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Transcript of interview with Laurie Oakes: Channel Nine 60 Minutes: 5 February 2017: Donald Trump; US alliance; Government performance; same sex marriage; Medicare; political donations



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THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP PRIME MINISTER

TRANSCRIPT

5 February 2017

Interview with Laurie Oakes 60 Minutes

EO&E

LAURIE OAKES:

I want to say welcome Prime Minister Trumble but …

PRIME MINISTER:

[Laughs]

LAURIE OAKES:

It’s funny but it’s a bit offensive too isn’t it? That the White House spokesman doesn’t bother to get your

name right?

PRIME MINISTER:

The important thing is results Laurie. I advanced Australia’s case, we secured the commitment we wanted

from the President and I thank him for it.

LAURIE OAKES:

Well let’s talk a bit about this, this this brutal phone call that magically became civil as a result of the

Presidential Tweet. Are you and Donald Trump mates again now?

PRIME MINISTER:

[Laughs]

Well we have a very frank relationship. Obviously we’ve had two phones calls. I’ve only said three things

about the phone call with the President. Firstly, that it was frank and forthright. Secondly, that he gave a

commitment that he would honour the refugee resettlement deal entered into by President Obama. And

thirdly, that he did not hang up. The call ended courteously. Now I’ve got nothing more to say about the

content of the phone call than that. It’s very important for me to be disciplined, to be calm and to pursue

- in a very focused way - Australia’s national interests, and that’s what I do as Australia’s Prime Minister.

LAURIE OAKES:

Well this isn’t only about a bullying phone call though, it’s also about public statements the President

made, including twice saying Australia was taking advantage of America, one of the allies taking advantage

of America. How do you feel about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you know it’s interesting. I don’t think there has ever been more public support for Australia than

there has been this week. We have seen dozens and dozens of congressmen and senators, talking about

the importance of the Australian Alliance and talking about what a great friend we have always been to

the United States. So this has been a very good week for Australia.

LAURIE OAKES:

But when the American President bullies an Australian Prime Minister and basically accuses Australia of,

you know, trying to have a lend of America, it must have implications for the relationship, maybe even for

the Alliance?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Laurie the important thing is that we have a very longstanding Alliance which is in both the interests

of the United States and the interest of Australia.

LAURIE OAKES:

But, this might affect support in Australia, surely, if the President is showing no respect for Australia.

PRIME MINISTER:

The important thing is that we had a frank and forthright conversation. Australians know - and you and I

have known each other for more years than we like to remember - but you know that I always stand my

ground. I defend my position, my nation’s position. I’ve stood up for Australia and the President has given

us a commitment to honour the deal entered into by his predecessor, and we thank him for that

commitment.

LAURIE OAKES:

Did he ask for anything in return?

PRIME MINISTER:

Absolutely not.

LAURIE OAKES:

Do you expect him to? He’s the sort of bloke, and the word from Washington is that he does expect

favours in return.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s a deal, obviously, that President Trump has said he wouldn’t have entered into. But he has

committed to honour it.

LAURIE OAKES:

But what now if the Trump Administration comes to you and says: “We want troops for some Middle

Eastern adventure,” or: “We want ships in the South China Sea,” do you now see yourself as indebted, or

does he see you as indebted?

PRIME MINISTER:

We assess all requests for military assistance on their merits, and there is no linkage, no linkage at all

between an arrangement relating to refugee resettlement and any other matters.

LAURIE OAKES:

Well Trump is different from most Presidents where, for example, he said recently on the Iraq War: “We

should have kept the oil but, okay we might have another chance”. Now will that be in your mind if he

comes to you saying: “Look we want to attack ISIS in Iraq” or something like that?

PRIME MINISTER:

We’re very unlikely to ever have a request from the US that comes as a surprise. I mean our two militaries

work together…

LAURIE OAKES:

Everything Donald Trump does is a surprise and he says he wants to surprise…

PRIME MINISTER:

Okay well, at the end of the day our two military establishments work very, very closely together,

seamlessly. Extremely closely together. Now any further or varied or different military engagement is

something that we assess on its merits.

LAURIE OAKES:

Okay I want to look at the political context, this is a beginning of the year interview, one of your problems

is that there’s a perception that you’re weak. Do you think that by standing up to Donald Trump that you

might have helped to counter that perception?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Laurie that’s for others to judge. But you’ve known me, as you’ve said, for decades. The suggestion

that I’m anything other than strong and forthright and determined flies in the face of all of my history.

LAURIE OAKES:

You’re in a hole politically. I mean your popularity dived last year, you almost lost an election. You’re still

behind in the polls. I assume you don’t think that’s entirely down to Bill Shorten’s brilliance. Have you

thought about why it’s happened?

PRIME MINISTER:

Laurie I’m focused on delivering for Australians. What I set out is our agenda for this year and what we’re

going to deal with is energy prices. Do you know that the cost of electricity has increased over the last

decade, way beyond inflation? Way beyond inflation. It is becoming a massive burden on Australian

households, and on businesses and it’s affecting our ability to deliver jobs. We need a clear-eyed, hard-

headed approach to energy. I’ve laid out the road map for that in the course of this week and that’s what

we will pursue. So we will get reliable energy, affordable energy and we’ll meet our remissions reduction

targets.

LAURIE OAKES:

Okay, I want to talk more about issues in a minute, but just this train of thought. It would be criminal of

you, I think, if you didn’t consider whether your performance has got anything to do with the

government’s problems. I mean have you done any self-examination? Have you worked out what you

might have done wrong, where you might have made mistakes, what you can do?

