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Transcript 40650

Interview with Neil Mitchell 3AW

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: 08/12/2016

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 40650

NEIL MITCHELL:

His final appearance with us for the year, the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Morning Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Mr Turnbull, you promised jobs and growth – that was the slogan - jobs and growth, we’ve got neither. Jobs are stagnant. We’ve got a negative quarter of growth. Some say we’re on the edge of recession. The worst figures since the global financial crisis. What are you going to do about it?

PRIME MINISTER:

What we are doing is promoting jobs and growth and promoting investment.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, it’s not working at the moment is it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil, let’s look at the facts here. We’ve had a very big downturn in mining construction investment – that was always going to happen. It was nine per cent of GDP at its height in 2012, and it has been winding back as the projects are completed – it is now less than four per cent of the economy. That is this transition that I have been talking about a lot.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yes, but that’s been obviously coming and as you say you’ve been talking about it a lot, but we are still there – the solutions haven’t worked, the answers haven’t worked have they?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have had over the last year 100,000 new jobs, unemployment has fallen from 5.9 per cent to 5.6 per cent over the last year.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yes but it is stagnant at the moment - 5.6.

PRIME MINISTER:

It has fallen from 5.9 to 5.6 - job advertisements are 6.1 per cent higher than last year. Our terms of trade have improved. There are a number of things that are positive.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So is there no problem?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I’m not saying that. Let me just finish. The consumer confidence is strong. Now, what we are seeing is a decline in business investment, most of which of course is accounted for by mining which is inevitable and that is why we’ve been talking about the need to promote investment. That is why we are asking the Parliament to approve business tax cuts – why is that? Because if you increase the return on investment for business, they will invest more - if they invest more, there will be more jobs.

Every element of our policy is designed to support investment, because that drives jobs. That’s what the economy is missing at the moment, not enough investment. Every element of Labor’s policy, whether it is increasing taxes with their new taxes or whether it is denying the business tax cuts we are advocating, everything Labor is proposing will put a further curb on investment.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Business is saying this is a wake-up call for government and corporations, but a wake-up call -

PRIME MINISTER:

It absolutely is and I agree with that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, so you hear the call? You hear the wake-up?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a wake-up call. It is a wake-up call for the Labor Party to support our pro-growth, pro-business investment policies. That is why we need them. I mean, we made this very, very simple point, Neil, if you want more investment, then you’ve got to support cuts to business tax because that will deliver you more investment. Paul Keating knew that. Chris Bowen knew that in his book, not so long ago, now he has forgotten.

NEIL MITCHELL:

If you don’t get that, if you don’t get what you want - and you’ve got a difficult senate, let’s face it, and you’ve got dodgy numbers in the House – if you don’t get it, do we go into recession? Because we are on the edge of it here.

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think it is helpful to speculate about that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What are the implications if you don’t get it?

PRIME MINISTER:

The implications for Australia if we are uncompetitive in terms of our business tax environment, is that we will get less business investment relative to other countries. You’ll see around the world - the UK, now with the new president of the United States proposing lower business taxes and they are not doing that because it is some ideological issue or political issue. It is pretty simple. It is the same reason Paul Keating cut company tax years ago, because if you cut company tax, if you cut business taxes, you increase the return on investment, you get more investment and therefore you get more jobs.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Will you look at increased government spending? Is there a need for stimulus?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are certainly increasing our spending on economic infrastructure as you know. We’ve got a $50 billion program on infrastructure, much of it in Victoria. We’ve got a -

NEIL MITCHELL:

But do we need more, now this has happened?

PRIME MINISTER:

We will continue to promote infrastructure investment. We’ve got a $195 billion Defence Industry Plan which is going to restore our sovereign capability in defence industry, re-equip our defence forces and create thousands of jobs at the level of advanced manufacturing right across the country.

Every element of our policy, whether people agree with it or not, and obviously a lot of people don’t, particularly in the Labor Party, but every element of it is clearly designed to encourage investment. Now what do we need more of now? Investment. So, at least Australians know that we are not complacent. We are alert. We understand the need for more investment and everything we are doing is promoting more investment. And we ask everyone in the Parliament – Labor, Greens, crossbenchers to support us, because we believe our plan is going to deliver the growth and jobs that we need.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Are you  going to have to restructure your budget planning – I mean this has to impact your budget planning and your outlooks?

PRIME MINISTER:

The MYEFO will be coming out later this month in the normal way. But obviously all economic developments both historic and of course we are talking about the September quarter here, both historic and current are taken into account the budget.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What is the key thing that you think you need to do to avoid recession? To get us on track?

