The JUICE Media Podcast

Economic Recovery | with Malcolm Turnbull

Episode Summary

Ep 13: In which I talk with former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull about our Honest Government Ads, the climate wars, and what we can do to get meaningful climate legislation before this Government gets us all killed.

Episode Notes

This is the podcast companion to our latest Honest Government Ad - Economic Recovery. If you haven't seen the video, you can watch it here.

This podcast is also available as a video - you can watch it here on our YouTube channel.

You can follow Malcolm at @TurnbullMalcolm
You can find his book, A Bigger Picture, here

Here are the two articles by Malcolm from which I quoted:

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Episode Transcription

Giordano  

Hey everyone Giordano here from The Juice Media, welcome to The Juice Media podcast, a companion to our Honest Government Ads series. This is Episode 13, a companion to our latest Honest Government Ad about the economic recovery.

 

The Juice Media  

Hello, I'm from the Australian government. As we head into the worst economic recession in living history. What the nation needs now is leadership, evidence based policies and bold vision. And f**ked  if we have those.

 

Giordano  

At the end of our last episode, in which I interviewed Naomi Klein, and if you haven't seen it, I encourage you to check it out. I said that I would occasionally try and also have guests on here who don't necessarily share my own views, and perhaps have some debates. So I thought, let's give it a shot. You know, baby steps, let's not jump straight into the deep end. I thought maybe, you know, pick someone not too challenging. But then I thought, fuck it. Let's just jump straight in. And so my guest today is Malcolm Turnbull, you know, our former prime minister, leader of the government that we've been impersonating. For the last three years - cool and normal. Malcolm has just published his autobiography - A Bigger Picture. And I thought he would be the perfect guest to bring on and talk about the topic of our recent on Honest Government Ad. Now, as you know, I disagree with a lot of the things that the Turnbull government did. A lot of people were hurt by this government's policies. But I didn't invite Malcolm here to criticise his policies. We already did that in the videos. Instead, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about solutions and the future, and specifically about the future of humanity, which as scientists tell us, will be defined this decade by the decisions that our governments take or don't take on the climate emergency. And if there's anyone who is intimately acquainted with the obstacles that lie in the way of genuine climate action in Australia, it's Malcolm Turnbull, who was removed as leader of his own political party when he attempted to make even mild progress on this very issue. So I guess I wanted to take this opportunity to ask our former PM some pretty direct questions and try and mine him for insights and advice about how we can move forward from where we are. I hope there's some information here that's useful to the climate movement, but especially to Liberal voters who care about evidence based policy, and about our environment, I think much of this conversation is addressed to you. Clearly I've jumped straight into the deep end of the world of political interviews. Malcolm is Malcolm, he knows how to do this. And I, well, I'm a complete noob. This is my first interview with a politician, let alone a former prime minister. I'm no Leigh Sales, so please bear with me. But I do try and do my best to steer the conversation towards solutions. It's a bit longer than normal, because Malcolm loves to talk, as he famously does very well. But I hope you get something out of it. And I'll see you on the other side. Welcome to The Juice Media podcast, Malcolm Turnbull, thanks so much for joining us. You're coming through crisp and clear in HD. So I assume you have fiber to the premises. That's very good.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

No, I don't actually. I'm on the hybrid fiber co-ax part of the network but getting very good service. Very good connectivity.

 

Giordano  

Quick response. You're switched on. Okay, good.

 

So thank you so much for joining us. Look, I'm assuming you know the show that we produce, the Honest Government Ads. If not, this might get a bit awkward when you realise what it is we do, but I'm pretty sure you've seen our work

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

I've seen them. I've seen them. They're very seditious, often unfair, but always very entertaining. Wonderful.

 

Giordano  

We started making the show when, just before you became Prime Minister. And we went on to do it on a monthly basis pretty much until you ousted from government in mid 2018. So first of all, thank you, you gave us a lot of material to work with. In fact, I mean, we literally couldn't have done the show without you. So I feel like we're kind of like colleagues in a metaphysical kind of way. So thank you.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Right.

 

Giordano  

Although I have to say your successor, Scott Morrison is proving to be even more generous with the material - with shitfuckery as we call it, but we'll come to that in a minute. First and most important question that I wanted to ask you is, I don't know if you recall, but in mid 2017, you sent us an email and I say you because it came from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet from the national symbols officer. And this is what it said. I'm just gonna read a little bit of it - it said, Dear Sir or Madam, it has been brought to our attention that The Juice Media has used an Australian government logo, which contains the Commonwealth coat of arms and a symbol similar to the logo in your videos. And then it cites a bunch of acts that we may have breached including criminal code, and the trademarks code and all sorts of things. And then it ends by saying it would be appreciated that if you would ensure that The Juice Media productions do not use the Australian Government logo to avoid - this is the key part - to avoid The Juice Media productions being mistaken for Australian government material. So when I read that, I thought it was hilarious because I want to ask you - genuine question. Does it concern you at all that all it takes to mistake the Honest Government Ads for the actual government's communications and policies is the use of the coat of arms? I mean, doesn't that say something about that government's policies?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Well, I think what I think what it says is that, you know, there's a pretty standard sort of letter that goes out of PM&C when people use the Australian Government coat of arms or, or something that looks quite like it, but I don't think anyone could mistake your Honest Government Ads for Australian government ads. as I said, it's funny and seditious

 

satire, and often unfair but as all satire is - or most satire

 

Giordano  

good I'm gonna have to end up defending my work soon here if I'm not careful.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

I mean, seriously you know, you've got to be a bit careful in government. I mean, governments and politicians, one of the things big mistakes they often make is taking themselves too seriously. Right. And I don't think I've ever done that. I've sort of certainly tried not to. So yeah, poking, poking fun at people in positions of powers is an important part of our political life, I guess.

