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Interview with Neil Mitchell - 3AW - 11 August 2017

11th August 2017  |  Comments  | 

Friday, 11 August 2017

SUBJECTS: North Korea; Same-sex marriage; Unions; Waverley Council synagogue; Trust

E&OE…

NEIL MITCHELL:

Mr Turnbull, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER: 

Good morning.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Would you advise Australians in the region to get out?

PRIME MINISTER: 

No, I would not. If the situation develops to a point where that is necessary that advice would be given but at this stage, I remain confident that diplomatic pressures, increasing sanctions on North Korea will bring the regime to its senses.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Why do you have any hope that they would respond to diplomatic pressures? They haven’t in the past.

PRIME MINISTER: 

The sanctions, I’m talking about the sanctions the UN Security Council unanimously resolved to impose, will put increasing economic pressure on North Korea, Neil.

And this is the way to bring the regime to its senses in a peaceful manner and that is the increasing pressure, and of course the support for those measures from China in particular is very significant.

China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner by far, it has the most leverage both economic and political and that is why we call on China to use that leverage to bring the regime to its senses to stop its illegal, reckless and provocative conduct.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Both Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, two former prime ministers now say we must urgently upgrade our missile defence system. Will you do it?

PRIME MINISTER: 

What we are doing is constantly reviewing our position.

Now, as far as a missile defence system, the current advice from Defence to the government is that they do not consider there is a benefit to deploy a system such as the THAAD system - that is Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, a bit of a mouthful - for the defence of Australian territory.

And the reason for that is that THAAD is designed to provide protection for relatively small areas against short to intermediate range missiles. So it is deployed in Israel. It is deployed in South Korea. And it is not designed to provide protection against long range intercontinental ballistic missiles of the sort North Korea has recently tested.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do we stand unequivocally with the United States?

PRIME MINISTER: 

We are, the United States has no stronger ally than Australia and we have an ANZUS agreement and if there is an attack on Australia or the United States, then each of us will come to the other’s aid.

So let’s be very clear about that – if there is an attack on the United States by North Korea, then the ANZUS Treaty will be invoked and Australia will come to the aid of the United States just as if there was an attack on Australia, the United States would come to our aid.

And you would remember on 9/11 when the United States was attacked, John Howard invoked the ANZUS Treaty and Australia came to the aid of the United States.

We stand together as we have done for generations.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So if there as an attack on Guam, as is being threatened – we are in it?

PRIME MINISTER: 

We would come to the aid of the United States.

Now, how that manifests itself will obviously depend on the circumstances and the consultations with our allies.

But be under no misapprehension – in terms of defence we are joined at the hip.

The American Alliance is the absolute bedrock of our national security. 

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you believe Donald Trump’s words this week have been unhelpful?

PRIME MINISTER: 

I believe he is speaking as Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State said in the language that Kim Jong-un understands and that is what he is seeking to do because clearly diplomatic language has not been successful.

I spoke to Vice President Pence about this last night and his view and the view of the Administration is that the way to resolve the situation with North Korea, as Donald Trump reaffirmed this morning in fact, is through these economic sanctions.

That is the preferred way to deal with it but of course if North Korea decides to carry out some of its violent threats, then obviously terrible consequences will follow. There is no point, you know, ducking that inevitable consequence.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Did the Vice President ask anything of you or was it a matter of information call?

PRIME MINISTER: 

We had a very good discussion and at this stage, Neil, I can say the United States knows as we know and as Donald Trump reaffirmed this morning that America stands by its allies, including Australia of course and we stand with the United States.

So be very, very clear about that. If there is an attack on the United States the ANZUS Treaty would be invoked and Australia would come to the aid of the United States as America would come to our aid if we were attacked. That is how the Alliance works.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Did you give that assurance to Mr Pence over night?

PRIME MINISTER: 

It is absolutely rock solid and everyone understands that. Can I tell you we are working together in so many areas.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What was the purpose of the phone call? Was it to discuss North Korea?

