Radio interview with Neil Mitchell, 3AW

Transcript
06 Oct 2017
Prime Minister
NBN; National security; Airport security; Burqa; Women in Cabinet; Gas; Retail sales; Major Brendan Nottle; Senator Arthur Sinodinos
E&OE

NEIL MITCHELL:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you for your time. Prime Minister, I’ll get to the terrorism issue and gas in a moment but NBN keeps coming up to me this week – it’s a mess. You ordered a review two months ago, an urgent review. When do you get the result?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am talking to the management all the time.

NEIL MITCHELL:

The review is underway though isn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, there is. But the issue is making sure firstly that the installation process is going well.

You’ve got to remember that they are connecting more people every ten days, more people every ten days than Labor did in six years. It’s a gigantic project.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Are you aware of the pain it’s causing in the community?

PRIME MINISTER:

Very aware. Keenly aware.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What can you do about it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, firstly, they’ve got to improve the installation experience and that is, you know, a people management, a process management issue. They’re getting on top of that.

But this is the fastest, biggest rollout ever in the history of telecoms in Australia.

The second thing is the problem that people are being told by the telecom retailers that they’re going to get speeds which are not being delivered at peak times and we’ve got a number of changes to ensure that that problem doesn’t continue.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But, we’re going backwards. 2015 - we had a world ranking of 47 on the internet speed. NBN has rolled out to several million homes and we’re now 64th. Kenya is better than us.

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s rubbish, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

That’s rubbish?

PRIME MINISTER:

Complete rubbish. You know, like 1.5 per cent of people in Kenya have access to broadband. In Australia, it is 90 per cent.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well they’re still doing it a lot faster than we are.

[LAUGHTER]

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil-

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, okay, the point is we’re going backwards.

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil, believe me that is rubbish statistics.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER:

You know, you might have a handful of wealthy people with apartment buildings that have got first-world telecoms in a country where the vast majority of people have got no access at all. So, let’s put, the Kenya comparison is not real.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay. Well, the standing committee last week on Grand Final eve released its report calling for an immediate independent audit. Will you do one?

PRIME MINISTER:

There is no need for that. We are absolutely on top of this.

And I’m talking to the management all the time as is the Minister Mitch Fifield.

What they’re doing is ensuring that Australians get the internet speeds that they have been promised by the retailers.

The problem is very much a matter with the retailers who are not buying enough capacity from NBN and from other providers to deliver the service speeds they’re promising.

So we’re onto that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

There is also a problem for the average person trying to sort out what the hell is going on. Why can’t we have a central point? At the moment, you ring NBN and they say nothing to do with us, ring telcos. You ring the telco they send you back to NBN. You’ve got people who are screaming in frustration. Can we at least get a central point where somebody takes control of this?

PRIME MINISTER:

The reality is though Neil that there are aspects – it is complex, there are aspects of the service that are delivered by NBN as a wholesaler but the customer deals with a retailer, say Telstra or Optus and there are major parts of that network provision that is provided by the retailer.

So, the problem is that people are saying NBN. The NBN is responsible for providing the wholesale access from your house to the exchange. Everything beyond that is in the hands of Telstra or Optus or whoever.

NEIL MITCHELL:

None of that helps me as a consumer. Why can’t consumers have one central point that they can go to and the telcos and NBN feed off that?

PRIME MINISTER:

You could do that I suppose but the problem is that central point would then still be trying to deal with two different, between the wholesaler and the telco. I think we’ve got this in hand. The ACCC is all over this.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But Prime Minister people tell me it is not in hand. Every time we raise it the board is full of people complaining. I know that local Members of Parliament are getting complaints about it.

PRIME MINISTER:

I understand that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

NBN employs 60,000 people. The chief executive gets-

PRIME MINISTER:

Well they don’t employ 60,000 people.

