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Paul Murray's interview with Scott Morrison on SkyNews

  • Written by Paul Murray & Scott Morrison


PAUL MURRAY: Alright, now I want to ask you a couple of quick things before everyone else gets their chance. Today you talked about the choice at the election. What is the choice, as you see it?

PRIME MINISTER: How strong our economy is will determine the country we live in for the next 10 years. So a stronger economy means a stronger future. And so how well you manage the economy is going to determine the choices that Australians have over the next decade. Why does that matter? If you’ve got a strong economy, you can pay for the pension. You can pay for Defence Forces. You can pay for aged care. You can pay for all of the essentials that Australians rely on - Medicare. All of these things. If you can't manage the economy and manage a Budget, you can't do that. Now our Government, and I as Treasurer and as Prime Minister, working with Josh Frydenberg, we’ve ensured that our economy is one of the strongest economies in the world, despite the pandemic, despite the natural disasters - outstrips the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and the list goes on. The alternative is a Labor Party that haven't got that track record, and what we're going to face over the next 10 years, I'd like to tell you that all of these other challenges will go away. They won't. It's going to be a tough next 10 years. It's going to be tough next three years, and you need a Government that knows how to keep our economy in good, strong shape - not just talks about it, one that's actually done it.

MURRAY: Labor says that they've got the same policy on national defence. They say that they'll be economically like Hawke and Howard. Obviously, you disagree. But what is it about their economic policy or or an idea that particularly you think we need to start talking about, because it is a fork in the road?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you know, I could say I could surf like Kelly Slater, but that doesn't mean I can. And I can assure you, I don’t and can’t, and Labor can say that they would have the same defence policy as us. But what I know is that when they were in government, they took defence spending down to 1.57 per cent of the size of our economy, the lowest level since the second, before the Second World War. And so just what we know what that means - if we’d kept defence spending as a share of our economy at the same level that we inherited from Labor, there would have been $55 billion less spent in our Defence Forces over the last eight years. There would have been $10 billion less spent this year alone. So that's what I call not just a gap, I call that a yawning chasm between the Labor Party and the Liberals and Nationals - I should say, Labor and the Greens - who want to basically end defence spending as far as I can tell, and where a Liberal Nationals Government will continue.

So just because they say it, I'm not pretending to be anyone else. We're still wearing the same glasses. Sadly, the same suits and I … and I weigh about the same, and I don't mind a bit of Italian cake either. So I'm happy in my own skin, and I'm not pretending to be anyone else. And when you, when you're Prime Minister, you can't pretend to be anyone else. You've got to know who you are because if you don't know who you are, then how on earth are other people going to know. And I think that's what the choice is at this election. You know, not everybody agrees with everything, every call I've made over the last three and a half years. That's the lot of any Prime Minister. But I think Australians know that I've been the one who's stood up for Australia in some of the most significant challenges we’ve faced, whether it's standing up in our own region for our freedoms here in this part of the world, or standing up to the big tech companies - and Lucy Wicks is here tonight. She's handing down a very important report tomorrow on standing up to those big tech companies on the terrible things that happen to our young people, in particular, but women especially, as well, on social media. And I want to really congratulate Lucy Wicks for the great job she’s done.

MURRAY: And last one before, we’ll get our first question up. I think Glenn’s going to be our first and our second. But my last question before I hand it over to people way more important than me. It's been a crappy couple of years. I know you can't promise that there won't be another pandemic, that there won't be all of the other things that have rocked us. But how do we get back to normal? How do we return to the joint that we all desperately want it to be?

PRIME MINISTER: Have you heard that phrase about build back better? Labor's calling it build back stronger. I’ve got a real problem with this because it sounds good, doesn't it? But, actually, the philosophy that sits behind it is actually, it really troubles me. It says there was something wrong with Australia before the pandemic. I think Australia was, has always been an amazing place, but we're a nation that has a business-led economy, that doesn't want government in the centre of your lives, telling you what to do. Frankly, we've had enough of governments telling us what to do for the last couple of years. Time to move on from all of that. But the way you get things back, I think, to where they were, is you grow your economy back. Once small business people are back in their businesses and determining their own future, once Australians no longer have to be as dependent on income support, which thankfully they aren’t now. We’ve got unemployment down to 4.2 per cent, it’s an amazing statistic. It’s going to an unemployment rate with a three in front of it. There are a million more women in work today than when we first came to Government, and we've got Australians in jobs. So, you know, when we get our businesses back running their businesses and our economy strong, as it's continued to be strong and build up again, then that's what enables us to get back to where we want to get back to. And that's why I'm for business-led growth. I don't see the pandemic as an opportunity to invite government into your lives for the rest of eternity. But our opponents think like that, and I know that is a view of other countries that have a similar way of thinking to the Labor Party. But here we believe in business-led growth and letting people get back in charge of their lives.

MURRAY: Alright, well, let's take some questions here. Glenn, step up to the microphone and, like a double act, we can grab our microphones here and …

PRIME MINISTER: You're on, you're on the coke tonight, mate.

MURRAY: Yes, of course. They'll, you know, keep it nice and simple. Alright. Well, Glenn, you've got a question for the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, meet Glenn and the people of the Central Coast.

QUESTION: Yeah, good evening, Prime Minister. How are you?

PRIME MINISTER: G’day.

