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Transcript - 23742

Interview with Ray Hadley, Radio 2GB

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 18/08/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23742

Subject(s): New counter-terrorism measures for a safer Australia

RAY HADLEY:

Prime Minister, good morning to you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Ray, lovely to be with you.

RAY HADLEY:

Thank you. We’re normally joined by your colleague, Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison. Scott will be taking a leave pass and back with me tomorrow. You’re holding meetings this week with Islamic leaders to talk about the new counter-terrorism laws you've introduced. It shouldn't be a hard sell given the way they've responded over the past week, surely?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that's right and, look, you'd expect the Prime Minister from time to time to meet with community leaders, and I try to meet from time to time with community leaders and this week I will be meeting with, amongst other people, Muslim leaders. I was very encouraged by some of the things that I have read in the paper this morning. Even Keysar Trad, who is someone who I've disagreed with from time to time in the past, saying that the Muslim community is just as concerned as everyone with trying to ensure that Australia stays safe.

This is the thing, Ray. We've got a serious problem of radicalised people going to the Middle East to fight with terrorist groups. Some of them will want to come back to Australia and they do pose a risk if they do, because they've been radicalised, militarised and brutalised by the experience. We discovered a few years ago, with people coming back from Afghanistan, that about two-thirds of them subsequently went on to be involved in home-grown terrorist plotting.

So, we do have to be vigilant against it and my position is that everyone has got to be on ‘Team Australia’. Everyone has got to put this country, its interests, its values and its people first, and you don't migrate to this country unless you want to join our team, and that's the point I will be stressing.

RAY HADLEY:

You have a strong affiliation, as I do, with the Lebanese Christian community – the Maronites. I meet with them regularly and I've been despairing – and I tell them this – that we haven't had enough discussion from them about the minority of Lebanese Muslims, and other Muslims, that come here and want to act like a number of them want to act. Thankfully, I can see a little pebble has been dropped in the pond and there are a few waves now, headed up by Jamal Rifi who I spoke to last week, and he leads the way. He leads the way in the strongest possible terms. I know there is fear from some of these people in these Christian communities and other communities for retribution, but surely, as a nation, we have to support everyone, be they Lebanese Australian Christians or Lebanese Australian Muslims. I got taken apart here two weeks ago for defending Lebanese Muslims because I made the point that very few of the people I know from that faith are violent people and Jihadists. And I stand by those comments, but what we need to do… the silent majority become responsible for the vocal minority, by their silence.

PRIME MINISTER:

And what we need to do is to encourage the moderate mainstream to speak out, because you know, over the years, Ray, we've had all sorts of different ethnicities, religions, nationalities, migrating to Australia. Overwhelmingly, our country is comprised of good, decent people who want to put Australia and its people first, and it's important that individual communities can't be caricatured on the basis of a militant few rather than on the basis of what I take to be a sensible majority.

RAY HADLEY:

We've got to be careful. I've had calls to the programme about the ISIS flag flying in parts of south-western Sydney. Then I go to Dr Rifi and investigate. It turns out it's a flag a bit like the ISIS flag, but no connection to either ISIS, ISIL or IS. What do we do if we find someone who wants to fly the flag of a terrorist organisation over a shop or over a home in Sydney? What do we do?

PRIME MINISTER:

That's a very good question. I don't know what the legal position is, but frankly, the only flag that should be flying is the Australian national flag. If people want to fly other flags – a corporate flag for instance – fine, but the Australian national flag should always be part of it.

RAY HADLEY:

You must get cranky when you pick up the paper, or you're told by your security experts, that we've got a young Jihadist from Kellyville using his brother's passport to go overseas. I checked – Customs and Immigration did their best to ascertain whether it was his. AFP, as I understand it, intervened and said, “No, he's ok”. He gets to the United Arab Emirates on a flight and they say, “No it's not ok, it’s not his, get back home”. I mean I know you're spending a lot of money and you’ve got it in the Budget to spend more money and make sure that we don't let people use, like Sharrouf did, other people's passports, but do you get frustrated it's taking so long to get that in place to stop this sort of nonsense happening?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, Ray, I do, I think all of us do, but the problem is that we don't have biometric screening at the airports and we should. The former government fiffed and faffed around over this; this Government is going to introduce biometric screening at airports. We've committed money in the Budget to make this happen and that will make it so much more difficult for the kind of things that we've seen once it's in place. But yes, Ray, like you, like the public, I get angry and annoyed when I discover that these things have gone wrong. The good thing is that concerns were triggered by this individual and by the time he got to Dubai, or the UAE, he was detained.

