PRIME MINISTER: Good morning Alan.
JONES: Prime Minister I hope it’s the last time I have to mention two words to you. One is Malcolm, the other is Turnbull. But you were unfailingly loyal to Malcolm Turnbull and that loyalty has cost you, in the eyes of the electorate. They’re wanting you to completely break from the Turnbull model, if there was such a thing. But I don’t need to remind you, this is the man who since you became leader suggested Peter Dutton be referred to the High Court, refused to campaign for Dave Sharma in Wentworth, attempted to embarrass you over the Israeli embassy issue, followed an Instagram campaign dedicated to unseating Tony Abbott. And the public now are calling him, the correspondence to me and in social media is overwhelming. Just a simple question and then we’ll get onto other stuff – have you told Malcolm Turnbull to move on and let you get on with the job and give the loyalty to you that you gave to him?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I haven’t really had anything to say to him for some weeks actually, Alan. There hasn’t been much contact. I’ve been pretty focused on the job that I’m focused on and I’m sure there has been a lot of messaging going along in those directions. But you know, as Prime Minister, you always seek to treat others with respect and courtesy and I will always extend that courtesy particularly to former Prime Ministers whoever they are.
JONES: There’s talk of a humiliating defeat today for you and a vote is going to take place in the Parliament in what I might loosely call the Phelps Bill. The woman’s been there for five minutes, at the same time, look, to put this simply, is this … Labor and the Greens are now voting to say if you’re on Nauru or Manus Island, you can come to Australia on the advice of two doctors. Is this starting up the people smuggling trade here? Is Labor opening there door? This is a powerful political point for you.
PRIME MINISTER: Yes it is, that is exactly what it is. I mean, Labor, as we know, would always get rid of temporary protection visas. That’s something I had introduced, restored, when I was Immigration Minister. Remember we had three key components of what we did to stop the boats – temporary protection visas, offshore processing, and turning back boats. They’ve already said they’re not going to do temporary protection visas and in this Bill today, they will be abandoning offshore processing as we know it. It is a green light coming from Labor teaming up with the Greens to basically completely crumble offshore processing in this country and they’re doing it for one pathetic reason – to try and play some games in the House of Representatives. It shows a complete and total lack of commitment in the need for strong border protection in this country. They wonder why they let 50,000 people in on 800 boats – because of this. They don’t believe in having stronger borders. This is an absolutely destructive and irresponsible, reckless move by the Labor Party and it tells you everything you’ve always known about them and border protection. They cannot be trusted. They are weak as when it comes to border protection.
JONES: You and Tony Abbott were responsible for turning back the boats. I’m quite surprised that a Party trying to win Government would play to the strengths of its opponent. This is a powerful point for you. Just for our listeners to understand simply, Labor and the Greens today will, it is said, team up with key independents to allow refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island to be transferred to Australia on the advice of two doctors. So the old people smuggling trade will be smiling, won’t they?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh they’ll be smiling and they’ll be hoping there’s more to come.
JONES: Will you lose this vote? Is it clear that you’ll lose the vote?
PRIME MINISTER: Not 100 per cent clear, and that’s… you know, we’re in a minority government, so we’ll be working hard to try and defeat it. But the other thing to bear in mind in all of this is that the Labor Party think they’ve got this election in the bag. This is on this side of the election, in opposition. Imagine what they’d be like on the other side in Government. This is a team of people who let 50,000 people in on 800 boats. 1,200 people died. 6,000 people went into detention. Now, they can’t kid themselves that this about getting children off Nauru. There are only ten children on Nauru. Only ten. There are four of those children who actually don’t wish to leave.
JONES: There’s 65 medical officers on Nauru isn’t there?
PRIME MINISTER: Exactly. Exactly.
JONES: Has Kerryn Phelps ever been to Nauru?
PRIME MINISTER: Not to my knowledge, no. And there are people voting on this Bill in the Senate who have offered briefings to from the security agencies and they have refused them.
JONES: Isn’t it offensive to the people of Nauru, to the Nauruans, to start telling the world that everyone who is living there is unsafe, unhealthy and uncared for?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes it is terrible offensive and it’s actually potentially racist. This is why I have never understood why Australians would be so disrespectful to Nauruans, but we’re not talking about kids here. What we’re talking about is single adult males, some of which won’t even be refugees, sitting over in Manus Island and we’re not talking about, you know, people you’d happily have just come and live next door -
JONES: Well it is the psychology of it as well as well as the asylum seeker trade see a window now to get into Australia now via the back door, that is the psychology of it.
PRIME MINISTER: You look for the weakness.
JONES: That’s it, absolutely.
PRIME MINISTER: And the weakness is Bill Shorten. The weakness is Bill Shorten on the economy. The weakness is Bill Shorten on taxes and the weakness is Bill Shorten on higher electricity prices. I mean Bill Shorten is the weakness.
