Interview on Mix 104.9 Darwin

 

KATIE WOOLF:

I’m very pleased to announce and welcome to the show the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, Good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Katie great to be with you.

KATIE WOOLF:

Lovely to have you in Darwin, how are you enjoying the weather so far?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is terrific, it’s warm but it’s not sticky so fantastic. Great.

KATIE WOOLF:

And I always think that the best thing you can do when you come to the top end is go for a beer at the pub which is what you did last night, how was it?

PRIME MINISTER:

It was fantastic, really great, Natasha Griggs introduced me to lots of people there, lots of her friends, and lots of other people that wandered in. It was great, it was a very good relaxing top end beer in the pub, and a good discussion about politics, lots of questions, and you know answers. It was great.

KATIE WOOLF:

What was high on the agenda for the punters in the pub?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there was a range of issues. They ranged from funding for health, we talked about negative gearing, we talked a lot about my government’s national economic plan, which I was explaining how everything we are doing, every single element of it is designed - and will deliver, stronger economic growth for jobs. We talked about there was a lot of interest in the big markets of Asia and the way in which the free trade agreements that we’ve negotiated under Andrew Robb’s leadership, Trade Minister - have opened up more markets for Australia and, of course, the Territories are a great beneficiary of that. And we talked also about the way in which we’ve been able to re-open the live cattle trade to Indonesia which of course the Labor party under Prime Minister Gillard slammed shut, damaging the live cattle trade, not to speak of our relations with Indonesia.

KATIE WOOLF:

Now of course, one of the other things that has been on the agenda, and I understand that you have been out to the Alan Walker Cancer Centre, to confirm, if re-elected the Turnbull government would invest that $15 million for the PET scanner and the associated equipment for the Northern Territory. Some people are saying it should have happened sooner than during the election campaign, what do you think?

PRIME MINISTER:

The challenge that we face, and we met - Natasha and I met earlier today with cancer survivors and people who are battling cancer, going through chemo at the moment, to talk about this. And the challenge that we face with all of these things, is that there are competing priorities. There are more good claims on the limited resources of Government than there is money to pay for them. And so it’s a question of priorities and we obviously tried, and we work hard to make our health dollar go as far as we can.

And one of the virtues, one of the benefits that living within your means - remember everything that we’re promising, and this is a commitment, this PET scanner and cyclotron, the $10 million commitment - is fully funded and its paid for. It’s in the budget, it’s accounted for, so this is not like the $66 billion of unfunded promises Bill Shorten has made. This is, this money is there, and so it would have been nice if the Labor government had delivered it back in 2010 when Natasha first made an election commitment for it, but they didn’t, they were in for six years and for three more years I should say, and didn’t deal with it, and now we’re delivering it, so It’s good.

KATIE WOOLF:

Now of course, health is going to be a major focus for the Northern Territory when we go to the polls federally on July 2. There has been a lot talk about the Palmerston Hospital as well. We actually spoke to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Adam Giles on this show last week, who said that he’d written to you seeking additional funding for the fit out of the hospital. He then conceded that he is possibly being a bit tricky seeking that funding. Are you confident that the Northern Territory Government can deliver the hospital with the funding that’s already been committed, and that they’re meeting the deadlines that are required?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I have discussed this with Natasha and she has confirmed to me, which is what we understand, that they have more than enough resources to complete the hospital. I won’t comment on the timing of the letter, but let me just give you some hard numbers. In this financial year just ending 2015-16 there is a $199 million coming from the Commonwealth direct to Northern Territory Hospital. Over the next four years up to 2019-20 that rises up to $278 million a year. So every year the Territory is getting more money, substantially more money, a 40 per cent increase of $79 million from 2015-16 to 2019-20 so we are spending a lot more money on hospitals, right across the country we’ve made additional commitments but again we are determined to ensure that the money is spent wisely and that we get the patients, get the service and the outcomes the health outcomes that they expect.

KATIE WOOLF:

Now of course on to another topic cause I know there is plenty we would like to cover off on and you are a busy man. We have heard this morning the Government’s decided to delay the backpacker tax. If re-elected there’ll also be a review into the area? Is that right?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes that’s right. There will be a review which will take, which will be done over six months. It will certainly be completed within six months. We recognise this is an area where there has been, there is concern from the horticulture sector in particular. Of course Natasha has been very eloquent and persuasive in expressing the concerns of growers in her, in the agriculture sector generally but it also affects hospitality. We believe this is something we need to have a closer look at. That will be done over the next six months in consultation with the various sectors affected, to present a revised approach.

KATIE WOOLF:

Now Prime Minister of course we do understand that money is tight and the Government is being very strategic with spending, but there is a bit of a feeling here in the Northern Territory from some, that we have been left out in the cold to some degree. We hear a lot about developing the North but aside from the $5 billion loan facility, some Territorians are feeling as though that developing the North has become a bit more of a catch cry rather than any real action. Can we expect any major announcements in this area?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well let me say that the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund – It’s taskforce - its headquarters is actually based here in Darwin. I can assure that this is a very – Darwin is, we see it as Australia’s gateway to Asia. It is a very, it is a strategically important city in the Northern Territory a its important in every respect. There’s huge resource projects, burgeoning tourism, international education, and of course a massive defence investment here, $8 billion of additional investment in defence infrastructure and facilities here over the next decade.

Going to a more local announcement you would have seen today that Natasha and I have announced a $29.5 million dollar commitment to the Barham Boulevard project which will of course considerably improve the access to the city. That will provide a new link between Tiger-Brennan Drive in the CBD in Darwin. So that’s going to be a very important element in the continued improvement and investment in infrastructure here. We’re funding three quarters of the cost of that project. So essentially, a $40 million project and we’re paying $30 million of it. So it’s a very substantial commitment and again, a testament to the way Natasha identifies the projects that are of greatest value to her constituents here in Solomon in Darwin, and secures the support of the Government for them.

KATIE WOOLF:

Given the importance of Darwin of course as being the gateway to Asia, and to the world I guess when it comes to different types of business, we had discussed it last time you were in Darwin, I certainly asked you about the lease of the Port. Should the Foreign Investment Review Board be strengthened more around this area to make sure that when we are looking investment here in the Northern Territory and all around Australia, that its good investment that’s going to certainly benefit Australians. I know there is some concern from Territorians still when it comes to the lease of that Port.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I understand that Katie. That’s a fair question. Let me answer it in two parts. Firstly as far as the sale of the port is concerned it didn’t require, at the time, the Foreign Investment Review Board consideration. But nonetheless all of the defence and strategic aspects of it were carefully examined by the Department of Defence and by ASIO and the sale was approved or considered, vetted in that way, very very thoroughly. So from that point of view, from a defence point of view that was covered.

The second part of my answer is that in the future this sale occurred around the time I became Prime Minister. So what Scott Morrison has done - obviously it was a Government decision, it’s being done with the support of the Cabinet – what he has done is ensured that there is a new arrangement with the States and Territories so the strategic assets at this time are reviewed by the Foreign Investment Review board in the way that I think many Territorians feel should be done. I think most Australians would agree with that too. So the concern has been, in the particular case here, the defence issues were carefully examined as it happened. But for the future strategic assets of this kind, the sale of them will be carefully scrutinised.

KATIE WOOLF:

Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull, we know you’ve very busy this morning and I really appreciate you taking the time to have a chat with us this morning and covering off on such a wide range of issues. Thank you so much for talking with us today.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you so much it’s great to be here with Natasha.