Interview with Allison Langdon, Today

12 Oct 2020
Prime Minister

Allison Langdon: A very good morning to you, PM. There is lots to get to this morning. But first, as we just heard from Karl, it's a day for us all to reflect and remember those we lost.

Prime Minister: That's very true and right across the country, particularly down by Wiley's Baths there in Coogee they will be gathering as they always do each year, over in Perth and indeed down in my own Shire community where we also lost so many. It's a very sad day and our thoughts and prayers with all of those who are just, it's another hard day for them particularly today. But they never forget and neither should we.

Langdon: It's really tough to believe it's been 18 years. But let's shift focus a little bit now. How is the campaign in Queensland going? Can you win this for Deb Frecklington?

Prime Minister: Oh, well, that's a matter for Deb Frecklington and the people of Queensland. I mean, I'm here talking about the Budget that we've had. It's a Budget to get people back into jobs and to get Queenslanders working again. A Budget that has 2.3 million Queenslanders going to see tax cuts from and talking to them about how we're moving forward with recycling and manufacturing. It's a Budget for all Australians and particularly Queenslanders.

Langdon: Come on, you are spruiking the Budget but you happen to be there two weeks before the State election. It's good timing.

Prime Minister: Well, look, I'm happy to be here with Deb Frecklington. She has got a plan to get Queenslanders working again. I would look forward to working with her. I work with every state and territory as we demonstrated as best we possibly can through the National Cabinet and we will continue to. But it's important that we get businesses investing again and hiring again. And the way you do that is not by filling your buildings with public servants. You do it by getting businesses investing because eight of 10 jobs are in the private sector. We need our businesses to be able to spark up.  That's what the Budget is designed to do.

Langdon: There is a spiralling debt that Queensland needs to deal with. It's quite eye-watering, that one. But look, the Deputy Premier, he's accused of you taking a week off to campaign for the LNP. You told him to grow up. We can't believe they allowed you in in the first place.

Prime Minister: Well, there were no special rules for me. Nor should there be for anyone. I mean, there shouldn't be any double standards on these things. They're the rules. I abide by those rules. I understand that Queenslanders are very supportive of the border arrangements they have here. They have just got to be done in a fair way and with no double standards. Importantly, they should only be there as long as they really have to be. Because while they have played a role, they also come at a cost. Here in Queensland, the bounce back from the COVID recession hasn't been as strong as in other states and territories. 44 per cent of jobs have come back here compared to 70 per cent in New South Wales and 70 per cent in South Australia. So, we need to get Queenslanders working again and our Budget plan for coming back from the COVID-19 recession, I think, will be very important here in Queensland, all the way across this great state.

Langdon: You want the borders down. You want them open. Will Deb Frecklington do that if she wins?

Prime Minister: Well, that's a judgment based on the health advice for the Queensland government and the Queensland Premier, whoever that happens to be after the next election. And we've always worked with the Queensland government and every state and territory government on these issues, they have to make those calls based on health advice.

Langdon: Come on, Prime Minister, come on. There has been a stoush between you and Annastacia Palaszczuk about borders. You haven't remained quiet on this one.

Prime Minister: No, I think I have been consistent, Ally. I'm not looking to get into an argument about this at all. I just think it should be based on the health advice. On a couple of occasions there I have raised specific cases which I thought were raised with me and sought compassion. On both of those occasions we eventually got a better outcome. But that was about trying to help people.

Langdon: From this week our wonderful Kiwi neighbours they can come visit, come to NSW, Canberra and Northern Territory. Why not Queensland?

Prime Minister: First of all congratulations to the Wallabies, given we're talking about Queensland - sorry talking about New Zealand. That was inspiring.

Langdon: That was a good game yesterday.

Prime Minister: An inspiring game yesterday. So congratulations to everyone that was involved with that. Looking forward to the next one. Jacinda Ardern and I have decided to double down on our bet from the weekend and maybe I should have taken a few points start. But my faith in the Wallabies was strong. Didn't seek a points start. But no, we are, we've got the Kiwis coming and that's great. And potentially we are having discussion with the Pacific islanders. But we have got to be careful. The risk there is that COVID can get into those communities. They have done a fantastic job protecting their communities. Places like Singapore, Japan, South Korea have all done a tremendous job also. We’ve had some initial discussions with those countries. But I wouldn't want to raise expectations too high there. Australians are still travelling overseas, I should stress, for work or compassionate reasons. I think there's been about 60,000 Australians who have gone overseas since the start of the crisis under those arrangements. Those approvals are turned around pretty quick on the circumstances. But we have to be careful of that because we're also trying to get as many Australians home as possible. And with Kiwis coming in to particularly NSW, that is going to free up a lot more of the quarantine spaces in NSW so we can get more Australians home.

Langdon: I mean, you have got so many of them still stuck overseas who can't wait to get back and want to get back for Christmas no doubt.

Prime Minister: True.

Langdon: But just going back to this travel bubble. Interesting that you say don't get our hopes up, which sort of suggests it is not going to happen anytime soon. We know the US and Europe are off the cards until there is a vaccine. So potentially no travel there next year. But how will the travel bubble work exactly? What happens when they first arrive in Australia and how do you ensure they're not exposed to COVID at an airport on their way in?

Prime Minister: We're treating New Zealand just like people coming from South Australia into New South Wales or New South Wales into South Australia. I mean, New Zealand's also had great success on the health side. And so there are no greater COVID risks of someone coming from Christchurch to Sydney than there is someone coming from Brisbane to Sydney. So those arrangements are put in place.

Langdon: Isn't the issue when you are at an international airport…

Prime Minister: They're separate lanes.

Langdon: Ok.

Prime Minister: There are green lanes and those processes are done through both on the New Zealand side and on the Australian side. Those who have come from New Zealand to Australia, they will still have to quarantine back in New Zealand. That's a matter for the New Zealand government. They will make their own calls on that. For the New South Wales and the Northern Territory and the ACT, this is going to be good for their tourism. Our tourism and hospitality industries have been battered and this will be good for those states. It will be great when it can happen here in Queensland as well. But we can't do that at the moment because if Kiwis are coming to Queensland they have to quarantine and that takes up places for Queenslanders to be able to come home from overseas.

Langdon: Your Budget has been widely applauded, particularly the tax cuts. But did you miss an opportunity with childcare because it's been a free kick for Albo?

Prime Minister: We have $9.2 billion being invested in childcare and it's means tested. When you are investing in important services, and childcare is an important service, that's why we actually increased our investment and we saw the labour force participation rate, people looking at getting into jobs, go up. In particular, female labour force participation increased as well and when we put changes in place the cost of childcare, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, actually started to come down. So our plan was working before the COVID-19 recession...

Langdon: Fees will go up this year, Prime Minister.

Prime Minister: We will have to wait and see what happens on that. But our means tested supports for people to have their children in childcare, our view has always been pretty consistent. When taxpayers money is being used in these sorts of supports it should be means tested. Labor is offering families on half a million dollars $11,000 of subsidies. That's their plan. That's not our plan. Our plan is means tested and targeting the support to those who need it most.

Langdon: So just very quickly, do you think childcare is affordable in this country?

Prime Minister: We have made it more affordable. There's no doubt about that. We always look at these policies, Ally. But we do think things like this should be means tested. All the supports we provide across the economy for individuals are means tested, Family Tax Benefits and other supports, they're there to help people, but we target them. You have to target things because, you know, money doesn't grow on trees and what we're focusing our Budget effort on, 90 per cent of what we're spending additionally in this Budget is in this year and next year to kickstart the economy and get people back into jobs. That's the most important priority. Getting Australians back to work. And what we're focusing is on is that task.

Langdon: A trillion dollars debt. I think money does grow on trees. Prime Minister, thank you for joining us this morning. No, look, I make fun of that, I shouldn't, that's a serious comment. It's a big debt.

Prime Minister: Every dollar we spend is carefully spent and carefully targeted, I can assure you.

Langdon: Appreciate your time this morning, Prime Minister, thank you.