 

Giordano  

Right. And I think it shows that we live in a relatively healthy democracy, that you know, that can happen. It's really the way it should be. I'm gonna ask you one last self indulgent question. About a week after we received that email that I just mentioned, your government introduced a bill that made it a crime to impersonate the government - now, I assume this is in response to Labour's so called 'mediscare' campaign.

 

However, some people pointed out that technically it could also criminalise the Honest Government Ads. There is an exemption in the bill which says "does not include conduct engaging solely for genuine satirical purposes." Yeah, as a lawyer you'll know this language is is ambiguous. We were all left to contemplate the deep existential questions like what is genuine satire, and what is non genuine satire and your Attorney General George Brandis during the senate committee hearings over the spill. Held up a copy of that logo. And he refused to admit under questioning that it, you know, was clearly genuine satire. He went on this, it was a bit like a Clarke and Dawe kind of skit. But now that I have the chance. I have to ask you, Malcolm Turnbull, 29th Prime Minister of Australia, are the Honest Government Ads, genuine satire?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Well, I think that, I think they are clearly intended to be. I would assume they were I mean, I can't recall the exact, you know, drafting of the bill. But you're absolutely right. It was designed to deal with the situation with the Mediscare, and I mean, just to back up on that. Just to remember the context. What happened was Labor sent out a text messages which was signed, Medicare, which said, you know, the Liberals are going to sell Medicare and you know, etc. And it was very influential in the election results. So it was a shockingly dishonest thing to do. And you would think it was illegal, but because the the AFP took the view that because it was seeking to impersonate Medicare as opposed to a Commonwealth officer. It wasn't an offence, so the legislation was designed to, you know, pick up that obvious anomaly. And those text messages were not intended to be satire. They were intended to deceive people. And I don't think anyone would imagine that you're Honest Government Ads are intended to deceive people into thinking it's actually an ad by the Australian Government or like a real ad by the Australian Government. So I guess in that sense, that's definitely satire. Yeah.

 

Giordano  

Wonderful. I've been waiting many years to get this confirmation and now we can come out of hiding.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

That legal advice is worth exactly what you've paid for it.

 

Giordano  

Well, in that case, Malcolm, do you reckon - given you know everything that we've been through with this, would we be able to get an endorsement of the Honest Government Ads? Are you able to say something like, this is genuine satire approved by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

No, no no.

 

If you want someone to give you a blank check. You'll have to try someone else.

 

Giordano  

Okay. It was worth a try.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

I'm sure you're happy to, you take full responsibility for what you do in your satirical work. That's as it should be.

 

Giordano  

Great. All right, I'm gonna turn to more pressing questions. As you know, this podcast is a companion to our recent Honest Government Ad, which looks at the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. I don't know if you feel this way. But to me, this feels like a historic moment that we're in. We face a massive recession, which threatens the lives livelihoods of people in the coming decade. But it also presents an opportunity to invest in creating jobs to boost the economy like a bit like FDR New Deal, and there's no greater nation building project required right now than decarbonizing our economy. Instead, Scott Morrison, Angus Taylor and that crowd are embarking on what they're calling a gas-fired recovery. I mean, to me, it seems like lunacy, it flies in the face, not just of economics. And you know, like the Finkel review that you commissioned and the advice that came out of that, but also in the face of history, what to do in these kind of situations. So this is what inspired our Honest Government Ad. So my first question to you is, if you had survived the leadership spill in 2018, and you were still Prime Minister in this moment, which you couldn't have foreseen before, like COVID-19 is kind of like uncharted territory. But if you were still Prime Minister and you are leading the nation in this historic moment, what would you be doing? Would we still need to make this Honest Government Ad?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Well, I would hope not. Well, I mean, it's up to you whether you want to make a satirical ad, that is up to you, but, but I am firmly of the view that we need a Green New Deal in Australia, that the time is really appropriate, you know, the time is now. And the obvious target is, as you say, the decarbonisation of our energy sector. And we know how to do that. Look, basically Giordano what this would involve doing is bringing forward investment that we expect to happen over the next couple of decades and bringing forward and doing it sooner. So in other words, retiring some of these old coal fired power stations. Instead of in, you know, 2035 in 2025, or 2027, you know, just bringing that forward. Because the one thing we know, I mean, this is the key, the key point, we know we have a pressing need to cut out greenhouse gas emissions. And in addition to that, we now know that we can do so and have cheaper and cheaper energy and reliable energy. So what is holding us up? In the days when I was John Howard's Environment Minister back in 2007, in those days, you could say, if you're a critic of renewables, hang on, it costs more, you know, I'm not prepared to pay that much extra for my energy to save the planet. But now we can do both. And so you're absolutely right in saying this, we must not miss this opportunity. And I think there is a real issue about investing in gas infrastructure. Look, I'm not denying or suggesting that gas is is anything but an important fuel right at the moment. But the one thing we do know is that it's on the way out. You know what, when they call it a transitional fuel. What they mean is it is going to assist the transition between coal and an all renewable energy sector. So you've got to ask yourself, why would - and this is the point Lucy was making on Q+A the other night - why would you spend a fortune in really expensive gas transportation, infrastructure, pipelines, will you get 10 years out of them? Will you get five years out of them? You're certainly not going to get 20, I hope you're not going to get 20 years out. Whereas if you are building energy storage infrastructure, pumped hydro, I mean the infrastructure of Snowy 2.0 once it's built, it will be being used a century from now. I mean, Snowy 1.0, it's about 70 years old, much of it. So you know that if you're going to be putting a lot of money into energy infrastructure, we should be putting it into infrastructure that we know, that you know, is going to last. My point is very simple. Simply whether you look at the engineering, whether you look at the economics, whether you look at the environmental considerations, a green new deal is what we need to do now.

