Interview with Karl Stefanovic - Today Show, Channel 9

Transcript
19 Jul 2017
Prime Minister
Justine Ruszczyk, National Security, Home Affairs Ministry, Greens Resignations, Tony Abbott
E&OE
Defence and National Security

KARL STEFANOVIC:

The Prime Minister joins us now from Canberra. PM, good morning to you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning, Karl. Great to be with you.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Thank you for your time. More on national security in a moment but first, if you may, the murder of Aussie Justine Ruszczyk, I think we are all in shock. Is the Australian Government seeking any answers at all?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. We certainly are. Our Consul-General is supporting the family and we are seeking answers to this. This is a shocking killing. It is inexplicable. Our hearts go out to her family.

I mean, how can a woman out in the street in her pyjamas seeking assistance from the police be shot like that?

It is a shocking killing.

Yes, we are demanding answers on behalf of her family and our hearts go out to her family and all of her friends and loved ones. It is a truly tragic, tragic killing there in Minneapolis.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

I guess what can you do?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we are demanding answers, something clearly went tragically wrong, Karl.

I noticed the mayor of the city is demanding answers. I mean, they are her police after all and of course our Consul-General in Chicago who covers that part of the United States, Michael Wood is doing the same.

We are providing all the support we can but this is,  it seems inexplicable, but note, there will be some answers given in due course.

At this point, it is a tragic loss, this young Australian woman and again, our hearts go out to her family with sorrow and with condolence and with love.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Well said.

Okay, let's move on to the super security ministry. Now, I want to ask a relatively simple question. Will the merger make Australia safer?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, it will.

Every day, every day, I am focused on ensuring that we keep Australians safe and that we ensure our security and police and intelligence agencies, which are the best in the world, work even better and ensure that - we don’t need, we must not just wait for a crisis or a disaster to make changes. Set and forget has no place in national security. Complacency has no place in national security. Yes, we've got great agencies. Yes, we've disrupted many terrorist plots and we’ll disrupt more. But we must be constantly seeking to ensure that we work even better together and, of course, the key, Karl, in this very hyper-connected world of social media and the internet is connectedness and ensuring that those agencies, which are central to keeping Australians safe from terrorism, work most closely together.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay, Peter Dutton is a star or a tsar as one publication put it this morning. Is his appointment just a way of pacifying him?

PRIME MINISTER:

I know people put a political gloss on these things, Karl, and it is in some ways disappointing that they do.

The only issue here is the safety of all Australians.

You know, having these agencies together is common sense. It is logical.

At the moment, you have the counter-terrorism agencies, Australian domestic security agencies, in effect split between three departments.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Yep.

PRIME MINISTER:

Between Attorney-General’s, Immigration and Border Protection and, indeed, my own department.

If you were starting from scratch, of course you would have them under one minister, just like in the UK with the Home Secretary.

So what we are doing, what I am doing here is making a decision that I think is long overdue, but it is logical, it is rational. And we're not doing it because we're being forced to do it by some failure of intelligence or failure of security, we're doing it in exactly the same way as all the other security laws I've upgraded. Just like what we have done in ensuring Defence better cooperates with state police. Just like we have done ensuring that terrorists can't get out of jail after their sentence is over if they're still a threat to the community. Just like I've ensured that Australian troops in the Middle East can target and kill terrorists, whether they have got a gun in their hand or not.

So every day I am saying, ‘how can I optimise and improve the work we do to keep Australians safe?’

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Alright. It is genius though – I mean, he has got a big job on his hands. You’re going to keep him as quiet as a church mouse.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, he's got a very big job on his hands now, I can assure you. He is doing it very well and combining these agencies together makes common sense - it is absolute common sense.

This is how it has been done in the UK forever.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

You know what I mean, though don’t you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Karl, I know the political point you are trying to make, but can I tell you, the safety of 24 million Australians is much more important than political commentary. I am not complaining. You make as many political comments as you like.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Righto.

PRIME MINISTER:

My only focus is on keeping you and 24 million other Australians safe. That is my job.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay, fair enough. How on earth are you going to get this through the Senate? I mean, it would be much easier getting a change to Section 44 of the Constitution through.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Section 44 of the Constitution would require the Australian people to vote for it.

It is pretty amazing, isn't it, that you have had two out of nine Greens Senators didn't realise they were citizens of another country. It shows incredible sloppiness on their part.

You know, when you nominate for Parliament, there is actually a question - you have got to address that Section 44 question and you’ve got to tick the box and confirm that you are not a citizen of another country. It is extraordinary negligence on their part.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Okay, Nick Xenophon wants to know if you are going to grant or pair, the terminology, the Greens two votes while they try and fill the vacancy. So my question PM this morning is are you going to give the Greens a pair? Because they clearly need it.

(Laughter)

PRIME MINISTER:

Okay, Karl, thank you.

My understanding is that the Senate practice has always been to grant a pair in these circumstances and that's what will be done and those vacancies will be filled pretty quickly. The seats won't be vacant for long.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

The first time I have seen you ever turn a slight shade of red.

(Laughter)

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, there you go. There you go. I can't see you. See - I'm disadvantaged.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

No, I’m definitely red, underneath the makeup.

PRIME MINISTER:

Are you still wearing that same suit you wore for a year? That was one of the great commentaries on fashion ever. And Karl, I've got to say it again to you, and the unfairness towards women on television, you know people are always commenting on what they wear and you wore the same suit for a year and nobody noticed. That was a very powerful point.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Alright, PM, thank you for your time. Just quickly before we go, have you managed to speak to Tony Abbott since you got back from overseas?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I haven't. I haven't spoken to him since he's been back from overseas. No. I mean, I catch up with him irregularly and look forward to doing so in the future.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Good to have your time today, thank you very much. Appreciate it as always.

PRIME MINISTER:

Great to be with you, Karl. Thanks

[ENDS]