Interview with Paul Murray, Sky News

20 May 2019
Prime Minister

PAUL MURRAY: Prime Minister congratulations.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Paul, it's great to be back at work.

MURRAY: And that's it – straight in, straight away, no days off, you’re back here. Why did you win?

PRIME MINISTER: Because of, I've called them quiet Australians. They’re just Australians going about their lives every day, and decided that their job, their economic future, the choices they wanted to make, were more important. My pitch to them was; ‘I think your choices and what you want to do with your life, is also more important’. The Government should be there to provide support the essential services the NDIS, the health and hospitals, schools. But ultimately Australians need to be the ones who make the choices about their lives and not have those made by governments.

So I said, this idea of; ‘Give us all your money and we’ll solve all your problems,’ I don't think Australians agree with that and I think that's what they said on Saturday. So very much that’s what it was about, about them, I think, saying; ‘Our choices are the ones that are important, not those that people want to make for us.’

MURRAY: Who is a quiet Australian? What's an example of one that either you know in your life, you met on the campaign trail, who do you mean when you say quiet Australians?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, so many Australians and they're so diverse. It's the mum who is raising young kids and caring for an elderly parent and the whole family is looking to them and it's all on them. They haven't got time for anything else and certainly not themselves, because they're just constantly serving everyone else all the time. It's the family who has got a small business that their parents started and they've inherited it. On a property out there in rural Australia, the next generation or the generation after that, on the land. It’s dads going to work every day, coming home and greeting their kids and just wanting that little bit more time with them that they don't get at the moment, because they're working hard. They've got things they're paying for and mums doing exactly the same thing. It's also young people, starting an apprenticeship. Gav was a bloke I met up at Purcell Engineering in Gladstone and I said; ‘So how long have you been working here?’ And he said; ‘It’s just four years.’ I said: ‘Have you got an apprenticeship?’ He said; ‘Yep.’ I said; ‘Have you got long to go?’ He said; ‘Six months’ and he had his job there when he finishes. He's a quiet Australian. It's disabled Australians and their families and their carers and others, who just want to go. To be able to try and live life like everyone else. So the stories are myriad, migrant families, you know. In this election, I think one of the reasons seats like Banks and indeed Chisholm, seats like Reid, these are highly multicultural community seats. The thing about migrant communities I believe, is they're aspirational. They didn't come here to take something. They came here to give something, to make a contribution with their lives and set up opportunities for their kids. So we were talking to them about keeping more of what they earn, investing in the essential services, keeping our immigration system with integrity which they have benefited from and want to see others do, but in the right way. Speaking to the aspirations of Australians. It's every Australian, I suppose.

MURRAY: I love saying this; the pundits, the bookies, the polls, the psychic animals, were all wrong.


What did they not see? I mean there were those of us that did see, but what did that wider class not see?

PRIME MINISTER: Well the bubble certainly popped on Saturday night. But it didn't for most other Australians. I mean so many Australians we just talked about, the quiet ones, they're not that engaged in politics all the time, they're not looking for the government to come and tell them how they should live their lives.

So there are some I think, who have that view and they're entitled to that, that's fine and what a lot of what the debate was about, was those sorts of issues. But you know, I had a very clear job to do when I took over the prime ministership last year. I knew that we'd been doing good things as a government, but people were frustrated with what had happened in terms of changing of leaders and all those sorts of things. People were rightly pretty peeved about that and they wanted to be assured that that wasn't going to happen again. That's why I moved fairly quickly to ensure that for our Party that that wouldn't happen again. That was important. But when it came to it, there was a clear path to us being able to win this election. It was a very narrow one. It was a bit like walking along the edge of a razorblade for eight months, it required the discipline of the whole team. So I think when people could see just how disciplined our team had been over that eight months and how much we’d worked together - and there were quite a few setbacks along the way - I think as we have begun, so we will continue.

Now with this fresh opportunity at this election, you know, I was meeting with my leadership team earlier today and we were talking it through. You know, we're all back at work today of course. It was that sense of discipline and unity we've all been able to have again. It’s filling us with a lot of enthusiasm about having been able to get to this election and be successful. Look what we can do now, as a united, stable team.

MURRAY: This is it. I mean look, I always love that the day after the election, we’re the very same people who the day before the election were; ‘This is going to happen because of this issue, this issue, this issue.’ Then when it works out differently, well, now; ‘It's all about this this and this’. I think it's 100 per cent what you identify as the quiet Australians wanting to be left to build the best life for themselves.

PRIME MINISTER: So they don't want; ‘A pay rise, but someone else has to lose their job’. That's not what they want. They don't want these, what John Howard called, class wars. Today they don't want to see those divisions. I think a key point is wanting Australians to disagree better on a lot of these issues as I've said on a number of occasions. It was a victory for the quiet Australians, not for the Liberal Party or me personally. It wasn't actually about politics, it was about them sending a very clear message that; ‘We want to remain in control of our lives’.