QUESTION: Yeah, look, thanks very much for coming tonight, and I appreciate the opportunity to ask you a question. I have to admit and put my hand up, I am a Liberal National voter. And my question is in relation to water and dams. Now, I'm from a little country town called Murrurundi, where you probably don't know it, up past Scone, and we've been through, I know what it's like, we’ve just come out of last year a really bad, probably the worst drought I can remember. So I know what it’s like to go through a drought with no water, and I know what it's like now like to be with more water than we probably need. However, I've been through both. But as a, as a boy, when I was going to school, I grew up in the St George and Sutherland Shire in Sydney. And, of course, Warragamba Dam has been around ever since I can remember. And my and the problem I’ve got is that over the probably the past 30 years, we've heard from successive governments that we're going to raise the height of Warragamba Dam and we're going to build new dams, etcetera, etcetera in different, in different locations around the state of New South Wales. Here we are now where it's always been promised, but it’s never, we don't seem to see any results, and it keeps going through successive governments. My my concern is that, so I can keep the faith and the, and and, you know, hopefully in the future, when is this actually going to come to fruition so that we actually see something like a D11 Dozer actually in there digging ground, as opposed to waiting and waiting and waiting?

MURRAY: Good on you, Glenn.

PRIME MINISTER: Sure, well, a couple of dams - Scottsdale Dam, down, irrigation project down in Tasmania, the Dungowan Dam, the Wyangala Dam, the Emu Swamp Dam, the Rookwood Weir up around Rockhampton - all projects going forward. On top of that, there's Hells Gate, Big Rocks Weir - all projects that we're absolutely keen. $1.9 billion that we, as a Federal Government have put aside to support state governments building those dams. Now, dams are hard to build in this country. I’ll tell you why - environmental regulations that sit around them and the disposition of state governments to build dams. Now what we've seen happen, particularly, terribly in these last couple of weeks, what we saw in, when I became Prime Minister I was dealing with drought. But at the same time, I was also dealing with floods soon after up in Far North Queensland, where almost our entire herd was lost over those devastating floods in north west Queensland, where now we’re seeing similar devastating floods, particularly in in Lismore, which is a one in 500 year flood, which is hard to get your head around. So we are very keen to build these dams because they're as much a part of unlocking our agricultural sector, particularly in those parts of Queensland, which we know can support an agricultural industry that can continue to feed the world and get us to a $100 billion Ag industry by 2030.

Now you're asking me specifically about the Warragamba Dam, as I understand it, and raising the dam wall at Warragamba. And on that project, I’d love to see the New South Wales Government do that. I really would. And that's an urban water project. And state governments fund urban water projects, and I know people say, oh, well, you know, why is there all this federal-state stuff going on? And I'm not here to have a crack at any state government at all. What I am here to say is, you know, we fund the Defence Forces, we fund the pensions, we fund the migration programs, we fund our security intelligence services and the border protection agencies. And we pay for 61 per cent of health costs in this country, which includes hospitals. So the Federal Government does its share of heavy lifting on doing these, all of these things, and I think on an urban water project like Warragamba Dam, I think there is a growing chorus within the New South Wales State Government about the need for that project. And I think it makes a lot of sense. But if the Federal Government starts spending on urban water projects, well, next thing you know we’ll be having to pay for police stations.

MURRAY: Thank you, Glenn. Let's get Michelle up, who's got a question, Prime Minister, about an issue that many of us would care about, of course, which is the debt. G’day, Michelle.

QUESTION: Thank you. Good evening. My question is, how are you planning to pay back the debt that's been incurred during the pandemic?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. Well, first of all, the debt that we have today, just over about a third of our size of our economy. If you go to the other G7 countries - twice, three times that. So even though I know that that is a lot higher than we'd like it to be, when you compare it to countries around the world, it is significantly less. And that means not only have we got more jobs, more growth, we've got less debt and more jabs. And so compared to other advanced economies around the world, Australia is positioned far more strongly. But on how do we pay back the debt? This is how we do it. The same way when we got elected in 2013. What we did was, is we took a cost curve that looked like that, and we pushed it down like that, and we grew our economy. We grew our economy and you want to lift your revenues - any business person will know this - what you have to do is you have to grow. You have to grow your business. And we had to grow our economy. And so our revenue curve lifted. And as time went on, that meant when we went into the pandemic, we had balanced the Budget. And it took us six years to do it. Now we didn't go down the slash and burn approach, and the reason we didn't do that is we were already in some pretty stiff headwinds in our economy. And you've got to keep your economy growing, and that's why we incurred that debt. We incurred that debt to ensure that our economy could get through the worst crisis we had seen since the Great Depression. Had we not done that, I can assure you, the debt would be way higher than it was, because now nobody would be in work. Our business infrastructure would have, would have completely collapsed. And the devastation, as I described it at the time, would have been realised as we stared into that economic abyss. So we had to invest. But the difference with us, the Labor Party, is that the Labor Party would have spent $81 billion more. They would have kept JobKeeper going for longer. They they said that they complain about the debt, but they want to spend more, and that doesn't add up. What do you call it - Albonomics? It doesn't add up. And so what’s important is that you keep, you've got to take your fiscal settings, how you're running your Budget, back to a after-pandemic normal. And that's what we’ll be looking to do. And the Treasurer will be saying more about that between now and the Budget.

But just so you, just so you know what $81 billion - it sounds like a lot, but I know you hear a lot of numbers - that is almost three times what we pay for Medicare every year. That's how much more they would have spent during the pandemic. They know how to start spending, but they never know how to stop. Now, we knew we had to spend in the pandemic to get the economy through. JobKeeper saved the economy. It saved lives. It saved livelihoods. It saved most businesses around the country. But we knew when we had to turn it off, and there were other things we had to turn off, and they’re hard fiscal decisions - to turn things off. But we know how to make them because I've done three Budgets as a Treasurer and three Budgets as a Prime Minister.

