much for the for the partnership on this very important project. Thank you, Gladys.
THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES: Wonderful, thank you PM. Firstly, can I thank the Prime Minister for his national leadership of what has been a very difficult time for our state and our nation. And today is a wonderful example of cooperation between the Federal and State government in relation to our jobs strategy. Yesterday, I was pleased to join with my state colleagues in announcing our $100 billion dollar infrastructure pipeline and what the support of the Prime Minister and the federal colleagues means is that here in Western Sydney to support the airport we will be able to build a metro as soon as we can and make sure that it's open when passengers start flying in and out of this wonderful airport.
Again, a wonderful example of how the way through this economic disaster is not an underestimate in terms of what our economy is going through, it is through jobs creation, and this project alone the new metro linking St Marys Station to the airport will create 14,000 jobs here in New South Wales. And that's music to our ears because we know in April we lost 221,000 jobs in New South Wales. And we also know that there's so many other of our fellow citizens on JobKeeper. And we know we have a job ahead of us in getting people back to work, getting people in sustainable jobs and having those direct and indirect jobs created by this project is fantastic, especially given through the partnership with the Federal Government, through the support of the Prime Minister and his colleagues, that we're able to start construction this year, which means an acceleration of those jobs that are being created.
And of course, from a passenger perspective, New South Wales has demonstrated our ability to build metros. We have built, obviously the North-West Metro has been a huge success. The second Harbour rail crossing will be open by 2023, going to Sydenham and then out to Bankstown, and I want to also thank the federal and state ministers that are here from New South Wales, Ministers’ Constance and Ayre's who have both been strong advocates for both this airport and the precinct, but also for for public transport. And as we know, the New South Wales Government, in supporting the Federal Government's efforts in building the airport, is also creating an Aerotroplis, an airport city. So we know that this rail line won't only service the airport, but service so many people that will call this place home or will come to this place for work. And that is a wonderful thing to look forward to in New South Wales.
Of course, we continue to say in New South Wales, our priority remains health and jobs. And again, our ability to accelerate our infrastructure pipeline is music to our ears. Again, I want to thank the Prime Minister and his colleagues for their support on this project. It's not often that federal governments step up and provide half the funding for a public transport project. A lot of people talk about it, but very few people actually put money down on the table. And that's why I'm so grateful to the Prime Minister. I can't remember such a huge contribution from a federal government in public transport in New South Wales, especially in Metro. This is the first joint project we're building as far as Metro is concerned. It's a wonderful milestone, not just for jobs, but also in the way in which we can work together for the future. I'm deeply grateful and rest assured that we will maintain our end of the bargain, which is to get the construction started, to get those jobs coming, and to make sure the project is built on time. And again, I want to thank all of our federal and state colleagues for pushing so hard. I know the Prime Minister and I have been on our toes listening to the colleagues and making sure that we deliver this as soon as we can.
THE HON. ALAN TUDGE MP, MINISTER FOR POPULATION, CITIES AND URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE: Prime Minister and Premier and colleagues, the Federal Government has investments in massive projects right across the country, be it in the M1 in Brisbane, the airport rail in Melbourne, the north south corridor in Adelaide, or Metronet in Perth. But nothing compares to the scale, the ambition and the transformation as to what we collectively are doing here in Western Sydney. We've got $5.3 billion dollars invested in this site alone to build what will be the size of Adelaide Airport when it opens in 2026. We've got the new 23 kilometres worth of rail, which we are announcing today. And of course we've got another $3.5 billion dollars worth of road investments around this area as well.
And what does all that mean? It means jobs, jobs and more jobs. Collectively, that's now 29,000 jobs, which we have announced right now for the next few years until 2026. And 14,000 of that 29 will be from this new rail line connecting St Marys to this airport site and onto the Aerotropolis. So this is an incredible job making programme. And of course, by 2026, when this airport is operational, we estimate there'll be a further 28,000 direct and indirect jobs in and around the airport as a result of this airport being open. Brand new international airport connected by rail, connected by freeways connected into the university sector, indigenous participation, local jobs. So this project of the rail line with the airport and the other roads is not just about jobs for today, but absolutely transforming Western Sydney for the future so that people can live here, they can study here, they can work here, and they can play here without necessarily having to always go into the CBD or elsewhere in Sydney.
