SIMON LAUDER:

Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Prime Minister there’s a perception from some community leaders in Eden-Monaro that the Liberal member, Peter Hendy has been missing in action, is that why we’re speaking to you this morning?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m speaking to lots of local radio stations around Australia today and indeed as I have been this week but no, Peter Hendy is an outstanding member – he’s a very important member of my team and a very important member both as the local member and Assistant Minister in the Coalition Government.

The choice really Simon is between a Coalition majority Government, stable with a clear economic plan for the future, or a vote for Labor or the Greens or the independents has all of the horrors of a hung parliament, parliament in disarray, a Greens-Labor-independent alliance and a high debt, more deficit, high taxes. It’s not what Australia needs right now, we need stability and a clear plan and that’s what we have.

SIMON LAUDER:

Well it’s good to be able to speak to you this morning. But you must be worried about the Coalition’s ability to retain Eden-Monaro. Is there a chance that it could lose its bellwether status on Saturday night?

PRIME MINISTER:

You know I’d say to you, the voters of Eden-Monaro have a very, very solemn responsibility because each voter in Eden-Monaro and each voter in every electorate in Australia should treat their vote as though that is the one vote that will determine the next government.

The choice, as I said, is between a stable Coalition majority Government, which I lead, with a clear economic plan that’s fully funded, fully costed, bringing the Budget deficits down, bringing the Budget back into balance, supporting business, driving jobs in Eden-Monaro and around Australia.

On the other hand, the Labor Party with a very anti-business agenda, the most anti-business I can remember in generations and of course, the prospect, as they’ve admitted and owned up to of higher deficits and more debt and of course higher taxes, particularly on investment – how is that going to help jobs and business opportunities in Eden-Monaro?

SIMON LAUDER:

Prime Minister let’s talk about what you call Labor’s scare campaign on Medicare. Labor’s persisting with it because it’s working isn’t it? People feel they are paying more for GP visits because doctors are offsetting increased costs that they’ve incurred, while that rebate freeze is still in place.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the rebate freeze was put in place by Labor as you know in 2013 and we’re continuing with it, but we’re continuing with it in order to enable us to spend more money in other areas - so that the Health Minister has been able to bring important new life saving drugs for melanoma, for breast cancer and others and to bring them on to the PBS so that they’re affordable. It also enables us to spend $200 million or close to $200 million on new frontline mental health services.

Now, the Labor lie about Medicare has been exposed for what it is. It has been disowned by the Australian Medical Association, by the doctors themselves and truthfully, frankly, let’s be absolutely fair dinkum about this, bulk billing has never been higher. It has never ever been higher. It is higher now than it was under Labor and if indexation were returned, doctors would be better off per visit, per Medicare consultation by about 60 cents. So I’m not saying that is an unimportant amount of money but the idea that a return to indexation now or a failure to return to indexation now would result in a massive drop in bulk billing is just simply not borne out by the facts. Bulk billing has never ever been higher than it is today.

SIMON LAUDER:

To get very local the forced amalgamations, the amalgamations of councils forced by the state government have caused some pain in this region and Labor is dragging that into the federal sphere, promising to do something about it. What would you do about that issue if you were re-elected?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it is very much a state issue. The local government is created by, entirely subject to state legislation.

SIMON LAUDER:

The federal government can step in and have plebiscites though?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’ve got to say there’s a question mark about that. I think what Mr Shorten has proposed to do is to provide money to fund plebiscites but as to whether the plebiscites are held or indeed whether the state government takes any notice of them is an entirely different thing. In his desperation to distract from the fundamental economic issues that are the focus of most Australians, Mr Shorten is telling lies, creating falsehoods and frightening people, particularly older Australians about Medicare. Medicare is absolutely guaranteed. We’re spending more on it every year. It is an absolutely iconic, essential government service and everyone knows that. Mr Shorten is trying to frighten people on that front and on local government what he’s trying to do is suggest that somehow or another the federal government can get involved in something that is absolutely a state issue.

I mean the local government amalgamations are not a matter for Peter Hendy they are matter from Andrew Constance.

SIMON LAUDER:

Are you worried though that it might come back and bite the Liberal Party particularly in this seat?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I have great respect for the intelligence and the political canniness of Australians. They understand – you’ve seen plenty of evidence over the years that Australians understand very keenly the distinction between federal and state governments. You’ll see that often they’ll vote one way federally and another way for state governments. So local government or the regulation of local government - the council boundaries and amalgamations and so forth - are entirely within the control of the state government. So it’s a matter for Andrew Constance and Mike Baird. That is an undoubted fact, that’s it.

SIMON LAUDER:

You announced a big welfare crackdown yesterday and the timing has attracted some suspicion - it appears to have been ready for announcement much earlier. So why was it only announced days before the election?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s been announced by the Treasurer and the Finance Minister as part of the wrap-up of all of our costings. A crackdown is I think probably too strong a word for it. It is important to remember that we have $160 billion social welfare, social services budget. All of it is means-tested and that’s very important and that’s ensuring that Australians that need it, that need support, get it because we are dealing with scarce resources and everyone is in favour of that. What we have been able to do in recent years with better technology is being able to better monitor compliance. I know this is often reported in the media as being a crackdown on fraud. Of course there is social security fraud. There is no doubt about that but a lot of people make mistakes quite innocently and if they are advised of what their errors that have been made, the sooner they are advised of them, the sooner they can be rectified. So a lot of this is just basically using modern technology and data matching to ensure that we get our social welfare spending going to where it needs to go.

SIMON LAUDER:

And we know that the Government has those new data, metadata retention laws. Will metadata be used to…?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. No metadata really is a different issue. That relates to telephone call charge records principally. It’s not relevant here. In terms of data matching you’re really talking about ensuring for example that people are not you know claiming to be unemployed when they are in fact employed. Things like that.

SIMON LAUDER:

Now the plebiscite on same-sex marriage - you have a couple of senior Ministers refusing to say how they would vote in Parliament if the plebiscite on same sex marriage is passed. What is the point of the thing then?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it is important to gauge the view of the Australian people. I can assure you and every Minister has made exactly the same point and it is common sense really - if the plebiscite is carried, and I believe it will be and I will be voting yes in the plebiscite, as will Lucy, then the same-sex marriage legislation will sail through the Parliament. The least issue to be concerned about, or that you have the least concern about is whether the bill would pass the Parliament after the plebiscite is carried. Everyone agrees with that. There is no question about that.

SIMON LAUDER:

But MP’s won’t necessarily have to honour the result of that in their vote?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it will be a free vote as is our tradition in the Liberal Party but there are a number of Members, Barnaby Joyce for example and I think Tony Abbott who have both said, who would be voting no in the plebiscite will respect and support the decision of the Australian people in the Parliament if it is carried.

SIMON LAUDER:

And Prime Minister we’ve seen an awful attack in Istanbul this morning. What is Australia’s response to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we are shocked again and I convey – I will be formally conveying our condolences, sympathies to the Turkish Government and of course above all to the families of those that have been killed and to those that have been injured. We have not yet established whether any Australians were involved. I haven’t got that information yet but Julie Bishop will be saying more about that today when we have more information. Turkey has been facing a series of these terrorist attacks and it’s a country with which we have very close relations with. Our Consulate, we have a Consulate in Istanbul of course and an Embassy in Ankara the capital and they are working very hard, intensely right now, to ascertain whether there are any Australians involved. Of course it’s at a big airport and there will be citizens of many countries that will be affected.

SIMON LAUDER:

Prime Minister thanks for speaking with ABC South East this morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you so much.