SUBJECTS: Education funding; Small and medium sized business tax cuts; Religious Freedom Review
NEIL MITCHELL: Prime Minister is with me, Scott Morrison, good morning.
PRIME MINISTER: G’day, Neil.
MITCHELL: Your predecessor always caught a tram, mightn’t be a bad idea.
PRIME MINISTER: I was a bit slow this morning, but anyway. Good to be here.
MITCHELL: OK. Grassroots stuff. You’re bringing forward your tax cuts for small business.
PRIME MINISTER: Yep.
MITCHELL: Can you guarantee that any of that will flow through to wages, to the worker?
PRIME MINISTER: Well small businesses will make those calls as they do every day and what I do know about small businesses is particularly when they went through tough times they kept their staff on and they took it out of their own pocket to keep their staff on. So you know, I’ve seen small and family businesses do this for a long time. So where they have the opportunity to support their employees more they do.
MITCHELL: So you would expect it means pay rises?
PRIME MINISTER: I would expect that would be part of the response, absolutely. They’ll also invest it back in their businesses. What we saw in the first round of tax cuts for small and family businesses is they do put it back into their businesses. They are building their businesses up and that’s why it’s such a good thing to do to drive the economy forward. So more than half of Australians work in businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million. So they’ll be getting those tax cuts five years earlier.
MITCHELL: OK so what’s the detail? Businesses, well where does it cut in and what is it…
PRIME MINISTER: It goes up to businesses of $50 million of turnover and they’ll come down to 26 per cent in 2021 and in 2021-22 it will go to 25 per cent. We’ll be looking to legislate that next week and as you know, the Labor Party said they would reverse the reductions in tax down to 25 per cent. So I assume they remain opposed to us cutting these taxes to 25 per cent in the next term of parliament. But we’ll be seeking to make it law next week.
MITCHELL: Because we’ve had our L.A.W. tax cuts before. Paul Keating did it and they were reversed. It’s not really a guarantee to have them in law is it?
PRIME MINISTER: Well we won’t reverse them. We are absolutely…
MITCHELL: That’s what he said.
PRIME MINISTER: … committed to them. Well you can’t trust Labor on taxes. That’s true. You can’t trust Labor on taxes, only to increase them. But we’ve legislated tax cuts and followed through on those. At the last election I went to the election with the Prime Minister then saying we were going to cut taxes, and we did, and we legislated them for businesses up to $50 million and we’ll be brining those forward. So that’s every hairdresser, every tradie, all of these businesses out there and in particularly in regional Australia, Neil, that’s where those businesses are and they’re family businesses and they deserve to get a go because they’re having a go. And that’s what our policies do.
MITCHELL: Well you’ve got to be fairly profitable to make the money out of them don’t you?
PRIME MINISTER: Well you go into business to make a profit. That’s the whole point.
MITCHELL: Yeah true.
PRIME MINISTER: I was at a business yesterday up on the Central Coast of New South Wales, and they’re growing at 20 per cent a month. And they’re knocking down walls to expand…
MITCHELL: What’s their business?
PRIME MINISTER: They make, it’s a sort of fermented tea. I think it’s called… I can’t remember the name of this thing. Zest is the name of the company.
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah that’s it, Kombucha. I’d never heard of it before. This thing is growing at 20 per cent a month, they’re putting new people on, and this is happening with small and family businesses all around the country and I want them to keep more of what they earn – they’re putting the hours in.
MITCHELL: If you’re making half a million in profit, which is a very good profit in a small business, how much are you getting tax relief?
PRIME MINISTER: Ah, that’s about $12,000 I think.
MITCHELL: Hmmmm. Well it’s better than nothing but is that going to churned back into the workforce do you think?
PRIME MINISTER: I believe that it will amongst other things. They’ll make the decisions which are best for the business and what’s good for the business is good for the employees. And that’s what employees in small and family businesses know because they’ve worked these businesses as a team, as a family.
MITCHELL: You’re wedging Labor here because if they don’t do it then you prove your point about higher taxing, if they do it they might be undermining some of what they’ve promised in terms of the money they’re spending. Where are you getting the money?
PRIME MINISTER: Well we’re not going ahead with the big business tax cuts and that’s what is fundamentally supporting this. It doesn’t kick in until 2021 and so the Budget is due to come back into balance in 2019-20 so we’ll be in surplus.
MITCHELL: So you don’t have to cut anything to pay for it?
PRIME MINISTER: No we don’t. Absolutely not. I mean we are not going ahead with the big business tax cuts; they’re off the table. And what we are going ahead with is faster tracked small business and family business tax cuts which means they can invest back in their businesses.
MITCHELL: So it’s in law, and it’s a good law?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah it’s a great law and it’s an encouragement. I mean, small and family businesses, they’re the people who get up early just like everyone who goes out there and goes out to work every day.