 

Giordano  

I want to get into more detail because I'm really interested in - what you're talking about is the importance of compromising and the right wing faction of the Liberal Party. But I wanted to first talk to you about the broader picture of climate policy in Australia. There are many things we disagree on. But I think we can agree on, you know that we both care about climate change. I would like to have a sincere conversation. I say sincere because I really believe you care about this. It's not, it's not really about believing. The record shows that you went to the wire over this very issue, not once, but twice, first in 2009, when Tony Abbott rolled you as opposition leader when you supported the Emissions Trading Scheme under Labor, and then again in 2018, with your own climate policy, the National Energy Guarantee. When you try to introduce climate policy, which wasn't even particularly ambitious climate policy, and yet, you were again removed from the leadership, this time bringing in Scott Morrison, and today, we still don't have serious climate legislation. So I think it's fair to say that you do care about this issue. I'm going to give you that because I don't think anyone risks everything for something they don't really believe in. And so coming from that common ground that we share, I was wondering if you could help us understand why we're still stuck in this coal-stained pit of inaction. And also because many people are confused by the winding history of climate action failures in this country, can you give us a condensed history lesson? Take us back in time to that crucial period between 2009 and 2013. I mean, you might want to take it back further, but that's when Australia could and for a brief period did, adopt serious climate legislation, our emissions went down. And then Tony Abbott took took over your position, burned it all down and to this day we don't have climate policy. Can you walk us through this period of history, as you see it from your perspective?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Basically you've got to go back a little bit before that, and a good starting point is 2006. Howard's Prime Minister, his government were being seen as being unwilling to you know, respond to the demands of taking action on climate, global warming, and Howard could sense that and he got work started with strong encouragement from me on an emissions trading scheme. And this was done by Peter Shergold and they announced the government would adopt an emissions trading scheme as its policy. So it went to the 07 election with an ETS as his policy, as indeed did Rudd. And anyway, the election was fought, Labor won, Howard lost his seat. And we go into opposition. And almost immediately the forces on the right of the Liberal Party started to mobilise against taking action on climate change. And they were joined by people in the National Party, particularly Barnaby Joyce, and, you know, they were supported by the fossil fuel lobby, and they were supported by the right wing media. You know, I became leader of the Liberal Party and leader of the opposition in 2008. And I my view was that we should get a bipartisan agreement on our emissions trading scheme and power. I was criticised from the right of the party and in the media for supporting a Labor policy, which was always bullshit. I was supporting an emissions trading scheme which had been John Howard's policy. And, you know, that was basically what brought us to the edge of a big leadership battle at the end of 2009. Now, there are a lot of other things going on and they're all in my book, which I encourage you to to buy and not take a pirated copy sent to you by your friendly Liberal Party staffer that many people have done. But anyway, there was a challenge to my leadership, my position was pretty weak at the time and I lost the leadership by one vote and Abbott then adopted this direct action policy. Essentially one of spending money, to pay people to, you know, plant trees. And you know, well plant trees basically that's kind of what it was mostly about. And this was really just a fig leaf of a policy that he and Greg Hunt had put together to get through the double dissolution election that they expected Rudd to call in early 2010, which is what Rudd should have done, because the senate having blocked the emissions trading scheme twice, Rudd should have gone to a double dissolution election here on it, and then the ETS would have been passed. And if it had been passed, either with our support while I was leader or after a DD it would now be about as controversial as the GST. It would just be part of the fiscal furniture. Anyway, Rudd, you know, lost his nerve. Then he lost the leadership. Gillard, you know, there was the election, Gillard scraped in with the alliance with the Greens in 2010. And she introduced an emissions trading scheme.

 

She had in the course of the election, the 2010 election, she had most unwisely said there will not be a carbon tax. She gets into government, and she then introduces an emissions trading scheme. So what she was introducing was an ETS. There's no question about that. But for reasons best known to herself, she said it was a carbon tax, which of course meant she hung herself out to dry on the, you know, pledge there'll be no carbon tax under the government I lead and Abbott hammered and hammered and hammered at that. Abbott had basically two propositions, you know, get rid of the carbon tax and stop the boats. That was basically his two policies. He gets elected in 2013. The carbon tax is repealed, you know, as I mean, it would have been an extraordinary breach of faith had he not gone ahead with that, and obviously was very keen to do so. And, you know, there we were, in a mess, I mean, I haven't wanted to repeal the, the renewable energy target, you know, those of us inside the government managed to persuade him that we should negotiate a trimming of it to a more, you know, more realistic level, more practical level, which we did. So that was good. And then Abbot, you know, is replaced by me, I become leader at the end of 2015. And we then got to work out what is a long term policy that integrates climate and energy. And what we came up with was what's known as the NEG, the National Energy Guarantee. And basically, it was, I think, I think it's actually the best energy policy we've had. So anyway, that's the end, as you know, there was a revolt from people, people on the back bench and of course, ultimately people on the front bench over the RET, which sort of was the lead-up to the leadership coup. In 2018. Now, I remained disappointed and, and somewhat puzzled, that after my removal, the NEG was not reintroduced. The fact that it hasn't been legislated, just underlines the extent to which really the coalition is held hostage by this toxic alliance of climate denialism you know, right wing populism within the party. Right wing media, principally Murdoch's media and of course, the fossil fuel lobby. And out of that Troika, the one that is most understandable of course is the fossil fuel option and I totally get it if you own a gaswell or, or you know a coal mine. You want to sell your your stuff I get that. But why the right wing populists have both here and in the United States turned, what should be a question of physics into a question of identity or belief is bizarre.

