Interview with Matt Wordsworth, ABC Radio

Transcript
05 Jul 2017
Prime Minister
E&OE
International and Trade

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Prime Minister, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un reportedly said the ICBM test was a gift to American bastards on their Independence Day. What threat does North Korea now pose to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

It poses a very real threat to peace in our region, this is a very serious escalation of the North Korean threat. Another reckless provocation and we categorically and totally condemn it. This is yet another very dangerous move by North Korea.

MATT WORDSWORTH:

North Korea says the test is the final step in creating confident and powerful nuclear state that can strike anywhere on Earth. US Secretary of State responded saying: “The US will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.” So is a military conflict on the table.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there is certainly greater risk of that as a result of this test yesterday. The onus, the heaviest responsibility is on China. China is the nation that has the greatest leverage over North Korea. Now China of course has condemned the test in very strong terms and China maintains that it is complying with the United Nations sanctions, economic sanctions on North Korea. But the reality is this; that only China has the ability to bring North Korea to its senses. That’s what we need. We need North Korea to be brought to its senses, to stop this reckless provocation. To stop this nuclear program which is putting the peace and stability of the whole region, indeed, of the world, at risk.

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Donald Trump tweeted that perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all.

PRIME MINISTER:

He has.

MATT WORDSWORTH:

What does that mean?

PRIME MINISTER:

What it means is that China does have the ability to do that. I mean it has - 

MATT WORDSWORTH:

What’s the definition of a heavy move?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you’d have to ask him, but I can tell you what I believe it means. It means imposing the very harshest economic sanctions on North Korea. But -

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Cut off their power or their gas?

PRIME MINISTER:

China is in a position to do all of those things but really the prospect of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula is unthinkable. But equally it cannot, you have to consider it, you have to think about it and recognize that only the strongest action from China can stop this escalation, this dangerous escalation by North Korea, absent military action. That’s the reality at the moment.

Now the eyes of the world, as I’ve said before, are on Beijing. I look forward to discussing this matter with other international leaders at the G20. So all of the relevant parties will be there; the President, the new President of South Korea with whom I’ve spoken recently, obviously the Presidents of China, Russia and the United States and of course the PM of Japan. We’ll all be there and this is a matter that is going to occupy the attention of world leaders at the G20, I have no doubt.

MATT WORDSWORTH:

South Korea and the US, in response to this ICBM test, fired their own ballistic missiles. China and Russia have issued a statement wanting a freeze on those sorts of joint exercises. What do you think is the solution there? Should they stop those exercises?

PRIME MINISTER:

The only solution is for North Korea to stop its nuclear program, stop its persistent and consistent breach of UN resolutions, to comply with international law and to stop threatening and undermining the peace of the region. Look, everyone recognizes the reality and it is simply this; China has the greatest leverage. China has the greatest responsibility. I want to say, to be fair to Beijing, North Korea is not a compliant client state like East Germany was to the old Soviet Union. It’s not. China faces a lot of difficulties in managing North Korea. But the position keeps on getting worse and the Chinese are the ones with the greatest leverage. That’s a fact. Now the question is how far are they prepared to allow North Korea to go down this road, before finally they take the decisive action that they have the ability to take, in a way that nobody else does, and bring this reckless, dangerous regime, to its senses.

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Obviously, it’s going to dominate the discussions at G20 but you’re also hoping to push the case for tech companies to assist in combatting terrorism. What precisely are you seeking?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there are many issues but there are two big ones I’ll outline. Firstly we need greater cooperation from the big-cloud based social media platforms and messaging platforms in preventing their platforms being used for the spreading of terrorist and extremist propaganda.

MATT WORDSWORTH:

So what apps are you -

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we’re talking about Facebook and others -

MATT WORDSWORTH:

And Youtube?

PRIME MINISTER:

Facebook and Youtube yes that’s right, they’re -

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Well their terms of services already ban hateful speech.

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s true -

MATT WORDSWORTH:

And Youtube specifically bans terrorism.

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s true, but they need to a better job at it. Again, we recognize the technical challenges but they need to do a better job on that.

MATT WORDSWORTH:

What, tip off authorities? Is that what you’re saying?

