ROB FAIRS: It’s wonderful to welcome the Prime Minister Scott Morrison live in the studio. Welcome to the programme how are you doing?
PRIME MINISTER: I’m doing great Fairsy and thanks for having us in here today. It’s great to be back in Launie.
FAIRS: It’s nice to see you down here. Let me ask you off the top, hey, you’ve really got in and met some of the locals, including I believe one of my favourite places, Sporties last night? Is that true?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, we were at Sporties last night with Johnsy who cleaned me up on the pool table, he’s a bit of a local legend there as I understand. It was great to spend some time there last night, just chatting with people with Bridget Archer, our Liberal candidate here in Bass. But I also got down to do my laps yesterday at the Launceston Aquatic Centre and so a big cheer to all the kids out there at the South Esk Swimming Club, the national swimming club of the year back in 2015, they proudly proclaimed. So it was nice to meet all of them, you guys keep swimming. A lot of local champions down there at that pool.
FAIRS: Ariarne Titmus of course, a Tasmanian local really kicking serious backside nationally and internationally too now, which is wonderful. Alright Prime Minister, there’s a lot to get through and I know your time is tight and I really appreciate you popping in.
But let’s start off with Bass, starting off with Bass because obviously to retain power this is one of the seats that you’re going to have to win. A recent poll showed it was neck-and-neck, so that gives you a lot of heart. Announcement-wise with the election, May 18 is being thrown around. Now that’s going to put me out because that’s when my charity fundraiser is. So thank you with that today, but is that the date that you’ve decided on?
PRIME MINISTER: People won’t have to wait too long to find out. But obviously, there were three dates, the 11th, 18th and 25th and those options are now narrowing, so I don’t think people will have to wait too much longer. Yeah, the election will be in May and we’ll call that in the not too distant future.
But here in Bass, I mean, the number one stand-out reason for supporting us here is Bridget Archer. She is a first-class candidate, she has been great over there as a local Mayor and I think that she’s really going to bring a lot to the job. She’s got a great heart and passion, she’s a mum raising a lot of kids. She’s really juggling and doing it all and I’m just thrilled to have her in my team. But we’re backing her up with great policies. The thing I love about coming down to Launceston more recently, particularly over the last few years, has been just how positive people are. I mean the northern Tasmanian economy has really, really turned around.
PRIME MINISTER: And you can just feel it. I mean just talking to people at Sporties last night, talking to local tradies, talking to people in the building and civil construction industry. I met a couple last night that has moved down from Melbourne, they’re working down here and I’m sure they’ll start a family here. These are the choices people are making about northern Tasmania and what is making it happen is the strength of the economy and the great partnership I think, that we’ve formed here with Will Hodgman. The State Government, the Commonwealth Government, working together to get people into trades, to get the projects moving. We’ve got to keep this going and I just found the optimism here the last few years, coming down here, intoxicating. It’s tremendous.
FAIRS: I totally agree with you Prime Minister on that for sure. There are a lot of concerns as we know, health being one of them. Now you’re announcing or going to announce today I believe, a $92 million package?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah that’s right. It’s going to focus on elective surgery, it’s going to focus on mental health care, maternity services, breast cancer diagnoses. These are the priority issues and its’s a range of initiatives. A new birthing suite here at the Launceston Hospital, further across the north we’ve got a new linear accelerator machine at Burnie, that’s so breast cancer patients will save $1,500 on MRIs and PET scans that are now covered by Medicare. We’ve got $4.5 million going into cancer infrastructure. We’ve got an additional 6,000 surgeries and endoscopies that are going to be provided under a $20 million services and infrastructure plan. There’s going to be here a new adult mental health centre here in Launceston and mental health is a huge priority for me. Many people will know in the Budget - and if you didn’t then this will be good news for you - $461 million is being invested in tackling youth suicide and the youth mental health challenge in this country. It’s the biggest package of measures a Government has ever handed down to really take on these issues.
Greg Hunt is here with me today in Launceston and he’s really been championing that cause. More Headspace centres around the country, we made announcements last year for more Headspace centres and we do know that turns things around for young people. So we’re going to keep investing in the mental health of our nation, starting with our youngest, but all the way through. As I said, a mental health centre here and we’re also going to have one treating eating disorders, which is another priority. I mean, I’m a parent and what parent with kids going into teenage years - or even sadly sooner now - isn’t that just your worst nightmare? So together, we can confront all that.
But you can’t do it unless you’ve got a strong economy and that’s what is so exciting about northern Tasmania. It’s economy is going forward and we’ve got to keep that going.
FAIRS: Prime Minister, one thing, looking at this in a nutshell; aged care. We’re an ageing population, it’s a sector that I believe from personal experience is drastically underfunded. There is so much that needs to be done there and well, what about that? I mean, are there plans in place for that or are we focusing on that?