 

Giordano  

Thanks for that, that, that overview. You've just kind of brought us into the present or at least up to 2018 with the leadership spill. And, you know, in your book and in various places, you've spoken about the importance of compromise, in politics, but in your book, you shed light on the situation you're referring to, like page 163, you're talking about the right wing faction of the Liberal Party, you say keeping the party together means giving into them. You've described them as, quote, a determined minority terrorising the majority into submission. Again, page 269. You refer them as the enemy, and it's terrorists who are willing to, quote, blow the show up if they don't get what they want. Is there really any way of compromising? I mean, you don't negotiate and compromise with terrorists to use your word that just kind of makes them more extreme. Is it really possible for this political party, the coalition government to ever pass meaningful climate legislation?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

I think what I'd say is I think that it is impossible. At the moment. I mean, obviously, you know, things change, people come and go. But right now, it is simply not possible for the Liberal National Party coalition in the federal parliament to support legislation which would integrate climate and energy policy in a way that would effectively reduce our emissions and transition to a zero emission energy sector. There is in that right wing - and you know, the look, you know, there are people at the core of that group and there are people who are associated with it. So, you're dealing in, you know, a little bit of ambiguity here, but there are people that are prepared to blow the joint up if they don't get what they want.

 

Giordano  

And so to take that to another level of abstraction, if you will, what you're saying is that the Liberal National Party, in its current form is incompatible with the continuation of human life on this planet. Would that be fair? a fair statement?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Not saying that.

 

Giordano  

Well, that's what I'm hearing.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Giordano that's nonsense. You're not hearing that at all. This is a really poisonously vexed policy issue. It's one of the most important if not the most important policy challenge that we face and the coalition as presently constituted is not capable of dealing with it effectively. That's a fact. Let me just cut straight to the chase, save you beating around the bush, the only things that I think that will cause a change of policy, change of position on the part of the coalition in the foreseeable future is an electoral defeat, which they attribute to their failure to address climate change, a serious electoral defeat, or, more effectively, a change of heart on the part of the Murdoch press. So if Lachlan Murdoch were to decide that we should have a integrated policy on climate and energy, the coalition would turn on a dime, because ultimately, what enables them, the right to sustain their utterly irrational, counterproductive position is the support and amplification they get in the right wing media, so many of their supporters listen to, and watch. The climate policy of Australia has been held hostage by that group. And it is, you know, it is so counterproductive, the consequences, not only do we have higher emissions, but we are paying higher prices for energy than we otherwise would. And everybody in the energy sector agrees with that. We talk to the big electricity retailers, this is what they've been saying for years.

 

Giordano  

I don't think you've contradicted what I was saying. I mean, basically, this is a matter of the survival of the human species on this planet dealing with the challenge of the climate emergency. And you're saying that this party, as it stands, is unable to deal with this issue. So I said, so this party is incompatible with the continuation of human life on this planet. I think we agree on that. I think what you're saying I'm hearing you really clearly you. If you don't want to say that, that's fine. That's my job.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

You put words in your mouth, I'll put words in my mouth.

 

Giordano  

Okay. We do Honest Government Ads. So I'm just translating here. Anyway, let's move on. I want, I want to move on to the resources sector. So we've spoken a bit about the right wing faction. The other big player, as you said, is the mining and resources sector, which as you said, you can totally understand why they're pushing for this, at least there we understand. Now, the NEG was a case study in how the mining and resources sector exercises huge influence on the federal government, as well as Murdoch as well as the right wing faction, but specifically, I want to talk about them. We've seen it happen before they got rid of Rudd over the mining tax, they got rid of Gillard over the Clean Energy Act, got rid of you over the NEG. And in exchange, we get Abbott and Morrison who are total industry people. I'd like you to help us understand how does this happen? How does such a small sector control not just our policy, but who is our Prime Minister, and more specifically, what does it look like in the party room when you're discussing energy and climate policy. I mean, we know what Murdoch thinks - it's on the front page. But when the doors closed on the party room, is Santos and BHP literally in the room, either directly or by some degree of separation because of the MPs that are in that room. Can you give us a little bit of an insight behind those doors? What happens? How does the resource sector exercise that influence?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Okay, I think this is where we will disagree.

 

I think there are players in the fossil fuel sector who are very politically influential and very opposed to effective action on climate change and I mean Gina Rinehart is obviously one and you know, Clive Palmer is famously another but the big miners are actually quite progressive on climate policy. I mean, you mentioned BHP.  BHP has been arguing for putting a price on carbon for years, well over a decade. There is a tendency on the left, and I, again, I'm not making this in a critical way. Just as an observation. I think there's a tendency on the left to look at politics naturally through a Marxist prism and attribute motivations, essentially to economic factors. And the reality is that the opposition to action on climate change is for the most part irrational nowadays. I mean, it honestly is irrational. I mean, there are no legal barriers to building coal fired power stations, but nobody's building them. Right. I mean, if climate change was proved to be a complete fraud, we suddenly discovered carbon dioxide and methane had no impact on warming the planet. You still wouldn't build a new coal fired power station because renewables plus storage are cheaper. So there is a sort of an irrational, populist anti science thing going on, on the right of politics and supported, in the Murdoch media in particular. I mean, Rupert Murdoch, as far as I know, it doesn't own any coal mines or, you know, gas fields. But he is the most prominent amplifier of climate denialism, you know, in the media landscape. So I think, I guess what I'm saying to you is, you don't see the economic arguments, in so far as there are any put they are either based on utterly outdated data - people are saying, are renewables more expensive than coal? Well, they were, you know, 20 years ago, but they're not today. Or they are sectoral or regional. So, you know, politicians from North Queensland and central Queensland for example, things like Adani and, and so forth and the coal sector there as being vitally important for employment and jobs. Yeah. And that's part of it, but really at the heart of it all, is the essential sort of loopiness of this opposition to taking effective action on climate change. Now, the good thing is that Morrison knows it's loopy, right? And Frydenberg knows it's loopy, but they're trying to survive and manage a party that has a very influential element in it, who are prepared to you know, blow the joint up basically. It is so frustrating. I mean, there's a passage in my book where I refer to a meeting with some of these guys where they're demanding that I fund new coal fired power stations and I asked them why and they said it's cheaper. And I asked them what their assumptions were and they didn't have any. It was just a fact free assertion on their part. And Bridget McKenzie, who was then the deputy leader of the National Party, was also at the meeting and after all the men left she hung back and she said to me, don't worry, they're not interested in the numbers PM, it's religion, right?