PRIME MINISTER:

What we need is stronger investment. And we will -

NEIL MITCHELL:

How do you get that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we do that by encouraging it, by promoting confidence in the business community by reducing business taxes, obviously by supporting infrastructure as we are doing. Take our Cities Policy for example; one of the biggest brakes on investment in the construction sector is archaic planning laws and restrictive planning laws. It takes too long for developers to get approvals. What we’re seeking to do with our city deals – and in fact we’ll be discussing this with the Premiers tomorrow – is to reform the planning regimes. Not to short-change planning standards I hasten to add, but to enable projects to get underway sooner.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So, basically, is this a pot-hole or a cliff?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well this is a bump in the road. But we’ve got to make sure - it’s up to us whether it’s a pot-hole or a cliff I suppose. Neil what it requires is policies that support investment. I just put this to you; if you improve the return on investment, you get more investment. We’re doing that. We’re seeking to do that. What’s Labor doing? They’re opposing that and they’re proposing increased taxes which will reduce the incentives to invest.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you want people to spend? Do you want people to get out and spend? It’s Christmas. I’ve been getting figures and anecdotal reports that spending is not as high as normal. Do you want people to spend?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I encourage people - I think there is strong confidence. Every family has got to decide on their own priorities Neil, but consumer confidence is high. What we’ve heard, the anecdotal reports that I’ve seen from the retailers are positive. But time will tell, of course still a few weeks to go.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Something else, Germany. The German Chancellor wants to ban the burqa in Germany. Do you think we should do that?

PRIME MINISTER:

You occasionally hear calls for that, but that’s not something that we’d support or propose. Obviously, you know, what you’re seeing in Europe is the consequences of uncontrolled irregular migration. I mean the Europeans regrettably lost control of their borders. When I was in the UN recently talking to a lot of European leaders, they all talked about the way this large scale irregular migration posed a real threat to their societies, to the stability of their democracies. That is why it is vital for us to maintain the security and the integrity of our borders. We’re a very generous compassionate nation. We accept a lot of refugees but the Australian people expect their Government and not people smugglers to decide who comes here.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Prime Minister, an 18 year-old was sentenced here, on terrorism offences, he was planning an attack on Mother’s Day. The judge has said he wasn’t convinced he was remorseful, that if he hadn’t been caught, people would have died. But he got seven years with a four minimum. Should we have expected a longer sentence on such a serious terrorism offence?

PRIME MINISTER:

Every case has to be looked at on its merits and sentencing is a matter for the courts and I don’t want to comment on a particular case. But -

NEIL MITCHELL:

But there is always room for government to appeal.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well of course and that is exactly the point I was coming to. It’s up to the prosecutors to appeal. They have got the right to do so and where sentences are seen to be inadequate, then they should do so.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Would it be fair to say that you’d be surprised by that sentence?

PRIME MINISTER:

It would be fair to say that I believe terrorist offences should be dealt with, with the full severity of the law. We need to be relentless in stating our absolute condemnation of terrorism and terrorist activities and people who support terrorist activities.  You know that we have passed three new counter-terrorism laws in the Parliament just in the last fortnight. One of them enables –and this is an initiative of mine which I’ve secured the support of all the jurisdictions to in Australia – that will enable us to keep serious terrorist offenders in jail after their sentence is concluded, if a court concludes they have not been rehabilitated. So we take this very seriously.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Would this young man be subject to that? His offence was before that, will he be subject to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Again I don’t want to comment on a particular case Neil because it is before the courts.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Not it’s not it’s just been dealt with, he’s been sentenced.

PRIME MINISTER:

You’ve just said it may well be subject to an appeal.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah but no appeal has been lodged. You’re the lawyer Prime Minister, but it’s not before the courts.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think this decision was taken yesterday, is that right?

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yes.

PRIME MINISTER:

Right. Well there’s normally a period, typically 28 days for appeals to be lodged. So –

NEIL MITCHELL:

But where does your legislation sit?

PRIME MINISTER:

The legislation sits if the offence is a serious terrorist offence, and I can’t tell you whether this particular case fits that bill, but if it is a serious terrorist offence -

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well he was going to kill people. The judge said he was going to kill people if not stopped.

PRIME MINISTER:

If it is a serious terrorist offence, then the legislation that enables people to be kept after the expiry of the sentence, if the judge concludes that they still pose a threat to society, then that legislation does apply.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well it could apply to this case then, even though he’s 18 he’s now been sentenced, and if it applies from now, he was sentenced yesterday.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you may be more familiar with all of the details of the case than I am. But again I am not going to be drawn and comment on a particular case, and on the particular facts of a particular case, when it is still potentially the subject of consideration by the courts.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Speaking of security, are we spending $60 thousand - $60 million rather on a fence at the Parliament House?

PRIME MINISTER:

That plan has certainly been set out and I’m getting a briefing on it later on today.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Prime Minister you indicated that Josh Frydenberg your Energy Minister made an error, saying you would consider an emissions trading scheme. Have you now spoken to him about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Again, you’re putting words in my mouth. I didn’t say that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER:

What I said was very clearly that our policy is unchanged, that we will not support a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme which –

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well Josh Frydenberg said that you were looking at it, he was clearly wrong was he?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me just be clear. You can take matters up with Josh Frydenberg if you wish –

NEIL MITCHELL:

No, but I’m asking if you did?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well of course. I talk to my Ministers all the time.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Have you discussed this issue with Josh Frydenberg?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil I talk to my Ministers all the time, and of course I talk to the Energy Minister about energy matters but the -

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well did he just go off half-cocked or something? I mean this is enormously unsettling. We’ve got the Energy Minister saying: “Oh we’re looking at effectively an emissions trading scheme,” and everybody else saying “no”.

