Interview with Alan Jones, 2GB

 

ALAN JONES:

The Prime Minister is on the line from Cairns, I think. Prime Minister good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Alan

ALAN JONES:

Are you still standing?

PRIME MINISTER:

(Laughter)

Yes I am.

ALAN JONES:

The flu has got you?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I think I am on the mend actually - I think I'm bouncing back.

ALAN JONES:

Too much exercise they reckon.

Look thank you for your time, I spoke to you last week about this awful predicament just before we get to other things, in Oakey on the Darling Downs. I know that Marise Payne, the Defence Minister is going to go there tomorrow and the Defence Department have now verified the link between these chemicals and ill health. I'm wondering if you have noted today that it has worsened because these same toxic chemicals have been detected in waterways surrounding Brisbane Airport and just like Oakey, Brisbane Airport used this firefighting foam containing PFOS and PFOA. Apparently tests conducted in the last few days have found tributaries that flow directly into the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay have levels of these two toxic chemicals more than 60 times the maximum exposure limit. Of course - as you know Moreton Bay is Queensland's most valuable recreational and commercial fishery and more than 475,000 people use it and then of course we heard yesterday that Brad Hudson, a local farmer in Oakey who has levels 425 times the safe level has been diagnosed with testicular cancer. What can you add to what you told me last week in relation to what the Government can do?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan I can say categorically that a re-elected Coalition Government will fund voluntary blood testing and specialised mental health and counselling services for communities affected by contamination at these bases and we are also establishing mental health and counselling services in the affected communities. These are all, of course, funded by the Government so hopefully this will address some of the immediate concerns while we continue the detailed environmental and health investigation.

ALAN JONES:

How do you compensate a bloke diagnosed with testicular cancer?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan that is going to have to be the subject of a medical, proper health investigation.

ALAN JONES:

But the five year old daughter apparently has PFOS and PFOA in her blood 30 times the average Australian. You said last week also that you would - I don’t know whether you said you'd consider or give consideration to acquiring property and land which is no longer fit for purpose due to the contamination. Where, what guarantee can you give on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan what we've said is that we'll consider acquisition of property once the health reference values have been established and the environmental investigations have concluded. I mean this is a - we are moving on this rapidly but deliberately. It is obviously a legacy issue - this goes back many, many years and what we've got to do is establish precisely what the incidence of this concentration of these chemicals is in the environment and of course what the impact of it is.

ALAN JONES:

But you know Moreton Bay that’s big time isn’t it? 60 times the maximum exposure limit. People are worried I'm sure. You're on the road and you most probably don’t see the correspondence. I'm getting it since you and I talked and they are desperately concerned about it and they are seeking reassurance from you and Marise Payne.

PRIME MINISTER:

Alan, they can absolutely rest assured that we are alert to the issue, we are investigating it. We are providing the blood tests, we are providing counselling but the most important thing is to ascertain the scale and scope of the problem and what the consequences are.

ALAN JONES:

How long do you reckon that would take?

PRIME MINISTER:

We expect them to be completed - the investigations should be completed by later this year.

ALAN JONES:

What do people do in the meantime? I mean do they evacuate or something? What do they do? They’re terrified.

PRIME MINISTER:

Alan all I can say is that I can’t give advice based on a lack of evidence. At the moment what we need to do is establish what the impact of these chemicals are in the environment.

ALAN JONES:

But wouldn’t you swing in a stack of resources - I mean we need as many health people in there, get these blood tests over, in a hurry.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan we're certainly doing that. Anyone who wants to have, in these areas, who want to have blood testing or needs or wants to have access to mental health and counselling services will have access to it. That is underway now and Marise as you know, as you said earlier will be going there tomorrow.

ALAN JONES:

Yep I'll be talking to her.