 

Giordano  

Ideology and idiocy, is your words.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

It is, it is as frustrating as it is baffling.

 

Giordano  

My next question might give you an opportunity to talk about that, but I just want to know, just very briefly and you don't need to respond to this because I do want to move on. But um, you didn't tell me what happens behind closed doors, you know, in the party room? And also, I just want to say with the Marxist perspective

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Giordano, there's nothing that happens in the party room that isn't reported in the media I mean it's the most public forum. People like Craig Kelly and George Christianson, all of the loopy stuff they say publicly they also say in the party room.

 

Giordano  

Can the coalition agreement be made public then as well?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Well, it never has been but it's honestly it's a very benign - I can tell you the only thing that the coalition agreements, it's been around for a long time. But basically, the principles of it are very straightforward. You know, the leader of the national parties, the deputy prime minister, ministries are allocated on the ratio of you know, how many members are in the party room. So if the Nats have

 

Giordano  

But if it's so banal, why can it be made public? I don't understand why it's a secret document. As we say here, cool and normal. It's very dodgy from the outside.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

It genuinely is innocuous.

 

Giordano  

Okay.

 

And with the Marxist perspective, I hear what you're saying, I feel like there's an element of that. People who only see things through that sort of materialist perspective, I can understand, but I think it's fair to say that otherwise -

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

it's completely rational. I mean, it is one of the things I I have often struggled to understand is the rationality of politics. You know, I always assumed that people would act more or less in their, you know, in their own perception, rational perception of their self interest, and they but they don't always do that. I mean, politics, I think, in many respects is getting less rational all the time.

 

Giordano  

So let me set you up for that because my next question, and this is really kind of my last question on climate and then I do want to ask you one more thing before we wrap up. But um, what's your advice? You've been through all of this. You've given us the historical sort of overview, you've really gotten into some detail. What is your advice to someone who wants to become the prime minister and pass climate legislation? They're out there right now? Somewhere? Hopefully that future PM is listening. What's your advice to them right now to pass meaningful climate change legislation in Australia?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Well, you basically need to win government. You need to have the majority members of the House of Representatives supporting you. And you need to have the ability to get it through the Senate. That's the practical requirement. The question I suppose is can that be done within the construct of the coalition?

 

You need to have a change in personnel. Now, here's the problem, though. In many respects, the membership of the Liberal Party is becoming more conservative. So a guy called Ted O'Brien, who is a very progressive fellow, at one point was chairman of the Australian republican movement, you know, and after the years after the referendum, very smart, man, he's a member for Fairfax, which is, you know, on the Sunshine Coast and he said, he justified supporting Dutton because he felt he had no choice given the attitude of his branch members. And he said, they listened to Alan Jones and Peta Credlin and Sky News. Like those people are having a branch meeting with my supporters every day. So it's really a sort of a systemic problem because, what I would like to see somebody - and maybe this is what the Labor Party would do - is to campaign on a fully costed green new deal as a platform,

 

Giordano  

which is what the Greens are doing.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

I mean, the problem with the Greens is that inevitably, they will not be taken seriously on an economic basis and you need to have something you need to have a plan that is supported by business that is supported by credible third party economists. It's got to be one that is very, very doable. The Greens, I'm afraid to say, have been among the worst wreckers, they've done more damage, they've done as much damage to climate policy as the right wing in the coalition. I mean, if the Greens would have supported Rudds CPRS back in 2009, it would have passed. And again, it would be part of the part of the furniture. They are a classic example of people who, who put their own electoral advantage, their own conception of the perfect ahead of the good. And I honestly I think that's a shocking track record, they've actually betrayed everything they stand for again, and again.

 

Giordano  

I hear this line a lot. I see it a lot in the comments of my videos.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

You hear it and it's also true.

 

Giordano  

Well, it's interesting because of the different ways of remembering that period of history. I don't want to take us back into that but just again, for the record. You know, yes, they voted against the CPRS. But then they supported Gillard to pass a much, much better climate policy in 2010. That was much more progressive. So which then got burned down by Tony Abbott.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

The important thing with an emissions trading scheme was to get one set up. Because once you got it set up, you could then amend it, you could vary and you inevitably

 

Giordano  

so that's what Gillard did. But as you said she had the mistake of calling it a tax.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Well, Julia had a couple of problems. I mean, one she had Kevin, seeking to overthrow her from within, which is, you know, is always bad. She, you know, she was a minority government. And as I said, she'd made that quite unforced error of describing an emissions trading scheme as a carbon tax, which, I mean could have been innocuous. You know, I mean, I can understand someone saying, oh yeah, you could call it a tax. You could call it something else. You know, call it what you will. But the problem is she'd made that pledge that there wouldn't be a carbon tax. And so remember how Abbott's broken promises, came back to haunt him. I mean, you know, no one ever accused me of breaking any election promises from 2016. And one of the reasons for that is I made very few. I was very, very careful, you know, but these grandiloquent promises, just always come back and haunt you.

