Doorstop Interview, Parliament House, Canberra

26 November 2019

Trevor Evans: The government has a number of very significant priorities ahead of us this week in Canberra. On top of continuing to deal with the fallout and the ramifications of the bushfires that have afflicted much of Australia including in my home state of Queensland, we're also getting on with the job of continuing strong economic management. And that strong economic management is just so critically important to deliver many of the things that this Government has been able to deliver in recent weeks and months including in relation to the issue of infrastructure investment.

For example, this Government has a $100 billion pipeline of infrastructure investment that we are rolling out in coming years and it was just so good to see the Prime Minister in Brisbane and in Queensland in recent days announcing that we are able, through our strong economic management, to bring forward the investments that we're making in relation to the Bruce Highway and the M1. That's music to the ears of my constituents in Brisbane and right across Queensland because they need to see the investment in the economy and in the infrastructure that we need in our high growing area. And it's also incredibly important to see the work that Minister Alan Tudge has been completing in relation to a South East Queensland City Deal, which is really extending the planning horizons for infrastructure in our fast growing region.

One of the other priorities in the legislative sense in the Parliament this week is the Ensuring Integrity Bill which the Government hopes to pass through the Senate. This is incredibly important legislation for the Government and for society. For too long now we've been hearing from judges and from courts that they are next to powerless to deal with the recidivism, the repeat offending that we've been seeing in some corners of the union movement. And so it's incredibly important that we call out repeat offending anywhere we see it in Australian society.

And the Australian Government is committed to ensuring that wherever there is recidivism and repeat offending that there are tough cops on the beat, well-resourced regulators, and appropriate laws and penalties to deal with those sorts of issues.

Now I note that the Opposition, the Labor Party, have marched into Canberra this week and are trying to make some sort of comparison, draw some sort of moral equivalency, between the repeat offending that we've seen in the union movement and the repeat offending and misconduct that we've seen in the banking sector. Let me make it very clear, the Federal Government is committed to stamping out repeat offending anywhere we see it across Australian society. And I'd make this point very, very strongly – in relation to the repeat offending that we've seen, the misconduct in our banking sector, this Government is responsible for bringing in the Banking Executive and Accountability regime which applies penalties of more than $1 million and up to 15 years' imprisonment. What we're proposing in relation to stamping out repeat offending and misconduct in the union movement is penalties of up to $20,000 and up to two years' imprisonment.

So you can see that the Government believes that those outcomes are appropriate and proportionate to the issues in play and we are committed to stamping out that sort of repeat conduct – that repeated misconduct anywhere we see it across Australian society.

Lastly, in relation to my own portfolio responsibilities for waste reduction, the Environment Minister Sussan Ley and I have had a big couple of weeks, we've achieved a lot including at the recent meeting of environment ministers in Adelaide. Of note, I'd say that we're continuing to work with industry in the states and territories on the timelines for banning the export of various waste streams. And the proposed timeline that we've been able to settle with the states and territories is that starting in July of next year, and then in a staged approach through to July 2022, all of Australia's waste exports of glass, tyres, paper, cardboard, and plastics will be banned. Happy to take any questions.

Question: Today you’ve got the Chinese Government saying Australia’s being hysterical and Labor saying that the Government has no plan to deal with China. Do you think that’s fair?

Trevor Evans: I don't think that either of those comments are particularly fair. Australia takes allegations of the sort that have been raised very seriously. This Government, in particular, has a track record of making the sorts of announcements needed, resourcing the sorts of task forces and agencies that look into issues of foreign interference, and the like. Those announcements have been made in recent weeks and months. We take all of these issues very seriously, we have record funding and resources on the table for our law enforcement agencies and I think that's been the appropriate response.

Question: You’ve got Ministers in your government who are coming out more strongly in relation to China. Is that evidence that the government doesn’t have a coherent plan for dealing with it?

Trevor Evans: Oh, I think that the coherent plan is already in place and working. So for instance, in relation to the recent allegations that have been made around other countries attempting to put candidates into Australian elections, you'll note that some weeks – in fact I think a couple of months ago – the Federal Government had already established an assurance taskforce to look into the conduct of past elections, including the 2019 election. The Government has the policies on the table already to deal with these sorts of issues. We are of one mind in our response to it, and our plan is comprehensive.

Question: Australian universities are creating security risks by collaborating with Chinese universities operating as arms of the Beijing military, that’s what a new report says. How concerning is that, and what’s the government doing?

Trevor Evans: Our Minister for Education Dan Tehan, I think a couple of weeks ago, announced a couple of discussion papers released and best practice guidelines, and a number of policies around how we can ensure ongoing integrity in our university sector. The Government's very alert to these sorts of challenges. They are one of many challenges that play out in the new world. So we can continue to be alert to these issues. And as I say, have a comprehensive plan in place to help deal with them.

Question: Just in relation to the aged care funding announcement yesterday, some say this funding is a drop in the water. Is the government, I guess, trying to cling on to a surplus at the expense of older Australians?

Trevor Evans: What we've seen in relation to our strong economic management on a number of fronts is the Government's approach to a balanced budget, being able to support all sorts of priorities as they arise around Australia. This isn't about being ideologically committed to a surplus for some sort of political reason. It's incredibly important that Australia has a strong economy and a strong budget position for all of the emergencies and the issues and the priorities as they arise. Our strong economic management has allowed us to respond the way that we have to the recent bushfires. Our strong economic management has allowed us to turbo-charge our infrastructure investment priorities, and our strong economic management allows us, as we have in recent days, to respond very strongly with more resources for our aged care sector. Thanks, all.