Radio interview with Jon Faine, ABC Melbourne

03 Apr 2019
Prime Minister
A strong Budget for a secure future; NDIS; congestion-busting infrastructure; Labor’s higher taxes;

JON FAINE: The leader of the Liberal Party, the Coalition and Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Morrison good morning to you.


FAINE: Is it a moral fail to build an election surplus off starving the National Disability Insurance Scheme of money, leaving disabled people without the services they need?

PRIME MINISTER: Well that's a terrible lie, Jon.

FAINE: What is?

PRIME MINISTER: What you've just said.

FAINE: What part of it?


FAINE: None of it.

PRIME MINISTER: All of what you've said is untrue. Let me explain why.

FAINE: The NDIS has been starved of funds and it hasn’t met –

PRIME MINISTER: No that’s not right Jon.

PRIME MINISTER: What you yourselves said would be its allocated money and people are desperate for services and not getting them.

PRIME MINISTER: Let me explain what happens with the NDIS. What happens is based on estimates that are provided by the states working with the Commonwealth to understand what the expected demand is, then you pay out what the services are that are provided in response to that demand. Now, we overestimated the demand in the NDIS. That money actually shows up in extra expenditure on hospitals where a lot of those services are being provided through the state. So it's just swings and roundabouts.

FAINE: Well no, you've squeezed the pipe.

PRIME MINISTER: No, not at all. Jon, that’s just out and out wrong, that's not how it works. The NDIS is funded on a complete demand-based system. Every single invoice for every single service, every one presenting for a service, it's all funded. It's all funded not just next year, this year, but into the future. What happens is -

FAINE: Mr Morrison, we’ve spoken to the providers, they do not have the cash flow allocated in order to meet the demand.

PRIME MINISTER: We've just increased the payment and for providers.

FAINE: For the future, but not for the past.

PRIME MINISTER: That's what's been done.

FAINE: Not for the past, hence the surplus.

PRIME MINISTER: Jon I’m sorry, I've got to stop you there because you cannot tell those lies to the Australian people.

FAINE: It's not a lie.

PRIME MINISTER: No, it is a lie Jon. Because every single cent that needs to go to the NDIS, every single demand that is there for the NDIS -

FAINE: [Inaudible] go, doesn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER: Every single service that's provided and sought -

FAINE: No, not every one that is sought.

PRIME MINISTER: No, I'm sorry, Jon. I'm sorry, every demand for the NDIS is fully funded. There are no policy decisions in relation to the NDIS other than every single element of the demand is fully funded. What happens is if you get a lower demand on the NDIS, then you get higher expenses in the hospital system. And so these are the same patients and they're getting the same support, they're getting it through a different system.

FAINE: No, they’re not. A lot of them are not hospital patients.

PRIME MINISTER: I’m sorry Jon, you’ve got this absolutely wrong.

FAINE: Prime Minister, they're not hospital patients, they're not admitted, they're not outpatients.

PRIME MINISTER: But they are paid for through the health system Jon.

FAINE: They’re not clients of hospitals at all. They’re paid through community organisations and charities and they need more money.

PRIME MINISTER: I’m sorry Jon, you cannot put that falsehood up just because that's what the Labor Party is saying -

FAINE: It’s also what the providers are saying -

PRIME MINISTER: Again, if you want to repeat the lies of the Labor Party to your listeners -

FAINE: It’s not the Labor Party, it’s the people who work their fingers to the bone for the disabled.

PRIME MINISTER: You can do that, but if we’re going to have a debate, we can have a debate or we can have an interview.

FAINE: Well we can have both actually, I'm trying to explore one of the major issues in the Budget.

PRIME MINISTER: And you’ve got it wrong, Jon.

FAINE: All right well let's move on to other things but I'm basing my beliefs not on what the Labor Party have briefed us on.

PRIME MINISTER: Well there’s an uncanny coincidence

FAINE: But the disability sector, it’s what the disability sector have put in their own press releases. Let's move on. If indeed on tax and macroeconomic settings alike there's little difference between the parties now, does this election become a contest of leadership, where of course you have a significant advantage in the polls and the different opinion polls on Bill Shorten?

PRIME MINISTER: Well it’s a contest of both. It is a contest about who's best to lead the country going forward and it is also about the record of our Government, which has seen hospital funding increase by 63 per cent since we were first elected. Schools funding for public schools has increased by 62 per cent. Medicare funding increased by 27 per cent, a Budget that -

FAINE: All these figures of course are contested by your opponents.

