ALAN JONES: The Prime Minister's on the line from Melbourne, Prime Minister good morning.
PRIME MINISTER: Good morning Alan
ALAN JONES: thank you for your time. I wish we had three hours but look can I just ask you something out of left field here. You would be aware as a New South Wales person that there are a number of New South Wales properties which now we're learning day by day contain this dangerous combustible cladding which is similar to what was wrapped around the Grenfell Tower in London before that huge fire killed 72 people. Now this is a state responsibility and they're asking you for money,
PRIME MINISTER: The New South Wales Government hasn’t.
ALAN JONES: now given the urgency, no the Victorian Government is. But the New South Wales Government has said that you know this is a matter for the builder and the developer and the body corporate and so on. I'm just wondering given the urgency and the real concern about this whether you shouldn't stump up the money and take it from the GST allocation?
PRIME MINISTER: Well the New South Wales Government hasn’t asked and I met with the Premier just this week about these issues and they're not planning to make any such request, they will deal with these issues themselves directly.
ALAN JONES: But if I could just interrupt you Prime Minister they are refusing. I have concerns here with the government because they're refusing to release a full list of properties which have cladding. People are genuinely worried about this and at the end of the day how do we repair this how do we obviate the risk?
PRIME MINISTER: Well that's what the State Government should do just like it's their job to deal with policing on the ground at a community level. I mean they're the jobs a state government-
ALAN JONES: I know but I'm saying to you, I know I know I know I know Scott I know that. But at the end of the day what if you stumped up the money couldn't you say well okay we will, say that we'll look after the people but I'm sorry we'll take it away from your GST allocation.
PRIME MINISTER: Well the other thing I'm not going to do is draw the Commonwealth taxpayer the liability on this issue that rests completely with the state.
ALAN JONES: I understand but there’d be no liability if you took the money out of their GST.
PRIME MINISTER: Well I don't have that option to just take it out of their GST Alan because there's a legal agreement with states about GST as well. There's no option under the law that would enable me to do that either. This is a state problem-
ALAN JONES: I know but people are genuinely worried, they're being evacuated see you've got to, I don't want to dwell on this, I'm sure you're up to speed already-
PRIME MINISTER: we had a meeting yesterday on it, we had a meeting yesterday amongst building Ministers and Karen Edwards did a great job of getting them all to focus on implementing the recommendations of that report which was given to all the states that sat on it-
ALAN JONES: I know, 18 months 18 months. But at this time-
PRIME MINISTER: They expect their governments to do their job. And I'll do my job. They should do their job.
ALAN JONES: That's terrific. But everybody's sort of passing the buck in a way. I just want to make the point to you because people would expect me-
PRIME MINISTER: But this doesn’t come to the Commonwealth on this one Alan.
ALAN JONES: No. But there is in a way because the Commonwealth Government has made that report, or joint report, Commonwealth states 18 months ago, everyone sat on it and so people listening to me now and listening to me speak to their Prime Minister. Those people, forget who’s responsibility it is, have paid stamp duty. They've got a mortgage. They can't live in the property that they bought. They can't sell the property they've bought and they've got to pay rent. And they're saying no one is prepared to come to my aid.
PRIME MINISTER: Well State Governments should be and that's their job. And I'll hold them accountable for what their responsibilities are. But if State Governments want to hand over the keys to let the Federal Government run them that's a different issue. I don't think that's a good idea. State Government should get on and look after their responsibilities and the public have a right to expect the State Government to take action on these issues. Passing the buck to the Commonwealth Government doesn't solve it. It's their responsibility. They need to deal with it.
ALAN JONES: I know but the poor people who are living there have got no answers yet. Look anyway to yesterday-
PRIME MINISTER: If every time Alan, if every time the Commonwealth Government, when State Governments don't do something, stepped in then that doesn't that doesn't actually give you a long term solution.
ALAN JONES: No I know that. I mean we know all that and I'm simply saying at the-
PRIME MINISTER: State Governments- put leave passes on them-
ALAN JONES: I know that, we all know that Prime Minister, we all know that. But at the end of the day nothing is relieving the dreadful circumstances these people now face and they're saying well who is going to do that. You're saying the states must but the states aren’t. So where do we go? Nowhere. Anyway listen you'd be flattered to know I've read everything that you have said both in the article to the Daily Telegraph and yesterday at Dubbo and you talked about economic and environmental futures you talked about, we've got to grow together not grow up. You've talked about, and well done by the way on the farm invasion thing, and tackling-
PRIME MINISTER: We’ve got legislation to deal with the next fortnight.
