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Transcript 41185

Interview with Kieran Gilbert, SKY AM Agenda

Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 15/09/2017

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 41185

Subject(s): North Korea; Two year achievements; Same-sex marriage; Climate change; Asylum seekers


Mr Turnbull thanks for your time. Your reaction to this latest provocative move from Pyongyang?


This is another dangerous, reckless, criminal act by the North Korean regime, Kieran, threatening the stability of the region and the world and we condemn it utterly.

This is a sign I believe of their frustration at the increased sanctions on North Korea recently imposed by the Security Council. It is a sign that the sanctions are working.

And what we need to do is maintain the united global pressure on this rogue regime to bring it to its senses.

I am pleased that the UN Security Council voted for these additional sanctions including restrictions on oil imports into North Korea and again prohibitions on exports in a number of categories including coal and of course, iron ore was the previous sanctions, and now textiles. Tightening the sanctions on North Korea is the best prospect to bring the regime to its senses.


I know you spoke to the British Prime Minister Theresa May last night. What is the view within the international community about the way this is being managed by the Trump Administration? Is he up to the task?


The American Administration, the Trump Administration – as you know, I spoke to President Trump recently, just a few days ago – he is leading a global response through the UN Security Council, of which of course Russia and China are permanent members, as indeed is the United Kingdom, and it is unanimous.

We are seeing strong support from China for these economic sanctions. Remember Kieran, that China has by far the greatest economic leverage over North Korea.

Now as we have discussed before, North Korea is not to China what East Germany was to the old Soviet Union.

The Chinese are frustrated and dismayed by North Korea’s illegal and dangerous conduct but they have been very close allies of course historically and so China has in the past been reluctant to put more pressure on North Korea but you can see now they are taking action.

And what President Trump is doing and what all nations have been doing, I have done, and in all of our discussions, what we are seeking to ensure is that there is a united front to tighten the economic sanctions on this rogue regime so that it comes to its senses and so that we can avoid a conflict on the Peninsula which would of course be a catastrophe.


Indeed. We’ve got a lot to talk about. It is two years to the day since you became Prime Minister. Congratulations on the milestone first of all.


Thank you very much.


But when you took office there was a great deal of hope-


Now, Kieran, I’ve lost the little earpiece here so I’ll just put it back in. I can hear you again. Thank you.


Okay – fantastic – as I say, two years to the day since you took the job and there was a great deal of hope across the country when you became Prime Minister. What do you say though to those who haven’t felt their lives improve over the last couple of years, who don’t believe politics has changed, and who may feel disappointed?


I can point to real improvements that have changed Australian lives for the better.

Let’s talk about 500,000 jobs created in the last two years. That’s 325,000 of them in the last year. 80 per cent of those full-time.

What we promised, jobs and growth – that was our slogan in the election campaign – occasionally satirised, by you too I imagine, but it is more than a slogan, it is an outcome.

Strong economic growth, and we are seeing the pickup in jobs is the best sign of that. Now we want to see a lot more and so part of what we have done in the last two years is deliver business tax cuts.

So we are seeing businesses, small, medium family businesses – this year up to $25 million, next year up to $50 million, turnover I mean – are getting tax cuts. What does that do? It encourages them to invest. If they invest more, they employ more.

We’ve given tax cuts to middle income Australians.

We’ve given instant asset write offs to small businesses.

You know, one of the things we talked about in the Budget was the importance of providing opportunity and security and fairness.

Now in terms of opportunity, I’ve talked about jobs – what about the opportunity to get a great education?

Now we have for the first time delivered the historic reform of transparent, universal, consistent needs-based funding from the Federal Government to Australian schools. Now that has never been done before. It has never ever been done before.

Many ministers have talked about it, have aspired to it. Many governments have genuflected in the direction of needs-based funding, none more so than the Labor Party. They didn’t deliver it, my government has.

So that’s a good example of the way in which we’re delivering on our commitment to those principles - opportunity, security and fairness.


Another big challenge ahead for you and for the government is to get through this postal survey. A lot of division within the Liberal Party right now. Most notably John Howard who says: “Protections for religious freedoms should be clarified up front”. He says: “The government is being disingenuous and if a yes vote is recorded there will be overwhelming pressure to simply move on once the Parliament has dealt with it, there will be scant opportunity for consideration of protections”.

Can you reassure Mr Howard that that won’t be the case?


Absolutely, and I can say to Mr Howard and to all Australians that if there is a majority ‘yes’ vote in the postal survey, and I encourage Australians to vote ‘yes’. Lucy and I will voting ‘yes’. If there is a majority ‘yes’ vote, religious freedoms will be protected, there is consensus across the Parliament to do that.

Now when we, last year the Attorney-General presented an exposure draft of a same-sex marriage bill which protected religious freedoms. It was then considered by a Senate committee. So a lot of consideration has been given to that. And the committee reported that there was very broad consensus to support religious freedoms. I have no doubt about that.

I’m sure there will be plenty of debate and input into the detail.

And you know we will welcome John Howard’s contribution to the fine tuning of that exposure draft bill, and its improvement. I’m sure John can make an enormous contribution. He didn’t make a submission to the Senate committee but with his experience and expertise I look forward to him doing that. But John understands very well, a matter like this, is a Private Members Bill. It will obviously be brought by government members and it will have religious protections, the protections of the kind we’re talking about in there.

But of course it then has to go through the Parliament. It will be a free vote. It’ll have to go through the Senate so there will be the opportunity for every member of Parliament to make a contribution and for Australians like John Howard with a passion about the detail here to really be of enormous assistance.

So I welcome, I really will welcome John’s assistance with this – assuming there is a ‘yes’ vote.


Yeah, because he says: ‘The government is washing its hands of its responsibility in this regard”. It sounds like he’s having a decent go at you here.


Look, we’re old and good friends but what we are doing is precisely what we promised at the election.

We said there would be, we would give every Australian a say on the threshold issue of should same-sex couples be able to marry. That’s the question. We made that promise at the election. We sought to deliver that through a normal attendance ballot but the Labor Party, playing politics, thwarted that in the Senate.

I mean Bill Shorten of course had promised the Australian Christian Lobby back in 2013 a plebiscite. He’d said he supported it and then he did a backflip as he does all the time.

But anyway we’re now doing it via a postal survey.

Every Australian will get their say. We encourage every Australian to have their say, whether their view is ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

But as I said Lucy and I will be voting ‘yes’. And the reason we’ll be voting ‘yes’ Is because of fairness. We believe it’s fair for same-sex couples to have the right to marry. And also because commitment is the key to marriage.

Now we need more people to make a commitment. The threats to heterosexual marriage, traditional marriage if you want to call it, is not a gay couple down the road getting married. It’s lack of commitment, it’s adultery, it’s desertion, it’s abuse, it’s neglect. Those are the threats to marriage, not other people wanting to make a commitment.




So if commitment is good, then if other people want to make a commitment we should welcome it.


Well Mr Howard could the man that breaks the nation’s heart yet again in your view.


But let’s move onto the energy discussion now, and this debate. I want to ask you about where your government is at on this? Because it seems short of pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement you won’t be able to placate some of your colleagues. Tony Abbott, chief among the climate sceptics, addressing a London forum next month in that regard. Can you reassure voters who believe in climate change and the dangers of global warming that it is the same old Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister? That you are passionate as ever about the dangers of global warming?


Well I recognise the science, Kieran. You know, you’ve got to deal with questions of fact and we have a commitment under the Paris Agreement to cut our emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030. That commitment was entered into by the government while Tony Abbott was Prime Minister in fact.


He said it was only an aspiration.


Well, that is not in fact the case. It was a real commitment and as Tony said at the time, Australia is one of those nations that when it makes commitments, it keeps them.

It is a serious and genuine commitment and one which we made knowing that Australians and other people around the world would expect us to keep it.


Let’s move on, we’ve got a couple of issues before we wrap up. Media, the reforms finally through the Parliament. Labor still worried about the concentration of ownership. Why shouldn’t consumers be worried?


The media, Kieran – and you know this better than anyone, your viewers do too – the media has never been more diverse than it is now.

These laws have been holding back the Australian media while international online companies like Facebook and Google and many others, many many others, have been completely unconstrained.

I mean we’ve got to give Aussie media companies a fair go, the chance to compete.

They were drafted or enacted in an age before the internet and really relate to an era before the smartphone, before Facebook, before Google. It was another world.

So, again, what my government has been able to do and it’s a great credit to the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and the whole Senate team and I thank them as we thank the cross bench for their support – what we’ve done finally is what so many governments before mine have been unable to do and that is bring the Australian media laws into the 21st century. 


Okay last question or last issue. I just want to touch on some comments you made a couple of weeks after you became Prime Minister. You said: “It’s important for leaders to possess the empathy to walk in somebody else’s shoes”. Two years on, more than 1,000 genuine refugees languish on Manus and Nauru – that’s for more than four years. This does weigh on your conscience, doesn’t it, as the leader of the nation?


It is a matter of enormous concern to us.

As you know, I’ve secured an arrangement with the United States to resettle refugees from Manus and Nauru, obviously subject to the US’s own vetting requirements. I secured that from President Obama. I’ve maintained that arrangement with President Trump. The processing of the people concerned is progressing.

But Kieran we can’t allow the people smugglers to get back into business.

I am a very compassionate man. I am. And I am not going to take any step that will encourage people smugglers to get back into business, put lives at risk, have families drowning at sea.

You know as well as I do that when the Labor Party walked away from John Howard’s strong border protection policies we had 50,000 unauthorised arrivals. People smugglers, smuggled into Australia by boat. And we had at least 1,200 people who drowned at sea.

Now we can’t allow that to start up again.


Seven have died on land though.


We have to send-


In Manus and Nauru, seven now dead.


Well, Kieran, we have to send the most unequivocal message to the people smugglers - you cannot get into Australia.

Now they still try from time to time and we’ve turned back over 30 boats over the last three years or so. They’ve been turned back during my prime ministership as you know.

But if we were to start bringing asylum seekers who had come by boat into Australia, you would be getting dozens and dozens of boats, building up to hundreds.

Believe me, people smuggling is a much bigger, more sophisticated, more dangerous industry now than it was even a few years ago.

All of the connectivity and communications ability that the internet gives and smartphones give, have made it even more potent.

So we have to be absolutely resolute.

You cannot get to Australia with a people smuggler.

We have taken their product away from them and we will never give it back.


Prime Minister Turnbull, two years in, I appreciate your time today. Thanks.


Thank you very much.


Transcript 41185