Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

Transcript
11 Jun 2020
Prime Minister
E&OE

BEN FORDHAM: PM, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben.

FORDHAM: Do you agree?

PRIME MINISTER: I've always found that this issue on funerals has been the hardest decision that was taken and the most heartbreaking and of all the letters and, you know, there's been over 100,000 that I've received on so many issues. This has been a very constant one and I do agree. The timing has been complicated, frankly, by these rallies last weekend. We don't know what the health impact of that is. And while I think people were respectful of the issue that was being raised, broadly, I think the double standards that they allowed themselves to perpetrate by turning up has offended, rightly, I think Australians right across the country. There's no disagreement about the importance of the issue that they were talking about. But, you know, the way that was done and the suggestion that they might do it again, sort of, I think, risks public support for even the issue they raise. And so I think they need to think carefully about that and again, I say don't do it and I'm glad that the police in New South Wales and the state government will take a strong approach on that. But on the issue of funerals, I do want to see that go back to normal. I want to see people going back to church and places of worship. I want to see Australia getting back to normal. I want to see planes in the air and we want to see that happen as soon as it can and the health evidence of what's been happening is all pointing towards that.

FORDHAM: So there's no reason why the New South Wales government couldn't double the number of people going to funerals, and that would account for the vast majority of funerals if people were allowed to have 100 immediately. And then you can double it to 200 in a fortnight or whatever and then get back to normal. But this is the only thing that pops up in every email I get - funerals.

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, look and for me, too. But I would only say this one thing, the rally last weekend is the only legitimate real block to this at the moment, because we actually don't know right now whether those rallies on the weekend may have caused outbreaks. We actually don't know at this point and we won't know, my health advice is for at least another week. And we do know that in other countries where there have been these sorts of rallies, that they have led to those sorts of outbreaks and if there's, you know, it just puts a massive spanner in the works. And that's why it's so frustrating. And that's why I appealed to people before last Saturday. By all means, raise your issue. But by doing this, they have put the whole track back to recovery at risk and certainly any further action on this front would be absolutely unacceptable on any terms because we want to see all this stuff come back in and the funerals for me personally, I mean, we both have lost a parent recently and we were both in a position to have our fathers well remembered and that was incredibly important to us. And it breaks my heart about every funeral story that I hear and I want to see that come back like so many other things. But people going out and going to mass rallies puts that at risk. Just do the right thing by each other.

FORDHAM: It's ten minutes to eight. We're speaking to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. PM, we've seen countless statues pulled down around the world because of links to slavery. This is off the back of Black Lives Matter. In London, the Mayor is saying that every monument is now up for review and one of the statues in the UK with a question mark now is of Captain James Cook. How do you feel about the removal of these statues?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, when you’re talking about Captain James Cook, in his time he was one of the most enlightened persons on these issues you could imagine. I mean, Australia when it was founded as a settlement, as New South Wales, was on the basis that there'd be no slavery. And while slave ships continued to travel around the world, when Australia was established yes, sure, it was a pretty brutal settlement. My forefathers and foremothers were on the First and Second Fleets. It was a pretty brutal place, but there was no slavery in Australia. And so I think what we're seeing with some of these protests, they start on a fair point when they're raising issues about, you know, people's treatment in custody or things like that. Fair, fair issue. But now it's being taken over by other much more politically driven left wing agendas, which are seeking to take advantage of these opportunities to push their political causes. And, you know, we've got to... I've always said we've got to be honest about our history. We've got to acknowledge the positive and the negative. But, you know, I think we've also got to respect our history as well. And this is not a licence for people to just go nuts on this stuff.