Listen I know you're in north Queensland and there are seats up there and so on. I just want to ask a question which my listeners are asking me - why wouldn’t you argue, even in an address to the nation because that’s how concerned they are, that Victoria is most probably a metaphor of what you are fighting or what government will be like after July 2 if you don’t win? Because here now we have and I argued when Daniel Andrews won that he didn’t win the election the CFMEU won it - and now we've got the CFMEU, Andrews has caved in to the CFMEU. Volunteers get paid nothing - 60,000 of them - intimidated and bullied to surrender to a militant left wing union in a critical environment like fighting bushfires. Isn't this a metaphor of where we are heading come July 2?

PRIME MINISTER:

It absolutely is and I've been saying this at every opportunity including at a big rally with CFA members just a few weekends ago. Just yesterday Michaelia Cash was with Sarah Henderson the Member for Corangamite, meeting volunteers from the Bannockburn CFA, talking to them about this.

You're absolutely right.

Look, Bill Shorten has said he will run Australia like a trade union and what you see in Victoria is a government that does the bidding of militant unions. It is extraordinary the extent to which Daniel Andrews has caved into the United Fire Fighters Union to take on 60,000 volunteers. If you imagine the circumstance in these volunteer fire fighting brigades serving their local community.

I’ll give you a good example there were fires down along the Great Ocean Road on the South Coast there past Geelong, around Christmas time, just before Christmas and there was a town called, a settlement called Wye River, which was devastated by the fire. Now because of the volunteers doing an outstanding job and Captain Moriarty, the leader of the volunteer fire brigade, doing an outstanding job in planning for a fire - they got everybody out. A lot of properties were damaged. I inspected them with Lucy but there were no lives lost. That was what those volunteers did - part of the community, part of the heart and soul of the community. They now, under this new arrangement that Andrews wants to bring in, they will now be subject to the direction of the Fire Fighters Union. That’s to say the employed fire fighters and they will not be allowed under this EBA to go on to a fire ground unless there are seven union members present.

ALAN JONES:

But you see talking about the power - you see this is what people are ringing about. Now I had callers on the open line and they said, “Look, I don’t know what happened last night my wife answered the phone. She is 80 years of age and she had a person at the other end saying ‘are you in favour of Medicare? Malcolm Turnbull is going to privatise Medicare.” I explained to them as it was that the ACTU have a budget of between $35 and $45 million. They are contacting undecided voters in about 25 marginal seats. 20,000 volunteers and they’re ringing, full time organisers, carrying this message about Medicare and all the rest of it. The trouble with all of this is, as Dyson Heydon established in the Royal Commission – where does the union get their money from? Well they get their money from big business. You take Wesfarmers - 200,000 employees. Coles, K-Mart, Target and Bunnings and whatever. They do an enterprise agreement with the SDA, a very powerful union. One of the conditions is all their workers must be in the SDA and then when they come into these extraordinary bargaining agreements, there is money then tipped into the union funds by big business. Now Dyson Heydon called them ‘corrupting payments.’ Will you outlaw these payments?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. One of the bills that is the subject of the double dissolution, one of the triggers, the Registered Organisation’s Bill will prohibit these undisclosed payments by employers to trade unions. You would remember in the Heydon Royal Commission there was a company called Clean Event mentioned and Clean Event paid $25,000 a year to the Victorian branch of the Australian Worker’s Union in return for it not to seek better terms and conditions for its members. They took that - that benefit, that payment was never disclosed to the members of the union. It was completely undisclosed - it was a secret payment. In the corporate world it would of course be illegal. But what we’re doing with the Registered Organisation’s Bill which we will pass if we win the election and we have the numbers in the joint sitting, we will pass that and that will mean that unions and employer organisations will have to comply with the same rules of accountability and probity as public companies do. We’ll also restore the Building and Construction Commission, dealing with the CFMEU which will restore the rule of law to the construction sector.

