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Transcript of interview with Ray Hadley: 2GB: 6 February 2017: Newspoll; Cory Bernardi; Government forces foreign nationals to sell over $100 million worth of illegally acquired Australian real estate; offshore processing

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The Hon. Scott Morrison MP Treasurer




Subjects: Newspoll; Cory Bernardi; Government forces foreign nationals to sell over $100 million worth of illegally acquired Australian real estate; offshore processing

RAY HADLEY: Treasurer, good morning.


HADLEY: First day back in Parliament for 2017, first Newspoll. Now, I can almost hear you answering the question now but it is not good news for the Coalition, particularly in terms of the primary vote, and that is reflected on two-party.

TREASURER: I think we see, and I will let others do the analysis but what we see here is that support for non-major parties, which is a challenge to mainstream politics. The challenge for the Government is to demonstrate, particularly as we go over the course of this year and we lead up to the Budget that mainstream politics, a mainstream government, a centre-right government in the Turnbull Government can deal with the issues that are most concerning, that people are expressing these issues through the polls. Last week the Prime Minister particularly focussed on one of those issues which was the affordability of energy in this country and our preparedness to ensure that there is no ideology in this and that coal is a big part of how we go forward and ensuring that families and businesses can have more affordable power prices. So, it is for us to continue to demonstrate this year and gain the faith of those Australians who are exasperated with main stream parties. There is no good news in this for Bill Shorten. He has gone backwards, personally, and the Labor Party haven’t gone forwards either. So there is a big challenge this year to continue to focus on the issues that Australians are most worried about and that is what it costs to pay for your energy, what it costs to buy a home and rent a home and get access to a home, the security of their jobs and to ensure that they can try and earn more by getting more hours and business can support them to do that.

HADLEY: I didn’t think you would answer the question. Your primary vote is 35 per cent. When you and your Government dump Tony Abbott as Prime Minister the primary vote for the Coalition was 39. Now, let’s have a listen as everyone knows to what the now Prime Minister said then.

PRIME MINISTER: The one thing that is clear about our current situation is the trajectory. We have lost 30 Newspolls in a row. It is clear that the people have made up their mind about Mr Abbott’s leadership.

HADLEY: Well, you haven’t lost 30 but you are heading in the wrong direction.

TREASURER: Well, the Prime Minister is the preferred Prime Minister by a reasonable distance and continues to be…


HADLEY: But that is more of a reflection on Bill Shorten than Malcolm Turnbull.

TREASURER: Well, you may say that - I would disagree…

HADLEY: Of course you would.

TREASURER: I am allowed to Ray.

HADLEY: I am not denying that, I get 10 points for stating the obvious. You’re not going to say no he is a really formidable leader and that is why he is getting closer to the now Prime Minister.

TREASURER: Well, Bill Shorten has proved himself to be a political hack. He is just the master opportunist who runs around chasing every little issue this way and that with no point of principal. Now, the Prime Minister demonstrated last week how prepared he was to stand up for Australian interests with whoever he has to deal with. The Prime Minister has laid out last week his focus on things that matter to Australian families and businesses. In particular what it costs for your energy bills and how we are going to work to ensure that those bills are more affordable in the future. And as we lead up to the Budget we are obviously very hard on our package to make housing more affordable into the future.

HADLEY: Well I have already said what I have said and I will repeat it for your benefit in case you didn’t hear it. The only way forward for your Government now, in my opinion, and it is no good replacing him. I would certainly oppose a move against the Prime Minister but the only way forward if you were to have any hope at the next federal election is for him to resign. That is the only hope he has got. They will replace Bill Shorten as sure as night follows day between now and the next election. If they replace him with someone with some stature within the Labor Party - you are in strife.

