3AW Neil Mitchell
NEIL MITCHELL: Scott Morrison good morning.
MINISTER MORRISON: G’day Neil, good to be here again.
MITCHELL: Thank you for coming in. Could we get the politics out of the way first, do you know they are calling your Prime Minister ‘One Term Tony’?
MINISTER MORRISON: That is what the unions and that big $30 million union intimidation campaign is attempting to run…
MITCHELL: It’s only $15 million.
MINISTER MORRISON: Oh it’s just $15 million is it? I’m sure union members are pleased their funds are being used in that way. But look we are not going to be intimidated by unions we are not going to be brought by unions either.
MITCHELL: But is the Government in strife?
MINISTER MORRISON: The Government has its challenges but the Government is focused on the fundamentals and that is a job, that’s the economy, its community safety and of course it is national security. This is our focus, this is what we are focused on, this is what the Prime Minister is focused on.
MITCHELL: Any more leaks today?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well you would have to read the papers, I am not aware of any but that’s…
MITCHELL: But somebody at a very high level it would seem is leaking material out of Cabinet.
MINISTER MORRISON: I am just not going to get distracted by it Neil. I really am just not…
MITCHELL: You should I mean you are sitting there…
MINISTER MORRISON: No I am not going to get distracted about it…
MITCHELL: Sitting in a Cabinet meeting and it is being leaked. Somebody within is trying to undermine you.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well I am just not going to get distracted or focus on it or give it oxygen or anything like that because Cabinet Ministers that I am working closely with are focused very much on the important jobs that we have.
MITCHELL: But you must admit it worries you to have leaks out of Cabinet?
MINISTER MORRISON: These things are frustrating but look they don’t actually distract me Neil. I am a pretty sort of focused person and so is the Prime Minister and so are my colleagues. Doing that is a crime and I don’t think crimes should be perpetrated and where there are crimes they should be dealt with.
MITCHELL: Even if it is a Minister?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well a crime is a crime.
MITCHELL: Does it have to be a Minister? Could it be in fact a staff member?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well it is possible and – because there are many people who handle these documents. I mean the other one I heard Barrie Cassidy going on about the talking points. I mean the talking points potentially have a larger circulation then some small community newspapers. I mean they go out everywhere and here is the big shock, talking points have things in it that we are actually going to say publically.
MITCHELL: But that is a bit irritating too isn’t it? Like a bunch of parrots’ here’s your talking points go out and pop them out.
MINISTER MORRISON: They have been around for as long as anyone else has been around.
MITCHELL: On both sides.
MINISTER MORRISON: So if all the Government says the same thing then they are parrots and if they say different things then the Government is in chaos. So look…
MITCHELL: What about just answering questions truthfully that would do.
MINISTER MORRISON: This is exactly what I am doing right here right now.
MITCHELL: Ok are you sure Tony Abbott will survive to the next election?
MINISTER MORRISON: Yes.
MITCHELL: Is there any attempt to remove him?
MINISTER MORRISON: Not that I am aware of.
MITCHELL: Nobody has sounded you out?
MINISTER MORRISON: No not me.
MITCHELL: Who have they sounded out?
MINISTER MORRISON: I don’t know. You asked me whether I had so…
MITCHELL: Well are soundings being carried out?
MINISTER MORRISON: I have no idea.
MITCHELL: You haven’t heard of it?
MINISTER MORRISON: I don’t get into this stuff Neil.
MITCHELL: Have you heard it? Talking about answering questions honestly, have you heard that there are people trying to undermine Tony Abbott?
MINISTER MORRISON: I am not aware of these things because I don’t have any part in these things. When you are not part of anything like that people don’t talk to you about it. So look at the end of the day Neil people can get as excited about this as they like but what matters to us, what matters to Tony in particular as Prime Minister is people’s jobs. That is all they care about. They want to have the confidence that we are spending 24/7 our time focused on making sure they can be confident about their job and that it what we are doing.
MITCHELL: Do you agree some within Cabinet haven’t been all that helpful by the way they have handled the gay marriage situation?