JONES: Can I just take another Labor point and I want to thank you on behalf of people in Queensland who are writing to me because you have announced a fire fighting package and just for the benefit of our Queenslanders who are listening right across Queensland, $11 million to be spent leasing large planes to be used as water bombers in Queensland they will come from interstate and this will help save Queensland from repeat devastation like they have faced in the last weeks, six million spent on developing a new national fire danger rating system which will help log fires. Now can I tell you what is happening in Queensland this morning, they are up there saying farmers and they have taken to social media and they are saying it is the Labor government’s laws which makes it almost impossible to remove growth which creates more fuel for bushfires now I know James McGrath yesterday moved a motion in the Parliament to recognise that state government laws prevented land holders from safe guarding their property and the motion was beaten. Now isn’t this a manifestation of stupid Labor policy again? What can you do about it? Farmers want to remove stuff that makes bushfires less likely and Labor are saying no you can’t touch it. I know it is your land but you can’t touch it.
PRIME MINISTER: It’s outrageous and the native veg laws in Queensland are exactly that and I remember I was up in Rockhampton last year and these same issues were being raised. The Queensland State Government is negligent when it comes to how they are handling these native vegetation laws and I know that Matt Canavan has also called for an enquiry into fires so these issues could be addressed and they should be.
JONES: And the other side of the coin as you would be aware the same farmers who are facing drought want to feed their cattle on mulga and the government is prosecuting them for using mulga to keep animals alive.
PRIME MINISTER: I saw that when I was out in Quilpie that time Alan and they took me all through the mulga issue there, and yes these laws are basically undermining the livelihoods of people living in rural Australia and they are doing it all at the behest of those who are having the soy lattes in inner city parts of the country.
PRIME MINISTER: So I agree that is not how it should be run, there should be that enquiry that Matt is calling for. There should be an inquiry into every major fire like this.
JONES: Please do something, I mean these people are desperate now, they are saying on the one hand we get burnt out and we can’t stop ourselves from getting burnt out next time.
PRIME MINISTER: These are very valid points.
JONES: Okay just as a former Treasurer this is a very big issue and they are writing to me again today, Christmas time coming. These draw down rates there is talk today that there may be a cut in interest rates be that as it may interest rates are at an all-time low and yet for people who have got their own superannuation funds that try and stay off welfare the draw down rate if you are under 65 is 4% but just take that cohort of 65 – 79 they have got take 6% draw down 6% of their funds, now they are not getting that amount back in the investment so they are having to draw down the capital is there any way in which you can have a look at revising these draw down rates which have been in, I don’t know since Bill Shorten was the Finance Minister and did nothing.
PRIME MINISTER: They get looked at every six months so I’ll have a chat to the Social Services Minister and they are reviewed on every occasion. As people will know with your superannuation, you don’t just live off the earnings you live off the earnings of the principal, that is the whole point of regulation but those draw down rates are looked at regularly.
JONES: Well they are too high.
PRIME MINISTER: There are big changes in economic events so that is always a reason to have another look.
JONES: So they should be changes consistent with interest rates shouldn’t they?
PRIME MINISTER: We can have another look.
JONES: So I can raise that with you next year.
PRIME MINISTER: Sure
JONES: Good on you. Energy prices, I won’t go on because we have done a lot on that but I will raise this point, you with your Energy Minister Angus Taylor, the single shareholder of the fourth biggest energy company in the country, this Red Lumo, Snowy Red Lumo, it has got about 1.1 million customers so if you want to reduce electricity prices why don’t you start with those 1.1 million households and direct the energy retailer, which you own, to do it immediately.
PRIME MINISTER: Well we did. We have done it. They were one of the ones who dropped their prices.
JONES: [Laughter] Is anyone listening? Not to the… I mean prices have gone up 52% in the last 12 months.
PRIME MINISTER: They have just announced discounts and changes to their prices they have done it in the last 3 weeks.
JONES: Right, so do I check up and see whether you got this right?
PRIME MINISTER: I can send you the details of what the changes are.
JONES: I would like to see the details, my understanding is that hasn’t happened.
PRIME MINISTER: I’ll send you the details, I’ll have Angus to send it across to you.
