Radio interview with Sabra Lane - ABC AM

Transcript
08 Dec 2017
Prime Minister
Same-sex marriage; 2018; Bennelong; Israel
E&OE

SABRA LANE:

Joining us now is the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, good morning and welcome back to AM.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Sabra and I hope you gave George a hug.

SABRA LANE:

[Laughter]

How emotional were you over this?

PRIME MINISTER:

It was a very emotional moment and to maintain my prime-ministerial calm was more of a challenge than it is normally.

Look, this was such a joyous occasion.

We gave every Australian their say in the survey, 80 per cent participated, 62 per cent voted ‘yes’. The message was to the Parliament was ‘get on with it’. It came to the Parliament and that picture in the House of Representatives of almost everybody voting ‘yes’ and only four voting ‘no’.

Boy, that sends a message.

You know, overwhelming support. What an affirmation for same-sex couples. What an affirmation for young people, for young gay people, who are feeling uncertain and challenged and the way that Magda Szubanski was talking about when she was a young woman. They've now had this affirmation from an overwhelming majority of Australians, speaking directly and an overwhelming majority of the Parliament.

SABRA LANE:

In your wildest dreams, did you ever expect that 78 per cent of people would respond to the survey process?

PRIME MINISTER:

I did not think the participation rate would be that high. To be honest with you, I thought over 50 per cent would be good, below 50 per cent would be disappointing. I thought over 60 per cent,  I would be ecstatic and when it got to just under 80 per cent, I was absolutely amazed.

You know, people were very critical of the postal survey, as you know. They said: “Young people don't know what letterboxes are, let alone how to find them.”

They found them. In their thousands, they found them.

SABRA LANE:

What did you learn from the exercise?

PRIME MINISTER:

What I learned was that giving people their say, respecting people and respecting their views, works. Australians are a respectful nation. You know, we are the nation of the fair go.

I went to the last election and I said: “We'll give everyone their say.”

The Labor Party, for purely political reasons, did everything to frustrate that.

We managed to find a way to do that without legislation and it worked magnificently. That's what gave the momentum. So this was an affirmation from the Australian people, giving that huge momentum and push to the parliamentarians to say: “Get on with it,” you know “what part of ‘get this done,’ don't you understand?”

SABRA LANE:

Tony Abbott created the plebiscite when he was Prime Minister and it was a process you were handcuffed to when you became leader. Have you bumped into him after yesterday's vote?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I haven't had a chat to him. No, I have not.

SABRA LANE:

Was it disappointing to not see him in the chamber for the final vote?

PRIME MINISTER:

I didn't notice his absence, was he not there?

SABRA LANE:

Apparently not.

PRIME MINISTER:

Okay, well, it's a free vote. In our Party a free vote means you can vote ‘for’ or ‘against’ or abstain if you wish.

SABRA LANE:

Now that that's done, that box is ticked.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yep.

SABRA LANE:

What's the big theme for 2018?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is more money in the pockets of hardworking Australian families and businesses.

It's getting on with delivering on a National Energy Guarantee which will reduce energy prices.

It’s getting on with our business tax cuts which are already delivering nearly 1,000 jobs a day - and 85 per cent of them full-time I might say - over the last year.

It's getting on with our childcare reforms which is going to benefit so many Australian families, particularly on lower and middle incomes.

It’s getting on with our school funding reforms. I mean this is the first time we're going to have national, consistent, transparent, needs-based school funding. And of course as you know, our next step in tax reform, for us is going to be personal income tax. It’s a tight budget Sabra, but we are determined to put more money into the pockets of hardworking Australian families and businesses.

SABRA LANE:

Looking at the front page of the Financial Review today, corporate leaders admit that there is a huge trust deficit when it comes to corporate leaders and politicians. People aren’t listening to them, they’re not listening to you. They've urged that they want the government to stop ‘business-bashing’.

How big a problem do you think this trust deficit is?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think you've got to always work on, you know, retaining trust and maintaining trust. I think politicians who break their promises always erode that trust. You know, I have not been accused - I’ve not been accused, there is no basis for accusing, I might add - of breaking any of my election promises.

Now, I wasn't rash and run out and made dozens of them, but we have delivered on all of the promises we made in the election or are delivering on them. That is very important. Keeping your word is important.

So when people were saying: “Oh, giving everyone their say, just abandon it,” I couldn't do that. I had made a commitment at the election to give everyone their say on same-sex marriage, then if they said ‘yes’, to have a free vote in the Parliament.

We delivered on both.

SABRA LANE:

Getting back to the point earlier, people are feeling, average Australians are feeling quite - they're not buoyed. We had great growth results during the week.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, we did.

