Thursday 9 July 2020
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Australian PM - 1 month ago

Interview with Neil Breen, 4BC

Neil Breen: Good morning Prime Minister. Prime Minister: G’day Neil, how are you mate? Breen: I’m very well, thank you. I m going to ask you how you are later on, because I want to ask some personal things.  Prime Minister: Sure.  Breen: But why are you so worried about the building industry? Prime Minister: Well, the home building industry is critical to our economies all around the country. In regional areas and metropolitan areas and it s a key sector that feeds so many other industries and businesses and the retail sector. And we ve been advised that we re looking at the back half of this year, early next year, some 30,000 homes aren t going to get built and that s very important. We need to get those homes built and for people who might have been understandably pulling back or backing off on their commitments to go ahead or things like this, we want them to go ahead and we want to help them do that to create jobs. It’s all about jobs. And at the end of the day, the difficult news we got yesterday about what happened in the first quarter of this year, and we expect that to get worse than the one we re in right now, that s why we re putting these plans in place. We know it s tough, but we ve got the plans to get us out of it, not just in the short term with programmes like this, but in the longer term as well. Breen: A lot of people are asking questions of us on the show today. Why the cap, the $150,000 to $750,000 cap? Why can t I get my bathroom done? Why can t I get this done? I ve been telling them two words - pink batts. Is that the reason you ve got to keep this at a level where it can t be rorted by shonks? Prime Minister: That is right. That s a big part of the reason. The other thing is it s about getting big homes built. I mean, those projects have bigger tickets of $500,000, $350,000 that is the average cost to build a house. And then we re looking at the big renos, so when people are making major structural changes. That s bringing more jobs in, more tradies in and all of this has to go through the proper processes. We will be keen to see that the states make sure that those approval processes move quickly. They ve been very supportive of this. We learnt a lot of the lessons. It wasn t us, our government at the time, but we ve put this money through existing types of programmes. The states have run these before. So there s checks and balances and then we make sure that it doesn t get rorted and the people who are going ahead and the people keep the dream alive of their new home and apprentices and those in the building trades are keeping their jobs alive too.  Breen: Prime Minister, the building and construction industry isn t the only one that s in trouble. Many industries are in trouble. I want to read you a stat. There s only three flights a week landing at Gold Coast Airport. The traffic through the Gold Coast Airport dropped 99 per cent, 99 per cent, in May. It was down 470,000 visitors. You can t travel around. The tourism and travel industry, the hospitality industry around it has been decimated. Is there any hope for them? Prime Minister: Well, we need to open the borders. It’s simple. I mean, that s what s going to get flights moving again and that s why that s so important. And the timetable that the National Cabinet has is that interstate travel will be up and running again in July and so we need to get to that point and if we can do it sooner, I think that would be fantastic. I mean, states are taking their own health advice on this. But as you know, the National Cabinet never made a decision to close any borders down. And so we ve got JobKeeper in place, we’ve got JobSeeker in place. I mean, when we put those in place, that was before any of the numbers that came in. We knew that this coronavirus was going to hit our economy incredibly hard and so we moved quickly to get those programmes in place. Other countries just put them in place for about three months. We knew this was going to go on a lot longer than that, we put in place for six months. As the Treasurer said yesterday, he will be joining me again this morning, in the middle of July we ll be looking at what happens subsequent to that. Breen: What have you made of the border wars? And it s really been focused on the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk against the New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, even though other states have their borders closed. What have you made of that war over the border between Queensland and New South Wales? Prime Minister: Well, I m not terribly interested in the conflict. I just want to see the economy get moving again and people make decisions to do that. I m very appreciative of what has been a very cooperative role between the states and territories. But obviously on this point, there s been you know, there s been a bit of a blue. And I think for those who are working in the tourism and travel industry, in particular, for those who work at Virgin, you know, we want to see that airline get back on its feet and making good progress there. It’s one of the reasons why I m keen to open up that border with New Zealand that was really going to help Virgin as well as Qantas. And there are a lot of Virgin employees in Queensland and opening up the borders is only good for aviation. Breen: And just quickly, can I ask you a question about the GDP figures, 0.3 per cent. It s going to be a recession, we know that. Paul Keating called it the recession we had to have in 1990. What are you calling this recession? Prime Minister: Well, it s a lot of heartache for Australia. That s what it is. I mean, at the end of the day, these aren t numbers. These are about people, people who ve lost their jobs. And our job now is to win the battle for jobs and that s why today s announcement is so important. Whether it s in the construction industry or the many other sectors we ve been supporting right across the economy with JobKeeper and JobSeeker and we ve got to look longer term. I mean, we won t dig ourselves out of this quickly and that s why I ve talked about the need for… not talked about, we re already moving on getting people with the right skills in the jobs and working more