RAY HADLEY:

We all have our moments. I have mine. You have yours…

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ve certainly had a few!

RAY HADLEY:

No, I think I've got you covered! I think I’ve got you covered. Only because I'm older than you!

PRIME MINISTER:

Not much, Ray, not much!

RAY HADLEY:

Yeah, but I've got you covered in terms of moments, so I put my hand up at having moments.

I like Joe Hockey. I think he's great company, he's a great fella, but he took off his head and put on a pumpkin last week. What worries me about it is it took a week for him to go back. When you were in opposition you and I would talked about class warfare, and I hate class warfare – pitting rich people against poor people when we're all the same, someone has had a bit more luck than someone else, someone has worked a bit harder – and then all of a sudden he raises the spectre of class warfare with this nonsense about cars and the use of cars. Well of course, if you're earning $35,000 for year, you won't have enough for petrol, food, a punt, a drink, cigarettes or anything else compared to a bloke earning $135,000.

PRIME MINISTER:

Sure.

RAY HADLEY:

So why did it take him so long to back away from what he said?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, he absolutely accepts, Ray, that he got it wrong, that he made a mistake; he came down to 2GB and ‘fessed up on Ben Fordham's programme last Friday. Look, it was one of those moments, that's all you can say. But the fundamental point ...

RAY HADLEY:

Please don't have any more. Joe, no more!

PRIME MINISTER:                                                                                                         

…and all of us, all of us should try to avoid those sorts of moments. But look, the fundamental point he's making is absolutely sound. This country cannot go on borrowing a billion dollars every single month to pay the interest on Labor's debt and…

RAY HADLEY:

But he didn't say that. He meant to say that!

PRIME MINISTER:

He was trying to explain the restoration of fuel excise indexation. It's a tax that Labor brought in back in the 1990s, it was suspended by the Howard government. Because of the fiscal situation we're in we think it does need to be restored and look, a tax is a tax, I accept that. No one likes paying additional tax, but in the case of fuel indexation, for the average family, it will be about $20 a year in the coming year, and that was the point that Joe was trying to make.

RAY HADLEY:

Are we being more conciliatory in relation to the Budget measures? I notice that Julie Bishop, your deputy, has urged compromise and Mr Cormann and others are talking about compromise. I just wonder how you compromise with a lunatic like Clive Palmer? I know that you don’t like me using that expression because you won't get down to my level, but he is quite mad. You have to accept that he's quite mad and I know you won't agree with me. His latest is this blue with Alex Douglas, the former leader of his Party. He has described him as a ‘power hungry control freak who swears too much’ – well I can’t criticise him for that because I swear a bit too much myself – who runs his party through nepotism and cronyism. I mean, how in goodness' sake does a Prime Minister deal with someone – apart from sending Malcolm Turnbull in to bat – as erratic as Mr Palmer?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you have to deal with the Parliament that you've got and that's what the Government is doing, Ray. And look, we're prepared to talk to the crossbench Senators. What we're not prepared to do though is sell out the fundamentals and the fundamentals are that we have absolutely got to get this budget crisis back under control. I mean, Labor left us with a debt and deficit disaster. Even Clive Palmer was using the term crisis last week. So what I say to all of the crossbench Senators is: if you don't like what the Government is putting up, give us your alternative in terms of how we save money. And there were some alternatives that came up from one of the crossbench members of the Federal Parliament and frankly they didn't stack up for five minutes.

RAY HADLEY:

Now, let me put this to you, I don’t really know how to couch this – do you have to make Malcolm Turnbull go and talk to Clive or does he do it willingly because I'm concerned on two fronts that you'd make him do it and secondly he'd do it voluntarily?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Ray, I've encouraged all of my Ministers who’ve got legislation before the Parliament to talk to the crossbenchers. Negotiations with the crossbenchers are led by Eric Abetz in the Senate and Christopher Pyne in the House of Representatives. But every Minister who's got legislation before the Senate, before the Parliament, needs to be talking to crossbenchers who've got some issues with it. So I'm pleased that Malcolm was out there talking to crossbench Senators. I'm pleased that Joe's been out there talking to crossbench Senators. I know Peter Dutton has been talking to crossbench Senators. Eric and Christopher are doing it all the time and that's what a decent sensible government does. It treats all Members of Parliament with respect and can I say this, Ray: at least it is possible to sit down and have a serious conversation with crossbench Senators. The Labor Party and the Greens are still saying no to everything. The Labor Party in particular is saying no to absolutely everything because I'm afraid they haven't changed. They’re still in denial about their election loss, they’re still in denial about six years of shocking government, and I gather we’re going to see that aired again today with Tanya Plibersek launching Wayne Swan's book…

RAY HADLEY:

Wayne’s World.

