Television interview with Leigh Sales, 7.30 ABC

Transcript
07 Dec 2017
Prime Minister
Same Sex marriage; 2017 Government achievements; Citizenship
E&OE

LEIGH SALES:

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, joins me now from Parliament House. Thank you for being with us.

PRIME MINISTER:

It's great to be with you, Leigh. What a day!

LEIGH SALES:

Prime Minister, where do you think same-sex marriage sits alongside other human rights reforms in Australian history?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Leigh, it's a big one. You couldn't rank them I guess, but it's interesting this has occurred 50 years after the '67 Referendum, which was, you know, carried under another Liberal prime minister, Harold Holt. It's 50 years since Harold Holt started undoing or undid the White Australia policy. So, you know - this is not, this has been an enormous national effort. You know, every Australian had a say in this. This has been a massive affirmation. But it is - I am so proud that this has occurred while I'm Prime Minister, while the Liberal and National Party’s are in government. It speaks - it is a great moment in our history, a great moment in our political history.

LEIGH SALES:

Surely you would also like to acknowledge that the Labor Party has played a part in helping this get through?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the Labor Party - look, Leigh, this is not a time to, you know, do the usual tit-for-tat. Labor certainly supported it and that's good. They had six years in office and did nothing about it. That's perhaps not so good. And of course, they did everything they could to stop every Australian having their say, and that was really bad. But we found a way to do that without legislation and, as you know, the postal survey was just an amazing success – 80 per cent participation, 62 per cent voting ‘yes’.

LEIGH SALES:

Do you accept, though, that there was a significant cost to many LGBTQI Australians of going through the public debate tied to that plebiscite process?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, look, that's what's been said, but I think, overwhelmingly, in net terms, the balance is overwhelmingly positive. I mean, if you are a young gay person and you are worried about your identity, you're struggling with how to tell your parents or your friends, you're going through a tough time, and now you know 62 per cent of Australians have voted to say you are equal, we love you, we respect you. That is a very big affirmation. That is a very big hug, Leigh. And that's what Australians have done.

LEIGH SALES:

When you see jubilation like that, and the fruits in the Parliament of working together, why are our politicians incapable of doing that more often?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, a lot of the legislation is very important. All of the legislation is very important. You know, you take our economic reforms - reducing tax on small and medium companies. We've seen massive increases in investment, in employment - 1,000 jobs a day in the last year. It's great. It's so important. But it's not the kind of legislation that normally makes people hug each other and burst into tears.

LEIGH SALES:

This week is the end of Federal Parliament for this year, and your final interview on this program for 2017, so let's whip through some other issues as well. On citizenship, why not refer every MP under a cloud to the High Court in the interests of complete transparency and accountability to the Australian public?

Well, we are certainly, I've made it very clear we believe that any MP or senator in respect of whom there's a substantial grounds for believing they're ineligible should be referred. But there are no - none of our MPs that, where you can say that about them.

LEIGH SALES:

The Labor Party would disagree so that's my point - why not, in the interests of complete transparency and accountability, refer everyone?

PRIME MINISTER:

Leigh, the Labor Party has produced no evidence - not even an argument - that any member of the Coalition sitting in the House is ineligible. We had two members - Barnaby Joyce and John Alexander - that went to by-elections. Barnaby's won his by-election and come back. John's is on the 16th of December. Now, what Bill Shorten did was he said he had the perfect vetting systems - everyone was fine - and now we've discovered a whole number of people in the House of Representatives on the Labor side - two of whom are actually British citizens right now, and others who are clearly ineligible, or clearly, arguably ineligible and should go to the High Court.

LEIGH SALES:

But there's so much subjectivity in this because, you know, if I had a Labor minister here, they'd be saying something different.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, they wouldn't, Leigh.

LEIGH SALES:

No, they would be saying something different.

PRIME MINISTER:

Leigh, this is a failure-

LEIGH SALES:

Tony Burke, we heard in the parliament yesterday-

PRIME MINISTER:

No, Leigh.

LEIGH SALES:

Saying the Labor Party would like to have some more clarity around people like Nola Marino. Given the subjectivity on both sides, why not refer it all to the High Court, which we the public can trust as an independent person to sit in judgement on this?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Leigh, there are many members on the Labor side - Tanya Plibersek's a very prominent one - who have got a statement from a foreign embassy saying they're not a citizen of that foreign country. In Tanya's case, it's Slovenia. Nola Marino has a statement from the Italian consulate saying she is not and never has been an Italian citizen. So you can’t, you know, if Tony Burke or anyone else wants to argue that Nola is an Italian citizen or Josh Frydenberg is Hungarian, then they've got to produce some evidence.

You see, I have to say - can I just make this point about the ABC? There has been a conspicuous failure of the ABC, both in radio and television, to recognise there is a big difference between the Labor Party saying, "Oh, we don't believe that the Greek Government knows who a Greek citizen is or not, and the Italian Government doesn't know who is an Italian citizen is or not," which is absurd. On the other hand, on the Labor side, you've got people who actually are foreign citizens, and admit they are. That kind of - it's a bogus sort of equality when what Shorten has been doing is saying, "Well, I know there's some of mine that have to be referred, but can I just refer some of yours as well just for the hell of it?" That's not good enough.

