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Transcript of interview with Karl Stephanovic: Today Show: 5 September 2018: leadership; Milk Levy; education; retirement age; Peter Dutton; John Millman

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The Hon. Scott Morrison MP Prime Minister




Subjects: Leadership; Milk Levy; Education; Retirement age; Peter Dutton; John Millman

KARL STEFANOVIC: Welcome back to the program. Good to have your company across Australia. He is the man tasked with rebuilding the Liberal Party and leading this great country. Joining us now from Brisbane is the new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. PM, good morning to you.

PRIME MINISTER: G'day Karl. How are you, mate?

STEFANOVIC: Pretty good. You have said you would reunite this Party. When exactly do you think you will get a handle on that?

PRIME MINISTER: I think we are making continued progress. I think it will come together pretty quickly. As I have moved around the country getting great support not just from not just from people around Australia, but party members as well. I was told last night here in Queensland we have had a rush of members coming back into the Party over the last week or so. That is welcomed and that’s part of the momentum that is being built, as we get focused right back where we need to be which is not on ourselves, which is on the Australian people.

STEFANOVIC: You’ve got some issues though. If you can't even control the leaks you might as well be captain of the Titanic.

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not fussed about those things, Karl. What is the big deal? The Prime Minister is interested in actually cutting tax for small and medium sized businesses. What are they going to predict next, the dawn? Of course I'm interested in getting taxes down. I was the Treasurer for three years who got taxes down. I do want to build infrastructure, I do want to ensure...

STEFANOVIC: It comes back to control. It comes back to control.

PRIME MINISTER: No look Karl, I'm not fussed about things. Others will get fussed about them. I'm focused on leading our team and leading the country for a stronger economy, a safer Australia and bringing all Australians together to focus on the challenges ahead.

STEFANOVIC: Well the issue is you are the boss but you have little or no control over the Party. You couldn't save the Prime Minister and then you became the Prime Minister. Your Party is an absolute dog’s breakfast.

PRIME MINISTER: It was a Muppet show a couple of weeks ago Karl, I know that. Curtain has come down on that. A new generation of Liberal leadership is now in place with Josh and I leading that. We are focused on the things I just talked about. I'm getting electricity down, focusing on the drought...

STEFANOVIC: But you still have to stop the leaks, if you don’t stop the leaks you’ll be another victim.

PRIME MINISTER: Oh that’s rubbish Karl. I’m not fussed about all that. We are focused on the job ahead. Australians want us to be less focused on what we care about and how we feel. We have got to get over that very quickly. I put the Ministry in place in record time and we are on and about the business of government straightaway. The first thing I did was to go out there and listen to drought- affected farmers in western Queensland. We are focusing on getting electricity prices down which is what Australians want us to focus on and backing small and medium sized businesses so they can create these jobs which all Australians depend on.

STEFANOVIC: Grab some Selleys and stop the leaks and you might have a chance.

PRIME MINISTER: The events of two weeks ago were quite tumultuous.

STEFANOVIC: This is today, this is the day before. There is a leak every day.

PRIME MINISTER: Karl you’ve been through some torrid events in your career and look at you. You are still Australia's hero. You get over these things. You move past them. I take inspiration from you mate.

STEFANOVIC: Don't take anything from me my friend. Just go on and lead this country. Let's go to the viewer’s questions this morning. Here is our first question.

QUESTION: I'm wondering if the new Prime Minister is going to support the new ten cent levy for milk farmers.

STEFANOVIC: Good question that. We have had the Minister on this morning saying he supports it. He has gone to I think Woolworths. Coles have said no. Where do you stand?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, he will bring forward submissions. He has been working with the industry on dealing with these issues in the dairy industry and I will be keen to see his proposal when he brings it forward. My first instinct is never to try and solve a problem with a tax, and I don't want to see an increase in prices for Australians but I'm very sensitive of the issues not just faced by drought-affected farmers but we have the issues with dairy farmers. I'm worried about the chicken farmers as well and their cost of getting access to seed and so on and feed for their chicken stock. So there are a lot of issues out there in the ag industry. I think David Littleproud is out there listening very carefully. He will bring forward constructive proposals and we will deal with that in the Cabinet. But I don't want to see people's prices

go up. I want to ensure we can ensure the sustainability and viability of our dairy sector but not doing that at a cost to mums and dads pouring milk on their cornflakes.

STEFANOVIC: I reckon I can feel the rhythm on this one, people at home are prepared to pay 10 cents more but I’ll let you handle that when it comes to…

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not rejecting it. That is certainly the case. A proposal will come forward and we will consider it carefully.