PRIME MINISTER:

Essentially an attack on Kevin Rudd.

RAY HADLEY:

Well it's Wayne's World. I just wonder whether the worst Treasurer we've had since Federation’s going to reinvent history and somehow come up with a deficit that doesn't really exist.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I just hope that people start asking the Labor Party what is your alternative? Because at the moment the Labor Party is running a complaints bureau, they're certainly not acting like an alternative government.

RAY HADLEY:

You're a Prime Minister who loves sport. You’re an unabashed sporting fan so it's genuine when you talk with passion about sport, particularly because you come from New South Wales rugby league but you're obviously, Prime Minister, a fan of rugby union and also a fan of AFL. Last year those sports were torn apart by Jason Clare and Kate Lundy. The front page today of the Sydney Morning Herald, and usually when Roy Masters writes and you see the name John Coates attached to it, it’s based on a fact. It looks like these blokes are going to get a one month or six month ban depending on what happens. It looks like both Mr Coates and Mr Fahey – the former Premier of New South Wales – have decided there’s been political interference even before the Federal Court has handed down its decision. How do we respond as a community to that shameful day when Clare and Lundy stood on stage and accused sportsmen and women, particularly young sportsmen of being involved with bikies, with drugs running, with match fixing, with taking anabolic steroids, when in fact it appears that at worst inadvertently on the advice of some nincompoop took some peptides which were at the time not illegal. How do we deal with that, purely and simply to save the skin of their prime minister who had lent on ASADA to come up with something to take the deflection away from her?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Ray, I think you're right to be angry about this. I'm not saying everything’s perfect when it comes to sports and performance-enhancing drugs. But far from being the blackest day for Australian sport, it was a black day for politics, frankly it was a black day for the Labor Party because what happened was the Labor Party chose to blacken the name of sport in order to give itself a short-term political distraction. So it was a really silly, squalid, sordid thing for them to do. They used sports, they appear to have used the Australian Crime Commission, all to give themselves a distraction when they were in all sorts of trouble, and it's pathetic – absolutely pathetic. The sad thing is that a lot of decent people have been blaggarded by this and have been wrestling for 18 months now to try to restore their reputations. You know, it was just really appalling that people could stoop to this level.

RAY HADLEY:

Outrageous. One final thing before you leave us. Mike Baird has a sizeable problem in New South Wales deciding not to the stand candidates in two by-elections. All through political donations and the Labor Party as we all know not without sin in this ICAC area and they're about to get targeted again today. I think Mr Baird would prefer that it happened as it has in sequence because the next step in the ICAC leading to the election in March will be the Labor Party not the Liberal Party. But in general terms, the standing of people like yourself – politicians in the community – is diminished greatly by the actions of these men and women, surely?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes – and the problem, Ray, was that the former state Labor government, because of a predicament it found itself in, introduced laws banning donations from developers. Who exactly is a developer? That can sometimes be a difficult question. Also introduced legislation to limit the total amount of donations and political parties need to raise money. I think it's right that political parties have to go to the public and seek support that way rather than just being able to rely solely on the taxpayer. And plainly, some people have cut corners. It's quite possible some people have broken the law and if that's the case, whatever party they're in, they should face the consequences. But you're right. It's a bad look. It's a very bad look. Mike Baird and I want to clean up the New South Wales Liberal Party. I think this whole question of donations does need to be looked at again, but in terms of the Liberal Party itself, what we need to do is to ensure that it belongs to its members, not to factions. That was the thrust of the Howard committee report, which has just been released to the state executive, and I certainly hope that sometime within the next12 months, the Howard reforms can be implemented in the New South Wales party.

RAY HADLEY:

Thank you very much for your time, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks so much, Ray.

[ends]

Transcript - 23742