NEIL MITCHELL:

They don’t? Oh, how many do they employ?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there is over, they’ve got a lot of contractors but it is not 60,000. I can’t tell you what the exact figure is at the moment.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, that was reported. Okay. Well the chief executive gets $3.6 million. They employ many people. This is one of the most complained about issues in the country. It is not working.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Neil, firstly it is working. It is rolling out to around 40,000 people a week. Just in Victoria alone, there are another 150,000 people came onto the, another 60,000 I should say were added to the network in the last week and nearly 10,000 of them were signed up as new active services.

So obviously, the pace of the roll out is very high.

They are doing an extraordinary job.

There are two main areas of complaint – the installation experience and we are working very hard to improve that but that is obviously between NBN and the telco.

And the second one is people not getting what they were promised by the telcos.

And so between the ACCC and the work I’m doing with NBN, NBN is going to be offering discounts to the retailers to encourage people to go onto higher speeds.

So we are restructuring it to make it more transparent so that people will know that if they’re not getting the right deal, it is a Telstra or an Optus or a TPG problem.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Will you review the technology as this standing committee suggested? Not copper, fibre to the driveway is being argued.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, well, the NBN uses a mix of technologies-

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yep.

PRIME MINISTER:

And they’re using - that is the global standard - they’re doing, they will improve technologies, or change technologies as circumstances dictate.

The approach that we’ve taken with NBN as opposed to Labor’s fibre to the premises means that the project will be completed six to eight years sooner and $30 billion cheaper.

The technology is being handled well.

The issues relate to the installation experience where there needs to be more improvement and we’re onto that and the second one is people not getting from Telstra and Optus and so forth what they believe they’ve paid for.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Look, I don’t ask you to answer these specifically, I’ll give you an example. Callers off air – Stuart: “Paying for a speed of 100, getting 12 or 15. Fed up”.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yep.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Darren: “60 hours in six weeks. Trying to sort it out with NBN. Still not fixed”.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yep.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Bruce: “Seven broken appointments with NBN. Had to take a day off waiting for them”.

These are the sort of problems. It is a mess.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, but Neil-

NEIL MITCHELL:

I don’t know who is going to take responsibility for it but it is a mess.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, Neil, let me just say, those three complaints – one related to being promised a higher speed and not getting it.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Speed-

PRIME MINISTER:

And the other two are installation issues.

So believe me, and your listeners can understand this – I am very, very keenly aware of the disappointment and the problems that are being created at the moment.

The vast majority of NBN’s customers are happy with it but there are too many that are not and I am determined to fix it and I am onto it.

I’m not leaving this, look, Mitch Fifield and I are not leaving this to bureaucrats. We are dealing with the management directly. And we are determined to ensure that the problems, whoever is responsible for them are addressed.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay. Onto the terrorism issue. Is it correct that next you’re planning tougher checks at domestic airline terminals?

PRIME MINISTER:

In terms of producing proof of identity? Yes, that is certainly one of things that is being considered at the moment, yep.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Will customers or passengers have to pay for that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the important thing is to, if you’re going to do that and it is something that is obviously under active consideration, you’ve got to make sure that it is done efficiently so that it produces the least, done at least cost and of course least disruption in terms of delays.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So what are you considering? That you have to have photo I.D. to get on the plane?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that is one, that is certainly one of the matters that is under consideration. Absolutely.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What else is?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Neil, there is a whole, look, we are constantly reviewing our security procedures.

As you’ve heard me say many times, there is no place for set and forget with national security.

We’ve upgraded with the support of all the states and territories our counter-terrorism laws yesterday. Very important progress made there.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I was going to ask you about that – do you have to get them through the Senate? Will that be difficult?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m very confident that they’ll go through the Senate.

The Labor Party, Bill Shorten – it’ll really be a test for him. Does he want to support the government in keeping Australians safe? He says he does. Well, if he supports it, it’ll fly through the Senate.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And will it be used on crimes other than terrorism?

PRIME MINISTER:

The national I.D. database?

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yep.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, absolutely. Of course.

NEIL MITCHELL:

On what conditions will it be used? What will be a crime sufficiently serious to-

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s defined as being crimes of, you know, say up to three years imprisonment or three years imprisonment. And really, I mean, you take a case, you know, you had the tragic case of Jill Meagher in Victoria. I mean, you get a picture of somebody on a CCTV. Who is this person? What having all of this ID information, which is available to police now – this is public information – you make that available in real time, that means police can find out who is who immediately.