MURRAY: Thank you, Michelle, appreciate it. Let's let's get John. John's got a question, Prime Minister, and I think it might be about coal.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, my question to you, do you support the coal industry? When will your Government build new coal-fired power stations, so we can get a reliable baseload for manufacturing? So, so we can, so we can compete with the rest of the world, because renewable energies are not reliable for baseload and are too expensive. Also, you say, to keep up with, you're going to bring down, our economy's going to grow, we need baseload for our economy to grow. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. The short answer to the question is yes. And the short answer to the question is yes, when it comes to our fossil fuel industry and particularly coal, because it will be around for for decades to come. We know that's the case. In fact, demand is going to increase between now and 2030 because, you know, particularly in our region, in our part of the world, they are looking to grow their economies. And until they're in a position where they can use technologies like we can in this country, which enables us to harness other forms of power, then they need that to grow their economies and they’re not about to trade off their jobs any more than we are. And our approach to reliable, affordable energy - and this, we've got a five point plan on the economy. First one is lower taxes and less regulation. The second one is about investing in skills and infrastructure, and we've talked about some of those things on the dams. The third one is reliable, affordable energy, data and digital economy best in the top 10 by 2030, and sovereign manufacturing - Australian manufacturing.

But on reliable, affordable energy, there is a lot of renewable power in the system. But you're right, it is, it is, it doesn't work when the sun isn't shining in and the wind isn't blowing. And that is why we’ve funded the Kurri Kurri gas-fired power plant. What you need in today's energy economy is you need to continue to run your coal-fired power stations for as long as you possibly can. And that is our policy. We want them to run as long as they possibly can. And we also because that, what that does is it helps the rest of the energy system, particularly renewables, to, when they're not growing, you’ve got something in back up. And the thing about a gas-fired power plant is you can switch it on and you can switch it off. And increasingly, if you’re building a new coal-fired plant, and if someone wants to do that, well, they're welcome to. It'll be difficult because of the state government planning powers, which probably never allow them to do it. But, nevertheless, if they wish to, fine. If they're commercial and they stack up, good luck. But with a gas-fired power plant, that actually ensures that we can firm up our energy system. And so you get that reliable, affordable energy.

Now, what does that mean here on the Central Coast and the Hunter? The other arrangements we put in to support the Tomago aluminium smelter means it's still open and it's going to still be open. We did the same thing down in Victoria with their aluminium smelter in Portland, and we did that by ensuring that we were guaranteeing the reliable, affordable energy in to support it. That is coal-fired power for as long as it, you can possibly run it. But it's also other forms like gas and firming powers that work in that system. So it's a mix, and you've got to have them all.

But when it comes to the coal industry, it's worth $35 billion to us every year in exports, and that's money Australia needs to grow our economy and to ensure that we can pay for the essential services that Australians rely on.

MURRAY: Good on you John, thank you. We’ve got another question here - Claudine, I think it is. Come on up to the microphone. Meet the Prime Minister.

QUESTION: Good evening, how are you? Ok, for effective government it only functions when it's at its full potential, when with excellence, and to work together for all Australians when there is a multi-partisan approach. We've seen some very volatile members of the National Cabinet behave in such a dysfunctional way, and inconsistent and along their aligned party, which has made life really difficult, especially here on the Central Coast. Confusing, disenfranchising for a lot of Australians, and a couple of things I wanted to ask you was, how’s the Liberal Party - not just yourself as as leader, but the Liberal Party who you represent and people - going to engage with other parties to start to get functional government government happening again? And how are you going to keep that going, regardless of whether or not you’ll return to government? And the other question I wanted to ask you was whether or not, or how are you going to re-engage the rest of the community who are disenfranchised at the moment?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there's a lot in that question, let me, I mean, you mentioned the National Cabinet. And people have, there are a lot of knockers of the National Cabinet. I mean, I've chaired 67 meetings of the national cabinet in the last two years. And that's getting, what is it? It's all the premiers and chief ministers, all of whom have their own powers and authorities, none of which have changed. John Howard by this point about a year ago. The powers that they had no one really understood because they hadn't used them before. It had been 100 years since our last pandemic. So no powers were handed to them. They've always had those powers. And as a Prime Minister, you don't get to change the rules to suit yourself. You've got to work to the rules that are there. You can't all of a sudden come up with a six point try because you just would like it to work that way. That's just not how it works. And so you've got to deal with the reality. And so I pulled them all together and got them in a room. Now you will have heard about the times we've disagreed. But you wouldn't have heard about the times we agreed, which happened every single occasion over those 67 meetings. I'll tell you about the one we had last Friday. Last Friday, we agreed the Winter Preparedness Plan, which was looking at the combination of what will be a flu season together with a COVID season, and how we're doing that with testing resources  and booster shots for the most vulnerable, and also looking to get rid of that close contact rule, can't wait for that one, which, you know, it's time for that to go. And we worked through that plan together and agreed it. The other thing we worked on was getting the cruise industry back in place. And on the 17th of April, which has been our working date now for some time. So we agreed on that. We agreed on our approach to deal with Japanese encephalitis and what is happening in our commercial pig population and also our feral pig population. Now that mightn't have got too much attention but we're spending $85 million on that as a Federal Government, and the states are really critical to that because they do a lot of the monitoring of the pig populations, and we need to know where this has got to. And I'm particularly concerned, and we all are, about the feral pig population because even here in New South Wales, you'll often find those in a lot of rural areas that are close to indigenous communities as well. So are we're getting the vaccines out. There's another one. While everything else has been going on with the floods and everything else, lumpy skin disease in cattle, which could wipe out half again of our Northern Territory live cattle industry. These are the things we deal with as a National Cabinet every time we get together.

