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Transcript 41094

Radio interview with Geoff Hutchison, ABC Radio Perth

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: 03/08/2017

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 41094

Subject(s): Mitchell Freeway extension; GST; Schools; Gay marriage; PaTH program

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

I’m delighted to be joined by the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull. Mr Turnbull, good morning to you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Geoff. Great to be with you.

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

Prime Minister, have you done anything to win back the West this week?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ll tell you what I’m doing right now, I’m on the way to open, officially open the extension of the Mitchell Freeway which is extending it six kilometres from Joondalup to Hester Avenue in Clarkson. 

That extension which I’ll be opening with the Premier was 80 per cent funded by the Commonwealth and the balance from the state and it is a $216 million project. It is going to relieve congestion. It is going to ensure that people spend less time stuck in traffic and they spend more time with their families. It will enable people, it will open up economic opportunities and all of the benefits that come from improved infrastructure.

So it is a good example of the commitment we have to Western Australia and it is part of our over $7 billion of commitments to infrastructure in this state.

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

Do you accept that if the West Australian public believe the answer is no to that question? And I appreciate what you’ve just told us about an important piece of road infrastructure. But do you accept that if the Western Australian public answered that question with: ‘No, he has done nothing to win back the West’? that several of the Ministers that have been with you this week will lose their seats and you will lose office?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Geoff, obviously, if voters are unhappy and vote the other way it has electoral consequences and plainly we’re committed to delivering for the people of Western Australia, for the people of Australia.

You asked a question earlier about what is an ordinary Australian. Can I tell you Australians are all extraordinary. The greatest asset of this country, of this state are our people. And their enterprise, their determination, their vision, their courage is what we’re doing to enable - every one of our policies, whether it is investing in better infrastructure, whether it is investing here in Perth in the Mitchell Freeway extension or in METRONET, or in any of the projects we’re backing around the state and around the nation - all of them are designed to better enable Australians to achieve their dreams, to marshal their enterprise to get on and grow the economy and deliver all of the jobs and opportunities that we need.

Look, I am unashamedly backing Australians’ enterprise.

My opponent Mr Shorten and the Labor Party are I would say equally unashamedly determined to tax and regulate business.

Everything they have in their platform is calculated to discourage investment and employment.

Everything we are doing is going in the right direction which is encouraging investment and jobs.

You know, whether it is the announcement we made this week with Michaelia Cash, one of our great Western Australian Ministers about the AHA backing internships and getting young people on welfare into jobs. Isn’t that a great thing?

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

With respect I’d like to stay with the GST issue for just a moment. This week you said: ‘I’m the first Prime Minister to address this issue’.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I believe that’s the case Geoff.

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

Do you think voters could name what it is you’ve actually done?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it depends how much they follow the news I suppose, Geoff, but I can tell you exactly what I’ve done – in consultation with the West Australian Premier at the time Colin Barnett - what I proposed was that when Western Australia’s share returned to a normal level, and it was expected to get up over 70 per cent by 2019-20 was the estimate at that time, that would be an occasion when we should reset the GST formula so that there is a floor and that was on the basis, because if you did it then then at that particular time no other state would lose.

And look, this is a political challenge, and Colin understood that. We discussed this, I made that proposal, or that commitment at the State Council of the Liberal Party here in WA.

I have pursued it at COAG meetings. I have made the case for Western Australia at COAG meetings, both in front of Colin and in front of your current Premier Mark McGowan.

We now have the Productivity Commission looking at the GST formula and what we are endeavouring to do is to develop a fairer GST formula that gives a distribution of GST that will not only pass the pub test in Western Australia but be seen as fair everywhere else.

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

If the only public take-away from the week is that WA is to lose a further $1.9 billion because the Australian Bureau of Statistics has noted there are 60,000 fewer people in the state, won’t that just confirm this parochial suspicion of ours that political words are completely meaningless? Scott Morrison told Mark McGowan: ‘We can’t do anything about that, sorry’ - won’t that be the thing that lingers in the memory of the West Australian public?

PRIME MINISTER:

Geoff, I’ve got to tell you, just between us and your listeners, there are two, it’s like parallel universes. This is what I hear from the media.