It also means that if you go along and say, you know: ‘I’m Billy Bloggs, here’s my license’, that can be checked in real time.

So all this is doing is bringing established procedures, established databases into the 21st Century.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay and what about the detention of suspects for two weeks? Is that just terrorism or is it other offences as well?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s terrorism.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, what about hacking? Look what happened to Medicare. The details for sale on the dark web. It will be hacked eventually won’t it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well this information is already in databases with states and territories now. So it is on databases. The problem is it is not uniformly accessible.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Does it revive the burqa debate? I mean a person has to show their face to get on the license but walking down the street you’ve got a burqa on, you won’t be identified.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I understand the debate but we’ve got to get the right balance.

We’re satisfied that, you know, as I was saying on television last night, the only laws that apply in Australia, are Australian laws and under our laws, whatever your particular persuasion might be, if you’re required to take off your head covering for identification, whether it’s for a license or whether it’s to go into a public building or, you know, into some other circumstance where identification is critical, then you’ve got to take it off.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay. Julie Bishop gave an indication of the way your Cabinet works in a speech not yesterday but the day before, but it surfaced yesterday. As the only woman in the Cabinet room, she talked about when she was in the Abbott cabinet and you were part of that, how men stole her ideas. Then she talked about, at the moment, now there are more women in the room, they’ve got a little pact going. This is what she said. 

THE HON. JULIE BISHOP MP, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS - RECORDING:

Didn’t matter what the other woman said, the rest of us would go: “Oh god, that is brilliant! Did you all hear that?” So, we do it now and reinforce each other’s point of view.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Is that right? So the women will support each other if it’s a good idea or not?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I couldn’t possibly comment on what goes on in the Cabinet.

[LAUGHTER]

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, she - 

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I won’t do that. But can I say Julie is an amazing role model for all women, particularly for young women. Of course, I have more women in my Cabinet than any previous government and I’ve-

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah but they’ve all done this pact to stick together and support each other regardless of whether they agree or not. 

[LAUGHTER]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I can assure you everyone sticks together in the Cabinet and it is a very, very collegiate Cabinet. I run a very traditional, consultative Cabinet government and- 

NEIL MITCHELL:

What about the old days with Tony Abbott? Was it a bit sexist?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I won’t buy into that. I’ll just speak for my own government and I run a very consultative government and we’ve got phenomenal Cabinet ministers who are women and they are, all of them are doing a great job and great role models. I mean, you’ve got Kelly O’Dwyer of course, from Victoria.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And they’re in furious agreement with each other on-

PRIME MINISTER:

Sorry?

NEIL MITCHELL:

And they’re in furious agreement on everything!

[LAUGHTER]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you see I can’t comment on these Cabinet matters, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I think you’d better carpet the Foreign Minister for talking about it.

[LAUGHTER]

On to more serious matters - gas.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.

NEIL MITCHELL:

The Victorian and New South Wales Premiers are adamant they’re not going to extract more gas to secure domestic supplies. How do you make them do it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think that’s quite – well, I think that is true with Andrews. I think he seems to have dug in. So he is determined that Victorians will pay more for gas than they should. Which I find extraordinary because it’s very obvious, if Victoria’s gas has got to come, or a large part of it has got to come from Queensland, or it’s going to come from overseas on the import terminal Andrews is talking about supporting, then Victorians will pay for it.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But he says that we’re providing enough gas for 7.2 million households and only using 3.2 million households, the rest is exported, which suggests the need for a domestic reservation policy.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I have secured from the gas exporters who are based in Queensland, which is where most of the gas comes from. You’ve got to remember, essentially Queensland is carrying the burden of the gas production on the east coast and increasingly Victorians are paying for gas to be shipped down from Queensland.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But that’s what Daniel Andrews is claiming that he’s, we’re actually digging out if you like, 7.2 million households but only using 3.2 million. So it’s being exported. So is that not true?