PRIME MINISTER:

Again, I’ll leave that to you to raise with Josh, or for you to comment on that. I just want to be very, very clear that energy prices are too high already. We will do everything we can to ensure that we put downward pressure on energy prices. We don’t control them. If you had the Labor Party in government, imagine what you would get. You’d get what you have in South Australia. South Australia you have the highest energy prices in the country and the least secure energy prices, they can’t even keep the lights on there.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Let’s have a look at the Labor Party - 16th of August Julia Gillard said something, do you agree this is your position?

JULIA GILLARD:

There will be no carbon tax under the Government I lead.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Is that your position?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is absolutely the Coalition’s position that we will not impose a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme. That is our position. The reason is very simple, and it gets back to the economic issues we were talking about earlier. We need to secure stronger investment, stronger growth, more jobs. Energy costs are a fundamental element in that. What Labor proposes is measures that can only add to the cost of energy and to undermine the reliability of it.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But it goes further. The South Australian Premier today told the ABC the states may go it alone setting up an emission intensity scheme. Now you’ve got COAG tomorrow - meeting the state leaders. What are you going to say to him about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

What South Australia is doing is putting at risk the jobs of South Australians, the prospects for South Australian business. Jay Weatherill’s approach to energy has been condemned by the business community in South Australia, they’re appalled. You had major industrial centres, Whyalla, mines, Nyrstar mine and so forth, have had to close down because they don’t get reliable power.  The South Australian Labor Government has delivered an absolute double whammy of not being able to keep the lights on and having the most expensive electricity in Australia.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So will you be telling the premiers that this should not be an emission intensity scheme or emissions trading scheme at a state level anywhere?

PRIME MINISTER:

We believe that policy should be national. We have a national electricity market. The fundamental point Neil is right now, where you’ve got sluggish growth globally, where we’ve got a decline in business investment largely driven by the turndown in the mining construction boom which was anticipated, inevitable. But we’ve got that environment and we want more investment, more industry. Clearly we have a vested interest in lower electricity prices, or certainly not allowing them to continue to climb.

What Labor wants – if you look at what we’ve agreed to in our emissions target cuts for Paris, 26 – 28 per cent by 2030, we’re confident we’ll meet them, just as we’re going to meet and beat the 2020 target. The Labor Party wants to double that target, they want to double that target so what Labor is promising is less reliable and more expensive electricity. How does that deliver jobs and investment?

NEIL MITCHELL:

And we’re not too sure what Josh Frydenberg is promising?

PRIME MINISTER:

Again the –

NEIL MITCHELL:

But have you carpeted him and said look get in line with policy?

PRIME MINISTER:

Josh Frydenberg did not advocate a change to the Government’s policy.

NEIL MITCHELL:

He said it was being reviewed, specifically. That was being reviewed.

PRIME MINISTER:

He did not advocate a change to the Government’s policy and the Government’s policy is unchanged. I know that everyone wants to jump on Josh Frydenberg; he is a very capable, very talented Minister. He works very hard and he understands that our policy is to support lower electricity prices. Our goal, Neil, is very clear; we’ve got to achieve three things: energy security, keep the lights on, South Australia’s failed there, that’s what Labor will do, unreliable electricity. Two: energy has got to be affordable; again you look at Labor in South Australia, highest cost electricity in the country. And three: we’ve got to meet our emission reduction target, which we are meeting. We are meeting now.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Prime Minister, a couple of other quick things. The United States, the deal with the US on refugees seems to be coming unravelled, the Republicans are calling for the deal to be declassified and discussed. Are you still confident that’ll go ahead that deal?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Ok. Euthanasia laws seem to be taking a step up here in Victoria toward them, it’ll be announced later today. Are you comfortable with an easing of the euthanasia laws?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s very much a conscience issue and it’s very much an issue for the state parliaments as you know. If I was voting in a state parliament, which obviously I wouldn’t be, as a matter of conscience I would not vote for euthanasia but it is very much a conscience issue.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Speaking of the refugees, we broke the news earlier this week that teachers in Victoria and New South Wales wearing refugees protest t-shirts into the classroom. Appropriate or not?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s absolutely inappropriate that has no place in classrooms and the teachers should be focused on teaching. We’ve seen with the fact that our ranking internationally has gone backwards in Maths and Science and in the PISA results just this week - there is a lot of work to be done in our schools, and it doesn’t include political campaigning.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you very much for your time. Thank you for your help through the year. Good year for you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes we’ve had a very solid achievement in securing the passage of so much of our legislation through the Parliament. We’ve demonstrated that the 45th Parliament can work.  Many people were very sceptical that we’d be able to get our program through, but we’ve had our big Super changes, we’ve had big budget savings, we’ve had personal income tax through. And those two big industrial relations bills, which are restoring the rule of law and accountability and so forth to the industrial sector, particularly the building sector, those have both passed the Senate. There were many commentators who said we had no chance. We’ve demonstrated that we can make the 45th Parliament work.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you so much for your time again.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks so much Neil. Happy Christmas.

[ENDS]

Transcript 40650