Tuesday 22 September 2020
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Australian PM - 2 month ago

Interview with Oly Peterson, 6PR

OLY PETERSON: Let s go to Canberra right now, joining me live on the programme from Parliament House the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. Welcome to Perth Live. PRIME MINISTER: G’day Oly. PETERSON: I’m sure Mathias Cormann, Michaelia Cash, Linda Reynolds, Christian Porter, Ben Morton, you name them, the WA Liberals they ve sent the message Prime Minister, West Australians overwhelmingly love the hard border. So was it a captain s call? Was it your call to withdraw the federal government support of Clive Palmer s High Court challenge? PRIME MINISTER: Well, yes, this is the decision we came to. And a lot has changed since Clive Palmer first brought that action. We didn t bring the action it was brought by Clive Palmer. And it s very normal in those circumstances when you ve got a constitutional case, I mean, it is actually the convention that the federal government just participates in those proceedings. But given the very significant changes that had taken place, particularly in Victoria, in the eastern states, I mean, I didn t want to see there to be any anxiety amongst the Western Australian public. And that that struck me is the right thing to do. And so I ve had a number of chats with Mark McGowan about this, and we were just working the issue through constructively. So I ve got no quarrel with Mark. And it s important that we do everything we can to protect the public health situation. And so that s exactly what we re doing and we re just getting on with it. PETERSON: Why did the federal government back the Clive Palmer case in the first place? PRIME MINISTER: Well, I just answered that. I mean, it is the normal practise on any constitutional case like this. I mean, it s all the legal stuff. But I mean, when any constitutional case of this nature goes before the high court, the high court expects the Commonwealth to actually participate. That s the expectation on us. So we were following the normal legal precedent in these cases. PETERSON: But now you’ve pulled out? PRIME MINISTER: But in this one, in this one, we, I made the exception. I made an exception. I suspect the High Court doesn t like we’ve done it. I imagine they ll give me a bit of chip for doing it. PETERSON: So why did you pull out, Prime Minister? Because the talkback lines, the overwhelming feedback from West Australians, is they’re going to punish the federal government. Did you do this because the political ramifications for your government were so severe here in Western Australia? PRIME MINISTER: No, and I don t think that s what people should believe either, because that s not how it played out. I mean, things changed a lot between when this case was first brought by Clive Palmer. So Mark McGowan has a quarrel with Clive Palmer. Not with me. And a lot has changed since then. I mean, remember, it was in August that the Premier himself said he was going to lift the border. So a lot has changed since then. And what I ve learnt and know as I ve sought to manage this crisis from a national perspective is you ve got to move as events change it, and as circumstances change. I didn t want there to be any anxiety in Western Australia, and I didn t want that juiced up by any, anyone seeking to create any panic or anxiety. I think that would be very harmful. So I thought this was the sensible and wise thing to do. PETERSON: Do you regret it though now, if you had your time over again, would you have stayed out of Clive Palmer s challenge? PRIME MINISTER: Well, that would have been to not do my other first responsibility to follow the constitutional conventions that a Prime Minister has to follow. I mean, I have many responsibilities Oly, and I have to manage all of these together. And remember when we first participated, back then, the situation was completely different. So as circumstances change, then we made a change to our position, which I believe was in, not just in the benefit of Western Australians, but all Australians. 