Now, you never hear about it because it isn't about the states and the Commonwealth fighting. Most of the time we're working together. Yep, we disagree every now and then. But tell me one family in this room that gets together every single night and never has a disagreement. And then there's Christmas. So it happens. And the Federation is a bit like that. We all have to get on the same page. But occasionally it won't work exactly the way you want. But more often than not, we've been able to get Australia through this pandemic as a team with one of the highest vaccination rates, we've saved 40,000 lives, 40,000. And on top of that... Yeah, you've all done that. And an economy which has more people in work after the pandemic than before it, an economy that's stronger after the pandemic than it was before it. That's what Australian governments working together has achieved on the ground. So that is how I intend to keep going. I changed it from the old rule, which was full of bureaucrats, and everybody would sit in the room and they'd all pontificate and do their aggressive press conference before they all came. It was a waste of time. You wanted to see an issue go nowhere then you would have sent it to COAG. But at the National Cabinet, we can make decisions at leader level and drive those decisions back down into our bureaucracies. And it works far better. And I tell you, every premier and chief minister will tell you the same who actually worked under the old system,

MURRAY: 64 different Christmas lunches. I can tell you which one of the premiers I think are the crazy aunty and uncle in that conversation. Thank you very much for the question. We've got one more from Daniel before we take a quick break and we continue here live with the Pub Test. Normal people, and we've surveyed the room, 100 percent normal people in the room. We've got that up on the Twitter bio. Daniel, what's your question for the Prime Minister?

QUESTION: [Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER: I'm good, Daniel.

QUESTION: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you'll hear a little bit more about this in the next couple of weeks, but there's already a lot going on on this front. Making sure we continue to make things here in Australia is really important. Do you know, we've got more people working in manufacturing today in Australia than we've had for many, many years. And certainly more than when we inherited government, we won government back in 2013. There are more people working in manufacturing now than there were back then. One in eight manufacturing jobs were lost under the Labor Party when they were last in government. Now our Modern Manufacturing Initiative, which we put in place in the middle of the pandemic, what that does is supports manufacturing enterprises to innovate, to get scale, to invest in new plant and equipment, to get access to markets. And it's in six areas that we're focussing on. Food and beverage is one of those. And I was at a local business with Dr Michael Feneley out there today at FMC. They employ about 35 people here on the Central Coast and they're going to 50 and they're training more. And they produce fertilisers and herbicides and things like that right here on the Central Coast. And they're the sort of companies that are actually employing in manufacturing these days. And there's many more in the defence industry and the space industry, defence industry particularly when you get up into the Hunter. And so we put a $1.5 billion program into investing in these businesses. And what we're also doing to support them is ensuring that we're getting their gas prices down. Gas prices that we're paying here in Australia right now, and this is critical for manufacturing and this is an important part of our manufacturing strategy, gas prices now in Australia, well, I should say overseas, what they're paying overseas, are four times what they are here in Australia. And the reason for that is the gas mechanism we put in place, which secured gas supplies for the domestic market here in Australia. Now that's also getting electricity prices down. Electricity prices have fallen eight per cent in the last two years. So for manufacturing to be successful, they've got to be paying lower taxes, which they are through the instant asset write off, which means you can basically buy a $250,000, $400,000 piece of plant in your manufacturing business, write it off in just one year. So that's in place right now. You've got to get your energy prices down, which we've done on both gas and electricity. And then you've got to have the innovation and the research and the market access, which means they can get to scale. And we're also investing in all of that. So we agree. We make things here in Australia, and we're really good at it, and we're going to make a lot more things under my government here in Australia.

MURRAY: Good on you Daniel, thank you very much. Prime Minister, we'll take a quick break as we are live across the country on the Central Coast. More with Paul Murray Live in a sec.

[AD BREAK]

MURRAY: Welcome back to the Central Coast. We're here with the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. How good, by the way, is Australia, where people can hang out with their Prime Minister, a few beers, a bit of rum and coke happening in the middle middle of the room?

PRIME MINISTER: I remember when we did that up in Townsville a few years ago.

MURRAY: Yes!

PRIME MINISTER: And we were partaking at the same time, from memory.

MURRAY: Correct.

PRIME MINISTER: Not tonight.

MURRAY: Yes. We're only slightly pink in this room because it's rather warm, in that one it wasn't for that reason. Alright, now I want to ask you something before we get into a whole bunch of other questions. You know that politics can be incredibly personal and sometimes over the line. How do you handle when it gets too personal and it just it feels like just waves and waves of really personal [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think one of the most important things for anyone who is in public life is you've got to have a thick skin. And that doesn't mean there are things that happen that obviously don't impact, of course they do, but it goes with the territory. But family's off limits, that's one thing. And our families often feel it far more than we do as those in public life. But you know, you choose to go into this because you believe in what you're doing, and so you steel yourself for that and you just get on with the job. That's what I've always done. Because what you're about is very important. And you know what, if you don't know who you are, well, frankly, you don't have the, I suppose, the internal strength to be able to face up to the many things you do in politics. Now in the last three and a half, if there's one thing the people said to me over the last, particularly the last couple of years, whether they agree with me or not, they have said, gosh, you guys have had to face a lot in the last three and a half years. From floods to fires to mice plagues to, you know, the pandemic, the drought and of course, the ever-present threats in our own region and the Indo-Pacific, and now we have war in Europe and Russia invading Ukraine. This has been quite a remarkable period in Australia's history. And I can tell you, it's not for the faint hearted or the inexperienced.

