Interview on Today

Media release
17 Sep 2020
Prime Minister

KARL STEFANOVIC: The PM joins me now from Kirribilli House in Sydney. PM, Good morning to you.

PRIME MINISTER: G'day, Karl.

STEFANOVIC: There is no way you are going to be let in, you are enemy number one up there.

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I don't think there should be double standards. I don't think I should be treated differently to anybody else. There has been a lot of discussion about some of the hardship that people have gone through terribly in relation to how this border operates. The same rules should apply to me as to anyone else. But, you know, those rules should be fair, they should be sensible, and they should be compassionate too, I think. But look, I'll follow the rules like everyone else Karl, even if those rules from time to time seem a bit hard to work out.

STEFANOVIC: Sounds like you are going, are you?

PRIME MINISTER: We have got Parliament sitting through most of that time, Karl, and the Budget. So that's obviously going to be the focus of my attention. Look, it would be great to get up there, it would be great to get to many places. I was in Newcastle earlier this week, it was wonderful to be up there announcing our new big gas plans. Today I'll be heading down the coast announcing some other big plans on our future energy technology. $1.9 billion, 35,000 jobs, lower emissions, lower costs. It's a great plan that's going to set up jobs in manufacturing, agriculture, industrial, steel production. Exciting stuff.

STEFANOVIC: So are you going to be going to the AFL grand final or not, just to clarify?

PRIME MINISTER: I have no plans to be there, I don’t. The Prime Minister always seeks to go there when they can. I think that will be difficult given the arrangements they have got. But, look, I've got a busy job and I’ve got a lot to do at the moment and I'll keep on with what Australians need me focusing on. That doesn't mean going to the AFL grand final, I suspect.

STEFANOVIC: How did you feel last week when the Queensland Premier said you were bullying her?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I was only interested last week in Sarah being able to say goodbye to her dad, Karl. I rang the Premier privately about it. It became a public matter when the Premier raised it in the Parliament, that is unfortunate. But look I was just focused on that, that was the only issue. And, look, I shake these things off and I move on.

STEFANOVIC: From what I know of you, you are a straight shooter, PM. I wouldn't imagine, it wouldn't have sat that well with you. Were you bullying her?

PRIME MINISTER: No, of course not, Karl. I just asked that she show some discretion on this particular case. We have raised many cases in the past and I have sought to do it privately. I don't want to add any more to that issue. I think that family has gone through enough.

STEFANOVIC: No matter what you do or say, PM, Annastasia Palaszczuk will hold firm.

PRIME MINISTER: No-one is saying she needs to bring the borders down. I understand how that fits in the way that they are managing things and I know that is supported by Queenslanders. But Queenslanders also want to ensure that there aren't double standards, they want to ensure that things are run well. But, look, that's a matter for the Queensland Government. I haven't come on this morning to pick any arguments with Annastasia Palaszczuk, or anyone else for that matter. They are managing those issues and they are accountable for those issues.

STEFANOVIC: How many times did you reach out in either written form or in phone calls to Dan Andrews offering ADF support?

PRIME MINISTER: That's again a matter of public record, the officials have supported the inquiry down there. To be honest, it's not something Dan and I are talking about now. I'm keen to see Victoria open up. I said a few weeks ago when they announced the plan that I hoped that this was the worst case scenario in terms of what the plan would be. I'm pleased to see that they are moving more quickly than that. Not quickly enough, I'm sure, for many in Victoria. But that's what Dan Andrews and I are working on at the moment. Just how we can get this happening. We are not pouring over those issues of weeks and months ago. That's for other people to do. We will keep working together. People just expect me, I think Karl, to work with premiers to try and get stuff done. Sure it gets frustrating from time to time, there is an election on in Queensland so you can expect a lot of politics out of there. I'm not looking to engage with that, I just want to make sure Australians are safe and that they are in jobs.

STEFANOVIC: There are reports this morning your expert medical panel has new definitions for COVID-free zones and hotspots. Will they make any difference? The ACT has been COVID free for 65 days now.