ALAN JONES:

Now following that dinner at Kirribilli House, I mean, the correspondence I am getting is knee-capping. I’m sure you have got a bit of this as well. I mean you take one bloke this Sheikh Al Suleiman, notorious as an extremist who urged his followers to pray for Allah to destroy the enemies of Islam and adulteress should be stoned to death and transgressive women should be hung by their breasts in hell. Miranda Devine quoted your speech and I did a bit of it, where you said we must stand together like we do tonight as one Australian family united against terrorism, racism, discrimination and violence and then she said it’s a pity the guest list didn’t reflect those fine sentiments. Why do you think, why are people like you and others seemingly, openly, uncritical of this connection between Islam and terrorism? It’s the big war isn’t it? The new war we’re fighting.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan firstly I have never been mealy-mouthed about this at all. In fact I’ve said this many times but I gave a big speech in January in Washington and I made this point and I’ll just quote myself if I may, I said: “We should not be so delicate as to say that ISIL and its ilk have got nothing to do with Islam but neither we should we tag all Muslims or their religion with responsibility for the crimes of a tiny terrorist minority. That is precisely what the extremists want us to do.” So of course saying it has nothing to do with Islam, that’s not right.

ALAN JONES:

But did you tell these people sitting at your table this is the big issue that is worrying the electorate of Australia? A big, big issue.

PRIME MINISTER:

This is exactly the point of engagement. Can I just say that dinner was a multi-faith event. There were Christians, Jews, and Buddhists -

ALAN JONES:

I don’t think there were any Jews there.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh there were indeed. There were two Rabbi’s in fact.

ALAN JONES:

I see.

PRIME MINISTER:

Rabbi Kamins who is the senior Rabbi at the Emanuel Synagogue and Ben Elton who is Rabbi -

ALAN JONES:

But see we gave a visa to this Sheikh Sekaleshfar who had said previously that the death penalty for homosexuals in Islamic society - nothing to be embarrassed about. Well of course he delivered that speech in Orlando and week later gays are slaughtered in the Pulse Nightclub. I get everything across my desk. I don’t have any communication from a Muslim leader telling me we condemn this and we’re going to encourage all young people who are our followers to make sure this is not the way we live our lives. I don’t have anything from anyone.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan I’ll make this point. The guest list was assembled by my Department and it included people like the Sheikh you referred to who are heads of Islamic organisations who have been invited to similar events by previous Prime Ministers, by Premiers and so forth, and who of course the government and particularly our security services engage with all the time as part of our efforts to keep Australians safe. But just in terms of the people who were at my table at this dinner they were made of young Muslims which included a young women who is an AFP liaison officer who works for the Federal Police, a lecturer at Monash, and young women Yassmin Abdel-Magied who is a young Queenslander who is a mechanical engineer and works on offshore oil platforms.

ALAN JONES:

Sorry to interrupt you PM but Hafez Kassem was there, he’s the President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. He has said that gays should be treated with medication. Just imagine if a Catholic leader had said that. Now we - if you advocate death for a group of people in this country, we’re inciting violence, we’ve got legislation in New South Wales to deal with section 20D of the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act. I mean, here we’ve got the spiritual leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir has called for jihad against the Jews. He called the Jews a cancerous tumour that had to be uprooted and destroyed. His violent words were uploaded on YouTube - nothing happens.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan, can I just say this to you. I say, now and I say it almost every day, the key to our success as a multicultural society is mutual respect and I will always condemn statements made by anyone which disparages or disrespects people on the basis of their faith, their gender….

ALAN JONES:

But if they advocate violence should we prosecute them?

PRIME MINISTER:

It would depend on the circumstances and it may well be a breach of the law but I don’t want to give an opinion, a legal opinion on the radio here on remarks that may or may not be precisely what they have said. But I can assure you that if you encourage violence against another person, if you incite violence, that is definitely a breach of criminal law.

ALAN JONES:

Certainly had a lot of that.

