PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 40003

Transcript - Interview with Lisa Wilkinson, Today Show

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: 21/09/2015

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 40003

Subject(s): New Ministry, Republican Movement

LISA WILKINSON: And for his very first television interview Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joins us now. Prime Minister good morning and one week, on congratulations.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much Lisa, good to be with you.

LISA WILKINSON: There were reports in the Fairfax press over the weekend you said Tony Abbott had to go before Christmas.  It seems in your first act you're well ahead of schedule.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, it's very important that we get on with the job of providing the leadership, the inspiration, the optimism that's going to ensure we remain a prosperous first world economy with high wages and a generous social welfare safety net. To do that we need strong leadership and really inspiration to be more innovative, more optimistic, more creative, more productive. That's where our future prosperity lies.


You had to get there first. How long had you been plotting to overthrow Tony Abbott?

PRIME MINISTER: Lisa, I'll leave all the commentary to others, I'm focused on the job at hand. I'm looking forward -- others can look back, I'm looking forward.

LISA WILKINSON: You have put a huge broom through the minister.   Out go Joe Hockey, Kevin Andrew and Eric Abetz.  You must have been pretty unimpressed with the previous Cabinet?

PRIME MINISTER: Lisa, that's not fair.  And if I can just - let me just enlarge on this. Any organisation – a company, a Government Department – has to have renewal. You need new people to move through. You have to have renewal to stay modern, to stay contemporary. And that means that good people – when I say good people, they are all good people, but people who are doing a good job – have got to be able to make way for others. It was several of the people that were not reappointed to the ministry yesterday were very close personal friends of mine.

It was a very tough day for them and for me too. But you've got -- leaders have to make sure that there is renewal and that's why you have seen so many new faces in the Cabinet, so many more women, so many more younger people.  People with enormous capacity coming in there. You know Kelly - I won't go through them all, otherwise there will be a long list, there's a lot of them. I mentioned Kelly O'Dwyer, Christian Porter, Josh Frydenberg, Simon Birmingham, Mitch Fifield, Michaela Cash and of course Marise Payne, as the first woman Defence Minister.  These are all new faces coming up into the Cabinet. They can't do that unless others leave, so that's just the way it is.

LISA WILKINSON: You felt that the female quotient was missing from the previous Cabinet?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I thought two Cabinet ministers out of 19 was not enough. No. So we now have -- the Cabinet has expanded somewhat, it’s 21 and five women in the Cabinet. It would be good if it were more. But as you know the percentage of women in the parliament itself is not as high as it should be.

LISA WILKINSON: One of the challenges you've got, you've got 44 Liberal colleagues who didn't want you as leader including outgoing Defence Minister Kevin Andrews who rolled a grenade or two in your direction yesterday, Cory Bernardi is throwing around accusations of treachery and you’ve got Tony Abbott whose job you took, they’re all sitting on the backbench. How are you going to heal that divide?

PRIME MINISTER: You should be more sunny and optimistic and positive so early in the morning, it is a beautiful day. Why are you so negative?

PRIME MINISTER: Well there’s questions that need to be answered.

PRIME MINISTER: If you’re negative in the morning you must be very grumpy by the afternoon.

LISA WILKINSON: I'm a ray of sunshine at night.

PRIME MINISTER: Well if you only are sort of sunshiny in the evening, maybe you’re doing a program at the wrong end of the day.

LISA WILKINSON: Come on, answer the question.

PRIME MINISTER: The answer is Lisa, the ministry has been assembled by me on merit.

There are people that have been appointed to Cabinet, I mean, Christian Porter and Josh Frydenberg, are just two examples, there are other appointments I can say the same about, who were quite open about voting for Tony Abbott in the leadership ballot last week. So it's not as though - of course not everyone says how they vote. There was a difference of opinion, there always is in the leadership ballot.

There was quite a large margin as it turned out. But nonetheless, there are very prominent people with great ability who have been promoted on merit. This Ministry -- and equally there are people who have left the ministry, who were very close friends of mine. So I've assembled this Cabinet on the basis – and this Ministry overall, because it is much more than the Cabinet – on the basis of merit and I think that's been generally recognised.

LISA WILKINSON: Did you offer Tony Abbott a Cabinet position?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: The answer is no, and he wouldn't -- it's not something that Tony would seek either.