MITCHELL: If you’d like to speak with the Prime Minister give us a call – 96900 693 13 13 32. Speaking of laws: the existing law that allows religious schools to ban gay kids, is that a good law?
PRIME MINISTER: That was introduced by the Labor Party and Tanya Plibersek was there and Bill Shorten were all there. What the report that we’ve received from Philip Ruddock say that should be fine-tuned and the needs and interests and protection of the child should be what is most at issue. So the report also finds that there’s been no evidence of this, by the way.
MITCHELL: But is it a good law to say any organisation can discrimination against a child on their sexuality?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I don’t think so. I have that view and that’s why I think what Philip has proposed is quite a sensible way to deal with this because it puts the protection and interests of the child at the centre, which is not what that law currently does.
MITCHELL: But his recommendation also, I’ll read it to you, “to provide that religious schools may discriminate in relation to students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or relationships.”
PRIME MINISTER: And as I said, that is the current law. That actually talks about the current law. What I’m saying is that law, as recommended by Philip, should be fine-tuned to protect the interest of the child and make that paramount in any consideration and I think that should be the primary consideration.
MITCHELL: But you say it’s a bad law but will it survive in some form?
PRIME MINISTER: Well what I’m saying is that I should be fine-tuned to protect the interests of the child.
MITCHELL: But that right to refuse a child on their sexuality will continue?
PRIME MINISTER: I’m saying that the child’s interest should be paramount.
MITCHELL: No I understand that…
PRIME MINISTER: That’s my point, Neil.
MITCHELL: But will the schools retain the ability to do that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well religious schools should be able to run their schools based on their religious principles.
MITCHELL: So what does that mean? They can ban… you want to maintain a situation where they can ban a child on their sexuality?
PRIME MINISTER: There’s no evidence that they have been doing that.
MITCHELL: I accept that. Good.
PRIME MINISTER: They’re not doing it and I don’t think they are going to do it. And I think with the law that’s currently there, it needs the added protection for the child, and that’s what’s been recommended. But you know, this hasn’t gone through the Cabinet yet. That process hasn’t been concluded. I only became Prime Minister seven weeks ago. It was handed to the previous Prime Minister. We are going to deal with this in a respectful way, in an orderly way, and my timetable is to deal with this before the end of the year. So these are the issues we’ve got to work through Neil.
MITCHELL: But in fairness, Prime Minister, you haven’t made it clear whether you want to keep that ability for the schools. I understand we want the priority of the kids to be taken into account as well and they are the most important thing in this, I agree with that. But do you want that to remain as a situation where the schools have got that right?
PRIME MINISTER: Well Neil, we’re working through this. This is my point. I’m going to carefully consider the report and all the consultation that Philip did to come to that view. As will the rest of the Cabinet. Now as I said, we are dealing with a law that was introduced by the Labor Party that doesn’t have that additional protection. Now no one is suggesting to me that that law should be abolished…
MITCHELL: Well I think there would be a few in the community that would.
PRIME MINISTER: Well what I’m dealing with is the law as the Labor Party wrote it. What the suggestion based on all the consultation that Philip and his team have done is that it needs to be improved and so we’ll consider that as well as any other alternatives that we wish to consider.
MITCHELL: OK so we do need to keep that facility somehow.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we will make a decision when we are ready to make one, Neil.
MITCHELL: OK. So no decision yet?
PRIME MINISTER: No.
MITCHELL: Hmmm. OK. Will you release the details of all the recommendations, the inquiry?
PRIME MINISTER: Of course we will.
MITCHELL: The review, all of it?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah of course we will.
PRIME MINISTER: Before the end of the year.
MITCHELL: Immigration policies…
PRIME MINISTER: And we’ll do that with our response too at the same time so people know what our view is.
MITCHELL: OK. Immigration…Well personally, are you personally comfortable with the idea of discriminating against anybody on the grounds of their gender or their sexuality…
PRIME MINISTER: Or their religion. I’m not comfortable with discrimination against people’s religious faith, against their gender, against their sexuality, against their race. And what this report is about is ensuring that people can’t be discriminated against because of their religious beliefs.
MITCHELL: The immigration policies, I spoke to Alan Tudge this week about encouraging people into the regions.
PRIME MINISTER: Yep.
MITCHELL: Have you drawn up…there wasn’t much detail there. Have you got detail yet how you would enforce that, what if someone breached it, would they be thrown out of the country? Have you got any of that yet?
PRIME MINISTER: Well that will be released over the next few months as well. But what Alan did the other day is just set out the challenge that he’s seeking to address as the population Minister. I mean, Victoria has the strongest population growth of any state and territory that’s why I asked a Victorian to be the Minister for Population to get Melbourne eyes on what is a particular Melbourne problem. I think previously we’ve had a lot of Sydney eyes on this and we have population pressures there as well. But as we’ve discussed I think many times, Neil, on your program, average population growth is as useful a statistic as average rainfall. I mean it can be pouring in parts of the country and we need rain in others and population is a bit the same. WA for example, they want more people in WA. They want more people in South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory, but in Melbourne and Sydney we need to ease the population pressure.
