Morrison lays out 2021 government agenda to as parliament begins

Prime Minister Scott Morrison lays out 2021 agenda, JobKeeper, JobSeeker, net zero emissions

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison laid out his government's agenda at a National Press Club address. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Prime Minister Scott Morrison laid out his government's agenda at a National Press Club address. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

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Now the government will focus on reducing public spending.

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There is still much more to do in the health and economic recovery in 2021 following the COVID-19 pandemic last year, says Prime Minister Scott Morrison in an address to the National Press Club on Monday.

Supressing the virus remains the government's top priority. Mr Morrison set out an extra $1.9 funding for the vaccine rollout to ensure it gets to GPs and pharmacies across the country.

Cementing the economic recovery will build on the JobKeeper and JobSeeker supplement funding during the tough days of pressure on businesses and unemployment. Those supplements are due to expire at the end of March, and now the government will focus on reducing public spending.

"Australians are now voting with their feet to join the economic recovery that is occurring here in Australia," Mr Morrison said. Unemployment rate fell from 7.5 per cent in July last year down to 6.6 per cent in December.

The JobKeeper stimulus saved not just livelihoods, it saved lives, Mr Morrison said.

"There is now a large sum of money available to be spent across the economy and that's what's going to help create jobs and help maintain the momentum of our economic recovery, and that is where it needs to be right now, those funds - in Australians' pockets."

The Prime Minister said his government's goal was to reach net zero emission "as soon as possible and preferably by 2050", and will invest and partner with technology breakthroughs, but would not tax the country to reach that target.

"In Australia, my government will not tax our way to net zero emissions," Mr Morrison said. "I will not put that cost on Australians. And I will particularly not ask regional Australians to carry that burden. Getting to net zero, whether here or anywhere else, should be about technology."

Essential services funding will continue. Health, disability, social services and aged care services successfully adapted to a new operating environment in 2021, the Prime Minister said. His government plans to guarantee Medicare, affordable medicines through the PBS and the continued rollout of the NBN.

On the global stage, Mr Morrison has been invited to attend the G7 summit in London this June. Within the region, ASEAN sits at the heart of Australia's vision for the Indo-Pacific, and the outreach work of the Pacific Step-Up program with neighbouring countries will continue in 2021.

The geopolitical environment will remain very challenging, the Prime Minister said, but the alliance with the United States will grow even strong with the Biden administration, with the Defence relationship remaining the bedrock of the alliance.

"The evolution of the United States' relationship with China will shape the political environment for the foreseeable future as it has in the past," Mr Morrison said, but Australia remained committed to a relationship with China.

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"Our people have benefited both ways from the depth of our economic ties but it is not surprising there will be differences between two nations with such different economic and political systems.

"Our task is to ensure that such differences do not deny Australia, and China, from realising the mutual benefits of that partnership, consistent with our own respective national sovereign interests."

A dialogue focus with China, not on concessions but on areas of mutual benefits will allow each nation and peoples to continue to engage into the future, the Prime Minister said, and Australia was open to such a process.

At home, the Morrison government will also put a focus on environmental stewardship, including work on climate resilience, implementing an export ban on waste and plastic, and funding new and upgraded recycling facilities around the country to build up a waste management sector.

In agriculture, the Treasurer will release a national soil strategy in the 2021-2022 budget later this year and a national monitoring program to assess the conditions of Australian soils.

A practice phase of the national Landcare program this year will include controlling weeds, fencing off sensitive waterways and replanting species.

The first phase of the government's Health Oceans Plan also comes into effect in 2021, including a $1.9 billion commitment to the protecting Australian reefs.

"We are supporting our Indo-Pacific neighbours to manage waste, protect coral reefs and mangroves and crack down on illegal fishing."

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