MURRAY: Now also, elections, regardless of who it is, any opposition leader has got frankly an easier run because they can promise the world. They don't have to have form, but also they don't have to explain the particulars of the grey that exists, right? It's always easier to go hardcore, black and white. So again, as a person who's got to run on a vision for the next three years, but also explaining in part, the past three years, how do you do that? What's your plan for that in the next few months where you're going to meet as many people as possible? I get it. But how are you going to be able to deliver, frankly, as clean a message as an opposition who can just say, promise everything and fingers crossed?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you've got to just stay true to your plan. And that's why I say I'm not pretending to be anyone else. You can't all of a sudden turn up at an election and say, oh, I'm not that person I was for 20 years or 30 years, and all of a sudden to pretend you're everybody from John Howard to Bob Hawke to Kevin Rudd to whoever. Sorry, Mark, he didn't claim you. He's happy about that, Mark's very happy about that. But you know, you got to be sure about who you are in politics to deal with the challenges that come your way. And I look forward to having the opportunities. I mean, the pandemic was very limiting. You know, I spent a long time in isolation and quarantine. And as you know, Paul, I love to be out there and that's where I prefer to be. But the other thing is, I have a great faith in the Australian people, and I have a great faith in their judgement, and I have a great faith in them knowing the consequences of the decisions that they make. And in between elections, there's all sorts of sentiment. Lots of opinions are expressed. But when you go in that ballot booth, then how you vote makes a difference. And it has impacts and it has consequences. It's going to determine the economy you're going to live in for the next decade. It's going to determine our ability to engage the national security issues and keep Australians safe. It determines who's going to stand up to the big tech companies or the big energy companies, which we've done. Frankly, we've stood up to all of them. We've stood up to all of them. And we'll continue to do that because where I gain my strength from, and I referred to them as the quiet Australians at the last election, and that continues to be my view. Those Australians haven't been making a lot of noise over the last few years. They've just been dealing with the three and a half years I've just mentioned. They've been dealing with all those natural disasters. They've been dealing with the pandemic. They've been dealing with home schooling. They've been dealing with isolation. And they've done it. And they've gritted through. And Australia has now come through this pandemic, and hopefully that means we're not having further variants that could cause massive disruption. But even if that were to occur, then I know Australians would continue to push through again. And those Australians know what's important. Their jobs, their security, their family, their way of life. And I think they should get to decide those things, not governments.

MURRAY: I'm with you. Graham, is that next questioner. Come up to the microphone, Graham, and have a chat to the Prime Minister. We're live from the Central Coast, we'll be doing these all over the country. Graham, the Prime Minister.

QUESTION: Hello, Prime Minister, and welcome to the Central Coast. It's great to see you here. Thank you. And also, Paul, thanks for bringing Paul Murray Live to Gosford, fantastic mate.

MURRAY: Happy to help.

QUESTION: So my question is also about electricity supply and how much we need. So in Australia, with more than 20 million cars registered and with the transition to electric cars, as many car manufacturers will only be producing 100 per cent electric cars in the next few years. Has the government considered the massive increase in demand for electricity to charge these cars, replacing the enormous amount of energy currently supplied by petrol and diesel? And it's reasonable to expect most cars will be plugged into the grid in the evening and when the domestic demand is already peak and the sun is going down and the breeze is dropped out for the night. Considering coal fired baseload power stations are being closed around the country as electric car sales are expected to dramatically increase, how will the huge increase in demand for electricity be addressed?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the first point, Graham, on being here on the Central Coast, I'm really pleased to be doing that. Came up on NorthConnex this morning, which is great to see that in place now. And we were out there with Lucy today, opening the new Newcastle University Clinical School and Medical Research Institute, some 75 million bucks. And we're going to see local doctors and specialist surgeons, the reality of that is going to happen here on the Central Coast. You can see it there now. I did the groundbreaking five years ago and that is now a reality here on the Central Coast, and there are many other projects. When we came here tonight, Lucy, I noticed across the road is the Commonwealth Public Service building that was built here and has brought hundreds and hundreds of extra jobs in here in the Gosford CBD, which is transforming. But to come to your point on electric vehicles, Graham. I have a different view about how quickly that's going to change going forward because under our policies, I'm not forcing anybody to drive anything. If you want to drive one and buy one, good for you, that's great. I think that's your choice. If you don't want to drive one, that's fine. Keep driving the car you've got, buy one that's like it, if that's what you want to do. Because our policy when it comes to emissions reduction is about choice, not mandates. It's not about taxes. It's about technology. And the technology will move at the pace of the consumers and what they want. And the consumers who want that will pay for it. And I'm not about to be subsidising those costs. I mean, if you buy an electric vehicle, you don't pay fuel excise for start. So there is already an inbuilt advantage of going down that path, if that's what you want to do. But my opponent, the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, said that he is going to encourage electric vehicles by abolishing the import tariffs on them. There aren't any import tariffs on electric vehicles. That's what comes when you haven't done a budget before and you've never had a financial portfolio. They're the sort of things you don't know. It helps. But when it comes to the electricity grid system itself and the baseload power, well, it's similar to the answer I gave before. You've got to keep you coal fired power stations running as long as you possibly can. You need to have gas in the system to back that up. Because we will see coal fired power stations reach the end of their natural life. That will happen. That will happen.

QUESTION: My point is that inevitably we'll be driving electric cars, whether it's in three years’ time or five years’ time or 10 years’ time.

PRIME MINISTER: I think it's more the latter end of that, to be honest.

