Radio interview - 4CA Cairns Breakfast with Murray Jones

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Prime Minister

MURRAY JONES, HOST: Good morning to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. How are you this morning, Albo?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Murray. I'm very, very well.

JONES: Well look, 97 times, I know you've been hammered by this, you know hammered with this by the Opposition. But when it comes to power prices things do incredibly look like they're getting a little bit dimmer Albo.

PRIME MINISTER: What the Energy Market Regulator said this week is that as a direct result of our intervention in the market, it has made an enormous difference. The rise that was expected of around 50 per cent as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, global inflation and global energy prices skyrocketing around the world is one of the things that has happened. Now, that is a direct result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that everyone knows about, that everyone knows is real, and has had an impact in the United States, in Europe, in Japan, in our region. But the Coalition seem to be oblivious or are hoping that no one actually knows that that's the case. Global inflation in places like the United Kingdom is still in double digits, double digits, and prices have gone through the roof. That's why we took the extraordinary action of, together with the Queensland Government, we’ve put a price cap on coal, we put a price cap on gas, but we also provided $3 billion together with states and territories in order to reduce the impact of these rises and to provide energy price relief. Now, Peter Dutton voted against those $3 billion of cuts and relief for people. As did, of course, the local member there Warren Entsch and every single LNP member. So they can’t on the one hand say they care about energy prices while they're voting against a reduction in those costs.

JONES: Now, we well recall that certainly Morrison and Frydenberg talked about a surplus that didn't appear. I mean, is it a situation for you that this promise of $275, you know, a drop of power prices - was that a bit premature because things do change?

PRIME MINISTER: No, that was a modelling of our policy done by Reputex, independently of the government, that we released. The former government had no modelling for any of their policies because they didn't land one. One of the things that we're dealing with as well is a failure of the former government to provide investment. On their watch, there was one gigawatt that entered the system, and four gigawatts left. They had a lot of rhetoric, for example, in North Queensland. You might recall $4 million for Collinsville for the proponents of a new coal-fired power station. They were up there saying, ‘Oh, yes, you know, this is going to happen’ - it never happened. It never happened and it was never going to happen. There have been no new announcements of closures of coal-fired power stations since a change of government a year ago. That all happened, whether it was Liddell, a major one they used to talk about in New South Wales and of course it shut a month ago in accordance with the timeline that was established when they were the government. The problem is that they fiddled, they didn't have any investment, they didn't have any plan and as a result there is pressure on the system. But we're having to deal with it in a real way. Going forward, we know that renewables are the cheapest form of energy, and the plans that the Queensland Government, for example, have of hydropower. We're seeing massive, in Far North Queensland, projects like Big Kennedy and Little Kennedy and other projects. Projects like fixing the transmission line from Mount Isa to Townsville will make an enormous difference as well. Enabling renewables to enter the grid and putting that downward pressure on prices. But it does take time for that investment to come on. And we though, through our Rewiring the Nation program, $20 billion, $16 billion already allocated from that program to make a difference. And we're working with state and territory governments, both Liberal and Labor, to deliver a change that is needed. Because we know that the cheapest form of new energy is renewables.