It's great to be here in partnership with the New South Wales Government. I particularly thank Andrew Constance, Stuart Ayres for the cooperation which they've afforded myself and other federal ministers, as well as we have worked through this process. This is gonna be a magnificent project when it's all completed. It means that you'll be able to, if you land here in western Sydney Airport, jump on the train and get to St Marys in 15 minutes or to the CBD in an hour. And of course, it'll be the major transport spine for Western Sydney going forward.
So it's great to be here alongside the Prime Minister and the Premier. But particularly I'd like to thank Stuart Ayres and Andrew Constance for their cooperation in making this project a reality.
THE HON. ANDREW CONSTANCE MP, MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND ROADS: Look, first of all, can I just particularly thank the Prime Minister and the Premier, you know, to have this strength of leadership behind a public transport project is unprecedented and there's no doubt if you look at this as a holistic project in terms of the Park Land city, it's not every day you get to see a rail line and an airport being built concurrently and that delivering the opportunities for so many. One of the most powerful times that the Premier and I've had with the Sydney Metro Project on the North West was to meet young people who were working on the job for the first time and being part of the Metro project where we've already generated 30,000 jobs and now another 14,000 at a time when everybody is uncertain about what the future holds, yet strong leadership from our national and state government means that people can have some confidence and isn't it nice to be able to build something where we're not retrofitting part of the city? This is, this is truly greenfield. It gives every opportunity for new investment, for the jobs that Alan just spoke of. So to that end, this is a great day in terms of kicking along.
Just some specifics in relation to the project. Construction will start this year. We'll get on with geotech preliminary construction work and then we'll move into major construction next year. It's 23 kilometres of rail line, 6 stations. The main interchange point will be at St Marys, where it will connect to the T1 Western line. The great thing about it is it will also lead to opportunities at Luddenham, at Orchard Hills in terms of further investment from those who are looking to invest and it goes through to the Aerotropolis, which is going to be really something incredibly special for our country if you consider the international interest and the job creation, both in terms of everything from the sciences through to the education and opportunities that are present, particularly people of Western Sydney.
What we do know with Western Sydney is that it's going to double in population between now and 2056. That means we need this rail line. It won't be a case of people waiting years and years and years till a rail line comes to them. And that's something which, again, will drive the opportunities, both residential and employment. And if you consider that Western Sydney has about 300,000 people leave it every day to go to a place of employment. This incredible hub is something which can turn that around, turn it around quick and improve the quality of life for everybody.
THE HON. STUART AYRES MP, MINISTER FOR INVESTMENT, TOURISM AND WESTERN SYDNEY: This new north south rail line is a steel spine that will anchor the future economic and social prosperity for every single citizen in outer Western Sydney. For the first time, we're putting in the infrastructure before the houses. Making sure that our community can be connected to the jobs that they need close to where they live. This is about creating more jobs closer to people's homes, people's areas of recreation and making sure they've got the opportunities to have the knowledge jobs close to their homes. This has been an amazing Team Australia opportunity. There's not another place anywhere in the world that has $20 billion dollars worth of infrastructure being invested in it across both the Federal Government and a provincial or state government, an airport, a rail line, a new Aerotropolis. It's the focal point for investment from overseas, and it's the focal point for investment here in Western Sydney by locals as well. We set out with the task of creating 200,000 jobs for people in Western Sydney to recalibrate our city, to reshape the outer west of Sydney so people didn't have to travel from west to east to work. We're achieving that today. We're putting those markers in the ground so people can say to their families, there'll be job opportunities, international connectivity and world class transport infrastructure right here in their backyard. This is a 10 year vision coming to fruition.
I want to thank everyone that's been involved in it, the Commonwealth Government, the State Government, the team that reports to me through the Aerotropolis Authority, all of the work that's been done around making this an attractive location for international investors. These are markers in the ground that will simply reshape our future. This is the first time we're building a rail line, that John Bradfield didn't put on a map in Sydney nearly 100 years ago. This is us taking our future into our own hands and making sure that Western Sydney is not only driving the future social and economic prosperity of their own region, but also New South Wales and the nation.