JONES: Good on you please do, just for the benefit again of our listeners, Red Lumo is owned actually by the Government, the Energy Minister on behalf of the Australian people. It has got 1.1 million customers. Prime Minister, on this question of encryption and the encryption Bill. Everybody is opposed - and you know that – to terrorism and pedophilia and these abominable crimes. No one should be able to operate technology in such a way that they can escape appropriate punishment for these crimes. But can I draw your attention to the outstanding Professor Codevilla who is the Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Boston University, who in the last 48 hours has written and this is also related to his book which is called To Make and Keep The Peace. He warns that fears over homeland security have created a government octopus, it sucks up vast resources, while curbing civil rights and empowering government bureaucracies largely because he calls it: “a therapeutic reluctance to identify Islamist enemies and take the focus off the narrow measures needed to protect society from them”. He says: “Instead of focusing on what we know to be the source of the trouble,” your encryption legislation “allows police and intelligence agencies access to everyone’s messages, demanding that we believe that any amongst us is as likely or not to be a terrorist”. So to paraphrase Professor Codevilla, in sum it demands that Australians trust each other less than ever, that they trust the authorities more than ever. Do you understand that point?
PRIME MINISTER: I understand the point but I mean no one has been more forward-leaning in calling out the causes of terrorism that we’re seeing in Australia and that is almost overwhelmingly, radical extremist violent Islamic terrorism, that’s what it is. That’s why we spend so much energy working with communities to counter radicalism and to ensure that we’re reducing the threat. The other thing you need, the other tool you need is to be able to get access to these encrypted communications. Ten years ago –
JONES: But many people have encrypted communications in relation to their bank accounts.
PRIME MINISTER: Well that’s of no interest to the authorities. What they’re interested in is –
JONES: How do we know though?
PRIME MINISTER: Because of the warrants that will be required and where their focus of attention is.
JONES: Well just explain to our listeners how then you would get access to an encrypted message, what do you have to do first according to your legislation, because none of us have seen this legislation I might add.
PRIME MINISTER: Well the agencies have got to go through the courts with the normal warrant process which would enable people’s communications to be accessed. Now the sort of people we’re looking for are the people who are engaged in these sorts of activities; people who are engaged in organized crime, people who are engaged in running pedophile networks. I mean these are the people who use these encrypted messages to avert being picked up by police.
JONES: So they can’t automatically go to messages, to encrypted messages, which people use as I said for the bank accounts?
PRIME MINISTER: No of course not.
JONES: They will have to go to?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s done through the normal warrant process.
JONES: Right. But say there’s an utterly discredited outfit like the NSW ICAC, have added jurisdiction expanded to include terrorism?
PRIME MINISTER: No, no ICAC aren’t involved but the Police are. The argument that was being had with the Labor Party was the Labor Party weren’t going to let the Police have access to this and that would have been ridiculous. I mean what often happens when you’re countering terrorism is that the police will be focusing on an organized crime investigation and they’ll pick up something there which will link them to a possible terrorist investigation –
JONES: So you’re confident that privacy matters will be respected in this legislation, you can give the voter out there that assurance.
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah absolutely.
JONES: Because on the one hand, they do want, because they understand what you’re saying about terrorism and pedophilia and so on, so they don’t have a problem about that –
PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely Alan and I mean these laws are used to catch the scum that try to bring our country down and we can’t give them a leave pass. I do get a bit irritated when, you know, what sound like very sophisticated arguments basically at the end of the day become a shield for the nastiest pieces of work –
JONES: For this to continue –
PRIME MINISTER: …you could think of.
JONES: Okay, now look the other thing you’ll be well aware of and that is Senator Jim Molan. John Negroponte, later the US Deputy Secretary of State wrote to John Howard because Molan, a general, was the most senior officer in any allied force in combat since the Vietnam War. Negroponte wrote to John Howard as Prime Minister and said: “Molan has made history and helped reshape the Middle East”. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from Australia, the Legion of Merit by the USA and the Liberal Party don’t want him, they put him in an unwinnable position. This has angered people enormously, you’d be aware of that, what of the future, what can you tell our listeners of the future of Senator Jim Molan?
PRIME MINISTER: Well as you know Jim stood for that preselection and -
JONES: It was factionalised and stacked against him.
PRIME MINISTER: It was the largest preselection I think that has ever been held.
JONES: He spoke brilliantly.
PRIME MINISTER: There were over 500 people. There was a whole bunch of people sitting in the very conservative part of our Party who didn’t show up and that’s a bit strange as to why they didn’t show up and vote for Jim on that.
JONES: So you understand that this is our fastest growing demographic the over 65s, 250,000 military veterans and they are angry. What’s his future?
PRIME MINISTER: Where there’s an opportunity for Jim to continue to serve I’m sure he’ll put his hand up for something.
JONES: But will you put your hand up for him?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I was the one who introduced him into the Liberal Party Alan.
JONES: We’ve been beaten by time, we could talk til’ midday. Look, thank you for your time.
PRIME MINISTER: Look, I’m a big supporter of Jim, but he’s got to be elected in accordance with the Party process.
JONES: And he’s got to meet the demands of the factions, you know that. Look thank you for your time, happy Christmas and good luck. You’re going a good job, keep at it.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much Alan and Merry Christmas to all of your listeners as well.