PRIME MINISTER:

Laurie, like all of us, we all reflect on what we do and how we can improve.

LAURIE OAKES:

So what’s the result of your reflection?

PRIME MINISTER:

[Laughs]

Well Laurie I want to talk about Australia. I want to talk about what we’re doing for Australians. My agenda

is not focused on me. You can focus on me if you like and I thank you for the attention, but my interest

and my duty is to stand up for Australia, not talk about myself.

LAURIE OAKES:

But you do need people to vote for you. Clearly one of your problems is that people thought they knew

you and the Malcolm Turnbull who’s Prime Minister hasn’t come across as the person they thought they

knew. For example, on same sex marriage. I mean you had one view, but as Prime Minister you’ve had

to push the other view, you’ve had to say…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that -

LAURIE OAKES:

Plebiscite or nothing.

PRIME MINISTER:

Laurie, I support same sex marriage. I took to the last -

LAURIE OAKES:

Yeah and you did support it a free vote in the Parliament.

PRIME MINISTER:

I took to the last election the policy of my party and my Government, which was to have a plebiscite. If

Labor had voted for the plebiscite, it would have been held on Saturday, next Saturday.

LAURIE OAKES:

Yeah.

PRIME MINISTER:

It would have been carried and gay marriage would have been legal within a few days. So the only reason

gay couples will not be able to get married in the next few weeks, is because of Bill Shorten’s totally

political approach. He, in the past, has advocated a plebiscite.

LAURIE OAKES:

But you in the past have advocated a free vote in Parliament. What we heard today is Tony Abbott coming

out and saying: “You must not now allow a free vote in Parliament”, just because there’s no

plebiscite. Now that looks like you’re getting your riding instructions from your predecessor and the right

wing of the Coalition.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Laurie, we took the plebiscite position to the election. That is our policy and we are calling on Bill

Shorten to rethink his position. If he supports the plebiscite, then it’ll pass through the senate, then it will

be held, and every Australian will have a say.

LAURIE OAKES:

So the group of Liberals that’s a now wanting a free vote - they’re getting together wanting to make a

move before the Budget as I understand it - they’re wasting their time?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Laurie, I’ve got no doubt that all of these matters will be discussed in the party room. But I’m the

Prime Minister, the Government’s position is that which we took to the election, which is that this issue

should be determined by a vote of every Australian in a plebiscite.

LAURIE OAKES:

Okay you’ve talked about a couple of your policies, I do want to look to the future where you want to take

the Government. Give me the elevator pitch.

PRIME MINISTER:

We need to ensure that our children and grandchildren have got better opportunities than we have. We

have to ensure that we remain - and become even more so - a strong, prosperous first world economy

with a generous social welfare safety net. Great opportunities, but also the ability to afford to help those

who fall behind, stumble or are disadvantaged. So we’ve got to have a strong economy to pay for that.

That means we need to press ahead with opening up more markets, more trade. We need to encourage

more investment. That’s why we’ve got a plan to reduce business taxes. We’ve got a big defence industry

plan, investing an unprecedented amount in the most advanced manufacturing and technologies in the

world. All of that will drive massive growth. So right across the board, everything I am doing is determined

and focused on setting us up to succeed again and again in the future, and ensure that we’ve got the great

jobs, the great well-paying jobs, the great opportunities for our kids and grandkids.

LAURIE OAKES:

Now you were furious on election night, you obviously blamed Labor’s Medicare scare campaign for the

close call in the election. You conceded that the Coalition’s past actions created the climate where that

was possible. So you now want your new Health Minister to change that perception. When John Howard

got Health Minister Tony Abbott to perform the same task, he gave him a lot of money. Are you going to

put more money in the hands of your new Health Minister to convince Australians you love Medicare?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we are spending more money now than any previous Commonwealth Government, and we will

spend more money on health next year as well. So yes of course, we spend more money on heath all the

time. But we have a big budget deficit which we are bringing down. That is an equally important priority.

So what we need to do Laurie, is ensure that we get the right outcomes from it. We’ve got to get a better

outcome from our investment in health, from our investment in education. It is vital that we get more

value - more bang, if you like - from the taxpayer’s buck.

LAURIE OAKES:

Final quick issue. Your $1.75 million election donation to the Liberal Party. I mean, I see nothing wrong

with it, it’s your money. But what I wonder about is why the Liberal Party was so broke. What was

wrong? Two Liberal Party treasurers had resigned in recent years and a lot of internal argy barby over

money. Why was the Liberal Party in such a deep hole financially?

PRIME MINISTER:

At the end of 2015 when Tony Nutt became the Director of the Liberal Party, the Party had so little money

he had to work for several months without any pay. So the Party was very short of money.

LAURIE OAKES:

Extraordinary.

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s a big challenge that we face. The corporate sector, particularly public companies are much, much

more reluctant to make political donations, to anybody. We face enormous financial resources from the

unions and Labor, so there is no question, we are at a massive disadvantage financially nowadays. It has

big implications for our democracy.

LAURIE OAKES:

But given the internal arguments that went on about finances in the Liberal Party, have you ordered an

audit?

PRIME MINISTER:

We obviously look at our financial situation very carefully -

LAURIE OAKES:

Is that yes, you have looked into it?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, Laurie I wouldn’t describe it like that. But it’s very important that we constantly review both how we

raise money, and how we spend money. The big difference is that the Labor Party the unions,

organisations like GetUp! have a massive financial advantage over our side of politics and you saw this,

everyone saw that on their television screens during the election.

LAURIE OAKES:

Prime Minister we thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ENDS]