LISA WILKINSON: Is it going to be awkward having him there on the backbench?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Tony's got to form -- Lisa, I know what it's like to lose the leadership of a political party, right. It is a very tough, it is a very tough business. I feel for Tony. I know what he's -- you I've got a pretty good understanding of what he's going through. It's a rotten time. He will need lots of support from his family and friends just as I had when I ceased to be leader some years ago.

But the show has to go on.  This is the Government of Australia. It is the Parliament of Australia. We are focused on good outcomes for all Australians. In politics, that means that individuals sometimes have to endure tough periods, but that's it.

LISA WILKINSON: Did you offer Joe Hockey a Cabinet position before he announced he would leave Parliament?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Joe made it quite clear, Lisa, that he was not seeking a position in the Ministry. He will be devastated that you didn't pay attention to his press release yesterday. He thinks so highly of you that he'll be upset.

No, Joe did not seek -- Joe actually said he didn't want to be considered for the Ministry, and that he was planning to retire from Parliament.

LISA WILKINSON: Sometimes you just need a point of clarification.

PRIME MINISTER: I know, I know, I'm teasing you because I know you're a good friend of his, as is Peter.

LISA WILKINSON: He's a good man. He's a very good man.

PRIME MINISTER: He is a very good man. I think he's got a lot of national service, as it were, ahead of him in his life, I hope so.

LISA WILKINSON: And on that note, have you offered him the role of Ambassador to the US?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I cannot possibly comment on diplomatic appointments.

LISA WILKINSON: We should take that as a yes?

PRIME MINISTER: You can take that as I cannot possibly comment on diplomatic appointments.

LISA WILKINSON: You have appointed Senator Michaelia Cash to the role of Minister for Women.  In that same role Tony Abbott stripped $270 million from community services that support women escaping family violence. Are you going to increase that funding?

PRIME MINISTER: Lisa, I'm not going to make announcements here as the Prime Minister until they have been -- I'll make many announcements as Prime Minister, but I'll make them following consideration by Cabinet. The issue of family violence, or domestic violence as it’s often called – which is just violence against women which is the way I would prefer to describe it – is an enormous one. It has been overlooked, to some extent ignored, for far too long. We have to have, we must have zero tolerance for it. I think the growing level of awareness is vital. Real men don't hit women. We have got to be very determined to eradicate it. Now, will we have new measures to announce? Watch this space. That's what I would say.

LISA WILKINSON: OK, we definitely will, Prime Minister. Now 16 years ago you accused Joe Howard of being the Prime Minister that broke Australia's heart by failing to back Australia's move to a republic, is it your dream now to be the Prime Minister that brings in a Republic?

PRIME MINISTER: I think the Republic, again, I know, you know, your husband is the chairman - of the Republican Movement, Peter.

LISA WILKINSON: I should declare that actually.

PRIME MINISTER: No, no, no you don't have to declare it, it’s not a conflict, it’s something to be proud of.

LISA WILKINSON: We do work independently of each other.

PRIME MINISTER: No, no, no but I’m just saying that Peter and I have talked about it.   I've talked to him and he's talked to others about it.  The Republic issue cannot belong to a politician; look I'm a Republican, everyone knows that.  It's got to be a genuine popular movement as it was in the lead up to the referendum in ’99. My own view, for what it is worth, and it is just my view, I might be wrong.  My own view – I have held this view since ’99 – is that the next occasion for the Republic referendum to come up is going to be after the end of the Queen's reign.

I think that will be the next watershed event, if you like, that will make that issue relevant. That doesn't mean that it will happen. I think that's when people will be paying for attention to it.

But if Peter and the ARM can crank it up and get more attention to the issue in the meantime good luck to them. It is a democracy. While I am a Republican, I have to say to you, there are much more immediate issues facing me and the Government than the Republic.

The key ones all relate to economic growth. We have to ensure that we are more productive, so that we have higher living standards, that we can maintain this high wage, generous social welfare net, first-world economy. That's going to require a lot of reform, a lot of leadership, a lot of confidence, a lot of optimism, a lot of innovation. That's what is on my agenda.

LISA WILKINSON: Prime Minister just finally, Alan Jones told you last year live on radio that you need to get it through your head that you'll never be Prime Minister. Does that make this ascendency to the top job all the sweeter?

PRIME MINISTER: No, it just proves that Alan is mortal. And like all of us nobody's infallible.

LISA WILKINSON: Very good answer. Prime Minister, we really do appreciate the fact this was your first television interview. And all of Australia I'm sure wishes you the very best of luck in a very important role.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks so much Lisa.


Transcript 40003