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Transcript 41700

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: 17/07/2018

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 41700

Subject(s): Smoking at work; Executive Salaries; Migration; Longman by-election; AEMO report; Vladimir Putin; Victorian Infrastructure; Thailand Rescue Mission

NEIL MITCHELL:

First in the studio the Prime Minister Mr Turnbull Good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

You could call that a smulking break. You the smoking people, lurking outside buildings skulking and smoking at the same time.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Think we should ban it?

PRIME MINISTER:

What smoking outside?

NEIL MITCHELL:

People leaving the desk to go out and have a cigarette.

PRIME MINISTER:

I suppose -

NEIL MITCHELL:

Costs a lot of money.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah well I guess it's a lot of time when they're not working, so I think it's a very - if you're leaving your leaving your work I guess the boss is entitled to say, I'm paying you to work not to smoke.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Just while we're on work, is anybody worth $142,000 a day?

PRIME MINISTER:

Seems a hell of a lot they'd have to be very productive. Who are we talking about?

NEIL MITCHELL:

The chief executive of Dominos Pizza.

PRIME MINISTER:

That's extraordinary.

NEIL MITCHELL:

He's top of the executive list.

PRIME MINISTER:

I find the big executive salaries extraordinary and as someone who has most of his life has worked for in businesses that I've either owned or been a partner in, I find the amount of, you know, the pay rates of people working for a lot of big public listed companies extraordinarily high.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Nothing you can do about it though, it's a free market.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it is a free market. But you know shareholders I think are increasingly objecting to it and I think you're seeing more activism and that's the way it should go and they've got the ability of course to reject the remuneration packages nowadays which is you know legislation I think that's been, been very useful. To hold them to account.

NEIL MITCHELL:

We don't need a royal commission into the pizza industry, do we?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I don't think so.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You know I've had a bee in my bonnet about population growth for years. We're about to hit 25 million people last month which is well ahead of what was predicted. Do you now accept it's time for a full review of what is ideal population for Australia? How we get there.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's under constant review Neil, I just want to stress that. We have made a lot of changes to migration. Bill Shorten was the Olympic champion of handing out 457 visas. Bringing people in, you talked about pizzas, to bring people into work from overseas to work in fast food outlets.

That was an abuse of the system. We brought that to an end. Permanent migration has been reduced, it's down to 163,000 last year that's the lowest it's been in a decade.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So hang on, I'm a bit confused because you tell me migration is a good thing but then you spruik a lower figure.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it is a talent - It is recruiting. I mean this is like immigration.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Is it good that it's down?

PRIME MINISTER:

It's good that it's down on the basis that we are not taking anymore than we need. My view on immigration is that it is run in the interests of Australia and Australia alone. It's a talent exercise. I was at the Peter Mac yesterday making some really important announcements about brain cancer and research. You know there are a lot of foreigners working in there that have come in on skilled visas. We don't want to send them home.

So what we've got to do is use our migration program in the same way that a company would use its H.R. department, I suppose, and make sure you're recruiting the best and the brightest and not recruiting anyone that you don't want or you don't need.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You say there's been planning with due respect Infrastructure Australia your own adviser says today there hasn't. We need to wake up. They say there is no national level of long term planning around population. Now your own adviser says it is not happening.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that's not right. There is, where there has been a massive failure is in terms of infrastructure. Now I am correcting that. The approach that we're taking on infrastructure, I'm taking as PM, and the federal government is taking is unique. It's new. We are getting actively involved. We are building infrastructure ourselves for the first time, for a very long time. We're building Western Sydney Airport. We're going to build a railway from right here in Melbourne out to Tullamarine as partners with the Victorian Government.

I was the one that said, "Right let's get on with that. $5 billion dollars come on." And the state government is coming along.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So you reject them saying there is no long term planning around population.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the answer is that there is planning about population and the intergenerational reports that Peter Costello I started, I think back in 2002, are looking at that. But the immigration, the skilled migration program, responds to demands of our economy. And so we should not be bringing in anybody over and above whom we need. Now let me just make a point -.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What about the demands of our population the people here. Social cohesion is an issue with immigration.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah sure it is.

NEIL MITCHELL:

There's no question about it.