 

Giordano  

Well, we're gonna move on. That's one thing that I really disagree with is the condemnation of the Greens approach.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Hang on, just let me put this back to you. Do you think we would be better off as a nation if the CPRS had been passed into law in 2009. Yes or no?

 

Giordano  

I'm not sure how to answer that. Because, in hindsight, knowing that a much better policy, which was introduced was going to get burned down. Yes.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

There were two players that prevented it being passed. One was the Greens,

 

Giordano  

because it wasn't effective enough

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

and the other was Abbott and the coalition, you know, after the change of leadership. So my, my simple point is that the Greens could have said, yes, we'll pass this.

 

Okay, I mean, every opposition does this. I mean, we did it in opposition, Labor does it. You say okay, we'll, you know, yeah, we don't we don't entirely approve of this bill. We think it's imperfect in many ways. But we'll pass it and we'll, you know, come back and amend it or improve it in the light of circumstances. And that's a perfectly defensible, rational thing to do. Sure, but that was a gigantic missed opportunity. Because if I could just, this is a really important one. Because you see the thing about Rudd with the CPRS. You know, ETS, you know, Kevin had to rename everything, you know, so that he could pretend he invented it but, but the thing about it was he had the legitimacy of a massive electoral mandate. I mean, he had gone to the election. He'd said, I'm going to introduce an emissions trading scheme, he'd won the election. And if it had been passed, I can tell you, what would have happened was the coalition would have then said, okay, it's done. You know, it would have been like Labor with the GST, Labor opposed the GST. At one point said he was going to roll it back, which was stupid. I'm an admirer of Julia, and I've defended her, you know, and on many occasions, particularly from a lot of these shocking misogynistic attacks from people like Alan Jones and others, but I think the problem that she had was that she was not seen to have a mandate for it, because she had not gone to the election, proposing an ETS number one, and the only thing she'd actually said in a definitive way was we won't have a carbon tax. And then she introduces an ETS for which she did not have a mandate and then mistakenly characterises it as a carbon tax for which she, if anything, had a mandate not to introduce you know, so it was the worst of all worlds. So you had Kevin in 09, had a legitimate mandate to introduce an ETS. Julia in, you know, 2011/2012, lacked that legitimacy, and that was the fundamental problem that she had. Look, I give full marks for having a go and as I said, you know, there's a lot to admire about Julia Gillard, but the circumstances she was in were clearly very, very tenuous and did not have the same political legitimacy that Rudd had.

 

Giordano  

Okay, thank you. I, unlike many interviewers, I don't like to interrupt because I think it's like you've got a flow of thought, and I want to let you talk.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

But I think it's important. This is an important historical point.

 

Giordano  

we hundred percent agree with that. But the downside of that is that we're running a little bit short of time, so please just give me a couple more minutes because I just want to ask you, two more things. You said that one of the biggest problems you've seen in today's world is that the media doesn't hold governments to account. I think those are your words. Someone who has held governments to account is Julian Assange. In 2010, you wrote some things about him when you were in opposition in a Sydney Morning Herald article in 2010. You wrote "I note that my colleague Senator George Brandis has described Assange's actions as morally reprehensible but not legally actionable. And you said I cannot see how he could be said to have breached any Australian law, and I understand that it is not alleged he has broken any American law. In another article the following day, you said, "one may well ask whether Gillard's denunciations against Assange would be so shrill if the documents had been handed to a powerful newspaper group like the Australian. Would Gillard be accusing Rupert Murdoch of high crimes and misdemeanours? Assange - this is still your words - "Assange is an Australian citizen, no matter how much the government disapproves of his actions. It should be made clear that he is entitled to to return to Australia." So the situation is now dire. That same Assange you mentioned in 2010, is now in a maximum security prison. Not for anything other than publishing. He's accused of breaching the Espionage Act in the US for his publication activities. He's in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, the UN rapporteur on torture described symptoms as consistent with exposure to psychological torture and trauma. He has very little communication with his lawyers and doctors fear he might die. And if he's extradited to the US faces a lifetime in maximum security, for the crime of publishing information that holds governments to account which is what you said, you know, is what we need. So my question is, now that you're not in office and are free to say what you want, what do you have to say about Assange's situation, your fellow Australian citizen who went and held governments to account.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Well, you know. I believe that Government should be held to account right? Plainly. But also, Government's are entitled to protect or seek to protect national security material, the material that the Americans take the view that the material that Assange obtained, and which he released into the public domain, really, uncritically in the sense that he didn't, you know, he didn't seek to mitigate the harm that would be done to individuals whose identities were exposed and

 

Giordano  

I think that's disputed, quite clearly.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

These are all points that he can no doubt make if the matter ever gets tried. But you know, saying that you hold governments to account doesn't mean that somebody should be you know, entitled to take the you know, the design of the latest jet fighter,

 

Giordano  

but you yourself said and that's why I quoted those passages that you know, he did nothing to break any laws and if it had been published by Rupert Murdoch, it would be fine.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Giordano with respect, I mean, you're quoting a lot of stuff out of context. I mean, the point, as I recall, it was a speech I gave at the Sydney University Law School was that Assange had not broken any law of Australia,

