Navigation

Interview with Neil Mitchell, 3AW

17th June 2016  |  Comments  | 

E&OE…

NEIL MITCHELL:

On the line from New South Wales the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good Morning Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thanks for your time. Do you regret inviting Sheikh Shady to the dinner?

PRIME MINISTER:

I do regret his being invited. He was, he has been of course – he was invited in his official capacity as President of the National Imams Council and he – the guest list was assembled by my Department of PM&C. If I had been aware that he’d made those remarks about homosexuals and gay people he would not have been invited and I, as soon as they were drawn to my attention I of course made my condemnation of them very clear to the newspaper that raised them with us.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So they weren’t drawn to your attention until after the dinner?

PRIME MINISTER:

They were drawn to my attention during the dinner in fact.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Really?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, that’s right. In the course of the dinner my staff alerted me to that, that The Australian newspaper had contacted them and drawn attention to these remarks that had been made by the Sheikh some years ago. He’s made his own responses there but I just want to be very, very clear as I said at the dinner, the foundation of our nation’s success is mutual respect and disrespecting people on the basis of their sexuality, on their religion, their race, their gender is utterly unacceptable and I condemn any statements that disrespect or preach animosity or hatred towards any group in our society.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well yeah but I’ve only been speaking just a short while ago to a man who was also a leading Muslim, President of the Lebanese Muslim Association, Samier Dandan who said that what the Sheikh was saying represents the teachings of Islam. Now have we got a fundamental clash of values here?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil, I don’t want to buy into a theological debate but what was drawn to my attention was some statements that it was alleged that he had made to the effect that AIDS was a divine punishment on gay people.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And that adulterers should be stoned to death…

PRIME MINISTER:

That was not drawn to my attention but that would be an even more unacceptable, even more bizarre. I mean the fact is - look let me be very clear – in Australia we are governed by Australian law. Propositions of the kind that you just described are so far beyond the pale.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, look do you mind if I just play you what he said because we have it on tape? Maybe I’m misrepresenting it.

PRIME MINISTER:

You may be.

[Excerpt] SHEIKH SHADY ALSULEIMAN:

The punishment of zina, the punishment of those who commit zina, if they’ve never been married before they’ll be lashed 100 lashes and if they are married while they committed the zina or previously been married and divorced and they committed zina, then their punishment is stoning to death. So it’s not a small thing.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Zina of course is adultery. What’s your reaction to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s the first time I’ve heard that and that is obviously completely and utterly unacceptable. I condemn remarks of that kind. They have no place in Australian law and Australian culture. We are a nation governed by Australian law and propositions like that are completely and utterly unacceptable and all Australians, the overwhelming majority of Australians would like you and me and like your listeners, condemn them. I was not aware of that particular remark until you just played it to me there.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Were you aware that in 2010 as a youth leader he was accused of attempting to bring to Australia an Al-Qaeda recruiter who was said to be the spiritual leader of the September 11 attacks and was later charged with killing 13 people? He was accused of trying to bring him to this country.

PRIME MINISTER:

Again Neil that is not something I’m aware of. I’m not aware of that. You can well imagine that the guest list for this dinner was assembled by my Department. This is a government dinner, a government event, it occurred during an election campaign, obviously only because that is when Ramadan occurs. Can I just say to you that it would be a great pity if the invitation of this individual, of this Sheikh, overshadowed and undermined the importance of engagement with Muslim Australians. There are half a million Muslim Australians. The overwhelming majority are law abiding, are patriotic, are hardworking family people like us, like your listeners, committed to getting on with their lives like everybody else.

It is important, it’s very important for all of us, for the security of our society, for the stability and the strength of our community, that we respect each other and that mutual respect which is what – I am not a preacher but as a politician I do preach this doctrine, I say the foundation of our success as the most successful multicultural society in the world is mutual respect and those people, anyone who disrespects other groups in the community or denounces other groups in the community, I condemn them because what holds us together is that mutual respect. Some people would call it tolerance, I think mutual respect is a better term.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But this is part of the problem, this clash of values. Is Islam a homophobic religion?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Neil, I don’t think you can generalise. Islam is a religion of about, with which a quarter of the world’s population would describe themselves as Muslims. There are many Muslims. They have different attitudes to different parts of the religion as you know. There are some great controversies and indeed animosities between different groups in Islam, between Sunni and Shia, as you’ve seen tragically, particularly in the Middle East but there are different views on different issues as there are in all religions and I am not a bishop, I’m the Prime Minister.

All I have to say is this - that in Australia we are governed by Australian law, Australian law passed by Australian Parliament and judged by Australian courts. And mutual respect is absolutely critical and those who do not respect other groups, in other words, those who break the golden rule which is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, undermine the stability, the security and the good fortune of our nation. Mutual respect is the foundation of our success.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So I would assume the message has gone to your office- check a bit more closely.

