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Transcript 41291

Television interview with Samantha Armytage - Sunrise

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: 09/11/2017

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 41291

Subject(s): Senator Dastyari; Citizenship

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

I'm joined by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Prime Minister, welcome. Thanks for your time. Let’s start with your thoughts on that – whatever you think of Sam Dastyari, what do you make of that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, there is no place for racial vilification in Australia.

We are the most successful multicultural society in the world and that is because it’s built, our society is built on a foundation of mutual respect and so we should have zero tolerance for racism and racial, racist abuse like that.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Should he be pressing charges today?

PRIME MINISTER:

That is a matter for him. I heard him interviewed a moment ago and I think he said he wasn’t going to but that is really a matter for him to do that.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Alright, let's talk about the citizenship debacle now.

PRIME MINISTER:

Right.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

You knew this was coming.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

You and the Opposition Leader met yesterday. You had a two-hour meeting. There was no resolution following that. We had Bill Shorten on the show a little earlier, let's hear what he had to say.

BILL SHORTEN MP, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION - RECORDING:

I think MP’s do need to demonstrate what steps they’ve taken to renounce foreign citizenship. It is the Constitution. The High Court set a very clear test. So, we didn’t get there yesterday. But I am confident that in coming days we can.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

This is a circus. What is the outcome here?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me just say, Bill Shorten is not being fair dinkum here. Let’s be quite clear about that.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

So is he lying, from the meeting yesterday?

PRIME MINISTER:

He's not being fair dinkum. He wants to exploit this issue. He wants to prolong it. He does not want to resolve it.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Do you feel like he didn’t come to the table yesterday honestly to sort this out?

PRIME MINISTER:

Correct. He certainly didn’t come to sort it out.

Let me tell you what happened - on Monday I had a Cabinet meeting and after the Cabinet meeting I presented a draft resolution for the matters that MPs should disclose.

So they would be required to disclose to say that they were a citizen at the time, only a citizen of Australia at the time they nominated, they were still only a citizen of Australia, disclose where they were born, their parents-

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

And your senior Cabinet Ministers overruled that? They said that they did not want that-

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no – the Cabinet totally supports what I am doing but just let me finish.

So, I set out a very clear plan of disclosure. So, I was saying, that if you are an MP, for example, and you had been a citizen of another country like a number, many MP’s actually, if you had been born somewhere else for example, what had you done to end that foreign citizenship, where is the evidence of your renunciation or did it cease for some other reason.

Literally, full transparency. Now, that’s what I set out. I did that on Monday.

Bill Shorten has been out there saying: ‘Oh we want bipartisanship. I call on the Prime Minister to work with me’ – all of this stuff. Terrific.

So we have a meeting. Does he come with a set of amendments? If I had been in his position, I would have come with a set of amendments and said I want to change this, this, this.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

And you did that?

PRIME MINISTER:

He had nothing! He had no changes to propose, no wording. We met for two hours. He could not clarify or articulate the changes that he wanted. Now either-

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

So is he stalling?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, either he doesn’t know what he wants - he’s either confused or he is stalling.

Now I want to get this resolved. This is what I want to achieve. This is the test of leaders - whether you want to be part of the solution, or part of the problem.

Now what I want to do Sam-

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

You are the Prime Minister though.

PRIME MINISTER:

That is true.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

This is up to you and the public is sick of it. And this could bring down your government. If you lose two or three of your people, you guys could be gone.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well at this rate, we already know there are several Labor MP’s who have conceded that they were British citizens at the time they nominated.

This is a problem. This is affecting all parties.

Let me just be clear what I want to achieve because it is very important that Australians understand my objective. We need to have full disclosure. We need to have it out there – just let me go on - we need to give the Parliament the time, it does not have to be weeks but a few days to read those disclosures, consider them and then Parliament has to discuss them and decide who, if any to refer to the High Court.

And I want to get all of that done before the end of the year so the sooner we can settle a bipartisan agreement on the terms of the disclosure, on the resolution, the better. 

I am really disappointed that Bill Shorten did not come to the meeting yesterday with a set of amendments.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Yes. Yes.

PRIME MINISTER:

It was not a business-like approach on his part.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Why not just have an audit? Hit this on its head. Get it done before Christmas. Sort it out.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you see, it depends what you mean by an audit. If you mean an audit as in-

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Well-

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you tell me what you mean by an audit?

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Someone coming in independently to investigate, to go through where everybody’s grandparents came from, where their parents came from and where they come from, where their citizenship sits.

PRIME MINISTER:

Sam, the problem with that is that that would take a long time.

Secondly, the views of the auditor, let's say it was a retired judge for example are not going to determine the matter.

The best way to deal with this is to remember-

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Would you not then have a list of who is in and who is out? I mean, we’ve seen the High Court precedent here.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, we have, but just let me finish – what every single senator and member has a responsibility to ensure that they are compliance with the Constitution.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

But a lot of them got it wrong.

PRIME MINISTER:

The High Court has given a very tough literal interpretation of the Constitution. We’ve got that. We had that ten days or so ago.

What we need to do now is get full disclosure and I absolutely support that, and I have produced a model for that and then it is only the Parliament that can then refer people to the High Court.

So you get all of the cards on the table. Everybody discloses their parentage and, you know, if they had been a citizen of another country, how they got rid of that citizenship.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

What a mess. Did you ever see this coming? When again everyday Australians are like just govern the country and we’re all talking about this.

PRIME MINISTER:

Sam, let me be clear – the case we took to the High Court was a common sense approach.

We said to the High Court that if you are born an Australian, born in Australia, foreign citizenship by descent through your parents or grandparents or whatever should not disqualify you unless you have accepted or acknowledged it or you have known about it and have done nothing to get rid of it.

That would pass the pub test. That would pass the test at the bar of the pub but it did not pass the test at the bar of the High Court. And so we have to live with the High Court decision.

The High Court has said that knowledge is immaterial. So they have said even if you don’t know, or had no reason to know that you are a foreign citizen you are disqualified.

So it is a very, very severe literal reading.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

And something needs to change and whether it's the Constitution or not, that is probably a discussion for another day.

PRIME MINISTER:

Sam, look, right now I want all Australians to understand that I am committed to ensuring that before Christmas we have full disclosure, the Parliament considers it and any MP’s or senators that need to be referred to the High Court are referred. That is what I want to do. 

But, look, we will move these motions in the Senate and the House regardless of what – if the opposition is not prepared to be constructive then we will move them and we will see what happens.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Alright.

PRIME MINISTER:

See, the advantage of, what I was trying to do with Shorten, bluntly, was, he’d said he’d wanted to be bipartisan. That means being constructive. So if I put a draft out there, a constructive approach, to say thanks for the draft, here are my amendments. He has not done that.

The sooner we can settle this, the sooner people will know precisely what they’ve got to comply with.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Yes – Prime Minister, we all look forward to that day. We really do.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, a few more than me.

(Laughter)

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Well only just head there is seven weeks ‘til Christmas – so good luck getting that sorted.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah and we were debating how many shopping days that was.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

42 in the old days.

PRIME MINISTER:

In the old days, that’s right.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Prime Minister, thank you for your time. Good luck with it.

PRIME MINISTER:

And we were also talking about the price of prawns too!

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

They are going up! What are you doing to do about that?!

(Laughter)

PRIME MINISTER:

You think I should lay off the prawns?

(Laughter)

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

We don't blame you for the prawn prices. That is about the only thing we don't blame you for.

(Laughter)

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that’s true. That’s only you because you have a kind and forgiving nature.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Prime Minister, stop. Flattery will get you everywhere.

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m sure Bill Shorten blames me for the prawn prices.

(Laughter)

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Oh, we have to go now, but thank you for your time. We appreciate it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ENDS]

Transcript 41291