 

Giordano  

Or America

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Well, I mean,

 

Giordano  

this is what's written in your article.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Whether that's right or not, I'm not sure whether that was right or not. I'm not sure that the context with respect to American law, I mean, that's obviously a matter that's now in dispute, you know, 10 years later, but the point I was really making was that he is an Australian citizen and he was entitled to return to Australia. Now the problem, you know, he got himself into this issue with Sweden and the extradition to Sweden and he didn't want to be extradited to Sweden over a sort of sexual assault claim, I think it was. But just

 

Giordano  

keep in mind, all of this is about his publication of the Manning files. So it has nothing to do with that. He's wanted for extradition, to the US now for publishing. So the Swedish cases, it's a separate issue. But I guess are you sympathetic at all to his current situation. I mean, is there something like for example, would you consider signing a joint statement of support with former Prime Ministers and foreign ministers from Australia, to at least treat him better, because he's, he's a publisher. That's what he's done. Maybe the degree to which he held governments to account that's not how you would want to see it done. But you know, that's basically what he is. He is an Australian publisher.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Look, let me answer these questions.

 

Giordano  

Sure.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Firstly, should Assange be treated humanely and decently when he's in custody in the United Kingdom? Of course. And the Australian High Commission in London will have a consular officer who is seeking to do that as they would with any Australian who's, you know, got themselves into trouble with the legal system in the UK. So that's the first point. Has he committed an offence under Australian law? Well, as far as I'm aware, no. And that was certainly my view in 2010. So there would be certainly no reason why he would not be able to come to Australia. Will he be extradited to the United States, that remains to be seen? You know, there are principles in the law, which and it may well be this is relevant in his case, that countries will not enforce the Public Law of another country. And, you know, that's one of the reasons the High Court of Australia ultimately found in favour of Peter Wright in the Spycatcher case. But you know, trying to paint Julian Assange with some kind of you know, heroic you know, martyr for free speech without any blemish is a little bit yeah, unreal.

 

Giordano  

No, that's not what I'm trying to do. I think the reason I've tried to focus is the fact that you know, that the charges are all relating to his 2010 publications, nothing to do with Sweden, nothing to do with Trump's election because these things get conflated. Really, it's about the criminalization of national security journalism. That is fundamentally what it is. And that is why people are taking it so seriously that this could set a precedent.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Giordano, there are laws,

 

Giordano  

which you say, he hasn't broken, yes.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

What I'm saying is there are laws in every country to prohibit the unauthorised publication of, you know, national security, material classified material. And of course, there are always arguments about public interest. Right. Yeah, that's right. And public interest and, you know, whistleblowers.

 

Giordano  

Yeah,

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

I'm not suggesting, you know, just as there are, you know, businesses are, in fact, confidential. I mean, if your confidential, you know, your medical records,

 

Giordano  

that's completely different. This is individual privacy versus government - people's right to know about what the government's are doing shouldn't be conflated. So can I just say, Can I just say this because we agree on? Yeah, sure. No, I understand what you're saying. But we agree on the fact that he should be treated humanely. He is not being treated humanely the UN rapperteur has said that, would you - this is just a yes or no question - would you consider signing a joint statement of support for him for his treatment to be, you know, taken care of basically, as he could die in this situation? Would you consider signing a formal statement of support on the matter of his physical and psychological treatment?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Giordanno, I'll consider anything that somebody you know, wants to put something to me, and with all of the circumstances, obviously consider carefully. I'm not you know, again, I'm not a blank check. I want your proposed statement.

 

Giordano  

I don't have one but I think people hearing this because people are trying to help him and if the people who need to hear this hear this, they'll be in touch with you, I'm sure.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Well, they I mean, I actually know some of his lawyers, reasonably well, so I have spoken to them over the years. So I'm sure they certainly know how to reach me.

 

Giordano  

Great, fantastic. Malcolm, I don't want to take up more of your time. We're just going to end with a very quick rapid fire, yes or no questions just to take us out. Okay. So, my first one was do you have fiber to the premises? You've already said, no. So we skip to number two. This is a yes or no question. Are you happy to see that now that it's been ruled unlawful, are you happy to see the robodebt scheme gone?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Well, it's gone. I mean, if it was unlawful, it was unlawful. I'm happy to see it gone.

 

Giordano  

You're happy?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Yes.

 

Giordano  

Great.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

I mean, the government shouldn't be operating schemes that are beyond power or you know, are unlawful

 

Giordano  

alright. Are you happy to see the medevac legislation gone?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Uh, I think I think, look, it's not a question of being happy or unhappy.

 

Giordano  

You're very bad at this.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

But these are stupid questions.

 

Giordano  

yes or no questions.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

I mean, look, as far as the refugees, the situation is concerned. The goal, my goal was to get all of those asylum seekers resettled. We didn't put them there, the Labor Party put them there to get them resettled, and we got and, you know, most of them have now been resettled, but the job is is not completed. And so I, I wouldn't want to run a commentary on how the government is managing that because a lot of it has to be done in a very

 

well, you know,

 

Giordano  

I'll take that as a pass then.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

take that as a pass. Okay.

 

Giordano  

Number four, when Australia finally becomes a republic, wink wink, should we implement the constitutional Bill of Rights, or a federal charter like every other Western liberal democracy.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

It depends what's in it.

 

Giordano  

Just humour me.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

No, I'm not gonna give you blank cheques.

 

Giordano  

But on principle on principle, a constitutional Bill of Rights, should that be a thing once we become a republic?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

And what's in it? There are right the Constitution now. Right. We've got important constitutional rights now. But it depends what you're actually write in it. Okay. You know, the detail does matter pass.