PRIME MINISTER:

That is a fair point but can I say to you that this Sheikh has attended many government events with other ministers, with other Prime Ministers.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So not anymore?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he will have to address his own position. I would strongly counsel the sheik as indeed I know he has been counselled to reflect on what he has said and to recant what he has said and to state clearly that he is committed to the Australian values of mutual respect. There were 75 people at that dinner last night. There were representatives of many faiths, of Jews, there were Jews, Christian leaders, there was an Archbishop, there were Buddhists, there were Hindus. It was a multi-faith gathering. I would say that most of the Muslim Australians who were there, were young people.

You see this is a very important thing Neil, you cannot just see the Muslim community through the views of a handful of clerics.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But this is one of the most senior Muslims in the country. He’s not just a handful, just a cleric, he’s one of the most senior Muslims in the country.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he is but the point is there are half a million Muslims and they as you know have a diverse range of views on all issues, just like Christians do and just like Jews do and so forth.

But it is important - the critical message and can I just say to you how important this is for our security – it is absolutely critical that Australian Muslims understand that they are part of the Australian community. Because what the extremists seek to do, you know what the Islamist terrorists seek to do is to say to Muslims in Australia, “you are not welcome, you are not really part of Australia. You don’t really have a home here.” It is vital in our multicultural society that every part of the community feels included and that each of us gives to the other the mutual respect that we expect them to give us.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay let’s move on to some other matters and I thank you for that but let’s move on to some other matters to do with the election. Live exports to Vietnam, awful footage of animals being mistreated. Will you suspend exports? Would you investigate the abattoirs? What will you do?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well they are being investigated right now and the abattoirs to which the cattle were sent I’m advised were in fact not abattoirs that were licensed for Australian cattle to be sent to.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You agree it’s unacceptable?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course. It absolutely is. Can I just say to you we have very, very strong animal welfare standards. We condemn cruelty to animals - full stop. This footage we’ve seen from Vietnam is deeply disturbing. The facility was not approved. We believe they were sent there in breach of our rules. We are the only country that traces the welfare of animals right through the supply chain. So that is being investigated. I’m with the Minister for Agriculture and Leader of the National Party Barnaby Joyce today and he will no doubt have more to say about it.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Something else. Tragically Jo Cox - a British MP killed overnight. Awful act. Anti-democratic. I’m told there was a nasty, quite a threatening incident out at Box Hill too last night. Mark Butler, Janet Rice, Josh Frydenberg there. Somebody rushed at the stage and the police intervened. Are you concerned about the level of security here? After something like happened to Jo Cox, do we have to be more careful, more alert?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the AFP – I’m speaking obviously as a federal politician – the Australian Federal Police pay very close regard to the security situation of our political leaders and MPs as of course they do for all Australians.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Because you’ve got to be able to walk down the street don’t you? As Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, you’ve got to be out with the people.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah exactly and Neil can I just say the murder of Jo Cox is a shocking one. I was deeply shocked by it and I conveyed my condolences and solidarity to her and the British people earlier today. But can I just say to you that in our tradition in Australia and indeed in the United Kingdom we have not, we’ve had very few incidents of political violence. Of course this is a very disturbing incident and it’s a reminder again of how important it is that we are able to discuss matters, debate matters, debate matters strongly and forcefully and have strong views but always to resolve them democratically through the ballot box.

Those people who seek to engage in violent actions – and you sometimes see this with demonstrators – violence can lead, rushing, pushing people, shoving people, throwing things, can very easily lead to worse and worse violence until you see people being killed. We need to be able to debate matters. Again I get back to what I said about the Iftar dinner.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Respect.

PRIME MINISTER:

It is mutual respect, we have to be able to respect people and have frank, forthright debates but at the end of it say “I beg to differ on your opinion but as a fellow Australian I respect you and I respect our ability to freely debate.”

NEIL MITCHELL:

On the matter of the CFA, which you’ve campaigned on, can you guarantee that this so-called takeover won’t happen if you’re re-elected? Can you guarantee it? Have you got the power to stop it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes we certainly do have the power. We would obviously need to pass legislation but I’d be confident and who knows what the…

NEIL MITCHELL:

That would be retrospective legislation?

PRIME MINISTER:

The legislation we would introduce immediately and we are satisfied that we have the ability to legislate under the Fair Work Act to include in it what we would describe as objectionable terms which would make objectionable any term that is inconsistent with or limits the ability of the deployment or engagement of volunteers in an emergency services organisation. We’re satisfied we have the power to do that but obviously that power is subject to firstly winning the election. It’s quite clear that Labor and Mr Shorten are supporting the takeover of the CFA and the subjection of the volunteers to the union, just as they supported the subjection of the owner-driver truck drivers to the Transport Workers Union, just as they are opposing the reintroduction of the Building and Construction Commission which will ensure that the rule of law is applied to the construction sector and not being run at the whim and by the bullying of the CFMEU.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I know we haven’t got much time, just very quickly, you’ve sort of suggested you’re home and hosed, you’ve won the election, is that –

PRIME MINISTER:

[Laughter]

Oh no, I’ve not said that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Oh - well you were a bit close. Have you won it?