PRIME MINISTER: The Government has been putting a $1 billion extra into aged care every single year, $1 billion extra. We do have an ageing population and a priority for us particularly over the last 18 months has been has been in-home care places.
Now we’ve put in another 40,000, including the most recent announcement in the Budget, for in-home care places. What that does is two things; the first thing it does is preserve the choices of Australians as they age. They can stay at home. That’s where so many of them want to choose to be so you can be there for the grandkids birthdays, you know, people can still come round, you can stay in touch with your friends, be in your community. This is what people want and we’re doing that with the in-home care places. We’ll continue to invest $1 billion every year.
Of course there’s the Aged Care Royal Commission that I announced last year and that is to confront the challenges that we do have in the aged care system and we need to build that culture of respect for older Australians, not just in our aged care system but more broadly.
FAIRS: Prime Minister, cost of living. In a recent poll, it’s come out on top as the key election issue. It’s a massive problem and down here a lot of Tasmanians are struggling, battling to make ends meet and it’s getting worse and worse. I notice, one of your ideas and plans was a feasibility study in the Basslink Connector for example, with the Battery of Nation type scenario. So with investment like that, is this something where that sort of thing can turn around and become cheaper and stuff? But that’s a long way off, what about Tasmanians that are battling today?
PRIME MINISTER: Tax cuts, that’s what. We’ve already legislated our first tranche last year and we’ve taken more tax cuts for this year. I mean NATSEM the independent economic modeller has already said that someone on average full time wage will be $1,000 better off under our plan, than under Labor’s plan.
We believe that people should keep more of what they earn. Labor believes they should increase taxes by $200bn over the next 10 years.
Then there’s their emissions reduction policies that they can’t even explain, about how much that will increase costs. If Bill Shorten can’t tell you what his vehicle emissions standards - his car tax - is going to cost you, for the car that he’s going to make you buy, then don’t vote for him. If he can’t explain it, if he doesn’t understand it, how does he expect you to understand it? And he wants you to vote for him.
On cost of living issues, because of Labor’s reckless emissions targets - I mean, we’ve got our target, it’s 26 per cent and we’ll meet it just like we met our Kyoto 2020, we take this issue seriously. But Bill’s policy, he can’t even explain what it’s going to cost you. I mean in that policy, businesses are going to have to spend $35 billion to $36 billion buying international carbon credits from goodness know where overseas. It’s just $36 billion going out the door and for what? That’s $36 billion that could be invested in higher wages, investing in companies, growing their markets, putting new investment into their businesses. He’s just going to put this enormous slug on our economy and it’ll slow it down. The northern Tasmanian economy is getting ahead, forestry industries, tourism industries, we passionately support these and you’ve mentioned the Marinus Link. I mean this is a big project for Tasmania’s future; $56 million to get the planning phase of that underway and done, so we can get in and invest in having that Link put in.
Yesterday we announced $17 million for a skills package for Tasmania, specifically to ensure that Tasmania is battery-ready, with the skills they will need to deliver on that project. So we announced that yesterday and I think that it’s great to get those Tasmanians with the skills they’ll need to ensure that we can deliver on that massive Battery of the Nation project that Will Hodgman and I are just so excited about.
FAIRS: Prime Minister, I did ask my listeners to submit questions.
PRIME MINISTER: Sure
FAIRS: Just to put to you to get a response from you and I know that time is flying, so I’ll keep it as short as possible. One of them is talking about the NDIS. Now this listener applied for it in January, was told it could be accessed by February, yet still no response, still waiting to hear back. She’s provided all the necessary paperwork and documents and can’t access the help she needs. She’s very, very ill and that’s just one. The NDIS is very a big issue.
PRIME MINISTER: The NDIS is a massive social programme, it’s the biggest change since Medicare. We’ve got 10,000 people, 10,000 people working either within the NDIA or ancillary services working to solve all of those problems. We’ve got over 70,000 people accessing services that never did before and so this is just a very big project. Yes, we agree, it’s a very hard programme to implement and we’re going to keep on making it better year on year on year on year. But I make you this absolute commitment - and it’s not just a commitment, it’s in the Budget and it’s fully funded; the NDIS will get every cent that it needs. It’s a completely demand-driven program and we’ll see that demand increase. It already has been at record levels and it’ll continue to grow.
Just last week I announced the Royal Commission into disabilities, to address very similar issues that we’ve seen in the Aged Care sector. People with disabilities experienced some horrendous things and we’re going to shine a light on that. I think that will also improve the culture of respect, whether it’s in the workplace, whether it’s in healthcare, whether it’s in any part of our society. For people living with disabilities, we’ve got to make their life easier and we recognise the contribution they want to make and we’re going to facilitate that. We’re 100 per cent committed to it, it’s a very difficult programme and we’re getting on with it and we’ve got a lot pf people working on it.