PRIME MINISTER:

That's why was so important to stop the boats and secure our borders. That was fraying our social cohesion because Bill Shorten and the Labor Party outsourced our borders to people smugglers and they will do so again if they ever get the chance to be back in government.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you accept that people are uneasy about the levels of migration?

PRIME MINISTER:

There is real concern about congestion in the big cities in particular. And, of course, there are different concerns in regional Australia and many places where they want to see more migration. One of the things that we are working on is a better approach to ensure that migrants, skilled migrants, who come to work in regional areas stay working there.

NEIL MITCHELL:

How do you how do that? How do you require...

 

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that's obviously, you've got to condition the visas. We're doing a lot of work on that. I just want to assure your listeners Neil, every aspect of the migration policy and program is under constant review. This population policy is an issue I've been writing about for years and years, long before I was in Parliament.

I'll tell a couple - three reasons why our net overseas migration, which is the total number of people coming and going.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Which is about 240,000.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah. That's right.

NEIL MITCHELL:

240,000.

PRIME MINISTER:

The reason why it is higher than expected some years ago is because of a massive increase in the number of foreign students. There's nearly half a million more foreign students, which is a big export industry, in Australia than there were in 2002.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And you're saying they're not permanent.

PRIME MINISTER:

They are here for, you know, for years while they're doing their degree and then they go home. Some of them stay and become permanent residents. But there's also a very big increase in tourism, that's nearly doubled over that period. So that's another factor.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Tourism turns up in the migration figures?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah well it turns out yes it does. Because net overseas migration is the net of people coming and going. If you think of people going through out one door and in another door, it's the net, so it also includes Aussies coming home.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So the 163,000 you quote to me doesn't include tourists.

PRIME MINISTER:

No it doesn't that's permanent. The 163,000 is made up, there's a few thousand,.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So that's no students...

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no exactly it is two thirds skilled migrants and it's one third family reunion. Eighty percent of which is spouses.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What do you say to claims your government is stoking and provoking racism?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's nonsense, quite the contrary. I talk about our, well we have zero tolerance for racism, number one and number two, Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world. It's one of our greatest assets and achievements.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you believe people in Melbourne are frightened to go to restaurants because of Sudanese gangs?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I've heard that from people in Melbourne and Neil you're a person in Melbourne. Well I’ve heard it,  I've heard people, colleagues from Melbourne say that there is a real anxiety about crime in Melbourne. It is a real issue --.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But Sudanese crime specifically Peter Dutton said people in Melbourne were frightened to go to restaurants because of Sudanese gangs. Do you believe that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I have heard those reports. But I'm not I'm -- There is certainly concern about street crime in Melbourne there is concern about the state government's failure to uphold law, the rule of law on the streets in Melbourne there is a real concern about that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well our Human Rights Commission, Kristen Hilton says that those comments by Peter Dutton have begun, started, provoked, harassment of African Australians in an outbreak of racism. She says they're nonsense.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look I mean this is obviously, she's obviously getting it, this is --

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah but she’s accusing your minister, at least, if not your government of provoking racism.

PRIME MINISTER:

That is nonsense. Peter Dutton is simply seeking to do the best job as Minister for Home Affairs. He is responsible at a federal level for domestic security as well as immigration and there is no doubt, you know better than me Neil, I mean you're doing talkback radio here in Melbourne. There is real concern about street crime in Melbourne. There is real concern about Sudanese gangs.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But the point again Prime Minister, there is concern about Sudanese gangs.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you would have to be walking around with your hands over your ears in Melbourne not to hear it.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What do we do about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's it is a community policing matter for the Victorian Police, plainly.

NEIL MITCHELL:

This is part of the social cohesion argument that's coming up.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you know everyone has to obey the law. And you just have to make sure that everyone obeys the law. And if people feel that they're at risk of, in their homes or on the streets, that really does fray social cohesion. 

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you accept that some ethnic groups have a higher representation in the crime rates?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Neil, the statistics would show that but as Prime Minister I don't have all those numbers in front of me, so I'm not going to go through it in that detail.

I just want to say this, it doesn't matter what your ethnic background is or where you're from or what language you speak, you have to obey the law and it is the responsibility of, primarily of state governments and territory governments to enforce the law particularly if we're talking about street crime of the kind we're talking about here.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I guess the key on this is some of your own parliamentarians on your side of parliament saying we now need a Senate inquiry - or some sort of inquiry - into the population levels and how we handle it. Will that happen?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I'll talk to my colleagues about it.

