Television Interview - Sky News

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Prime Minister

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Prime Minister, good morning to you. So this buyback scheme, it's an interesting one. How's it going to work?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINIISTER: Well, this is an $800 million dollar scheme of which $520 million shared between the Commonwealth and State has been set aside for buyback of homes that will assist up to 2000 homes in the Northern Rivers. In addition, there'll be grants of up to $100,000 to lift homes in areas that will make a difference as well, $50,000 for homes to retrofit measures that would alleviate the potential for the floods to have an impact. What we know is that this community has been hit time and time again. We can't keep doing the same thing again. We need to stop development on floodplains. That's part of this agreement is we're not going to be funding the purchase of homes and then just allow someone to build back there and have the same problems in the years ahead. So this is a program that's been worked out cooperatively between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales government, with the support of local government and the communities here. It's a really important breakthrough. The largest program of its kind that we've ever seen in Australia. We provided our share of the funding for the program in the Budget on Tuesday night and it's an important announcement that I'm making jointly with the New South Wales Premier here in Lismore this morning.

STEFANOVIC: So who gets selected?

PRIME MINISTER: It's based upon the advice, which unfortunately is based upon the reality because we have real world experience of the areas that are most vulnerable to flooding. Unfortunately, we'll be visiting a resident's home here in North Lismore later this morning for the announcement. Brian is someone who is in a wheelchair. He was rescued during the Lismore floods with a boat. Rescued him when the floodwater was up, nearly over his shoulders. He was very lucky to not be an addition to the so many tragic stories and loss of life that we saw and so we know the areas that are most vulnerable so it'll be worked out on a very objective basis and that is why we've provided such a substantial amount of funds. We know that climate change is real. We know that these extreme weather events are happening more frequently and when they happen, they're more intense. That's what the science told us would occur. And we know that there's some of this change, unfortunately, is baked in already, but we need to provide this support. And this morning's announcement is a really practical program that's been worked through. The New South Wales Premier will take a response nationally about issues like planning to the next meeting of the National Cabinet because we need to operate right across the East Coast, of course, has been impacted in recent weeks by this. We need to work together in order to overcome these difficulties.

STEFANOVIC: Yes, quite rightly. The people of northern New South Wales have had a very difficult time this year and any help would be greatly appreciated, no doubt about that. But will it be expanded? Because they are not the only ones who are caught up in flooding this year. What about the flood prone parts of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley? Will it be extended there?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we'll look at any proposals that come forward constructively. That's how my Government operates. We work to find real solutions to problems.

STEFANOVIC: So that's on the table?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we'll work constructively with proposals that come forward for state governments. We need to make sure at the same time that we entrench better planning. How is it that some of these homes have been built in areas that were always prone to flood events in the past? What we're doing here is adjusting policy to make sure we get much better outcomes for people.

STEFANOVIC: The estimated cost of buybacks around the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley, though, is somewhere in the region of $5 billion. That's a huge expense. Can the country even afford that? And would that just lead to more inflationary pressures?

PRIME MINISTER: No Peter, what we need to acknowledge is that it's a bit like the overall issue of dealing with climate change. The quicker you act, the less expensive it will be. In recent weeks, we have spent billions of dollars as a result of flood events in Tasmania, in Victoria, in New South Wales. Earlier this year, there were substantial funds expended. And if you just expend the funds and wait for the next event and then expend the same funds again on the same issues, you don't save money, you have an impact. So the first thing is, how do we avoid this in the first place? And I've spoken before about development around the Hawkesbury to make sure that we're not building in areas that are going to be impacted by flooding events. It sounds like common sense, but there are greedy developers out there who have their own interests. We will work constructively on these issues, but we need to work in a way that provides real solutions going forward. I remember previously, we changed the last time we were in government. We changed the rules, basically, so that you didn't have to build back what was there before previously when there was an event and disaster recovery payments kicked in, for example, a bridge, you had to build it back at the same level, even though it'd get washed away again if there was another event. We need a bit of common sense here and we need to recognise the impact that these events are having.

STEFANOVIC: Yes, a couple of quick ones before you go. Prime Minister Peter Dutton, he warned last night the country's future is dark under your leadership, citing broken promises and escalating cost of living pressures. Your response to that?

PRIME MINISTER: Peter Dutton last night gave, I think, the worst Budget Reply that's been given in my time in politics. It was just all about him being stuck in the past, trying to rehash old arguments about climate change and about culture wars. He went back not just to the Morrison Government. He went back not just to the Howard Government. He went back to the Fraser Government. He was talking about what happened in 1982 for goodness sake. There were no plans for the future in Peter Dutton's address last night. And the one thing that he reannounced was he rehashed the policy to raid people's super funds, damage their retirement incomes and a policy that would lead to higher housing prices, according to his own Ministers at the time that Scott Morrison announced this, just six days out from the election, a policy that was rejected by the Australian people when they elected a change of government.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. And Michelle Landry accused you of bullying in the House yesterday. Prime Minister, do you accept that accusation?

PRIME MINISTER: Show the footage, Peter. Show the footage. You'll see me having an exchange with Peter Dutton, not with the Member for Capricornia, about the fact that he was interjecting, yelling at me. He didn't know his Yeppoon from his Yeppen. They're two different places. He thought he was being smart, saying that I was somehow mispronouncing. I assume he thought Yeppen Floodplain, the road I was talking about, which is the southern entry into Rockhampton along the Bruce Highway. Yeppoon, of course, is a town on the coast to the north and east of Rockhampton. It was an exchange between myself and Peter Dutton and the footage shows during that time, Michelle Landry actually laughing at my response. That was good humoured. A bit of a joke about Queenslander, which is, of course, a reference to the fact that Peter Dutton didn't seem to know he's Yeppoon from his Yeppen and that's why the Speaker looked at it, said there's nothing to see here.

STEFANOVIC: All right. Did you call up Michelle and explain that to her?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, I did. I'm always concerned if someone is upset and I called her. That's a courteous thing to do. I wish her well.

STEFANOVIC: Did you apologise for anything like that?

PRIME MINISTER: She has my respect. I've never said anything against her. Peter Dutton wants to interject while I'm answering a question. He can expect a response.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. That's a big announcement coming up there from the Prime Minister and Lismore today. A lot of help there for the flood affected communities. I appreciate your time and a busy morning, Prime Minister, thank you so much for your time.