Prime Minister Morrison: drought my first priority

Prime Minister Morrison: Drought is my first priority


Politics
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenburg at their first press conference in their new roles this afternoon. Photo Sam Mooy

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenburg at their first press conference in their new roles this afternoon. Photo Sam Mooy

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Scott Morrison says helping regional communities and farmers is our most pressing need right now

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New PM says helping rural communities and farmers in drought is top of his mind on entering the top job.

In his first public statement as Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his first order of business would be to meet with the Commonwealth Drought Coordinator Major General Stephen Day.

“Drought is our most urgent and pressing need right now,” Mr Morrison said.

“We will be reviewing drought plans with Major day, and working the National’s and rural and regional members to make sure we can help regional communities and farmers.”

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Mr Morrison said his government would “bring energy prices down” and listed his initial policy focus.

“Keeping the economy strong. Keeping Australians safe and keeping Australians together. “They are my key, early priorities.”

Mr Morrison listed healthcare, “I am distressed by the challenge of chronic illness” as well as affordable medicine, aged care and small-and-medium-sized business as policy areas of interest.

“Specific policy matters I will consult on with Cabinet,” he said.

Mr Morrison said he also looked forward to working with Nationals Leader Michael McCormack, who he will meet with this afternoon to discuss the Coalition agreement.

Among those with most at stake is the Nationals, who deliver the numbers the Coalition needs to command a majority to govern in Parliament, and they’ll seek to maximise its terms with the new Liberal leader.

Mr Morrison intends to consider a Cabinet and Minister reshuffle over the weekend.

One other key issue Mr Morrison will need to address is international trade.

The Coalition Government has been building its credentials in the portfolio and regional Australia will be hoping the chaos in Canberra hasn’t derailed impending progress.

Malcolm Turnbull was expected to travel to Indonesia this week to make in a show of support with President Joko Widodo for a free trade agreement between the countries.

Assistant Trade Minister Mark Coulton said that will not happen now, but he expects the process to get back on track soon, and he’s eyeing of opportunities further afield.

“Obviously (the announcement with Indonesia) was upset with the change of leadership and I think it is a good thing overall it was put on hold under the circumstances. But I understand they’re getting very too close to an agreement,” Mr Coulton said.

“But apart from more obvious markets I think here is a lot of opportunity within the North American disruption in places like Columbia, Canada or Mexico.

“I’ve been in this role since March and it makes me realise how the fortune of the people I represent relates to trade.

“The drought will end at some point and the advantage we have because of the liberalisation of trade.

Part of my agenda is hosting trade seminars to bring opportunities to regional areas, because there is a bit of a perception you need to be a Roger Fletcher to take advantage of the opportunities, but there are opportunities for smaller operators too.

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