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Transcript of radio interview with Luke Grant: 2HD Newcastle: 21 April 2009: Labor's failed policies on people smuggling and the economy; securing our economic future



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WENTWORTH

21 April 2009

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP INTERVIEW WITH LUKE GRANT RADIO 2HD NEWCASTLE

Subjects: Labor’s failed policies on people smuggling and the economy; securing our economic future.

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………...

LUKE GRANT:

Morning.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Good morning Luke.

LUKE GRANT:

How you doing?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Really good, thank you.

LUKE GRANT:

Kind of you to give us some of your time. The unauthorised asylum seekers that arrived obviously in tragic circumstances last week and the reports that there are now more on their way. Is it a fact, in your opinion, that the change of legislation by this Rudd Government has made it easier for the people smugglers in perhaps Indonesia to say, right, game on again?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well that’s certainly the advice of some of the experts in the field. There’s a gentleman called Steve Cook who is the Chief of Mission in Indonesia at the International Organization for Migration and he said back in December that the Rudd Government’s changes were perceived as making Australia a softer target and that the people smugglers would test the envelope by stepping up their activities. Now, since then there’s been a dramatic increase in people smuggling so the evidence you’d have to say is that the changes the Rudd

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Government undertook have sent that signal and they have been perceived as making Australia a softer target.

LUKE GRANT:

Okay. So what would you do differently were it you that was in government than perhaps what Mr Rudd and his fellows have done?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well we’re not in government and really the pressure has to be on Mr Rudd whose policies have clearly failed to provide an adequate disincentive to people smuggling to say what he will do with his policies. You see at the moment what they are saying, Luke, is basically Australia is helpless. There is nothing we can do, there’s going to be thousands more unauthorised asylum seekers coming by boat - that seems to be the message they’re sending - and we’ve just got to cope with it. They are taking the view that we are helpless. Well I disagree with that. Our policies do have an influence and are able to provide greater or lesser disincentives to people smuggling.

So what I’ve said is that we should sit down together. I’ve offered to sit down with the Prime Minister and get the benefit of the most up to date intelligence and expert advice from the AFP and other security agencies and then see what policy changes we could agree on that would have the effect of providing a disincentive to this terrible trade in human lives. I mean we all agree, I hope, that we want to discourage people smuggling. Now, I believe that the Government has an obligation to constantly assess the effectiveness of its policies. I’d say at the moment it’s plain enough that they’re not effective, they’re not doing their job and so we’ve got to now look at what new policies or varied policies we can have.

LUKE GRANT:

Yeah. Do you think, and I think a lot of people would like to know more about what actually happened on that ship, do you think the Government’s been a little lax in not at least putting some preliminary report out there or more information available to the public?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, it’s very concerning Luke. The Government knows exactly what happened on that boat. They must know by now. All of the Naval personnel have been back in Darwin for some time now. They’ve all been interviewed by the Police apparently. They clearly know what’s happened, and you’ve really got to ask them why aren’t they prepared to tell the truth, why aren’t they prepared to put the facts on the table? Why aren’t they prepared to disclose the advice that they’ve apparently had from the Australian Federal Police that their changes to border protection laws have provided a real incentive for people smugglers? Now that’s been a media report. It hasn’t been denied. If that report is true I think we’re entitled to see it because it contradicts expressly and flatly contradicts what the Government has been saying which is that the changes they made in August to our border protection laws would have no impact on the level of unauthorised boat arrivals and of course since then there’s been a dramatic increase.

LUKE GRANT:

Yeah. And this is… it’s one of those amazing areas of policy that we all have an opinion on. Here a poll on Sky News this morning that says 90 per cent of respondents felt the Howard Government handled this better than the Rudd Government. They got a ten per cent vote in this poll. So whilst we can feel great sorrow and we should for these refugees, at the end of the day people want the Australian Government to be tough. So what’s wrong with returning to the John Howard policies?

