Radio interview with Chris Kenny, 2GB

Transcript
17 Jan 2018
Prime Minister
Victorian law and order, road fatalities, Australia Day; Energy policy; North Korea; Prime Minister’s visit to Japan
E&OE

CHRIS KENNY:

As promised the Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull joins me on the line. Thanks for joining us Malcolm.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you Chris, it’s great to be with you.

CHRIS KENNY:

Happy New Year to you.

PRIME MINISTER:

And to you too.

CHRIS KENNY:

Now you’ve been in Victoria today and you’re press conference down there you were standing side-by-side with the Acting Premier James Merlino, bit of toing-and-froing over law and order in Victoria. Surely you stand by your comments made earlier in the year that Victoria has a law and order problem and at least some of that relates to African gangs?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, obviously that’s true Chris. That’s plain and it’s very much a failure of the State Government. The reality is that what you’ve got there is a breakdown of law and order. The Acting Premier as you saw him with me there – you know at an otherwise harmonious announcement, we were talking about a City Deal for Geelong and talking about investment and jobs and innovation and technology and all of those very important things. But you know, as I said in the press conference, the most important duty of every government is to keep its’ citizens safe. And if people feel they are not safe to go down to the shops, go to school, go to work, then the government has to address it.

I have to say I think the State Government here in Victoria is in denial. You would’ve heard the Acting Premier talking about how crime stats were getting better. He didn’t seem to me to be really fronting up to the challenge.

CHRIS KENNY:

Well the actual Premier –

PRIME MINISTER:

But Matt Guy, the Opposition Leader, the Liberal Leader has the answers and one of the most important messages he’s got is, if you do the crime, you’ve got to do the time. 

CHRIS KENNY:

Daniel Andrews the Premier of course, he’s responded previously to your comments about this problem and you shooting it home to the Victorian Government. He said that you’ve never raised these issues directly with him. Have you rectified that? Have you spoken to the Victorian Premier to offer any sort of federal assistance or advice on how to deal with all this?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I haven’t had a discussion with Daniel Andrews about this particular law enforcement issue in recent times. We’ve talked a lot about terrorism issues as you know and other law enforcement issues. But you know, this is very much a straightforward community policing issue. I mean, these are young people, who are breaking the law. This is not a sophisticated international drug cartel or an international terrorist organisation.

This is straightforward community policing and the police have to be given the opportunity to do their job, to apprehend the criminals and when they’re brought before the courts they have to be dealt with. This is the whole point that Matt Guy is making; that if people are apprehended and convicted of breaking the law in this way, then they’ve got to be punished.

CHRIS KENNY:

Now Malcolm Turnbull we’ve been spending a lot of time today on this program talking about the national tragedy of road fatalities. In particular, the increasing number of truck fatalities or fatalities related to heavy vehicles crashes in New South Wales. We’ve been talking about a range of factors here; speed is a factor of course, fatigue of drivers is obviously a factor given that a lot of drivers are driving 12 hour shifts. We need some sort of national action on this problem, but I note in the meantime, one of the people we’ve been speaking to Tony Sheldon the head of the Transport Workers Union, he has tried to sheet home some of blame for this to the Federal Government. He has said that you as Prime Minister have ‘blood on your hands’ because of the axing of the independent road safety watchdog.

What’s your response to that and this broader issue of what needs to be done for truck fatalities on our roads?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the first is that the so-called Road Safety Tribunal that the Labor Party set up, which we abolished, had only one objective and that was to put independent family-owned, owner-driver businesses out of business. As you may recall, it came very close to doing that, there were 50,000 owner-drivers off the road as a result of a decision by that Tribunal in 2016 and we were able to abolish it through the courts.

Now it had absolutely nothing to do with road safety at all. It was all about looking after the interests of the Transport Workers Union, so that’s the first point.

The second point on safety and road accidents; the increase in road accidents over the holiday period in and in recent times is a matter of the gravest concern. Our hearts go out to the families of those who have lost their lives and been injured and of course, we wish that all those who have been injured, achieve a speedy recovery. It is an ongoing tragedy.

Now at our level, the federal level, you will have seen Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister is now responsible for transport. He has said that one of his first priorities is to get together with the other Transport Ministers to examine this and to see what action we can take.