PRIME MINISTER: No they’re not contested, they're the hard facts of what has occurred since we were elected until now. They are the financial accounts of the nation, Jon. They're not contested, they're actual facts. That is what we've done with hospitals, schools and Medicare. We also have the highest bulk-billing rate in the country on record. That is our record on health and services.

But the other thing we've done last night, Jon, I'm sure you'd agree with this - we disagree on things from time to time, I'm sure your listeners understand and they know it's good natured - but $461 million dollars to invest in combating youth suicide and the youth mental health challenge in this country. From the most remote Indigenous communities to the suburbs of our big cities, that is what a strong economy and a balanced Budget can do.

FAINE: Desperately needed. Just a few things, we’ll come to infrastructure in a moment which is a very welcome commitment from your Government. Do you commit to Bill Shorten making his Budget reply?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, I did that ages ago.

FAINE: You won't call the election this evening then?


FAINE: And then Friday?

PRIME MINISTER: I committed to that last year Jon, why would that change?

FAINE: Because the rumor mill runs hot as I'm sure you're aware.

PRIME MINISTER: You shouldn’t pay attention to the bubble Jon, you’ve been around too long to pay attention to the bubble.


FAINE: Every now and again there's one that goes past and you go; “Ooh, that would be interesting”. So having got that sorted, Geelong in particular.


FAINE: The commitments to try and save Sarah Henderson in the very marginal Victorian seat of Corangamite. When does the money for Geelong Fast Rail start to flow?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, once we've completed the business case. When we were down there launching it the other day, we expect that to be in about 18 months to two years.

FAINE: Sorry, the business case?

PRIME MINISTER: No, the business case needs to be done which works out the most effective way to do this, that's the first stage of the plan.

FAINE: When does that start?

PRIME MINISTER: That starts now.

FAINE: $20 million for year one, starting right now?

PRIME MINISTER: That starts right away.

FAINE: Yeah and then?

PRIME MINISTER: Then when we put that together, it works exactly like we work the Melbourne Airport Rail Link. As you know, we announced that in last year's Budget and were able to conclude the agreement, $5 billion each with Dan Andrews and the Victorian Government and ourselves. This will follow exactly the same process, working closely together, because the Victorian Government, as you know, has already done quite a lot of work on this. So we'll align those two pieces of work and we'll get moving as quickly as we come to that agreement with the State Government. We look forward to doing that and I have every confidence that we will. We’re working very well with Dan Andrews.

FAINE: But you’re press conference the other day with lots of people in fluoro vests and hard hats - and we're going to see more of that - you said it can start in 18 months, but in fact, the cash flow doesn't kick in until 2021?

PRIME MINISTER: Well we can. It's a function of getting the business case landed and it's a function of getting the agreement together with the State Government.

FAINE: So how can it start in 18 months when cash flow starts in three years?

PRIME MINISTER: Jon, as soon as we can get it moving, we'll begin moving. That's exactly what we're doing and we'll do it with the State Government and we're moving on all these projects. There is $6.2 billion for new projects to bust congestion, improve safety and better connect towns and regions all across Victoria. This is a huge boost.

FAINE: I'm just trying to drill down, Prime Minister, because in fact it can't start in 18 months if the cash flow isn't kicking till the 1st of July 2021.

PRIME MINISTER: Jon, if we're in a position to start earlier, we will.

FAINE: And the duplication to Waurn Ponds, allocating $50 million over four years, but it's a $750 million project.

PRIME MINISTER: We've allocated $700 million to the Waurn Ponds upgrade.

FAINE: $50 million in four years, the rest might follow.

PRIME MINISTER: $700 million to upgrade that project, that's what we've committed in this Budget. That's what we've committed, $700 million.

FAINE: So the actual expenditure is not just beyond the forward estimates of this Budget, but within them.

PRIME MINISTER: There is expenditure now and there's expenditure over 10 years, it's a big project Jon. You can't upgrade the Waurn Ponds line by going through a drive through at McDonald's, you've got to do the planning, you've got to get it done you've got to work with the state government. I don't think people expect these projects to be done overnight. But you've got to turn up and provide the funds and that's what we're doing.

FAINE: So do you borrow the credibility that was built by the Andrews government and their model that led to them being re-elected? Do you say, well, we haven't really done that much for infrastructure in Victoria for the last few years, but forgive us, we've realised that the error of our ways and we're going to do it now?

