FORDHAM: 14 minutes to 8:00. You’re with Ben Fordham on 2GB. The Prime Minister Scott Morrison is live on the line. Prime Minister, good morning to you.
PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ben.
FORDHAM: I can’t keep up. Where are you today?
PRIME MINISTER: I’m in Sydney this morning.
FORDHAM: Okay. So you’ve got a pitch today to small business. You are pledging to create 400,000 small and family businesses over the next five years. You say you can do this through a series of programs to help them cut overhead costs. It’s a lot of small businesses to create in five years.
PRIME MINISTER: It is, and it’s exactly what we’ve achieved over the last five years in establishing 400,000. So I think we can make that claim with a lot of credibility in the way we’ve been able to do that is we’ve obviously cut taxes for small business. They’re paying 25 cents on their profits in the dollar now, and it used to be 30 cents, and we cut those taxes. The instant asset write-off the depreciation they get. One of the most important things, Ben, I think we’ve done is to ensure that small businesses get paid on time and they get access to more government work that comes through. We’ve increased that by 43 per cent and getting their energy bills down. I mean energy bills have fallen by 10 per cent for small businesses over the last two years. Affordable, reliable energy is really important, but also helping small businesses adjust how they manage their energy and the tools that are available to help them do that, both with expert advice, which we’re announcing today. But that comes on top of the $60 million program we announced earlier in the campaign for powering businesses. But again, it’s those tax deductions. You can get 120 per cent tax deduction in this year’s budget on what you do to train your staff, but also to put in new digital and data software like cloud computing and payment systems and things like that. These are the things that help businesses grow, get in control of their cash flow, getting their costs down. That’s how we’ve created 400,000 businesses in a pandemic, and that’s how we’ll do it again over the next five years.
FORDHAM: You know, one of the issues facing businesses, workers shortages and this issue has been pushed onto the backburner or maybe the too hard basket, but it’s around pensioners who want to be able to work because at the moment they have got these barriers in place to earning more money. They want to work, but they are punished by the tax man for doing so. And you’ve said, look, we don’t want to force people to work after they’ve worked their whole lives. My listeners are saying to me, we want the choice. We want the Prime Minister to follow his own motto. If you have a go, you get a go.
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, well, that’s why we introduced the pension work bonus and that is $300 extra a fortnight you can earn on top of the $180 a fortnight, which is the income free area for getting access to the pension. That means you can earn $12,800 a year and you can also do it in a flexible way. And what that means is you could go say this, say you’re a retired accountant and you do a couple of months work at the end of the financial year. The way we assess your eligibility for the pension is you don’t pro-rata it over the whole year, there’s a, there’s a bank of earnings you can have over the course of the year. So it doesn’t affect your pension.
FORDHAM: But but you’re talking about $12,800 a year. There are people who want to work a lot more than that.
PRIME MINISTER: And when they and they do and when they do, they’re earning that extra income. But what I’m saying, Ben.
FORDHAM: But the tax man is also earning 50 per cent.
PRIME MINISTER: Ben, Ben. Well, no, they wouldn’t be earning 50 per cent on those sort of things because what we’ve done is we were lowering the tax rates in the next term of Parliament already made law that you wouldn’t pay any more than 30 cents in the dollar, anywhere between $45,000 and $200,000 a year. That’s what we legislated [inaudible].
FORDHAM: Well, can I just read a bit of feedback? I know that you’re big on listening to people when you’re out and about and you’ve been listening to thousands of people. I’ll just read you two here. Barbara says, I’m in my 80s. I worked until I was 75, slowly switching part-time, tell those stupid, stupid politicians to make it flexible and to give pensioners a choice. Christine says, I’m on the pension. I’m a nurse, I work 6 hours a week. I’d love to triple this. I’m 71, I’m fit and I’m free to work many more hours. So they are saying to you, PM, give us more opportunity.
PRIME MINISTER: Well Ben, that’s why we introduced the pension work bonus, $300 extra a fortnight that pensioners can earn without it affecting their pension. And yesterday the other thing we did for pensioners was to ensure that the deeming rates on their investments are frozen for the next two years because with rising interest rates, that could take people out of getting access to the pension. So we’ve frozen them for the next two years. On the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, we’ve extended access to another 50,000 Australians, which gives them access to more affordable medicines. And so when it comes to the, and then of course we’ve got the minimum drawdown rates which your listeners will know, self-funded retirees, how many, how important that is. And we’ve extended the relief on minimum drawdown rates for a further 12 months, as we’ve done through the pandemic. We’re looking at those issues, Ben, but the $300 pension.
FORDHAM: But just to confirm the standard rule for the pension, where you lose 50 cents over each dollar above the threshold, there are no plans to change that?
PRIME MINISTER: No, well Ben, we’re looking at all those things all the time. But what I’m saying is the pension work bonus that we’ve put in actually hasn’t had a very big take up. So when we’ve actually extended the opportunities with those additional abilities to work more hours, we haven’t seen a big take up on that. And so we put those measures in place for that exact purpose of providing more of those opportunities, and the take up has been relatively modest. So that was put in place to encourage that where people wanted to have that choice. It’s something our Government did, not the Labor Party. We put that in place so pensioners do get a fairer go than they were getting before and if there are other things we can do there, well we’re open minded on that. But the programs that are there right now, well, there’s opportunities to take them up as we speak.
