Radio interview with Neil Mitchell, 3AW

Transcript
17 Nov 2017
Prime Minister
Same-sex marriage, polls, East-West Link, Robert Mugabe, banks, Manus Island RPC, cyber security, NBN
E&OE
Infrastructure and Industry, International and Trade, Defence and National Security

NEIL MITCHELL:

Mr Turnbull, good morning. 

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thanks for your time. I noticed yesterday you told Karl Stefanovic you’re into short answers – is this the new style? No waffle?

[Laughter]

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. That’s right. Yes.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Good. The marriage law – I was talking to a young person at the celebrations this week, a non-binary person, identifying as neither male nor female. They plan to marry, can they?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, two people will be able to get married regardless of their gender, yes.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So even if you don’t identify as male or female?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, any two people will be able to get married, no subject to the other restrictions that exist - obviously, they have to be adults and so forth - but instead of marriage being defined as being between a man and a woman, I think under the Bill that is being debated in the Senate, it is basically between two persons regardless of their gender. That’s the proposal.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay. Well, specifically, what protections do we need here? What discrimination is acceptable?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Neil, the Bill does not, the proposal, the Bill that is currently in the Senate, does not impose any restriction on religious freedoms at all. So, you know, Australians practice their religions, their respective religions and there are many of them, with freedom as we always have done and always will.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, so churches - but as you know, some of the more conservative people in Parliament are talking about introducing legislation which guarantees exemptions if you like, or the right to discrimination – will churches be able to refuse to conduct marriages?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. Yeah, that’s in the Bill. I mean, they can now. And a minister of religion can decline to conduct a religion as they do now. I mean, look, if you go down to the local Catholic Church and you want to get married - you’re a man, you want to get married to a woman, but you’ve been divorced, the Priest wont marry you. The Priest won’t marry you if you’re a young couple and they don’t think that you’re fully prepared for it. I mean, the ability of ministers of religion and churches to decline to participate in weddings that are between same-sex couples, it is absolutely covered in the Bill.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What about businesses dealing with gay marriages?

PRIME MINISTER:

The facilities that belong to churches, they can decline to, say, use a church hall for a reception for a same-sex couple, for a wedding. So that protects the churches. But there is no restriction, there is no change to the anti-discrimination laws.

I know for example, that Kevin Andrews was talking, he actually said that he thought a Muslim baker should be able to refuse service to a Jew – well I totally disagree with that. We are not about to be introducing new, creating new levels of discrimination and I don’t think that changes like that are actually going to be proposed anyway in process of the debate.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So a Christian baker would not be allowed to refuse to work for a gay wedding?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, if somebody comes in and says, the answer is, where it is unlawful to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation, that, in terms of a commercial relationship like that, you talked about a baker or a florist, that situation, that law is not affected by this Bill.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Is it correct that this, the Bill - I know you’re hoping you get the Bill through very soon - the sort of debate and legislation over religious freedom will go into next year as is being reported today?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it is important to define, it is important for people to set out, who are concerned about creating more protection for religious freedoms precisely what they want to achieve.

Australia – we do have freedom of religion in Australia. In fact, our Constitution says there should be no established religion. So, you know, of course, in the United Kingdom which is where most Australians certainly in 1901 came from, there is an established church. Our founding fathers made a very conscious decision not to have that in Australia. So we do have freedom of religion. We practice a very wide range of faiths very freely.

As I have said in my own electorate of Wentworth, we worship God in the language of the Torah, the Old Testament, Hebrew in the New Testament, Greek and according to the Irish, in the language of the Angels themselves, in Gaelic on St Patrick’s Day once a year.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah.

PRIME MINISTER:

So we have very diverse faiths in our multicultural society and people are free to practice their religions as they see fit, as long as they obviously comply with Australian law and don’t restrict the freedom of others.

NEIL MITCHELL:

In political terms, is this week a turning point for you? Is it a win? Is it a win for you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, look, it isn’t about me Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, it is. Daniel Andrews, our premier, has said that people should target you regardless of the result. His words are: “Get mad and get even” – with you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that says a lot about him doesn’t it?

This is a turning point for Australia because we have made as a nation in a completely democratic way, in a very respectful way a big decision on a big issue. Now it is very important to remember I went to the last election and I said I want to give everyone their say. Bill Shorten, crossbenches, some people on my own side opposed the postal survey, they opposed the plebiscite. What we have done is respect everybody’s point of view. The people who voted ‘no’ and the people who voted ‘yes’ – everyone had their say, Neil. We respect them. We honour their right to have their say and obviously, the majority prevails.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But the plebiscite was Tony Abbott’s idea wasn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER:

It was, well it came out of the party room, yes, but it was a policy that we committed to, the plebiscite when Tony was PM, that’s right.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay. Do you accept that the vote has been hurtful to people?

