NEIL MITCHELL:

On the line now today is the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull – good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Neil, great to be with you.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well thanks for your time – there is a lot to get through so I’ll be quick if you don’t mind but the election – if you win the election you’ll have a plebiscite on gay marriage. The critics are saying that’ll lead to vilification, homophobia – on your side, I mean you’ve got a few people that are capable of that, Senator Cory Bernardi has linked gay marriage to bestiality and polygamy. How will you make it a decent conversation? Will you tell your own people to settle down?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil, I’m very confident the Australian people will have a very civilised and respectful discussion just as the Irish did. You’ll notice in the press today there’s one of the leading advocates in the Irish referendum who is out here and is talking about what a positive experience it was.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But will you tell Cory Bernardi and people like him within your own party to be careful? To watch it? To be decent?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, Cory Bernardi has been represented as saying, as you know, is being represented as saying more than he has but…

NEIL MITCHELL:

But he did liken it to bestiality and polygamy.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah – well let me leave that to one side and focus on the big question. The big question is this – on Saturday we will have an election that will determine the government of Australia. It will determine whether we have a stable Coalition majority government which I lead delivering an economic plan that is growing the economy and delivering jobs.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well Prime Minister, that’s the message. That’s the message.

PRIME MINISTER:

Or we move to the chaos and instability of Labor, the Greens and independents.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Please, at the end, by all means I’ll give you a final message to the people but can’t we deal with this because there is concern about a homophobic outbreak – it could go both ways – there are plenty of decent people who by good conscience oppose gay marriage. Now we don’t want to see them vilified either. Will you control the likes of Cory Bernardi?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am very confident that all of our members and indeed the vast majority of Australians will approach this debate, this plebiscite which is what will determine whether same-sex marriage is legislated for – they’ll approach this debate in a respectful manner and if I could just refer you to a gentleman called Tiernan Brady who was one of the, described in The Australian as one of the architects of the Irish victory.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yes I saw that.

PRIME MINISTER:

And he says the referendum was an astounding and unifying moment for our country.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I agree. I agree.

PRIME MINISTER:

Now he was on the ‘yes’ side, so he was on the pro-same-sex marriage side and I think that underlines the point that we are able to have a – look, I have and I believe you do and I’m sure most of your listeners do – we have enough confidence in the maturity, the mutual respect, the decency of Australians to be able to have a respectful discussion about this issue.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I agree but we’re not talking about most Australians.

PRIME MINISTER:

And I mean Bill Shorten, Bill Shorten is the one who…

NEIL MITCHELL:

We’re talking about, Prime Minister, a small section of your party that strongly disagrees and has a history of disagreeing in a very intemperate way. Can you hose them down? Can you cool them down?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am very confident – I am quite satisfied that all of our members will engage in this debate in a temperate and measured way. This is a social issue of a kind that has people on different sides of the argument in all parties – perhaps not in the Greens but certainly in Labor and the Liberal and National Parties and the best way to deal with this is for it be an open discussion but the important thing is the Australian people will make that decision – they’ll make it as soon as possible after the election – hopefully before the end of the year but the question that’s coming up in the next 48 hours is who will form the next government of Australia – that’s the issue for July 2.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yes I agree – that is true. I just want to clear this up though. If the plebiscite supports gay marriage do you guarantee to legislate for it?

PRIME MINISTER:

There is nothing more certain than that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well it will be a conscience vote though? How can you guarantee it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, yes, but it will - I know enough about the Parliament, I know enough about my colleagues and I think you and I both know enough about the reality of politics to know that if the Australian people by a simple majority vote yes in this plebiscite, it will sail through the Parliament. There are few certainties in politics – however that is one of them.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay – well let’s get some other issues. Is the budget emergency over?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the budget is certainly under pressure and that is why we are applying disciplined management to bring that deficit down over the next four years over the forward estimates to get it back into balance in the 5th and of course that’s what is so troubling about Labor because what they’re proposing – they’re proposing $16.5 billion of higher deficit.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, but is the emergency over?

