PM Morrison writing at his desk in his prime ministerial office

Interview on ABC News Breakfast

20 Mar 2019
Prime Minister

MICHAEL ROWLAND: We're joined from Canberra by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Prime Minister good morning. 

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning Michael.

ROWLAND: The current intake is not much above 160,000, that’s the new cap you're announcing. So what difference will this make?

PRIME MINISTER: Well this is a responsible plan to manage our future population growth. It's not only about the change to the cap as you say, coming from 190,000 down to 160,000. It's about the congestion-busting infrastructure and other major projects we're putting around the country. It’s about the plan that we’ve got in a framework with the states and territories, who will have a bigger say about the intake into their states and territories. That comes out of the COAG meeting I took these plan to last December. Of course, it's about achieving greater cohesion, bringing Australians together wherever we are in Australia, investing in more of those social cohesion programs that support migrants in our community, to be successful.

ROWLAND: The economic benefits of migration are unquestioned as you know.


ROWLAND: We do know, as you also know, that the economy is slowing, so won't this hurt the economy down the track?

PRIME MINISTER: No it won't because it's a responsible cap. The employer-nominated positions under the plan will be maintained. The skills and occupation list particularly for regional areas, will remain at their expanded levels to ensure that they can get the skills they need and the places they need them. It's also about ensuring Michael, that the congestion that occurs in our major cities - that can be a sheet anchor on growth as well, a tradie doesn't get paid for sitting at a traffic jam, he or she doesn't build anything when they're sitting there, it happens when they get on site - so it's important that we manage the quality of life and the liveability of our cities.

The Productivity Commission, I tasked as Treasurer to tell me what the big productivity challenges were going forward. The management of our cities and population was a key one of those. That’s why we’re acting on this and I began that process after becoming Prime Minister.

ROWLAND: But equally Prime Minister how much of this congestion is due not so much to migration, but state governments of both stripes, not thinking strategically and thinking ahead, building your roads, building your rail lines many, many years ago?

PRIME MINISTER: This is why our plan does address those issues, Michael. It's not just about the migration settings. They're responsibly settings, but equally it is about those other points I mentioned; the congestion-busting infrastructure in our congestion-busing fund, dealing with some of those specific road projects that need attention. I was at Fullerton Road just yesterday in Adelaide, there’s 60,000 cars that go down there, it needs to be widened. We're going to invest in that project with the South Australian Government and there’s countless others of these projects around the country. It's about a planning framework with the states and territories to ensure that we are lining up infrastructure spending with how we're managing migration. It's also about making sure Australians come together and we can live together. We are the most successful immigrant country on earth. Michael Daley from New South Wales doesn't seem to agree with me on that, he's made rather appalling comments regarding the contribution of Asian migrants to this country. I completely reject those comments and I think Bill Shorten should disassociate himself as well.

ROWALD: A few other issues before you leave Prime Minister. The Turkish President Erdogan overnight, visiting Gallipoli, and speaking of the Christchurch attacker said, and I’m quoting him directly regarding the many Australian who visit Gallipoli each year: “Your grandparents came, some of them returned in coffins. Have no doubt we will send you back like your grandparents." What do you make of that comment?

PRIME MINISTER: I find it a very offensive comment, of course I do. I will be calling in the Turkish Ambassador today to meet with me and discuss these issues. I have denounced, Australia has denounced, New Zealand has denounced, absolutely and completely, the act of extremist right-wing terrorism, white supremacist terrorism that we saw in New Zealand. We could not have been more forward-leaning in offering our great condolences and support to the Muslim community, both in New Zealand and Australia. I find the responsibility in these situations, I think of all leaders, is to take the temperature down on these issues. I don't intend to seek to escalate that in the response I'm giving today. So I’m going to be speaking directly to the Turkish Ambassador about this.

We've had a tremendous relationship with the Turkish people over a long period of time. We've seen that in the spirit in which Anzac Day has been able to be commemorated each and every year. So I don't find these comments very helpful, I don’t find them very accurate or truthful as well, because the actions of the Australia and New Zealand Government have been consistent with our values of welcoming and supporting people from all around the world. We are the most successful migrant countries and particularly Australia, on the planet today. We are an example to the rest of the world about how we can all live together in peace and harmony. I think Australia and New Zealand has a lot to offer the rest of the world and perhaps, they should be looking more closely at the example we set.

ROWLAND: I also want to give you the opportunity on national TV to clear up a controversy that has been swirling in the past few days. Do you Scott Morrison, in a shadow cabinet meeting back in 2010, did you urge the Coalition to capitalise on anti-Muslim sentiment for political purposes?

PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely not, it is a disgraceful smear and an appalling lie.

ROWLAND: Have you ever in any shadow cabinet or Cabinet meeting raised that thought.


ROWLAND: Your office has threatened to sue the Ten Network which raised this allegation on Thursday, for defamation. Will you proceed with that?

PRIME MINISTER: I have no intention of doing that, I just simply want people to report the truth and that is an ugly and disgusting lie. I reject it absolutely.

Over the last decade Michael, I have spent my time as a public figure working with the Muslim community in south western New South Wales. I have walked the Kokoda Track with my Muslim brothers and sisters, I’ve done it on the Sandakan Death March. I have done it on the Salamaua Track in Papua New Guinea and organised, together with my good friend Jason Clare, similar visits to Turkey for the centenary of ANZAC. That’s why I’m welcomed when I attend mosques in south western Sydney, with warm embraces. Perhaps if people focused a bit more on the story they don’t want to tell about my relationship with people of all faiths in this community, then perhaps they wouldn’t leap to make prejudiced conclusions.

ROWLAND: Okay Prime Minister, just before we go, you speak a lot of boosting harmony, which a lot of people would agree with. In that vein, will the Liberal Party put One Nation last on it’s how-to-vote cards in the election?

PRIME MINISTER: We won't be doing any preference deals with One Nation. I do notice that the Labor Party did at the last election. I’m not going to take lectures from the Labor Party who had -

ROWLAND: Prime Minister you mention no preference deals, but the –

PRIME MINISTER: I haven’t finished Michael.

ROWLAND: The question was, will you put the –

PRIME MINISTER: Michael do you mind if I finish my answer? At the last election, the Labor Party did a preference deal with One Nation that saw people like the Member for Dobell elected into the Parliament. So we will wait until nominations close and then as is always the case, we will set our preferences on the full range of tickets. Because we don't know who some of the nominees are going to be. What if Fraser Anning runs candidates all around the country? So we're not going to prejudice that, we’ll go through the normal process. I won't be doing any preference deals, that's the same policy that we've had for years, there’s no change to that position. There hasn’t been -

ROWLAND: But you can't guarantee you will put One Nation last. Not -

PRIME MINISTER: I know that's what the Labor Party wants you to ask me Michael –

ROWLAND: It’s - Prime Minister, the Labor Party hasn’t asked me to ask anything, I’m - 

PRIME MINISTER: They’ve been putting it around the entire gallery for the last three days Michael and I think it's quite appalling that the Labor Party would be putting this about, when they themselves were the ones who did deals in the Senate with One Nation, at the last election. So I'm not going to buy into it.

ROWLAND: Prime Minister Scott Morrison thank you so much for joining us on News Breakfast.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, great to be here.