Prime Minister – Transcript – Interview with John Laws, 2SM

Liberal Party of Australia

JOHN LAWS: On the line Prime Minister, good morning and welcome to the program.

PRIME MINISTER: G’day, John, always good to chat.

LAWS: Good to talk to you too, Prime Minister. Have you stopped knocking little boys over?

PRIME MINISTER: Poor old little Luca. He was a good little sport. I reckon he came off better.

LAWS: I don’t know. I thought you both handled it very well, but apparently he was a good kid. Is it true that he rang you to see that or you rang him? Somebody rang later to see he was okay.

PRIME MINISTER: So, yeah, I gave him and his mum Ally, his Dad Pat was down in Hobart last night, but yeah no, just a – and he’s got, he’s got a story to tell his mates I think forever there John. He, I mean he was a little kid there, but and as I was, I sort of lost my feet and so I tried to turn and I landed on my shoulder and sort of kept him up. And so he was, he was grateful about that, but he was a, he was a, he was a cheeky little kid too. He was, he was [inaudible]. He gave me a red card this morning on the on the telly.

LAWS: Did he?

PRIME MINISTER: Little soccer player. He gave me an account of every soccer game he’d ever played last night. He was full of juice, and that was great to see kids who love their sport.

LAWS: Anyway, it was a good soft moment in what has been a pretty, pretty tough campaign. Tell me this, how many seats are these teal people going to take from the Liberal Party?

PRIME MINISTER: Well my intention is they take none, because the reason for that is, John, who are these people?

LAWS: Exactly.

PRIME MINISTER: Who are they and who’s behind them as well? You know, the big money coming out of Melbourne, you know, trying to buy seats, you know, who are they? They have got policies that will shut down the economy. You know, we got we got the Treasurer of Australia, Josh Frydenberg. Together, you know, Josh and I, the JobKeeper policies, I mean Josh is so essential to the future of the Government and the future of the Australian Parliament, I must say. And so you won’t find a more, a finer Parliamentarian anywhere in the country and these guys, they turn up you know, what are they about? They won’t tell you how they’ll vote, but they want you to vote for them. I think they would create chaos in the Parliament and weaken Australia at a time when we can’t afford that. And that affects the economy, it affects national security. This is quite, this is quite a dangerous group that nobody knows who they are and who’s behind them.

LAWS: That’s the point. That’s the point. Nobody knows. It’s all too hush, hush. All too hush, hush, the whole thing. What do you make of Simon Holmes a Court’s angel of Death tweet about John Howard?

PRIME MINISTER: I thought it was despicable.

LAWS: Exactly.

PRIME MINISTER: It just made me want to throw up, to be honest. And to all of those who are in those seats where those Independents are running, that’s what they, that’s who they need to know is behind all this. They come across as all about being all integrity and all of this, it’s a it’s a sham.

LAWS: It is, it’s absolute sham.

PRIME MINISTER: And this guy running around tweeting that, was just disgusting.

LAWS: When you think of the man to whom he referred and the quality and the dedication that the man to whom he referred has shown to this country of ours, it was more than disgusting. It was horrendous. It really was the most unpleasant thing. And what an awful mind to even think that way?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s right. And that’s who is behind all these, these teal Independents. That’s who’s writing the checks, that’s who’s raising the money, that’s who’s pulling the strings. This is the ‘Simon says’ party. And they’ll be doing what Simon says and what Simon said about John Howard, you know, in my view, our greatest ever Prime Minister. A man of great decency, a mentor of mine, and particularly in those electorates where they’re running [inaudible] like Wentworth and North Sydney and down there in Kooyong and and Goldstein, I know there’s a very high regard for John Howard in all of those places and an appreciation for the great service he made to our country. And if that’s what the teal Independents think of John Howard, well I know what I think of the teal Independents.

LAWS: And so do I. And God help the teal Independents, if they’re going to keep that line up. It’s not going to work.

PRIME MINISTER: I agree. I agree. Anyway, all of all of my team, whether it’s Dave Sharma over there in Wentworth or Trent Zimmerman up there in North Sydney, Katherine over in Warringah and then down in Melbourne with Tim Wilson and Josh Frydenberg and they’re outstanding Members of Parliament, and, and they should, I’m seeking their re-election because they make our Government stronger.

LAWS: They do. The polls are tightening, however. You know, given up to 6 million people have already voted. Is it possible that some people are saying you’ve left your run too late? Have you?