I have met with hundreds of Western Australians this week. In Perth, I’ve met with school students. I’ve met with their parents. I’ve met with a 100-year old war veteran. I’ve been down to Albany. I’ve been to Busselton. I’ve been out to Swan View Senior High School. I’ve been in the pub in Mindarie. And the reception I have had could not have been more warmer or more positive or more welcoming.

And so I listen to you saying how angry people are and how furious they are and how they wish I wasn’t coming and so forth – it is a complete parallel universe between what the media is saying and what the people I’m meeting in the real world are saying to me.

Now I recognise there is an unfair distribution of the GST. Yes. I am seeking to resolve it. Yes.

What is the Labor Party doing? What is Bill Shorten doing about it? Nothing. He is attacking me for suggesting that the formula should change.

So the reality is in terms of politics, there is one side of politics federally that is seeking to reform the GST formula so that it is more fair and that is my side.

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

And save its political skin in Western Australia.

PRIME MINISTER:

It is my side of politics – look, again, Geoff, your negativity - look, I know politicians should never complain about the media but I just, you know, your listeners I reckon have a much more positive view if they are like the literally hundreds of people I’ve met this week.

And I will meet more Western Australians. I’m going up to Broome, of course, so I’m getting right around the state.

I could not have been more warmly welcomed, had more positive discussions than I’ve had here in WA.

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

Prime Minister, let me then just ask you, because I read this as soon as I came on air.

“Geoff, I’m a 40-year old Liberal supporter in a marginal seat and I would like you to let the Prime Minister know that unless he and the Liberals give a fairer GST distribution to WA, I and many of my friends like me will not vote Liberal.”

And you know that recent polling points to the same thing.

Whether it is fair or unfair you will carry this burden of blame. I think the only thing that people might agree this morning is that we live in a parallel universe.

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not suggesting that people are not concerned about the GST. They are. I’m concerned about it too. But you’ve got to remember that you have, and I’ve discussed this, I had a very constructive, very cordial, friendly discussion with the Premier yesterday and you know, one of the challenges that we face and he faces is getting the Labor Party on board because who are the biggest opponents to changes to the GST formula? At the moment, Labor states. South Australia, Queensland, Victoria in particular.

You know, New South Wales, which is the biggest state obviously in population terms and so forth, its Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian supports reform to the GST of a kind that would actually result in Western Australia getting a fairer distribution.

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

I do appreciate, I do appreciate that this is very, very complicated.

PRIME MINISTER:

No but Geoff let’s just put it this way, you’ve got one -

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

But your Party has been in power since 2013, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

All of that is true, but you’ve got one side of politics, the Liberal National side of politics which is seeking to do something about the issue, that recognizes there is a problem and is seeking to find a solution.

You’ve got another side of politics, the Labor side, which says there’s no problem and nothing should change.

Look at Labor on its track record - I mean again, I don’t want to disturb this pleasant conversation with some facts - but let’s look at this. Under my Government’s school funding reforms, Western Australian schools are going to get, their funding will double over the next ten years. The growth in funding for all schools here – independent, catholic and government – but particularly government schools is going to be very substantial. Now is that a special deal for WA? No it’s not. What it is, is the consequence of Western Australia being dudded by the last Labor Government, the federal Labor Government under Bill Shorten and Julia Gillard’s special deals, they had 27 of them.

Under a fair, national, consistent, needs-based funding model Western Australia does much better, only because it had been left behind by Labor before.

So what you’ve got, is strong –

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

Mr Turnbull I appreciate that time is very short and we only have you for a few more moments but there are a couple of things that are significant that I do want to ask.

PRIME MINISTER:

Sure.

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

I wonder, can you confirm that Tuesday’s party room meeting is going to discuss the possibility of a postal plebiscite?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t discuss what is being canvassed in the party room. So I’m sorry, the party room discussions are within the party room.

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

The Australian suggests there might be a secret ballot of Government MPs to decide the issue. The only reason I raise it it’s been such a headline-grabbing distraction this week.

PRIME MINISTER:

You know something, it’s distracted you and it’s distracted a lot of reporters.

But in the course of my visit here, to the best of my recollection, only one person has raised the issue with me out of hundreds.