PRIME MINISTER: Well that's not true either, Jon. I mean you've got to stop saying this stuff, we've been delivering billions of dollars of infrastructure projects in Victoria and we're going to continue to deliver billions of dollars

FAINE: Sorry, your main commitment was for a tunnel the people of Victoria people voted against twice in elections.

PRIME MINISTER: For these projects, so we’re just going to keep getting on with it, Jon. We're investing in infrastructure, we're investing in infrastructure in Victoria and particularly in Melbourne which is straining with the pressures of population and ensuring that we're delivering the projects. Whether it's on the Hume Freeway, the $50 million there, for the M80 Ring Road, the Calder Freeway, the Gap Road, the M80 Ring Road, that's $50 million, the Ballarto Road at Skye which is $30 million, the Princes Highway intersection upgrades at Pakenham to Beaconsfield, that's s$17.8 million.

FAINE: This is what governments do, of course Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: We’re doing all of these things Jon.

FAINE: That’s why we vote for governments, to do things.

PRIME MINISTER: That's exactly what we're doing Jon.

FAINE: But do you have a credibility problem, not just on infrastructure where Victorians for years have been calling for more investment from the Commonwealth, but for instance your apprenticeships announcement. Billions cut from TAFE over years and years and suddenly now you say you'll put some of that back?

PRIME MINISTER: We established the Skilling Australians Fund last year Jon, that was in last year's Budget. We've been investing in these skills each and every year. As you know, the training programs are delivered particularly by state governments when it comes to TAFE. 80,000 new apprentices, we're going to need them because we're building a lot of roads and a lot of bridges and we're building our economy. That's why we're investing in those with the increased incentives for employers and for those taking on apprenticeships. But not just that -

FAINE: But where's your credibility on apprenticeships, if you've in fact, as you have, been cutting TAFE? You may have been putting money into private training up providers.

PRIME MINISTER: State governments fund TAFE, Jon. State governments fund TAFE.

FAINE: Well specifically with monies allocated from the Commonwealth.

PRIME MINISTER: They're substantially funded by state governments. They're the responsibility of state governments and what we're doing here - I mean, I've seen people pour money into those programs and TAFE and not get the outcomes.

FAINE: Absolutely, rorts and rip-offs, many of them.

PRIME MINISTER: The great mistakes that is often made it that you just throw buckets of money into state government programs and they produce results. Now, particularly in the area of skills development, I haven't seen those results. We've been investing year in year out in those state government programs all around the country and we haven't been seeing the results. So we've decided to take more direct action when it comes to investing in skills through these programs, by investing in the incentives provided to employers and to those taking up apprenticeships to make sure they can get out there.

So 80,000 in the most needed trades and we're looking forward to backing them in to do that, over half a billion dollars in this Budget to do just that.

FAINE: I don't want to make you late for your next commitment but just finally, extending the energy supplement to Newstart seems like an afterthought that was announced by the Treasurer on radio this morning, not in the Budget.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I want to see it passed through the Parliament and that's what is going to happen.

FAINE: Was it an afterthought?

PRIME MINISTER: That will be in the Government's bill this morning when it's introduced into the House -

FAINE: Was it an afterthought?

PRIME MINISTER: No it's in the bill and it's the Government's policy.

FAINE: But it wasn't in the Budget.

PRIME MINISTER: Jon, we’re getting it done.

FAINE: An afterthought.

PRIME MINISTER: I'll tell you why it's important. Because this year's Budget, the year we're currently in, which was the Budget I handed down last year, we have bettered what I said a year ago by around about $10 billion and in the previous year, we did exactly the same thing. So with our Government, when we hand down budgets, we outperform them in the 12 months that follow, because we use conservative estimates. We balance reward with responsibility and reality when we put our budgets together and that's why Australians trust us.

People know Labor can't manage money and they can't trust Labor to deliver tax cuts, legislated tax cuts. We're providing that relief and we're providing the economic leadership. So there’s a very clear choice at the next election; Bill Shorten and the Labor Party - and we all know what that is. Or you can have my Party with me leading it at the next election and there’s a very clear choice.

FAINE: Just finally Prime Minister, I'm trying to organise a birthday party for Jan my wife and her birthday is May the 11th, should I go ahead?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I’m going to be busy all the way through mate, be busy all the way through. When we announce the election, you'll know when it is.


And was that an invitation?

FAINE: Well yeah, absolutely, drop on by.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s very kind.

FAINE: If you've got nothing else on, you’re always welcome.

PRIME MINISTER: I'll send a videogram.


FAINE: She would love that, thank you indeed.

PRIME MINISTER: Good on you, Jon.

FAINE: The Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison.