ALAN JONES: Thank you for your time.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Alan.
JONES: Just a quick one on Townsville, I know you have been there.
PRIME MINISTER: I have. Look, all the best of Australia is on display in Townsville, as you’d expect it to be. Last night, when I arrived there it was still raining, but it’s subsided and the water level dropped quite a lot today. And so families are now facing the hard task of walking back into homes with mud all the way through. I met with quite a lot of them today, young kids, and you know the bedroom, the carpet and everything. So that’s going to be the tough part of this week as they go back. But I’ve got to tell you, the Third Brigade are heroes. The emergency service workers, the Red Cross, all of them, the evacuation centres. I walked down one street, at one end of the street they had been inundated, at the other end it had just lapped on where the sandbags were and everyone down that end of the street were down helping people at the other.
JONES: Can I just tell you what they’re saying though on struggle street. They’re not harsh, we’re not harsh about foreign aid, our foreign aid bill is $4.2 billion. We give $1.3 billion to the Pacific, they say that’s important, the Pacific are part of our family. But there is another $3 billion, they say to me, “Why doesn’t the Prime Minister ring these countries and say, “listen I’ve got to look after my own people first, I’m going to have to allocate all of that $3 billion up here.” Now I know you’ve said $1,000 for adults and $400 for kids. You’re a father, you know how far $1,000 and $400 go, it doesn’t go anywhere.
PRIME MINISTER: It goes much more than that. I mean, there is a 13 week disaster allowance payment for those whose incomes are disrupted…
JONES: But are you going to throw any money in there to restore and rehabilitate these people?
PRIME MINISTER: Of course we are, and that’s exactly why I was up there today and that’s the next phase of the recovery. We went to Category C today in terms of the assistance that’s provided.
JONES: They’ve lost businesses.
PRIME MINISTER: I know, and that’s what this support does. It provides concessional loans for businesses to get through, it provides that additional support. So 13 weeks of allowances. So that’s about $12,000.
JONES: How would you like to get a concessional loan though, you can’t pay it back.
PRIME MINISTER: We’re going to be spending tens of millions of dollars in Townsville just on the income support payments and the emergency payments alone. That’s before we get into the infrastructure side of things on the other side of this. So there will be no shortage of assistance, there will be no shortage of cash support and other support that is needed for Townsville to rebuild, just as it is down in Huonville. I mean, one of the things in Tasmania - I was there the previous day – while large tracks of Tasmania have been incinerated, things like the Walls of Jerusalem, Cradle Mountain are unaffected. The best thing Australians can do to support the Tasmanians with the bushfires is have a holiday in Tasmania.
JONES: Absolutely true. Look, this has come back this Kerryn Phelps bill. I think, and we both think, that this is just diabolical.
PRIME MINISTER: So do I.
JONES: I was under the impression… Pardon?
PRIME MINISTER: So do I, it is diabolical.
JONES: You have written though Mr Shorten…
PRIME MINISTER: I have.
JONES: I was under the impression that you would be voting against the bill.
PRIME MINISTER: We are.
JONES: You’re going to vote against the bull?
PRIME MINISTER: Of course.
JONES: But there is an argument that that would create a constitutional crisis and you’d be frightened of going to an election.
PRIME MINISTER: That’s rubbish.
JONES: Well where does this business come from about you proposing a so-called ‘medical transfer clinical assurance panel’ to quote, “Provide clinical assurance on decisions about medical evacuations.” In other words, you’re not going to outsource it to two doctors but you’re going to actually agree with the Phelps proposal.
PRIME MINISTER: No no, that’s not what it is at all Alan. What it is is this: the way it works currently is clinicians decide whether someone should be transferred, OK? That’s not going to change. There’s clinicians who work within the Department of Home Affairs and they make the decisions about who moves and who doesn’t and that’s overseen by the Department of Home Affairs. All that I have done is made sure that the Australian people have got an assurance about how well that process works. They can’t change the decisions, they can’t reverse the decisions, the decisions all remain with the Department of Home Affairs and that does two things. One, it gives Australians confidence - as they should have – in the medical care that is being provided and it keeps the decision with the Government. I won’t be compromising on this Bill. If the Labor Party want to support this Bill and abolish offshore processing as they know it, it’ll be on their head. And if we lose that vote next week, so be it. We won’t be going off to the polls. The election is in May. I will simply ignore it and we’ll get on with business. But I’m not going to be howled down by the Labor Party who want to dismantle a border protection system I had a key hand in building.
JONES: The Kerryn Phelps… just one thing, can I sum up. The Kerryn Phelps Bill as I see it simply, in language that struggle street understands, is outsourcing immigration policy to two doctors.
PRIME MINISTER: And it is worse than that. Let me take you through it. Yes, it is that. You just need two doctors on Skype who say, “Well I can’t really see from here so you need to be brought to Australia so I can see you here.” That’s it. 400 people will come, single males from Manus Island, Nauru, within weeks, which will overwhelm our detention system. We’ve closed 19 detention centres. We’ll have to re-open Christmas Island. We’ll have to re-open detention centres that we were able to close because of our strong border protection policies. But it gets worse. In those circumstances they say, “Oh, but if there is a negative security assessment.” They give them a very short period of time. Now some of these people will never have even gone through that process, and as Peta will recall, security assessments particularly for those who have no papers are very difficult to determine.
But there is more, when it comes to character issues on our Migration Act, we can reject people. Now, there is nothing to stop in that case someone who is a paedophile, a rapist, who has committed murder, any of these other crimes, can just be moved on the say so of a couple of doctors on Skype. This is a stupid Bill, it is written by people who haven’t got the faintest idea how this works. We do and I am so appalled that the Labor Party would even play this sort of political game to get a cheap vote in the House next week. If that’s what he wants, if Bill Shorten is going to sell out our border protection to get a cheap, opportunistic win in the Parliament next week, well he can have it. I will stay on the side of strong border protection and he can take a running jump.
PETA CREDLIN: Well PM, he has already supported it. Labor have supported it in the Upper House.
PRIME MINISTER: They’ve already voted for it.
CREDLIN: Absolutely. So it’s through one Chamber of Parliament. I don’t see any indication publicly from the Opposition Leader that he’s going to back down. You’ve written to him, I’ve read a copy of the letter. Four pages of detailed argument why this is a very, very stupid move for border protection, for national sovereignty, for all the things that the Government has fought to turn around in the last six years. Have you heard from Bill Shorten, is he prepared to reconsider this?
PRIME MINISTER: No he hasn’t responded to me as yet. We will see. He is writing more letters at the moment on other topics. It is a big question of character, though.
JONES: But just summing up simply, because you’ve got to get this message through simply. Doesn’t even such a minor change, isn’t that really an incentive to people smugglers to start up?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh there’s no doubt. It is exactly as you said with the fishing boat captain from Indonesia. But Labor, don’t forget, their promising not temporary visas in Australia. They’re promising permanent visas in Australia. The first thing that happened in August 2008, when the boats started coming, we remember, Labor abolished temporary protection visas that were put in by the Howard Government. That’s when the boats started. Labor’s policy at this election is to abolish temporary protection visas again. That means anyone who illegally entered Australia can be given a permanent visa, which means citizenship. Now we stopped it.
CREDLIN: So you’re not scared of the fight next week?
PRIME MINISTER: Not at all Peta.
CREDLIN: One of the messages that kept coming out in the last few days is that you’re looking to find a back door way to avoid the Phelps vote. But if it goes to a vote, you’re prepared to stand and fight on principle?
PRIME MINISTER: We’ll vote it down.
CREDLIN: That will harden your support?
PRIME MINISTER: If that means that the vote goes down, it will be on Bill Shorten’s head. Now, Bill Shorten wants me to blame the crossbenchers for this. No no, Bill, it’s all on your head. You vote against it. You break it, you own it.
JONES: Good on you. Just on letters, to get away from all of this, you actually have written to the Prime Minister of Thailand about that soccer player Hakeem which I find a disgraceful episode, he’s gone there. Bahrain is seeking extradition, Interpol apparently, someone has dobbed this fellow in. You have written to the Prime Minister of Thailand about 10 days ago, has he responded?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah he has, we got a response the other night. I have also written to him again, that letter crossed over on my second because I was very disturbed at the appearance of Hakeem at the hearing the other day. He was shackled and I thought that was, I thought that was very upsetting and I know it would have upset many Australians and I’m respectfully reminding the Thai Prime Minister that Australians feel very strongly about this. Very, very strongly.
JONES: We helped rescue people from a cave, didn’t we?
PRIME MINISTER: This is true and they were our Australians of the Year, in fact. And so we will continue to make these representations, not just to Thailand but also to Bahrain as well, and we are. Our officials are doing a very good job.
JONES: The bloke’s in jail.
PRIME MINISTER: Well we’re in a process there but as I said on the road the other day, it’s not my job to get upset, it’s my job to get him home.
JONES: Just let me allude to a speech you made last week, you said it’s important to remind all of us that our economy cannot be taken for granted. That the economy is real, its impacts are real, and most importantly it’s about people. Now that’s all terrific but in 2007 Kevin 07, the people in the public, the voters, the people you are talking to now didn’t seem to understand that it was real, what Howard and Costello had achieved. It would be safe with Labor. Threw them out, we’ve now seen what’s happened subsequently. How are you going to prosecute this case when Chris Bowen is talking about $20 billion of taxes…
PRIME MINISTER: $200 billion. Or as you said the other day, $20 thousand million.
JONES: That’s right, $20 thousand million, I’m telling you to say it and I’ve got it mixed up myself. $20 thousand million worth of taxes.
PRIME MINISTER: That’s true and the most pernicious is this retiree tax. $5 billion a year stolen from the lives of retired Australians but also small business owners and others who are affected. Tim Wilson and the House Committee have been holding these hearings around the country. When I was up in Queensland they were holding them. The stories, just one after the other, and Labor’s response is to arrogantly dismiss them and now start flinging dirt at anyone who accuses them on this. This retiree tax isn’t reform, there’s no reform. It is just a naked tax grab. You know, the reason people put up taxes – if you can’t control how much you tax, you can’t control how much you spend. This is the way we’ve got the Budget back into surplus, which we will have for the first time in 12 years on the 2nd of April this year. You control your taxes, you control your spending, your economy grows and we all move forward. It’s taken us 12 years to get back from Labor last time.
JONES: Let me take you to a point that Chris Bowen has made which, if I might say to you, critically I don’t think your Government has addressed. I’ve never heard a more nonsense observation, he said, “Why are we the only country in the world who would let people claim an income tax refund when they paid no income tax in this year? It’s generous but it’s not sustainable.” Can I suggest to you that there are plenty of examples of refunds being paid to people and businesses who paid no tax. Half the population pay no net tax.
PRIME MINISTER: Well this is right. In cases when you take in all the benefits and so on, you can have cases of people earning up to 80,000 a year and they pay no net tax. You still have thankfully a majority of people who do but that said, we’re close to a tipping point and I think that’s very concerning. And look, Chris just doesn’t seem to understand how the tax system works. I mean, the way company tax works is basically a withholding tax and you end up paying it on what your own personal tax rate is. Now, there is a reason why retirees have a zero tax rate. It’s because they’re in the retirement phase and they’ve paid taxes all their life. The most offensive thing Labor says about the retiree tax is they haven’t paid any tax. Give me a break, they’ve been paying tax all their lives.
JONES: Good on you.
PRIME MINISTER: And in comes the big dark hand of Labor to rip it out of your pockets.
JONES: Well done.
PRIME MINISTER: We’re fighting this every day and Australians are waking up to it. And it’s not just the retirees.
JONES: It’s a good argument, that. They’ve paid tax all their life, that answers that argument. There are a lot of people who pay no tax and get a refund at the end of the year. Thems are the rules. Every Labor leader up until now has agreed with the current system about franking credits.
PRIME MINISTER: They have. It was bipartisan policy and the reason they’re doing it is because they don’t know how to control their spending.
JONES: And Kim Beazley argued, and Simon Crean who was the leader said, “We must do this because it’s fair.”
CREDLIN: And look, they’re angry because in the 2016 Budget the Liberal Party hit them with superannuation changes when Tony Abbott and you were elected under the same banner in 2013 said there wouldn’t be. I’m going to ask you a question, put you in the hot seat, will there be any changes if you’re elected next term on superannuation or do you rule them out?
PRIME MINISTER: I rule them out.
CREDLIN: No further changes?
PRIME MINISTER: No, none. I think last time I was on the program I said the same thing.
JONES: Can we just take this negative gearing thing, just very very simple. I mean, there is a bit of a housing crisis at the moment. Negative gearing is related to tax, so people say well I’ve got a choice to where I’m going to put my $600,000, I’ll put it in an investment property and I’ll get certain tax benefits. But by putting it in an investment property, I actually am going to rent it so there is a greater pool of rental properties and accommodation.
PRIME MINISTER: 30 per cent of the housing market is rental accommodation as a result of mum and dad investors.
JONES: So if suddenly that incentive doesn’t exist, I’ll take my $600,000 and I’ll put it into BHP shares. Therefore, there is less rental accommodation. Rent goes up but there’s fewer people bidding on Peta’s house when she goes to sell it. So Peta’s house is worth less. Now here we are attacking a house owner and a renter, how the hell can you win an election?
PRIME MINISTER: This is exactly as it is. This is how I describe their policy. You buy a house now, it’s like buying a car. The minute you drive the car off the lot, the value goes down because you’re selling it to a smaller market. It is exactly the same now under Labor’s policy for buying a house and it affects everybody’s house.
JONES: Can I just be a bit critical of you here if I might. Do you think you’re fighting on too many front? I think with an election coming, there are certain issues here which really dramatically… I mean, I’m not really worried about tariffs on kavas or whatever you were talking about in Fiji.
PRIME MINISTER: That was a very specific issue for them.
JONES: Right, these are powerful points. See, if you take the Capital Gains Tax. Now again, it’s a simple issue, isn’t it. I mean, you don’t buy anything, an asset, for the sake of it and make a loss. You hope you’ll make a quid.
PRIME MINISTER: That’s right.
JONES: There’s nothing wrong with making a quid. They’re going to increase the tax on the Capital Gain by 50 per cent.
PRIME MINISTER: 50 per cent on everything, not just on… it’s on shops, small businesses. See, you were talking about negative gearing before. Capital Gains Tax works the same way. Small businesses will go and invest in a rental property or in their own shops and things like this and this is what hits them. And it’s not just them - one in five of them are police officers. Peta knows, my dad was a police officer. One in five police officers negative gear. One in five. Labor likes to make out that they’re all, you know, dentists from well to do suburbs who own eight properties. That’s rubbish.
CREDLIN: No, it’s ordinary people.
PRIME MINISTER: The vast majority of people… you know, there are more people who negative gear properties in the federal electorate of Capricornia based on Rockhampton than in my southern seat of Cook in Sydney. Because people up there have worked in the mining industry, in the construction industry, and they’re creating opportunities for themselves. Labor hates it when people want to do better. They basically just want to keep everybody where they are, dependent on the Government.
JONES: We’re going to go, you’ve got to go somewhere else. You’ve been everywhere today. Just one final question, how could anybody vote for a Government that is talking about a 50 per cent renewable energy target or do you think the public are wedded to the view that this is the answer to our energy future? Don’t people understand what happened in South Australia, what’s just happened in Victoria? 200,000 homes reliant. Hazelwood is closed, 25 per cent of the power is gone. Liddell is likely to close here. Yet everyday - you are a Sydney man – the power that drives the toaster and the hot water in your kitchen, 92 per cent of that power is generated by coal-fired power. They are talking about renewable energy, how do you prosecute that case?
PRIME MINISTER: Well it’s pretty simple. A 45 per cent emissions reduction target wipes out Australian industries. I mean, the Boyne Island Smelter up there in Gladstone is gone. That’s 1,000 jobs. It’s gone. They can’t exist under Labor’s 45 per cent emissions reductions target. Australians want us to take sensible and practical and achievable action when it comes to our environment. But they do not want to sell our economy. They don’t.
CREDLIN: …investing in new, coal-fired power station this side of an election? Do we think anyone is going to get into the market?
PRIME MINISTER: Well you couldn’t build one of this side of the election.
CREDLIN: No, I’m not suggesting that at all PM. But people have been talking underwater. The Finkel Report says HELE is the way to go, it’s the most available, it’s cheaper.
PRIME MINISTER: Well they’ve got to make it stack up, as you know. I mean, the new ones…
JONES: You could build a dam.
PRIME MINISTER: Well we’re putting money into dams as you know, and there’s quite a number, we’re doing one up in North Queensland in Hughenden, that’s one we’ve been moving on over the last few months.
CREDLIN: But coal today, in the ABS stats, is our number one export. It’s propping up everyone’s budgets right around the country, yet we’re treating it like it’s a demon property here in Australia, likes it’s kryptonite. Do you think we’ll see a coal-fired power station?
PRIME MINISTER: I believe we’ll see, whether it’s that or that extended life of existing stations done on a commercial basis, but it all has to be done on a commercial basis.
JONES: But can you look down the camera here before you go and just say, as the Prime Minister of Australia, you want to tell all Australians there is no future other than a future in the dark if we don’t understand the importance of coal-fired power to the economic and personal well-being of Australians.
PRIME MINISTER: Well I will say, I don’t care where the power comes from, so long as it’s reliable and it turns up every day…
JONES: And affordable.
PRIME MINISTER: And of course affordable. And it is going to, that is going to be a big part of the mix for a very long time to come.
JONES: Coal, you mean.
PRIME MINISTER: Now that is true, as is gas, as is hydro.
JONES: There’s the camera, what do you say to the Australian people? Coal is going to be a part of mix.
PRIME MINISTER: I’d really like them to get the gas out from under the ground, Alan, they’ve locked it up here in New South Wales and in Victoria for too long and you know what that’s done to electricity prices? That.
JONES: Coal-fired power. Listen, good to talk to you.
PRIME MINISTER: You too.
JONES: Thank you for what you’re doing and we’ll talk again, we hope.
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah and congratulations to Johnny Morris too, I think he’s going to do a great job down with those Sharks, what do you reckon?
JONES: Hmm, well this is Cronulla of course, the Prime Minister is a Cronulla supporter. I think what the Rugby League has done to Shane Flanagan is a disgrace.
PRIME MINISTER: Well you know my view on that, you and I are both big fans of Shane and he has got a wonderful family and he has been a great son of the Shire down there.
JONES: A good man.
PRIME MINISTER: He is a good man.
JONES: He made the mistake of speaking to his players when they were really facing personal crisis. If that’s a mistake, I’m on Shane Flanagan’s side.
PRIME MINISTER: Well we’ve both always been on that side, for a long time.
JONES: Go and get the cap on, we’ll see you next time.