Radio Interview with John Stanley, 2GB

Media release
20 Dec 2019
Prime Minister
E&OE

JOHN STANLEY: Mr Morrison, good morning to you.

PRIME MINISTER: G’day John, terrible news overnight. I can only think of those families of those who've lost loved ones overnight and then there’s those who have been terribly injured from the Horsley Park Brigade. It's just an absolutely horrendous thing and I can't imagine how difficult it is for those families in that community today.

STANLEY: Now I know you're still overseas and you have said in your statement that you’ve been keeping in touch with what is going on and presumably with the Acting Prime Minister, Michael McCormack as well?

PRIME MINISTER: Correct. Yes and David Littleproud who’s the Minister responsible and so we've been keeping in close contact. These events, John, are just horrendous. I mean, if it was possible not to be where I was this week, well, maybe. But this had been arranged some time ago and that's just how it was. But I'll be coming back as soon as I can. It's not that easy to get back, but we'll get back as soon as we can and I’ll go and see the team at the RFS and get an update.

STANLEY: Now, in your statement, you said the leave was brought forward because you had to cancel scheduled leave in January because of a visit to India and Japan. And look, everyone has to go on leave. Was it a mistake not to announce that you were going on leave?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we don't normally, John. I mean, I took leave in June as well and we did follow exactly the same practice. So I mean, we don’t always say where we're going. My privacy with my family when we’re having leave, I'm sure people understand, that's something that I know Australians would respect. But I think on this occasion, John, because there have been such horrendous events that have understandably caused a lot of anxiety, I deeply regret that and so does Jenny and to all those who were affected by the fires especially, we deeply regret it. And I'll be getting back there as soon as I can. The girls and Jen will stay on and stay out the rest of the time we had booked here. But I know Australians understand this and they’ll be pleased I’m coming back I’m sure. They know that, you know, I don't hold a hose, mate, and I don't sit in a control room. That’s the brave people who do that are doing that job. But I know that Australians would want me back at this time out of these fatalities. So I'll happily come back and do that.

STANLEY: Because we’ve had people saying well, he can’t go out and fight the fires, which is obviously true. But even just that, the announcement wasn't made here. Maybe it was a problem in another office that we weren't aware that Michael McCormack was the Acting PM.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Michael stood up as Acting Prime Minister on Monday and I texted Anthony Albanese before I left saying I'll be away for the next week and that Michael would be taking… would be Acting Prime Minister during that period of time. So, I mean, that's…

STANLEY: You told Anthony Albanese, did you? Is that right, you texted him and let him know?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah.

STANLEY: Ok, alright, are you able to say where you are? I know there is security and you talked about your privacy.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's more about privacy at the end of the day. But look, the girls and Jen, they love holidaying in Hawaii and so we’ve had a few nice days here and that’s just where sometimes we go privately for our holidays. We’ve spent a lot of time in Australia on our holidays as well. We had planned to spend it down on the south coast, as we usually did that, but we had to bring it forward as I said, because of those commitments we had in India and Japan. So we had to tell the girls we wouldn't be spending as much time down there. So in return, I tried to give them a bit of a surprise and take them here. So that's what I think dads try and do when if they can when they’ve been working hard all year and I know there are lots of dads and mums out there who work hard all year and try and treat their kids this time of year and that's what I was just trying to do. It's just unfortunate that it’s come at such an awful time, particularly for those living in and around Sydney and New South Wales. And it's just devastating to be here and seeing what's happening there. So I'm pleased to be returning.

STANLEY: Ok, you’re going to come back, obviously you can't fight fires, but have you got some ideas of what you'll do when you get here?

PRIME MINISTER: Obviously as soon as I can get back I'll go down to the RFS Headquarters and get an update from the Commissioner and see what other support we can provide. But I know that every support that is being required of the Commonwealth and the Federal Government is being provided, that's already been allocated and the Acting Prime Minister and the Minister responsible, David Littleproud, is on this every single day. So there has not been a breath of difference between what was needed in New South Wales and what the Commonwealth can be providing. So all of that support is there. But if I can return and provide some moral support to people who are out there doing it really tough, then that's what I can do and that's what I'll be very glad to do. They need all our support and I'm happy to provide mine.

STANLEY: Yeah. Do you understand those people who are saying that they don't want you to go and fight the fires, but that leadership was lacking in the last few days?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we were keeping in contact very strongly with what was happening, John. And I think that with the events of last night, with those terrible fatalities, I think it's appropriate for me to return now.

STANLEY: Ok, so you’ll be back when, over the weekend?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we're still trying to arrange that. We're working on that right now. We've been working on it since early this morning. 

STANLEY: To get on a plane and get back here? All right. We'll see you when you get back. Thank you very much for your time. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: And to everyone who is out there fighting fires right now, all the communities, especially tomorrow, which is going to, I know, be a very, very hot day around Sydney. Stay tuned to those broadcasts, particular the Fires Near Me app and all the other information. Stay close, stay together and stay safe.

STANLEY: Thank you, Prime Minister.