CHRIS KENNY:

That makes sense, for starters there’s different rules in different states. There’s got to be a national approach, surely.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you know, as the Prime Minister of Australia I’m always in favor of a national approach. But as you know, state governments and state parliaments often have different views. The critical thing is we’ve seen the death toll going down and now it’s coming up again and the question is why?

You know we are spending more money on roads. Roads by and large are safer, because we’ve obviously got more dual carriage way for example. The road network is safer than it used to be. Of course there are more vehicles on the road than there used to be, but we are going to need to examine this very, very carefully as a nation. As a federation, the responsibility for road safety is overwhelming with state governments as you know.

CHRIS KENNY:

We’ve had a lot of callers -

PRIME MINISTER:

We have the convening power to bring them together and you know, see what we can do, what changes we can make.

CHRIS KENNY:

You’ve spoken about the financial pressures previously that existed on owner-operators. We know it is tough to make ends meat, we know there’s a lot of competition for freight on our roads, but we’ve had a lot of drivers themselves calling in today, talking about the fatigue issue. Driving 14 hours a day, day after day, in order to meet their contracts and in order to meet the demands of their customers or their employers. This fatigue issue must be one that has to be put front and centre, when we’re talking about heavy vehicles?

PRIME MINISTER:

As you know, there are regulations relating to the hours the drivers can drive, designed to eliminate or reduce that risk of driver inattention from fatigue. But again, these are the very points that Barnaby will be discussing with the state Transport Ministers when he gets them together.

CHRIS KENNY:

Good stuff. Lets get on to the Australia Day controversy, this annual fracas over changing the date. The Greens saying they want to change the date and then I think, really insultingly, backing a call to fly our flags at half mast on Australia Day. This is really an insult to the nation.

PRIME MINISTER:

Tells you everything you want to know about the Greens Party, doesn’t it?

CHRIS KENNY:

Well, it does.

PRIME MINISTER:

They want to fly the Australian flag at half-mast on our national day. I mean really, sometimes the Greens go beyond a parody of themselves. Look, Australia Day Chris, is a day on which the overwhelming majority of Australians – I’d say all but a handful of Australians – are proud of Australia and its achievements. Of course, our history is long and complex and there have been tragic chapters in it and we understand that. But overwhelmingly, we can be so proud of what we have achieved. Our successes; the fact that we are a free, democratic, successful, the most successful multicultural society in the world. We’ve achieved all of that, living together in remarkable harmony. We have got so much to be proud of and on Australia Day, is the day we are proud of being what we are; Australians. 

CHRIS KENNY:

We expect the Greens to behave in this way, to behave like a bunch of agitators or activists I suppose, on the fringe. But are you concerned at the way that some people in the Labor Party – we’ve heard Brendan O’Connor, Linda Burney – they say they stick by January 26th but they’ve really given succor to the debate, a bit of a  nod and a wink, about this is a debate we need to have. Shouldn’t we see the Labor Party strongly united behind January the 26th as well?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well this is the test of leadership for Bill Shorten, isn’t it? He says that he supports Australia Day, he says that he supports Australia Day on the 26th of January. Well, when’s he going to demonstrate that? When’s he going to ensure that his Party backs him on this issue? Again, I get back to what the mainstream of Australians think about this; overwhelming majority of Australians, the vast majority believe Australia Day should be celebrated on the day it always has been celebrated, the 26th of January and that is a day – as you’ve heard me say before – where the ceremonies, celebrations, they begin with a Welcome to Country, they begin with an acknowledgement and an honouring of the oldest continuous human civilization of our First Australian 65,000 years and they end with our newest Australia citizens, as people get their citizenship certificates. It speaks to what we are today and what we’ve achieved and we should be proud of it. So I’d like to see Bill Shorten speaking as proudly and as passionately in defence of Australia Day as I am, that would be a good unity ticket for him to join.

 

CHRIS KENNY:

I’m speaking to Malcom Turnbull, the Prime Minister, you’re listening on 2GB or 4BC around New South Wales and Queensland. Prime Minister I might get to your trip in just a moment, but before I do, I want to get to the domestic issue of energy. We’ve got a pretty touch weather forecast confronting three states over the next few days. It’s going to be hot in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. Those are the conditions where we get the greatest demand on our electricity network. We’re getting into mid-January of course, where most people are back at work as well. Are you concerned that the national electricity market is going to be tested over coming days? Do we have the reliability of supply that we so obviously need?