FORDHAM: Okay. A few other things to squeeze in between now and when we have to say goodbye. Border policies are another big issue and you’ve released data today showing Labor’s performance in the past. Between 2010 and 2013, the Labor Government released 500 people who arrived here illegally who then went on to commit serious crime. So I’m guessing you want to highlight the dangers of leaving Labor in charge of this issue, which has been problematic in the past, for them to say the least.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, Labor take border protection for granted. I mean, they did that when Kevin Rudd came in. They thought they could just wind back the policies that John Howard had and there’d be no impact. And in August of 2008, they abolished Temporary Protection Visas and it just went from bad to worse from that point on. Anthony Albanese is proposing to do exactly the same thing. One of the first things he’ll do is abolish Temporary Protection Visas, which is a core plank of our border protection regime. Now he thinks it doesn’t make any difference. Kevin Rudd didn’t think it would make any difference. He was wrong. What I’m amazed about is after all of this time they still don’t get it and that’s why they can’t be trusted on it. He was opposed to turnbacks when he was actually for the brief time, he only spent a few months on the National Security Committee on Government, and in the time he was there, he opposed turnbacks. So I think they just can’t be trusted on this issue, because they don’t believe in it.
FORDHAM: We know that you’ve been side by side with many Liberal MPs and candidates during the campaign, but there is speculation that you won’t be visiting certain electorates, including Wentworth, where Dave Sharma is fighting to hold on. Will you be going to Wentworth and campaigning with Dave Sharma?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we don’t sort of telecast what our election campaign program is, Ben. We let journalists know each day where we’re going, so I’m not about to give any sort of foreshadowing of that over the next couple of weeks. But, you know, I get there a bit because my Mum lives in Wentworth. I grew up there a long time ago, so, you know, it’s a place I know well.
FORDHAM: Has he invited you to come and campaign with him?
PRIME MINISTER: Well Ben, again, I don’t telecast our program, you know that.
FORDHAM: I’m guessing the same is said for Trent Zimmerman in North Sydney.
PRIME MINISTER: Ben, same question. I’m actually in North Sydney as we speak.
FORDHAM: Katherine Deves has been pretty low profile for some time and obviously she’s appeared on this program, she did an interview with the Daily Telegraph, SBS as well. But apart from that, she looks like she’s running away a little bit. Is she able to win Warringah without using her high profile that she’s gained during this campaign and, and speaking to people at every opportunity?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think what you’ve just said Ben is she has been. She’s been on your program, she’s been on SBS, she was out with me at our campaign rally on the weekend and she’s a strong person who’s standing up for women and girls and fairness in sport. That’s what it’s about. Plenty of people have tried to silence her and take her out, I’m certainly not one of those. I think it’s important that she feel able to raise these issues and and all of those who want the rest of us to walk on eggshells and try to force her out of the campaign, well I think that speaks a lot more about, you know, how debate goes in this country and why it’s important that people like Katherine Deves, where she feels strongly on this issue, on women and girls’ sport should be able to speak up and is.
FORDHAM: Before I let you go, I better ask you about the big issue because I’ve got some sympathy for the journalists who are following you and Anthony Albanese around, because they’ve always got to find a new angle. And, and this one on the Herald Sun newspaper, I mean this is a huge. Mystery of ScoMo’s injured finger deepens. The mystery of Scomo’s injured finger remains unsolved. Despite rigorous investigation by journalists on the Prime Minister’s campaign trail, a red open wound was first spotted by reporters at a press conference. He appeared at another retirement village in Adelaide with the same wound and left arm bandaged. They say it raises perhaps the biggest question of the four week campaign. How did the Prime Minister injure his finger?
PRIME MINISTER: Chopping onions on the weekend when I was cooking a curry. That’s how it happened.
FORDHAM: But that’s the other big issue. Did you cook the chicken properly?
PRIME MINISTER: I totally cooked the chicken properly and it was in the pan for about 45 minutes. It was a classic chicken korma. I can tell you the other one was an eggplant and okra vegetarian Sri Lankan curry. I got the ingredients up there in Rockhampton. So you got me on the curries now mate, we’re gonna have to extend the interview for another 10 minutes.
FORDHAM: No no no no no. No, that’ll do. As long as nobody got sick after eating your curry then everything’s okay.
PRIME MINISTER: No, they they went back the seconds. They went back for seconds, they went back for seconds it was so good.
FORDHAM: Alright, we appreciate your time. We know you’re busy. We’ll talk to you again between now and Election Day.
PRIME MINISTER: Just before I go Ben, can I just mention one thing on interest rates?
PRIME MINISTER: On interest rates, I know that is going to impact people, but we’ve had a shield to protect Australia and overnight interest rates increased in the United States by a further 50 basis points. In New Zealand they’ve gone up by 125, in Canada by 75, in the UK 65. And so what we’re seeing in Australia is, yes, there’s pressures and I get it, that’s why we’re providing cost of living relief. But Australia is dealing with this problem far better than most of the advanced countries in the world. And so, you know, all of those things could have happened here in Australia and with a strong economic plan we have shielding Australia from those impacts.
FORDHAM: Look after your thumb, we’ll talk to you soon.
PRIME MINISTER: I will. Thanks a lot Ben.
FORDHAM: Good on you. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who’s in Sydney today.