Interview with Neil Mitchell, 3AW

Transcript
30 Sep 2016
Prime Minister

NEIL MITCHELL:
Sydney Swans supporter - Malcolm Turnbull. Good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:
Good morning, great to be with you.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Surely you don’t want to destroy the Doggie fairy-tale do you?

PRIME MINISTER:
[Laughter]
Well I know they will be the sentimental favourites as the underdogs but indeed the last time the Bulldogs won a grand final was before I was born. Of course I am only a young man –

NEIL MITCHELL:
Really?

PRIME MINISTER:
Indeed, yeah, yeah - 1954.

NEIL MITCHELL:
That’s right. Well, you should see one but you still want the Swans to win?

PRIME MINISTER:
Oh well I do, they’re my local team. They play and train in my electorate of Wentworth and so I always support the Swans.

NEIL MITCHELL:
You know Melbournians are always suspicious of Sydney people supporting Australian Football. Are you really into it? Will you do a little footy quiz?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well, you know, I would flunk it.

NEIL MICHELL:
[Laughter]

PRIME MINISTER:
I’ve got to tell you, I am very worried about my role in Aliir Aliir’s injury because I mentioned him with pride, because I really admire what he has done, I admire what he stands for. He’s a great tribute to Australia’s humanitarian program, our multicultural nation and the inclusiveness of the AFL. And I mentioned in my speech to the United Nation’s General Assembly, I suspect the first AFL footballer that has been mentioned there and of course now he has got an injury and he can’t play so I hope that wasn’t a Lou Richards moment, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:
I think the key is, as Paul Keating learnt, you don’t pretend you understand it when you don’t, you just embrace it.

PRIME MINISTER:
I admire it. I mean, look I played rugby as a young man. I played rugby up until my mid-twenties and I loved it, the rough and tumble physicality of it, but I’ve always admired the speed and the athleticism of AFL. It is extraordinary. The way these guys jump and leap and kick – you know, it’s extraordinary.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Are you tipping the Swans?

PRIME MINISTER:
I am yep, I am by 8 points. Yep.

NEIL MITCHELL:
8 points? Ok. Well it would be a good game. Now it is almost related, Anthony Mundine says they should boycott the National Anthem, the players at both grand finals – surely that is divisive isn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER:
I couldn’t agree with you more. This is a day, just as you said in your intro, it’s a day, a weekend when everyone comes together. The two big codes are played. Both codes, the AFL and NRL work hard to be inclusive and embrace modern Australia and all of its diversity and this is a time when we all come together.

NEIL MITCHELL:
So we urge everybody to sing?

PRIME MINISTER:
Everyone should sing. Those like myself who are perhaps not the best singers should perhaps sing quietly so as not to ruin the experience for neighbours but I think everyone should sing and everyone should just be proud about their country, our country and the fact that we can come together in sport. Sport is a great, really wonderful inclusive institution in Australia and it divides us in a sense of we back different teams but only in a pretty good natured way but above all it pulls us together and I think it is wonderful for that reason, that’s why we should all sing.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Now Wyatt Roy, he was in an area, about 150 kilometres from Mosul, this is an area, well Mosul is an area where you’re not allowed to go – it’s a declared area.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well it is occupied by Daesh or ISIL so it also an extremely dangerous area.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Well it is in a dangerous area – they were shooting at him! Was it stupid?

PRIME MINISTER:
Yes it was very stupid. And I am disappointed in Wyatt. He shouldn’t have gone there. He knows that the official Australian Government advice is do not travel to Iraq. He knows that travel, well he didn’t go into Mosul, but travel to Mosul is banned for perfectly obvious reasons. As Julie Bishop has said, he put himself at risk of physical harm and capture and he was acting in defiance of government advice and I think his actions were very foolish.
I just want to say very very seriously, don’t, please don’t emulate what Wyatt Roy did. What he did was wrong and dangerous. It appears that he has emerged unscathed. He was lucky to emerge unscathed. Australians should not go to those parts of the world and they should follow scrupulously the advice of the Australian Government.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Did he tell you he was going?

PRIME MINISTER:
No.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Do you think he should be investigated now? I mean, there’s an organisation, the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK operate in that area. Did he have dealings with them? They are a prescribed organisation.

PRIME MINISTER:
I just don’t know any more about Wyatt Roy’s visit that what has been in the media, Neil, but I have got no doubt that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be taking an interest in his travels.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Well one would assume a security agencies will wouldn’t they? There is a possibility here that he has broken the law.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well I am not going to speculate on that Neil. As you can understand why but certainly I expect he’ll be, I expect there will be a debrief from Mr Roy when he returns.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Will you have a word to him personally and say ‘come on – grow up’?