MINISTER MORRISON: Look that was last week’s issue Neil. Seriously, it was last week’s issue. We dealt with it, it is done and our view is quite straight forward. The Australian people will get to have their say on this if a Coalition Government is elected at the next election.
MITCHELL: Was Malcolm Turnbull being a bit mischievous?
MINISTER MORRISON: People feel strongly about this issue and I think what we saw was a reflection of the passion that sits around this issue. But you know it was last week’s issues, I would strongly suggest people just move on because our policy is the Australian people will get to decide, Bill Shorten’s policy is that the Labor Party will get to decide.
MITCHELL: What if the Government is whipped in the Canning by-election in Western Australia? What are the implications of that?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well I don’t believe that is going to happen I believe we are going to have a strong showing in Canning…
MITCHELL: Do you think you will win?
MINISTER MORRISON: Yes I do.
MITCHELL: What if you don’t?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well I believe we will, I don’t contemplate the things – that sort of speculation…
MITCHELL: You don’t have a Plan B?
MINISTER MORRISON: No Neil, we are going to win the Canning by-election. That is my belief because we have a strong – a very very strong candidate and the Prime Minister and all Cabinet Ministers I am sure will be there doing everything they can to support that.
MITCHELL: So you are going to campaign there?
MINISTER MORRISON: Yes.
MINISTER MORRISON: Between now and polling day. We are working out my diary for that. I look forward to being there. I am in Western Australia relatively frequently and looking forward to getting back to Canning.
MITCHELL: 9690 0693, 13 13 32 if you would like to speak to the Minister. The State – former State Director of the Liberal Party here is being accused of syphoning out $1.5 million. Have you ever met him?
MINISTER MORRISON: I have met him. I used to be a State Director myself many years ago. He wasn’t around back then but I would have bumped into him here and there.
MINISTER MORRISON: This is terrible but look there is a process. There is a police investigation underway so I am not going to get caught up in that. What appears to have happened here quite clearly is a crime has been committed. Now who committed that crime and how they committed that crime is a matter for the police investigation and I want to commend particularly Michael Kroger and the team for the work they have done in getting at this and the members of the Liberal Party have had a crime committed against them and I am pretty angry about it.
MITCHELL: It sort of says to you if you can’t run your party how can you run the state?
MINISTER MORRISON: Look this is an instance of an alleged crime and these things have happened in many places, in businesses, in unions, in political parties, in all sorts of…
MITCHELL: Well it is part of the greed knows no political colour if you believe this.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well I think that is true.
MITCHELL: Cathy Jackson and Damien Mantach.
MINISTER MORRISON: These things will happen with individuals and whether this has happened with this particular individual that is for a proper process to determine but this is a crime and I am pretty, excuse the language, pretty bloody angry about it.
MITCHELL: We can excuse that.
MINISTER MORRISON: I used it in an ad once I suppose when I was Managing Director of Tourism Australia.
MITCHELL: Domestic violence leave is being debated and recommended. If this was to go ahead would it be part of the welfare system or would the employer have to pay for it?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well at the moment this is a state government, I understand, idea and proposal. When it comes to domestic and family violence I am willing to consider whatever ideas are out there to try and work on this and to work through the implications of them and to go through the issues that you have just highlighted and understand the implications of all of that. But the centre of our focus in considering any of this is, what does it mean for the victim of domestic family violence, which is mainly women obviously. There are men who are affected by domestic family violence but it is obviously, predominately, and overwhelmingly women and their children. So I am open to every idea on this as I am sure the Prime Minister is and Ken Ley is and Rosie Batty is and they are working through their process. I will look at anything if it will reduce the impact and threat of family violence.
MITCHELL: That includes the possibility of the taxpayer funding leave for victims of domestic violence?
MINISTER MORRISON: I am open to every suggestion on this. That is not saying that the government would do it but you have got to look at every idea on this because the issue is so important and I am not going to dismiss any issue out of hand on this matter.
MITCHELL: 9690 0693, 13 13 32 for the Minister. Have you ever called Centrelink?