Now I’m not suggesting it’s not an important issue, don’t get me wrong. But what I’m saying to you is that it is a very, the issues that West Australians are more concerned about is schools funding, education, infrastructure, GST - as we’ve been discussing – you know, the growth of the economy, you know, what are we going to do to pick up economic activity here after the downturn.

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

All of which is true. All of which is true. But you also understand that central to your authority as Prime Minister and your party, is how this issue is dealt with in the party room next Tuesday.

PRIME MINISTER:

And it will be dealt with in the party room. I mean, look, all of this –

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

Tony Abbott is speaking about a, indicative of a lack of leadership and a lack of discipline. So you know these things are issues that need to be addressed.

PRIME MINISTER:

Geoff, you know, I do understand the way the Liberal Party operates. We do have, lots of issues get raised in the party room. Any member of the Liberal Party can raise any matter they like in the party room and they often do. It is a democratic process. We discuss these issues in the party room. And then we make decisions and then they’re announced. Now I talk to my colleagues about these issues privately. I talk to them in the Cabinet obviously, talk to them in party room. But those conversations are private conversations. Now I appreciate the media’s abiding interest in it.

Just a little thing to reflect on - you know, when Michaelia Cash and I announced this initiative with the AHA to have 10,000 new interns – now these are kids that are on welfare, right, who want to get into a job.

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

Yep.

PRIME MINISTER:

So it’s a fantastic program. So the AHA says: ‘Right, we’re going to get 10,000 of these young people, give them a start, give them an internship, give them some training and hopefully that will result in them getting a job.’ So that’s beaut. You’d think everyone would say: ‘Fantastic, let’s hope it is so successful.’

We announced that. The only questions from the media - until I basically shamed them into asking questions on something else - the only questions were on gay marriage. So there is apparently no interest at all.

I pointed out that if you were sitting at home watching that press conference on television, maybe you had one of your kids, wasn’t getting started properly, didn’t have a job and you were worried about them, you’d be saying: ‘Gosh, this is really interesting, I hope this works. Maybe my boy or my girl could get a start there.’ Instead, you’ve got the journalists talking about something else. So anyway-

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

You’re a Prime Minister who needs clear air to talk about the things that matter to you. I guess my last question is, how do you think you’re relating to ordinary Australians, as we seek to define who ordinary Australians might be? How do you think you’re personally relating to ordinary Australians?

PRIME MINISTER:

I can only tell you that I mix with Australians in many, many environments all over the country - in big cities, in country towns, you know, regional centres, in pubs and you know, in coffee shops on the street, on trains-

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

And people haven’t talked about the GST with you this week?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well of course they have. Of course they’ve talked about the GST. Absolutely. That is–

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

Were they cranky?

PRIME MINISTER:

The concern about the GST in Western Australia, I would say could be summed up this way is that there is a general understanding that there is, if you like, support is given to smaller states with a lower revenue base, like Tasmania and South Australia. People understand that. But they say: ‘34 per cent, you’re kidding me. That is just totally unfair’, and I agree with them.

It is a question of, well, you know, clearly it does not pass the pub test.

Now what we need to have is a GST allocation formula that is fair and is seen to be fair right across the nation. That is what we’re seeking to do.

It is not an easy political challenge but it needs strong advocacy and of course that needs advocacy from Western Australia, the Western Australian Government within the Labor Party as well.

So again, I want to have an outcome here where we have a revised formula, that whether you’re in Western Australia or Tasmania or Queensland, you can say, ‘Well, that is fair.’ That’s what we’ve got to do because we’ve plainly got a situation in Western Australia where 30 cents, 34 cents in the dollar is not a fair go and we are the nation of a fair go. We’ve got to rectify that and I’m working on it, but it is obviously a matter that is politically very complex because of all the vested interests.

Mark McGowan has got the opportunity as Labor Premier of WA to make that case within his own Party as well and I encourage him to do so.

GEOFF HUTCHISON:

Prime Minister I do hope that all our parallel universes coincide

Thank you for your time this morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

They intersect occasionally. Okay, thanks a lot Geoff.

[ENDS]

Transcript 41094