PRIME MINISTER: No, no, they said this last time, too, John, and we all remember what happened then. You’ve seen more elections than most of us. And and, you know, Federal elections, except for the odd rarity, are very close. They always are in Australia. There are few occasions like when John Howard was elected or Kevin Rudd or Bob Hawke or indeed going back to Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam. You know, this happens not very often and most of the time, the elections are very, very close and this one will all be the same. Australians are thinking carefully about their vote. I think they’re quite fatigued after these years of COVID and I think that has played into people leaving it ’til very deep in the campaign to come to a decision. We’re seeing much more of that this time around, and so I’m asking people, as they think about their vote this Saturday, I’m certainly not getting ahead of myself, Anthony Albanese has already got himself sworn in and on a plane going to Japan. And couldn’t even work out that when he goes overseas you need someone sworn in back here in Australia. [inaudible] he didn’t seem to have a ten minute plan on these things, but no I don’t get ahead of myself on these things, John. I deeply respect the Australian people’s judgement. I know they’re thinking carefully and what I’m saying to them is a strong economy is what enables everything else. It’s what enables us to support Medicare, disability care, aged care and our defence forces, our security agencies. If you can’t manage money, then they come after yours with higher taxes and if they can’t manage money like last time they don’t list medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, they cut defence spending. That’s why managing money are important. Mr Albanese’s never done a Budget and a few months, a few weeks ago he didn’t even know what the unemployment rate was or the cash rate was.

LAWS: That was a bad bumble that one. That was a really bad mistake. That’s going to, he’s going to, that’ll haunt him. Well, you’re making sure it’s going to haunt him, anyway.

PRIME MINISTER: And he had another one today, when he said today the borders were closed. The borders opened last November.

LAWS: I mean he doesn’t know whether the borders are open or shut, and these sorts of things matter. And I know people go, oh, you know, I might have just been a [inaudible] failure of memory or something like that. Well, when you’re Prime Minister, this is the sort of stuff you’ve got to know. I mean, you’ve got to know. And if he was applying for the job, you know sitting there opposite someone being interviewed and you ask him the first question, well, being the Prime Minister means you need to know a bit about the economy. What’s the unemployment rate? He pokes his tongue out. Well, that’s the interview is not going that well I’d say at that point.

LAWS: You could say that. He also sent the press packing. He hasn’t, he hasn’t changed his mind, I don’t think. The press can keep travelling with him –

PRIME MINISTER: They did.

LAWS: … after a revolt, but can they keep travelling with it?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, they apparently he backflipped on that and so he should have. I mean, earlier this week we released all of our costings and we’ve been submitting them all the way through the campaign. We submitted all of our election promises and our Budget shows that it will be $1 billion better off, not worse off. As a result, we met all the commitments that we’ve made in the election campaign, and so that was released, and then I did a press conference with the full press pack dealing with all of those issues. Mr Albanese was going to send his press pack in the opposite direction to Canberra while he went to the other end of the country. He’s agreed for them to join him, but he hasn’t agreed to do a press conference after his costings are released.

LAWS: Well, what do you make of all that? I can’t believe it. I mean, he sent them all to Canberra while he campaigns in Brisbane. What do you make of that?

PRIME MINISTER: He doesn’t understand Budgets. He doesn’t understand finances. He has to hide behind all these other characters and we saw that in the campaign as well. He gets a question, he goes oh, I don’t know the answer to that, I’ll let someone else do it. You know, I face all these questions, John. It’s it’s my job to know all of these things. It’s my job to be across the detail as a Prime Minister. And I know people have their criticisms of me, and I know I can be a bit of a bulldozer, but sometimes that helps you get a lot of stuff done, and that’s important when you’re a Prime Minister. But I also get it that you know, sometimes you’ve got to be a bit more understanding and you know, we all work on ourselves and we all learn things from over time. But being strong, understanding what you’re doing, being across the detail, that’s what Australia needs when you’re dealing with the significant challenges we face with the economy and indeed national security.

LAWS: I’ve spoken to every Prime Minister since and including Robert Menzies and every Prime Minister since John Gorton has fronted the Press Club in the last week of the campaign, except you.

PRIME MINISTER: You know, I did it last election and Bill Shorten didn’t. And I was a supporter of that precedent and the press didn’t seem to care less that Bill Shorten didn’t. So, look, I wanted to be out there where I was yesterday. I was campaigning down in Melbourne yesterday, and today I’m here in Tasmania. That’s where I need to be where people are, not with journalists in Canberra. I’ve got a whole bunch of them running around, around with me, facing questions every day, so I’m happy to have the scrutiny. I won’t send the media to a different place, so I don’t have to answer questions. I’ve always been up for that scrutiny, John. I spoke to the Press Club many, many times. I’ve probably spoken there more times than most Members of Parliament.

LAWS: You weren’t concerned about a Peter van Onselen style ambush, were you?

PRIME MINISTER: No. I can get those every single day with this press pack, who are with me every day, John. They they have their opportunity to do all that and that’s part of the process and I’m of course I’m fine with that. I mean people are trying to make decisions and I make myself very available for all of those questions.