JOURNALIST: I’m wondering how practical a timeline of 2026 is, especially considering there's a lot of, you know, holes have been exposed in our supply chains during this COVID crisis?
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: Sure, look there's no doubt that's definitely a challenge for us, but we are hoping that there won't be too much of a gap between when the airport opens and the rail-line opens and we've given a cost of around $11 billion dollars in out-turn dollars. But obviously, when you start doing the geotech work, as Minister Constance said, you can come across some other design issues. So we appreciate the challenges that are before us. Our intention is to have it completed in 2026/2027 financial year. But obviously we'll keep the community updated if there's any change in that, because you're absolutely right, the supply chains have been just disrupted around the world, including within our own nation. But we are confident, obviously, with construction starting this year, that the jobs will start. We know the initial phase doesn't rely on those things we’d normally rely on so were able to kick start the initial phase. And we're hoping that construction will still be around 26-27.
JOURNALIST: If it costs more than you expect, this $11 billion dollars, who’s on the hook then for the extra costs, New South Wales or the Feds?
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: I anticipate that we’ll share, we’ll talk about that, I anticipate we will share that.
JOURNALIST: Does Australia have enough skilled workers to be building two metro lines concurrently?
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: Absolutely. Absolutely, what we've demonstrated already with the Northwest Metro, the second Harbour rail crossing is that we have partners here in Australia and also global partners who are based here in New South Wales. So the skills we have are here, the people we have are here and please remember, we have hundreds of thousands of people across the state currently who don't have jobs. And it's an opportunity for us where appropriate, to reskill. For example, when Minister Constance mentioned what joy it was for us to see people on the North West rail line getting jobs for the first time, we met middle aged people who had done electrical engineering courses or had done courses at TAFE who were working on construction sites or in major projects for the first time. So let's also not underestimate the capacity for this project to be a big jobs driver. And we also know that across Western Sydney, as Minister Ayres would know, we have also put a specific focus through our TAFE system, whether it's through Mount Druitt or other TAFEs, where we have specialised construction courses, where the private sector has really driven to make sure that we have enough skills for people to drive the equipment. And we know, unfortunately, that one of the big areas where people have lost jobs, the demographic is young people, is youth. And if we can reskill or support some of those young people to get apprenticeships and to consider construction, that's a huge win for New South Wales.
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the question? There’s people working, yeah.
JOURNALIST: Realistically, how many jobs by the end of the year do you think you can have for Australians out of work at the moment? Just on this project by the end of this year?
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: Generally? Or just on this project?
JOURNALIST: Just on this project.
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: Yeah, well, obviously, that will, we'll try and gear up as quickly as we can. And the 14,000 jobs is over, obviously over the life of the project. But what happens is when our private sector partners have confidence the government is delivering something, they also hire people as well. People also think about what qualifications they want to achieve. So, for example, when we issued 100,000, well 100,000 people took up free TAFE courses, a lot of those were in medical administration and jobs where they knew there was a higher demand. So when governments get together and announce projects like this, it encourages young people to consider those career options. So obviously our intent is to get as many people into jobs as quickly as possible, which is why across New South Wales, we're looking at the larger projects, the medium sized ones, but also the very smaller ones at community level. And we'll try and get those online as soon as we can.
JOURNALIST: Will there be some kind of quota or target to ensure that the jobs are going to western Sydney locals?
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: Well, it goes, it's a matter of course, that if you live within a region, you're more likely to put your hand up and want to work in the region. But we also know from experience that a lot of the tertiary institutions, whether they're universities or TAFEs in Western Sydney, have geared up for this pipeline. And that's why the Government's also invested in specialised skills training in those TAFEs to really gear up and encourage younger people to consider these options, whether it's in engineering, whether it's in construction work, whether it's driving some of these very complex vehicles as well, which will be needed for the metro. And, of course, it'll be encouraging once the major construction starts. But to be able to say construction starts this year is just a huge win.
JOURNALIST: Is part of the asterisk on the price because you haven’t decided whether it’s going to be underground tunnelling for the Aerotropolis and why hasn’t that decision been made?
