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Transcript - 24087

Interview with Lisa Wilkinson, Today, Nine Network

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: 22/12/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 24087

Subject(s): Changes to the Ministry

LISA WILKINSON:

The man behind the changes, Prime Minister Tony Abbott joins us now from Canberra. Good morning to you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Morning, Lisa.

LISA WILKINSON:

Prime Minister, this was a much smaller reshuffle than was being predicted. You’re obviously pleased with your first full year in office?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we’ve stopped the boats, we’ve got rid of the carbon tax, we’ve started to build the roads of the 21st Century and we’ve begun the job of budget repair. There’s still a lot to be done, but this is a Government which inherited a mess, we’ve made a good start. There really is a lot more to be done, particularly when it comes to budget repair but we are on the right track, Lisa. We have to strengthen the budget to strengthen the economy and that will mean more jobs and more prosperity for everyone.

LISA WILKINSON:

Prime Minister, you say you’re on the right track, but you’re behind in the polls, unemployment is the highest it’s been for 12 years, the deficit has blown out by an extra $10 billion since you came into office and consumer confidence is way down.  

PRIME MINISTER:

And economic growth is 2.7 per cent now, which is up from 1.9 per cent a year ago. Job creation has been three times as strong this year as last year. So, we’ve made a good start. Now, sure Lisa, you can focus on the glass half empty but Australians are naturally optimistic people and as we go into this Christmas I want us to focus on the glass which is at least half full. This is the world’s best country, the freest, the fairest, and amongst the most prosperous on earth and that was one of the things that Australians should have seen during the G20 – the way the rest of the world looks at us.

LISA WILKINSON:

Well, if you feel it is going so well, why did you need a Cabinet reshuffle to get rid of the barnacles?

PRIME MINISTER:

From time to time it is important to refresh the government. As you know, Arthur Sinodinos resigned as assistant treasurer. I took the opportunity to have a slightly wider reshuffle. It will strengthen the Government's economic focus. It does bring Scott Morrison front and centre into the domestic policy debate. We do have a holistic families package that will be our focus in the New Year. We do need a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme. We do need better childcare and we do need to tackle the cost of living pressures on families now. Repealing the carbon tax was a very good start. That's $550 a year in the pockets of your average family but there is a lot more to do.

LISA WILKINSON:

There has been a lot of focus, Prime Minister, on broken promises. Certainly the carbon tax is a promise that you fulfilled. But when the carbon tax was in operation, Australia posted its biggest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since records began. Now, since you got rid of the carbon tax emissions have risen by the largest amount in eight years. Have you decided, Prime Minister, that climate change just doesn't matter?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, climate change is a very serious issue and look, we need a strong and effective policy to deal with it. You know the interesting thing, Lisa, is that Australia is one of the very few countries which actually achieved its Kyoto emissions targets. We are well on track to achieve a 12 per cent emissions reduction by 2020 from 2005 levels. So, unlike so many other countries which talk, when it comes to emissions reduction, Australia delivers.

LISA WILKINSON:

Even though emissions have gone up since you got rid of the carbon tax, you still believe that that's possible?

PRIME MINISTER:

Absolutely.

LISA WILKINSON:

How?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are well on track through our Direct Action policy, because if you look at what Australian businesses have been doing for a long time now, they have been trying to minimise their costs and obviously fuel and power are important costs. We have been trying to become more efficient and more productive and part of that is using less energy, it is using energy more efficiently and that's exactly what is happening.

LISA WILKINSON:

Well, it is not happening because carbon emissions are going up. But let's move on; your biggest challenge this year has been getting the Budget through the Senate. How is this reshuffle going to change things whilst the Senate stays the same?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well as you know, Lisa, we have been moving our legislation through the Senate much more productively than we are often given credit. Every fortnight since July a significant piece of legislation has gone through the Senate, whether it is the carbon tax repeal, the mining tax repeal, the changes to border protection laws which Scott Morrison negotiated through in the last sitting fortnight, whether it be the national security legislation. So, every sitting fortnight something significant goes through the Senate. We have obviously got the higher education reforms, which are very important and I hope they will go through the Senate early in the New Year. But we have also got important Budget legislation in the social services area. We do need to try to ensure that our young people don't leave school only to go on the dole. We do need to ensure that our social security system is sustainable for the long-term and Scott Morrison will bring his usual drive and determination to this vital national task.

LISA WILKINSON:

Prime Minister, along with being Prime Minister you are also the Minister for Women. What would you say is your biggest achievement in the last year in that role?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you know, it is very important to do the right thing by families and households. As many of us know, women are particularly focused on the household budget and the repeal of the carbon tax means a $550 a year benefit for the average family. Now, we have got our fair dinkum parental leave scheme which will be coming into the Parliament in the New Year. We have got improvements to childcare and obviously I'm very pleased that I was able to promote three women in my own Ministry yesterday.

LISA WILKINSON:

Alright – moving on to the horrific events in Martin Place last Monday, Prime Minister. Each day we are learning more about gunman Man Monis. But not only was he on bail for 40 counts of sexual assault and for being an accessory to the murder of his former wife, his wife at the time of his death, she is a self-confessed terrorist and his online activity shows a man committed to supporting violent Jihad activity. There was a tip-off to the National Security Hotline about his online activity. Australia is asking, Prime Minister, what more evidence do security authorities need before you put someone on a terrorist watch list?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, this is a very fair question, Lisa and as I have been saying for most of the last week, we were all incredulous sitting around the National Security Committee of the Cabinet table last Tuesday to learn of the crimes that this person had already committed and yet somehow he was out on bail. We were all dumbstruck by that. There is an urgent review taking place right now into what we must do better in the future. I give you this absolute commitment: I will do everything necessary to keep you safe. We have already boosted our security funding by $630 million. We have reversed the cuts – more than reversed the cuts – which took place between 2007 and 2013. So, we have done that. We are boosting our national security legislation so that the police and security agencies do have more powers over people like this. If this review shows that there are further policy changes needed, well they will be done, they will be done because the highest duty of government is the safety of the community.

LISA WILKINSON:

Are you concerned that currently there is a disconnect between the information that the National Security Hotline gets and what information the police have? Because clearly that is what happened here

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, what happened here, as I understand it, as I am advised, is that a member of the public called in and said, "You had better have a look at this guy's website." That call was not ignored. Our officials did look at the website. Because there was no evidence of an actual threat of violence by this man at this time, I regret to say that no further action was taken.

LISA WILKINSON:

But Prime Minister, the man has a known background.

PRIME MINISTER:

This is precisely the kind of thing that we are looking at.

LISA WILKINSON:

But Prime Minister, the man had a known background and he was out on bail. That's what I'm talking about when I say there was a disconnect there.

PRIME MINISTER:

And both Premier Baird and myself were horrified to discover that this fellow had a record as long as your arm. He was a known violent criminal, known to be mentally unstable, known to be infatuated by extremism of one sort or another. And, yes, apparently he slipped off the watch list, so to speak, back in about 2009 or 2010 after he had been sending offensive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers. So, he was a particularly nasty and unsavoury character – obviously – and what we need to do is to learn all the right lessons from Australia's brush with terrorism and put the right answers into practice.

LISA WILKINSON:

Ok. Prime Minister, we will have to leave it there. But before you go, we have to wish you a Merry Christmas and thank you for always making yourself available for us on the Today Show. We do appreciate it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Lisa, a Merry Christmas to you and to everyone who is watching the programme now. I look forward to lots of conversations in the New Year.

[ends]

Transcript - 24087