closely with industry. We ve got the groups started meeting yesterday to see how we can get our industrial relations working better. On Monday, the Western Sydney Airport, I know it’s a New South Wales programme, but we ve got projects, big projects, running all around the country. That s how you get your economy back on track. Yesterday s numbers were expected and compared to the rest of the world, I mean, we’ve seen almost 10 times worse overseas. I tell you, particularly in a crisis like this, there is no place you d rather be than Australia. Breen: Well, Australia s done very well in controlling the virus. It s time for us to get moving again. Now, I don t think there s any doubt about that. But just with regards to your prime ministership, how you re feeling this year, how much pressure did you feel as though you were under when Australia sunk into this crisis and you thought that anything could happen over the next couple of months? Prime Minister: Well, the crisis was real. This was not a drill. It was deadly serious and literally deadly serious from the health perspective. But I always knew that the impact on the economy would also be absolutely shocking. And so we called that early. I mean, we called the health pandemic before the World Health Organisation. We moved to close our borders, probably the first to do that, particularly with mainland China and then we just got everybody together, getting working together. And that was the key, getting people to work together is the key to getting through these crises- Breen: Do we have to move that fast to come out now, though?  Prime Minister: To move that fast?  Breen: Opening borders and… Prime Minister: There’s no grass growing under our feet when it comes to the stuff we re doing. Government has been working at a cracking pace and it will continue to because you ve got to have the short term things, like what we re announcing today, really important for now to support the demand in the economy. But you ve got to work on the long term things as well. I mean, this is going to be a five year road back for Australia to get us back to that level of employment and that means we ve got to work hard over all of that period of time. We will move quickly in these first years and right now, it s about keeping people in those jobs where we can and for businesses to be able to reset themselves so they can be successful on the other side of this virus. Breen: Can I ask about the COVIDSafe app? I haven t heard any politicians mention it for a couple of weeks. Is it working at all? Is it doing his job? Prime Minister: Yeah, it is. I mean, we got about 6.3 million Australians who ve downloaded the app, which is tremendous. But we still need people to do that and there s plenty more people to download we know and particularly with people starting to move around a lot more now, with things starting to open up, the COVIDSafe app becomes more important than ever. It s one of the protections, one of the important protections we have in place. Isolating those who have the virus and those they ve been in contact with is our principal weapon against stopping the spread within the community. We have done that arguably better than almost any other country in the world. And the COVIDSafe app is a key tool in enabling those health workers, those health detectives, tracking down every single case. Now fortunately, they don t have too many to track down at the moment. We want to keep it that way. Breen: I’ve just got two more questions for you. Firstly, you re doing the announcement today in the seat of Eden-Monaro, you re not going to lose that seat are you, surely? Prime Minister: We don t hold it. It s a Labor-held seat. Breen: Oh yes, it is, it is, yes. Prime Minister: Yes, it’s a Labor-held seat and the last time the government won a byelection against the sitting Labor seat was a hundred years ago. Breen: I forgot that, because it is the bellwether seat. Normally the government holds it. Prime Minister: No, it s been held by Labor Party for a while. So look, look we re out here. We ve got a great candidate in Fiona Kotvojs and the things, what matters is the jobs and the rebuilt. Rebuilding back better in communities that are affected by the bushfires and this has been particularly one where I am today in the seat of Eden-Monaro. But building back from the impacts of coronavirus, getting through the crisis, but then building back strongly. And, you know, over six years, we worked so hard to get the budget back into balance, to get the funding into the services and we ve done it before so we can do it again. Breen: And I have to ask you, you should have woken up to a loss this morning because Queensland should have beaten New South Wales in the Origin match in Adelaide last night. Of course, it wasn t played. You re going to wake up to a loss on Sunday morning because the Sharkies are coming up to play the Cowboys. You re 0-3. What has happened to the Sharkies? Prime Minister: Well, it hasn’t been a great start for the Sharks, that s fair to say. But, you know, Sharks supporters are true believers. They re always believing, they re always hoping. I m a big fan of hope and it should be a good reunion with Val up there and I know the boys are probably looking forward to that. But there s always been a really good, I think, vibe between the Sharks and the Cowboys. The games are always fantastic, there s no doubt about that. But, you know, I wouldn t be too cocky, wouldn t be too cocky. Sharks always surprise you. Breen: If you wanted to attend, would you be allowed in? Are you an essential worker? Prime Minister: Oh, look, I get invitations, but I don t- I ll go back to the football when everybody else can. Of course, I d love to go. I was invited to go out to the Sharks game the other night. I said, well, thank you very much. But the only thing you ll probably see of me at the game is one of those cardboard cutouts like everyone else.   Breen: Thanks very much, Prime Minister. And thanks for correcting me, of course Labor s Mike Kelly has held that seat. That was my bad. Thanks for joining us on 4BC Breakfast, Prime Minister, and keep leading us out of this trouble that we re in with the coronavirus. Prime Minister: Thanks Breeny, all the best. Cheers. [END]

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