Interview with Neil Mitchell, 3AW

Transcript
27 Jun 2017
Prime Minister
Victorian infrastructure; same sex marriage; talkback callers; politics
E&OE
Infrastructure and Industry, Education and Childcare

NEIL MITCHELL:

In studio is the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull. Good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Neil. Great to be with you.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you for coming in.

PRIME MINISTER:

Already caught one tram today, I’ve got a few more to catch.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Good. I think and many others think the public has stopped listening to you. How are you going to reengage?

PRIME MINISTER:

By talking with you, with your enormous audience.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Directly?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ll just slipstream behind your charisma and hope to get lots of people listening to what I’ve got to say.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well the Treasurer says be authentic. That doesn’t sound too authentic.

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s authentically humorous, I hope. We can’t take ourselves too seriously Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

That’s true. How do you get the trust? How do you get the trust of the public?

PRIME MINISTER:

Tell the truth and get on with the job. That’s exactly what I have done. Last week -

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you agree that politicians have lost the trust? Lost faith?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil, last week we delivered on the biggest and most comprehensive reform to the way schools are funded by the Federal Government, in our history. We got that through the Senate, despite many predictions we wouldn't.

We also delivered on the major bank levy. We delivered on the Medicare Guarantee Fund. That’s all gone through the Senate

NEIL MITCHELL:

But your budget in itself didn't give you a lift, did it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Neil, it's not a question about giving me a lift. Let me let you into a big secret.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yes Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Politics is not about me. A lot of politicians and a lot of commentators think it is about personalities. You know who it’s about? It is about 24 million Australians, it’s about delivering for them. So, you run the commentary on me, I’ll deliver for 24 million Australians.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, I think leadership is part of the commentary with any government.

PRIME MINISTER:

Leadership and delivery.

NEIL MITCHELL:

That comes down to the individual as you well know, because it came to personalities when Tony Abbott was removed.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Neil, again. You focus on the personalities -

NEIL MITCHELL:

You did too Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

No I didn't.

NEIL MITCHELL:

We’re talking about being fair dinkum and authentic.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah I’m being authentic.

NEIL MITCHELL:

That’s fair dinkum, you got rid of Tony Abbott, that was a personality thing.

PRIME MINISTER:

I did not, the Party Room voted to change the leader, right? That was a majority vote in the Party Room. They made that decision and I’ve been the Prime Minister now for, you know, best part of two years. What we’re doing in the year since the election, this is what we’ve delivered:

We have delivered the Australian Building Construction Commission legislation. Pretty important here in Victoria, wouldn’t you say, with John Setka threatening to send his thugs to follow building construction officers?

NEIL MITCHELL:

He’s apologised…

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, he's apologised? He apologised. So it’s all okay then, right? Is that fair, fair enough? I don’t think so.

I don’t think his apology would be taken very seriously. I don't think that Australians can accept that the CFMEU can defy the law.

Now, we have changed that, I delivered on that, my Government delivered on that. We got that through the Senate. We would never have got it through the Senate had we not had a double dissolution and the Senate had been changed

NEIL MITCHELL:

But isn't this all proof that people aren't listening, aren’t engaging. You say you have achieved all these things but the Government is still on the nose.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, again Neil –

NEIL MITCHELL:

Not you, the Government.

PRIME MINISTER:

You run the commentary. I think -

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well –

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil. You know, all of the people that are listening to us today –in fact why don't we get some talkback? Let's do that. Because I reckon what they want to know, is what I'm doing for them.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think they're more interested in the substance of what's going on in politics, than they are about the personalities.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Have you stopped listening? Are you listening? Are you engaged? Well, Christopher Pyne's been stirring up factionalism, telling more of your left wing members they’ve won, in the winner's circle. Have you spoken to him yet?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah sure. I talk to him all the time.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Did you tell him to pull his head in?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil, the Party's policy and the Government's policy is clear. We will not support a vote on gay marriage in the Parliament until there has been a plebiscite, which every Australian gets the opportunity to vote, and that plebiscite is voted ‘yes’ for gay marriage. The reason that plebiscite has not occurred is because of Bill Shorten's opposition and for no other reason.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Will you “never ever” have a vote without a plebiscite?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are not going to change our policy. We’re committed -

NEIL MITCHELL:

Even into the next election, if we’re in this position? You’ll stay -

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, the next election is two years away and we’ll examine our policies in the lead-up to the next election. But we made a commitment at the last election that we would have a plebiscite.

