Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016: how not to answer the question and still regurgitate your talking points

Malcolm Bligh Turnbull raises political evasion to an art form in this ABC 7.30 interview on 8 June 2016:


LEIGH SALES: Why should Australians re-elect a government that considered its own performance so poor that it dumped a first-term prime minister and on the economy has basically tread water for three years?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well we have a national economic plan, Leigh, for jobs and growth and we have delivered elements of that plan already. Part of our plan is big trade export deals. We've opened up huge markets in Asia which are driving investment and growth and employment right across the country. Our economy is in transition from a big mining construction boom, which fuelled up economic activity here and employment, and then that has declined, as it was always going to, so where do we get the growth story going forward? And we've set in place a plan that will deliver that and is delivering that. Innovation as well.

LEIGH SALES: You're talking about going forward. I was explicitly referring to your record in your three years in government.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well our record is good. We had - in 2015 we had three per cent growth in GDP. It's now 3.1 per cent, the last figures. We had over 300,000 jobs created. That's the highest number of jobs created in Australia since before the GFC.

LEIGH SALES: But then you come up against this problem that if your record was so good, why did you have to dump a first-term prime minister?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well Leigh, I'm looking forward. My job as Prime Minister is to ensure that our children and grandchildren have the best opportunities in the future and we do that by securing our economic future with our national economic plan.

LEIGH SALES: But Prime Minister, you'd have to understand that voters make their decision looking at your record as well as what you're promising.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Our record is strong. Look at what we have done in terms of economic growth. We have ...

LEIGH SALES: But again, I come back to the same point: if your record is strong, why did you have to replace a first-term prime minister?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well the record is strong. The issue of the - the political issue you raise is a separate matter. The really critical thing that matters to Australian is can they get a job? Can their children get a job? Can they get a better job? If they want to leave their job and start a business, will they be able to? Is there the confidence? We had very highest confidence figures, the highest for nearly two years - more than two years, actually - came out just yesterday. So what we're seeing is strong business confidence, strong levels of employment growth and that's because my government's economic plan is working, but I need three more years to complete it and that's what I'm seeking from the Australian people……


LEIGH SALES: When you challenged Prime Minister Abbott, you cited two reasons: poor polling and the lack of a coherent economic message. I'd like to tonight discuss your performance against those two benchmarks that you set yourself, starting with the economy. Do you accept that far from establishing a coherent economic message, your delay in announcing policy and then your wishy-washiness, as one of your own backbenchers put it, has confused and disillusioned voters?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: I think everyone in Australia now understands, perhaps because of this long campaign, that we do have a plan for jobs and growth and they understand that it has a number of elements - innovation, defence industry investment, the export trade deals, employment programs and business tax cuts.

LEIGH SALES: But you took a long time to get there and what I'm getting to is: hasn't that left people a little bit confused?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: I believe that the message is very clearly understood, Leigh, that there is one party or one coalition of parties, the Liberal-National Coalition, one government, of which I am the Prime Minister, which has a clear plan for jobs and growth. We've laid it out. And there is no question that every single measure in our plan will deliver stronger economic growth. Now, with regret, I have to say the Labor Party, in so far - they don't have a plan, they have a serious of policies - incoherence is their watchword - and every single one of their policies is calculated to actually reduce investment and reduce employment. It's an economy-threatening set of policies…..


LEIGH SALES: The company tax cut is the centrepiece of your economic policy. In practical terms ...

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well it is one of the very important elements.

LEIGH SALES: In practical terms, what would that deliver to a household where dad's a policeman and mum's a teacher?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well it delivers stronger economic growth. You see, we all live ...

LEIGH SALES: I just wonder: what does that mean to them?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well that means greater opportunities, it means more jobs, it means stronger - a stronger economy, it means they have got better prospects in everything they do. It also means - let's talk about people who work for the Government who are in effect public servants. They depend - everyone who receives government services, whether they're public servants or not, everyone depends on the Government having the revenues to pay for them. You see, this is part of the problem that Mr Shorten has is that he proposes more and more spending on his spendometer, but nothing in his policies will produce stronger economic growth.