LAWS: Yeah. It seems that you’ve been avoiding marginal seats with teal Candidates, instead sending in John Howard. Does it concern you that your Party sees your endorsement as perhaps not what they need at this time?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s more that I’ve been focussing on on those areas of the country where it’s a choice between ourselves and Labor. I mean, I’ve just come from the seat of Lyons here in Tasmania. You know, I was down in the seat of Corangamite yesterday morning. I’ve been up in the Seat of Solomon and Lingiari in the Northern Territory. And you know, I’ve been all over the country, and I’ve been focussing in those seats where it’s a choice between Labor and the Liberals and the Nationals, because that’s the choice at this election. I mean I, as we were talking before, I urge strongly against, you know, handing over the Parliament to a gaggle of Independents who just makes any government target for their existence every day. That’s a recipe for absolute chaos, a caravan of chaos. But the big choice that Australians are being asked to make is who do they want to run the Government? Someone they don’t know in Anthony Albanese, when it comes to the economy and finances or someone they do know. You mightn’t agree with everything I’ve done, but I think people have a good idea that I’m across the detail, that I’m across the agenda and have a good understanding of the many moving parts of our economy and the national security challenges that we have. I mean, you can’t not have that and be determined to have that, that’s how you get our agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom – AUKUS, the biggest defence agreement the country has seen since ANZUS 70 years ago. You get those things done, because you know what you’re about, you’ve got a strong plan and you know how to get it done.

LAWS: This this campaign has been pretty brutal one way or another. It’s the worst I’ve witnessed and I’ve witnessed a few. Why do you think it’s been like that? Why has it got to that level?

PRIME MINISTER: I think social media’s got a big, big role in this, John. I do. I really do. I think it has changed politics in this country. I think it’s made political discussion in this country a lot more bitter and a lot more mean. And I think social media is a real problem in our society. It has, you know, advantages, I have no doubt about that. But this is one of the reasons why, as a Government, we’ve been trying to take on the big social media companies to get more responsibility into it. But I do, I do worry about the role of social media undermining the civility of our society. But also, I particularly worry about it to the impact it has on young people with their mental health.

LAWS: Yeah, me too. That’s a big, big concern that.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, massive one of Jenny and I. We’ve got two girls, 12 and 14. And we have you know, we talk to our kids about responsible use of social media and we’re careful with them and they understand it, I suppose, a bit more because they see what happens with me every day and what people say and do. But, you know, I’ve got big shoulders, but social media, John, I think we’ve as a society, it’s not just government, as a society, we’ve got to do, we’ve got we’ve got to do better in that, and and just being civil, I think is a –

LAWS: That’s a good start.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah.

LAWS: That’s a good start. But how do you how do you kerb social media? I don’t know that you can.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, one of the things we have done and it was disappointing that Labor didn’t support getting this legislation through and we’ll be taking up it again, I intend to straight try after the election, is making the social media platforms responsible for anonymous content that is put on social media. See there are a lot of people go on social media and troll people and abuse people.

LAWS: Yeah.

PRIME MINISTER: And nobody knows who they are, and so they just get away with it. And so that the laws we’re looking to change, which Labor didn’t actually support us to do before the election, would make those social media companies liable for that if they don’t tell people who that account is. So, it’s like with a newspaper, or indeed your own radio station. If you just let someone come on your radio station and abuse someone and didn’t say who it was on, your radio station would be liable.

LAWS: And they would be, and deservedly so.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, but in social media, it doesn’t work like that and we need to change that and we’re trying to change that.

LAWS: Yes, well it’d be good if you could, because I think social media is a pretty dangerous thing.

PRIME MINISTER: It’s poisonous. It can be really poisonous. Anyway, that’s a that’s a big social issue which we have been addressing, I would say, better than any other country in the world with the rules we put in for the eSafety Commissioner, the take down rules on content and also supporting local media. When we took on Google and Facebook and all of them on ensuring that news content providers, commercial news content providers didn’t get ripped off by these companies, which wouldn’t mean we’d be shutting down local radio stations and local newspapers.

LAWS: Don’t do that.

PRIME MINISTER: No, no, we we protected them and made sure that Google paid them for the content that they were using.

LAWS: I know you’ve got to go because there’s an aeroplane waiting for you, but –

PRIME MINISTER: There is.

LAWS: … but, just before you go, I’ll read you this email that I have from a sweet girl called Michelle. Good morning, John. I’m sure Freddy Fiddler would give Scomo a run in the State of Origin.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Sharks’d do me. The Sharks’d do me, I reckon. That’s a sweet little message.

LAWS: It’s a nice message from, I’m sure, a nice girl, Michelle. Thank you for it, Michelle. And Prime Minister, thank you very much for your time, as usual.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, John. Great to talk to you.

LAWS: Great to talk to you. And we’ll talk again, I hope soon.

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