Australian Prime Minister Radio Interview – ABC Sydney 14 March

Prime Minister

: The Prime Minister joins me now on ABC Radio Sydney with an announcement about EVs and trucks. Good morning to you, Prime Minister.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Sarah. Good to be with you.

MACDONALD: Good to have you. Now, I know you’re in Sydney for an announcement and before we get to it, we’ve just been talking a little bit about the barney about the GST in NSW. The Premier saying it’s really unfair, we’re losing money. Are you dudding your own State after cuts to the GST share?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, no. The Premier knows full well that the Commonwealth Grants Commission is independent of all governments, including the Federal Government. It calculates the distribution of GST revenue between States and Territories according to long-standing and complex methodology. This is the arm’s length of all governments.

MACDONALD: But the former Prime Minister did a deal so WA gets more ongoing funds, and some of our funds will be going to Victoria. Can we help NSW along here federally?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s just not right. We have a no-worse-off guarantee for NSW and for all of the states and territories as a result of the WA deal. That was reinforced and indeed extended at the National Cabinet meeting, when we met in December. So, NSW is not losing any money because of that. Every year this happens, Sarah, the calculations come out and people say it’s unfair, and that’s why what you don’t want is political interference and a political decision based upon favourites. I’m a proud NSW person.

MACDONALD: But it does seem unfair, though, that we have 31 per cent of the population and we get 27 per cent of the GST.

PRIME MINISTER: If you’re a state like the Northern Territory or Tasmania, for example, those states don’t have the same capacity to benefit from things like coal royalties and other revenue – so this is a formula that’s not established by my Government, we’ve done nothing to interfere with it. That’s why you have something at arm’s length through the Commonwealth Grants Commission that’s been in place for a very long period of time. But one of the things that my Government is doing is recognising that state and territory budgets are under pressure. That’s why we’re putting in increased health and hospitals funding. That’s why we’re putting in record funding for housing. That’s why you just heard Jason Clare, who’s negotiating, or trying to negotiate with all the states and territories, for an increase in education funding to lift all students up to the fair funding model that was done through the Gonski Report all those years ago.

MACDONALD: He’s still negotiating with NSW. We’ll get to EVs in just a moment and new ones that are going to be on the road. But I just heard on the news you said we won’t be looking at banning TikTok like the US. Why are we going to keep TikTok?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, no, what I said was, we’d take security advice, we make our own decisions. TikTok is banned from our phones. We’ve taken action in line with agencies to restrict access, essentially on devices such as the one I’m talking to you on now.

MACDONALD: You mean members of Parliament don’t have TikToks on their phones?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, correct. Well, government, not just members of Parliament. It’s much more extensive than phones.

MACDONALD: Federal workers?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, phones that handle sensitive material – TikTok is banned. We’ve put that in place and that’s an appropriate action. Now, we’ll make our own decisions, we’ll continue to look at the advice from security agencies, but I recognise that for a whole lot of, particularly younger people out there, TikTok is their preferred app, essentially, that they communicate on. And the idea of – I’m not a big fan of big brother government, is my starting point. You need to have an argument put rather than automatically just ban things, we’ll take…

MACDONALD: Sure, but the argument is that big brother in China could be tracking our kids on TikTok.

PRIME MINISTER: Sure. And we’ll take security advice on it. TikTok isn’t compulsory, by the way.

MACDONALD: It is if you’re 14.

PRIME MINISTER: People aren’t – well, you’re just putting an argument, aren’t you?

MACDONALD: There is a talk, though, that it’s linked to an increase in crime, in regional NSW, this whole ‘posting and boasting’ thing.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s a separate question, though. So is the internet in general. So, is Facebook on that basis. There are a range of apps that are used to advertise things. There’s a host of programs that can do that, and that is unfortunate, and that needs to be dealt with in a separate fashion.

MACDONALD: All right, the Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, is with me on ABC Radio Sydney. Now, you’re making an announcement today in Sydney that is to do with EVs and special vehicles in Sydney. You’re going to be at Eastern Creek. What is the announcement about today? What are these vehicles and where will they go?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s a bit more than just an announcement because it is the rolling out of EV trucks through, what used to be called Toll – I think will be more familiar to your listeners – but it’s now Team Global Express. They are one of the two big logistics companies in Australia. So, they’re rolling out EV trucks that have been manufactured by Volvo. It’s quite a good setup that they’ve had – solar panels on the roofs at Eastern Creek with battery storage, then charging up these EV trucks so that you get zero emissions. But importantly as well, you get less pollution, you get less noise, and they’re cheaper to run as well. So, this is a part of the rolling out of our Driving the Nation Fund. We’ve granted $20 million through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to get this project on the road. It’s one of the projects we’re doing with a range of businesses – Origin, Jet Charge, EuropCar, Patrick Terminals, to name just a few of them. And it shows what we can do in order to drive down our emissions, but also to reduce air pollution in Sydney, that can be a real issue, particularly in Western Sydney.