PRIME MINISTER:

They need to cooperate with authorities and obviously support authorities and also take material offline. But let me deal with the harder problem, because I think in that area -

MATT WORDSWORTH:

But let’s be clear you want them, if they see the content, tip off intel authorities.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well of course because people that are using these you know Facebook or whatever to promote extremist propaganda, terrorism or terrorist activities, plainly that’s a threat to all of our peace and security, all of our safety.

But let me, I think there is a lot of goodwill in that area and I think there’s good momentum.  The area which is much more contentious is the question of encryption.  Now at the moment as you know we’ve got to a point where most of the internet-based messaging services and I’m talking about services that everybody uses like WhatsApp, like Telegram, like Apple iMessage and others-

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Do you use those?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course, well so does everyone else.  But they are increasingly encrypted end-to-end which means that not only are they unable to be decrypted in transit but the operator of the service WhatsApp in the case of that service, is not able to decrypt them. 

Now what we need is and this is a very hot political issue particularly in the United States which I’ve acknowledged there is a strong libertarianism both on the left and the right and you see it in Silicon Valley.  But the reality is just as the rule of law prevails in the analogue world so it must prevail in the cyber world and just as we are able with an appropriate legal authority, with a court order, with a warrant to get access to communications or confidential material that might be residing in somebody’s safe or in their filing cabinet somewhere, so access should be able to be had to information, to messaging that is currently encrypted.

Now this is a very, the proposition I’ve made to you now I think would be overwhelmingly supported by Australians.  I think they’d say that’s common sense.  In the United States there is this very strong libertarian anti-government culture.  Now that’s one thing-

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Well yeah -

PRIME MINISTER:

But we cannot allow these systems to be used as they are at the moment to enable terrorists and other criminals to basically conceal themselves to operate in the dark, a dark that we cannot illuminate and the law must be able to reach into those dark crevices and so that our agencies are able to keep us secure.  That is an issue that I’ll be raising and other leaders will be raising at the G20. 

MATT WORDSWORTH:

We saw with the WannaCry virus, it was the NSA that weaponised that weakness in Windows. It escaped the lab and it was used maliciously.  So why should we trust you and other governments to have this ability?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well again, we’re talking about two different things-

MATT WORDSWORTH:

But you’re talking about decrypting encrypted messages for law enforcement purposes?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, but I am talking about, what you’re talking about is different to what I’m talking about. So just please bear with me and I’ll explain.

Almost all software applications have flaws in them, that’s why we’re constantly getting patches and so forth and a flaw that is unknown to others can be used by someone who knows about it to get access to it.  That’s why they’re sometimes called backdoors, right? I’m not talking about that at all. So forget that, that is not what I’m talking about. 

What I’m talking about is lawful access pursuant to due legal process in exactly the same way that if the police can get a warrant to place a listening device in your car or to listen to a telephone call that you’re having, that is all covered by the law, it’s subject to heavy legal oversight. We have the ability to seek an order of that kind with respect to encrypted communications but of course it doesn’t help you if you can’t get the communications decrypted.  So I am not talking about backdoors or anything that is any different from the very straightforward legal process we have at the moment.

MATT WORDSWORTH:

But my point is, if decryption is, becomes available and you get that change, would you stop using WhatsApp?

PRIME MINISTER:

No because I’m, no because in exactly the same way-

MATT WORDSWORTH:

You wouldn’t be afraid that another government would crack your messages?

PRIME MINISTER:

No because this would be the decryption has got to be available from the company, it’s obviously got to be done with due protection and due -

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Well would your internet cyber security adviser advise you against using WhatsApp if it’s available to be decrypted by another government?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it is only to be able to be done by in accordance with law and the, you know, in this case and the case of this is a reality that you face Matt. I mean you have to ask yourself: Are we prepared to say that the internet is to be a lawless ungoverned space now I say and I think, well I have no doubt what other leaders say, leaders of nations that are committed to freedom, democracy, the rule of law, like Australia we must agree that the internet should not be able to be an ungoverned space where terrorists and criminals can hide from the law because the law is there to protect us all.  There is you know, the law keeps us free.  Our freedom is based on the law and maintaining the rule of law in cyberspace is vitally important. 