PRIME MINISTER:
The next time I speak to Wyatt, I will be giving him some very sage and stern advice.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Ok.
[Laughter]
These thoughts from the Fair Work Commission about penalty rates and I know the decision is some months off yet, heaven knows why, but no weekend penalty rates they are suggesting but perhaps a 25 per cent an hour pay rise. What do you think of that model?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well it is a matter for the independent umpire. We have not commented on the current review of penalty rates before Fair Work. It is a matter for the parties appearing before the Fair Work Commission to resolve – that is the employers and the unions. This is a matter for the independent umpire so we don’t have a plan or a policy to change penalty rates. There is an independent umpire who is looking at it and we expect them to conclude their inquiry and report. And make a decision in other words.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Ok, if you would like to speak to Malcolm Turnbull, 9690 0693, 13 13 32. Now as you well know, Victoria feels duded by you, by the Federal Government over the Port and the asset recycling scheme. Look, I know, I think I understand the intricacies of it, but does it really pass the pub test? I mean in the end Victoria gets about 9 per cent of this money. We’ve got 25 per cent of the population. New South Wales gets 40 per cent of the money. Why? Why do they get such a good deal?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well, firstly the money is distributed around Australia, or spent around Australia based on need and on the provision of projects at a particular time, so the Victorian Government were very slow in getting their act together – I mean that is a fact and I am not trying to take a lawyers point about that but obviously states that get their act together have got projects that are ready to go. Obviously first in is often best dressed as you know.

NEIL MITCHELL:
But is it fair?

PRIME MINISTER:
No, no, let me come to that – I am very conscious of this and I am determined that every part of Australia including Victoria feels that they are being fairly looked after and we are in constant discussions with the State Government which I have to say is, it deals with this with us in a very highly political way. I mean you saw, for example, you know the cancellation of the East-West Link, that was a, you know, we’ve still got $3 billion allocated for that if a future government wants to do it. They cancelled that. They had $1.5 billion in cash from us to do it. They actually had the money and they still have it and paid $1 billion, in fact now $1.1 billion for cancelling it, so they’re not really in a position to lecture anybody about efficient spending of infrastructure money. Now if you take in to account the $3 billion that we have set aside for East-West Link we’ve committed 20 per cent of our national land transport spending to Victoria. This goes on top of the $6.7 billion that’s been spent already so, but look I’m -

NEIL MITCHELL:
But in the end there’s a $600 million shortfall here, on the asset-recycling scheme. $1.46 billion I think we’d say we were entitled to and it’s about $850 million we’re getting so there’s a $600 million hole.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well the first point is – the 15 per cent was not on what was raised through a sale, it is on what was invested in another project so in other words if you sell, if Victoria sells a Port for $9 billion and let’s say they had come in within the timeframe and there were no issues about that right so we’re just looking at it hypothetically so they raise $9 billion, if they only spent six they’re entitled to, on a project and applied $3 billion to other priorities of the government, they’re entitled to 15 per cent on 6. So they’re yet to identify where it is being spent, I might say our Infrastructure Minister is a Victorian, Darren Chester, so there is no question of -

NEIL MITCHELL:
Yeah but we’ve got a Labor Government and a Liberal Government so that’s – is it correct that New South Wales is getting 40 per cent of the money, we’re getting 9 per cent?

PRIME MINISTER:
No, that’s not right.

NEIL MITCHELL:
It’s not far out.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well it’s not right, for the reasons I just said. Let me give you an example -

NEIL MITCHELL:
What are the right numbers then?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well the right numbers are, when you take into account $3 billion we’ve set aside for East-West -

NEIL MITCHELL:
Which we’ve haven’t got.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well the only reason you haven’t got it is because you’re not building it.

NEIL MITCHELL:
That’s the political problem. Alright we’re not building it - that government rightly or wrongly was elected on that policy, let’s get the money and build things.

PRIME MINISTER:
Yes but the problem is that - you see, their approach and this is really the key point, the Andrews Government approach, perhaps almost more than any other state is that the Federal Government is just an automatic teller machine. They resent us having any say or any involvement in any project.

NEIL MITCHELL:
But it is our money you’re sitting on there. And we’re not talking -

PRIME MINISTER:
No, but hang on. The money that we have, that we raise in taxes from you from all of us, we have an obligation to spend wisely.

NEIL MITCHELL:
In New South Wales.

PRIME MINISTER:
We have an obligation to spend it wisely everywhere and what the Victorian Government does, is it resents any say, any engagement with us and you’ve seen the resistance to the way in which we want to spend the $1.5 billion and the projects you wanted to allocate to them. As you know, we’re getting very close to finalising that with money onto the Monash Freeway, $500 million there, $350 million for the Western Ring Road and so forth. But you know one of the things that they have rejected is $10 million that we said, we offered to have spent on a study for the Melbourne Metro to ensure that the State Government realises the maximum from value capture of the accretion in land values. In other words getting the best bang for the taxpayer and the taxpayer’s buck and they don’t want to have a bar of that.

NEIL MITCHELL:
But Prime Minister -

PRIME MINISTER:
They think they’ve got all the answers themselves.

NEIL MITCHELL:
In simple terms we see our money being collected in taxes at a state and federal level. We see deals - we see politics being played around these deals by both sides. Alright – you are political opponents, I understand that and you’ll have different visions, I understand that, and then we see New South Wales getting what we perceive to be a vastly better deal and we say don’t dud us. Its parochial, I know but it’s the reaction.

