Interview with Allison Langdon and Karl Stefanovic, Today

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20 Jan 2020
Prime Minister

ALLISON LANGDON: Good morning to you Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning Ally, good morning Karl.

LANGDON: Well, how quickly will these small businesses be able to access these help you’re announcing today? 

PRIME MINISTER: What we're doing today is increasing the grant from $15,000, which is being done with the state governments, now up to $50,000 for affected small businesses. State governments have already the processes in place to assess these applications. They're the ones who assess these applications and that money is available to start flowing in all of those bushfire affected communities. On top of that, we'll be providing loans of zero interest for two years of up to $500,000 and over 10 years at a concessional rate of what was around about 0.6 per cent on the current rates. This is going to save small businesses rebuilding their businesses with working capital. They don't have to have had direct impact of the fires on their business to access these loans. That's worth over $100,000 in interest payments they wouldn't have to make. This means that the loan doesn't get bigger, they can just get back on with it. The customers come back and the businesses rebuild and the local towns and communities rebuild with their support.

KARL STEFANOVIC: PM, I think it's a great thing, but we know from experience that this damage bill will only get worse, a lot worse. And clearly, this is going to impact on the budget and we're talking about a lot of businesses here, something in the order of 200,000 possibly at the very least. How can you possibly hit a surplus now? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, we’re taking all that into account. But that's not my priority. My priority is to get the support into the communities where it's needed. We've set aside $2 billion and that's all been factored into the Budget now. That will all be reconciled when it comes to May. But the important thing is to get the support and the other thing we're doing, which is important, is if these small businesses are paid money already on their income tax back in the last quarter, they can claim that back now. They'll have a zero assessment for December and they won't have to do any of their BAS until May at the very least, at the earliest. So this is all about giving them cashflow support in their communities. That's what they need right now. And for the tourist towns, they need tourists coming back, and that's why we yesterday announced our $76 million dollar package to get people coming back into these communities and right across Australia, in fact. 

LANGDON: Prime Minister, some of your state counterparts are pushing for more action on climate change and this is within your, inside your own camp. Do you not see it as a problem that even your own party is not happy with your stand? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't accept that position at all. Our party has taken a unified position on these issues to the last election and I'm going to keep to that. We're going to meet and beat our emissions reduction targets. Emissions are falling under our Government, they’re 50 million tonnes less on average per year under our Government than they were under the previous government. We're going to beat our Kyoto targets. We're going to meet and beat, I believe, our Paris targets as well. But what I'm not going to do is I'm not going to put on a carbon tax. I'm not going to put up people's electricity prices. And I'm not going to wipe out our resources sector, which millions of Australians depend on, particularly regional Australians. So we're going to stay with a balanced policy that understands both our economic and our environmental interests. We know the summers are longer, hotter, drier, and we're addressing those measures as well. We acknowledge the link between these things, but we're going to have a balanced policy that doesn't put people out of their jobs.

STEFANOVIC: PM, the country, if I can put it this way, the country has been burning. We now have floods. We now have these horrific dust storms. Homes have been lost, we've lost lives. The country is grieving. Farmers are shooting their own cattle, they can't put food on the table. And I think there is a perception, right or wrong, that you aren’t leading the country on climate change. People aren’t satisfied with what you are doing. Are you not concerned in any way, shape or form that you're out of step with what everyday Australians are thinking and feeling during this crisis, and it is a crisis. 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, longer, hotter, dry summers and all the things that you've mentioned are the terrible experience we've had and we can expect these sorts of conditions into the future. I think there's a lot of misinformation out there, Karl. For example, we will reduce our carbon emissions per capita by half between now and 2030. We are leading the world on renewable investments in technology and in energy in this country. These are the facts, Karl, these are the facts. 

STEFANOVIC: But whether it’s just a perception, that’s fine, but the perception is that you’re not. People want you to do something more. They feel it.

PRIME MINISTER: I don’t think people want me to take their jobs away, Karl. People don’t want me to take reckless policies which threaten people’s jobs.

STEFANOVIC: I understand that.

PRIME MINISTER: And that's why we are meeting and beating our emissions reductions targets. Our emissions are coming down. Investments in renewable technologies is up. Our per capita emissions will fall by half over the next 10 years. And we will do this in a way which doesn't penalise Australians for simply for what job they have. So we're going to keep a balanced policy and we're going to keep talking about what the facts are. So when it comes to building climate resilience for the future, that means building dams. It means hazard reduction. And I'm concerned about the failure to hit hazard reduction targets. There are a great many reasons for why that has occurred and I'm sure that will be looked at closely when we get to the inquiry stage of what we're doing. So I think state governments need to focus what they need to focus on, and I'll focus on what I need to focus on as a Commonwealth Government. We're taking action on climate change and I'm taking forward the policy that I put to the Australian people on this, which means you take action, you reduce emissions and you ensure that your economy remains strong. 

LANGDON: The New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kean said there are those on your frontbench who don't feel you're doing enough. Have those people expressed that view to you? 


STEFANOVIC: Not at all? 

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't know what he's talking about. 

LANGDON: Are you dismissing what he's saying?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't know what he's talking about. I think Matt should focus on hazard reduction…

LANGDON: Is that not the problem here, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: I think Matt should focus on hazard reduction and I’ll focus on emissions reduction. 

STEFANOVIC: But you don't... you're not worried that your own party at all? You're not worried about rats in the ranks. 

PRIME MINISTER: No, it's all a beat up.

STEFANOVIC: All right.

LANGDON: Just quickly before you go, one more question. Minister Bridget McKenzie, her handling of the $100 million sports fund. I mean, it's a clear example of political corruption. She won't step down. Do you need to show leadership here and get rid of her? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't accept the characterisation of it. What I am doing is taking the Auditor-General's report very seriously and acting on the recommendations and ensuring the clarity on the legal issues that were raised. Every single project that was funded was eligible for funding. All the rules of the program were actually followed. The Auditor-General found that. So that's very different to what happened with the Ros Kelly affair and what happened under the previous government as well, very different. And these projects, remember, were projects that were supporting local communities, so girls didn't have to get changed behind the shed or in their car to go and play sport. That's what this program was doing and it's delivered funding, supporting locally fundraised initiatives in local communities, councils, to make local sports infrastructure better for communities. That's what the program is about. It's a good program. 

STEFANOVIC: Prime Minister, there is a lot on your plate right now and we appreciate you coming on our show and we hope to see you again soon and, look, there’s a lot of work to do out there and we’ll let you get back to it. Appreciate it. 

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Karl, thanks Ally.