PRIME MINISTER:

The challenge – I wouldn’t use that language – I would simply say that in these times, when we need to ensure that we are responsible and live within our means and times of uncertainty in the global environment we need strong budget discipline – we are applying that. We have gone to the election with our Budget as our economic platform and if we are successful on Saturday then we will expect the Senate and the Labor Party to respect that mandate and support those measures.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you know that your spending isn’t all that much different to Labor? There’s a detail analysis in the Financial Review shows spending out to 2026/27 - there’s only $6.4 billion difference. You’re looking at 25.4 per cent GDP - they’re looking at 25.8. So there’s very little difference over that period of time in the amount of spending.

PRIME MINISTER:

Over the forward estimates, which is the next four years which is the years I focus on because these longer term estimations obviously come with a large degree of unreliability because we don’t know what the world is going to look like in 10 years’ time. Over the next four years, it is a fact that Labor is going to run higher deficits, more debt and higher taxes…

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yes but over the longer period you’ll both grow in government.

PRIME MINISTER:

…to deter investment and jobs.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You are both growing big government over the next few years - over the longer period.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we are reducing the deficit and we’re bringing it back in to balance in the fifth year and we’re not doing that by jacking up taxes which will of course undermine economic growth and undermine jobs. See what Australians want to know…

NEIL MITCHELL:

That’s true. There’s a big difference in tax but is it reasonable that spending is 25.4 per cent of spending.

PRIME MINISTER:

We’re bringing spending as a percentage of GDP down. That is a fact.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah, 25.4 per cent in 2026/2027. It’s still too high isn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Neil the important thing is to keep bringing it down. As you know, there are a lot of claims on government. We are spending record amounts on health on hospitals on schools on Medicare. We’re doing that within our means, we’re doing that responsibly.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Are we stuck with this sort of level of spending long term in the future? I mean the future of Australia regardless of who is in power – are we stuck with that higher level of spending?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are certainly committed to maintaining government services and maintaining a generous social welfare net. That is absolutely our commitment. We are absolutely committed to continuing to provide more spending as needed for schools and hospitals. We’re spending more on schools every year, hospitals every year. We’re spending more on Medicare every year.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So it sounds as if we are stuck with a higher level of GDP on spending. Is 25.4 per cent acceptable?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil there are two different points. Let me just – just give me a moment. The way you bring that percentage down is not by – well you can cut spending, and where we can make savings we will. We are making savings in the social welfare side in order to spend more on childcare for example, so that’s better prioritising. But what we really need to do is focus on growing the economy because if you can grow the economy faster than spending, then over time the spending which may be growing in absolute dollars will decline as a share of GDP.

You see, every element of my economic plan is focused on stronger economic growth whereas everything Labor is doing on any view is going to slow economic growth and undermine employment.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Can I get to a couple of other quick things? The head of Fair Work Australia - it’s revealed personally intervened in the CFA dispute. Is that appropriate?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I haven’t gone through the ins and outs of that particular report. But can I just say to you, repeat to you the undertaking that we have given, the commitment we’ve given - if we are returned to government, we will amend the Fair Work Act so that the arrangements that Daniel Andrews acting under the instructions of the union is proposing, to subordinate CFA volunteers, will not be possible.

We will protect the autonomy of the CFA volunteers.

So I have to say, I know many – Bill Shorten would like to say it’s a state issue, but he is the senior Labor Leader from Victoria and he has chosen to be part of the problem and not seek to be part of the solution.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Prime Minister, dairy farmers – new kick in the guts - cows are now worth more as meat then as milking cows in some areas. Is there anything you can do for them? Yet another kick in the guts for them. What hope do you offer them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we – as you know – we’ve provided concessional loans, we’re providing obviously farm household support - I will be meeting with Murray Goulburn and of course with Barnaby shortly after the election if we win and of course Barnaby is getting together industry leaders again shortly after the election if we win.

The problems with – there’s no doubt that Murray Goulburn mishandled, and I’m using a very neutral term because this is being looked at by ASIC and other regulators, but they mishandled the way in which they communicated prices to their members. There’s no question about that.

