Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Today Show

19 Oct 2018
Prime Minister
Wentworth; a strong economy and lower taxes; royal visit;

KARL STEFANOVIC: Prime Minister Scott Morrison joins me now. Good morning PM.


STEFANOVIC: You need a miracle in Wentworth, have you prayed for one?

PRIME MINISTER: As you know, I pray often Karl about many things, mostly about rain for the drought. But mate, yeah of course it’s a very big, tough contest tomorrow and there is a lot at stake, the Government does have just a one seat majority.

In the last 24 hours, Kerryn Phelps has made it pretty clear she couldn't say she was giving full confidence to the Government if she were elected. So I think that sets it out pretty clearly.

I mean there is a lot of stuff that goes on in Canberra in that bubble, which I think most Australians rightly ignore. But what really happened in Canberra this week is that unemployment hit 5 per cent. Our national economy is strong under our management. We passed laws to get small and family business taxes down to 25 per cent and we passed the Bill which endorsed one of the biggest trade agreements we have ever done, reaching over half a billion customers around the world. So that's the real stuff and that's what's at stake if we put this at risk tomorrow.

STEFANOVIC: Have you spoken with Kerryn Phelps yet?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah I've seen her a couple of times on the campaign trail yeah. I've actually been in Wentworth, Bill Shorten hasn't made an appearance yet. But I've met with her on a number of occasions, I've known Kerryn for many years.

STEFANOVIC: So she may not guarantee supply for you? That's huge issue for you, that’s a game breaker.

PRIME MINISTER: And confidence even more importantly. Those two things are the issue so I think that does throw a real big question mark.

I mean I know there has been the events of a couple of months ago. That was very, very difficult. As people know, I supported the then Prime Minister very strongly. But what’s at stake now is locally, having a fantastic candidate in Dave Sharma, who is real quality. He has got the experience, he went from immigrant to ambassador, he can do the job for Wentworth and he can ensure we can continue to do the job with certainty and stability for the economy at a national level. So that's what we’re focused on, that's what's at risk.

Kerryn Phelps only has to run second and she can come a long way second and she can still win the election. So I urge Liberal voters, I know as former prime minister Howard said yesterday, they’re grumpy and I acknowledge that. I know that. I was there, and I was working to try and support the then Prime Minister all the way. But now we have got a job to do and that's to ensure the stability and certainty of the Government for the 29,000 small businesses in Wentworth.

STEFANOVIC: You have lost your way a bit haven't you?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don’t think at all Karl. I don't get distracted by the Canberra bubble and all the commentary. It’s not something I get distracted by. I'm focused on the drought and I'm focused on delivering on the economy for all Australians.

STEFANOVIC: Let me put this to you then, after winning the Liberal leadership you outlined your mantra to the Australian people. You said; "We are on your side, because we share beliefs and values in common as you go about everything you do each day." So, how much in all honesty do you believe the Australian people care about where the capital of Israel is located?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think for the Jewish community - and not just on the capital of Israel - but Australia having it’s own independent voice on its foreign policy. I mean, we can't be told by other countries around the world, about what our views are. Even the suggestion from Labor that we can't even ask a question and consider a question.

Now, as a Prime Minister of an independent sovereign country like Australia, we should be able to have these conversations and engage in them. That's what sovereignty is all about. We can't be told by everyone else what to think -

STEFANOVIC: That’s all fine.

PRIME MINISTER: The Labor Party seem to think so. That's why I think it’s important.

STEFANOVIC: This is all fine, but you also said this; “Getting up in the morning, getting off to work, turning up on site, getting the parent you’re caring for up in the morning, exchanging that smile each and every day, getting the kids off to school, getting home at night.”

PRIME MINISTER: That’s right.

STEFANOVIC:  “Perhaps if you’re lucky, a bit of time together, some of those happy moments, too often too far between.”

PRIME MINISTER: That’s right.