TREASURER: That is not the right way forward Ray. That is a fairly ridiculous reaction to take to this…

HADLEY: Hang on, how it is ridiculous given that you sacked…

TREASURER: What Australians want us to do is not go in some sort of revolving door of leadership, what Australians want us to do is to focus on the things that matter to them. It is not the personalities of politicians. It is not all the other hoopla that goes on which is endlessly fed upon by the commentary cycle - all of that. Australians have had as much of a gutful of all of that sort of banal comment as they have of feeling ignored by the Australian politics and it’s [inaudible]…

HADLEY: You’re not suggesting the Prime Minister [inaudible]…

TREASURER: So, we need to focus on what is most focused on by the Australian people and that is their job, that is how much they take home in their pay, what they pay for their power, and how easy it is for them to be able to get into the housing market. If they are out in the bush or the regional areas, that they are able to be taken forward. If you go down to Hazelwood, you go to Port Lincoln, you go to Whyalla. They are not there worried about this mate. What they are worried about is their job and how they are going to be able to keep their job. That is my focus and that is Malcolm Turnbull’s focus and we will demonstrate that even more over the course of this year. So that is how we should respond. Not some sort of knee jerking carry-on which some are suggesting.

HADLEY: Hang on, you have just taken me on a geography tour, and I appreciate that, to Whyalla and Port Lincoln, but the simple fact of the matter is the banal comment to which you refer can be attributed to your Prime Minister who made that banal; comment in relation to opinion polls. Now, he is Prime Minister, Treasurer, he has got to either put up or shut up in relationship to opinion polls. Now, he was all happy to get rid of the former Prime Minister on the basis that he was down


to 39. He is down to 35 now and you can’t call it any other way. It is no good bagging the media, or bagging me…

TREASURER: I didn’t.

HADLEY: Banal comments. You are stating the bleeding obvious. The bloke is unelectable. He nearly lost the last election. He will lose the next one for sure as night follows day and you will be looking for another job.

TREASURER: The Prime Minister won the last election Ray…

HADLEY: By a short half head.

TREASURER: Just like if you win by two points or 20 a win is a win.

HADLEY: A sort half head. Had an unassailable lead going into it. Short half head [inaudible]. We’ll move on because you and I are going to argue all day about this and I don’t want to get into that slanging match we had last time even though both of us enjoyed it to a certain extent. Cory Bernardi, is almost certain to quit the Liberals we are being told by the ABC within 48 hours. In fact I am looking up there at the screen right now - 48 hours, he is gone. Will he join One Nation or as they are suggesting he form the Cory Bernardi Party?

TREASURER: I am not getting ahead of any of this Ray. If Senator Bernardi is going to make a decision or announcement let’s see what he announces if he announces anything at all. Others seem to be egging him on but what he chooses to do is a matter for him. Cory Bernardi is a former President of the South Australian division of the Liberal Party, he is a former Vice President of the Liberal Party. When he stood at the election Liberal Party voters voted to have a Liberal Party Senator in the Senate. Cory has been a very involved figure in the South Australian Liberal Party working closely with those Liberal Party members who put in a lot of work and effort to put Liberal Party Senators into the Parliament. He will have to make judgments about all of those issues in what he may or may not announce. What I do notice about this is a lot of people will say what he isn’t going to do, we will wait to see what he actually does do, and I don’t intend to jump ahead of that or indeed if it even happens at all.

HADLEY: Given that you have already indicated that these opinion polls back-to-back have favoured others apart from the major parties and the Greens - the others would have to be One Nation. Now, I don’t know as much about the Queensland political scene as others and I have sort counsel there. They tell me that whoever forms government and it won’t be the Labor Party after the next election. Will have to do a dance with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. That is what they say. Are you getting close to the stage, given these figures, and they are growing and growing and growing, that you will have to do a dance the same. You will have to pick a ticket and will have to dance with someone from One Nation if you are to form Government sometime in the future?

TREASURER: The next election is more than two years away. There is a Budget in May, that is what has my absolute focus and people’s jobs and their power prices have my absolute focus and ensuring that they are able to afford a home. That is what I am working on. I am not engaging or indulging in the politics of over two years away with all of these deals and political deals. If others want to obsess over that they can. The Australian people expect me and the Prime Minister and the entire team to focus on Government. That is what they elected us to do, that is what we got elected to do just over six months ago when we won the last election.