So those out on the extremes of politics I think will try and verbal what has happened quite a bit. I won't be allowing that to happen. I think at this election I've been able to connect with Australians in a very personal and special way and it's very humbling. For Jenny and I, it was the same for my colleagues, they shared their aspirations with us and said; ‘We trust you with them, so get back to work and make it happen’.

MURRAY: And certainly in that last week I've noticed an awful lot; ‘I'm not going to be distracted, I'm not going to be distracted, I'm not going to be distracted’.


MURRAY: Now that you have this majority government, now that you have a clean three years leadership rules have changed, personalities have changed - those that have either lost their seats in Tony Abbott or those that bailed and either helped a bit or didn't help at all - but you, when you walk back into that Party Room see a very different picture than the one you had to manage in the last little while. What is your message to them, about how to interpret this election?

PRIME MINISTER: Well it's the same as I've just said. But importantly, from that time when I took over the leadership last year, I said; ‘You've elected me to lead now, now follow please’. And they have. My style of leadership, to keep people together, is not to run off to the left and run off to the right and seek to placate. Just to let them know very clearly where I stand, where they're all welcome to join me. That has been my approach over the last eight and a half months, it’s not in any way to say what my Party is, which is a very broad church. That's fine, that's okay. Different perspectives, different walks of life, that's actually what makes the place vibrant.

But when it comes to the centre of our Government, that's where we all meet. That's where we all combine. That's why it's important for me I think, as the leader and as Prime Minister, is to hold that middle ground and ensure that’s where the direction of government remains. As I've begun, so I will continue. As I said in my last address to the Press Club before the election, that I really did burn for this opportunity to just continue to serve in the way we have. So continuing to bring the Party back to those core ‘whys’.

I mean, we had we had been a very competent Government. We were good managers. You know, we were there with the calculators and the competency and I think, like engineers. Fantastic. But what Australians were saying to us I think, was; ‘Tell me a bit more about the why you want to do that’. And I've spent the last eight and a half months doing that. About what fires me up? Why we want to cut taxes? Because we want people to keep more of what they earn, because we believe their money is better off in their pocket, with their decisions rather than that. You know, higher taxes means we think the government knows what to do better with your money, than you. That's just a fundamental philosophy I have.

So tax is not just for accountants, it's for everybody. Because it tells people who the government trusts.

I said before the election; I trust you, I back you, that's why I'm asking you to back me and they did. It's a very humbling thing and so that's why I think now, Australians just want the politicians that go back to work. They don’t want to see the ads for a while.

MURRAY: Just shut up for a while.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah just; ‘Go and do your jobs. We're going to go and do ours’. That's exactly what I'm going to do. There's a lot of work to do and we're getting about it straight away. We hope to convene the Parliament again as soon as we can. We obviously have to wait for the writs to be returned and there's a formal process for that at the moment. That's not looking until very late into the back end of June. So that really does make very narrow that opportunity to do it before the 30th of June. I think that's very unlikely, with the advice I've received. But on top of that, there's a minister to swear in and we'll be doing that in due course, I’m not making any rushed judgement there. There are other issues to determine before that, the counts have to be finalized. We’ve got to respect that process. So we're back at work, but we're not in a hurry on a lot of these decisions. We'll make them in the patient, steady way that I think people have sort of come to expect from me.

MURRAY: Is tax and tax cuts, because of that timeline, the first thing you have to do in the Parliament? 

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. Yes and there are also some administrative things that we can do which we're taking advice on now, to ensure that that becomes effective particularly for those that kick in on the 1st of July, pretty much to ensure that is achieved. But that is it because at the end of the day, that's really what the election was all about. Not in terms of the technical issue of the tax cuts, but that's my way of saying; ‘I said I trusted you’. That's the piece of legislation which says I trust you with your own money, I want you to have more of it. That's what speaks to aspiration.

There are so many more things. There’s setting up of course the Home Loan Deposit Guarantee with the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation. You know my commitment to the NDIS and I know people's frustrations with that. We will be I'll be working on that, I just had a meeting about it now before this interview. The issues around youth mental health and getting that programme of combating youth suicide and getting those individuals together. I've already been talking to the head of the North Queensland Livestock Recovery Agency and making sure that the work that we set in train there before the election is hitting the ground and the way we need it. So the drought and the floods still very much foremost in my mind.

MURRAY: Of all of the strange things that are the unique experience of being the Prime Minister on election night; is there a sound, a smell, a word, a hug that you can instantly remember and is going to sear in as a great moment from that night? 