MITCHELL: Well forget the figures, but 60 per cent of our population growth is migration and most of that from China and India. Is that good for the country?
PRIME MINISTER: Well also most of that population growth for immigration is from temporary migration…
MITCHELL: No no, 60 per cent of permanent population growth is…
PRIME MINISTER: It is not permanent migration. That is not the case, no.
MITCHELL: Well that’s what the Minister told me.
PRIME MINISTER: This is what it is. Let me go through. Population growth: 10 extra people get on the bus, OK? Just over four of those are temporary migrants. Around just under 4 of those is natural…
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, tourists, short term working visas, things like that. Just under four of those are people who are born here and two of those are permanent migrants. That’s the breakdown. About 40, 40, 20. So the biggest driver of population growth when it comes to immigration is actually temporary migration. And so what Alan is saying…
MITCHELL: But that still affects the nature of the country, the social fabric.
PRIME MINISTER: Of course it does. I’m not disagreeing with that.
MITCHELL: Is that good?
PRIME MINISTER: What I’m saying is that you need to ensure that you manage the increase in that population and it gets to the places which need more population and you take the pressure off in the suburbs of Sydney and the suburbs of Melbourne. On the Central Coast of New South Wales and places like that, that’s how you need to manage it and that’s what Alan’s plan will do.
MITCHELL: Will you consider a pause or a review or a freezing or even a drop in the immigration rate?
PRIME MINISTER: Well that’s already happened.
MITCHELL: Well you’ve paused at what, about 160,000?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s come down to just round a 160,000 from 190,000 and that, by the way, is the level that was reached at the…
MITCHELL: So is that the right…
PRIME MINISTER: Hang on, let me finish. That’s the level that was reached at the end of the Howard Government. So people talk about the Howard level – Howard migration level…
MITCHELL: Well he increased it initially.
PRIME MINISTER: It was about 160,000 permanent a year. That’s where the Howard Government got to and that’s where we are now. We look at that closely each year. Just yesterday, for example, New South Wales has made it clear that they want to, sort of, ease back there, so the extra migration that they were looking for we can channel that to South Australia, Northern Territory, WA, Tassie.
MITCHELL: What does Victoria want?
PRIME MINISTER: I haven’t…I don’t have those figures in front of me but all of the states and territories each year actually do ask for more under the regional programs and the state programs.
MITCHELL: So is the figure we’re at at the moment the right figure?
PRIME MINISTER: Well that’s a question that we look at every year. And at the moment, where it’s set, what I’m unhappy about, what I think needs to change, is how we are dispersing it. OK? Because I know that there are parts of the country that really want more people and there are parts of the country that want less. And that’s what I want my policies to deliver.
MITCHELL: Would you mind putting the headphones on? We have a caller on a very specific area. Yes, Duncan, go ahead.
CALLER: Oh hello, Prime Minister. My name is Duncan.
PRIME MINISTER: G’day.
CALLER: I want to know why the Commonwealth Super Corporation is being excluded from scrutiny by the Royal Commission into financial services?
MITCHELL: Is that what…they cover military, etcetera?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. I mean, those issues have been dealt with under other inquiries and we are dealing with recommendations out of those other inquiries.
MITCHELL: OK. Thanks, Duncan. The Chair of the Energy Security Board, Kerry Schott, says our energy policy is in a state of anarchy?
PRIME MINISTER: Is there a call?
MITCHELL: No, no. Sorry.
PRIME MINISTER: Oh sorry. I thought there was another call coming.
MITCHELL: No sorry. Take your headphones off. A state of anarchy? Out of control?
PRIME MINISTER: No I don’t agree with that at all.
MITCHELL: Businesses are going it alone to reduce greenhouse gases according to reports today. Are you out of control with energy policy?
PRIME MINISTER: No I think that’s rubbish. I mean, what is necessary is that we need to get more reliability into the national energy market which covers the east coast of Australia. The reliability guarantee that our government has been pursuing for some time now through the states and territories is still a very live proposal and measure. And that is actually going through the states and territories now. The big missing link when we work through the issue of the National Energy Guarantee: it had two components. One was to provide reliability and increase contracting in the energy market for reliable power supply. That was the big missing piece and that part of the package goes forward. The other part was in relation to emissions reduction. Now what I don’t accept is that there’s any lack of certainty about what the emissions reduction commitments of our Government is. I mean, everybody knows what they are and we are meeting them.
MITCHELL: Report of a fire in Laverton North; we’ll check that in a moment. China, how tense are relationships with China? We’ve got a trade war, we’ve got military tensions. How difficult, at the moment, are our relations with China?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh I wouldn’t describe them as difficult.
