PM Morrison writing at his desk in his prime ministerial office

Interview on ABC News Breakfast

25 Feb 2019
Prime Minister

PAUL KENNEDY: Prime Minister, thank you very much for your time.


KENNEDY: What is the difference between your Climate Solutions Fund and the Emissions Reduction Fund created by Tony Abbott?

PRIME MINISTER: It guess beyond the Emissions Reduction fund. So it is embracing many others projects as well.  But the Emissions Reduction Fund which Tony Abbott started has been a great success. I mean it has been responsible for about 200 million tonnes abatement and it was always our intention that we would need to extend that out to ensure we met our 2030 targets, which we will. The 2020 targets we will meet comfortably by around 367 million tonnes in addition to what our commitments was. Now let’s remember when we came to government we were inheriting a deficit on that of some 700 million tonnes. So that is a 1.1 billion tonne turn around and that program, which Tony started, and was followed through by Malcolm and now myself, has been very successful. So we are adding to the success of the project to meet those targets.

KENNEDY: When you are quoted as saying you will meet your targets in a canter, you were including this money? You had this in mind?


KENNEDY: What is the difference for small business and farmers?

PRIME MINISTER: Well it’s continuing the projects that we already do. So it’s a reverse auction basically and what we’ve seen through this program is it does everything from improving soil productivity and boosting energy efficiency, assisting small businesses and their management practices. Savannah management practices and things like that for indigenous communities. It has been an incredibly successful program, both improving the economy and supporting the environment. So it has been a success and we’ll continue it.

KENNEDY: How will people in remote communities be able to hold off severe bushfires was one that (inaudible)?

PRIME MINISTER: They are already doing that in terms of how they manage their burn management programs and that is part of the reverse auction process.

KENNEDY:  Haven’t they have done for a long time?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah and this helps them continue to do that and provides an economic basis for doing so, supporting jobs in rural and regional communities, particularly for indigenous Australians, who know how to manage the land and we are backing in them on doing that.

KENNEDY: Now you are in Melbourne today to make this announcement. How much will the Victorian result from November, which climate change was a really big concern for voters, how much is that playing on your approach to climate change from now until the election?

PRIME MINISTER: I want to make some simple points.  Yes, we know of course we must address climate change and more importantly, we have been. We have been meeting our targets. We will meet those targets into the future and we have a plan to achieve that.  So when it comes to our climate …

KENNEDY:  If I can just jump in on that, from the Victorian election there was a lot of criticism and blow back from previous Liberal voters who did not vote for the Coalition in Victoria because of a lack of climate change policy.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think because of a lack of awareness of our climate change policy and I think ...

KENNEDY: It wasn't sold well.

PRIME MINISTER: What I’m saying today is we that we’ve got a very strong record of achievement. I was in New Zealand on Friday. New Zealand to meet their targets will have to buy foreign carbon credits. Under our plan we don't have to do that. We are actually achieving our abatement on our side of the line. And not only just achieving it, but we are bettering it. There are very few countries in the world that can claim a 367 million tonne better than 2020 on our targets. Our emissions reductions by 2030 will be more than 50% per person and they will be about a two-third reduction in emissions intensity by 2030. So these are serious targets but our targets are measured and balanced.

KENNEDY: Why not aim higher if things are going so well?

PRIME MINISTER: Well because it will crash the economy. It is not needed to have a higher target that will close industries and close jobs.

KENNEDY: So you won’t change your targets?

PRIME MINISTER: Labor's target at 45% would result in a loss of wages, per wage earner of $9,000 each per year. So you’ve got to have a responsible target that meets your environmental obligations, which we have been doing, but also supports our economy because our obligation to future generations is to give them a better planet, but it is also to ensure they have got an economy that supports their lifestyle.

KENNEDY: Just a couple more on the politics of this. Malcolm Turnbull said in his final press conference, that the truth is the Coalition finds it very hard to get agreement on anything to do with emissions, emissions issues and climate policy issues. Have the same problem within the Coalition of bitterly entrenched views, that are actually more Ideological than views based on engineering and economics. Are those views still entrenched?

PRIME MINISTER: This program has absolute support right across the party because it deals with things that Malcolm started also on Snowy 2.0 and we are picking up with the Marinus link with Tasmania.