SBARA LANE:

But that is not really reflected in households. Australians are actually feeling that it's quite tough. We've seen, you know, discretionary spending, people have shut their purses and their wallets. They're not feeling that it's a good time for them. What do you say to those Australians about delivering real relief for them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that’s what we're doing. There was a dip in discretionary spending, you're right. Of course that was associated with the big rise in energy prices in the first quarter of this year, this financial year. But what we have to do, is deliver the policies that will enable businesses to grow and invest. You see, we've done that, so those business tax cuts which we've got through for businesses up to $50 million turnover, these are not huge multinationals. Obviously these are overwhelmingly small Australian family-owned businesses, but they employ half the private sector workforce. That's where you're seeing the growth, encouraging them, enabling them to invest more and grow.

Also, energy. Energy policy has been appalling across Australia for a long time. It's been a combination, particularly from the Labor side, of ideology and idiocy. What we have done, what guides my energy policy, is engineering and economics. The National Energy Guarantee - which has won very broad support - enables us to have reliable, affordable power and meet our emissions reductions commitments.

SABRA LANE:

But the tax cuts to big business, that's not a message that is resonating through to the workers of Australia. That message about inequality is really resonating with them, especially when wages growth for them has been flat for years.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah wages growth has been low and that is because there has not been enough economic growth.

SABRA LANE:

Well when should those businesses start sharing some of the good times with their workers?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sabra, it's supply and demand. If you get more investment, more competition for labour, wages rise. A strong economy, all boats will rise in the same tide. Now obviously there's always going to be areas of inequality and disadvantage and you've got to address those and we do.

But believe me, 86% of the Australian workforce, work in the private sector, so when Bill Shorten goes out there and goes to Business Council of Australia and says he is going to have a class war and he will do nothing for business and he thinks business bashing is good politics - he was apparently very open with them about that, they were appalled – well you know what? It might be good politics but all that will do is destroy jobs.

My job is to make sure that more Australians have jobs and that's what we're delivering.

SABRA LANE:

Your former colleague Andrew Robb has lashed out at the Government over plans to introduce the foreign register, saying that he's been smeared and the accusation is that he's involved in some sort of treasonous activity. Have you tried talking with him about this?

PRIME MINISTER:

I haven't had the time just in the last 24 hours with all of the goings on here to speak to Andrew, but I will.

He misunderstands what this register is about. As I said in the Parliament when I introduced the legislation, yesterday, last night, it's like the lobbyists' register. There's no taint or commentary on people. If you are a former Cabinet Minister and you are working for a foreign principal - you know, might be a foreign government, or a foreign state-owned enterprise or something like that - then you are on a register.

But there's no harm in that. I mean, it's like being on the lobbyists' register. It's just a question of transparency. I think Andrew has somehow or other misunderstood what is being done here.

Look, he is a patriotic Australian. As I said in the House actually, the Labor Party are the ones that tried to smear him. They were trying to compare him to Senator Dastyari.

Well, I mean, that's absurd. Andrew is a patriotic Australian who did an outstanding job as our Trade Minister in Australia's interests.

SABRA LANE:

Now, on to next year. Your own backbench, given the shenanigans that we've seen from the conservative pocket within the LNP and George Christensen in cahoots with a journalist and commentator to try to bring you down. What's your message to your party about discipline?

PRIME MINISTER:

We all know that this is a business where unity and discipline is critical. The disunity, people often say, is death in politics. Well, it may not be death but it certainly can be very wounding.

So we are a broad church, but we have to work together and respect each other. I run a very traditional Cabinet Government. The most traditional I would think for many years. I've modelled it on John Howard's government, in fact and so, I respect everybody. Everyone gets consulted. We make decisions collectively.

SABRA LANE:

Talking about John Howard, in just over a week you will have the Bennelong by-election. Will you win it?

PRIME MINISTER:

We don't take it for granted at all. It's a tight contest. John Alexander is an outstanding local member. He has delivered for the electorate, he speaks for the electorate. He's part of that community.

His opponent, Kristina Keneally of course, has popped up there as the Labor Party’s candidate and John's message, is don't let her do to Bennelong what she did to New South Wales.

So many of the big problems in Bennelong were created by state Labor governments, including hers when they allowed 100,000 new apartment approvals to go into that electorate, a huge increase in development and cancelled public transport infrastructure. Cancelled the transport infrastructure that relieves the congestion.

Now of course, a state Liberal Government supported by us is now building that infrastructure and John and I and Gladys Berejiklian announced a new bus interchange there just a little while back.

SABRA LANE:

Just quickly, finally, Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, how helpful is that to long-lasting peace in the Middle East?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, time will tell. But it's obviously been the subject of a lot of criticism and you know, American Presidents for a long time have not made that decision because they were concerned about the peace process. But time will tell what its’ impact is. We are not going to relocate our embassy. It will remain in Tel Aviv.

SABRA LANE:

Prime Minister, thank you for talking to our listeners throughout the year. We wish you and your family a safe Christmas.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes and Sabra, a very Merry Christmas to you and your family and all of your listeners.

[ENDS]