PRIME MINISTER:

It has been said, I know that people have said that and look, if somebody says they’ve been hurt by the debate then they’ve been hurt, but I think it has been overwhelmingly, on balance, it has been overwhelmingly positive. I mean if you are a young gay person and you are worried about what your parents think and what your friends think and you’re anxious about whether people respect you, isn’t this a remarkable affirmation of love and respect? This is a bigger affirmation than just having a vote in Parliament, believe me.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But again in political terms it undermines the conservatives in your party doesn’t it? Because the electorate has voted in a fairly liberal way, in a very liberal way and the conservatives in your party have been saying: ‘Oh no, no, no – Malcolm is wrong, he’s too soft left’. Does that undermine them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the numbers speak for themselves.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER:

And you can see that the biggest ‘no’ votes, well the biggest ‘no’ votes were in electorates with a large migrant population, I suppose as a sort of a generic term, but in particular in electorates with a large Muslim population, like several of the seats in New South Wales, in Western Sydney and indeed in Maria Vamvakinou’s seat in Melbourne.

NEIL MITCHELL:

The point though, Prime Minister, you know the polls are bad this week, your personal rating is down. Will this help you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, again, Neil, that is for you to judge. You run the commentary. I run the country.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, fair enough.

PRIME MINISTER:

Okay? I’m looking after 25 million Australians.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay. Under any circumstances, I mean if you get 30 bad polls, is that it? Will you go?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil, it is a question of delivering for the Australian people. Again, you, you know something, you run the commentary, you do the political commentary. I don’t do that. My job is Prime Minister. My job is running the country and delivering on my election promises which I have done.

I said I’d give everyone a say and I’ve done it, despite a lot of obstacles. We’ve got that done.

We’re going to have a free vote on this issue in the Parliament. It is already underway.

You know, we’re delivering on energy. We’ve got a National Energy Guarantee which is going to bring down electricity prices.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yep.

PRIME MINISTER:

You know we’ve reduced business taxes. We’ve reduced personal income tax.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER:

We’re getting on with the job.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, to respond to the mood of the electorate, remember when Tony Abbott was prime minister, he was in here and a caller rang and said: ‘You are useless. I am only going to vote for Turnbull’. Last week we had Peter Dutton in here and this happened:

CALLER - RECORDING:

Peter, I think you’re a legend mate and I am not going to vote Liberal for the first time in my life. I’m 44. I have every other election but I wouldn’t touch Malcolm Turnbull with a barge poll. You should have a crack at it and do not change when you get in there.

NEIL MITCHELL:

It’s almost identical. The mood is not good for you. Do you disagree?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well again, Neil, I do. We’ll see. The job is to get on with delivering. Again, I will just say I’m not a political commentator or columnist or radio host. My job is to govern and that’s what we’re doing.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well tell Simon, well I mean you were a political commentator when Tony Abbott was failing.

PRIME INISTER:

That’s not true.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, you go rid of him on what basis? 30 bad Newspolls.

PRIME MINISTER:

I stated the reasons for challenging Tony when I did. I’m not going to rehash them now. They’re a matter of public record.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Matthew Guy says he’s going to build East West Link if elected. Will you help him fund it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, yes we have a standing offer for any Victorian government. I guess it’ll only be Matt Guy’s the only prospect of that happening and that’s why Victoria needs Matt as premier. But we will commit $3 billion as we promised.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What’s happened to the, the money that you gave to the, or what was available for the previous government? Will you give that back or is it gone and spent elsewhere?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, prior to the last Victorian election, the money was actually transferred to Victoria for the East West Link, as you know.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah.

PRIME MINISTER:

The Victorian Government, Labor Government, didn’t want to give it back and-

NEIL MITCHELL:

So where is it now?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s been spent on a whole range of other projects including the Monash and the Western Ring Road and so forth.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Alright, will you- 

PRIME MINISTER:

So we came to an agreement to deploy it on other infrastructure in Victoria.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But there will be new fresh money to help fund the East West?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes absolutely. There absolutely will be. That’s our commitment.

NEIL MITCHELL:

$3 billion?

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s true.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Immediately?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well once the project is recommitted to and underway, yeah, sure. Look, we made that commitment and we actually contributed half of $3 billion before the last election when of course the Liberals were defeated.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Robert Mugabe is on the way out. Evil man or strong leader?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, he’s been a dictator that’s committed horrific crimes over a long period of time. You know, again, it’s not for me to engage in what’s going on there in Zimbabwe but the reality is he was the independence leader, that’s true, all those years ago, but it has been a very oppressive and brutal dictatorship for a long time.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Better off without him?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it depends what he’s replaced with I suppose Neil, it’s a tough part of the world. But he certainly, it is not a model of liberal democracy put it that way.

NEIL MITCHELL:

More problems for the banks. NAB is sacking people after dodgy home loans. I read that The Nationals, some Nationals are still trying to force a royal commission into the banks? Possible still? Is it now more possible?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the first thing I’d say is that bad practices in banks, I certainly welcome the bank being open about it and I certainly welcome them taking disciplinary action. That is, you know, you’re seeing a change of culture now and that is because of the initiatives of my government. It is because of the reforms that we’ve undertaken, it’s because of – for example – those regular hearings before the Economics Committee which I think are a really important way of changing the attitude of the banks so that when things are done badly or wrongly, people have to fess up and they are made accountable. 