However, there is also a global milk glut. We believe it is not a permanent or long term problem, there is strong demand for milk products, particularly in Asia and that demand is growing so we are confident that this is a strong industry, strong future but there are some international factors which as you know came about because of the, originally because of the boycott of Russia, that meant there was a glut in milk in Europe and so forth.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay airport security given what has happened in Istanbul which is horrendous; do we need to review it in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s under constant review. Every time there is an international terrorist incident of this kind, or indeed any kind, our agencies which are the best in the world in my judgement - relentlessly focused as I am on ensuring Australians are safe at home and as far as we can abroad. What we do is we learn from every single incident. We will get all of the information about what happened - you know what weaknesses or flaws in the system in Istanbul allowed these people to get into that area and we will be incorporating that in to our own safety program.

NEIL MITCHELL:

This may reduce the pilgrimage to Gallipoli I think, don’t you?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it will certainly and of course you know there are travel advisories out from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade but you’re right. I mean clearly Australia and Turkey have a very close relationship, a shared history. I mean our, important chapters in each of our nation’s foundation stories were written at Gallipoli in, you know - the foundation of Turkey, the foundation of Australia. Important parts of it were there. So we have a shared history and Gallipoli is sacred ground for Australians and New Zealanders.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Prime Minister do you think you have had a good campaign?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Neil that is for others to judge. My focus is on the very clear choice.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay. Well let me put it this way. What would be a good win for you? How many seats?

PRIME MINISTER:

What we need to ensure is the continuation of my stable Coalition majority Government delivering on an economic plan that secures our future in these times which are times of opportunity and also risk.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Some people are saying to me if it’s in single figures anything under 10 is a failure. Do you agree with that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil I am focussed on winning every seat that we hold and winning more. The commentary is for the commentators. I am the Prime Minister. I’m only interested in the interests of Australians and ensuring that our kids and grandchildren can get good jobs now and in the future.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I am told that if you don’t win well you might not survive as Prime Minister and that is being discussed in your party already. Are you aware of that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil the only thing my party is focused on is winning every seat that we hold and others from the Labor Party. My message is that a vote for Greens, for independents, for Labor - is a vote for a chaotic parliament in disarray. A hung parliament. A Shorten, Labor-Greens-independent alliance. Higher deficits, higher debt, higher taxes, undermining investment, undermining employment.

NEIL MITCHELL:

It’s been a hard campaign. Are you tired?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am in good form apart from when I had the flu for a few days - I exercise every day and get plenty of sleep. That is the formula that works.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you wish Bill Shorten well?

PRIME MINISTER:

I wish every Australian the best of health.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Just a final thing - I noticed a man on the platform in Sydney said this to you:

COMMUTER EXTRACT:

Why should we believe anything that you have to say?

PRIME MINISTER EXTRACT:

Everything I have said in this election is absolutely straight.

COMMUTER EXTRACT:

I don’t believe you sir. Have a lovely day.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I mean a very respectful and decent man – the way he approached it. Do you see this as part of the problem in international politics - just not Australian politics? Nobody trusts political leaders anymore.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think that some politicians tell terrible lies. And you know you’ve seen some of the extraordinary things that Bill Shorten has done in the course of this campaign and the union movement has done. I won’t go through them.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So why trust you?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have been very straight and upfront. We have an economic plan. It is brought together there in the Budget and that’s what we’ve campaigned on for eight weeks.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay. So bottom line - why trust you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Because we have a commitment to delivering the economic plan that we have laid out. That is our promise. That is our commitment.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But commitments and promises have been broken in the past by both sides. Why should we trust you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Because we have that commitment and Australians know me well. They know me. I have been around for a long time. I am consistent. I am committed. I am principled. I love this country and I am determined to ensure that our children and our grandchildren are able to take advantage of the great opportunities that arise and that we can resiliently deal with the challenges and risks that are there as well.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you very much for your time.

PRIME MINISTER

Thanks Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

All the best.