By all the polls – you know, the polls aren't always right of course - but all the polls would suggest there is a strong majority in favour of gay marriage. In which case, if Shorten had supported the plebiscite, it would have been voted on, approved and passed into law by now.

So the person that those who are disappointed about the gay marriage issue not being resolved should be going after, is Bill Shorten, not me. Not Christopher Pyne, not anyone else.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER:

Shorten is the reason we haven't had a vote on gay marriage.

NEIL MITCHELL:

If your own backbenchers bring forward a private members bill, will you allow it to be debated?

PRIME MINISTER:

All of these matters, people can raise whatever they like in the Party Room and it will be considered by the Party Room. But I'm just saying to you that the Government has a policy. We have no plans to change it full stop.

NEIL MITCHELL:

No, no but we have this position, it’s reported today that some of your backbenchers will bring forward a private members' bill for the marriage equality. To have that debated, it has to be approved by the House. How will you have your party vote in the House?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well private members' bills have to be considered by the bill selection committee. The Government's policy is not to have - and there are been private members' bills proposed already about gay marriage. Our position is we do not support a bill relating to gay marriage being brought on, until there has been a vote of the Australian people. That’s our policy.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So you wouldn't allow a private members' bill to be presented?

PRIME MINISTER:

Correct. That is our position, that is our policy. So the reason we have not had a bill being debated and presumably passed in the Parliament, is because there has not been the plebiscite. The reason we haven't had the plebiscite is because of Bill Shorten.

NEIL MITCHELL:

OK. We will take calls in a moment. Anything you want to ask the Prime Minister? Anything you want from the Prime Minister, or the government more than just the Prime Minister.

Tony Abbott says there is bad blood within the party. Is he right?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Party Room is very harmonious, it’s very united, we have dealt with a number of difficult issues in recent times, including education. Complex issues, education, energy. We’ve come to very solid landings on that. The education legislation, the Gonski 2.0 is a great example of that. That is delivering, you know, that is going to deliver more funding for all schools, including Victorian schools, right across the country consistently on a needs basis. In other words, those schools that have the greatest needs, get more funding. That’s as it should be. That is consistent, that’s transparent.

We're also delivering today $1. 5 billion towards regional rail infrastructure in Victoria.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah, I would like to get to that in a moment but just want to deal with the bad blood thing. No, no, there is an impression today that you have a divided government. I mean it’s described as a tinderbox, about to erupt. You have the left and Christopher Pyne, the right and Tony Abbott and bang!

PRIME MINISTER:

I reject that, it’s not right.

NEIL MITCHELL:

No bad blood?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Government is united –

NEIL MITCHELL:

No bad blood?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, no. I mean look, people in politics, individuals, get scratchy with each other. That's human nature. But the fact is the Government is delivering. You see, Neil, this is the problem. You of all people, sitting here in Melbourne should be able to cut through the commentary and the gossip and the personalities.

NEIL MITCHELL:

That's fair.

PRIME MINISTER:

Recognise that we are delivering on big policy agendas.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But I also –

PRIME MINISTER:

Look at what we've done in the last year.

