PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 41710

Doorstop - Sydney

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: 29/07/2018

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 41710

Subject(s): By-elections; Garden Island

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I want to thank the voters in Longman and Braddon, in Mayo, Fremantle and Perth for their patience in the long by-election campaigns, four of which of course should have occurred last year when it was plain that the Labor members and the Member for Mayo were ineligible to sit in the Parliament.

I want to congratulate the successful candidates and I want to thank, above all, our candidates Georgina Downer, Brett Whiteley and Trevor Ruthenberg who put in a great effort in their seats in the campaign.

Now, I see that Bill Shorten is punching the air as though he’s won the World Cup. The reality is that the Labor Party has secured an average or conventional swing in a by-election to it in Longman and has not secured any swing at all in Braddon, at this stage it looks like it will be a line-ball result. So there is not a lot to celebrate for the Labor Party. There is certainly nothing to crow about.

The important thing is that now these citizenship issues have been dealt with and we will continue to get on with delivering the strong economic growth, the record jobs growth, more investment, more growth, more jobs, higher wages.

That's our commitment and that's what we'll continue to do.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you look at these results and it's difficult to escape the conclusion that you are a lame duck Prime Minister marching towards defeat sometime in the middle of next year, isn't it? You are the underdog now?

PRIME MINISTER:

There is no basis for saying that at all. This was a conventional swing in one electorate, absolutely an average swing, in which the Labor Party were able to spend, in the last week of the campaign, as much money as the LNP spent in the whole eight weeks. So the Labor Party put enormous resources into the Longman and indeed the Braddon campaign, but particularly into Longman and they achieved a swing that was very, very conventional and I've never –

JOURNALIST:

They’ll put enormous resources into the federal campaign too and they’ll knock you off, won't they? I mean that's how it's looking.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I can assure you that when we come to the federal campaign, Australians will see that it’s a very clear choice then. It's not like a by-election. In a by-election, you have to remember particularly if it's an opposition seat, voters have in effect a no-risk choice, because it doesn't affect who is Prime Minister. It doesn't affect who the Government is. So that's one of the reasons why by-elections invariably swing against governments.

JOURNALIST:

You said this was about leadership, didn't you? You said this by-election contest was about leadership, in which case they haven't endorsed your leadership?

PRIME MINISTER:

That is not correct, by-elections are about many issues. They are about the candidates, they’re about local issues, they’re about national policies, they are about national leaders. Obviously in by-elections, there are two obvious points about by-elections; one is that they invariably swing against the government of the day and this swing in Longman is very much an average swing. There is nothing remarkable about it at all, at all.

JOURNALIST:

But people created an expectation, including Peter Dutton in the last couple of days that you would win Longman.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, that is not true, not true -

JOURNALIST:

So you’ve always expected to lose, is that why you campaigned so hard?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have always said that history was against us. I have never given any indication that we expected to win these by-elections, none whatsoever. The fact that your polls were wrong must be disappointing and galling for you. But the truth is the only people who should be embarrassed are the people that published the polls. I didn't place any reliance on them at all.

JOURNALIST:

Do your policies need to change, Prime Minister, or the way you sell them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we will look very seriously and thoughtfully and humbly at the way in which the voters have responded. I mean, clearly we look at it. The real test of a public opinion and political opinion is obviously at elections. By-elections do have special characteristics, for all the reasons we understand and we've discussed.

JOURNALIST:

Is it time for a rethink?

PRIME MINISTER:

We will be carefully considering the analysis of the by-elections, particularly in Braddon and in Longman, but I can assure you we will remain committed to the strong national economic plan that is delivering record jobs growth, strong investment. Record jobs growth, right across the country, I mean that's the reality.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, do you concede the company tax cuts policy has been a bit of an albatross around your neck and that has been determined by these results?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is vitally important that Australian companies are competitive. If you look around the country, if you believe that having records jobs growth is important - I do and I think most Australians do - you can see that's coming because businesses are investing and they're hiring.

JOURNALIST:

So you're not for turning on that at all?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are committed to ensuring that Australia has a competitive company tax rate. Now, you're asking all the questions, could you let someone else have a go?

