Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

29 Aug 2019
Prime Minister

BEN FORDHAM: Prime Minister, good afternoon to you. 


FORDHAM: Tell me what it was like there today saying goodbye to Tim Fischer.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Tim was a dear friend. I worked with him for several years, I’ve known him for about 25 years, and he was just a beautiful man. He was a giant of a man and he loved the country passionately. I know he was a big fan of that program Australia All Over and that's how I thought of him. He was Australia All Over. He oozed the place, he was very special and he was dearly loved by his wife Judy and his kids Dominic and Harrison who are adults now and they're doing well. And it was a wonderful tribute to just a wonderful bloke.

FORDHAM: You told a story today about a meeting between Tim Fischer and the Indian Transport Minister. Can you share that with us? 

PRIME MINISTER: It was relayed to me by someone who used to work for him. Tim was mad about trains and he was over in India on a trade mission as the Trade Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. But this meeting got into his diary which he must have arranged himself with the Indian Transport Minister and he was fascinated by the Indian train network. And he was looking forward to going and chatting to this bloke about trains for quite some period of time only to emerge from the meeting deeply disappointed, saying to his staff, “That bloke, that man knows nothing about trains!” And off he stalked.


I had plenty of conversations on trains with Tim. I've been on trains with Tim. I remember once we were on the Indian Pacific, we were having a board meeting on there actually, and you’d just band along there for ages and ages in a straight line. And then Tim was looking backwards out the window and he said, “The train's about to veer left.” And it did, he knew exactly the pinpoint on the track of where the Indian Pacific would turn. He was an extraordinary guy, he was a beautiful man.

FORDHAM: He was a one of a kind really, in many ways, and you see a lot of politicians who like to conform, they like to kind of fit in in that Canberra bubble, as you call it. He didn't care about being in the bubble or being square. He was just Tim Fischer.

PRIME MINISTER: He was. He had this amazing ability to just connect with people. When you were with Tim you knew you had his attention. He just sort of engaged with you, he listened to you. He's very, very generous that way. And there was no airs or graces about him and we were very privileged to know him and it was wonderful to see so many of his colleagues. Mr and Mrs Howard were there, John Anderson was there and his wife. It was wonderful to have they have them all there and just celebrating Tim's tremendous life and contribution.

FORDHAM: Well done on your tribute today. On a few other matters, if I can, you've said today you want to see a foreign-born child sex offender booted out of the country. This has just horrified everyone. Look, I mean, terrible things happen but when we see them happen on camera I think it really hits home because we think oh, I mean how could someone do this? He was walking up to a three-year-old girl in the shopping centre. He's a security guard, he lured her into a place where no one could see what he was doing and he assaulted her. You want this bloke punted out of the country, don't you?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. It was abominable. And we have… I introduced a law back when I was Immigration Minister where if you can if you're on a visa in Australia and you’re convicted of an offence like this, then your visa gets cancelled and when you finish your sentence you get booted. So, you know, you serve your time and then you leave jail and you go straight into hardened immigration detention and then we put you on a plane and send you home. That never used to happen before our Government. And it's important that it does happen and Peter Dutton is accelerating that process in terms of cancelling his visa. I spoke to Peter's today and so he's taking the action and that's what should happen. I mean, he turned up illegally by boat, he was given a permanent protection visa by Labor, they lifted the bar. The Minister actually had to lift a restraint to give this guy a visa, as they did to thousands, and five years after turning up on a boat this is what he did in the shopping centre to a young girl. It's disgraceful.

FORDHAM: You've got two young daughters. When you see something like that... you just used the word restraint, it's hard to show restraint when you consider what he did to this poor little thing.

PRIME MINISTER: It's sickening and I feel for the family. And even, you know, we're talking about it… sadly, will bring it all back and they'll be going through a very difficult time and we need to make sure they're getting the support through the justice system that they need as a family to work through this difficult issue. This little girl will get lots of support. But, you know, this was someone you were supposed to trust.

FORDHAM: If I can ask you about another issue. Chris Uhlmann, the political editor of the Nine Network, has tweeted a photo this afternoon from the Barton offices of Prime Minister and Cabinet, so this is in Canberra, the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It's a photograph taken from outside the women's toilets and there's a sign there saying, ‘Prime Minister and Cabinet is committed to staff inclusion and diversity.’ And this is outside the women's toilets. It says, ‘Please use the bathroom that best fits your gender identity.’ Are you aware of those signs?

PRIME MINISTER: It was brought to my attention, Ben, and then... honestly, this is what we call it the Canberra bubble. It's ridiculous. It'll be sorted out. I've had a chat to the incoming Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet [inaudible]. I don’t think this is necessary. I think people can work out which room to use.

FORDHAM: What's your concern?

PRIME MINISTER: I just don't think it's necessary. I mean, it's just... it's over the top. You don’t need to do this stuff. It's just political correctness over the top. It's just not necessary. And I’ve got a pretty clear view about this and I'm sure this will be sorted.

FORDHAM: So what, the signs are going to go?

PRIME MINISTER: That's what I expect.

FORDHAM: I know you've got a busy schedule, I appreciate you sparing some time to talk to us this afternoon and well done in paying tribute to Tim Fischer, you spoke really well at his farewell today.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, Ben. It was a great honour and privilege to pay tribute to Tim. We won't see another one like him. He was one of a kind and we loved him. 

FORDHAM: Thanks, Prime Minister.