The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP Prime Minister

Interview with Kieran Gilbert SKY News AM Agenda

E&OE…

KIERAN GILBERT:

This is AM Agenda, thanks very much for your company. With me now this morning for the first time in 2017, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Turnbull thanks for your time. A big question – Labor is asking it, many others as well – the dual nationals that might be affected by the President’s Executive Order on refugees. Have you got any news on that front?

fiji-aus-pmPRIME MINISTER:

Yes I do. Our Ambassador has just called me to say that he has had assurances, confirmation from the White House that Australian passport holders – regardless of their place of birth or whether they are dual nationals, or whether they hold another passport – will remain welcome to come and go to the United States in the usual way.

KIERAN GILBERT:

So you’ve been given that assurance, like the UK and Canada?

PRIME MINISTER:

That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Is that because we are part of the Five Eyes arrangement?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we have a very strong relationship with the United States. We work very closely with them. We have very strong relationship with the new administration and we are very engaged. I have just received that official confirmation and so that is very important. That means Australian passport holders will be able to travel to the United States in the same way as they were able to prior to the Executive Order of the 27th of January.

KIERAN GILBERT:

And was that done via negotiations or discussions with the White House or Homeland Security? Can you elaborate on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

The confirmation came from the White House, it came from the National Security Advisor General Flynn, so that’s the level of authority. But we are dealing with the White House senior officials there and of course I have very recently spoke to the President myself. We have a very close relationship. We seek to be as engaged as possible with the new Administration. It’s very important, especially in these early days.

KIERAN GILBERT:

We’ve seen criticisms from Barack Obama in the last hour or so. Jeff Bleich the former Ambassador to Australia, very critical in a statement overnight. You’ve been called ‘weak’ by Pauline Hanson. Criticised by the Greens and Labor as well for not condemning this action. Why don’t you speak more forcefully on it?

PRIME MINISTER:

My job as Prime Minister of Australia is to advance the national interest of Australia and protect the interests of Australian citizens. That’s my job. So when I need to give frank advice, fearless advice, to the United States Government, I do so privately. But I don’t comment on American domestic policy publicly. My job is to get results for Australians and that’s what I have done today.

Over the weekend we received a commitment from the President that he would honour the resettlement arrangements entered into with President Obama last year. Again that is a very good result for the people on Nauru and Manus who can now be assessed and if successful, able to resettle in the United States.

KIERAN GILBERT:

So this isn’t just about protecting that deal? The fact that you are keeping quiet on the Executive Order?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. Kieran can I just say to you, what I have done is made it very clear that our non-discriminatory immigration policy, our multicultural nation, our multicultural policies are not changing. Our values are very, very clear.

We have a non-discriminatory immigration policy. We have a non-discriminatory humanitarian program.

In fact, the only time that I can recall when a refugee processing was halted in respect of nominated countries in Australia was done by a Labor government in 2010, in respect of refugee applications from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

So the fact is we have strong borders. We have a very, very sophisticated intelligence-based border protection system so we take great care about who gets into Australia. But it is non-discriminatory. We are very proud of our success. We are the most successful multicultural society in the world.

KIERAN GILBERT:

And our intelligence agencies warn that a discriminatory approach, like we are seeing from Donald Trump, do they – I should ask you – do they warn that that can be counterproductive in terms of the recruitment, propaganda basically, that it provides groups like IS and so on?

PRIME MINISTER:

Again, thanks for the invitation but you can understand that to do my job – which is to advance Australia’s interests, protect Australian citizens, ensure that Australians can travel to and from the United States in the normal way – to do that, it is best that I reserve my comments on American domestic policy for private discussions with the President or his senior officials. But that is because I am the Prime Minister.

Now Bill Shorten is not the Prime Minister. He wants to be obviously. So he will go out on anything that he thinks gives him a political advantage. He has no concern about our national interest and our national interest is best protected by me giving private counsel to the United States, our most important ally, publicly refraining from commenting on their domestic policy, advancing the interest of Australia, our national interest and the interests of our citizens. That’s what I have done and that’s what I have delivered.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Last question. I want to ask you about the issue of jobs because this is what the Opposition Leader is going to be focussing on a great deal today. Is this a vulnerability for the Government in this area that Labor is going to be saying, in almost a protectionist sentiment in some of the language used around skilled workers and so on, is it time that the Government starts to reign in the use of 457 visas before Labor gets so much political traction on it?

PRIME MINISTER:

If Bill Shorten is going to talk about 457 visas at the Press Club he should turn up in sack cloth and ashes, as a penitent confessing to his sins. Nobody issued more 457 visas than Bill Shorten. He is the Olympic champion of 457 visas.

Labor does not have one policy which will create one job. They have a series of job-destroying, high taxing, high-borrowing policies which undermine incentive, undermine enterprise and their latest protectionist tactic, that is absolutely guaranteed to destroy jobs. The best thing that is happening in regional Australia, which has been doing it tough because of the wind down of the mining construction boom, the best thing that is happening, is exports.

I mean you look at Labor. I was down in Portland with Dan Tehan just a little while ago, the aluminium smelter there. What does that business need? It needs big open markets and more markets and it needs affordable electricity. Bill Shorten wants to have more expensive electricity and now he wants to close off markets to Australian exporters. He is the enemy of jobs. In office he was an Olympic champion for 457 visas so he should be begging forgiveness and promising to repent.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Mr Turnbull, I appreciate your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.