 

Giordano  

Pass. Ok. Is there a public interest reason why Witness K, Bernard Collaery should be prosecuted. Yes or no?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Well, again, I mean, I'm going to pass on that. I mean the decision to prosecute him is one taken by the government, and I'm not going to run a commentary on that.

 

Giordano  

The secret coalition agreement you signed with the leader of the Nats Barnaby Joyce, did this agreement tie your hands on climate policy? Yes or no?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

No.

 

Giordano  

OK, good. Finally we got a straight answer, ok, good.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Just to be clear, as I set this out in my book, I mean, when I became leader in 2015, I agreed with the Nats  that we would not change our policy on the plebiscite on same sex marriage. And we would not change our climate policy prior to the election. Okay, and we didn't,

 

Giordano  

okay, now you say some of these stupid questions, but this one definitely isn't. Are you a lizard alien from the constellation Draco or Zeta Reticulii.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Yeah, well that is definitely a stupid question.

 

Giordano  

You better answer it because if you don't answer it, this is gonna spawn 1000 conspiracies.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Clearly not, very much a standard issue homo sapien.

 

Giordano  

Okay, wonderful. Thanks for clarifying that. And last one. In retrospect, do you think you should have started your own political party?

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

No, I don't. Over the years, so many people have urged me to do so. And oddly enough, still do. But I think could Australia have a big new political party that would get big enough to win government, I'm not sure

 

Giordano  

or enough members on the crossbench. It doesn't always have to be a government forming party, but yep

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Yeah, well, I mean, you know, it's an interest. I mean, the thing that the Liberal Party needs to reflect on is that there is a number of hitherto very safe centre right seats, you know, liberal slash national seats, which are occupied by small L liberal women. Mayo in South Australia, Indi in Victoria, and of course, Warringa in New South Wales. And it's only, you know, by a few votes, it could have been you could have added to that, Karen Phelps in Wentworth as well. And you know, what that tells you? What that should tell the Liberal Party is that there is a small L liberal constituency that takes climate change very seriously. That is prepared to vote for somebody other than the Liberal Party but does not, you know, may not vote for Labor or the Greens. You know, if you were making the case for another party, which I'm not, you know, that's something you would point to I mean, if you think about it in a parliament and the House of Representatives of 151 seats where every seat counts naturally to have three safe liberal seats held by small L liberal independents, you know, those metropolitan seats, small L liberal seats, I think it says a very strong message there.

 

Giordano  

Malcolm, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and coming on the podcast.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Sorry to disappoint you on not letting you put words into my mouth. But, but that's, that's all part of the fun of a interview.

 

Giordano  

Absolutely, I hope. I hope that's not how it comes across. You know, because I think ultimately, as I said at the start, I really wanted to have a conversation with you that's solution oriented. We've gone into the past, we've spoken about things, we disagree on stuff. I wasn't expecting anything else. But I think what we really agree on just to round it off the conversation, is that the climate emergency is a serious issue that needs to be taken seriously. As soon as I mean, immediately, that the current government as it stands isn't able to do that we need a Green New Deal, whether it's the coalition that does that, that would be wonderful. I would say, you know, support that, if not the Labor Party, or with, you know, with the Greens, or whatever, it doesn't matter. We need to get it done. And I feel like that's the message people need to hear.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

I mean, ideally, I think this is something you should be able to get real bipartisan support for but I don't think the Greens - They want to product differentiate themselves from Labor, they're actually not interested in the coalition, you know their interest is in peeling votes away from Labor more than anything else. But we are in a position for the first time to have our cake and eat it too, you know, you can have cheap electricity and green electricity. So, what is the delay? And I think exactly, it's this. It's this, you know, baffling problem of combination of, you know, vested interests. And this sort of way in which climate has become a values or identity issue on the right, you know, whereas it's just a question of physics. It should be no more, you know, people saying they believe in climate change is like saying, I believe in gravity. You know, if you don't believe in Gravity, you know, take care testing your point of view by jumping from a high place - you might find that your disbelief is fallacious.

 

Giordano  

It's a good analogy. And I hope the right people hear that especially people, you know, who voted liberal who vote for the Nationals, especially people who are on the frontline of climate change - farmers, you know, who are also bearing the brunt of it all. Look, there are so many other questions to ask. But I really want to thank you for your time, and also for the most important answer, which is confirming that what we do is genuine satire. So that really, you know, we can carry on now, knowing that we won't have a SWAT team coming down anytime soon. Okay, thank you so much.

 

Malcolm Turnbull  

Take care. See you.

 

Giordano  

Well, that brings us to the end of this episode of the juice media podcast. I want to thank Malcolm Turnbull for being so generous with his time. And also a reminder that his book A Bigger Picture is out now. It's actually a very good read. I do want to say, though, that I think some of the comments that Malcolm made about the Freens were pretty harsh and unfair. His comments in relation to their role in climate policy in Australia. So I think it's fair to offer the Greens a right of response. So if the leader of the Greens is out there, Adam Bandt if you're listening and hearing this, here's your invitation to come on the podcast if you'd like to respond to some of the comments that Malcolm made in this interview, well, there you go, people you wanted some debates. So here we go. I think these are actually really important debates. And as Malcolm said, this is really important history and we need to understand what is happening. Okay, that's all for now, as always, I want to thank our sponsors, just kidding, we don't have any because we're 100% independent and ad free. And that's thanks to our patrons. If you like the work that we do, and you'd like to support our Honest Government Ads, you can do that at www.thejuicemedia.com/support. You've been listening to the juice media podcast with me Giordano and I'll catch you soon for more genuine satire.