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Finally I want to ask you about Tony Abbott.  He spoke at a Liberal branch meeting.  Audio has been leaked to Fairfax.  Mr Abbott described your budget as second best and a Party that has to do what’s second best because the Senate made us do it is a Party which needs some help.  Is Tony Abbott being helpful?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m not going to comment on the gentleman you described, you referred to but let me just this about the budget.

The budget was a great success.  It is a great Liberal budget.  It’s achieved substantial savings, we’re bringing the budget back into balance.  It has achieved a reduction in the rate of spending, the real rate of spending, the growth of spending, to the lowest level it’s had for many years, 50 years the Treasurer said today.  It’s also achieved considerable savings.

Now of course you can’t always get everything you want through the Senate-

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Is it second best though?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a great budget, it is being very well received. Think of some of the things we’re doing.  We are reducing taxes on small and medium businesses which employ half of all Australians.  Do you know what Bill Shorten wants to do?  Put them up again. 

So he’s got no plan for investment and jobs.  He wants to increase the tax on companies.  He wants to increase the tax on people earning over $180,000 a year which whom he generically describes as millionaires.  I don’t think many people would find that a particularly-

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Well we know Bill Shorten’s trying to take you down but is Tony Abbott undermining you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Again I’m not going to buy into personalities.  My only focus is on the great outcomes that we’re delivering. We have-

MATT WORDSWORTH:

It’s not quite personalities though is it, is he undermining you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Again I’m focused on what we’re doing for Australians.  Think about what we’ve done in 12 months.  Think about how many people said ‘oh the government will be in office but not in power. It won’t be able to get anything through the Senate, it will be frustrated.’

Look what we’ve done. We have got laws through the Senate that we couldn’t get through in the last Parliament.  I had the courage to take the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation to a double dissolution and it is now reinstated and it’s the law of the land. 

My Government has reduced personal income tax.  It’s reduced company tax and what about education? We were in a situation where we had no viable education policy because the savings that were proposed in the 2014 budget could not possibly be achieved and equally we had Labor’s 27 secret deals which were enshrined in the law and which were not only unjust and inconsistent but were unaffordable. 

We have managed to secure for the first time in our nation’s history national, consistent, transparent needs based funding right across the nation.  This is a great achievement and we have done that at the same time as we’re guaranteeing Medicare, restoring indexation to the Medicare Benefits Schedule, this is an outstanding Liberal National, it’s a Coalition budget and it has been, we have not got all of the measures through the Senate yet but we have got a great deal of it already passed into law and I think that’s something that all of our team in Canberra are proud of and should be proud of. 

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Will Tony Abbott ever feature in a Turnbull cabinet?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well again, I know you’re interest in the gentleman you describe but I’m not-

MATT WORDSWORTH:

You keep using that phrase-

PRIME MINISTER:

Ah well-

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Gentleman- are you able to say his name?

PRIME MINISTER:

You, this is your interest. My focus is on the 24 million Australians I’m elected to represent. I’m not going to get down into what Scott Morrison has described today aptly as background noise. I’m focused on what we’re achieving. I mean consider the achievements we’ve had.  Consider how many people came on your program a year ago and said ‘oh the poor old Liberals and Nats you know they managed to win the election, they’ve got a slender majority they won’t be able to get anything done.’  Look at what we have got done and got done not just in terms of good actions from government in terms of administrative decisions, executive decisions but look what we’ve legislated and we’re seeing real jobs and growth.  Not just a slogan, but an outcome.  Hundreds of thousands of jobs being created, we’re seeing $75 billion of infrastructure committed, we’re building the Western Sydney airport not talking about it, we’re building it.  Talk about energy; Snowy Hydro 2.0 the largest, new pumped hydro project ever to be built in the Southern Hemisphere which will make renewables reliable.  This is an outstanding achievement, it’s an example of everything that we’re doing, bringing downward pressure on energy prices, supporting business, supporting jobs, getting things done. Governing and delivering in a great year, a great first year in this term.

MATT WORDSWORTH:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull thanks for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[Ends]