Interview with Deborah Knight, Today Show

14 Jan 2019
Prime Minister
Australia Day; pill testing; womens health, pay, superannuation, childcare;

DEBORAH KNIGHT: The PM joins us now from Sydney. Prime Minister, a very good morning to you. You are looking refreshed I’ve got to say.


KNIGHT: Did you have a good Christmas break with the family?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah we did, we got down to the NSW south coast which we do every year, you know packed up the box trailer, threw to the kayaks on the roof and the bikes in the trailer. We had a great time. I recommend it, Shoalhaven Heads, hello everyone down at the Shoalhaven Heads Hotel, we had a great night together a few weeks ago.

KNIGHT: Good on you, the Aussie adventure. Well, you’re straight back into it and straight into the firing line too, Labor accusing you of playing politics with our national day. Is it really that big of an issue that it requires a Prime Ministerial decree on Australia Day ceremonies?

PRIME MINISTER: I believe so because I don't want to Australia Day undermined into the future and just see it sort of fade away. It’s one thing to say you are not going to change the day, but it’s another thing to really actually believe it and continue to make sure it is our premier national day. What better day than that day, for new Australians to be become Australians? We are the proudest and the most successful migrant country in the world and that is the day of all days that we should be handing out citizenship to celebrate that day and to celebrate the great migrant country we are.

Councils that don't want to do that for political reasons, well, they don't have to hold ceremonies. I mean, they don't hold them, we give them that right to do that and we want to make sure that they uphold the importance of that day, of Australia Day, and of citizenship. That’s why I have connected the two things together.

KNIGHT: The reality is though there are just seven Councils in the whole country who don't already hold ceremonies on Australia Day. 530 of them already doing what you want to enforce.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s not right, only 70 per cent of them hold on them on Australia Day actually. There are many that don't. There are some who have legitimate reasons, that they may not have any to hand out on that day, but we know there are many that don't.

If you want to hold Australia Day ceremonies and be given that privilege, well, Australia Day is the day, the first day that you must be handing them out.

KNIGHT: And on the issue of dress standards, you’ve come under fire yourself for your choice of footwear which we will talk about more in a moment. But what is more Australian, Prime Minister, than thongs and board shorts? If people want to wear that to a citizenship ceremony surely that’s up to them?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't think so. This is a very important institution, citizenship. You wouldn't turn up to your kids graduation or something like that dressed like that. You turn up and show respect for the day and the other participants as well. The vast majority of people who do come along to citizenship ceremonies - I have been to many of them - they come along and dress appropriately. I think out of respect for what is being offered, that great responsibility and privilege of citizenship, people should dress accordingly.

By all means chuck on the shorts and the thongs later for the barbecue or wherever you happen to be, that’s the appropriate dress for those occasions. But for a very solemn ceremony and positive ceremony like citizenship, I think it’s important to have those standards and show respect.

KNIGHT: Now we’ve seen another tragic loss of a young life at a music festival over the weekend, a 19 year old girl dying from a suspected drug overdose in Sydney. You’ve got young daughters yourself. Is there a duty of care here to consider all options, including trials of pill testing?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, first of all it’s just heartbreaking. I just can't imagine the horror that those parents are going through and parents of anyone who loses a child, it’s your worst nightmare. Of course governments and in this case the NSW Government, I’m sure Gladys is looking at every option that is reasonable and has a way of getting the balance right. We don't want to create a permissive culture around drugs in this country, we have got to remember that these are illegal drugs. Our law enforcement authorities are out there, trying -

KNIGHT: Should we look at pill testing though, more closely?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I’m saying of course all options get considered but ultimately you have to get the balance right on this and this is a state matter. I’m not going to complicate that any by offering commentary on which is the best option, because they have to make those judgments.

But my heart does go out to those parents as I’m sure Gladys's heart goes out to those parents as well. This is a very difficult issue, there are no simple answers and there are many different opinions, but we have got to try to encourage our kids to make good choices and this is a very difficult issue I think, for us all to deal with. But if you lose your kids, gosh, that’s just unthinkable.

KNIGHT: Yeah absolutely. And there is a family grieving this morning, that is the case.


KNIGHT: Now there is continuing focus also on the lack of female representation in the Government. We are starting a new year here on the Today Show with two female hosts.

PRIME MINISTER: Congratulations.

KNIGHT: Thank you. What will you be doing to get more woman in your ranks?

PRIME MINISTER: We’re well down the path now of all the candidates being selected particularly, that was something I inherited and certainly it’s something we will focus our minds on into the future. But what’s more important is things like the funding that we provided for the McGrath Foundation for breast cancer. It’s important that we’re funding drugs like Kisqali for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. It’s important that we’ve got the gender pay gap down to the lowest level on record. We’ve got the highest level of female participation in the workforce ever, we have hit record levels in that space. We have childcare reforms that came in on the 1st of July last year which are working and is getting the cost of childcare under control and giving more women more choices. We’ve changed laws for superannuation to protect women's super and to make sure that they can have catch-up contributions.

So our policies to actually make the economic and health lives of women around the country have been getting results and importantly on domestic violence, some $350 million invested against the scourge of domestic violence in our community, with more to come as we go into the fourth Action Plan. And just most recently the 1800 RESPECT got an extra $10 million just before Christmas. It’s an important line for victims of domestic violence.

KNIGHT: And just quickly before I let you go, I mentioned the sneaker gate issue. How is your sneaker collection going after your choice of footwear Photoshopped out on the PM’s website? Do you want us to send you a new pair of sneakers out from the tennis? We’ve got a pair here, they’re fresh, they’re fancy, they’re new, if we can get a shot of them here. What do you reckon, should we pop them in the mail?


PRIME MINISTER: I can't see them because of the way that the hook up is being done, but I am quite happy with my old grubby sneakers. I didn't ask for them to get a shine from the Department and as I said, if they really want to Photoshop something they can do something with this if they really like. But I’m quite comfortable in my own skin and my own shoes.


KNIGHT: Exactly. Well we do appreciate your time this morning and a big year ahead, an election year and no doubt we will be speaking to you during the course of the weeks and months ahead. Thanks for your time this morning.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot Deb and happy new year to you and all your viewers.

KNIGHT: Thank you so much.