Doorstop interview, Canberra
MINISTER MORRISON: It will be a very sad say today in the Parliament as we pay tribute to Malcolm Fraser. Malcolm Fraser was an extraordinary individual. He was a Prime Minister for whom the immigrant communities of this country could never have had a greater friend in. As Prime Minister it was Malcolm Fraser who established the SBS, introduced English language training for migrants, established the settlement services programme which is recognised around the world today as being the world’s best. He was the individual who introduced the special humanitarian visa, which has been a key feature of this Government’s refugee program. So today will be fitting for us to pay tribute to someone who made an extraordinary contribution to public policy and the leadership of this nation, and in addition to that, as a Liberal, he was the toughest Opposition Leader this country has ever seen. The level of determination and will that was required during his time as leader of the Liberal Party when he was Opposition Leader I think has been unparalleled, so I pay my great respects to Malcolm Fraser, a great Australian, and a great Liberal Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Just on that, what do you make of David Leyonhjelm’s comments this morning that essentially suspending Parliament today for condolence motions is a bit over the top?
MINISTER MORRISON: This is the normal practice which is engaged in. It is exactly what we did recently with the passing of Gough Whitlam. I think it’s fitting in this country that we honour the contribution of Prime Ministers who have passed away, from whatever side of politics they come from. It’s important to show respect for the office and importantly to mark our respect for their contribution and to express our thanks to the family who will be going through a difficult time and it’s important that they understand that the country values the great sacrifice and contribution that their loved one had made.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that Cabinet colleagues are briefing against Julie Bishop on foreign aid cuts?
MINISTER MORRISON: I have no idea what you are talking about.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that those kind of confidences should be kept?
MINISTER MORRISON: You are asking me to comment on something I have no knowledge of. I don’t comment on gossip and speculation in Canberra.
JOURNALIST: Can we just get an update of where the pension changes are at. Is there any likelihood of anything on the horizon?
MINISTER MORRISON: The good news on the pension is that last Friday it went up. The pension has gone up by over 6% since this Government was elected. More importantly than that, we not only have had pensions go up by $78 for couples and over $50 for single pensioners, they have also been able to maintain the carbon tax compensation payment which was $14.10 for single pensioners and $21.20 for couples, and we got rid of the carbon tax.
So under this Government, pensioners are better off than they would have been under the Labor Party. We are in discussions in the Parliament to see if we can get a more sustainable pension for the future and a fair pension for the future, and as I have said from coming into this portfolio, right from the outset, I’m open to options, we are open for business on these discussions and we are considering a whole range of different options and I’ll continue to do that because I’m interested in having a sustainable pension for the future. I think if we don’t address that from a policy perspective then in the next ten years a Government will have to make a very drastic change in this area and I think that will hurt pensioners. What we are trying to do is have a considered and engaged and consultative process which delivers a sustainable pension not just for those who are on it now but for those in the future.
JOURNALIST: Do you accept, though, that the changes announced in last year’s budget will not be legislated before this year’s budget?
MINISTER MORRISON: Those changes haven’t even been brought into the House of Representatives at this stage, and what I’m interested in is a discussion which delivers a fair and sustainable and adequate pension and one that reflects the costs of living and community standards that we would hope people would be able to respond to in their retirement. So it’s an important discussion for the country to have. I’m disappointed that the Labor Party is not engaged in that discussion. On welfare payments generally they are happy to let it rip and allow the pension and everything else just to go off the edge of a cliff and let someone else deal with it down the track. I don’t think that’s a very responsible position. The status quo is not an option here. We have got to be able do better and I’m interested in talking to people who have got good ideas in this area and are committed to getting a solution.
JOURNALIST: You’re on the Expenditure Review Committee Minister Morrison, generally do you feel aid should take another hit in this year’s budget?
MINISTER MORRISON: Today what I have announced in my portfolio is that we are going to commit $230 million to reverse the funding cuts of the Labor Party on homelessness. That’s a priority right here in Australia that I want to see funded. We have been able to achieve that by working through offsets in my own portfolio. It’s important that we help those here at home and we are doing that right now with the $230 million in funding for homelessness services with a focus on the victims of domestic violence and young people who are either homeless or at risk of being homeless. We think that’s an important priority and that’s why I have made that announcement today. It’s disappointing that when Labor left office, having made quite a lot of noise about homelessness when they were in Government, they shut the door on funding as they walked out the door. Now, we have reopened that and we have funded it this year and we’ll be funding it for a further two years but with a lot greater accountability and a lot greater focus. It was a woolly program under the previous Government. It’s becoming a much more targeted and focused program under this Government.
JOURNALIST: So that sounds like a yes, aid should expect a cut because it’s not a priority?
MINISTER MORRISON: If you want to answer the questions as well as ask them that’s up to you. What I’m saying is in my portfolio I’m focused on increasing funding for homelessness here in Australia.
JOURNALIST: Business is calling for a bold budget. Is that what the Government’s going to deliver?
MINISTER MORRISON: I think we have always been bold in trying to address the problems that we have inherited from the Labor Party. We have halved the trajectory of Labor’s debt. That is a good start but it’s not where we want to finish. We want to continue on with the job and that’s why we are pursuing the many savings that we outlined in last year’s budget, and why when we go into this budget we’ll continue to keep a measured pace of reform. But we all know the situation in the Parliament here and you have to put up practical and incremental measures, which can be digested by the Senate. It’s no good just going around beating your chest, you have got to be able to get things through in order to make a practical difference and that’s the significant challenge the Government has. The reason we have had such difficulty in getting the measures that we believe are necessary to get the budget under control through is because of the Labor Party. It’s the Labor Party that has been completely reckless. In Government they were fiscal arsonists and in opposition have contributed to that same position in refusing to acknowledge the damage that they did and to support the Government in fixing the mess that they left behind.
JOURNALIST: Do you feel with this talk of a practical budget you could lose your base at the expense of trying to capture more of the middle ground?
MINISTER MORRISON: Others will commentate on the politics of this. It’s important that we do what is right for the country. What’s right for the country is ensuring that we are making progress and fixing the mess that we inherited. That’s what we’ll do in this budget, that’s what we did in the last budget and that’s what we’ll do in the next budget after this one as well as we go to the Australian people. The Australian people know the mess that was left behind by Labor. Now, we are addressing that, we have got our challenges, but we’ll continue to address them in this budget and the ones that follow.
JOURNALIST: Islamic State set up a step-by-step guide for Australians on how to flee Australia and head to the Middle East to fight. Is that of concern?
MINISTER MORRISON: Terribly. Daesh is a death cult and they prey on vulnerable people in our community and we need to use every resource at our disposal to ensure we thwart that. We have young Australians who are being intoxicated by this deadly virus of Daesh and they will use whatever method possible. They are not unlike people smugglers in a reverse way. They will seek to exploit, manipulate, and prey on the vulnerable. They are highly organised, they will seek to fund and facilitate the process of people offshore and that’s what we are up against here. We should be under no illusions about the evil that this country faces in Daesh. They are not just over in the Middle East. They are here seeking to exploit vulnerable young people, young Australians in our own community and the Government is doing everything we can to try and thwart their vile efforts.