MINISTER MORRISON: I have some years ago when I was a backbencher and there was a particular issue that my wife and I had to look at for something or other but I don’t think the call times are Centrelink are anywhere near as good as we need them to be and we all understand that. I would stress that the people who work at Centrelink and the Department of Human Services are just as frustrated as the callers.
MITCHELL: So is this a computer problem?
MINISTER MORRISON: It is two issues, it is the computers themselves which were developed when Peter Brock was winning Bathurst, that is how long they have been around and that is why we have invested over $1billion in fixing that system and that is going to take a number of years to get that system fixed. But the other problem is what you highlighted earlier. That is the complexity of the system. We have 20 different payments, 54 different supplements. They are all on different indexation measures, different income tests, it is a spider’s web of regulation and complexity. Now Pat McClure earlier this year set out a vision for how we could simplify this system and that is exactly what we are trying to do. We are trying to simplify Family Tax Benefits, we are trying to simplify the pension and we already did that earlier this year and we discussed that on the programme. We got rid of one of the supplements already, so we went from 55 to 54. We have got a long way to go. It is the complexity and the ICT – the computer system. Being in a position where we can handle more enquires online, but the system really doesn’t support that well currently. Then you have got to have the call system which can also function effectively but it is not where it needs to be and we are very frustrated like the taxpayers and those we are seeking to help.
MITCHELL: Would you put the headphones on and we will just take a call on this because Julia has called in and it is related to this. Hello Julia, go ahead.
CALLER: Hello Mr Morrison I am just wondering, I am an age pensioner but I am raising a grandchild so I am on Centrelink Age Pension and Family Tax Benefit. To get through to Centrelink I have waited up to two hours to be put through to a consultant. You know it doesn’t seem very efficient.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well I don’t disagree. I am not going to ask you where you live but I would be getting in contact with your Federal Member of Parliament where you are having that level of frustration and having your MP actually assist you with your enquiry. Now I know in my own office as a local member we do this on occasions where people are having those difficulties. But one of the issues raised here Neil I mean we have a lot of grandparents out there raising grandchildren and the support system for them we have been looking at very closely to ensure that can be maintained because they are basically often thrown into these circumstances and they do an outstanding job.
MITCHELL: So can you offer any hope, it is at least a couple of years ago I remember talking about these problems with Centrelink, the long delays, the long waits. Joe Hockey was talking about problems with the computer system and then you upgrade that as you say but can you offer us any hope that it is going to get any better in the near future?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well there is no easy fix, that is the problem. People have gone for the easy fix on this for about 20 years and they do a bolt on to the computer system and it doesn’t really alleviate the longer term problems. So Marise Payne, the Minister directly responsible for Human Services and me we have been able to secure the more than $1 billion in support which over the next five to seven years – that is how long it takes to fix this system. Every other government frankly on both sides has failed to deal with this. We have decided to deal with it but it is a bit like when you are building new road projects. There is some ongoing frustration while you are building the new road. We are actually building new roads up in NSW, we have got a government that likes to do that and invest in infrastructure. We don’t see as much of that down here.
MITCHELL: Oh was that necessary that little knife? There is no state campaign on.
MINISTER MORRISON: [Laughter] We want all states – and the Treasurers are meeting today with Joe Hockey. Joe Hockey has been pushing quite rightly the asset recycling fund so we can get more money into infrastructure. Mike Baird is doing that in NSW, it is not happening here in Victoria.
MITCHELL: So the Treasurers are meeting. Do you want to see an increase in the GST?
MINISTER MORRISON: They will work that out but as I have said on your programme before any change to the GST or something like that has to be offset by reductions in income tax, reductions in all other state taxes and it is not about just shovelling money to the states, it is about tax reform. If that is not on the table then it is a pretty hard argument to make.
MINISTER MORRISON: A break, more questions, more calls. Scott Morrison in a moment.
MITCHELL: Social Services Minister Scott Morrison is with me. Alice go ahead please.