PRIME MINISTER:

Certainty it’s a matter of the highest concern Chris as you know. The Australia Energy Market Operator has gone to great lengths to ensure that we do have the energy supply and the backup to support our electricity market. But they’ve had to go, the AEMO has had to go, to great lengths to do that. Because as you know, you’ve seen some extraordinary failures of energy policy over the years, notably in your home state of South Australia, where the Labor Government allowed baseload coal-fired power stations to close, introduced an enormous amount of wind power and then did nothing to provide the backup to support that wind power, to support that energy demand when the wind stopped blowing.

CHRIS KENNY:

Well now their backup is a bunch of diesel generators they’ve installed.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah that’s right.

CHRIS KENNY:

Are you confident it’s all going to hold up over the next few days? With a bit of sticky tape and an old  diesel generator here and there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I imagine the diesel generators will work but the irony of course is the amount of emissions, greenhouse gas emissions they create will be enormous, not to speak of every other kind of pollution.

CHRIS KENNY:

A big issue for you this year Prime Minister and in the lead up to the next election. How is you energy policy distinctly different from the Labor Party’s given that you’ve both committed to the same Paris emissions reduction target?

PRIME MINISTER:

There’s a huge difference, Labor’s policy is to achieve nearly double the amount of emissions reduction as we committed to in Paris. Now just holding that frame for a second, why would you unilaterally double the commitment that you’d made in an international agreement?

CHRIS KENNY:

Well, you’d be nuts.

PRIME MINISTER:

Why would you, when nobody else does? I mean if everyone else turns up and says: “We’ll do double,” well maybe you’d think about it. But if nobody else is doing that, why would you do that unilaterally? That is how out of touch the Labor Party is. The second thing is of course Labor has no plan, there’s no element of economics or engineering in the way they go about this. So if you are going to have, as we undoubtedly will, have more solar and wind coming into your energy system - and the cost of both of them, particularly solar, is coming down – you’ve got to plan for the fact that the sun doesn’t shine all time and the wind doesn’t blow all the time. I mean South Australia is a classic case. The windfarms in South Australia can generate in any given moment, 100 per cent of the state’s electricity demand and then in the next minute, zero per cent.

CHRIS KENNY:

Yeah it’s a great lesson Prime Minister to the rest of the country. Sorry to interrupt you, I do need to move on. There’s two things I want to get in quickly before we finish. You’re heading to Japan tonight, obviously there will be a lot of focus on security issues in Japan, particular North Korea. Now I just want to ask you clearly, we had a lot of commentators and political types really last year, saying Donald Trump was taking the world to the brink of nuclear war because of his strong rhetoric and the stronger sanctions against North Korea. But isn’t it the case, now that we have North Korea and South Korea actually talking, a hint of détente, a long way to go of course but a hint of détente, that you’ve got to give Donald Trump some credit for increasing the pressure on North Korea?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Donald Trump has increased the pressure on North Korea and that has been a big factor in the Security Council and the global community, including China, ratcheting up the economic sanctions on North Korea. It is really important that we do not let up on the pressure on North Korea. They cannot be rewarded for their rogue status and their reckless conduct. What we need to see is North Korea denuclearize. That’s what everybody’s goal is, except obviously for North Korea. The only way they will do that, short of conflict Chris, is if these economic sanctions are ratcheted up and they bite – and they are starting to bite. That’s why you’re starting to see a slight change in tone from North Korea. But changes in tone are not enough. What we need to see is the concrete steps as North Korea moves, we need a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. 

CHRIS KENNY:

Absolutely.

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s everybody’s goal.

CHRIS KENNY:

I appreciate you greatly Prime Minister for coming on the program, I just need to finish off though by saying a lot of our callers and emailers are saying you’re not heard on 2GB very often. They say you’re talking to me because we’re old mates and the like and I do appreciate you coming on, I want you on this program so that you do get to speak to the 2GB audience, but can we have you on the same station later in the year speaking to other program presenters when I’m back at my day job?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh yeah, I go on 2GB from time to time, so I’m not a complete stranger Chris, but it’s always good to speak with you.

CHRIS KENNY:

Great, thanks very much appreciate it. Malcolm Turnbull there, the Prime Minister of Australia.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks mate.

[ENDS]