MITCHELL: How would you describe them?
PRIME MINISTER: I would describe them as an important relationship which we just manage carefully, Neil. I’m not one for going around poking people in the eye, our allies our friends, our partners. I think it’s important that we just deal in a measured way and a constructive way.
MITCHELL: But this is a country that lives with a totally different set of morality to we do. I mean, there are re-education camps; they’re locking up millions of people to re-educate them. One of the world’s top policemen has been taken into custody when he went home to China.
PRIME MINISTER: Sure. And these are issues that have been raised by Australian Governments over decades. The reality is that we have a, I think, a very constructive commercial relationship with China. We don’t share all the same values and beliefs of China.
MITCHELL: But do we object to the fact that they are locking up millions of people to re-educate them.
PRIME MINISTER: These issues are raised and they’re raised at many levels.
MITCHELL: Have those been raised recently? The re-education camps?
PRIME MINISTER: I haven’t had any meetings directly.
MITCHELL: Because it’s not a free country is it?
PRIME MINISTER: It’s an important relationship for Australia and it’s an important relationship that we manage, I think, in a global scenario as well. We share deep values with the United States and a deep alliance with the United States and we have a very constructive strategic partnership with China and we play, I think, a positive role in trying to bridge this gap.
MITCHELL: Famously before the last election Malcolm Turnbull and your government took on the United Firefighters Union over the CFA issue. Have you got any other plans with the UFU? They’ve just disaffiliated with the Trades Hall Council here.
PRIME MINISTER: Well what I don’t want to see happen is a country where leaders seek to drive wedges between workers and employers. I mean you can’t lead a country that you’re seeking to divide. This is my problem with Bill Shorten. He wants to pick fights between Australians. He wants parents of children who go to state schools to be arguing with parents of children who go independent schools. He wants to set up conflict between workers and those they work for and I don’t think that’s a constructive way to build a stronger economy and so when militant unions want to come and drive the agenda and take our industrial relations system back 50 years, what that will do is slow the economy, it will take away jobs, it’ll ensure revenues to the Government which support essential services will be weaker, and that’s not how you run the show.
MITCHELL: Are you concerned about, what do I call it, social engineering and political correctness? A group advising the Victorian Government, the Equality Institute, wants to ban the term ‘pregnant women’.
PRIME MINISTER: [Laughter] Do they?
MITCHELL: They want it to be pregnant people because any gender… And then there’s this group overseas that want to spell woman W.O.M.X.N.
PRIME MINISTER: Well that’s ridiculous.
PRIME MINISTER: [Laughter] I can’t put it more bluntly than that, Neil. I mean honestly. Seriously. People should just honestly just get over themselves. I mean we want gender equality, we don’t want people discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality.
MITCHELL: Even in schools?
PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely. And we want all of that but we don’t have to carry on with that sort of nonsense, surely.
MITCHELL: A very serious point: the UK has appointed a Minister for suicide prevention even though their suicide rate is down. Ours isn’t down, ours is very bad as you would know.
PRIME MINISTER: It’s very concerning.
MITCHELL: Would you consider a Minister for suicide prevention?
PRIME MINISTER: Well it is the responsibility of the Minister for Health. And that’s Greg Hunt as you know, and I know he takes that incredibly seriously. And we’ve invested significantly more in mental health than…
MITCHELL: It needs more.
PRIME MINISTER: Well I don’t disagree and it needs to be effectively spent. Particularly for young people and at the moment where there’s been a big focus for us has been mental health for rural and regional areas particularly around the drought. We’ve increased the amount of mental health councillors going into those regions and I’m encouraging those in drought affected areas, if you are experiencing that depression or you’re down, reach out to those mental health councillors. That’s what they’re there for and they’re there to help you in a very difficult time.
MITCHELL: Are you having fun?
PRIME MINISTER: I did last Sunday when I went to Bathurst. Lily and I went for a hot lap with Mark Skaife and that was pretty cool.
MITCHELL: And is the job fun? How would you describe it?
PRIME MINISTER: I would describe it…well of course it’s a privilege, but the thing I love about the job most is people talk to you. When you’re Prime Minister people want to talk to you.
MITCHELL: Is it a bit overwhelming though? You get up in the morning and you’re shaving and you think “gee I’m Prime Minister”?
PRIME MINISTER: [Laughter] Well you don’t have much time to think about that, Neil. You really don’t. But it is cool that you can…people will just come and tell you their story. And I love that. If you don’t like people then don’t go into politics. I’m enjoying the opportunity to talk to Australians from all walks of life, rural areas, metropolitan areas, teachers, students, parents, and they’re giving me a lot of feedback and they’re really driving my priorities.
MITCHELL: Thank you so much for your time.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Neil. Great to be here, mate, thanks.