STEFANOVIC: “There are too many pressures that families face today”. How pressure do you think the Australian family, when they are trying to make ends meet, trying to pay bills, how much do you think they feel about where the Australian Embassy should be located, in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, again I’ll give you the same answer. They care about Australia having its own sovereign foreign policy, but they care about employment coming down to 5 per cent and they care about small business taxes coming down to 25 per cent.

STEFANOVIC: So, so why were you focused on other things this week?

PRIME MINISTER: Karl, I focus on all these things, which Prime Ministers have to do. They’ve to deal with the knocks and things that come at you each day. They’ve got to deal with the criticisms and they’ve got to deal with things that pop up which are out of our control. But a Prime Minister who believes as I do-

STEFANOVIC: They didn't pop up, you raised it.

PRIME MINISTER: Because I think it’s an important question of sovereignty for Australia to be –

STEFANOVIC: This is the point, I don't think Australians care. I think Australians care about power bills and they care about the price of petrol, they care about their kid’s education. They are the things they care about, not where the embassy is in Israel.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm acting on all of those issues you just mentioned as well, Karl, on electricity prices, on petrol prices, on all of these things.

But if you’re telling me that I'm not allowed to raise a question about an issue as significant as peace in the Middle East and how that affects a very large Jewish community here in Australia and not even ask that question or contemplate it, then that doesn't make us an independent nation. That’s just -

STEFANOVIC: Did you talk to the Jewish community?

PRIME MINISTER: Of course I do, all the time and have for weeks and weeks.

STEFANOVIC: And what did they say about it?

PRIME MINISTER: They are obviously very supportive of it.

STEFANOVIC: All of them?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s a large community Karl, I mean I didn't run a plebiscite on it. But it’s a pretty common position that people have in that community.

STEFANOVIC: It’s off topic. It’s off topic for everyday Australians, it’s just so far removed from the things that matter to them, it’s not funny.

PRIME MINISTER: But Karl, this is the problem with what you are saying to me; in the same week that I raised that issue, I passed tax cuts for small and family business. In the same week I raised that issue, we passed the trade law bill which reaches half a billion customers around the world.

Now, we spent more time on that, but that's not what you are asking me about. You’re asking me about the issues of commentators in the Canberra bubble, commentating on a statement that I made on one day of the week.


PRIME MINISTER: That's part of the problem with Canberra bubble politics. I'm not in the Canberra bubble. I'm out of it. I'm focusing on all the things you said as I did in that first press conference.

STEFANOVIC: Barnaby Joyce will be a better running mate, won’t he?

PRIME MINISTER: No look, that's bubble rubbish too Karl.

STEFANOVIC: How is the Leader of the National Party rubbish?

PRIME MINISTER: Mate it’s not happening. There's nothing going on, that's more Canberra gossip coming out of Canberra.

STEFANOVIC: So he is not having a go?

PRIME MINISTER: Look I'm not in the National Party, but that is just more rumour and gossip running around Canberra which journalists love to go on about. Because they love to talk about conflict. I'm interested in unemployment coming down to 5 per cent, 60,000 people coming off the unemployment queue since we were last elected. This is what is all at stake at this by-election tomorrow -

STEFANOVIC: PM, have you -

PRIME MINISTER: All of this is at stake because of the fact that we have got an independent candidate who says that she can't even bring herself to give confidence to the serving government that was elected at the last election.

STEFANOVIC: PM, have you got the wobbles?

PRIME MINISTER: Not at all mate. I'm straight, absolutely straight, you always know where I stand, Karl. You’ve always known that because you and I have had a few set-tos over the years. You always know where I'm coming from and the only thing that is playing on my mind is I have to get to the top of that bridge today with Prince Harry today and I suspect he’ll scarper up there a bit quicker than I will.

STEFANOVIC: We wish you all the very best with that climb onto Sydney Harbour Bridge, there is a bit of fog around, there is a bit of fog in Canberra as well pardon the pun. Okay PM thank you for your time.