PRIME MINISTER: 

We covered a number of areas but in particular, obviously, I conveyed our condolences on the death of the three marines in the aviation accident in Queensland recently and we discussed the work that our two navies are doing to recover those marines that were lost.

But above all, the reason for the call was for the Vice President to convey the thanks and congratulations from the President and their Administration on the successful disruption and containment of the ISIL, the Islamist terrorist plot to blow up a plane in Sydney. We had quite a lengthy discussion about that and all the various issues that arise from it. And of course, as you can imagine, our agencies are working closely together on it.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Prime Minister, just to finish on North Korea, to put it in context, you believe this is the most dangerous situation the world has faced, well, potentially since World War Two?

PRIME MINISTER: 

It is certainly the most dangerous flashpoint in the world today. That would be my judgment.

It is a reckless, provocative regime that seems determined to continue destabilising the region.

The consequences of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula are shocking, Neil. Again, it would result in enormous casualties, enormous loss.

There is so much at stake here and that is why at every opportunity I’ve had – as recently as at the Hamburg G20 - I have urged the Chinese leadership above all to use their leverage which they have uniquely to bring pressure to bear on North Korea to stop this reckless conduct.

There is so much to lose if they keep going down this road.

You know the idea that an American President, any American President – whether it’s Donald Trump or someone else - can tolerate a regime which has the capacity, assuming it has developed the capacity, it has not yet, but if it were to develop the capacity to deliver a nuclear warhead to attack an American city, the idea that that would be tolerable is absurd.

So this is a real test of the resolve of China because, I mean, again, I’ve said this to you before Neil and your listeners and let’s be very clear - North Korea is not a puppet state of China in the way that East Germany was of the old Soviet Union.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Yes.

PRIME MINISTER: 

I’m not suggesting the Chinese can just ring up Pyongyang and get what they want. They find the North Korean regime very very frustrating as well.

Having said that, they do have all the economic levers and so they are in a position to put the squeeze on North Korea and bring the regime to its senses, and we urge them to do. And the new sanctions are very strong.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER: 

So if they are applied this will start to impose real economic hardship on North Korea and I think that is the road that everyone is seeking to go down, because of course it could resolve the situation without conflict.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

If I may, a couple of local issues, the marriage equality, the gay marriage vote. What return, given its voluntary-

PRIME MINISTER: 

Yeah.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

What return do you want to make it credible, at what stage does it become credible, what percentage?

PRIME MINISTER: 

Well Neil, it is a voluntary vote.

Now look let me be clear about this, we have compulsory voting in Australia for elections, for parliamentary elections - most countries don’t.

President Macron of France absolutely, validly, legitimately elected - I think the turnout was 38 per cent.

In the United States it’s often less than 50 per cent. Other countries are higher than that.

My expectation is that the turnout will be in excess of 50 per cent.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

And what do you need to make it credible though? Anything?

PRIME MINISTER: 

Look every Australian has the right to vote so if an Australian decides not to vote, that’s their right. They’ve made that choice. That doesn’t delegitimise the votes of those who did choose to vote.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Okay-

PRIME MINISTER: 

Most, there are many, many voluntary votes in Australia - union ballots, some local government elections - all of them are valid but my own estimate of the turnout is that it will be above 50 per cent and it may be quite a bit above 50 per cent.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

And do you then look at the margin? What makes it a valid result? Is it just a one vote margin, or does it have to be a certain percentage?

PRIME MINISTER: 

Well of course, of course it’s a majority.

Look our policy, Neil, is very clear. We took it to the election. Let’s not be mealy mouthed about this. We took it to the election. We said we will have a plebiscite. We’ll give every Australian a say. If a majority say ‘yes’ then we will facilitate a Private Members Bill to legalise gay marriage – that’s it.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

You’ve said you will be voting yes-

PRIME MINISTER: 

I certainly will be yeah.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Would you co-sign a letter with Bill Shorten urging people to vote yes?