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: Yeah, a couple of reasons. Firstly, we always say ‘around’ until we've done the geotech work which Minister Constance alluded to. So with our experience with the North-West Metro, and the second Harbour rail crossing. You don't know the final final cost until you've gone through that process of issuing all the contracts. So we know it'll be around that time. And I and I will say the New South Wales Government is considering our options around the Aerotropolis as to whether we go under or not. And so that could have an impact as well. But at this stage. That's what the parameters of the project are.
JOURNALIST: What would be your preference? To go under?
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: Well, look I don’t want to-
JOURNALIST: Because obviously a world class city with a rail line cutting through...
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: Look, I don't want to speculate. We're looking at all the options. Our focus is jobs. Our focus is getting the Metro up and running as soon as possible. And we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
JOURNALIST: Can you provide insight into where exactly the stations will be and if any homes may have to be acquired in the process?
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: Certainly, would anyone else like to answer that?
MINISTER CONSTANCE: Look, first of all, we went through a process with everybody who we need to acquire the property of at a personal level. And that's what we've done with all the big projects. The beauty with this project is there's not that many properties that we actually have to deal with. So over the next couple of weeks, we will go to those that we need to acquire the property off. Of course, we have a very clear idea where those properties are and we will obviously engage there appropriately at the right time. But the main thing at the moment, though, is to have those 6 stations, Orchard Hills and Luddenham are being confirmed, of course, the Aerotropolis makes sense, two at the airport and one at St Marys. It's going to be a rail line that's like no other in that sense. It'll be a single deck metro train, driverless. We've seen the technology and the advancements it has brought the North West, but it won't be anywhere near the property acquisitions that we've seen.
JOURNALIST: Do you have a figure for how many acquisitions there will be?
MINISTER CONSTANCE: Not at this stage. But to the Premier's point I mean, we've got to make some decisions in relation to tunnelling as well.
JOURNALIST: Premier, can I ask for an update on your plan to fast track the return of international students into New South Wales to provide some stimulus for struggling universities at this time and perhaps the Prime Minister as well on the Federal Government’s approach?
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: Yes, certainly we're working on that plan. The plan is not yet finalised, but we're certainly starting the conversation and seeing what that might look like and what is pleasing and I know Health would have updated their information, is what is pleasing is whilst restrictions ease, the risk of a virus is great. We have seen a very low to zero community to community transmission, but we have to be aware that the cases we have had in New South Wales have come from people in quarantine in our hotels, and we have to be very mindful of that. But obviously, we're working through those issues and speaking to universities. And I particularly worry about our regional universities who will need to lay off jobs if we don't provide them with support and so both the Deputy Premier and myself are in particular concerned about the future viability of those universities, not necessarily in the next 6 months, but potentially beyond that point. And so we're working through these issues and the Prime Minister's also been very open minded to our strategy in that regard.
JOURNALIST: Has the fact that most of New South Wales recent cases have come from returned travellers in quarantine hotels perhaps put a bit of a pause on that process to fast track international students?
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: Yeah, well, I think from all the cases that we've we've fortunately not had any community transmission in the last 5 days in New South Wales. That's not to suggest that's the benchmark, because it’s not and it won't be, as we ease restrictions today and I've been very open about this we should expect there to be more cases. We should expect there to be what we call outbreaks in certain communities and we will get on top of that. We have to be mindful of that. But there's no doubt that even when you have people in quarantine, we're managing it extremely well. In fact, we're managing it on behalf of our other state colleagues, a number of those people who've acquired the disease or have the disease in quarantine are from other states. And we've been managing it extremely well. But it is a huge logistical exercise and we have to weigh that up. But I'm confident we'll find a pathway through in relation to how we can start helping our universities, especially in the regions, deal with that matter.
JOURNALIST: Premier, Gyms and cinemas, are we any closer?
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: We are closer. So in relation to, in relation to the former, we'll have something to say about that this week.
JOURNALIST: Given what you announced yesterday with ANZ stadium and Peter V’Landys now welcoming that, if we maybe have three or four boutique stadiums built in Sydney, given the Prime Minister is a big supporter of suburban football, and the Sharks in particular, what are the chances of that happening?