The WA Premier wants this federal court challenge withdrawn. Is that something that the Commonwealth will make representation on tomorrow? PETERSON: Well, we re out of the case. I mean, the Premier when he wrote to me on, he asked me to get out. So we got out just like he asked. He didn t ask us to do a whole range of other things. He just said, will you get out now? And so I said, yes. So we ve done that. And so we re quite, I ll be writing a letter back, which I think will help him in the petitions he s making before the Court. And we ve got no issue with that being redone or restarted or however they, you know, I know I m aware of what he s taking forward. So we don t have any objection to that. PRIME MINISTER: So you will be making a submission tomorrow in WA’s favour this time? PRIME MINISTER: Well, look it’s legalese and all the rest of it. And the Attorney-General I know has made some comments on this as well. But I mean, basically the court is, as I understand it is going to simply ask us, you ve pulled out of this and to explain how that was done. And that s simply what we ll do. I mean, we re doing exactly what Premier McGowan asked us to do, which was to get out. So we did. PETERSON: So will you be doing a 180 and back the WA position? PRIME MINISTER: Well, I just said we have no problem with what the WA submission is putting forward, but I ll be in a position to argue that and the letter I ll provide, I m sure, should assist their case. But the other thing is when I wrote back to Premier McGowan last week and I said to him, I said, look, Mark, there are a couple of things you could do to help your own case here. And they were pretty simple things. I said, first of all, if we all acknowledge that no one should be out there just doing something indiscriminately, I mean, that s not a particularly hard thing to agree to. Secondly, that when you do something like this to consult with others, and particularly your neighbouring states, and fourthly, when you put arrangements in place, make sure you think through the implications so there are no unintended consequences. Now, as yet, the Premier hasn t yet agreed to all of those things. I mean, he says they re a starting point for negotiation, they seem pretty commonsense to me. So I think, as I said to him, I said, you agree to these things, we think that ll actually help your case. We wanted to help. So there we are. PETERSON: So are your worries and concerns still that the repercussions of the Clive Palmer case is if he wins, then all of the state borders have to come down. So Queensland banning the southern states, New South Wales forcing anyone who s been in Victoria to hotel quarantine, that the high court could say that they’re unlawful, it s a free for all Prime Minister? PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think that s a pretty extreme set of circumstances you ve just outlined. I mean, my advice is that s pretty unlikely at that level. But, I mean, the High Court will have its own mind, and it has discretion to make its own judgements. I can t read their mind as to what they re going to do. And so we have made some suggestions about what we think would actually strengthen the position of the W.A. government and to deal with any sort of issues or questions that are there. And we haven t, we re not making any requests of them, as I wrote to Mark last week, that we re not asking them to change their border arrangements. A lot has changed since the original case came forward. And we re dealing with the situation as it is. And the other point I made, which I know Mark agrees with and- a border of itself doesn t keep you safe. You ve got to have a strong public health system. You ve got to have a strong testing and tracing regime as well. And you ve got to keep practising the social distancing and you ve got to keep ensuring that the COVIDSafe workplaces are in place. I mean, you get a breach out of hotel quarantine or something like that, then Western Australia s no safer than anywhere else when those things happen, I mean, in New South Wales, they ve been dealing with this, I think, extremely well. And they ve been able to avoid this big wave in New South Wales so far and that s a tremendous job. But we ve seen the catastrophe in Victoria. So I d just sort of make the point and I know, Mark understands this, the Premier understands this, we’ve got to keep making sure that your tracing and testing capability is match fit. PETERSON: Let s be crystal clear, Prime Minister, what is your position now on the borders? Because do you still want to see some movement beyond Western Australia s borders to areas of the country or states in the country where there is no spread of COVID-19? PRIME MINISTER: Look, I ll tell you exactly which was what was in the letter I sent to Mark. And what he put in the letter back to me. It said, “the Commonwealth is not requesting the Western Australian government to change its current border settings”. I could not be any clearer. PETERSON: And now you ll be assisting the case for the WA government in its fight against Clive Palmer? PRIME MINISTER: We’re sending a letter back to Mark, it ll be there tomorrow. And we have no problem with what they re putting to the Court at all. PETERSON: When do you see yourself being able to visit WA again? And could you be on the hustings perhaps with Liza Harvey perhaps before the March state election? PRIME MINISTER: You d have to ask Mark. I m not allowed to come at the moment, mate. So I d love to come. You know how much I love coming to Western Australia. But I look, I ll be there when everyone else can be there. PETERSON: Turning to Victoria, where the crisis is now, is that a disaster? Recording another 434 cases today, eight more deaths, 42 patients in ICU. Is it going to get worse before it gets better, Prime Minister? PRIME MINISTER: Well, I hope not, but that is our concern. The reason why the Victorian government has had to take these unprecedented and terribly, terribly dramatic steps is because what was happening up until there wasn t working, and that