Interview with Jim Wilson, 2GB

10 Dec 2021
Prime Minister

Jim Wilson: Election is looming, and I'm very happy that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, can join me live on the line. Prime Minister, welcome back to Drive.

Prime Minister: G'day Jim, good to talk you and your listeners.

Wilson: Thank you PM. Before we talk about the months ahead leading into the election, you've just come out of the last meeting of National Cabinet for the year. What were the main topics of discussion today? 

Prime Minister: Omicron was the major topic of discussion today, as you'd expect it to be and getting an update on all that and we're progressing well, we're obviously getting more information. The severity of this virus is so far not presenting to be worse than what happened with Delta, and it's important that people get those vaccinations, as you say. I mean, Australia's vaccination right now is one of the highest in the world. We've just got WA to get past that 80 per cent mark and that will only be a couple of days away. We'll soon go past the 90 per cent mark for the country. But you combine that with one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, one of the strongest economies coming out of COVID. Then, you know, Australia is well set up for 2022, but I really want everyone to encourage everyone to go and get their boosters. This is really important, particularly with Omicron and we're looking carefully, but that booster program is available to everybody. You can get it from your GP, you can get it from your pharmacist. You can get it from the state based clinics as well. So if you are due for one of those, if it's been six months since your last second dose, then please go and get your booster because that will be important as we go into next year.

Wilson: Have you been concerned at all about the slow uptake as far as the booster goes, Prime Minister? 

Prime Minister: No, well actually the boosters, because you've got to have it six months from your last one. So we had a bumper day of over 30,000 just yesterday and there's been almost 650,000 people who have gone and get their boosters. And that's around about 75 per cent of those who are eligible for them now. So people are going and getting their boosters. And so I've just written to everybody encouraging them to go and do that around the country and together with the Chief Medical Officer and the Health Minister. And so we're really keen for you to go and do that. But today you would have seen that we made the announcement that on the 10th of January, we start the vaccination for 5 to 11 year olds. And so parents get to make those decisions, important decisions, for their children's health. And I was chatting to some of the young ones this morning and I said, I reckon their mums and dads will give them an ice cream or a bit of chocolate afterwards, because Professor Murphy told us, you know, Brendan is a tremendously calming influence on all of these things, he said, ‘you might get a bit of a sore arm, but that'll be about it’. And, and we've done really well with the 12 to 15 year olds when we started that in September. And in your intro, yeah, you're right, Jim, I mean, yeah, we had some challenges at the start, but it's about how you deal with it and we fix those problems. And we were able to land the vaccination program where we sit when we said we would. And so around 137,000 almost every single day since we started, and that's almost 100 a minute. That's what we've achieved. That's taken us a whole year to get there. And now, you know, we've got a vaccinated country, a strong economy, and we're heading to 2022, really positive, very confident.

Wilson: 88.9 per cent of our population are now fully vaccinated, have our stunning vaccine rates exceeded your expectations?

Prime Minister: No, no. I believed Australians would. I knew it would take time and I knew we just had to be persistent and and as we just added more and more and more to the program and, you know, with the pharmacists and the GPs and all the nurses out there and the GP respiratory clinics and all around the country, thousands and thousands of places where this was occurring. And you know, I knew I didn't have to pay them to do it or do anything like that. Others thought we had to pay people to do that. I didn't think so because I knew Australians knew it was important and that they wanted to see them get their lives back. And over the last couple of years, frankly, I think people are pretty sick and tired of governments telling them what to do. You know, they tell them whether they can get on the train, whether they can go to work, you know, when they can have a meal and all this sort of thing. It's been a very invasive time, necessarily, I'm sure we all agree, but the time for that is moving, moving on, time for governments to get out of people's face and let them get on with their lives. 

Wilson: I want to ask you about the parliamentary culture and the report handed down by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins. It was very disturbing reading. It's clear there's an onus on all sides of the political aisle to take action, Prime Minister. When will you start implementing the 28 recommendations from the report? 