PRIME MINISTER: Oh it was the hugs with the girls and Jenny and soon after I walked down from the stage I saw my father in a wheelchair, I hadn’t seen my father in a wheelchair before. He's quite a immobile now, but to see him there, I mean he was my inspiration firstly for entering politics, he was a local mayor and local councilor. From Dad I always got the truism of politics that all politics is local, unless you're making a difference to people on the ground, then what's the point. The overwhelming feeling I had on that night was, in the campaign there was a lot of talk about Australia and a lot of negative views about where Australia was at. But I believed absolutely that Australians always believe Australia is the best country in which to live. Now I’ve gotta say; ‘How good is Australia?’ That's how people feel about it. Sure, they always want it to be better, that's why it is so good. Just because people want it to be better, doesn't mean they think it’s bad.

MURRAY: Correct.

PRIME MINISTER: It means they have always have aspirations to make it better. I believe at the election, that's what I was seeking to connect with. Whether it was J-Rod down in Launceston, who was one of the most champion people I met during the campaign. He’d be a local legend there forever now. But there was another bloke I remember, I talked to you about Johnsy at Sporties down at Launceston.

MURRAY: Was that the mullet?

PRIME MINISTER: No, J-Rod was the bloke with the mullet. There may well be a secret section now in the Australian honours list for the best mullets in Australia. 


But so, John is a tough teacher, he's a builder teaching young kids their trade. He's got young kids and there he is, making his life in regional Australia. Legend at his local footy club, ruckman in his 30s, wants to play into his late 30s I said well, Gal mate, he’s playing and he’s thirty nine. That club atmosphere, that was one of the nicest nights of the campaign. I enjoyed it quite a lot actually, they had to drag us out, because that was just regional Australia at it’s finest.

MURRAY: Amazing and you’ve got a newfound penchant for bingo calling?


Apparently something I wasn't aware of but Ok, if you’re into that. Also I've got to say congratulations; I think you're the first Prime Minister to be cheered at the footy in a very long time. That must have been weird? The footy team you've loved for a long time at the home ground, they gave you a shout.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it was special. I want to thank them for the shout out down there and for the announcement and the crowd response. It was very nice, particularly as also we left that night and people were lining the sides of where we were leaving. That was a pretty special moment, because as I said yesterday before I went to church with Jen; my local home community is everything. So many of the values of my local community are what I try and bring to the job. Whether it was the job of the Immigration Minister or Social Services, as the Treasurer  or indeed Prime Minister, it's the it's the values of my community that I love so much and they’ve backed me so strongly, over so many years. It was nice to be home yesterday and to be able to spend that time with my home community

MURRAY: Alright final question, there is an awful lot of new blood that enters the Parliament and there's a lot of impressive young women who are joining the party from day one.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, we’ve got Dr Katie Allen who has come in, Dr Fiona Martin and Professor Celia Hammond and Angie Bell up there in Moncrieff, we've got some great women. Then you've got Nicolle Flint who's done a great job down there in south Aus and I mean, she had the weight and might GetUp! and the unions against her. I always get quite puzzled, I mean it's okay for Getup! and it's okay for the unions to spend large amounts of money attacking and harassing the Liberal Party or the Nationals, but if anyone else does it, apparently it's a travesty to democracy. But you know, elections are keenly contested. I’ve got to say I think there was an element in this campaign - and I think Bill mentioned it as well - there was an element in this campaign that I wouldn't like to see ever again. There was some real nastiness and it was mainly done by, I would say, those outside the major parties.


PRIME MINISTER: It was the third party activists and things like this that I found a bit distasteful. 

MURRAY: Well even last night, there was a One Nation van that was set on fire apparently, by someone to do with the Greens.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. This is, you know, I think not Australian.

MURRAY: Agreed.

PRIME MINISTER: I would hope that – look, I’ll make this point. We must disagree better. It’ll be my job as the Prime Minister over the next three years to try and lead that discussion in a better way; that we can disagree on things, but at the same time be able to work together. That's certainly as I said the day I became Prime Minister, I want to keep the economy strong to guarantee those essentials, I said I want to keep Australians safe, but I want to keep Australians together. Because when we're together we're strongest. And when my Party which has come together, we've shown that's when we're our best.

So we start this term I think, full of full of juice, full of energy, with a refreshed mandate for the Australian people. We said what we're going to do in the Budget, we laid it out all. That's what we're going to do, people know what we're going to do.

So we're just going to get about it and everyone else can get back to work and go back to the footy or go back to their families and focus on what's important to them. I'll make sure I'm looking after the things that are important to them from the government

MURRAY: PM, congratulations. Thank you for being so available to us during the campaign, we look forward to that in the next little while and well, nothing is inevitable

PRIME MINISTER: Good on you Paul.