MACDONALD: Well, it’s not great today because there is some hazard reduction and that’s why it’s smoky. But the company that’s involved in this is, the CEO is Christine Holgate, who was formerly with Australia Post. And so was this contract put out to tender? Why did it get this contract and partnership?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, a range of companies have got these contracts. What we did was we advertised out, so, not just Christine Holgate’s operations – she’s a great CEO, of course, and is one of Australia’s leading CEOs and has not just done Australia Post, but has had a great business career – and other partnerships are with companies like Origin, Patrick Terminals there at the Port. These will all make a big difference for the big operators who use a lot of trucks. If we can transfer them to the use of EV trucks, we know that transport is responsible for one fifth, basically, of our transport, of Australia’s total emissions, and one quarter of that is from trucks and buses. And this delivery today is a great example where they’re using the space that they have there at Eastern Creek to have the solar panels, to have the battery storage, to have the charging infrastructure all there, all there on site. That will reduce their costs, and will make a big difference. There’s a big productivity benefit from this as well.

MACDONALD: All right, final question. Beth texted in saying, will Labor voters in Cook have someone to vote for in the by-election? We’re being hounded by Liberal Party ads already. This is Scott Morrison’s old seat. The Liberal Party has its candidate, he’s moved to the area. Now, will you be running a Labor candidate, such as local Simon Earle, who’s run before?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ll make a decision that’s a matter for the organisational wing of the Labor Party. Cook is not a seat that we have been successful on for a while. I must say, though, the fact that the Liberal Party once again have chosen another bloke, in this case, a bloke who ran for Bennelong on Sydney’s north shore last time around, it’s a long way between Bennelong and the Sutherland Shire. And so, the organisational wing of the Party will make that decision in coming days.

MACDONALD: All right, final one. This is from a texter from Balmain – there’s a big rally a couple of days ago in relation to Premier Chris Minns’ planning laws. It will have serious impacts on heritage many are fearing in your seat of Grayndler included, around Marrickville. What do you think of them?

PRIME MINISTER: Look – sensible increases in density can produce really good outcomes. Around Marrickville, you look at the Revolution Building there, which is right on Marrickville Station, which means that people don’t have to own a car, they can have that access to the rail network around Sydney. The old Marrickville Hospital site that’s been turned into the library, as well as community facilities and open space, that was a Mirvac development that has won awards and is bringing increased life to Marrickville Road and Illawarra Road. I’m a proud Marrickville resident. I look forward to moving back there when my current journey ends, which inevitably these things do. And I think that the character of the Inner West is very important. But I think that in areas like Parramatta Road, for example, I’ve said has been destitute – my whole life I’ve lived around the Inner West and it’s been diabolical.

MACDONALD: Yeah. Look, a lot of people would agree with you.

PRIME MINISTER: Increased density there could make a lot of sense.

MACDONALD: You’re sounding wistful though, there, Prime Minister. I can’t just let what you go said. You said, when you expect my current journey to end. When do you expect that? You’re only a couple of years in.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, not for a while, but that’s a matter for your listeners and the voters, of course, I’ve got to keep getting elected in Grayndler and then I need to, of course, win the next election as well, which will come next year.

MACDONALD: Is there work to do…

PRIME MNISTER: I do miss the Inner West very much.

MACDONALD: Yeah, you’ve told me that. What about lithium batteries and recycling? There’s been another couple of fires with this overnight, some in a garbage truck in particular. It is sort of a missing piece in the green changes and that are coming ahead for a lot of our changes to more renewable energy and batteries.

PRIME MINISTER: It is, look, there is more work to be done on the circular economy and Tanya Plibersek is leading the work on that. It’s a matter of not just good social policy, obviously, in terms of doing the right thing and recycling, there’s a lot to be gained for the economy in doing that as well.

MACDONALD: All right. Thanks for your time this morning.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Sarah.

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