Now it hasn’t always been the case, as you know. So that’s good to see that action being taken, although obviously the bad practices are extremely, obviously, very, very regrettable. But fessing up and consequences are important.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Asylum seekers are still on Manus. Peter Dutton makes the point that New Zealand and PNG could do a deal. Will you lobby PNG not to do that deal?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ve had discussions with the New Zealand Prime Minister about it and they’ve made an offer to take 150 but they understand our priority to complete the American arrangements which of course covers 1,250 and then we can have another discussion. But the focus, the priority is clearly to complete the American arrangement because obviously it’s a lot more people.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Another discussion? So it’s still a possibility that some could go to New Zealand?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s a possibility that that could happen in the future but it is not a near term prospect at all. Our focus is on completing the arrangements with the US which are already underway as you know and a number of people have gone to the US.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Sorry, Christopher Pyne, are you concerned by the hacking of his account and the link to the gay porn?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m concerned always, that anyone’s social media account has been hacked. I think that what has happened here is that somebody has got hold of his password. It’s just a reminder that you’ve got to change passwords regularly and in particular if – as would often happen in a political office or any office I suppose – if the Twitter account is being operated by a number of people over time, there’s always the risk that the password becomes known or it might be one that is guessed. The other thing I’d just say - this is as a former Communications Minister -  any of these applications, let’s say to your listeners, where two-factor authentication is available and it is available with Twitter I believe, use that, so that when someone wants to use an account, when you want to use an account from a new device, you’ve got to use a code, a one-time code that’s SMS’d to you.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Have you ever been hacked? Have you ever been hacked?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no but with one exception, many years ago somebody accessed my iTunes account and bought – it was obviously someone in China – because they bought a whole lot of Cantonese pop songs.

[Laughter]

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER:

Anyway, I fixed that up.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You told me that you and the Minister were personally overseeing NBN. Since then we’ve had the ACCC launch an inquiry into the NBN service level. We’ve had various telcos found to be charging for things they weren’t entitled to be charged with. We continue to get complaints from people about stuff-ups. How is it all going? Going well?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it is getting better. In terms of the construction of the network it is going very well. It will be three quarters finished by June 30 next year –

NEIL MITCHELL:

There’s a hell of a lot of problems around when we’ve got all these inquiries and rorts by the telcos.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yep, okay. Neil there are basically two buckets of problems.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yes.

PRIME MINISTER:

One bucket is people having a bad experience in people getting NBN installed. That is, people turning up late, not meeting appointments and all that sort of thing. The NBN is addressing that and improving their service levels.

The more troubling area – and this is what the ACCC is acting on and we’ve encouraged them to do so – is where the retail service providers, that’s the telcos, so that’s TPG, Testra, Optus, et cetera, are offering people speeds, promising speeds which they cannot deliver because they have not bought enough capacity on the NBN to support it.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah I understand.

PRIME MINISTER:

Now that is very much – I’m not trying to, you know, pass the buck here - but that is very much a problem, not an NBN responsibility, that is a problem for the retail service providers.

Now what Rod Sims has done is making it very clear who is letting the customers down. We’re getting better transparency and we will get this sorted. I’m right onto it, believe me.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Alright, get it sorted - that’s the key point. Alright, I hope so. I notice you like to take selfies. There was you with Donald Trump and the Chinese Premier this week.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah President Xi.

NEIL MITCHELL:

The Socceroos Captain, also.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What do you do with them all? Do you keep them all?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well yeah, they sit on my phone and obviously, if they go up on social media and Facebook, I guess they’re there in cyberspace forever.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What if we put them all together and publish them in a book for charity?

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s not a bad idea. You know, that’s a great idea Neil. What charity would you choose?

NEIL MITCHELL:

Oh we’ve got the Royal Children’s, Alana and Madeline, we’ve got any number of charities in Victoria that are well-loved.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah. Do you want to, do you think it would be just my selfies, or should we maybe see if we got–

NEIL MITCHELL:

Bill Shorten’s selfies?

[Laughter]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well here’s a good idea, here’s a good idea-

NEIL MITCHELL:

Right.

PRIME MINISTER:

I’d be delighted to do that and all of those are great charities that you’ve mentioned. Yeah that’s a good idea, we could do that and or we could get some other political selfies as well.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Alright, we’ll have a look at that. Thank you very much for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Brilliant idea, good on you Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, I’m into brilliant ideas.

PRIME MINISTER:

You are, very good.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Oh and by the way, soccer or football, which is it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I call it soccer, but I know I should call it football.

[Laughter]

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well what’s Rugby League?

PRIME MINISTER:

I know, I know, look, it’s soccer right? We have our team is the Socceroos but you step outside of Australia-

NEIL MITCHELL:

It’s football.

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s football. But you know of course in Melbourne, there’s only one code that’s footy.

NEIL MITCHELL:

That’s true. Thank you for your time.

[ENDS]