Prime Minister: Well, let me say we were already implementing before it even was handed down. I mean, beginning right at the start of this year, we immediately put in place those 24 hour counselling lines. Very important, and a lot of people have been using those over the course of this year. We also commissioned to have an independent complaints process established, and we've already done that. And now these 28 recommendations I've already tasked, with Cabinet met on it just the other day and we're getting, we're getting on with that right now. We'll be making further announcements on that not too soon from now, and it will be done in a bipartisan way. Not just bipartisan, all all parties, this is, this is an issue in our workplace and it applies in the Labor Party. It applies in the Greens. It applies in our party. It applies, you know, everyone who works in that building. And I don't know whether people know this. But the report and the work they did also included surveys and talking to media that worked in that building. So it's a it's a problem that's owned by everyone in the building and everyone in this building in leadership is taking responsibility to get it fixed and working together to get it fixed. Because I want people to be safe in every workplace, including the one that we work in every day. 

Wilson: Let's move our attention to the upcoming election. Firstly, would you be, are you disappointed that Gladys Berejiklian won't enter federal politics? 

Prime Minister: Well, not just for me personally. I think, I think people in New South Wales would be. But I totally respect that decision. Look, I really am working hard to get as many wonderful female members into the parliament, and I've got more female members in my Cabinet than any other prime minister in Australia's history. I got a third of my Cabinet is female and I was very keen to see, you know, Gladys, come and join the team. And I'm sure people in New South Wales would welcome that too. But the other thing is, I totally respect her decision. You know, I've been very public about my views, about the way I think she's been treated and, and I thought that was awful. 

Wilson: Do you stand by your kangaroo court reference? 

Prime Minister: Well, it's about how information was being disclosed in the public arena about some of the most personal things. That's not justice. It's not. It's just not how people should be treated with respect, let alone the Premier of New South Wales. And you know, I've said my piece on that, Jim. People can have their view one way or the other, you know, I'll call it pretty straight. But look, Gladys, I respect her decision. She's a good friend. She's been great to Jen and I, particularly over these last few years, been a good friend and we've worked together, got through some really tough stuff. She's, as I said, blazing a new trial now. But the trail she's blazed both as Premier, as a great, strong woman in the Liberal Party has enabled so many more people to come through and I was with Dr Fiona Martin this morning. I mean, she's another one in the New South Wales branch and a great mate of both Gladys and I. Marise Payne has been blazing that trail for a very long time, and we've just got so many great women coming forward as candidates and already there in our parliament and in our Cabinet.

Wilson: Speaking to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The Independents are getting a lot of support and financial backing. Some cases, well, they're a genuine threat to certain Liberal seats. Is that a concern to you, Prime Minister?

Prime Minister: Well, I, I don't, they’re the voices of Labor. I mean, what, I don't quite get this. So apparently they’re Independents, but they're only running against Liberals. I think people see that for what it is, and they're backed by some, you know, pretty big financial crowd who seem to want to trade, trade in seats like they trade in shares. I don't know. But this is not, I mean, the thing about these groups is they’re they're pretending not to be a party. They are a party. They're backed by some big money at the end of the day, and and they're about trying to attack the Liberal Party. I tell you who does a great job on the ground, Dave Sharma. Dave Sharma does a tremendous job on the ground in Wentworth, and, you know, you want to elect a local member who gets things done, and our Government members are getting things done. I mean, Trent Zimmerman over there in North Sydney, Fiona Martin in Reid, they're all doing great jobs and getting things done on the ground. And that's what matters. Rather than just being, you know, used as a, as someone to be the voice of of whatever money’s backing them and who wants to oppose the Government. So it doesn't sound very Independent to me. So when people hear Voices Of, hear voices of Labor and the Greens.

Wilson: Could we be facing the potential of a hung Parliament after the election? Would you look at forming a minority Government, if it came down to that?

