PM Morrison writing at his desk in his prime ministerial office

Radio interview with Alan Jones, 2GB

20 Mar 2019
Prime Minister
Turkish President’s comments; Plan for Australia’s future population; milk prices.

ALAN JONES: The Prime Minister is on the line, Prime Minister good morning.

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning Alan.

JONES: Firstly PM, Erdogan, the Turkish President. Do you have a comment on that?

PRIME MINISTER: I do. First of all I'll be calling in the Turkish Ambassador today to make my remarks directly to him. But I find the comments obviously, offensive. Deeply offensive. But also I think very unhelpful because Australia and New Zealand, we have both absolutely, unconditionally condemned the terrorist attack in Christchurch. We have reached out and provided every support to the Muslim community both here in Australia and in New Zealand. Australia and New Zealand are models of tolerant societies for people from all around the world.

Now I find President Erdogan’s comments very much at odds with what Ataturk said -

JONES: Correct.

PRIME MINISTER: That our son’s could lie safely on their shores and rest in peace there. I find it a violation of that as well. So this is all - you know I think it's our job here Allan, not to escalate this.

JONES: True.

PRIME MINISTER: It is our job to take the temperature down, that's what tolerant societies do. I find the comments very regrettable and unhelpful. Perhaps, he's a member of the G20, I hope he will join with me in addressing issues around social media when it comes to terrorist attacks. Because social media platforms have been weaponized by terrorists of all influences around the world. Hopefully he can join in constructive initiatives working together with ourselves and New Zealand on that.

JONES: Okay. To come back to this immigration thing, 160,000. Many people would say Prime Minister that that’s about where it is at the moment. Do you think – right, 160 so you're not really making too much of a change at all and the fact that you say it won’t alter any kind of Budget appropriations indicates that it’s already there. But do you think the people of Sydney in particular and Melbourne will feel any difference in terms of what you're saying today? And if so when?

PRIME MINISTER: Well they'll start feeling that in terms of how the intake is done from 1 July this year. Because it's not only what the overall number is - which is the cap of 160,000 - but it's about where people are being encouraged to go. So this is about ensuring that there is less pressure on big cities like Sydney and Melbourne, where there are real population pressures which are frustrating people getting home on time and safely, to be with the kids, help with homework, as well as tradies being able to get on site. You don't get for paid sitting in a traffic jam. So, it’s about encouraging people to go out outside the big cities. So that includes Adelaide, it includes Darwin, it includes Newcastle

JONES: How do you get them to stay there?

PRIME MINISTER: Well the points test will give them incentives if they want permanent residence to remain in these locations. Everyone who comes on a provisional visa, they want the permanent residence. To get the permanent residence, you'll have to comply with the terms of your visa. But equally the states and territories will be given more places under the current program. They'll go from less than a fifth, to more than a quarter. That will give them a greater say about how many more people are coming into the states and territories.

So I think this is a very balanced plan Alan. It is one that deals with infrastructure which is the real issue that needs to be addressed. You've talked about things like fast rail, but the congestion-busting road projects we're putting right across the country, the road investments we're making out around Western Sydney International Nancy-Bird Walton Airport, all of these programs are designed to try and relieve the burden on our big cities, while realising the opportunities outside our big cities.

JONES: Okay. Just to use language that people can understand, the number of permanent residents is what you're talking about here. So all the Department of Home Affairs has to do, is to reduce the number of permanent resident stamps. That's fine and you're talking 160,000 and it's very easy to understand. But wouldn't you concede that many of the future permanent residents are already here? I mean some of them are partners of citizens. Some of them are partners of permanent residents. They have a right to permanent residence, it’s just a matter of when. So is the permanent intake the one that counts? Because there are many people here who will increase the population as a result of the fact that they here and will be able to secure permanent residence and they aren’t part of the 160,000?

PRIME MINISTER: Ultimately, to have a permanent visa, they would have to be in the 160,000, that includes family visas and those visas – which are about 45 or 47 odd thousand a year at the moment. There is no change to that, that will continue. But 70 per cent of the migration program will continue to be on skills. This is a very important issue, having skills be the dominant form of migration to the country, that's what actually grows the economy.

I remember back when John Howard came into power, after Paul Keating, the percentage of that migration program that was skilled was round about 30 per cent. 30 per cent and now we've got it up to 70 percent.

JONES: 70 per cent, right.

PRIME MINISTER: That is very important. It's really adding value and because migration does, migrants have added value, of course, to our country. So I'm disappointed with the comments of Michael Daly in New South Wales.

JONES: Oh forget him, forget him.

PRIME MINISTER: They were appalling comments on the contribution of Asian immigrants to Australia. Bill Shorten should denounce it.

JONES: He's no worry to you. Just tomorrow though, are you going to be undermined in a way because - unless you've got a bit of an insight, I'm sure as Prime Minister you most probably have - because these net overseas migration figures come out tomorrow. It'll count everyone who is here for 12 months out of the last 16, net overseas migration. It's been running at massively high levels of over 200,000 net overseas migration figures. What happens if tomorrows figures are even higher?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it would only reinforce the need for the plan that we've announced today. But you're right to say that temporary migration has had a very big impact on the level of population growth. And I've been making I've been making that point for a long time. I mean, if you think about a bus and there's 10 extra people on the bus, well four extra people on the bus coming in a year were born here about - just under that actually - a bit over four have come as temporary migrants who seek to move to permanent residence, and the balance two are permanent migrants. So that's basically how the inflow of population works.

