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Transcript of doorstop interview: Smeaton Grange, NSW: 19 June 2016

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19 June 2016




Smeaton Grange, NSW

Those family businesses are the very backbone of Australia. Their enterprise is what secures our prosperity and they were put out of business by that Labor tribunal and it wasn't an accident. That was the intent. It was a deal done between Bill Shorten and the Transport Workers Union, to benefit the Transport Workers Union and it worked. 35,000 owner-driver, family businesses off the roads. No income.

Labor talks about fairness. Doesn't seem very fair to me. Doesn't seem very fair to them. To their families.

We set that right, we abolished the tribunal and they got back on the road but that is all at risk if Labor were able to return to government and some alliance with their fellow travellers in the Greens, who are also enthusiastic supporters of the Transport Workers Union.

It's a very clear choice between now and the 2nd of July.

A stable Coalition Government, committed to small business, committed to family businesses, committed to continuing to defend these family businesses, these owner drivers and with a clear national economic plan to secure our future.

On the other hand, the chaos of a Labor-Green-Independent alliance. The most anti-business agenda of any Labor leader in generations.


Prime Minister, there's been a big push to get students into science and technology subjects. How do you think this will affect the future of Australia?


You know it is absolutely critical. If we don't have more students studying science and technology and mathematics - STEM subjects - our growth, our future, your future as a young Australian will be put at risk.

The 21st century is a century characterised by rapid economic change. We all envy your youth. We all wish we were as young as you. You are growing up in the most exciting times in human history. There's never been change so rapid and on such scale as there is today. The world is transforming at a pace never seen before and it's been driven by technology and by the imagination of young people like yourself. That’s why it's so critical why more young people and more old people too become digitally literate. Study STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and maths.

I was having dinner the other night with a former young lady in her 20s, former Young Queenslander of the Year, who is an engineer on offshore oil rigs and she has chosen engineering - a great role model herself. You know that's the future. We have put at a lot more money into that - supporting more teachers in STEM subjects - we are also ensuring and working, obviously, with the states and territories to ensure the kids have to do maths or science to finish high school. And more universities are requiring and they should all require, in due course, that maths or science should be a prerequisite school subject to have completed to go onto university.

This is a big priority. It's one of the areas we've gone backwards actually. In my generation you had to do maths or science to complete high school. Many parts of Australia now, you don't have to do that. We’ve got to get back to that and ensure that everyone is very literate in those STEM subjects. Science, maths, technology - that’s the future. It’s your century you know. It’s a very exciting one and the key is that digital literacy.


Bill Shorten has launched his campaign today saying you ain’t seen nothing yet. You have previously spoken about how surprised you were that the campaign went negative early. What are you expecting from the final two weeks?


Well he has got personal attacks - he has got negative personal attacks - I have got a plan. That's the difference. I have a plan. I have a national economic plan that will deliver jobs and growth. Every element of that is designed to do that. Every element of that, including what we discussed today, is backing Australian businesses, mostly family-owned businesses like these ones that are employing, that are investing. So we have a plan for jobs and growth - he does not. He has a list of complaints. He has a list of spending promises. He is spending money he doesn't have. He has acknowledged he is going to run up bigger and bigger deficits and there is nothing in there that would encourage anyone to invest, nothing in his plan or his proposals to encourage anyone to hire and yet all he's doing to business is imposing higher and higher taxes. It is a recipe for economic stagnation.


On the trucking issue, can you guarantee that owner operator drivers will have a minimum pay rate under your Government system?

The owner-drivers look after themselves. They are committed to continuing to compete and operate as independent businesses. The RSRT that the Labor Party set up had nothing to do with safety. Absolutely nothing whatsoever to do. Do you think that any of these families that are operating family owned trucking businesses - don't you think they are concerned about safety? Don’t you think they are focused on that? It was part of a deal, a crooked deal frankly, done between the Transport Workers Union and the Gillard Labor government when Bill Shorten was the minister. There is a TWU official, Mr Wong I believe who disclosed exactly what went on. It's pretty clear.

Bill Shorten, he says he wants to run like a trade union leader - well you have got a bit of a taste of that. He backed the TWU against independent family businesses. He is backing the UFU, the firefighters union against 60,000 CFA volunteers and despite the fact there are over 100 officials of the CFMEU before the courts for breaching industrial laws and regulations - he refuses to support the restoration of the rule of law in the construction sector. It is one of the reasons we are having a double dissolution to restore the rule of law to the construction sector by bringing back the ABCC.