PREMIER BEREJIKLIAN: Look, can I be very upfront and frank, everybody would appreciate that we're in the middle of a pandemic. Our first priority is jobs. And we will be looking towards those projects that generate the most jobs and provide employment for the hundreds of thousands of people in New South Wales who are without a job. And we worry, of course, as the Prime Minister does, the PM's always spoken about JobKeeper and how that can't go on forever. And as a state, we're gearing up for that. We know that New South Wales has had a disproportionate, disproportionate impact because of our reliance on hospitality and the services sector and education that has impacted New South Wales more than others, especially for young people. And that's what we'll be looking for, job opportunities or reskilling and retraining, which allows us to get people back into work and also people of all ages. It's very difficult when you're my age and older to have to think about a career change if you've lost your job, how are you going to get back into getting a job? And so these are issues which are top of mind for us. So we will, of course, engage with all of our stakeholders, listen to all of our stakeholders, but we'll always take decisions that are in the best interests of our citizens.
JOURNALIST: Would it be possible for the Prime Minister to do like with Metro, a 50/50 deal for suburban grounds, particularly for southern Sydney?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think the Premier, I think, has set out the priorities pretty well. There are lots of wishlists around, lots of things. But what matters right now is how we invest to create as many jobs as possible. I mean, we have a job making coalition here right across the country. And so whether it's on projects like this one where we're sharing a partnership or indeed the energy partnership we have with the New South Wales Government, which is trying to get the price of energy down for small businesses so they can create jobs, whether it's the partnership we can have on skills training going forward, whether it's the partnership we have on our health system. I mean, on Friday, we were able to conclude the biggest health agreement between the states and the Commonwealth ever sealed, $31 billion dollars of extra investment in our hospitals around the country and obviously, the biggest part of that investment is here in New South Wales. And I thank the Premier, again, for her support of that agreement. What Australians are seeing here is governments working together to make jobs. And that's what our job is at the moment. And when, the more jobs you make, that means the economy can support Australians at a time when Australians are feeling the pinch more than ever before. So, you know, we're always open to having discussions about things. But the measure that the Premier and I put across everything and this is true right across all the states and territories, is how many jobs is it going to create. We're in the job making business.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about robodebt, don’t you think that Australians deserve an apology over that and do you think that potentially it’s overdue given how many lives could have been ruined and how many Australians committed suicide over this?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we're putting this right. And let's be clear about what the change is here. The income averaging principle is one that has been followed by Labor and Coalition governments for a very long period of time. And over the course of dealing with this issue, that that principle was not something that could be relied upon. That doesn't mean those debts don't exist. It just means that they cannot be raised solely on the basis of using income averaging. And I think all Australians would agree that it's important that if there are overpayments of welfare or other things like that, then the Government has to be diligent about taxpayers funds and make sure that we recover moneys where it's right to do so. But you've got to do it in the lawful way. And we will continue to ensure that we do that with our programmes going forward. This has been a difficult project for many. But what I can say is the Government's putting it right.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if you’re the family member of someone who has potentially committed suicide because of robodebt, [inaudible] don’t care about the politics of it, don’t you think they deserve an apology?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we're still working through some legal procedures here right now. And so I think the time for those sorts of statements are at another time not right now, we're in the middle of making this right. But I want to stress again that the principle that sits at the heart of this issue is not the technology. What sits at the heart of this issue is the principle of income averaging, and income averaging has been practised by Labor and Coalition governments for a long period of time. And that's the principle,
JOURNALIST: Someone who’d lost a family member?
PRIME MINISTER: Australians are going through all sorts of hardship at present. And that's why our Government is reaching out to them in every possible way we can. Our Government has provided the sort of mental health support which has been critical not just during a pandemic, but over many stresses. And so these are difficult issues to manage. And I think the Government has great regrets about any pain or injury that has been caused here. But as I said, those are issues that we're still working through and we're making it right. And I think that's that's the important step.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you dropped two bombshells on two Friday afternoons in a row, first the JobKeeper bungle, and then the robodebt last Friday afternoon, what have you got in store this Friday afternoon?
PRIME MINISTER: Well we will continue to create jobs every week and that's why we're here. And that's what our government is doing. We're in the job making business and we're going to keep making jobs because Australia needs to come out of this COVID crisis, strongly. And that's what we're doing where there are issues to address, we deal with them, we fix the problems and we keep going forward. That's how you deal with difficult issues. And that's what, exactly what we've done.