PRIME MINISTER:

[Laughter]

No, no Neil let’s be very clear about this. I am confident that our national economic plan and our leadership and the prospect of continued stable Coalition Government will be recognised by Australians of July 2.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well you did say “we will win”. You said in Perth “we will win”.

PRIME MINISTER:

That was an expression of confidence but let me say this to you. Look, we’ve got to be very clear – both of us have been around in politics one way or another for a long time.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I’ve been longer than you have.

[Laughter]

PRIME MINISTER:

You may well.

[Laughter]

Number one – all federal elections are close.

NEIL MITCHELL

Yes.

PRIME MINISTER:

Two – this is a very close election.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yes.

PRIME MINISTER:

Three – every Australian should cast their vote regardless of what electorate they are in as though that was the vote, the single vote that was going to decide who was going to govern Australia for the next three years because there is a huge amount at stake here and the difference between my Government and the Labor Opposition is enormous. We have a national economic plan for jobs and growth. They have a highly anti-business agenda which will undermine employment and undermine investment and economic growth.

NEIL MITCHELL:

A couple of specifics and quickly I know you’ve got to get away. Are you committed to changing imports on cars? Or are we going to go ahead so people can import their own cars and not go through dealers?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s a very limited, it’s a very limited exception and that is yes, that is part of our policy.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So that’s locked in stone is it – okay. Superannuation. Now as you know I’ve been rattling on about this for a while and Julie Bishop doesn’t like me very much…

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m sure she does.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Oh, I don’t think so but that’s beside the point. Just one thing that worries me with superannuation – do you accept that your changes will in fact hit some low income earners?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Neil, the answer is in practical terms – no. I know you’ve talked about the transition to retirement.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well that’s where it hits low income earners.

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I just say to you that the idea  - you’re right in saying that someone on a low income could take advantage of a TRIS and that the only change that we are making, as you know or the only substantial change is saying that the income of a TRIS account…

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yes taxed at 15 per cent. Yep.

PRIME MINISTER:

Would be taxed at 15 per cent as it is in the accumulation stage. Can I say this to you though…

NEIL MITCHELL:

But that affects people on 60 or 70…

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I say this to you though people on low incomes don’t use TRIS’. Neil – you’ve got to be realistic here.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I’ve had consecutive callers the other day. One is a diesel mechanic, the other is a supermarket manager, both on about 70 grand, both using it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Okay, can I just make this point to you – if you are on a low income, a lower income, then you are likely to have a lower balance in your super account – correct?

NEIL MICTHELL:

Yep.

PRIME MINISTER:

If you have a low balance in your super account you should be putting money into super – not pulling it out. Those people that rang in that spoke to you, if that is their situation they have not been well advised because we are living for much longer than you know the actuarial tables told us we were 30 years ago. If you were on, if you’ve got a low super balance as long as you are working you should be putting money into it rather than pulling money out. So what the TRIS has been used for overwhelmingly has been by people on the top marginal rate.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But you do accept it can affect lower income earners?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Neil, it could but I would say it would only be a small number of cases and people on low incomes who are pulling money out of super in a TRIS while they are still working are not being well advised because what they are doing is they are running down their super while they are still working and then what is going to support them when they retire.

NEIL MITCHELL:

They’re not actually because the money they’re earning they are putting into super – that’s the way it works isn’t it? You earn money, put it into super and take out a pension tax-free.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yep but the point is, what I am saying is, at the best you could do is have in effect a round robin. Ideally if you have a low super balance – what you should be doing is adding to your super in net terms not simply by putting $25,000 in and pulling $25,000 out because if you’ve got a low super balance while you’re working, the best thing you can do is keep contributing.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Everybody is shouting at us so one last thing. The unions at the CPSU are at Flinders Street Station today handing out a dodger saying you are going to sell-off Medicare. Now, do you unequivocally guarantee that you will not sell Medicare?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil, absolutely, completely, unequivocally guarantee Medicare will not be privatised - will never be privatised. It is a core government service. It will always be provided entirely by the government.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So you are just selling off the support area?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is one of the most disgraceful lies the Labor Party is telling and they have trade union officials ringing up people, selective, they are ringing up in particular older Australians and frightening them with this lie. Medicare is a core government service. It will always be provided by the government. It will never be sold. It will never be privatised.

NEIL MITCHELL:

When is you launch by the way?

PRIME MINISTER:

It will be launched on Sunday week.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Tony Abbott in the front row?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he’ll certainly be there. He is doing a great job as the Member for Warringah and I look forward to him being there.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Kelly O’Dwyer could lose her seat…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you know something – every electorate is contestable.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What? Even yours?

PRIME MINISTER:

There is no such thing as a safe seat and that is why we are fighting for every vote.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you very much for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks so much Neil.

ENDS

Write comment