LEIGH SALES: Let's stick towards what you can offer the sort of people that I've outlined.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Yes, stronger economic growth benefits everybody in the economy.

LEIGH SALES: You explain in what way. For someone who's listening tonight, as I said, dad's a policeman, mum's a teacher - what does it mean when you say stronger economic growth will benefit them?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well it means that they will have the benefit - they'll have - if they're working for the Government, they will have a government which has more revenues that is better able to support them. If they're not working for the Government - and I know I'm here at the Government broadcaster, but most people don't work for the Government, most people work for business - a stronger economic growth, stronger economy means better prospects for the business and better prospects for the employees of that business. That's why every dollar of tax cuts produces $4 of extra value in the economy in GDP, and most of that, between two-thirds and three-quarters, goes to labour or employees. And Chris Murphy confirmed that today. It's - but it's very well understood. And by the way, it was very well understood by Mr Shorten only a few years ago, not to speak of the great Labor Treasurer and Prime Minister, Paul Keating…..

LEIGH SALES: I'm just not sure. Does that message though connect with people who struggle to pay for child care, who go to the emergency room at the hospital and they have a long wait, who it takes them an hour to commute to work. I'm just wondering if the way you frame that message actually connects with people.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well everybody knows that their prosperity depends on the prosperity of their employer. And if they're working for a business, as most people are working in the private sector, they want to know that their business is doing well, that the company they're working for is investing, is growing, is able to retain more of its earnings and put more of it back into the business. You see everything we're doing is going to encourage more investment. And I know you don't want me to refer to the Labor Party, but I do have to note that their policies will discourage investment. They are taxing investment and that will reduce investment and it will reduce jobs.


LEIGH SALES: You keep bringing up the Labor Party, so let's talk ...

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well it is a two-horse race! (Laughs)

LEIGH SALES: Let's talk about them. Why do you keep exaggerating in the language that you use around them. You say for example that they're declaring a war on the family businesses of Australia, that they want to stand in the way. I mean, even if you disagree with their policies, you're really saying that they want to stand in the way, they're declaring a war?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well I assume they - I assume - well leaving aside the - the bellicose metaphors ... -

LEIGH SALES: You're the one who's made them. That's why I'm asking.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: No, no, fair enough and that's a choice of language.

LEIGH SALES: But why are you doing that though?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well I think it's very important, Leigh, to call it out for what it is. I mean, let me just ...

LEIGH SALES: But you're not. My point in my question is that you're exaggerating it and I'm wondering why because in the first interview you did in this program when you became Prime Minister you said that you wanted to engage with voters in a way that respected their intelligence and I just wonder if you think that exaggerating your point is respecting their intelligence?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: I'm not exaggerating and if I can answer the question, I'll do so. What the Labor Party is saying is that our tax cuts benefit banks and multinationals. And if you read through the brochure they put out today, which has not a lot of words in it and no numbers, it is - that's how it presents it. Let's be quite clear: the companies that will benefit from our tax cuts over the next three years are businesses that turn over $10, $25 and $50 million, and then in the next three years, it is companies that turn over $100, $250 and $500 million. There are no banks among them. The vast majority of the companies that will benefit between this election and the next election are family-owned Australian businesses, employing Australians which are, on any view, medium-sized businesses. Now, Mr Shorten presents that - he is standing in the way - yes, he is standing in the way of those overwhelmingly Australian family-owned businesses getting a tax cut, and I tell you, if they get that tax cut, they will invest more and they will employ more.

LEIGH SALES: You haven't addressed the central point of my question, which is why, if you have a strong case, which you believe you do, you feel the need to exaggerate it and disrespect voters intelligence?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well what is the exaggeration?

