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Transcript - 23753

Interview with Matthew Abraham and David Bevan, 891 ABC Radio, Adelaide

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: 22/08/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23753

Subject(s): Iraq

PRESENTER:

Prime Minister, Tony Abbott joins us. Good morning, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Matt and Dave, it’s great to be with you.

PRESENTER:

Prime Minister, your message last night to an audience here in Adelaide, it was focusing on, at least in part, on terrorism and the threats that we face. I wonder, how much thought is being given now to bringing Christian refugees, fleeing the Islamic State, to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Scott Morrison dealt with this a few days ago, and he said that because of the Government’s success in stopping the boats, which meant that previously our refugee and humanitarian programme was being filled up with illegal arrivals, because of our success in stopping the boats, it will be possible to expand our intake from these countries. He said that about 4,500 people could be coming to Australia under the refugee and humanitarian programme from parts of Syria and Iraq. So, look, we will certainly take some of these people. We can’t take all of them, but we’ll certainly take some of them.

PRESENTER:

And would there be, amongst that intake, a predominance of Christians who are being persecuted by the Islamic State?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that would be a judgement. Obviously, there’d be a lot of applications and we would try to take the most deserving cases. We don’t discriminate on the basis of religion, but certainly, if you are a Christian or a Yazidi and you are under threat from ISIL, you are in serious trouble because this is an absolutely murderous terrorist movement and anyone who doesn’t share their particular conceptions of how life should be is potentially in lethal trouble.

PRESENTER:

Prime Minister, you obviously have to walk a line between warning people in Australia and maybe educating people about the terror threat, but also not scaring people; not going overboard. How are you doing that? In your recent statements, is there some concern that you’re really overdoing it – overstepping the mark?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, this ISIL threat is real, there’s no doubt about that. They are utterly, utterly ruthless – perhaps the most ruthless terrorist organisation we’ve ever seen. They kill without compunction. Now, obviously, their work is focussed on Syria and Iraq, but the declaration of a caliphate shows that they have claims to universal dominion. It seems very medieval to us, but nevertheless, they’re taking it seriously and that’s why the terror threat here in Australia does have to be taken seriously. We’ve had some 60, at least, go overseas to work with terrorist groups in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, and at some stage they’re going to want to come home and they’re going to have to be monitored very closely and, if possible, jailed, because it is a serious offence for an Australian to go overseas to fight.

PRESENTER:

Do we know who they are? Do we know who they all are?

PRIME MINISTER:

My understanding is that when the Director-General of ASIO says that at least 60 have gone, that means that there are 60 that he knows about.

PRESENTER:

Surely not one of them would be dumb enough to want to come back, would they?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, they’re Australian citizens, by and large, and if you’re an Australian citizen you have a right to reside here in this country. Now, if you are an Australian citizen who’s committed a crime against Australian laws, we will do our best to prosecute and jail you and, certainly, any Australian who has been overseas with ISIL or al-Nusra, or any of these other terrorist groups, is committing a serious offence and we will do everything we humanly can to throw the book at these people because, frankly, anyone who has been killing people overseas, in the name of religion, who comes back to Australia is a menace to our community.

PRESENTER:

Prime Minister, I wonder if the ones who have gone overseas, in a sense, that will be the easier problem to deal with rather than say, the kid brother or nephew who’s been left behind and is watching the older radical family member. If they’re overseas you can build a barrier for them coming back here, but the younger family member who got left behind and is influenced by that radicalism, that might be a more insidious threat. Is that a discussion worth having?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, absolutely. It’s an important discussion and this is one of the reasons why I met, over the last few days, with local Islamic leaders, because I just wanted to talk to them about the importance of getting a message out to the community that this is wrong, that it’s not real Islam, that it’s un-Australian that it’s un-Islamic, and I think, frankly, that the Muslim community here in Australia is doing a very good job at discouraging people from doing this kind of thing. But, obviously, you only need a few to be engaged in terrorist activities and we’ve got a very serious problem.