NEIL MITCHELL:

It’s true Prime Minister but I also recognise, I believe, that the people have disengaged. I look at the polls. They don't like you, they don’t like Bill Shorten. They don't like either party very much at all. One Nation is surging and I think mainstream politics is in some trouble.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I mean this is a challenge for the major parties, there’s no doubt about that. The question then, is what do you do? What you do is you tell the truth and you deliver. That’s what I'm doing. I’m delivering -

NEIL MITCHELL:

Being yourself?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course I'm being myself.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Really?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well of course. Neil, seriously. Seriously you know -

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, seriously, I think, well I mean, people have made this point about you and Bill Shorten in fairness. Bill Shorten is being so careful he won't believe in anything. You initially moved from your real beliefs to the centre or to the right.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I disagree.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Now you have gone back to Labor lite.

PRIME MINISTER:

But this is nonsense. These are headlines written by click-bait journalists. You’re better than that, Neil. You are better than that. Let's talk about matters of substance.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER:

Less talk congestion in Melbourne, let's talk about regional rail, let's talk about schools. Okay? Let's talk about guaranteeing Medicare, let's talk about energy prices.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, we’ll take some of the calls that you wanted if that’s alright?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sure.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Can you hear it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I can, I think I’ve got the right one. Okay, good.

NEIL MITCHELL:

That’s it. Okay our first caller, Dale. Hello Dale.

CALLER:

Good morning, thank you for the opportunity.

PRIME MINISTER:

Hey Dale, how are you?

CALLER:

Very well thank you. One thing I think you lost integrity with as a government and as previous governments is you have ministers in the past that have had a portfolio and then have taken up in their private life a position, albeit at arm’s length, with a company which they have awarded contracts etc. I’d name Andrew Robb, Bob Carr, those type of things. Those type of things stink.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Dale, we’re getting to the point though, are you tuned out? Are you listening?

CALLER:

I listen but I have that degree of skepticism.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay fair enough.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well okay Neil. Dale, sorry, thanks for your call. There is a ministerial code of conduct and ministers, at least in the federal government are not allowed to engage in matters that involve dealings that they had while a minister. After they leave, for a period of 18 months. In fact they’re not allowed to lobby or advocate matters to the government within 18 months. Now you mentioned Andrew Robb, Andrew Robb as I said in the Parliament – and I tabled the letter from the Secretary of my Department – Andrew has confirmed that he’s complied with those rules since he used to be a Minister nearly 18 months ago.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay we’ll take a couple of quick calls. Trent, go ahead please Trent.

CALLER:

Good morning, good morning Mr Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning.

CALLER:

I’m just wanting to say your, I am engaged, and you’re the first Liberal Prime Minister I’ve ever engaged in listening to and taking notice of. Because you, mate, are doing a wonderful job. I’ve never voted Liberal and I will continue to vote Liberal. You’ve done well with education. Keep trying to get our congestion fixed up in Melbourne and mate, you’ve got a Labor voter jumped over to Liberal. Because of you mate, so keep doing it. Keep doing a good job and keeping the bastards honest.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You’ve just called the Prime Minister mate four times.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks Trent. That’s alright, that’s okay.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Ken. Hello Ken.

CALLER:

Good morning Prime Minister, Neil.

PRIME MINISTER:

Morning Ken.

CALLER:

Look I just want to say Prime Minister, I think you’re doing a wonderful job too. I know the media is not your friend but I actually understand politics extremely well but I’m the other side of the coin. It’s a very fickle country that we live in and unfortunately people do vote on personality. I don’t myself but there is a lot that do.

CALLER:

That’s a fair point you know. I mean you said personalities aren’t relevant, but they are.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, you’re right they’re relevant but the real issue at the end of the day - what is going to make my life better, your life better, your listeners lives better? Is it getting schools funding right. It’s getting energy policy right. It’s getting the infrastructure built. It’s making sure that Medicare is guaranteed.  It is delivering on the substance and that’s what I’m doing. That is how I respect 24 million Australians who I lead, rather than playing to all of the gossip and the clip-bait journalism that you see so prevalent. 