JONES: And look, you know, I certainly accept what you say. It was something that came up many times under the last government, the lack of an energy plan was certainly something that caused a lot of concerns for Australia. Today is National Sorry Day, if we can change subjects, and you know obviously something that came up in Parliament for you yesterday. Quite an impassioned speech the you made, talking about the suicide rates amongst Indigenous people. And of course, you know, Indigenous youth more likely to go to jail than go to university. With respect to the Voice, in a lot of ways it seems like the misinformation and the disinformation is taking over. There is a softening of the Yes vote there. It seems like there's some basic misunderstanding about the narrowness of the Voice, that it's specifically about Native Title, anti-discrimination, things that actually directly affect Indigenous people. It is purely a Voice. It's a very simple Yes-No question. And a lot of people, I guess, are getting mixed up with the rhetoric that the Constitution is an overarching document that talks about principles, the actual form of the Voice is something that can be nutted out by the whole of Parliament, the Senate, in due course. Is that concerning to you as to the way it's been sold to the Australian public?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm very confident that Australians will vote Yes in the last quarter of this year. It is now today seven years, or six years, it was 2017, on May 26 that the Uluru Statement from the Heart was released that was a result of a First Nations Constitutional Convention. And what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People determined there was that they would seek recognition in our Constitution, that's the first thing. But they would also seek something else, seek something that would actually make a difference beyond symbolism and that is a Voice. A Voice will allow them to be listened to, it's as simple as that, on matters that directly affect them and that's why it is so important. We know that all governments have failed to close the gap. When you have a 10 year life expectancy gap, when you have the gap, as you said, where an indigenous Australian is more likely to go to jail than to go to university. When we have changes in infant mortality, in life expectancy, in housing, education and health outcomes - we need to do better. And we know that when we listen to Indigenous Australians, whether it be on issues like Indigenous rangers or community health programs or justice reinvestment, we get better outcomes and that's just common sense. And this is also about respect. Showing respect for people by enabling them to have a Voice. It won't have a right of veto over any of the parliament's decision making, it won't be a funding body, it won't run programmes. It simply is an opportunity that we have to create a body that will be able to speak to the Parliament. And that is what people like Noel Pearson and Indigenous leaders in Far North Queensland there have been calling for now for many, many years. And Australians will have the opportunity to vote Yes. Parliament will still be totally in control of the legislation around what happens and that's very clear, this is a legally sound change. And just as in the Constitution it says that Australia shall have a defence force, it doesn't say what the Defence Force will be, how many boats, all of that detail, of course, because that changes over a period of time. So all that the constitutional change will do is recognise Australia's first peoples, that’s just a matter of respect. Canada, New Zealand, most people's Constitution were changed a long time ago. New Zealand in the 19th century. It's about time. If we don't do it in 2023, when will we do it? And then provide that Voice going forward.

JONES: I think when it comes to giving self-determination, it's a bit of a no brainer. I think that argument that it makes indigenous people more equal than the rest of Australians I think is a certainly a pretty tough argument to basically hold up because there's not a lot of truth in that. You've been very generous with your time, and I know I’ve got to let you go. But just a quick thing before we go, you know, youth crime, something that continues to be an issue particularly here in Queensland, and I know there's been a lot of voices that are very loud here in Queensland. Just quickly, at the end of the day, you know, the issues that we've got with education, teachers are just falling off the line. They don't want to be teachers anymore, mainly because of behavioural issues. When it comes to parenting and respect that you and I probably had when we were kids towards adults and teachers, it has changed dramatically when it comes to respect, when it comes to discipline and I think one of the issues that continues to actually undermine our kids and their disassociation from society is social media. Is it something that you'd ever consider to actually have a look at actually having a ban on social media for kids, particularly primary school kids, at least until they're 16 years of age. Generational changes needed here, Prime Minister, something has to change, and it's going to take a long time to change. People talk about simple solutions to complex issues, but I think social media is one of the things that's undermining Australia moving forward.

PRIME MINISTER: Social media can be toxic. I put up a post yesterday morning about Tina Turner passing and one would have thought that that was non-controversial. I had a look at some of the comments and I was just shocked that somehow people were politicising something like that. She made a difference to our lives, we all remember the rugby league promotion, I remember seeing her seeing that at a grand final there at what used to be the Sydney Footy Stadium. And people I think will say things on social media they would never say to your face, like it's just appalling. And for young people that can have a devastating impact on their mental health, on the way that they normalise what is really unacceptable language and behaviour and abuse. And it is something that I know Jason Clare as the Education Minister is raising, he spoke about in Parliament this week, indeed. I think that it can make an enormous difference. I am in favour of controls in schools, I think is a sensible thing for people to do. And we need to have also just a debate that, you raising here this morning is an example, whereby we just call out and say, ‘hey, everyone, like... just chill out, stop the abuse’. By all means social media gives people an opportunity to participate in debate, it can be a great facilitator of democracy, but it can also be damaging and toxic and really, really hurtful for people. And I think that we need to bear that in mind and all of us have a responsibility here. But I think that that schools, I know many of them have made those decisions, state governments are considering actions as well, and I know my Education Minister is very focused on this issue. And Jason Clare spoke about it in Parliament and I think that we really need to address those issues.

JONES: Yeah, I mean, there's certainly those positives, but unfortunately, it's those negative impacts that I think are really undermining Australia and the future of Australia as well. Up against the Raiders, the Rabbitohs, no doubt you got your money on the Rabbits for the weekend. It has been great to talk to you this morning.

PRIME MINISTER: I’m hoping so. I'll be sitting in Canberra, of course watching the game in Sydney tomorrow night and I hope we do better than we did against Parramatta last week.

JONES: That was incredible, it really was. Thank you very much for your generous time this morning talking to me. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, have a fantastic day. Cheers.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Murray.