QUESTION: It may still be, but we'll need to have the power to charge these things.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. And that's why we've invested $21 billion ensuring that not only are we getting the baseload power that continues to come through things like gas and these types of resources. And take what we've been able to do already in ensuring we get replacement for some of the stations that have gone out. And we all remembered what happened when Hazelwood went out. I'm concerned about now Eraring is going out. And we want to see replacement for that reliable, affordable capacity here in the Central Coast. Now, we backed that up last time by going ahead and ensuring we build a gas fired power station at Kurri Kurri, which the Labor Party was against, then they were for, and then they decided to change it so it'd cost twice as much to build. That's not a good policy. What we've done is we went, OK, that needs to happen. We told the energy companies, if you don't build it, we will. Because we're not mugs. We know that energy companies make more money by there being less power, right? So we made sure there was more power. And so we weren't going to allow an investment decision which said, well, we won't build it and therefore we'll just take the higher prices that come with that. Angus Taylor did a great job on this. We said, worked with Snowy Hydro, they're building it, that will be breaking ground very, very soon. So we problem solve to deal with those issues. But our preference is for the private energy companies to go and ensure that they're replacing coal fired power plants, which reach the end of their economic life, with reliable, affordable power to address the very needs that you've talked about. Energy consumption, though, how much energy people use, has remained pretty constant for some time now and in fact has dipped. And so getting the investment in that is obviously a challenge, but that's why we've been stepping up the way we have.

MURRAY: Good stuff. Sylvia, step on down, we've got a question here. As Sylvia is coming to the microphone, you famously, of course, talked about puzzles, puzzles during lockdown. Recently you had a week at home. Was there anything in particular that is your secret lockdown skill that you've discovered, that you've taught yourself?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I wish there had been time for puzzles. My lockdown, I could tell it was pretty busy in between responding to the floods, of course, which have been devastating. But in addition to that, we had the situation in the Ukraine. We're also pulling the Budget together at the moment. So it was, I got to tell you, it was a very busy isolation. But I was pleased to get back out of isolation and get on the road, and of course, the first place, first thing I did was was to go up to the Northern Rivers. But yeah.

MURRAY: Fair enough, good question. Sylvia, let's go.

QUESTION: Hi. I'd like to know if we could have more federal funding for trade schools in high schools. Because there's more than one pathway to succeed from school and not just going to university. So many children are told to get a good job, you need to go to uni. Go to uni, get a good job. There are a lot of children that won't go there. We need the people from the uni, doctors, lawyers. We need the people, electricians, builders, hairdressers from the TAFEs. We also need the children that won't do either. And they're the children that sometimes fall through the cracks. They need to know that if they're going to be the cleaner that cleans your office of a night, the postie, train and bus drivers and the baristas, need the baristas, they also need to feel self-worth. So if we could teach from a young age from basics, all jobs are necessary that creates the circle. We all need them. We couldn't survive without them. But they need that self-worth to survive.

MURRAY: Good on you Sylvia, thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, thanks, Sylvia. The best form of welfare is a job. We all know that. It's a truism. One of the things I'm most pleased about as we've come through this pandemic is we currently have 220,000 Australians in trade training right now. Now, just to give you an idea of the significance of that number, that is the highest number that we've ever had of Australians in trade training at any time since economic records began, which was in 1963. So we've got more kids in trade training, funded through the massive investment that we put, and we did it through the National Cabinet, I can tell you. We put down half the money, they put down the other half the money. It was $1 billion dollars through the JobTrainer program. And prior to that, we also put in the Boosting Apprenticeships program and the new apprenticeships program. Now the reason we did that at the start of the pandemic was as we looked into that abyss, and we did this before we even did JobKeeper, Josh and I were very concerned that we were going to lose a generation of skills. Last one on, first one off. And for small businesses that were going to be doing it tough anyway, the idea of taking apprentices through the next couple of years was going to be beyond them. So we made a deal with the employers of apprentices right across the country and we kept them all. They didn't leave. Because I knew if they left their apprenticeship in the middle of this pandemic, so many of them would never have come back. And I agree with you. Whether you go to TAFE, whether you go to get training as an apprentice, whether you go to university, whatever you happen to do, whether you go and start up your own business and do neither of those, any of those things. These are the choices we have as Australians. But I agree 100 per cent that we have spent more on trades training in this country and we've been getting the results. But equally, by investing in that trades training, we are providing the base for our economy to grow, particularly in manufacturing, but in the many other skills that you've mentioned, hairdressing was one. I got some tutoring on how to do that the other day, down in Melbourne. A few people quite a bit of a crack at me, anyway, whatever. I wasn't that good at it. I haven't got much to work with. A bit more than Chris Kenny, though. So trade training, incredibly important. And we're going to continue to invest. We've been trying to reform that with the states and have some further agreements to keep that funding going in the future, and I'm confident we will. I know it will happen here in New South Wales and there's been great work done with the South Australian government. I mean, Steven Marshall has done a tremendous job with apprentices and training down in South Australia, and I think he's done a terrific job in keeping their economy firing up.

MURRAY: Good stuff, thank you very much. Take another break, Prime Minister, and more questions from the Central Coast in a second here on Paul Murray Live. Also, Mark Latham will be here with Chris Kenny and Joe Hildebrand. More in a sec.

[AD BREAK]

MURRAY: We're back here on the Central Coast with Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Thank you so much for doing this, mate. I really appreciate it. We got plenty of people who've got a question for us, step on up. What's your name and what's your question for the Prime Minister?

QUESTION: Hello, I'm David. Love your work, PM. Yours too, Scott.

MURRAY: Thank you. He said "Love your work, PM. Yours too, Scott." Thank you. You just made the promo.