was also our assessment. They’ve put in even stronger measures now and we certainly hope they do and we re doing everything we can to help make that work. It needs to work not just for Victorians, but for all of us right across the country. It s having a terribly devastating impact, not only on the Victorian economy, as I ve said today, but that is spreading out now beyond the Victorian economy. As I mentioned in my press conference today, I mean, the total cost of this to our economy just in the September quarter has the three months to the end of September, we anticipate to now be around $10 to $12 billion. I mean, that s devastating. It’s 250,000 to 400,000 people who will either be out of work or reduced to zero hours and out of the workforce. So these are terrible impacts. That s why we ve done everything we JobKeeper, JobSeeker, cashflow allowance support, pandemic leave support, payments so people are allowed to isolate when they re told to when they ve had a positive test or they re having to be separated from work for having to isolate. I mean, we ve done everything from help feed the animals in zoos, to supporting the entertainment industry who are particularly affected by these issues, through to helping people build their homes. And we have a great partnership with Mark McGowan on the HomeBuilder programme over there in the West and that s proving to be very successful. So there s no shortage of things we re doing to address what this is, but this pandemic, this virus, is having a terrible impact. But in Australia, we ve been doing better than many and most. Even with the outbreak in Victoria, we are still performing extremely well at a global level. PETERSON: There are some pretty frightening statements that you just made about the state of the economy. Might it suggest as well that the COVID benefits which we outlined, JobKeeper, JobSeeker, that might need to be expanded even further into next year, beyond March? Would you even consider easing the requirements for those businesses which are not eligible so that more can either stay or join the scheme? PRIME MINISTER: Well, I ll have a bit more to say about that in the next few days. But we ve already extended out till the end of March from the end of September. So we ve already extended it by six months and we just announced that a few weeks ago. PETERSON: Might leave the rate at $1,500 a fortnight, not the planned cut to $1,200 from September? PRIME MINISTER: Well, in Western Australia, I mean, this is a national scheme, right? So in Western Australia, things are getting better and better. So that s tremendous. We want to see that continue. The same should be true in Queensland, South Australia and the rest of the country. There are specific issues happening in Victoria and it s important that where there are specific issues in a particular state, you know, obviously, we want the states and territories to do their share of the heavy lifting in this as well. Let me give you a few figures. I mean, we ve already put in $289 billion on direct support and balance sheet support to the Australian economy. That s about 15 percent of the size of our economy. In Victoria, they ve put in $10.5 billion. All the states and territories combined all together, they ve put in $43.7 billion, which is 2.2 percent of GDP. So, you know, we want the states to continue to do what they re doing. I welcome the fact that Mark McGowan made that announcement he did the other day with the additional support package for Western Australia. Western Australia is now at $5.4 billion of investment. That s about 1.8 percent of GDP. As I said, the Commonwealth is at 15 percent of GDP. So that is just under 2 percent of the size of the state economy. So that s what WA is doing. So that s great there s going in there. But there s still, obviously, if there is more that needs to be done, I m sure that that Mark will be putting his hands in his pockets with Ben Wyatt over there in the state coffers to make sure that the WA economy gets what it needs. PETERSON: Labor has been hounding you for Parliament to sit. Now, it is happening again August 24th. Might you try and shorten the next sitting period or are Victorian MPs, are they going to have to isolate in Canberra for two weeks before the next sitting of the House of Representatives? PRIME MINISTER: They will, they will have to isolate either in Canberra or in Melbourne. And it isn t sitting in this sitting fortnight, that was against the medical advice. I don t quite understand why Labor were carrying on about that, because they said we should follow the health advice. When I rang Anthony Albanese and said, well, the health advice is that we shouldn t sit, he agreed. And now he says we should be sitting when the health advice says we shouldn t. So that s having a bit each way, I think, and I think that s just a bit of politics. PETERSON: Before you go, Prime Minister. Clive Palmer, one last question on the Clive Palmer hard border case. Should he just drop it altogether? PRIME MINISTER: Well, we never wanted him to bring it in the first place. I mean, it was our preference that this case never had appeared. But once it had, well, it created quite a few issues for us. I m pleased that we re out of it. I m pleased that s happened. So I ve got no beef with the Western Australian government on this. We re all working together, as the Premier and I have been from the get go on this through the National Cabinet. We ve been working extremely well together and we re going to keep doing that and I wish them very well with how they have to, well, how they ll be considering these issues further. But I d prefer it had never arisen and I m pleased we re out of it and we ll keep doing what we can to support Western Australians wherever we can. PETERSON: Prime Minister, appreciate your time from Canberra this afternoon. You have a good day. PRIME MINISTER: You too, Oly. All the best and to all of your listeners. Cheers. PETERSON: Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia.

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