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MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I think we’ve got to look at all of the policies and the policy options in light of the current conditions. There are even some of the Howard Government policies that were in large measure inherited from the Keating Government and the Hawke Government - the previous Labor governments. Mandatory detention, for example, was introduced by the Labor Government. We changed our policies in the light of events, to deal with events, and for example the practice of detaining women and children as part of the mandatory detention regime - that was abandoned or ceased during the period of the Howard Government. So there’s been lots of changes and I think there’s no doubt, based on the facts, that the policies that we had in place from the previous government as at or prior to August last year, because that was when the Rudd Government changed them, resulted in very few boat arrivals. We now have a situation where there’s been a change of policy and there’s been a dramatic increase. In fact we’ve had nearly twice as many arrivals since August as we had in the previous six years. Now Labor says, and there are other people in the community that agree with them, Labor says that’s all a coincidence, that that doesn’t prove anything. Well I think most people would say, as with this as with everything else, the proof of the pudding is the eating, there has been following the change of policy a dramatic increase in arrivals, that Labor’s policies are not working. So let’s get all of the facts on the table and let’s see whether we go back to some of the policies of the previous government or some variant on them or some new approach.

I mean if I was in government today, if we were in government today, if I was the Prime Minister I would have the honesty to say the policies are not working. What we must do is get the best advice, the latest intelligence from our men and women in the field and then recalibrate, redesign our policies so that they are more effective - that’s what we’ve got to do.

The problem with Mr Rudd is - I believe - is that he is essentially saying: yes there’s a big problem, yes we’re going to have a lot more people smugglers bringing unauthorised boats to Australia, but there’s nothing we can do about it; we are helpless. Now Australia is not helpless. We can determine our own destiny and we should do so.

LUKE GRANT:

Yes indeed. Now onto the economy, the ‘R’ word, recession. I just wonder in my own mind what’s happened in the last day or two or perhaps the last week that led the Prime Minister to utter the recession word yesterday, do you know?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I think it was, as with everything with the Prime Minister, the timing was highly political but the fact of the matter is he has by saying, acknowledging that we are in a recession, he’s really acknowledging that his policies have failed - and you have to remember he did something that I think most of us would have regarded as unimaginable six to nine months ago, which is to engage in a huge borrowing and spending binge.

Remember he has given away $23 billion in cash handouts in four months, all of it borrowed money - that’s a pretty remarkable thing, unprecedented thing for a government to do. He said this will create jobs. It hasn’t created any jobs. Unemployment is now higher; it was higher in March than the Government in February predicted it would be at the end of June. So their forecasts have been proved to be wrong and of course the economy itself, GDP growth etc, is going into reverse, it’s going backwards.

LUKE GRANT:

So where do we end up? I mean if $23 billion doesn’t stave off recession or protect us, then where do we end up?

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MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well it’s not just the sum of money that was being borrowed that’s the issue Luke, it’s how it was spent. You see I was in the lower Hunter recently in Cessnock meeting with the Council and one of the big concerns there is infrastructure and people are saying: why is the Government handing out so much in cash, in cash handouts, but is not prepared to commit to starting the building of the F3 Link?

Now that is a vital bit of infrastructure. The Howard Government put aside all the money for it, the land’s been bought, the approvals are in, you just have to blow the whistle and get started. That would create thousands of jobs. Now that’s the type of spending that will actually get you a result. That will actually create economic activity.

So it’s not just that they’ve borrowed a lot of money because they’ve borrowed it and spent it in a way that hasn’t created a job, that has created or generated any economic activity - that’s the problem.

LUKE GRANT:

What advice do you get, how long will we be in recession for? And where is the light at the end of the tunnel?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I think the light at the end of the tunnel is the global banking system getting sorted out, and that is particularly in the United States and Europe. Our banks are in good shape relative to others because of the good policies and good regulation we’ve had that was put in place by the previous government. I mean I’m not making a political point here, that’s just the facts.

As the US financial system gets sorted out and banks get recapitalised and they acknowledge the bad assets they had, the bad loans they have on their books and write them down and take in more capital and lending starts again and we get the credit squeeze eases, then you will see more economic activity.

But I have to say that I think we will have for quite some years to come a more prudent approach to borrowing and saving. So I don’t think we will have as much debt fuelled consumption or investment or speculation in the future as we’ve had in the past - and that’s probably, I think almost certainly a very good thing.

LUKE GRANT:

Alright, got to leave it there. Appreciate your time again Malcolm, thanks for that.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Thanks so much Luke.

[ends]