QUESTION: Just at the top of the show, I'll use Paul's words, he said we've had a crappy few years, and I think we could all probably agree that's true. And despite that crappy three years of COVID, we have seen Australia do incredibly well. Our statistics around vaccination, infection and mortality have been incredible. And at the same time, we've also managed an incredibly strong economy. So how is it that the Liberals aren't an absolute shoo in to win the next election?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, all sorts of people make predictions about elections, I remember that occurring about this time three years ago. I remember that very, very vividly. And look, my honest answer about, as you go into an election. We have been through quite an extraordinary last three and a half years. People have suffered a lot and they are suffering right now as we speak. And as you go through times like that, understandably people will get very frustrated and they'll get very hurt and they will express that. And I understand that. But as you get closer to the election, this isn't a referendum. This is a choice. This election is a choice between who you want to lead the country. Anthony Albanese, the Labor Party – undoubtedly supported by the Greens – or the Liberals and the Nationals and myself as Prime Minister. And I believe Australians, particularly those who have been quietly going about their lives over the last three years and doing all the things we've talked about, they are starting to focus up on that choice and we'll move from a sentiment being expressed to people making real choices about where they want the country to go over the next three, five and 10 years. And make no mistake, this isn't like responding to a phone call, who do you think you're going to support in an election. That doesn't change anything. But when you go into that ballot booth and you put Neil McGill down there in Shortland, the Liberal Candidate, then you can ensure you can keep Australia's economy strong and you can keep Australians safe. And that's what's up for grabs. That's what makes the difference. And so as the election gets closer, I think this will come more into sharp focus. And I trust Australians, I always have, that they will weigh this up. I mean, in Australia, we don't have the sort of politics like they have in many other countries. In between elections, Australians basically just get on with their lives. And frankly, probably the less they'd like to see politicians, the better, in between. And I get that. And I actually like that about Australia. They're constantly not agonising and talking their country down. Yeah, there's plenty who do that, but they're on other programs. And Australians, though, when it comes to the big choices, I think will focus on these things. And at the moment, and it is always the case because federal elections are always close, they're always close, and it'll come down to who do you think is best able and experienced to manage the economy. And in a world where frankly, the world has just gone to war in Europe again and the pressures we face in the Indo-Pacific, who is best prepared, most seasoned, most experienced to actually take us through that challenging time. That's the choice. It's a clear one.

MURRAY: Thank you, mate. We've got Gavin. I think he's got a question for you, PM. Gavin, meet the Prime Minister.

QUESTION: Mr Prime Minister. Thank you so much for being here today. And the one thing I have thought about since sitting here asking my question is how lucky we are. You know, 25 million Australians, we confront the PM face to face. 40 million Ukrainians cannot. Mr Prime Minister, I think one of the perhaps looking at supply chains, you know, slightly different subject someone who is inherently interested in it. You know, during COVID, one of the outcomes of COVID is that perhaps we realise the Western countries realised that we were very heavily reliant on one country to produce our goods for us. And I think, you know, now moving forward, it's there's a question to be asked, perhaps of, you know, we're still reliant on many, many of our products and services, particularly our products, our low cost products coming from one particular country. So they're coming from China. As our relationship with China continues to develop, it's been a tough one. Clearly, every Australian can see that how do we ensure that Australians don't lose access to the cheap and affordable products that we rely on from that country? And also equally, you know, can the government do anything to assist business diversify? Perhaps because ultimately, whether it's the government who controls it, whether or not, perhaps it's the consumers who end up controlling it. What do you think?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think it's a combination of both. But what we're seeing in the global economy now is a big shift taking place. And many of the things that China have been producing for the last 10 or 20 years, they're now being produced in Vietnam and other parts of South East Asia. And what we've done as a government is to build the relationships with all of those other countries as well, including India. And there are a lot more options. And what we want to see take place is Australian companies continue to diversify not to put all their eggs in one basket. I mean, most of the growth in our trade with China, particularly outside the resources sector, only took place in about the last six to seven years. It wasn't always thus. It really surged over that most, most of last decade, and that was welcome. But at the same time, we have to be careful about a dependence that is created, and this is exactly the point you're making. And it's not just us. We've worked this out. This is exactly the same conversation I was having with the Dutch Prime Minister this morning, Mark Rutte, and they're confronting that by becoming too reliant on the Russians for oil and gas weight and a range of other things. And here they find themselves in a bind now. My message to Europe and my message to Australians is we cannot allow ourselves to become dependent like that. We've faced a lot of coercion from China. Our barley has been targeted, our wine has been targeted. Many industries, crayfish and other things like this. But we've held our ground and we've stood up to it. And that barley has found other markets. And while the wine is getting the same price in other places, that's harder. They are going to see this through and I've been so proud, particularly of Australia's primary producers, who would rather their sovereignty as a country than the coin that comes with becoming over reliant on one part has told us they don't want you involved again anyway. So I think Australian industry and primary producers have shown tremendous courage, but they've also been smart too, and we support them through things like export market development grants, things like that. Our trade offices around the world, whether it's in South America, in Europe or other places are. Right now the Trade Minister is working to finalise another one of these export agreements. We put the export agreement in place for the UK, first country to do so. And the other one, which I mentioned to you is we formed a partnership with what's called the ASEAN countries, and it's countries like Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and so on. Brunei. We were the first country in the world to develop such an agreement with that group of countries. We beat China by about a day or so. And what we've always understood that Southeast Asia, when you put all of those economies together, that's a massive partnership for us. One of the first things I had the great privilege to do was finalise the agreement with the Indonesian Government. The Closer Economic Partnership agreement and that is in place now, and that's dealing with everything from students through to heavy industry and resources. So how you deal with the rest of the world now is really important. It's why you need to make about as much as you can profitably and successfully in your own country. And we're doing that by manufacturing mRNA vaccines here in Australia, but put that agreement in place and many other things, critical minerals processing, which I am sure you know a bit about. Critical minerals, are the things that end up in your iPhones and and all the technology. Now, China has a stranglehold on that global market, and we've been working with United States, Japan, Germany, India and a range of other countries to ensure that Australia's critical industries can provide an alternative to those countries.