FORDHAM: Because Australia wants to get to the bottom of coronavirus, China has punished our beef producers, our barley farmers. Now they're telling Chinese students to reconsider studying in Australia. Are we just going to keep on copying the whacks or do we hit back at some stage?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, one thing Australia will always do is act in our national interests and never be intimidated by threats from wherever they come. I mean, I've noted those reports in the state media from China. But equally, what I know is Australia provides the best education and tourism products in the world. And I know that that is compelling. And I also know that, you know, the ability for Chinese nationals to be able to choose to come to Australia is, substantively been their decision. And I'm very confident in the attractiveness of our product. And, you know, we are an open trading nation mate, but I'm never going to trade our values in response to coercion from wherever it comes.

FORDHAM: JobKeeper is due to expire in September. But there's a chance it might end earlier for some industries like it will for childcare on July 20. Do we need to be upfront PM now about the fact that some other industries will not have JobKeeper until September as first indicated?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't know why people are suggesting that, childcare was a fairly special case because we had moved to that free childcare arrangement. And what has been done is, is that the normal fee arrangements have come back. But in working with the childcare sector, when there was a choice between going with ongoing JobKeeper or a 25 per cent subsistence payment to the sector, so we're talking about the same amount of support, which means more employees will be helped, in our consultations that was seen as the better way forward. So I think this is a very special case. JobKeeper is there till the end of September.

FORDHAM: What about industries other than childcare?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are no other sort of special arrangements like we had in childcare. And we dealt with that one quite specifically-

FORDHAM: So will JobKeeper remain until the end of September for everyone else?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I already said that. So I don't know what that other speculation is about. That sounds like Labor making mischief.

FORDHAM: I thought it was because you guys had said it was under review?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that is about how you're implementing the programme. And that's a lot of administrative issues and things like that. I mean, the reason we put JobKeeper in place for six months was to provide that confidence and certainty. And that's what it's done. I mean, the most recent consumer sentiment survey that came back just this week has shown that we've regathered all the gains and having JobKeeper in place, has been an important part of that. I know the Labor Party, they've been seeking to undermine this right from the get go. I mean, everything they've supported, they've also opposed. I haven't found that a very constructive approach and seeking to undermine people's confidence in this very important programme, look, I'm just very disappointed.

FORDHAM: Just lastly, you've announced a panel to review the evidence into actions of former war hero Teddy Sheean, I know that Alan Jones had called for Teddy Sheean to receive a posthumous Victoria Cross, for his heroics on the HMAS Armidale in 1942. Can you give us an update on this?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, well there's one key issue. I mean, people, very reasonable people have very different views and conclusions on this issue. And the key thing that has to be resolved is whether the very high bar, and you've got to have a high bar when you're talking about revisiting a decision made 80 years ago in the middle of a war. I wasn't there. No one else was there who was in a position to sort of make decisions on this today. And it's important you set a really high bar and the test is and the policies of governments, both Labor and Liberal has been that there has to be new and compelling material evidence that has been presented that would enable that decision to be revisited. Now, that test is there is no clarity presently on whether that has been met. And for me to be able to move forward on this issue, that test would have to be met. Now, I've asked the former Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, the former chair of the War Memorial, very respected on this issue. Brad Manera, who is the Senior Curator and Historian at the New South Wales Anzac Memorial. David Bennett is the former solicitor general and the former Prime Minister and Cabinet department, Dr. Shergold. Now, they are all people who understand the rules and the issues here. And I'm asking them to advise me whether that high bar is met. Teddy Sheean, an amazing Australian of incredible bravery. That's not in dispute here. The issue is 80 years later how do you second guess the decisions made of people who were there at the time? And if you're going to do that, you've got to get it right. You've got to ensure that the rules are followed and otherwise, as long as people like Les Carlyon have said, like other VC, current VC holders have said, like Keith Payne, you run the risk of creating a two-tiered VC system. And I don't want any Australian who has a VC and has been awarded that, to in any way have any aspersions cast on their honours. By not holding up to these standards on how you would reconsider any other case.

FORDHAM: PM, thanks so much for your time. 

PRIME MINISTER: Good on you, see you Ben.

FORDHAM: Prime Minister Scott Morrison.