I mean this is what Parliament does, it has inquiries. There is a Standing Committee a Select Committee in fact, on immigration, a Joint Committee on Immigration. It’s always open to continue and is constantly reviewing the migration program.

But I just want to say to your listeners, I am very focused on this issue of population. I'll tell you another reason why our population is higher, I've talked about students and I've talked about tourists.

The other reason is our birth rate-

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah but that’s transient, they’re not permanent residents.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, but they are part of our population.

When our population hits 25 million, it includes everybody that happens to be here at that point in time and so that does include temporary visitors. And if you have half a million more foreign students than you did 10, 15 years ago, that's part of it.

The other thing is we're having more babies than was forecast. If you go back to 2000, 2002 we all thought our birth rate was going to come down to around - total fertility rate - was going to come down to sort of 1.5, 1.4, people thought 1.6 would be a really great outcome. In fact it went up to 2 and it's currently around 1.8. So, that's good news by the way.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Can I ask you about a couple of other things, do you realise your candidate in Longman, the next super Saturday by- election, Trevor Ruthenberg-

PRIME MINISTER:

Ruthenberg, yeah. Big Trev.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Big Trev has mislead voters on his military record?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he's made an innocent mistake for which he is very embarrassed about it and he's apologised profusely.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well he gave himself a better medal than he has – on his CV.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he had a service medal, an Australian Defence Medal and there's another service medal called an Australian Service Medal. He simply-

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well he claimed to have the Service Medal, he had the Defence medal, as I understand. Defence medals…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the Australian Service Medal is for people that serve in overseas deployments and the Australian Defence Medal is if you've served four years or more in the ADF, and he misdescribed the medal that he had been awarded.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So it's an honest mistake?

PRIME MINISTER:

Absolutely. I know Trev.

NEIL MITCHELL:

He’s not trying to con people?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, Big Trev is as honest and straight as he is big – and he is big.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Big mistake for a military man. I mean they're very proud of their medals.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he is, and he is very proud of his service in the Air Force and he's been a Commander of Cadets. So he feels bad about it, he's apologised profusely. I've spoken to him about it this morning and I'm satisfied it is an honest mistake.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay. The Energy Market Operator report today on power supply is quite frightening. They're saying we need lock into coal power long term, supporting the Tony Abbott argument, is that right?

PRIME MINISTER:

No it's not.

Well, what they've said is we want to keep existing coal fired power stations going longer and that-

NEIL MITCHELL:

To keep prices down?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, sure.

NEIL MITCHELL:

How long?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, they've said is they've worked on the assumption that we should keep existing coal fired power stations going for, basically for the term of their natural life, which they assume to be 50 years in operation.

NEIL MITCHELL:

That won't happen?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I think it should happen.

I mean there's no question that getting more megawatt hours out of an existing coal fired power station is cheaper than the megawatt hours that’d come out of a new one. No question about that at all.

Look, my mission, my goal is more affordable energy, cheaper energy. And now we are seeing reductions in retail and business prices for energy around, on the East Coast and the National Electricity Market. There's more to go.

We've got a lot of measures underway. You know, making sure there's more gas available.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But they also talk about “catastrophic generator failures”, is that a potential? Because that would be disastrous for us. “Catastrophic generator failures” is their term.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well if you had a generator, the thermal power stations, coal fired power stations come under a lot of stress, particularly in summer, which is when demand is highest. So you've got to make sure you've got adequate backup. That's one of the reasons we're building Snowy 2.0, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

A couple of other things quickly-

PRIME MINISTER:

We're planning ahead, believe me.

NEIL MITCHELL:

MyHealth, the health system online, I assume you’ll opt in because it's your policy.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, yes, indeed.

NEIL MITCHELL:

How can you guarantee security?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have very rigorous security on this, Greg Hunt-

NEIL MITCHELL:

Hasn’t worked in the past… Medicare?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it is absolutely, we’ll have the highest security on it and the penalties for breaching it are very, very high.

So if somebody were to breach that security they would find themselves spending a lot of time contemplating their folly in jail.