ALAN JONES: Good on you. Well done. You said 40 per cent of young people in school Grade 10 believe bananas bread and cheese didn't come from farming. You made the point that farmers are the best environmentalist, you talked about a national drought summit. Seven billion bucks for drought relief. I am coming to a point Prime Minister, bear with me, and that farmers feed more than 40 million people. And that was in your article in the Telly then yesterday you made that speech in Dubbo. I was interested to read that your grandmother came from Eugowra, a farming family. A population of 800. You mentioned Major General Stephen Day the drought coordinator. I talk to drought people every day they’ve never seen him. You talked about building drought resilience and then you mentioned that David Littleproud quote will have more to say on that in the coming months. And I got to page nine of what you had to say in the transcript and then you use that elusive word. You build dams. Where? When? When will we harvest water?
PRIME MINISTER: Let me tell you right now these are the dams that are currently or have been built since we- since 2016. Northern Adelaide irrigation Scheme- $150 million; the South West Loddon Pipeline in Victoria $80 million; $60 million on the MacAlister Irrigation District modernization in Victoria; The Sunraysia modernisation project; the Scottsdale irrigation scheme, $51 million there; the Mareeba Dimbulah water supply scheme, the Nogoa McKenzie water supply scheme; the Rookwood Weir $352 million; the $396 million for the Myalup-Wellington Project which is still to come. On top of there are commitments for $75 million on the Dungowan Dam; the Tasmanian irrigation tranche 3 scheme $100 million, the Record Brook dam, the Emu Swamp dam which I only spoke to the Queensland Premier about the other day, the Hells Gates dam project up there in Northern Queensland and the big one also the Alstonville dam which is part of the Hughenden irrigation scheme. I mean there’s a billion dollars already spent-
ALAN JONES: this sounds like this stuff-
PRIME MINISTER: - that is already being constructed and there's another $2 billion on top of that billion which will all go into the national water grid project which the Deputy Prime Minister is now acting on so that that's where we’re building dams Alan.
ALAN JONES: You won an election because you were on top of detail it's to your great credit. However in spite of what you've just said the productive part of Australia which is Queensland, western Queensland, and New South Wales from the border to Victoria and farmers needing access to water there is none, N. O. N. E. None. They have no access to that water. Indeed the Murray-Darling Basin which I personally think is a disgrace and ought to be abolished. And I've read everything that's been written on the damn thing it's a $13 billion dollar plan. It's taken thirteen hundred gigalitres litres of water from irrigators who put food on our table. That's three Sydney harbours and so communities like Dirranbandi, and Warren, Collarenebri are dying because unless the farm has water you can't grow anything without water and all those farmers got no access to water, Prime Minister none.
PRIME MINISTER: The Murray-Darling Basin scheme as you know Allan, operates and has, under a set of agreements put together by State Governments 100 years ago. Now I said this when I was in Dubbo yesterday, to want to be able to have a look at all that sort of stuff, States have to be prepared to walk away from the entitlements they have. Under the Murray Darling Basin, not the scheme but the actual agreements that go back to 1914, and they have allotments and rights coming out of that scheme whether it's in South Australia, Victoria, or New South Wales. And the Murray Darling Basin scheme actually sits within the crucible of those agreements. Now the states then allocate the water and they do it differently in Victoria as they do it in New South Wales. This now on the Murray there is plenty of water coming down through there and a lot of that is reserved up in the Hume dam. If you're talking about what's coming down the Darling, well there's nothing coming down the Darling because of drought, and then you've got the issues about what's- through the sea.
ALAN JONES: -But Prime Minister can I just-
PRIME MINISTER: I agree that it's a difficult and complex issues-
ALAN JONES: No but Prime Minister you see- it’s all
PRIME MINISTER: - difficult issues- But you've got to be able to ensure that you have a scheme that at least has the support to make that work. Without that scheme it would be even worse.