KENNEDY: But are those views still entrenched in some parts?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I think the proof is the policy I am announcing today. Because this is what matters.  What matters is what you get done and our record on addressing climate change is a very strong one and we have the plans in place to achieve our next set of targets which are responsible. So whether it is the Battery of the Nation, Snowy 2.0, the work that is being done in energy efficiency, the work that is being done on our Emissions Reduction Fund, all of that is adding up to meeting our obligations and our targets.

KENNEDY: Are you better at bringing the party together on this issue than Malcolm Turnbull, is that what you are saying?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I am saying we have a clear plan based on a great track record of which Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott were key parts of putting together and driving that success.

KENNEDY: Newspoll is out today.  No big shift on those numbers. Are you surprised you that didn't get a bump following your attack on Labor on border protection?

PRIME MINISTER: No, because that was not what it is about. It was about … I mean people know many things about me but one thing I am sure they know is that when it comes to border protection I don't waiver, ever and that is why I took the strong position I did on this.  For that and that reason alone.

KENNEDY: Dr Katie Allen was pre-selected as we just mentioned in Higgins yesterday.

PRIME MINISTER: A tremendous candidate.

KENNEDY: Are you relieved given a woman was not pre-selected in Stirling.

PRIME MINISTER: Let's go to Stirling. We have Vince Connolly who is a veteran and I would be pleased to have another veteran who has served overseas for our defence forces. Three great kids.  Great family man. He is coming to join the Parliament and now we’ve got Katie who was pre-selected on the weekend. A paediatrician, a medical research scientist, a mother herself. I mean, she is an outstanding candidate as is Vince. So we are recruiting great talent to our team. It is about talent. It is about people who can come and bring their experience and credentials to my team and the fact we have got so many people signing up to our team, it gives me a great sense of confidence about the direction we are taking.

KENNEDY: But it is also about women. What is the great disadvantage of taking too few women in the Liberal Party ranks to the next election?

PRIME MINISTER: Since I became leader I think it is now 19 women that have now been selected in the both the Senate and in the House and Wendy has already joined us, taking over from David Bushby's position in Tasmania.

KENNEDY: So you are not concerned you have too few women?

PRIME MINISTER: Well what I am saying is since I have become Prime Minister the record of actually seeing women come into the ranks in very, very strong seats for the Liberal Party has been pretty good.

KENNEDY: A couple of quick ones to finish on. Labor has announced today a levy on banks. It is calling it the Banking Fairness Fund. So another fund there. Do you think it sound like a good idea?

PRIME MINISTER: The Labor Party's answer to every question. Bill Shorten’s answer to every question is higher taxes. So who is next? He has announced this today…

KENNEDY: It’s a levy on the banks to help people who are struggling in financial circumstances and can't get good advice and it is a follow from the Royal Commission, of course.

PRIME MINISTER: A good program should get support, but what we are able to do is fund Medicare to its highest rate of bulk-billing in history without it increasing people's taxes. We are able to have the highest funding for education. Increasing education funding for schools, independent and public and without increasing taxes. Bill Shorten doesn't seem to be able to do anything without increasing taxes. So its retirees, homeowners, wage earners, superannuation.  I mean they are all getting hit with Bill Shorten's tax stick. I mean that is the only stick he's got - a higher tax stick that he hits anybody, anybody who gets anywhere near him.

KENNEDY: Well ok, we will hear from the Opposition today about that issue. Just one final one, Ita Buttrose as the chair of the ABC. Would you give that the green light when it is presented to Cabinet?

PRIME MINISTER: Cabinet hasn't made a decision on this matter yet and we are considering these matters and when we have made a decision we will make an announcement.

KENNEDY: Do you think she would she be a good person for the job?

PRIME MINISTER: I don't get into commentary about things that Cabinet are considering. Do you think she would?

KENNEDY: We have been pretty positive in the newsroom this morning about Ita Buttrose being the chair of the ABC.

PRIME MINISTER: I have known Ita for a long time …

KENNEDY: But it’s not up to me, it’s a question for you

PRIME MINISTER: … and I think she's an extraordinary Australian. An Australian of the Year and there  have been few people more than Ita that I think have lifted the standards of journalism in this country and I think that says a lot about her character and her abilities.

KENNEDY: Joining the ranks of the great journalism of the ABC, it would be a nice fit, it seems. Prime Minister, thank you very much for your time.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot.