Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

02 Jun 2020
Prime Minister

BEN FORDHAM: The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, joins us live in the studio. PM, good morning to you.

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben, and congratulations and all the best. 

FORDHAM: Thank you very much. It's nice for you to be here. I notice we're still bumping elbows.

PRIME MINISTER: Still bumping elbows, we’ll be doing that for some time. 

FORDHAM: How long we going to be bumping elbows, do you reckon?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, I at this stage, I couldn't see that changing for the rest of this year, to be honest. I mean, it's those simple things, the social distancing, the bumping elbows, the washing hands, the downloading the COVIDSafe app. They’re the simple things you can do that actually protect us probably more than anything. And people keep doing that, then that means that, you know, we can keep getting this economy open.

FORDHAM: Can you blame people, though, for shaking hands once again, considering the success that we've already had and the fact that at the end of the day we are human beings and when you bump into people that you love and who you know or you want to give them a hug, you want to give them a kiss. Obviously, we're doing our best to look after ourselves and the people that we love. Can you blame people for going back to those things?

PRIME MINISTER: No, it’s not to blame, but to ask them not to because it actually keeps everybody safe, if you don't. I mean, the coronavirus hasn't gone anywhere. It's still out there. We've just been very successful at getting over the top of it. But it can come back pretty quick and we've got to be sure we don't get this further wave and the way we don't do that is people practising all those simple things that have been put in place. You keep doing them, then we can keep opening our economy up.

FORDHAM: There's an announcement that you're going to be making today with the New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian to bring forward the start date of construction for the Western Sydney Airport metro line. So can you confirm that this is now going to start this year?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, we will start it this year. The Premier and I'll be out there today, and I know she'll be in here later this morning, and we're both excited about that. I mean, a big part of coming out of the COVID-19 crisis is our infrastructure spending. Everyone knows about JobKeeper and JobSeeker and all the many other things we're doing. But getting these big projects moving even more quickly is something we've been working together, states and territories and the Commonwealth and the National Cabinet talks about a lot of things and a big part of it is now how we rebuild and rebuild the economy and big infrastructure projects out there in western Sydney. I mean, we've already got you know, we're spending over $5 billion on building the airport itself. This project now will be about double that when it comes to the rail infrastructure and then you've got the roads as well, about three and half billion, which the Commonwealth has been putting into that as well. So there's a lot of work going on out there and that's great for jobs and it's great for western Sydney.

FORDHAM: When you talk about building and construction, you're looking at freeing up billions of dollars in grants for home renovations. Now, how careful will you need to be on the safety front and also to prevent people from rorting the system?

PRIME MINISTER: Of course, the problem and the challenge is a better way to put it, of all of these programmes we're engaged in to get the economy moving is that if you've got to try and avoid the rorting and people taking advantage of it. Because even though Australians have been amazing during this crisis, there are still those who'll do the wrong thing. Now, we've been looking closely at a range of sectors. We've been looking closely at the residential building sector. We’re not making announcements on that today but the Treasurer's been doing some good work with some of the states as well who are interested in working on those issues. And we've been looking closely at the entertainment industry as well. I was having some good discussions with people in the entertainment industry on the weekend about what we can be doing there more specifically. So we've gone from the big, big, broad strokes of JobKeeper and JobSeeker. But as time goes on, we'll be able to narrow it in and focus more on those sectors which need that longer term support. 

FORDHAM: Well, what's coming for the entertainment industry? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we're still working on those things at the moment. But one of the challenges is going to be is that the entertainment sector will find it difficult to get capital moving again because they've had to draw down on it so significantly and getting started again will be hard. So we're looking at issues like that. We're looking into the film industry and we want to ensure that we're getting those sectors of the economy moving again as soon as they can.

FORDHAM: And on the home renos, is this a way of spreading a lot of money around fast and encouraging people to say, okay, well, everyone's got something around their house where they think, hang on that leaky roof or something they want to fix up? This is a way of injecting a lot of money into the economy quickly and to spread it far and wide.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we are more interested in larger projects and new home builds and things like that, because you get towards the end of this year, post about September, where the economists are telling us, the states telling us also, that we are looking at a bit of a drop off in that current home building that's going on. And that's not good for tradies, not good for jobs. The other thing about those sorts of project is, is you’re going to get more of your local tradies involved in these things. I mean, this is not, you know, building school halls and all those sorts of things. We saw that done through big contractors and small contractors not getting the work and all that sort of thing. So we want to make sure that whatever we do in this space and there's still a bit of way to go here, we want to make sure that jobs get created locally.

FORDHAM: What about what's going on in the US at the moment? What do you think when you look at those images coming in?

PRIME MINISTER: Well Jen and I were watching those images on the weekend together and actually our kids were with us at the time just over breakfast, and they were terribly disturbing. But, you know, there's been you know, there's not always rubbish on social media. I saw a good meme on the weekend, Martin Luther King, you know, didn't change anything by burning anything down and looting any shops. And so as upsetting and terrible is the murder that took place, and it is shocking. It's, that also just made me cringe. And I just think to myself how wonderful a country is Australia. We have our problems. We have our faults. We have our issues. There's no doubt about that. But when I see things like that, I'm just very thankful for the wonderful country we live in.

FORDHAM: The protests are now spreading to other countries, and there's one planned for Sydney tomorrow afternoon. Obviously, you'd appeal to everyone involved in that to not repeat what we've seen in America?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah there's no need to import things from happening in other countries here to Australia. I mean, Australia is a fair country. And also, you know, we applaud all of our- those who work in our emergency services, our police officers, our ambulance officers, firies, everyone. I mean, Australia is not the United States. I mean, the United States is a great country and they're a great friend of Australia and they're going through a difficult time. And we wish them all the best as they deal with that. But it's clearly a very tough period for them.

FORDHAM: The United States wants Australia to step up in an expanded G7. So the G7 is a very outdated group of countries, according to Donald Trump. So what, we'll have a seat at the table in an expanded G7?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah we’re expecting an invitation there. We actually received one from President Macron last year, it was actually on election night he sent me a text Emmanuel Macron saying congratulations, can you come to the G7 in France? And and again, this year, the United States has indicated they're looking to do something similar. And so we welcome that. And it's a good opportunity to deal with a lot of like minded countries. We always have the opportunity to deal with Japan in particular. And I've got a meeting this week by telepresence with Prime Minister Modi. South Korea being involved, that's good. And of course, the U.K. and France and Germany, these as we're working towards free trade agreements with the European Union and the UK. It's always good to be engaging with like minded democracies.

FORDHAM: You just mentioned Prime Minister Modi in India. I noticed yesterday that you were cooking Indian, you like cooking Indian. But you said instead of the Samosas, you said ‘Sunday Scomosas with mango chutney all made from scratch’. How do the girls appreciate Dad's dad jokes when you go to the Sunday Scomosas?

PRIME MINISTER: Like any daughters would appreciate their dad jokes. But I suspect that, I think Jenny coined that one many years ago, 

FORDHAM: Oh don’t throw Jenny under the bus! Sorry you’ve got to make your own dad jokes.

PRIME MINISTER: I quite liked it though. And, I didn't, they were done from scratch. I didn't grow and thresh the wheat for the flour, but outside of that, it was a pretty self-contained effort. 

FORDHAM: I'm impressed and I’m looking forward-

PRIME MINISTER: I had to get over the Sharkies from the night before. 

FORDHAM: Oh, yeah. I won't bring that up. 28-16 the Wests Tigers beat them. But you know what? It's only round three. 

PRIME MINISTER: That's right.

FORDHAM: It’s a long long year ahead.

PRIME MINISTER: It was a tough week for our guys. But you know they don’t take excuses. They just, Bomber will get them focussed again. And how good is it just to have the footy back? It was great. I thought the, you know the crowd noises at first sounded a bit odd, but it really did, I thought, support the coverage so well done to, you know, Nine and the work they were doing on the broadcast and Foxtel. It was so good to make things feel normal.

FORDHAM: And you know what? Peter V’Landys will join us in the studio one hour from now. Thank you for your time. 

PRIME MINISTER: Good luck mate, cheers.