Look there was a poll yesterday, I don’t know whether you caught up with it? The Lowy Institute, 90 per cent of those polled at the Lowy Institute, fairly reputable were opposed to the foreign ownership of prime agricultural land. Now, I would be here until midday if I were to list to you the best agricultural land in the country gone to foreign ownership. No one listening to this is opposed to investment - I’m talking about ownership - even some properties you know well in Scone, Wootton Farm has gone to China but there’s a stack of them. Now we were meant to get a register of all of this - so we were told there’d be a foreign ownership register and we’d know. Are you in favour of this sell off of Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan, I think we’ve got to assess the approval of – we’ve got to be careful and assess the buyers of real estate in Australia, and indeed particularly agricultural land. As you know, we have set the threshold where the Foreign Investment Review Board must investigate it at $15 million. And as you know, we, Scott Morrison rejected the…

ALAN JONES:

Just to interrupt you. If someone offered $15 million for your farm in the Hunter Valley you’d take it, it’s not worth $15 million. In other words, they can all get under that level. And the farms, dairy farms, 83 per cent of our mineral resources have gone, almost all our sugar mills have gone, our food processing has gone, all our dairy factories have gone and you can buy the dairy farm for you know, $2 million, $3million – well under the $15 million, tick it off. And people are saying to us, the resources boom is dead, tomorrow’s boom is agriculture, how can we take advantage of this if in fact we don’t own the farm?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan all I can say to you is that we have rejected foreign companies buying agricultural land. You will recall we rejected the application to buy the Kidman Holdings, which was around one per cent of Australia.

ALAN JONES:

Well, that is still on.

PRIME MINISTER:

Just remember this though, there’s a choice on July 2. We are applying the national interest test very carefully and very rigorously in protecting Australia and our future. Labor would dismantle all of our…

ALAN JONES:

I know but they’re not going to win. They’re not going to win so I’m worried about you. All our dairy farms, almost all our dairy farms gone. 83 per cent of our minerals has gone. Sugar mills gone. Food processing gone. The port of Darwin.

Now, Andrew Wilke with his military and national security work said in the Federal Parliament, “We are not talking just one farm down the road or a house in Sydney. We’re talking thousands upon thousands of hectares of our best agricultural land.”

I want to know whether you as Prime Minister are going to put in a full stop somewhere? When is enough, enough?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan, what we will do is assess these applications on a case by case basis. Can I say to you, you mention the Hunter Valley - okay now fair enough. Some of the bloodstock operations up there are foreign owned. They are – they have massively invested in the district, massive investments. The Scone veterinary clinic is the largest veterinary clinic in the Southern Hemisphere. The district has benefitted enormously from the scale of the investment there. These are mostly investors from the Gulf, the largest ones and they have been in thoroughbred race horsing.

ALAN JONES:

I know but in agricultural land, this is – the value added - I mean. They’re going to pay tax, they’re going to sell the beef cattle and pay tax on the market price, $3.20 per kg, if you’re lucky. Then they on sell that, it’s their own stuff, into the middle class of Asia and they get $80, $100, $120 a kilo. What people are saying to you, and that poll in the Lowy Institute - surely to god - why don’t we offer 99 year leases so that it can’t be owned? We would have to own it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Alan, there’s not a lot of difference between free-hold and a 99 year lease to be frank.

ALAN JONES:

Well I know that’s a poor compromise, I agree with you on that.

PRIME MINISTER:

If you offered a property, you know, freehold or a 99 year lease, the price difference would be very little. Look, we do need investment.

ALAN JONES:

I agree, but that’s not ownership is it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I take your point, I take your point. We’ve never gone down that route before in Australia but I take the point that you are making. The only thing I do want to say to you is that investment…

ALAN JONES:

Now I shouldn’t cut a Prime Minister off, I shouldn’t cut a Prime Minister off. I’ve got to go but we’ll resume there next week. Can we?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, definitely.

ALAN JONES:

Good to talk to you, there he is, the Prime Minister.