PRIME MINISTER: I think those reports are overstated. I'm not expecting a lot of progress on that by Friday. The Commonwealth has its hotspot definition. I think that's a sensible definition. I think if other states want to have more extreme definitions then that's up to them ultimately. But that obviously has implications for how they run their show and what it means for people's jobs and all of those sorts of things. I'm sure they will keep working on that. What I'm encouraged by is that in Victoria we are seeing regional areas open up. I know the New South Wales Premier is keen to get that border down as soon as she can and the South Australian Premier as well. So it may be we will have a border down between New South Wales and Victoria and South Australia before we have one down between New South Wales and Queensland, where the case numbers are radically different.

STEFANOVIC: I get what you are saying. Meantime you are planning to bring more Australians home. How will you do that PM? Will you use RAAF or chartered Qantas planes? There are a lot of planes sitting idle right now.

PRIME MINISTER: There is no need for that. We simply had to do is lift the caps. The states asked me back in July to put caps on entry into our big ports in Sydney and Queensland and in Western Australia. Obviously, people couldn't go into Victoria then because of what was happening. There was pressure on the quarantine system. So we agreed to that. We are well past that now. We have done a full review of all of those quarantine arrangements in those states. What's happening is NSW will take about 3,000 a week, up 500. WA will go from 500 to 1,000. Queensland will go from 500 to 1,000. We have got ADF supporting all of those arrangements. In Western Australia there will be about one ADF officer for every ten people who come in and that's just with the ADF they have got now. So I think that decision has been made, that starts Friday week. We will get 2,000 more people in, coming through normal commercial flights. They will go through the normal hotel quarantine arrangements. There’s plenty of hotel rooms in all those cities. I particularly want to thank New South Wales, they are getting on with this and they are taking half the number. So they are people who are going home through Sydney, then on to Queensland or Tasmania or particularly Victoria. This is going to let West Australians come home to Western Australia, Queenslanders come home to Queensland. They were all taking more than this before caps were put in place than what we are asking them to do now, so look, it's a decision, I think it's pretty reasonable. We should get on with it.

STEFANOVIC: Two really quick ones for you. It's being reported this morning your Government is considering - incredible story this - a $25 billion private sector-led infrastructure plan according to The Australian. Is that true?

PRIME MINISTER: The Budget will be announced in October. Our infrastructure plans will be laid out there. There is always lots of speculation before budgets, Karl, you know that.

STEFANOVIC: Good plan though.

PRIME MINISTER: We will make our announcements in the Budget. We have already brought forward very significant infrastructure investment, about $10 billion, but that goes to what we are doing with energy, with gas, with gas pipelines, with new gas-fired power stations, with the big plan we are announcing today, 35,000 jobs, investment in new technologies like hydrogen technologies. You think 10 years ago, Karl, the things we are talking about now for future energy they weren't even imagined 10 years ago. That's why we need to update how we do that, we need to change the rules about how we can invest in these technologies. It's not just about solar and wind now, it's about hydrogen, it’s about carbon capture and storage, it’s about being able to produce steel at lower emissions lower costs and to keep those jobs. And that’s what I am interested in doing.

STEFANOVIC: A new citizenship test finally this morning is out now. I'm just wondering this morning, PM, would Dan and Anna pass the mateship test?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm sure they would. Look, this is important, because it is communicating to people, particularly around English language. One of the things I learnt when I was Immigration Minister, Karl, and Social Services Minister is that people's employment outcomes as a migrant to Australia rapidly increase if they have got a good strong command of English. That is such an important skill that migrants who come to Australia need to have the best possible life in Australia. And so this puts an even greater emphasis on English language. It is in their interest, in Australia's interests, it is our national language, it helps people get jobs, support themselves and not have to rely on welfare.

STEFANOVIC: I can't believe the Prime Minister of this country can't go to the AFL grand final. It's a travesty.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's interesting times, isn't it? I mean, you never know, maybe they will change their mind. Who knows?

STEFANOVIC: Don't hold your breath, PM.

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not about to hold my breath, Karl, I can assure you of that. I'll have to focus on the Sharks making this year's NRL grand final.

STEFANOVIC: Whoa, whoa, whoa.

PRIME MINISTER: I'm a bit more focused on that.

STEFANOVIC: Thank you PM, have a great day, always appreciate your time.

PRIME MINISTER: Cheers guys.