PRIME MINISTER:

The gas moves around but I can assure you that Victoria is not producing enough gas for its own requirements in terms of not just households, but of course industry. Victoria has a lot of manufacturing that needs a lot of gas, the failure to generate… and look, I’m not trying to make a political point here Neil. I mean every regulator, the ACCC the industry, every observer knows that if you don’t produce more gas then, you know, it’s the law of supply and demand. The prices will go up. 

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay what about Daniel Andrews, he seems to be backing away from guaranteeing Yallourn, the coal-fired station. Have you got any idea, have you raised that with him?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have not discussed that with him, that particular power station. I’ve seen those reports but there is no question that if you, if he proceeds with his reckless, ill-thought-out plan to force more renewables into the electricity market in Victoria, then he will, it will result in Victoria having less reliable and more expensive electricity and he’ll follow down the footsteps of South Australia.

I don’t know why having seen what happened in South Australia, you’d want to do it again.

You’ve got to have a plan.

You’ve got to have an energy policy and an approach that’s governed by engineering and economics, not ideology.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Prime Minister, the euthanasia debate is coming to a head in Victoria very soon and then New South Wales. I think you oppose legalised euthanasia don’t you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s very much a conscience matter. If I was presented with that proposition, I wouldn’t support it, that’s true.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER:

But I recognise that people have deeply held views on it, for and against. I think it will be a, this will be a very heartfelt debate in Victoria, I’m sure.

NEIL MITCHELL:

If the laws are passed, would you in government, the federal government, attempt anything to stop them or reverse them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we can’t, we can’t do anything to prevent the Victorian Parliament or the New South Wales Parliament for that matter making changes of that kind.

That’s entirely within their constitutional power.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So if they get through, they stand?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sure. They can change, each of those states has got the ability to change its criminal law, yeah.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Retail sales, the biggest two month decline in 7 years. Why are people not spending in your view?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is a number of factors. I think low wages growth is one, there’s not been enough, while we’re seeing strong growth in employment, we’re yet to see stronger growth in wages. So people feel as though they’re not getting ahead.

That’s why economic growth is so important. Everything we’re doing is encouraging companies to invest and grow. We’re seeing signs of that, early signs of that particularly with the jobs figures but we need to see more, you know, more stronger growth in wages.

I think higher electricity prices is clearly a factor. In Victoria they’ve gone up 11 per cent, that’s-

NEIL MITCHELL:

When do you think we’ll get a wage catch-up?

PRIME MINISTER:

It will come, as you get stronger economic growth, the labour market gets tighter. Again, it is supply and demand. Phil Lowe the Governor of the Reserve Bank was making this point just the other day-

NEIL MITCHELL:

Richard has called off air and this is of great interest to me - we’ve been following the march of Brendan Nottle, Major Brendan Nottle, solo from here to Canberra. I hear he swam across the Murray the other day. I know he was hoping to meet you, will that happen?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, we’ve got a meeting with him on the 18th of October in Canberra, looking forward to it.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Good, yeah he’s a good man, it’s all about homelessness.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yep, it is a very big priority for us and for all of us.

Lucy and I have been strong supporters of the Salvos for many years. The work they do is fantastic and I’m looking forward to seeing Major Nottle.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah, I’d just put aside three or four hours with Brendan. He can talk.

[LAUGHTER]

PRIME MINISTER:

Can he? Well, that’s good. Well, we’re both good listeners so that’s good.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Finally, Arthur Sinodinos has announced that he’s battling cancer. I did send him a text some time ago and he responded. How is he?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, he’s going well. He’s obviously got some tough treatment ahead of him. But he has a very good prognosis. He is a wonderful colleague, a great Cabinet Minister, a great public servant – a servant of the people throughout all his life and I’m very confident that he will be fit and well and back on deck very soon. 

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you for your time. Do you reckon you’ve ever pinched one of Julie Bishop’s ideas?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, she’s got wonderful ideas and I don’t know about pinching them but I’d always acknowledge them.

Every time you see Julie on the world stage, I think Australians feel even prouder. A great ambassador for our nation.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks Neil.

[ENDS]