Prime Minister: I intend to take the Government to the election for re-election, just I did, just as I did last time, and I, there were plenty of doubters last time, but we all know what happened. And I have great trust in the judgement of the Australian people, and they know the the key things we've got to focus on as we go into next year - optimistically, confidently - is to secure our economic recovery. Their jobs, their incomes, their wages, their economic opportunities, people, you know, wanting to do the best for their kids. And we've got to make sure that we keep Australians safe. We're very aware of the very real challenges that Australia faces as we, as we go into these these this next decade, whether it's the security issues in the region, cyber security issues, keeping women safe, keeping kids safe online. You know, the work I've been doing with Erin Molan in trying to ensure that we're keeping kids safe online and standing up to the big digital companies and and platforms to make sure they're making Facebook and Twitter and all of these things safer places for our kids. And so they don't become a, you know, a cesspit of abuse, which they can so often be and so damage young people's mental health and their lives. So keeping Australians safe, securing the economic recovery, that's what we're focused on. And I get really excited when I see what we've achieved in three years. Three years ago I stood up and I said, ‘We need to help people get into their homes.’ 320,000 Australians, in the last three years, we've been able to help to get into their home. At, when I made that commitment, the there was around just less than 100,000 Australians buying their first home. This year, 177,000. So we're getting people into homes, we're getting people into training. There are 217,000 apprentices in trade training right now. That is the highest level since records began in 1963, which is, by the way, when the Bathurst 1000 went to Bathurst, we were, which I enjoyed being at on the weekend. Did you catch the race, Jim?

Wilson: Yes, I did. I saw you up there. You were in your element, weren’t you. It was a, it’s a great race. I mean, it’s fantastic, it's just a great atmosphere and whatever. Just before I let you go, just a couple of quick ones. What can you tell our listeners about international borders reopening? Is it still tracking well for Christmas in a couple of weeks?

Prime Minister: Yes, it is. We're just taking some final bits of information. We discussed that today. With the moves that Queensland have made, that means people are going to be able to return back to Queensland and be quarantining at home. We’ve already, you know, got the 72 hours which we've got in New South Wales and Victoria. I know that South Australia is looking at those issues as well very soon. I mean, the National Plan, which I took to all the premiers and chief ministers, we got them to agree it twice. I remember when we got it through the second time, all the media were saying and others and critics saying ‘Oh, you know, it's not going to open up,’ and all the rest of it. Well, here we are. There's only one state that hasn't got there, but all other seven states and territories have got there. I knew they would because we made a deal with the Australian people and we said, ‘You roll up your sleeve, and we'll bring Australia back together again.’ And that's exactly what we've been doing. It's been a tough road, but we've been very, very consistent, very, very consistent. But …

Wilson: Are you confident, are you confident the premiers will stay the course and not go and shut borders at the blink of an eye?

Prime Minister: Well, well, I, they shouldn't, and I don't believe they will. And I think there was a good test of that in the last few days, when Premier Marshall decided not to go back that way and keep going forward, when Premier Palaszczuk decided to open up just that little bit earlier, and I think we're really getting the message through. You, as you know, I've been advocating this for a very long time and pushing this very hard. It's, you know, the federation is, you know, is a is a is a challenging environment, because all the premiers and chief ministers have their own powers. There's no power for me to come over the top and make them do X, Y or Z. They haven't been given any additional powers during this pandemic, the same powers they’ve had for over 100 years. It's just that we don't have a pandemic every other, every other year. They turn up like this about once every 100 years. And so that has enlivened a lot of those powers, but you've got to sort of get them there together. And that's what we've done. We got the deal in place and I'm pleased to see so many of them have kept that deal with the Australian people. And I can tell you, I certainly have.

Wilson: Well, a huge thank you for coming on my final show for the year. I hope you, Jenny and the kids have a great Christmas, Prime Minister. And I might see you at the cricket …

Prime Minister: Yes.

Wilson: … and we could talk about your loved Sharks ahead of the NRL season as well, as is the tradition.

Prime Minister: I look forward to that, and I'm looking forward to seeing Pat and the boys just continue on with this great start. I mean, can you remember a better first ball in an Ashes?

Wilson: Oh, it was wonderful, and I love how Warnie’s changed his tune on Mitchell Starc, sort of going … It was wonderful, it was great. Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins - what a dream debut as captain. I know you love your cricket.

Prime Minister: Yeah.

Wilson: You have a great Christmas, Prime Minister, and thanks for your time this arvo.

Prime Minister: Good on you guy, good on you mate, thanks a lot Jimmy. Bye.