KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.
PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.
GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is going to be out rolling in the second-half of next year. we all hope that's the case. Should we be that optimistic? Is this too optimistic an assumption?
PRIME MINISTER: No. I mean, we're talking about the end, towards the back end of next year. But what I want to make very clear, is assumptions in the Budget are just assumptions in the Budget. They don't determine whether we're doing tax cuts or not. They don't condition whether there's the bring forward of investment allowances, or these sorts of things. All those measures, that's what's in the Budget. That's the plan. The assumptions are there to ensure that as best as we know the situation right now, then that enables us to do the estimates of how the books all add up. But they don't condition. Those assumptions don't determine whether we're going to have tax cuts, or not or that the pensioners will get their $250 this year and next year. All of those things that are in the plan, regardless of what those assumptions say. And so I wouldn't want people to think that those assumptions would in any way put at risk this important plan for our recovery and for rebuilding the economy.
GILBERT: If it's six months early, it adds 1.5 per cent growth to GDP. If it's six months late does that take 1.5 per cent off?
PRIME MINISTER: Sure, but those sensitivities are set out in the Budget. I mean, the Budget also says that we'll have an iron ore price of $55. Now, as you know, the iron ore price has been well up over $100 in recent times. So there are swings or roundabouts on the assumptions. And in my experience, this is my 5 Budget as the Prime Minister, and as a Treasurer, and sat on the ERC before that. Now, there are swings and roundabouts on the assumptions and and we'll see how they level out in time.
GILBERT: I know, everyone's asking you about the record debt, but I want to flip that question and say should you have borrowed more? Because in terms of the repayments, they're not going up because interest rates are so low. Should you have borrowed more, do we need more fiscal stimulus right now?
PRIME MINISTER: No. The COVID-19 recession is not a blank cheque. It's not. You still need to be targeted. You still need to be temporary. And you still need to be proportionate. But you also need to be scalable. And they were the principles that we set out, as you'll recall, back in March. And we've been true to those in this Budget. I mean, 90 per cent of the spending we have in this Budget is this year and next year. And I compare that to what happened with the GFC many years ago. Spending went on for years, and years, and years. They were still building school halls in schools that had closed down.
GILBERT: But it's cheaper to borrow isn't it?
PRIME MINISTER: Of course it's cheaper to borrow. And that's what's enabled us, I think, to do what's in this Budget. But I would stress to people watching that every single dollar in this Budget has been carefully considered.
GILBERT: Let me get a bottle of water for you because you've got a busy 24 hours and I know what it's like.
PRIME MINISTER: Bit of talking.
GILBERT: Exactly, when you get a frog in your throat. The other thing I wanted to ask you about is international borders, because we're talking about, the Australian population reduced by 2020, the end of 2022 there will be one million less Australians because of migration, international student restrictions. You've mentioned Howard Springs before. That facility in the Northern Territory is a potential way to repatriate Australians. I'm wondering, have you thought about using a facility like that, or a number of them to start cranking up migration again, and start cranking up international students?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah of course we have. And we've got two pilots running now in the Northern Territory and in South Australia. And I suspect we'll see more. And that's the task between now and particularly the beginning of next year's university year, gives us plenty of time, I think, now to plan on how we can hit next year running a lot harder than we were able to this year. I mean, when this, the COVID-19 recession, and virus pandemic, hit us at this pretty much the same time the year was beginning and there was a lot of unknowns. There are, there are, still unknowns going into next year but a lot more knowns. And that will help us, I think, plan around that. But with COVID-19 there are many things that, you know, you just there's not much you can do about it. Obviously, population increases are going to affected by the COVID-19 virus, but that's why the stimulus measures and other measures so important.
GILBERT: But you might be able to crank up the international students and migration so that the numbers might not be as dire?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, we can mitigate it, and that's what we'll be working closely with the states and territories on that.
GILBERT: What about the state borders, though? Mark McGowan last week said, "Oh, well, it's not in our interests,"... (inaudible) Yeah, please do. Feel free. But Mark McGowan last week talks about not reopening because it's not in their interests, South Australians, Northern Territorians don't earn as much, they're not going to spend as much. What do you make of that sort of argument? That economic protectionist argument shouldn't it be based on that health advice?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, it should only be based on health- I'm very sorry. It should only be based on health advice. That's the only reason to have any of these border restrictions. And if there's any other reason then they're not being honest with the Australian people.