CALLER: Hi good morning guys. I have a two part questions. My first part question is why my seventh month old son is not eligible for carers allowance when he has to go to hospital twice a week, we do daily injections to him, daily medications and he needs to have a kidney transplant in a matter of time? The second part is also why your application forms aren’t age group specific? I noticed that when I was filling them out they were very, very broad and I think that decreased the number of points that we were able to get for his application.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well they are both really good questions. I am happy to take them both on notice but the carers allowance – what I have got in front of me here is the Centrelink Guide to Australian Payments and I am sure you are familiar with it and it sets out what all the eligibility criteria is. Without having all the details of your case it would be very hard for me to give you a specific answer but what I am very happy to do is through the producer we can get those details and I will get my office to come back to you early next week.
CALLER: That would be brilliant.
MINISTER MORRISON: Happy to.
MITCHELL: Good Alice, hold on for a moment and we will get your details. Una hello?
CALLER: Oh hello look I ran up Centrelink a few weeks ago and I was told by the operator she would help me today but in a few weeks I wouldn’t be able to ring them, I had to do it all online which I didn’t really think I wanted to do.
MITCHELL: All online?
CALLER: Yeah, it was like a family – I just wanted to update incomes.
MITCHELL: Is that right Minister?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well they will always encourage people to do things online because that obviously keeps people off the phone and where we can do that I think it is better but if Australians want to deal with people by phone they can and they always have that opportunity.
MITCHELL: So you won’t be removing that ability?
MINISTER MORRISON: No, the phone number will always be there. People can ring it but there is a wait and if we can do it online then that hopefully would be a more speedy process.
MITCHELL: State government here is abandoning or dropping, stopping religious education in schools. Do you think that is a bad idea or a good idea?
MINISTER MORRISON: I am not surprised that, what six months now since the state government was elected, that they’re starting to push religion out of schools. That doesn’t surprise me, Labor doing that within six months. I am a big believer in religious freedom and I am never happy when I see people try and push religion, whatever religion, out of the public sphere. I think it is a positive thing for Australians to know more about religion, not just their own but everyone else’s religion as well. I think religious education is a good thing and not just, as I said, of one’s own faith. It breeds understanding and tolerance and I think we need more of that not less of it.
MITCHELL: Report today there are 336 potential jihadists have been stopped leaving the country inside a year, more than one a day. Does that concern you? Does that mean that the lone wolf risk has increased when these people are turned back into the country?
MINISTER MORRISON: It does concern me but it doesn’t surprise me. In my previous portfolio when we stood up the Counter Terrorism Unit, we did many things when I was there and that is one of the things I feel most proud of along with stopping the boats and other things like that obviously. We stood this unit up very quickly and it is an average of about one a day and I was seeing similar information back then and that what is going on.
MITCHELL: What even then there was one a day?
MINISTER MORRISON: Yeah and particularly when we were standing it up. Now that doesn’t mean every single person in these cases is at that level of threat. But there has been obviously a reason for someone to be offloaded from a flight. I am very pleased – and the Australian Border Force and Roman Quaedvlieg the Border Force Commissioner – he set this up when he was in Customs and I was working with him. They have done a fantastic job.
MITCHELL: But to me that says potentially if we have been turning them away at a rate of one a day over a number of years…
MINISTER MORRISON: Over the last year.
MITCHELL: There are hundreds of people – well you said it went back to when you were Minister?
MINISTER MORRISON: Yeah, that was only a year ago. It has gone quickly the last six months mate.
MITCHELL: There are hundreds of people potentially out there who are potential threats to Australia.
MINISTER MORRISON: Of course and that is what we have said all along. It is concerning but it is not surprising particularly for me who has worked in this area and obviously has exposure to the sort of briefings that someone would have in that position. We are doing everything I believe that the government should and must do to keep Australians safe.
MITCHELL: A couple more questions to wrap up but David Armstrong has the news headlines.
MITCHELL: Scott Morrison is with me. Just on that Ashley Madison issue do you feel any sympathy for people whose names are popping up in public here?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well you always want to ensure people’s details are kept private for whatever purpose because people want to have confidence about that and the way they go about their lives these days. I mean so much of what we do now is digitised and it is important that people have a sense of confidence about that. You have sympathy about these things but I think you have to have a high level of awareness when you are punching your own information into systems that there is always this risk.