NEIL MITCHELL:

Is that the new form of fake news is it? Click-bait?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is very often fake news, yeah it is.  Well you know, it’s these sort of sensational-

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah but usually stories of that -

PRIME MINISTER:

Gossipy stories and you know. I’m sure they get more clicks than politics, but nonetheless it’s sensationalism and a lot of it is fake. 

NEIL MITCHELL:

One more call, Dean, yes Dean?

CALLER:

Oh hello Neil, good morning Prime Minister. 

PRIME MINISTER:

Morning Dean.

CALLER:

I listen to your statement before. I’ve disengaged, I’ve disengaged probably in the last 12 months.  It’s like trying to vote, it’s trying to pick between Coles or Woolworths now.  Do you know what I care about?  I care about the fact that I paid $900 tax last week, I care about the fact that I’ve got to pay to drive on the roads, even though I’ve already paid for my rego.  I care about the fact that I’ve got a $1200 electricity bill.  I care about the fact that yesterday, I’m watching Tony Abbott in Ray Hadley’s studio sniping away and you’re telling me you’re a united government? I mean what’s he doing for the, his constituents on the northern beaches of Sydney? He’s gallivanting around the globe bloody doing Kevin Rudd in a blue tie. 

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you Dean.  Well he’s nailed it there hasn’t he?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look, thank you for that, I’ll leave Tony Abbott to one side -

NEIL MITCHELL:

But it’s important about what he said -

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no, no -

NEIL MITCHELL:

He said you’re pretending it’s unified and it’s not.

PRIME MINISTER:

Hang on, hang on, hang on.  Tony Abbott is not a Minister, he’s not in the cabinet, he’s not the ministry, he’s one member in the Party Room.  The fact of the matter is we are getting on a delivering now - all of the matters you mention – tax; in our last budget, the budget before this year’s budget, we reduced tax for half a million middle-income Australians by increasing the second tax threshold up from $80,000 to $87,000. So about half a million Australians didn’t go into the second highest tax bracket.  So we dealt with that. 

Energy; absolutely, massive problem, I agree.  We are taking that head on, it is extremely complex.  I am rejecting the ideology and the politics and the pathetic partisanship we’ve had for so long. I am focussing on your challenge of getting electricity and energy prices under control. I’m doing that guided by economics and engineering. You’ll see more of our policy as we roll it out, but it’s hard-headed, it’s practical, it’s infrastructure, it’s ensuring that electricity companies can’t game the system to jack up prices. So ensuring we’ve got enough gas.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thanks Dean.  Now this rail money that you’ve announced this morning and you’re going to go into more detail today.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yep, yep.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Will we cop a reduction in our GST because of it?

PRIME MINISTER:

No.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Victoria?

PRIME MINISTER:

No.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, because we’ve had this brawl going on. Daniel Andrews today saying: “Oh well he’s won,” you know he’s being having to fight you to get the money.  Surely and this is an example that we should, Labor and Liberal, we should be going in the same direction to improve rail services

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we are.

NEIL MITCHELL:

We are now.

PRIME MINISTER:

We are going in the same direction. Look, and as far as the GST is concerned Neil, the whole Commonwealth Grants Commission, the whole Commonwealth Grants Commission is a under review. The system is being reviewed by the Productivity Commission. The allocation of the GST has been very controversial and it’s important that we look at it again. That’s what, we’re doing that at the moment. 

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.  Why was it so hard for Victoria to get this money?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look -

NEIL MITCHELL:

Because remember he calls you the Sydney Prime Minister, Prime Minister of Sydney

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh come on.

NEIL MITCHELL:

That’s Daniel Andrews

PRIME MINISTER:

I reckon there are very few Prime Ministers, even Melbourne Prime Ministers that love this city and this state as much as I do.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Oh come, who’s on top the AFL ladder?

PRIME MINISTER:

I love – oh it’s the Western Sydney Giants. Who by the way-

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yes.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, you didn’t know!

NEIL MITCHELL:

No.