JOURNALIST: Does Stuart Robert still have your full confidence, Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: Of course.
JOURNALIST: What’s the process the Government used for that income averaging under the scheme, was it illegal in the end?
PRIME MINISTER: It was. As I said, a practice followed by Labor and Coalition governments for a long period of time.
JOURNALIST: But it turned out to be illegal?
PRIME MINISTER: This is the advice we have.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask about foreign students?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes you can, about foreign students.
JOURNALIST: Should they get exemptions, how quickly should they be able to come back into the country, and did you think that could have exemptions from the 14 day mandatory quarantine to help boost regional universities in New South Wales?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I would say that, I mean, issues of the quarantine will obviously be matters for the state government as they manage the health issues involved with any of those sorts of things. And we'll work closely with the State Government as to how they want to move forward on this. Right now, our focus federally is ensuring that we open our universities for domestic students. We need to remember that our universities have been built in this country to address the higher education needs of Australian students and to build up the skills and capacities and research that Australia needs amongst our own people. And that is the primary purpose of universities, now the international business they've engaged in over many years has become important, to them there's no doubt about that. But what we want right now, and that's why we have underwritten the domestic student business of the universities, is to ensure that they can get their doors open for their Australian students, and for international students there are many risks to manage there, but I think what has been demonstrated by the states, whether here in New South Wales or elsewhere, that they have been able to run, I think, very effective quarantine arrangements for returning Australian citizens and residents. And that experience can now be put to work to see how it can support other parts of the economy. And obviously, international students is one of those. But let's let's walk before we run on this. We cannot be complacent about a further wave, I'm sure the Premier would agree. And while New South Wales in particular is opening up, ensuring social distancing continues to be practised, ensuring that you continue to download the COVIDSafe app, these are incredibly important protections that keep everybody healthy and keep everybody safe and means that we can continue to take the steps to open up our economy that is so desperately needed. So as we move out and about, and it's great to be out and about, on this beautiful Western Sydney day, we must be mindful that the Coronavirus is still out there, it hasn't gone anywhere. Our protections are much stronger and you can keep them stronger by following all the health advice that we have received and is being conveyed to you on a daily basis.
JOURNALIST: House renovations, Prime Minister, house renovations, what are we looking at there. Do they need to be environmentally friendly, what are we, are we talking about means tested, what’s the...
PRIME MINISTER: Well, what you've seen from the government when the coronavirus first hit, is we ensured we laid down the strongest possible safety net and platform to ensure Australians could be supported during the economic crisis, JobKeeper, JobSeeker, the cash flow allowance, some $150 billion dollars of safety net for Australians, broad based. Now, as time goes on, there are sectors who will endure more of the pain for longer. And what we've seen, there'll be gaps that occur in our economy, and house building, residential construction will be one of those gaps that we have to address. And so the Treasurer and I, working with our colleagues and where states have taken up that invitation to work with us on these issues. And there are many programmes here in New South Wales. We'll have more to say about this once the details are finalised. But it is about creating jobs and supporting jobs in our residential construction sector. The tradies and all the others, the apprentices and others who work in that home building sector are a sector we know are going to feel a lot of pain unless we can keep a continuity in the business of house construction whether here in New South Wales or anywhere else.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister are you [inaudible] early super [inaudible]?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's their money, it's their money. I don't go around telling people how to spend their own money.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] compliance policy in hindsight [inaudible]?
PRIME MINISTER: No.
PRIME MINISTER: No.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you confirm that the New South Wales Government has failed in their handling of the Ruby Princess?
PRIME MINISTER: No, we’ve worked together on this and we’ll continue to work together. I mean, when you look at the success that New South Wales has been able to achieve on dealing with the biggest risks of the coronavirus, now we both agree that, you know, not everything's going to go perfectly to plan on every occasion. But I tell you what, I'd rather be in Australia than anywhere else in the country, anywhere else in the world, I should say, when it comes to how this issue has been managed across Australia, it has been a great team effort. And it's important that when challenges have come up, that we've worked together on them and and we've kept going forward.
But it seems as though the trucks are winning the battle of the noise here and I’ll have to conclude it there. Thanks very much.