PRIME MINISTER: 

Well just before I came onto the air I heard that he had written to me about this. Now this is typical  – this is typical of the way Shorten plays the politics of this, right.

I have been a supporter of gay marriage much longer than him, for a start. My goal would be to have the Australian people have their say and if they say ‘yes’ I will be voting yes in the plebiscite and I will certainly vote yes in the Parliament.

Now Shorten could have supported our plebiscite in the Senate, our legislation in the Senate. In which case the plebiscite would’ve been held in February this year. It would have been carried and gay marriage would’ve been legalised.

But he has wanted to play politics with this.

Do you know in the last election, he wouldn’t say whether he supported the plebiscite or not?

You know in 2013 he actually went along to the Australian Christian Lobby and said he did support a plebiscite.

So the bottom line is, I will certainly be telling Australians I support a ‘yes’ vote. I will be encouraging them to vote ‘yes’.

Whether I sign a letter with Bill Shorten, I’ll reflect on whether that is useful. It may actually be counterproductive.

My focus will be obviously number one to be Prime Minister – you know, run the government, look after Australians.

Same-sex marriage is an important issue but there are a lot of other much more important issues for me to focus on, but I will certainly encourage Australians to vote ‘yes’.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

And you clearly - because you believe the plebiscite would’ve got up, you clearly believe the majority of Australians want it? 

PRIME MINISTER: 

Well yes, all of the indications - I mean I know you can’t put too much faith in opinion polls Neil, but every - I haven’t seen a poll that doesn’t show a strong majority in favour of it.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

You want to block the merger between the CFMEU and the Maritime Union, why? The right to organize is a fairly basic one. Why block it? 

PRIME MINISTER: 

What we’re proposing to do, and this is an election promise, is to give the Fair Work Commission the ability to approve or allow or not allow a merger based on their assessment on whether the unions concerned have had a history of compliance with industrial law.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

But would you like to block this one?

PRIME MINISTER: 

I think there are very real concerns about these two unions. I mean, both of them have shown a long term disregard for the law. They’ve been essentially lawless. One of the reasons they feel they’ve been able to get away with it is because of their size. So why would you want an already lawless union, two already lawless unions who are big to become even bigger?

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Well it’s the right to organise. It’s a basic right.

PRIME MINISTER: 

But what we want to do is give the Fair Work Commission, we’ll give the Fair Work Commission the power to assess whether the unions, it’s in the public interest for the mergers, any merger of unions to take place, it’s not dissimilar to the way the ACCC can approve mergers between companies or not.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER: 

I think it’s manifestly in the public interest that we stand up for the rule of law.

You see, here is the thing - this is, if you like, the irony of the position in the Parliament today - who is standing up for workers in the Parliament? It’s the Liberal Party and the National Party. We’re the ones that have passed a law in the teeth of ferocious opposition from Bill Shorten that requires payments from employers to unions to be disclosed and to be only for legitimate purposes.

I mean Shorten was there, Shorten has been here seriously defending secrecy and defending the practice, as we saw from the Heydon Royal Commission, of corrupting payments.

It is ridiculous. He has no interest in the workers. He is a union boss who wants to look after union bosses.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Prime Minister Matthew Guy has been in strife this week for meeting with Tony Madafferi and I heard you say there will be inquiries into it. How many times have you dined with Tony Madafferi?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t recall ever meeting Tony Madafferi but I do recall going to a lunch, and it’s a matter of public record, in 2008 and I was subsequently advised last year I think it was when this was first raised, that he had been at the lunch. But I don’t have any independent recollection of having met him.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Okay. Did you see Graham Richardson’s report today and how as a party official he collected money from Perce Galea and a whole lot of other characters?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you know Graham Richardson -

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Goodness me.

PRIME MINISTER:

That doesn’t surprise me from Graham Richardson.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Really?