LEIGH SALES: Because you claim that - of Shorten that they have a war on family businesses of Australia, that they want to stand in the way.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well they are standing in the way and I assume they want to do what they are doing. I am assume they're not standing in the way accidentally or out of thoughtlessness. I assume this is a calculated decision to oppose those tax cuts.

LEIGH SALES: Tony Shepherd, who chaired the Coalition's government Commission of Audit, doesn't consider Labor anti-business. "I don't think there's anything put forward in the campaign that's anti-business," he told the SMH on 4th July. They have their own company tax policy where they want to propose tax cuts for businesses with a turnover of up to $2 million. That's scarcely a war on business.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, Leigh, we can - we'll have to disagree about the language. The bottom line however is let's deal with the facts, is that Labor opposes any tax relief for any business with a turnover higher than $2 million. $2 million - there are of course many businesses with a turnover of $2 million or less, but they are very small businesses by and large. And of course there are $2.2 million people working for businesses that turn over under $10 million. So they're the ones that will benefit from 1st July and they will get no support from the Labor Party because - simply because their turnover is more than $2 million, they are regarded as unacceptable a recipient of tax relief as one of the largest banks.


LEIGH SALES: Your personal popularity has dropped 50 points since that day. You can't not be bothered by that and not be asking yourself what's gone wrong.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well Leigh, let me say this to you. I am focused on the interests of the people of Australia. I realise within the political and media bubble there is a lot of interest in polls and a lot of people naval-gazing in introspection. But right now, I'm the Prime Minister. My job is to deliver for Australians.

LEIGH SALES: I understand that, ...

MALCOLM TURNBULL: To deliver for all Australians.

LEIGH SALES: ... but I'm giving you an opportunity to address people directly who were -perhaps who liked you, who were perhaps happy to see you get the job and have become for whatever reason disillusioned and disappointed in you.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well Leigh, all I can say is that my commitment is to ensure that we are able to take advantage of these extraordinary times. Let me - just - you speak.

LEIGH SALES: Would you agree that that fall in your approval rating, because as I said, you've established that you are interested in polling, can only reflect that people have been disappointed in you?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, what I - I've noted the polling, Leigh, but I don't take any notice of it - truthfully. I have to focus on delivering for the people of Australia - what they want to hear about. The viewers that are watching us tonight want to know how I am going to ensure that we have a strong economy, that their children and grandchildren can get good jobs, that they can maintain their good jobs, that if they want to move into a business of their own, they'll be able to do so. They want to know that government has the revenues to pay for the hospitals and the schools and the roads. That's what they want to know and that's what I'm focused on. And I really am not - I'm not very interested at all in opinion polls. I'm focused on doing my job as Prime Minister. Other people can comment on polls.

LEIGH SALES: But I think people watching this also want to know that you're listening to them and what those polls tell you is that there's something that you're doing which they don't like.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well why don't you ask me a question about it?

LEIGH SALES: Well I am asking you a question about it. What do you think - what do you think - what do you think has happened that you have lost that ginormous chunk of approval?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Leigh, I am not going to be drawn into that kind of introspection. My job is to focus on the needs of Australians. Other people - you know, you and I can have this discussion, it might be interesting, but the viewers that are watching us tonight, they want to know how the plan I'm laying out is going to enable Australia to succeed. I mean, let me just describe the situation we're in. We are a high wage, generous social welfare net first-world economy. We're in a global economy that is growing rapidly, particularly in our region. There are enormous opportunities. We have opened them up as never before with our free trade agreements - that's a fact - and that's driving jobs right across the country. We are making a successful transition from the downturn - inevitable downturn of the mining construction boom, but we can't take economic growth for granted. These are times of great opportunity but great challenge. To succeed - we'll always be a lucky country, but we've got to make our own luck. We've got to make our own luck and I have the plan that will deliver the prosperity and the security we need in the years ahead. That's my commitment……

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