STEFANOVIC: Ok next question.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, why don't you send your kids to a public school?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I went to public schools. I went to Clovelly Primary School and then to Sydney Boys High School. My kids were going to a public school but I wanted them to go to a Christian school. Faith is an important thing for Jenny and I and how we raise our family. That's a choice we made as a family. I don't have any issues with the quality of public education but I wanted my kids to go to a Christian school. That's a choice I think every Australian if they would like to make they should be able to make it.

STEFANOVIC: It is. Third, on the retirement age, this question.

QUESTION: Why do you think, Prime Minister, it is a good idea to have everybody working until they are 70?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I no longer think it is. Look, I was going to say this next week but I might as well say it here, Karl. I have already consulted my colleagues on that. Next week Cabinet will be ratifying a decision to reverse taking the retirement age to 70. It will remain at 67, which is what Labor increased it to. In this year's Budget I announced a whole package of measures to help Australians live a longer, healthy and more active life and that included things like the pension work bonus and supporting people who are older to actually get access to the pension when they are running a business. And I think those measures are positive measures. I don't think we need that measure any longer when it comes to raising the pension age and it is one of things I will be changing pretty quickly. I have talked to my colleagues about it. We will ratify it next week. The pension age going to 70, gone.

STEFANOVIC: Breaking news on the Today Show there. PM, thank you for that. Good to see you moving in the right direction. This one on Peter Dutton.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, what are you going to do about Mr Peter Dutton?

PRIME MINISTER: I made him Home Affairs Minister because he is protecting the borders. When I was involved with stopping the boats with Tony Abbott as my Prime Minister back in 2013 I left that portfolio. The person I recommended who I believed would be best able to maintain our strong border protection was Peter Dutton and he has proved that every day. Australians have confidence in Peter Dutton's ability to protect our borders. The Greens don't have any confidence in him for that because they want to open

them. The Labor Party don't need confidence in him for that because they want to open them. I believe in strong border protection and so do Australians and that's why I supported Peter Dutton in that role.

STEFANOVIC: Everyone else is giving evidence at the inquiry today, every man and his dog. Why isn't Peter Dutton?

PRIME MINISTER: I haven't been briefed on that...

STEFANOVIC: Into the au pair.

PRIME MINISTER: Oh on that issue, what I know about this is he made decisions in relation to ministerial intervention, which is done every single day. Other decisions he has made on this basis, like decisions I made, were to kick bikies out of the country who were committing crimes. He made decisions to kick out people who were paedophiles.

STEFANOVIC: Why doesn’t he just give evidence today and just be done with it, what has he got to hide?

PRIME MINISTER: Well if there is a Senate inquiry House members don't appear at Senate inquiry. That has been a rule as long as the Parliament has been in practice. The Labor Party cannot be trusted when it comes to our visa system. We have read the reports today about the sort of people that the Labor Party wants to leave in. I mean the Labor Party did nothing and left Alex Vella, the head of the Rebels motorcycle gang, here in Australia. They sat on their hands and did nothing. I cancelled his visa when he went overseas and he remains in Malta today. That is what Australians trust us to do on visas. Labor Party is worried about au pairs staying in Australia. They don't care that people who run criminal motorcycle gangs remain in Australia. They have got their priorities wrong.

STEFANOVIC: PM one final question for you, and it’s not really a question, it’s a statement. John Millman has lit up Australia over the last 24 hours. We heard from his family before. It is exceptional stuff. That's the sort of dreams kids in this country have. If we have great leadership this sort of stuff can happen.

PRIME MINISTER: I remember when I saw Pat Cash win Wimbledon. I stayed up all night to watch it and I remember what it did for the country. Seeing John do that is just so exciting. I was getting texts through the game from colleagues and friends saying how he was going. We posted something last night wishing him the best. These things make Australians feel great and he is a true hero. I was actually in Townsville yesterday with another true hero, JT.

STEFANOVIC: Oh yeah, stop it.

PRIME MINISTER: I want to place on record I had a coffee with him up in Townsville. JT, what he has done for Australia in rugby league is phenomenal. But what he’s done as an Australian is phenomenal and I know he will continue to do great things for Australia. So well done JT.

STEFANOVIC: Trying to recruit him?

PRIME MINISTER: He is already recruited to the Australian cause.


PRIME MINISTER: I will back him in whatever he wants to do for Indigenous people in this country and I think he is an absolute legend. He may not have played for the Sharks but we did get Val Holmes down from Townsville to play for my Sharks. Go the Sharks vs Easts this weekend.

STEFANOVIC: We know you have to roll. Appreciate your time and good luck.



Contacts: Andrew Carswell 0418 505 376, Kate Williams 0429 584 675; Keiran Byrne 0466 922 604 The Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Sydney