GILBERT: Did this Budget, was it a wasted opportunity in a reform sense? Because Anthony Albanese says there are no structural reforms.
PRIME MINISTER: Oh he just he doesn't know what he's talking about. This Budget, three core components. The first one is to cushion the blow. And we've seen that with all the measures we've had up until now and they continue well into next year. The second part is the recovery plan, and that is bringing forward, bringing forward hiring decisions on the JobMaker hiring credit. Bringing forward investment decisions on the investment allowance and the lost carry back provisions. Bringing forward the tax cuts to put more money back in people's pockets so they can keep more of what they earn. And the third component is the building for the long term future. And that's where we've got the energy reforms. There'll be more workplace reforms that comes out of the process the Attorney has been working on. There's the JobTrainer and skills training reforms that are in place, the digital transformation reforms, the research and development reforms, the manufacturing plan and the list goes on. There is a large plan that deals with the long-term future as well as the right here and right now.
GILBERT: But you didn't pursue company tax cuts again. You didn't bring forward the third phase of income tax cuts. Have you taken the path of least resistance?
PRIME MINISTER: No, not at all. What we've focused on,
GILBERT: Because you don't want the fight?
PRIME MINISTER: No. Not at all. This Budget is targeted to what we need to do right now. And what we need to do right now is bring forward those important decisions. Those important decisions are about investment. They're about hiring. They're about training. There's about 12,000 university places that will be there next year. Next year, 12,000 additional for school leavers. 340,000 training places there this year. So there's a lot in this Budget which is dealing with those immediate challenges. But as I outlined before the Budget, whether it was particularly on the energy plan or the deregulation plan. What we're doing with the Environmental, the EPBC Act, fast approval times. The infrastructure plans that are there. The National Water Grid. What we're doing around opening up gas basins. All of this is part of the longer-term plan to rebuild our economy for the future.
GILBERT: Normally, it's the Treasurer, as you know, you chaired the ERC. You chaired the Expenditure Review Committee and this process. Why did you want to take ownership of this Budget?
PRIME MINISTER: No, the Prime Minister always chairs the Expenditure Review Committee. Malcolm Turnbull used to chair it when he was the Prime Minister and Tony Abbott before him.
GILBERT: So you haven't taken a greater ownership of this one as opposed to previous Budgets?
PRIME MINISTER: No.
GILBERT: Okay. No no no that’s fair enough.
PRIME MINISTER: Someone's got the wrong end of the stick on that one.
GILBERT: Well, generally you see the social media posts, various other elements, you know that we see you're always with the Treasurer. You're a former Treasurer.
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. We're a great team.
GILBERT: Good team. Just sharing.
PRIME MINISTER: Josh has done an amazing job, and as you know, this is Mathias Cormann's last Budget. And and he has been a key part of that team for many, many years.
GILBERT: One last question, you've got another interview to get to. But, China. So much of the Budget depends on trade with China. Madame Fu, former Ambassador to Australia, she said just this week that both countries, both countries, need to show their sincerity and courage to get out of the current dilemma. She's also pretty influential still in Beijing. Do you sense that might be a start to some thawing, do you hope to see a thawing in that?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I always hope and we're always open for that. I mean, Australia has just taken a very consistent position..
GILBERT: Does that sound promising to you?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, I'll take any encouragement because it's important for Australia. But this is our approach to the relationship. We're for a positive and good relationship. It's a mutually beneficial relationship. We'll be very clear about what our sovereign interests are and we'll respect China's sovereign interests. And we'll get on and do business together, and have a great people-to-people relationships. I think it's all there to be realised in the future. And Australia very much wants to see that. But, you know, that comes with respect for Australia's sovereign interests just as we respect theirs.
GILBERT: Prime Minister, thanks.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot.
GILBERT: Thanks for battling through the frog.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks for that. I'm fine now.
GILBERT: We'll see you soon, cheers.