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Transcript of interview with David Koch and Samantha Armytage: Seven Network Sunrise: 23 June 2014: Iraq; Peter Greste; Tim Mathieson; the Government's commitment to repeal the carbon tax; direct action plan to reduce carbon emissions



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PRIME MINISTER

23 June 2014

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MP INTERVIEW WITH DAVID KOCH AND SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE, SUNRISE, SEVEN NETWORK

Subjects: Iraq; Peter Greste; Tim Mathieson; the Government’s commitment to repeal the carbon tax; direct action plan to reduce carbon emissions.

E&OE……………………….……………………………………………………………

DAVID KOCH:

Prime Minister Tony Abbott joins us live from Melbourne. Prime Minister, good to have you aboard this morning. How concerned are you that Australian citizens who have fought in Iraq could pose a threat if they come home to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Kochie, there are some 100 Australians who have gone to Syria and Iraq to join the Jihadist cause. This is very worrying because they are being radicalised and militarised through that experience. Now, the important thing is to ensure that our borders are secure.

Border security is not just about stopping illegal boats, border security is also about ensuring that we don‟t have people coming back to Australia and potentially causing mayhem. We are determined to ensure that our community is safe and that means that we don‟t have people coming back to this country radicalised, militarised, angry and ready to cause mayhem.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

So, Prime Minister, what sorts of things are being done to make sure these blokes are not allowed back into the country?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we already have strong laws against this kind of activity and anyone who has been engaged in fighting with organisations like this Al Qaeda offshoot - anyone who is doing this who is an Australian is acting illegally and they will feel the full force of our law.

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DAVID KOCH:

So, what does that mean - the full force of the law? You will cancel the passports? Will you take them into custody? What is the full force?

PRIME MINISTER:

All of those things are possible under the law and we are determined Kochie to do whatever we can to keep our community safe. This is a Government which has demonstrated firmness on border security. We have stopped the illegal boats coming to our country. Now the challenge is to ensure that we don‟t get Jihadists coming to our country and I want to assure you Kochie that this Government is up for the task.

DAVID KOCH:

What if they are an Australian citizen though? You can‟t just cancel their passport you have to let them back in. What do you do? Do you lock them up do you put them in detention centres? What happens?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, all of those things are possible and as I said it is absolutely against our law. It is against our law to fight with this Al Qaeda offshoot. It is against our law and people who have been doing this will be dealt with the full severity of our law.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Prime Minister, we want to talk to you about Australian journalist Peter Greste. He will find out tonight whether or not he is going to be released from an Egyptian jail. He is facing up to 15 years behind bars if he is convicted. Have you had any contact with Egypt‟s new President to lobby for his release?

PRIME MINISTER:

Some weeks ago I spoke with the then acting President Mansour and yes - over the weekend I spoke with the new President El Sisi.

I discussed a number of subjects with the President of Egypt including the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East and I congratulated him on the work that the new Government of Egypt had done to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood, which is - if you like - the spiritual author and father of some of these even more radical groups. I did make the point that Peter Greste was an Australian journalist and I assured him as a former journalist myself that Peter Greste would have been reporting the Muslim Brotherhood not supporting the Muslim Brotherhood because that is what Australian journalists do.

DAVID KOCH:

And what was his response to your comments. Was he sympathetic to them? Did he say, “Mate - leave it with me I will do whatever I can do”?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have to say it was a very generally encouraging conversation. I think that the new President of Egypt will do whatever he reasonably can to ensure that we have peace and security in Egypt and more broadly in the Middle East. He is obviously concerned about the militant and radical tendencies…

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DAVID KOCH:

No, I mean about Peter Greste. Did he understand where you were coming from and assure you that he would help?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think he very much understands our position.

I think he understand that this would be a PR coup for the new Government if Peter Greste is not dealt with severely. I made my point, I made it as clearly as I could and I think he understood me - in fact I am sure he understood me. This is, sure, a General but a General who has studied in both the United States and the United Kingdom so he is certainly someone who is familiar with the rule of law and the ordinary norms of justice.

DAVID KOCH:

That‟s good.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

It does sound promising. We won‟t get our hopes up too high but it does sound promising.

PRIME MINISTER:

In the end this is a matter for the Egyptian justice system but I think I gave a good account of Peter Greste and his work.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

Alright look, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard‟s partner Tim Mathieson has reportedly been recorded leaving a threatening message on the answering machine of Victoria‟s Premier Denis Napthine. Here is part of it - let‟s have a listen.

TIM MATHIESON:

I am not, anything to do with Geoff Shaw, in any way shape or form. So, if he mentions me one more time, I am telling you right now. OK? That’s it. Bang!

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

„Bang‟ is how he signs off. Bizarre message to leave there, Prime Minister, should he apologise? What is going on?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I honestly don‟t know what is going on. I am not familiar with whatever it was that was upsetting him. Plainly he was a little upset. I think that is really a matter for him to explain and for him to deal with.

DAVID KOCH:

OK. Alright. I can understand why you probably handballed that one. A Nielsen Poll out this morning shows the Coalition up three points. Great news, but Labor still has a 3-point lead in 2-party-preferred. The poll also found Malcolm Turnbull more than twice as popular as you as preferred Liberal leader. Can you

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understand Mr Turnbull's popularity? What is it, what do voters love about him? More importantly, should he keep quiet about leadership aspirations?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Kochie, I'm very pleased that Malcolm is a senior member of the Government. I think our public life is very benefitted to have people like Malcolm in the Parliament. It is good for public life that we've got people of high calibre in our Parliament. Yes, we've been going through some challenging times as a government because we've just brought down a budget which is tough but right for these times. It's tough but it is right for these times. My objective is not so much short-term popularity but long-term respect. We were elected to get the budget back under control, and that's exactly what we're going to do.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE:

July is looming. A new Senate, Prime Minister. The carbon tax repeal laws return to parliament today. A poll by the Climate Institute has found more than half of Australians want your Government to take client change more seriously. What do you say to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are taking climate change very seriously indeed. That is why we're proposing to invest some $2.5 billion in sensible, practical measures to help the environment. What we're not going to do, though, is clobber the economy with this great big tax. That's why we are going to reintroduce today into the Federal Parliament, the carbon tax repeal bills. These will be dealt with by the Senate almost immediately after the first of July. I say to the crossbench senators, if you want to save the families of Australia $550 a year, there's a very easy way - scrap the carbon tax. Let's face it, that's what this Parliament was elected to do.

DAVID KOCH:

Alright, Prime Minister. Appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you so much. Thank you.

[ends]