PRIME MINISTER:

Who by the way -

NEIL MITCHELL:

Hasn’t helped us.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I won’t get into the family allegiances. I’m a Swans supporter of course, and we’re coming back.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Not on Friday you’re not.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah right, okay we’ll see. Anyway. There you go, you see, I’m a “Sydney Prime Minister” and you’ve diverted me into Aussie Rules.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Um, well you’ve given money to Bachar.

PRIME MINISTER:

Look can I tell you, this regional rail funding? Let’s talk about that. Because you’ve often said to me Neil: “Why can’t you and Daniel Andrews work together?” And you get Daniel in here and you say: “Why can’t you and Malcolm Turnbull work together?” Well here we are. 

We’re putting in $1.42 billion into the regional rail alone, and they’re putting in, they’re putting in $150 million.  So it’s overwhelmingly federal money that is going to improve regional rail right across the state from one side of the state to the other.  It’s going to create 1000 new jobs, 400 of them in the La Trobe Valley where they need more jobs as you know because of the closure of Hazelwood. 

So this a great investment, an example of my commitment and my government’s commitment to infrastructure in Victoria.  Now you know, we wish we could do more.  We would like to, we want to give the Victorian government $3 billion to do the East West Link. Daniel Andrews doesn’t want to build it. In fact he’s paid a $1 billion not to build it, which is a great shame.

NEIL MITCHELL:

One of the things that’s raised a lot - and I’m surprised, well maybe there was a caller there who would raise that - is the matter of immigration.  Could you ever see a situation where we would freeze migration?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, freeze migration levels?

NEIL MITCHELL:

Hmm.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t know what you mean by freeze, I mean our migration system -

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well some people argue for us to stop it entirely while we have a look at where we’re going

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, well you, look, we control our borders.  I mean let’s be quite clear about this. I mean, we are the most successful multicultural society in the world.  Melbourne is a great multicultural city. One of the reasons we are so successful is because Australians know their government, which is my Government, the Government I lead, has control of our borders.  We’ve had over 1000 days without a successful people smuggling expedition and our immigration system -

NEIL MITCHELL:

That’s not immigration, that’s illegal arrivals.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well no it’s all part of it, it’s all connected. Our immigration system is based on the demands of our economy.  Overwhelmingly our immigration intake is based on skills, it’s a skills based system. So you get more people coming in when the demands of the economy are higher. We’ve reformed the 457 visa system to give it integrity. I think Australians know that immigration under my Government, Peter Dutton as Minister is in very strong hands. They know that their government that they’ve elected is in control.

NEIL MITCHELL:

We are out of time.  A very quick one.  Are you close to a decision on the Medicare rebate for after-hours GP visits?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look it’s being reviewed but I can tell you we are committed to guaranteeing Medicare.  As you know, we’re going to put all the funding for Medicare every year into a locked box so Medicare is absolutely guaranteed.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you for coming in.  So who does Sydney play on Friday night?

PRIME MINISTER:

Ah, that’s a good question. Now who are we playing?

NEIL MITCHELL:

Melbourne.

PRIME MINISTER:

Melbourne. That’s right because you know, someone just mentioned that today, this morning.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Who do I support?

PRIME MINISTER:

Collingwood.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Oh good grief!

[Laughter]

PRIME MINISTER:

Don’t you?

NEIL MITCHELL:

That really is offensive.

PRIME MINISTER:

Who do you support?

NEIL MITCHELL:

That is offensive.

PRIME MINISTER:

Alright, well I’m-

NEIL MITCHELL:

Melbourne.

PRIME MINISTER:

Melbourne? Oh okay well that’s why you want, alright -

NEIL MITCHELL:

Five dollars.

PRIME MINISTER:

We’ll be on the other side of the field on Friday, we’ll see how we go. Go the Swans!

Sorry about that Neil I’m just trying to rile you up. Your ratings will go through the roof.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Goodbye Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Because you’ll be fired up now.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you Prime Minister

[Laughter]

[ENDS]