JONES: Yeah but I mean, you've got 500,000 international students, 500,000 international students. My God.

PRIME MINISTER: And let me say in this plan we've announced today we're providing incentives for those students to actually go and study in regional areas by giving them an additional a year of work rights.

JONES: But supposing they get the permanent residency, supposing they get... just half of them get permanent residency.

PRIME MINISTER: I know but Alan that has to come in them as 160,000 cap. That's how these two things work together. So the issue if you think about, it the impact of what our international student industry and our tourist industry obviously is massively important for our economy it creates a lot of regional jobs. So you've got more of those students who are coming in choosing to study in regional areas or places like Adelaide or Darwin and things like that. That is going to support those economies and it's going to remove congestion pressure off Sydney and off Melbourne. So the real design of this plan is to focus not just on what the total level of intake is but where people are encouraged to go.

JONES: OK good. I won't talk to you today about the infrastructure because that's part of where they will go to settle. You talk about Melbourne to Shepparton and Sydney to Newcastle and so on…

PRIME MINISTER: We'll have more to say about that.

JONES: Quite. But could I just say on that, the notion that we want to get people out of the capital cities, a most laudable notion. The elephant in the room, Prime Minister, surely is water. If you harvested water, if you built dams, if you moved water to regional Australia you could increase productivity dramatically and not only would there be a capacity to live in the regions, people would be happy to live there and you increase the productive quotient in Australia. So in infrastructure, when are you going to harvest the water, move the water and build some dams?

PRIME MINISTER: Well we're building one at Hughenden.

JONES: Not enough.


PRIME MINISTER: I’ve been in the job for just over six months, one of the first thing that it was we we got this dam project underway up in Hughenden. We've got a half a billion dollar water fund which is designed to get a lot of these projects moving. So look I don't agree… sorry I do agree, I should say, with the idea that we need to get this water infrastructure. One of the other things that…

JONES: You could feed Asia, you could feed Asia, people would willingly live west of the Great Dividing Range and the quality of life if they knew they weren't going to be immersed and surrounded and enveloped by drought. And we have to guarantee water. Harvesting does that.


JONES: OK, one other thing because we're both running out of time here. I'm just wondering whether you would, because governments interfere and intervene notions they interfere. Intervene often in issues of great crisis. I'm putting to you the dairy industry is in crisis. Now, Coles and Aldi have said, ‘oh well we'll lift the price for home brand milk’ and so on. The problem is not at the retail level. Prime Minister. The problem is at the farm gate. Now at the moment there's a drought on. That means the cows produce less milk. The price of food goes up, the hay and the grain goes up and the processors, mostly foreign owned, are screwing the dairy farmer. Now, I know you're going to call people in over social media and well done about that and say listen there's got to be some responsibility along with the profits. But why wouldn't you call these processors in and say look, enough is enough. I've seen it all. You're not going to continue to rip off the dairy farmer. You have to renegotiate the farm gate price so that the cost of production is not greater than the price he's getting for his milk. Forget Coles and Woolworths. They're not the problem.

PRIME MINISTER: Well as you already noted there has been sort of movement on this as we've seen reported today. And I think that's well…

JONES: That’s Coles and Woolworths, that’s not farm gate prices. These people are on contracts. The ACCC have said these contracts that have been entered to by the poor dairy farmer are extortionate. Why doesn't someone speak to the processors and say you can't go on like this. If you can't regulate yourself, we will.

PRIME MINISTER: Well I think that's a fair point to be made to them and this is what David Littleproud and I will continue to do with those very producers and the ACCC as you rightly say should have an important role in that because they have the power to move prosecutions in these cases. And remember, it was our Government that introduced the effects test. That was introduced by our Government which actually started to level the playing field between the big companies and whether they be, you know, the big milk producers or others, the wholesalers or the retailers. The milk code conduct, the dairy code of conduct, that is someone with already taken action on. And we've been doing that into partnership with industry. But I do know the frustrations. I was down in the seat of Gilmore the other day I heard it loud and clear, so there is a lot more work to do on that front and David Littleproud and I will continue to progress that.

JONES: OK, good. I'll let you go. But it isn't fair, is it, to put it in very simple language, PM. Supposing you're a dairy farmer, you are working all hours of the day and night. It's an important industry. It’s on our breakfast table every day. The Tasmanian farms have already been sold to Canada to China. So what we've got left we've got to look after. Now, why would we say to any Australian that the price of your commodity will be less than the cost of providing it? And farmers are desperate. We're talking suicide and everything here, PM. I mean, they're looking to you just say - you said at Gilmore - I understand it, these are foreign owned processors, I'm going to pull them in and say something's got to be done.

PRIME MINISTER: Well there's a lot more work to be done on that. There's no doubt about that.

JONES: Can you report to us on what progress you will be able to make.


JONES: Good on you. Good to talk to you, thank you for your time.