ALAN JONES: But PM listen we talk about this Murray Darling Basin its volume is twenty two thousand seven hundred gigalitres. Queensland's north east has ninety one thousand water goes into the ocean four times more than the Murray Darling, the Gulf of Carpentaria has a hundred and thirty thousand gigalitres go into the ocean. The Clarence Basin similarly now we are just wasting-
PRIME MINISTER: I'm agreeing with you. This is where, I mean and when we're talking about some of these programs, take the Hughenden irrigation scheme for example, take the big rocks dam, Hells Gates, these sorts of projects. That's all about actually trying to capture and store and actually distribute that water across those western plains. So I think we're in violent agreement about the need for the, for the National Water grid to be able to be addressing these-
ALAN JONES: yeah but see, Prime Minister I'd love you to talk-
PRIME MINISTER So I'm keen to get on with it.
PRIME MINISTER: I know, but look this is a crisis. I'd love you to talk to Leo [inaudible] I mean he's one of the outstanding public figures, he's 92. Frank Moore's 88, now they are saying very simply that they want to open vast areas of Queensland and New South Wales to water, to food and fibre production so they’re saying, connect the dam in the North Hills Creek dam to the South, tunnels, channels, pipelines you meet up with the Thompson in the Warrego rivers. You eliminate flooding you save the Murray Darling you open up the west of the Great Dividing Range to food and fibre now he’s done this and talked about it and nothing has happened.
PRIME MINISTER: Well again Alan, I don't agree that nothing's happened because I ran you through a fairly significant list of projects that-
ALAN JONES: The growers of farm produce are not getting any water.
PRIME MINISTER: Well I can’t turn a dam on in 10 minutes.
ALAN JONES: Well listen, do you understand that’s the issue. We can't have food without water.
PRIME MINISTER: Now of course I understand, you can't if you can't have food without soil also. Which is the point I made in Dubbo yesterday. That's why I've reappointed Major General Jeffery. I think he's done outstanding work when it comes to rehabilitating our soils.
ALAN JONES: I know that but we’re talking water PM.
PRIME MINISTER: Well hang on. As Major General Jeffrey has said, one gram of soil carbon, this is what he argues, carries eight times its weight in water. And so the depletion of soil carbon in our soils is actually a huge problem in terms of what is happening with our management-
ALAN JONES: but you also said in your speech that farmers are our best environmentalist they know all this, and they are looking after the farm but see, Jack Beale, this is how far behind the eight ball, it’s not your fault. I'm just saying because you're the Prime Minister it lands on your desk, but in the 1950s Jack Beale proposed a giant water and power project that would dwarf the Snowy Mountains Scheme. He said 14 storage dams, link them by cuttings and tunnels and pipelines, divert this water inland. You'd have 10 Sydney Harbours which currently flow out into the ocean, but then he said this, Jack Beale, surplus coastal water is the logical future source for arid inland development and electricity generation. He said the water captured under this scheme could be diverted to Queensland and into the Murray Darling, doubling the flow of the Murray Darling and minimising its salinity. And then this wonderful quote, a nation can't afford to let resources remain idle even if it has to build pyramids. How good’s that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I don’t know if we’re going to build a pyramid, but we’re certainly going to build some dams and the National Water Grid authority that comes into place in coming weeks, its job is to assess all of those sort of projects, look at the projects we're already funding and we're already working with and we've got to have the states on board for this too Alan. We can't build a dam anywhere in Australia without a state-
ALAN JONES: I know I know.
PRIME MINISTER: Without state approval-
ALAN JONES: I know but I want to know how the farmer gets access to water. How does the farmer get access?
PRIME MINISTER: Well they get their allocations from the State Government.
ALAN JONES: But they get taken away, the allocations are taken away for quote, environmental flows. You've heard me say thirteen hundred gigalitres, now the farmer would pay for water if he knew he had a guarantee of supply but he hasn't got it. And here we've got the best agricultural land in the world we could feed Asia if we had water.
PRIME MINISTER: Well that's why we announced yesterday in our 100:30 plan, the way we get to a 100 billion dollar agricultural industry is not only better manage our water resources but preventive managing our vegetation and our souls and all of this and that's how you get there, you open up your trade markets which is what we're doing. And you put in place these investments and you do it cooperatively with the states and territories because they have the interest in achieving this as well. Alan don’t think there's not a sense of urgency about this, there absolutely is.
ALAN JONES: Oh okay. We're relying on you, the quiet Australians are relying on you. One question yes or no. Are you going to constitutionally entrench in an Indigenous voice in the Constitution?
PRIME MINISTER: No.
ALAN JONES: Okay thank you. Thank you for your time. I've got to go to the news we’ve got these damn networks, Okay talk again soon, okay bye, bye. Prime Minister.