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, will you take that policy to the next election if you don’t get it through the Senate?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are committed to ensuring Australia has a competitive company tax rate. That is our position and we're obviously looking forward to reengaging in the argument in the debate in the Senate when Parliament comes back in a couple of weeks.

JOURNALIST:

In Perth, do you regret not running candidates there in Perth and Fremantle? 

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, that was a decision the West Australian party made and I'm not going to second-guess them. I mean, the reality is we have limited financial resources. We have much less financial resources available to us than Labor. So the WA party decided not to run in two seats which they believed they had no prospect of winning, recognising there will be a general election in the first half of next year. So the people in Fremantle and Perth and in every electorate will have the opportunity to vote for a Liberal or a National or an LNP candidate then.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, what are your plans to win back Queensland? Will you stick to your promises to Queensland?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, absolutely. Every commitment we've made, we will deliver, whether it is in Longman or in Braddon, absolutely.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible] combatting Labor’s negative campaigning on schools and job cuts?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you've raised a very good point. Labor has got a strategy of telling outrageous lies. I mean, Longman is a good example where they claimed that we were cutting funding to Caboolture Hospital which is untrue. In fact, I met a nurse a couple of days ago who works at Caboolture Hospital who told me how disgusted she was with the lies.

In fact, Commonwealth Government funding has increased substantially since we came into government for that part of Brisbane's public hospital network. The challenge that we face is that we have limited financial resources, so we have to really use the free media, channels like yourselves, to get across those facts.

Unfortunately politics is often reported like sport nowadays and not a lot of attention is being given to the truth or otherwise of what politicians are saying. But it is very important. The ABC, to give them credit, have got a fact checker and they checked my statement that we are increasing funding to hospitals and schools and they gave it a big tick. So, I'm telling the truth -

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I think it's very important for everybody to ask this question: how important is it that politicians tell the truth? I think it's enormously important.

Bill Shorten has been lying and lying and lying. In Longman, the claim that we were cutting funding to public hospitals is nothing more or less than a lie. Because the funding has been increasing since we came into government, year on year and it will increase right out with the new public hospital agreement with the states. It will increase again right out to 2024/25.

So dealing with these outrageous lies that people would, I think, have been ashamed to try on, some years ago, Labor has found they’re working. That is a big challenge, when people are prepared to just tell outrageous lies in the hope that enough people, or some people will believe them. Obviously in marginal seats, in tight seats where 1,000 votes or even 100 votes can make the difference, it’s a big challenge. But we are taking the approach, as I've said publicly, of treating it like whack-a-mole, you just have to keep on rebutting them with facts.

You would have seen in Braddon for example, where they were making the same claims about public hospitals, we had signs which said funding for public hospitals in Tasmania has increased by 42 per cent. We actually cited the years of the Budget Papers where the information came from. So we've got to keep getting that message across. But it shows the cynicism, it shows the combination of Labor's cynicism, dishonest and enormous financial resources they get from the unions, that they are able to just push these lies out. Of course in a tight contest, that can be significant.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister can I just ask about cruise ships?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, cruise ships?

JOURNALIST:

A captain’s call there to keep the Navy, keep the Navy -

PRIME MINISTER:

To keep the Navy?

[Laughter]

JOURNALIST:

The Navy’s control of Garden Island. Can you tell us what it’s all about, is it security?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I tell you, my Government is very committed to the Australian Navy. We are undertaking the largest re-investment in the Navy ever in peace time. In six years of government, the Labor Party did not commission or order the construction of one Australian naval vessel in an Australian shipyard. We have commissioned and have committed to 53 vessels, which are either in the design stage or under construction.

So we have a Navy, it’s going to get bigger. We need it to keep Australians safe and Garden Island, which is just over there, is a naval base and has been for about 150 years and it will remain so.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, what about cruise ships coming into Port Botany as opposed to -?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that's a matter for the State Government. But look, I know there are some people who have argued in the cruise ship industry that the naval base should be vacated by the Navy - I'm not quite sure where the Navy's ships are going to go  - so that cruise ships can come in.

I want to tell you that my first priority is to keep Australians safe. The Royal Australian Navy is a part of our Australian Defence Force that keeps Australians safe. Garden Island is a naval base and the ships of the Royal Australian Navy will always have the priority there, not - with great respect to others - cruise ships.

Thanks very much.

[ENDS]

Transcript 41710