Will they receive a minimum rate of pay?


The rate of pay is something that they negotiate with their counter parties, with their clients and customers. The RSRT had nothing to do with safety at all. It was designed to support and promote the union.


Last night you hosted the Olympic dinner in Melbourne. Do you support the IOC's decision to ban Russia from the Olympics Games in anyway? Or will that decision might make Russia harder to deal with it including in a global diplomatic sense?


It's a decision of the IOC. So plainly my Government and I think all Australians - I don’t think this is a party political issue - all Australians are absolutely opposed to drugs in sport. We support all of the agencies whether they are domestic or international that stand up, seek to stamp out drugs in sport. So that's absolutely critical. Sporting contests have got to be fair and they’ve got to be ones where the contest is between athletes who are competing on a level playing field. Drug free.


Prime Minister - mental health support services, like Headspace where which we know that you have pledged some support believe that they'll be worse off under a re-elected Turnbull Government. Can you guarantee they won't lose funding?


I can guarantee and can I say that I'm very committed to this issue. I'm very engaged with this issue. I've been speaking with leading mental health experts even today. I speak to them regularly - Ian Hickie, Patrick McGorry and others. Can I say that the Headspace services will continue to receive support.

There is about 100 of them now and more will open and they will continue to have the same level of support into the future. Their funding is not at risk.


On the Medicare issue, you have ruled out outsourcing the payments system to the private sector. The whole reason for that was to modernise delivering payments. So what will happen now and will it require more spending from the government to upgrade the IT systems?


Medicare will never ever be privatised. Medicare will never ever be sold. Every element of Medicare services that is being delivered by government today will be delivered by government in the future. Full stop. That is the fact.

What Bill Shorten is doing is peddling an extraordinary lie, so audacious it defies belief. This is the first time I've been asked about this issue by this press pack - and we do one of these doorstops every day - because you all know it is nonsense but Labor has been pushing this. They have had trade union officials calling up older Australians at night, trying to frighten them with a scare campaign. Every single element that is delivered by government for Medicare, as part of Medicare, will continue to be delivered by government.


The whole idea was to modernise the system because the existing system is pretty clunky and old. Will you now have to upgrade that and how much are you looking to spend on that?


Well, every delivery system of government has to be upgraded and improved so that it is, as I’ve said before, so that people are able to access services on digital platforms. I announced that when I was talking about our digital policy just a few days ago.

We will continue to improve the way in which Medicare interacts, interfaces with its customers, with citizens and patients - is delivered but it will all be done by government and within government.

I repeat there will be no outsourcing of any elements of the Medicare service that are currently delivered by government. Full stop.

Improvements and efficiencies will be undertaken within government. Full stop.

There is no privatisation of Medicare or any part of Medicare. Every element of Medicare that is delivered by government will continue to be delivered by government. Full stop. That is the fact.


Your voice is a bit croaky today. I’m worried about your health - are you going to make it to the end?


That is very touching. I'm glad that you're so concerned about me. Do you have any flu remedies for me? I would be happy to receive some advice.


Back to the truckies - there's been a big protest in the city today launched of course by the TWU. Is this event to try and counter that? Are you concerned about the scare campaign they are running? Because what you talked about today, we already know the Coalition's position. To come back to it, is that because you're worried about the message the TWU is pushing?


We believe that 35,000 owner driver trucking businesses being put out of work is a disgrace. It's a scandal. Only the Labor Party with its utter indifference to family businesses - only a Labor Party that is led by a man who says he wants to lead Australia like a trade union leader would be untroubled by 35,000 family businesses being put out of work. Of course that's what he wanted! You got to recognise it - this is what Mr Shorten wanted. He wanted those family business to go out of business and that was why the RSRT was set up. It did its job for the TWU and it was very lucky that we were able in time to abolish it as quickly as we did. We were fortunate by the skin of our teeth I might say, to get the numbers to abolish it. Otherwise these families will still be out of business. That was their objective.

This is not a theoretical issue. You know we get all of these issues in an election campaign - you get economists and consultants say if this policy is adopted it will have that effect and someone else will say no it will have a slightly different effect.

We know exactly what Labor's policy did. It put 35,000 owner-driver family businesses off the roads.

Now, I don't believe that any Australian - other than perhaps the trade union movement and the Labor Party - I don't believe that any Australian would regard that as being fair or just or proper but that's what happened and the only way to ensure it doesn't happen again is to re-elect my Government on the 2nd of July.

Thank you very much