MITCHELL: Well what if people within your Department were found to have been using their government email to set up affairs through Ashley Madison? Would you want action against them?
MINISTER MORRISON: It is not my job to be a policeman on people’s private affairs. Whether they work for me or whether they work for anyone else. It is not an issue I have had a keen interest in or followed very closely Neil so I can’t give you much more of a response than that. As a Minister it is my responsibility to ensure that we are helping people who need help and the system doesn’t get rorted and we can start reducing those call times and reducing the complexity of the system. That is where all of my focus is on rather an interfering in people’s private lives who work in my Department. That is not something I am about.
MITCHELL: There may be a decision today from the Royal Commissioner looking into allegations of union corruption – well may be today may be next week about whether he stands down over links to your side of politics, the Liberal Party. Do you think he will?
MINISTER MORRISON: No I don’t believe he should and I certainly hope he doesn’t. I don’t believe he should be intimidated by the bullying campaign of the Labor Party and the unions. The Government, the Prime Minister, all the Ministers, we are not going to be bullied or intimidated by the unions. I mean what Bill Shorten is doing here is attacking the umpire. He doesn’t like the umpire’s call and he is attacking the umpire. You wouldn’t tolerate that on the field and you shouldn’t tolerate that in politics and frankly Bill Shorten should grow up, he should comply with everything that the Royal Commission is seeking him to comply with. If he needs to be called back to explain the evidence and the information that has been presented about his own dealings well he has just got to live with that and he has got to abide by the umpire’s decisions. The difference between the Labor Party and the Coalition is this; we won’t be bullied or bought by unions.
MITCHELL: I am sorry we will finish where we started, there are rumours of a reshuffle coming, have you heard anything?
MINISTER MORRISON: There has been some suggestion that the Prime Minister may be considering that at the end of the year and that has been the understanding I think for some time. That is not surprising. I mean the Prime Minister has kept a very stable team over a very long time, not just in government but from the time in Opposition as well. It is not unusually for Prime Ministers to consider that from time to time and they are entirely matters for him.
MITCHELL: Do you want to stay where you are?
MINISTER MORRISON: I am very happy with the work I am doing but you always serve where the Prime Minister asks you to serve and that has been my experience. But wherever you serve in government it is the most significant privilege. There is not a bad job in government because they all make a difference to people’s lives and that is why you go into politics.
MITCHELL: There is also a rumour you could be demoted because you are seen as a threat to the Prime Minister.
MINISTER MORRISON: Someone put this to me yesterday and look the Prime Minister will employ me where he wants to employ me and I know that he and I have worked very closely together over some very big issues in this portfolio. We were shoulder to shoulder on boats for years and years and we were proven right and I think we have made a very good team.
MITCHELL: But you would like to be leader one day wouldn’t you?
MINISTER MORRISON: As I have answered you on this point before, John Howard told me once do the job you are in and do it well and let the future take care of itself. That is what I do.
MITCHELL: But you would be better than Malcolm Turnbull wouldn’t you?
MINISTER MORRISON: I don’t make those comparisons. Malcolm is a good mate as well as are all my colleagues and we are focused on working together. As I said our focus, my focus, the PM’s focus is on jobs.
MITCHELL: Somebody is doing a phone poll asking whether you would be preferred as Liberal leader, an automated phone poll. Are you aware of that?
MINISTER MORRISON: No I am not aware of that. I think that is a bit amusing.
MITCHELL: Interested in the result?
MINISTER MORRISON: I don’t really care one way or the other because it is a hypothetical question. I am very focused on what I am doing and I think that is what people know about me Neil. On all these questions whether it is internally or externally people always know where I stand on something. They might not always agree with me but I think they always get a pretty clear idea that I am focused on the job I have at hand.
MITCHELL: Do you like being called ScoMo?
MINISTER MORRISON: I have learnt to live with it. I have decided to embrace it.
MITCHELL: Does your wife call you ScoMo?
MINISTER MORRISON: I will have to call her JMo if that is the case.
MITCHELL: Thank you for coming in.
MINISTER MORRISON: Good on you.