FAIRS: Prime Minister bulk-billing, that’s another one. There’s basically no bulk-billing doctors here in Launceston and in fact probably across northern Tasmania. Hardly any, which is a real issue because a lot of people cannot afford to pay to see the doctor.
PRIME MINISTER: Well we have record bulk-billing rates right across the country.
FAIRS: Not here
PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s bulk-billing right across the country and including right across northern Tasmania that we’re achieving these rates, that’s the information that I have. We’re achieving those bulk billing records.
Medicare has never been stronger under our Government. We have increased funding to Medicare by 27 per cent and the Medicare Guarantee fund continues to put in tens of billion in every year. So we’re delivering on that and we’ll continue to deliver on it.
FAIRS: So there’s no issue with bulk-billing in your opinion?
PRIME MINISTER: What I’m saying is we’ll continue to ensure that we deliver on this. It’s always going to be a challenge around the country, but what I’m saying is, at the last election, Bill Shorten said that we were going to sell Medicare. I mean it was an outrageous lie. This is what you’ll hear from Labor at this election; you’ll hear lies and higher taxes. That’s what Labor is offering at this election. Lies about what the Government is doing, not telling you the truth about the higher cost-of-living that you will face under their higher taxes and their reckless emission targets. Which means that you will pay for more for everything, whether it’s your car, whether it’s your electricity bill, whether it’s your private health insurance. Whatever you have to pay for, it’ll cost more under Labor.
FAIRS: Prime Minister very quickly, this is another question. Daniel thanks for this one; “When the Libs took power 6 years ago they were claiming a budget crisis when the debt was around $250 billion. Now the debts is more than double in your time, but it’s not a crisis, when you’ve promised that you would not increase it?”
PRIME MINISTER: Well, when you’re in deficit your debt goes up and it has taken us the last 6 years to get the Budget out of deficit and get it back into surplus. I mean that was the legacy the Labor Party they left us.
When we came into Government debt was growing at 30 per cent every year. That’s stopped now. What we’re seeing now is, over the next four years, we will reduce the net debt of the country by $50 billion or just shy of that. That’s what happens, you get the Budget back in the black, which we’re now in. And it’s a reminder; last time the government of the nation went to the Labor Party back in 2007, we went from a $20 billion surplus to a $27 billion deficit in the space of one year. We have been paying that back ever since. It has taken us more than a decade to get the budget back into surplus. It just goes to show; you vote Labor once, you pay for it for a decade. That’s what it means when it comes to the economic management of the Labor Party and I think Australians understand that.
They have had too many goes at managing the nation’s finances and they’ve stuffed it up too many times I think, for people to give them any credit that they know how to manage money. And if you can’t manage money, you can’t pay for Medicare, you can’t pay for hospitals. You can make all the promises you like, but when you look in the wallet, it’s empty.
And you know what Labor does when their wallet is empty? They go and look in yours. That’s why they increase taxes on all Australians.
FAIRS: Prime Minister in saying that, in the polls it shows if an election was held now you’d be wiped out. The only shining light is your popularity, obviously over Bill Shorten as preferred Prime Minister. What, this is your opportunity to very quickly say why you deserve, because you’ve had the revolving door of Prime Ministers, you’ve had total disasters, you’ve had in-fighting, you’ve acted like infants, school kids a lot of the time with all this battle and stuff. So why should people give you another chance and vote you back into power?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I think it’s pretty clear since we’ve come to Government, we’ve got the Budget back into surplus. We’ve reduced unemployment to levels we’ve not seen in a decade. We’ve created jobs particularly for young people and our economy is moving forward. As I said, here in northern Tasmania it really is a strong economy, it’s central to everything. The IMF today is talking about a such more difficult global environment. Now is not the time to hand the economic wheel over someone in Bill Shorten, who doesn’t know how to drive an economy. That is what will put your future at risk. That is what will determine your ability to deal with cost of living pressures, a Government that knows how to run the economy, knows how to manage finances, versus and Opposition that every time they’ve been in government, they’ve always stuffed it up, when it comes to programs and the Budget. You can’t get the healthcare you need, if you don’t have a government that knows how to manage money. Now, we’ve demonstrated that and the record speaks for that.
I think Australians are focused on the future and they’re focused on who is best able to deliver that strong economy and strong Budget that can invest and guarantee the funding for the essentials services they rely on. That’s the Liberal and National parties, that’s who it is. Our record is there and they know they can trust it, they’ve seen it here with Will at a state level and they’ve seen it with us at a Commonwealth level. If you want to keep that going here in northern Tasmania, well the way to do that is to keep the ScoMo and Will show going.
FAIRS: Alright well Prime Minister Scott Morrison thank you so much for your time, really appreciate you dropping in.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.