PRESENTER:

What do you think is driving this in Western countries? Because it’s not a socio-economic thing – it’s not poor people who are angry because they’re poor. Some of the people, who have been radicalised, in this country and overseas, are very well educated. What is going on?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is a very good question, and I fear I don’t have all the answers – I fear none of us have all the answers – but we do have to work patiently with individuals and with communities to try to ensure that there’s less of it than there is.

PRESENTER:

Prime Minister, on to another matter, do you think Bill Shorten did the right thing by now publicly discussing and revealing the rape allegations that were made against him and no further action will be taken by police?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look, I saw a bit of Bill Shorten’s statement yesterday. It’s obviously a matter from many, many years ago and it’s a personal matter and I think he dealt with it.

PRESENTER:

Do you think he did the right thing?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look, obviously, when something like that is swirling around in the ether, sometimes it’s best to deal with them openly and he’s done what he thinks is best. As I said, it’s a personal matter from a long time ago and I think it’s been dealt with.

PRESENTER:

We’re talking to Prime Minister Tony Abbott here on 891 ABC Adelaide Breakfast. It’s seven minutes to nine. He is in Adelaide today and was here last night. Prime Minister, the Treasury Secretary, Martin Ferguson… Let me do that again! Although, you know, Martin Ferguson had a crack at it!

PRIME MINISTER:

We all occasionally get our names muddled.

PRESENTER:

The Treasury Secretary, Martin Parkinson, has said that, effectively his message is that the Government got the Budget sales pitches and its strategy wrong. Do you agree with him?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m not sure that’s exactly what he said. He may have been interpreted that way. Look, my job is not to run a commentary on the Budget; my job is to tell people what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and the reason why…

PRESENTER:

He’s saying you’re not doing that well…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well again, I’m not sure that that’s exactly what he said.

PRESENTER:

Well he says, “In hindsight, having seen how this has gone, it’s unfortunate that we didn’t spend more time talking about tax reform and spending reform and saying [the Budget] is, in a sense, the first part of it”, in other words, setting it in some sort of context.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think that I’ve been saying, on many occasions, that tax reform starts with scrapping the carbon tax and scrapping the mining tax, but it certainly doesn’t end there, and that’s why we’ve got a white paper on tax that we’ll be publishing towards the end of next year. So, look, I think we’ve been doing exactly what the Treasury Secretary suggests, and the fundamental point I want to make is that, as a country, we cannot go on borrowing $1 billion a month every single month just to pay the interest on Labor’s debt and that’s why it is necessary to get spending down. The Government has come up with what we think is a good way to do it and the Labor Party, that created the mess, still has not given us a single new idea. They’re the Party of complaints, not the Party of solutions.

PRESENTER:

Well, do you think last night’s protestors at Adelaide University want to talk with your Government, or do they just hate you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I think they just want to shout us down, and look, people are perfectly entitled to protest, but I don’t think they’re entitled to drown out other voices.

PRESENTER:

You don’t think they’ve got a message that’s worth listening to? I mean, they’re shouting at you, are you just not listening? Maybe that’s why they’re shouting.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, look, tell me what they want to say to me and we’ll have a discussion about it, but all they wanted to do last night was shout.

PRESENTER:

Would you buy a used car from Joe Hockey?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Joe is doing a very, very good job. He really is...

PRESENTER:

Well he’s not selling the Budget. I’m just saying, would you have him sell your car, you know, on eBay or something like that? It seems to be taking him a while.

PRIME MINISTER:

I tend to keep my cars until they wear out, so by the time I don’t need them, I normally end up giving them away. But, look, it’s never easy – it’s never easy – to impose additional costs or to even marginally reduce benefits. But, I think if you look at the Budget, what you see is a very sensible prudent strategy, as Reserve Bank Governor, Glenn Stevens, said yesterday or the day before. It’s a prudent, sensible strategy which makes a series of important structural changes, many of which don’t take effect for some years, but it does get the Budget back under control and bring us back to a broad balance within four years.

PRESENTER:

Prime Minister, thanks for talking to us.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you so much.

[ends]

Transcript - 23753