HADLEY: By the way, Sky News now reporting that Cory Bernardi’s office says he has no comment on reports he is set to split from the Coalition which means he will do it in the next 48 hours no doubt. Let’s get to illegal foreign property investors. Story today about what you are doing as a government


here. I also interested to see, you talk to blokes in pubs and clubs oh they get the blokes with million places. There are mentions of homes under a million around the Eastwood area and other areas in Sydney and other parts of Brisbane and Melbourne where you have basically gone to those people and said, look you weren’t entitled to buy this so you better sell it.

TREASURER: That’s right over $100 million worth of residential property, which has been illegally acquired by foreigners, we have forced them to divest those properties. Today’s announcement is another 15 properties and they range from $240,000 down in Victoria to $5.9 million in Rockbank in Victoria. Many properties in today’s list are actually in Victoria. What this says is that as part of the initiative to ensure that housing is more affordable we need to enforce our foreign investment laws. Now, under the previous Government they just weren’t doing it. They weren’t acting on the laws. We toughened the laws and we have been opposing them and more than $100 million worth of real estate has been put back on the market because it was illegally acquired by foreign investors. If people go out there and buy properties and bid up against Australians seeking to buy those properties and they are not legally able to do that we will find you and I will force you to sell it.

HADLEY: Just finally, who has been given the job of ringing Sean Spicer, Mr Trump’s press secretary to tell him that our Prime Minister’s name is Turnbull - not Trunbull but Turnbull?

TREASURER: He would have to correct that bit of fake news himself I think. I am sure he has got plenty of text messages from his own colleagues about that. You have got to, a guy who has that job of having to cover every issue under the sun, if he slips up every now and then I think people will cut him some slack. Malcolm wasn’t very troubled by it. As Australians we are not terribly precious about these things.

HADLEY: One of the things I said and my listeners echoed their sentiments, having worked with and for Kerry Packer I don’t think it is the first time that the Prime Minister has been on the end of a fairly savage going over.

TREASURER: I think that whole event last week demonstrated that Malcolm Turnbull isn’t cowered by anyone. What he did was, he ensured that he was able to get an agreement that helps Australia to be able to solve this terrible problem that we inherited, we stopped the boats and now we are seeking to get women and children off Nauru. We were able to get what was an extraordinary agreement with the Obama Administration and now we have been able to make that deal stick.

HADLEY: You hope.

TREASURER: Well, a deal is a deal and the Prime Minister has been able to get that commitment and work through the processes. They are on Nauru at the moment working it through. The Prime Minister stood up for Australia’s interest but what he didn’t do is engage in all the sort of other commentary around that discussion, which doesn’t help the relationship. So, I think he conducted himself exactly as he hoped a Prime Minister would. Certainly as I hoped a Prime Minister would. Preserve the alliance, got the best outcome from Australia and sent a very clear message that Malcolm Turnbull isn’t owned by anybody and won’t be cowered by anybody and that is a stark contrast to Bill Shorten who is owned by the unions and would have gone over in a puff.

HADLEY: Well, a stark admission, in his previous life as Communications Minister, Mr Turnbull yelled at me.


HADLEY: You know why he yelled at me?

TREASURER: I think I’ve yelled at you and you have yelled at me.


HADLEY: Other people have yelled at you but I haven’t yelled at you like they have yelled at you.

TREASURER: Let me check the tape.

HADLEY: No, this was a private conversation not on air, you know why he yelled at me? Because I yelled at him and said I am not going to be intimidated by you.

TREASURER: There you go.

HADLEY: Don’t try and bully me. Then he said you are the bully not me and he yelled at me and you know what it took me at least 90 seconds to get over that before I went back on air.

TREASURER: There you go.

HADLEY: Yelling at people doesn’t mean from time to time you are expressing anger, sometimes it is just frustration. On that note before I become more frustrated I will farewell you.

TREASURER: Good on you Ray. Good to talk to you.


Further information: Julian Leembruggen 0400 813 253, Kate Williams 0429 584 675