PRIME MINISTER:
Neil, all politics is local and I know, I understand and hear what you’re saying. I can assure you that we are, I am, focussed on dealing with every state and every project absolutely equitably. So those discussions with the government will continue. Darren is continuing his discussions with his Victorian counterparts as is Scott Morrison with Mr Pallas the Victorian Treasurer.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Okay another issue, Cory Bernardi and to a lesser extent Tony Abbott are both talking about lessons in the polls and the Pauline Hanson factor. We’ve got two polls showing Australians don’t trust Muslims, want to restrict or stop Muslim migration. Do you accept that the anti-Muslim feeling is widespread?

PRIME MINISTER:
I accept that there is concern in the community about security. This is one of the reasons why it’s very important for leaders, like ourselves, both of us, to ensure that we promote inclusion, that we recognise that Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world.

NEIL MITCHELL:
But people aren’t happy with it, what are you going to do?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well I think what we have to do is not fall prey to the temptation to do what the terrorists want us to do, which is turn on each other. You see if you look at the vision, the inclusion – we talked about the AFL earlier, look what Bashar Houli does. Look at the way he brings young Muslim guys into football, into that great Australian, great inclusive Australian game. That is what we need to do, because believe me, what the terrorists are seeking to do is to get Australians, the broader Australian community, to turn on the Muslim community.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Couple of other quick things if I may. The MH17, the report overnight. Do you have any doubt of Russia’s culpability in this?

PRIME MINISTER:
No doubt at all and I don’t think many people have had any doubt about it. Russia is blocking action by the UN Security Council to take the international criminal proceedings against the criminals that did this.  We will continue to press Russia on that. Obviously I can’t be optimistic about changing President Putin’s mind here and they do have a veto on the Security Council so we are looking at other options, particularly in discussing legal actions being taken by the Netherlands.

NEIL MITCHELL:
You’re looking at legislation on the CFA issue here in Victoria. I saw the Chief Fire Officer of the CFA this week, he supported the idea of a truce in the CFA dispute, so you get right through the fire season and you sort it all out next March or April. Would you support that idea?

PRIME MINISTER:
I think we absolutely need everybody to be working together resolutely and collaboratively, at every time but particularly during the fire season. But we have a commitment to get the legislation passed and it will, we expect it to go through the Parliament before the end of the year, so that is our election commitment.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Okay. What happened to the power in South Australia? It was what you’ve described as a wake-up call. Now Victoria looks about to lose Hazelwood - the coal fired station. Could we be equally vulnerable here?

PRIME MINISTER:
You could be vulnerable - you will be vulnerable, if governments approach these energy policy issues from an ideological way. You heard Dan Andrews this morning on the radio and he was asked – you know, he recalled yesterday that I made the point that we have a national renewables target which is responsible, which is still a big stretch, I may say, to get there by 2020, but it’s happening. It’s all being managed through the national electricity market. Now what you’ve got is state governments, Labor governments, having these very ambitious targets. 40 per cent in Victoria, currently renewable energy is 14 per cent. 50 per cent in – sorry 40 per cent in Queensland and their renewable energy is 4 per cent and so on. Dan Andrews was asked by Fran Kelly, how are you going to get there? He wouldn’t answer the question. But what he is doing is creating distortions in the market, doing one-off deals here and there which are distorting the electricity market and he’s doing it without regard to maintaining security. Now I am a very strong supporter of renewable energy, always have been. I’ve taken a great interest in the technology, I have a roof full of solar panels. I’m very  keen on renewable energy, but we’ve got to remember that yes we’ve got to reduce our emissions – that’s very important -  but we have to maintain our energy security and reliability and we have to maintain affordability. I mean, South Australia has the most expensive wholesale electricity in Australia, they’ve got low levels of business activity relative to other states, so employers there are saying: “How are we going to maintain the  jobs and get the investment, if we’ve got the highest price for electricity?” So you’ve got to get those things together. That’s why I’ve asked Josh, Josh Frydenberg, to bring the energy ministers together, we need a coordinated approach. Yes, cut emissions. Yes, renewables are good, we love them, terrific. But the number one priority is, keep the lights on. Keep the lights on, that’s the responsibility of government.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Thank you for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:
Great to be with you.

NEIL MITCHELL:
I accept that you can’t sing, but cheer, cheer the red and the white?

PRIME MINISTER:
Exactly. I’ll be doing that gently and with minimum pain to my people sitting next to me.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Now the next line?

PRIME MINISTER:
Cheer, cheer the red and the white. Cheer, cheer the red and the white.

NEIL MITCHELL:
And the next line?

PRIME MINISTER:
You’ll have to sing it for me.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Honour the name by day and by night.

PRIME MINISTER:
You’re absolutely right, honour the name by day and by night. That’s right, well I’ll be honouring it by day and by night.

NEIL MITCHELL:
Thanks so much for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:
Thanks Neil.

[ENDS]