LEIGH SALES:

Alright. You said earlier this week the Government had a few barnacles that need removing. What are they?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, there were three - well, there were two difficult issues we had to deal with before the end of the year. Energy policy and same-sex marriage.

LEIGH SALES:

And they're the only barnacles?

PRIME MINISTER:

Just let me go on and they were two, in the parlance of this place, barnacles.

And we have a National Energy Guarantee, which we've adopted and is getting wide support around - even from Labor states and industry in the community, that we've really found the way to deliver affordability, reliability and meet our emissions reductions. Great work on that, great credit to the minister, Josh Frydenberg.

And then on the other hand, obviously same-sex marriage has been a very difficult issue, and we have got that resolved. It's now the law of the land.

LEIGH SALES:

When you look at-

PRIME MINISTER:

The third one, I might say, which I wasn't anticipating, was citizenship. But as you can see, we've dealt with that with full transparency. There are a number of cases to go to the High Court.

Labor is the one that is running, you know, the protection racket on some of its MPs but, frankly, they've referred Senator Katy Gallagher - her case is very similar to those that they haven't referred from the House and, basically, the court's decision in Gallagher's case will determine the fate of three or four more people in the House on the Labor side.

LEIGH SALES:

When you look at Labor during 2017, they've been united, they've been ahead in the polls, and they've stayed there. Bill Shorten has the backing of all his team.

When voters look at the Coalition, they see disunity, they see you consistently behind in the polls, they see some members of your team sniping at you. Why?

PRIME MINISTER:

You'd have to ask, the snipers, I suppose, why they snipe.

LEIGH SALES:

Why do you think?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Leigh, look, you know something? I focus on getting things done.

I focus on delivering a thousand jobs a day.

LEIGH SALES:

You can only get things done when you have your team onside.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well isn't that amazing, then? You say I don't have the team onside. What an amazing job the team has done!

Childcare reform, national security reform - just announced some more measures today. Tax reform - 1,000 jobs a day, massive infrastructure investment, legalising same-sex marriage, delivering a National Energy Guarantee.

It's a very, very long list of achievement that we have got done despite our many failings, which you remind me of from time to time and, and of course, the fact that we don't have a majority in the Senate.

LEIGH SALES:

Well you opposed a banking royal commission, then introduced one. You adopted Labor's Gonski education funding model-

PRIME MINISTER:

That's not true.

LEIGH SALES:

You say you support lower taxes, yet you increased tax in the last budget via the Medicare and bank levies.

Is the common thread of your prime ministership not ideology or conviction, but survival?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is delivery, and it is conviction - the conviction that we must deliver strong economic growth for all Australians, jobs for Australians - and you can see we're doing that. "Jobs and growth" is not just a slogan, it's an outcome that's being demonstrated. And of course, we've got to keep Australians safe.

And you know I heard you say we've adopted Labor's Gonski policy. That is absolutely untrue. Labor voted against it. Labor does not believe in what David Gonski proposed.

David proposed national, consistent, transparent, needs-based school funding.

Labor did not deliver it. They had 27 separate deals because they were going around doing deals with one school system or another, all contradictory.

We've swept that aside and, now, we have got one, consistent, transparent, needs-based system, and Labor voted against it.

So don't - don't fall for the trap. I mean, this is where journalism is often so lazy. Just because David Gonski's name was appropriated by Labor doesn't mean...

LEIGH SALES:

Appropriate, Prime Minister - I don't want to waste time on this, but he stood next to you when you announced-

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course he did! That's my point.

David Gonski - we have fulfilled David Gonski's vision. Labor betrayed it.

LEIGH SALES:

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER:

Don't imagine that this is Labor's policy. This is a Liberal policy informed by David's vision and his integrity and his reputation, and we're delivering on that a fair deal for Australian schools, $23 billion more funding and that is being done despite the most trenchant opposition from the Labor Party.

So don't fall for that propaganda-

LEIGH SALES:

Prime Minister-

PRIME MINISTER:

That our education policy is a Labor policy. If it was a Labor policy, they might have voted for it.

LEIGH SALES:

Prime Minister, what runs through your head in the middle of the night when you wake up and you can't sleep?

PRIME MINISTER:

You know what? I sleep right through the night. Do you sleep well?

LEIGH SALES:

No, I wake up often in the night, which is why I assume everybody does. I'm sure you don't sleep through every night.

PRIME MINISTER:

You would be amazed.

The key to being a happy and effective prime minister is to get a good night's sleep and plenty of exercise.

LEIGH SALES:

Well, thank you very much for joining me regularly during the year, and I wish you and Mrs Turnbull a very merry Christmas and a prosperous 2018.

Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks a lot, Leigh. Happy Christmas to you and all your viewers.

[ENDS]