NEIL MITCHELL:

If you - this wouldn't happen of course - but if you'd contracted some sort of embarrassing social disease, would a green doctor in outer Melbourne be able to look up your records and find out?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no. It’s only done with your consent.

NEIL MITCHELL:

No? Only if you’ve got your consent.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, sure.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay. You realise the opt out system is not working well, people just can't get through.

PRIME MINISTER:

There was a glitch yesterday I understand, but it's been resolved I've been assured. About 20,000 people did opt out online yesterday.

NEIL MITCHELL:

President Trump says he believes Putin ahead of his Special Council, this is what he said after the meeting overnight.

US PRESIDENT, DONALD J TRUMP (RECORDING):

My people came to me, Dan Coates came to me, and some others. They said, they think its Russia. I have President Putin, he just said its not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be. President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, you told me you don't admire Putin, he's no role model for the world, should Donald Trump believe him?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, President Putin himself said that you shouldn't trust anybody. So that was his advice.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You wouldn’t trust him?

PRIME MINISTER:

I certainly don't trust President Putin when he says he wasn't responsible for the shooting down of MH17, which occurred four years ago.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So do you trust him when he says he didn't wasn't fiddling in the US election?

PRIME MINISTER:

I find the evidence that's been produced by the American Intelligence Community to be very compelling. But, obviously there is a difference of opinion inside America.

I can assure you that the approach we're taking Neil, is doing everything we can, including the most stringent laws recently introduced to protect Australia from foreign interference.

So we observe from here the debates within America and they can take their own course. But my job as Prime Minister of Australia is to protect Australia from foreign interference and that's what we're doing.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I assume you'd be a little bit more sceptical in a meeting with Putin then?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he said it himself, don't trust anybody and that's the one thing, I think that may well be good advice.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Has the US approached Australia yet or will Australia stand with the US and this concern about China and the international sea lines, will we stand with the US against China if necessary?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, our position is we maintain our right of freedom of navigation and overflight everywhere in the world and in particular, in our region and we exercise it.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Are you a bit nervous about this situation with China, it seems to be becoming increasingly tense? Not just internationally, but domestically.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no.

Look, it’s really beaten up in the media massively, absolutely exaggerated. And to some extent from time to time in China as well.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So you don't see China as a threat to us?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, look a threat is the is the combination of capability and intent.

We do not see China, China has enormous military capability of course, but we do not see China as having any intent to do Australia harm. So I don't think it's fair to describe China as a threat.

NEIL MITCHELL:

The train line to Baxter, you’re announcing today.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What’s the deal there? 

PRIME MINISTER:

$225 million dollars from us, which we committed in the federal budget and Matt Guy's committing to the same amount if he's elected premier in November, and that will mean that the line will be electrified from Frankston through to Baxter and there'll be two more stations between Frankston and Baxter.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Does it go through Langwarrin or not?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah it's going to go, there'll be Frankston East Station and a Langwarrin Station.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And the aim is, what? Is this the holiday crowd or is it the commuters?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it's Melbourne's growing, I guess. It's commuters it’s an area, you know the transport infrastructure is under strain and so you need to have better, you need to make the mass transit system better, more affordable, more accessible.

This is one of the reasons why we're going to build a rail line out to Tullamarine.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Will Matthew Guy get a better deal in Victoria than Daniel Andrews?

PRIME MINISTER:

It's always good to work with Liberal premiers, I have to say, we have a great relationship. Look what we've been able to do with Gladys Berejiklian in the Western Sydney City Deal and the great progress that we've made with Will Hodgman and Steven Marshall.

So look, Matt Guy will be an outstanding Premier of Victoria. But I think one of the big issues that he'll be campaigning on, is one which is very much a state issue, which is this point about law and order and street crime.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Final quick question. Will you be looking at a civilian honour for the Australian cave divers involved in Thailand?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, yes we are. That is all underway.

That is one of the most extraordinary acts of heroism, professionalism, discipline, teamwork.

That was an example to all of us, a team brought from all over the world showing what people of goodwill and discipline and courage can do when they work together as a team.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I've got Dr. Richard Harris in my mind as Australian of the Year.

PRIME MINISTER:

He is he is one of the greatest examples of every Australian value we hold dear.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Prime Minister thanks for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you, Neil.

[ENDS]

Transcript 41700