QUESTION: A lot of countries, like India who shares, yes of democracy.

PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely.

QUESTION: To deal with someone like India rather than perhaps other options.

PRIME MINISTER: Supply chains now just on about cost and efficiency. They're about trust. And for Australian businesses, you've got to think about the price, the risk of what supply chains you're in and dependent upon. Just smart business practise. And what we're doing as a government is to provide more opportunities for them to diversify their risk. But if you put your all your eggs in one basket, well, it's the same in any business strategy. That's not gonna land you necessarily in the best place.

MURRAY: Good stuff. Good two quick ones before we're done here, we've got Greg and then I think it's Jane is our last one. But Greg, jump up mate, jump in.

QUESTION: Good evening Mr Prime Minister. Thanks for coming. My question is I just see a pattern in the last 15 years of election cycle politics rather than long term goals that this country should achieve as so local, state and federal levels, it just keeps going on. And all this hype and was what you could think might be trying to formulate more long term goals for this country. I've got two daughters like yourself.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah.

QUESTION: I want them to grow up the way I did, which was a prosperous and profitable country.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, look, thanks for your question. I'd encourage you by saying it happens a lot more than you think. As I said, I drove up here in the NorthConnex. That was a long term project. We're building Western Sydney National Airport as a project which still has many years to run, and it's we started that seven years ago. These are long term projects the the the inland rail project, making sure that we can be making steel in Whyalla, which is actually making the steel for our naval shipbuilding and the inland rail. The dam projects that we've talked about all of these projects Snowy Hydro 2.0, another massive engineering project of gigantic scale. These things goes over long periods of time. The rebuilding of our Defence Forces to get it from 1.57 per cent up to 2.1 percent. It took it's taken us eight years to get there.

QUESTION: Really good to hear that announcement the other day.

PRIME MINISTER: And we're going to add another 18 and a half thousand in our defence forces, which you can't do overnight, but we'll be adding to them every single year. The AUKUS agreement, which is a forever agreement, the defence reciprocal access agreement with the Japanese Government. These things set us up for 20 years and beyond. And so as a government, we've looked out because we know that we need to secure Australia in our part of the world. And yes, you have to invest in your defence forces to do that. You have to invest in your, in your security agencies, your intelligence agencies, the border protection agencies, all of which were cut under Labor. You've got to strengthen your economy so you can pay for it, but you've got to develop these relationships with all these countries I've been talking about. And when you do that with likeminded countries, you know, we work closely with Indonesia, with India, the Quad, you might have heard of that, a partnership with Japan, India, Australia and the United States. I met with them just the other night. And on top of that, the agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom, the AUKUS arrangement, you may have heard of that not just about submarines, nuclear powered submarines, it's about a lot more than that. But that project goes over the next 15 years or so, and that's setting us up for the 50 after that. So there's a lot of it that goes on and under our government will continue to go on.

MURRAY: Good stuff. Thank you very much. Prime Minister, now final question tonight is from Jane would try and make it short on both counts. But Jane, your question?

QUESTION: Mine's a personal question. Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: No, I won't play the ukulele. I promise. Look how disappointed everybody is.

MURRAY: You should tell people why you play, because you're teaching your daughter the guitar?

PRIME MINISTER: I was teaching Lily how to play guitar. But anyway.

MURRAY: Your personal question.

QUESTION: So I believe we share an uncommon faith. And I'm interested to know how much your beliefs and faiths flow into your professional life knowing that the tenets of our faith are to be led into all truth and how that happens for you and therefore impacts on us. A Professor of Biology from Monash once said nothing matters unless it matters in the ultimate and nothing matters in the ultimate unless it's eternal. And that's the word you've used a couple of times tonight, so I understand that you're leaving a legacy. Could you explain more about that?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. Look, I've been public about my faith over a long period of time. That's just to be transparent. It's not a reason to vote for me or not vote for me. It's got nothing to do with politics. My faith isn't, my politics by faith doesn't sort of set out a policy manual, either. My faith informs who I am. It's a part of who I am. It's part of who Jenny is. It's part of our family and how we raise our family. My faith informs the why, not, not necessarily the what. Why do we do the things? Why do we want to see young people in jobs and not spend a life wasted on on on, not having, not having to depend on welfare for their entire existence? And why do we do the things we do right across the government from the National Disability Insurance Scheme to making sure that we're helping women who are the subject to domestic violence? We do these things because we care. And where does that come from? Well, it comes from who we are as individuals, and for many people that come, that's an expression of their religious faith. Others, it's an expression of other things. But that's what it means to be it. It helped guide and courage and strength and me as I know it does millions of Australians. And that's why I've always been keen to ensure that Australians are never victimised or discriminated against because of their faith and what they believe in, because it's an important part of who they are, and it's impossible to separate what they believe from who they are. You know, I don't have a professional life and a faith life and a family life. I have a life and all of these things are combined together. They define who I am, and that's why I'm not confused about who I am. I'm pretty certain about it and pretty clear eyed about the way ahead. And that gives me the strength to do the job that I think Australians need doing good stuff.

MURRAY: Thank you, Jane. Thank you, Prime Minister. Thank you very much and thank you, Central Coast. The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison. Let's keep going around the country mate. More on Paul Murray Live in a sec.

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