PRIME MINISTER: 

Well I mean, Graham Richardson – again I haven’t seen that particular report – but didn’t he call his book about his life, Whatever It Takes?

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Whatever It Takes, yes.

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think he’s particularly overcome with scruples.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

This synagogue at Bondi and the Waverley Council, Land Court, is that in your electorate?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is, yeah.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

What are you going to do about it? Surely we can’t block a place of worship because some nutters might want to attack it?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s a little bit more complex than that. It was actually not blocked by Waverley Council.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Well it’s a bit each way really, Waverley Council and the Land Court.

PRIME MINISTER:

Hang on, I’ll just give you the facts. They applied, it hadn’t been decided and after 40 days they treated it as a deemed refusal, appealed to the Land Environment Court who knocked the application back.

There’s a bit more complexity to it than–

NEIL MITCHELL: 

So will you as the local member try and sort it out? You agree it’s a bad look? We’re giving in to terrorism.

PRIME MINISTER:

We never give in to terrorism.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Well we are here because we won’t build a synagogue because of security issues.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, we never give in to terrorism. And I believe what the applicant should do is resubmit their DA to Waverley Council and I hope they do that.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Would you support them?

PRIME MINISTER:

I certainly support – I can’t speak to the particular detail of the application – but I support the Jewish community in my electorate absolutely solidly. I support their right to have places of worship, secure and safe as anybody else.

But you know obviously there are always issues with DA’s with design and space and all of that…

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Yeah but this is about security. I mean you agree it’s a bad look to say we can’t build a synagogue or a mosque for that matter because we’re worried about nutters attacking it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Our obligation is to ensure that we never give in or back down to terrorism. I’m absolutely committed to that.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Could you do four push-ups and 20 sit-ups?

PRIME MINISTER:

Could I do four push-ups and 20 sit-ups? Yes, definitely.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

You can get in the Australian Army.

[Laughter]

PRIME MINISTER:

Very good, well I think I’m probably a little old. I think I might pass the push-up test but not the age test.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Oh, Christopher Pyne has been talking about the issue today, so we won’t raise it but the focus groups this week that the Fairfax press are running, say that you’re ‘weak’, and Bill Shorten is ‘a snake’.

Now leadership is not seen as overwhelmingly strong in Australia at the moment.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well –

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Do you think there’s a crisis of confidence in your leadership and Bill Shorten’s?

PRIME MINISTER: 

No.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

It goes back to revolving door prime ministership.

PRIME MINISTER: 

Well Bill Shorten will say, has a history of saying whatever any audience wants to hear.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Oh, so he is a snake is he?

PRIME MINISTER: 

I’m not going to compare him to any member of the zoo over another. But I would say, I mean you know, perhaps even a snake can sometimes move in a straight line. But Bill Shorten –

NEIL MITCHELL: 

What about you being weak?

PRIME MINISTER: 

The truth is that I’ve stuck to all of our election commitments.

You know, it’s an interesting thing, you quite regularly and many other commentators in the media, they flay politicians for breaking their election promises. What election promises have we broken? We’ve stuck to them all. We have been very, very consistent. That’s why we’re sticking to our commitment on giving everyone a say on same-sex marriage.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Okay.

PRIME MINISTER: 

But it is important, integrity is absolutely critical. Australians expect their leaders to stick to their promises. You know, you’ve seen what happens to leaders who don’t.

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Prime Minister thank you very – so Tony Abbott?

PRIME MINISTER: 

Beg your pardon?

NEIL MITCHELL: 

Is that Tony Abbott?

PRIME MINISTER: 

I’m sorry I didn’t –

NEIL MITCHELL:

What happens to leaders who don’t stick to their promises?

PRIME MINISTER: 

Oh look, I was thinking of Julia Gillard as probably the most famous example.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, we’ll let you go. Okay.

PRIME MINISTER: 

Thank you very much, bye.

[ENDS] 

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