Malcolm Turnbull Defends Relationship With Scott Morrison But Won't Be Drawn On Budget Measures

21/03/2016 9:06 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27 : Australian Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull during a Greek community Festival where attempts were made to disrupt his speech by Let Them Stay activists in Melbourne, Australia February 27, 2016. (Photo by Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called his relationship with the Treasurer "excellent", despite bringing the budget forward a week without warning Scott Morrison.

Speaking on 7:30 Report for the first time since announcing a Parliament recall, Turnbull also remained coy about company tax cuts, defended the government's negative gearing policy and said the government is likely to take workplace reform to the election after bringing industrial relations to the forefront of the political debate.

The Prime Minister defended his decision to bring the budget forward, saying the Treasurer thought it was on May 10, until it wasn't. Turnbull argued the snap decision didn't show disfunction in their relationship, or within the party.

"I know, again, some people think politicians should engage in a sort of thinking out loud process," Turnbull said.

"The Treasurer was aware that we were considering a whole range of options but until I made the decision to change the date of the budget, the budget was on the 10th of May."

On Monday morning, Scott Morrison appeared on radio spruiking a May 10 budget, which he had to clarify after Turnbull's press conference.

"Previously people asked me, 'What day is the budget?' May 10. That's what it was until I was advised this morning that it will be on May 3," Morrison told reporters.

In December, Turnbull said, speaking on 7:30 Report, that company tax cuts would be a big ask of his first budget. Leigh Sales put this to him again on Monday night.

"The problem is I was offering you frankly a penetrating glimpse of the obvious and I apologise for that," Turnbull said.

"Now you think the budget can sustain a company tax cut?" Sales asked.

"Your enthusiasm for putting words in my mouth is commendable," Turnbull said, with a smirk.

"I just like clarity," Sales quipped back.

"Any cut in taxation in revenue is obviously a cost to the budget... everything has to be affordable and not all of the things you want to do in any budget can be afforded," Turnbull said.

While the Prime Minister appeared coy when talking about economic reform on Monday night -- arguing policies would be announced closer to the budget -- Turnbull said managing the transition from an economy fuelled by the mining construction boom to a "new and more diverse one" was the big agenda for the election.

"There is not one silver bullet, not workplace relations, not tax reform, not industrial relations reform. You need to be pulling on every lever," the Prime Minister said.

"We have an innovation policy, we have a defence policy that will put money into Australian industry. We are reforming the competition laws so that small and medium business cannot be pushed out of markets by big business."

Turnbull also called Labor's negative gearing reform "ill-considered" and "dangerous".

When asked why he knifed Tony Abbott if he wasn't going to deliver any new policies within the first six months of his tenure, Turnbull said he would not buy into "violent metaphors".

The Prime Minister defended his decision to recall Parliament on Monday morning over corruption in the construction industry, and said the double dissolution he vows to have on July 2 if the bills are not passed is "just an election".

On Monday morning, the Prime Minister called a last minute press conference -- that Treasurer Scott Morrison didn't know about until an hour before -- announcing the recall of Parliament, which will bring Senators back to Canberra three weeks early on April 18 to debate two bills relating to the reinstatement of a construction industry watchdog.

Turnbull brought the budget forward from May 10 to May 3 and will force a double dissolution election on July 2 if the two bills are not passed in the Senate.

The bills causing so much drama are the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) bill and Registered Organisations bill, which have already been blocked by the Senate once.

For those wondering what a double dissolution election means, how many have occurred in Australia's political history and why on earth the Prime Minister has called one, read our handy explainer here.

The move has not been welcomed by many crossbench Senators, accusing Turnbull of blackmailing them, while Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Greens leader Richard Di Natale have also criticised the Prime Minister's announcements.

Shorten said Turnbull "put his own future ahead of Australia's future" indicating the prime minister was looking for any excuse to call an early election.

Di Natale said the ABCC bill was plainly "bad legislation" and Turnbull needed to deliver an economic agenda before bringing the budget and election forward.

Crossbench Senator Glenn Lazarus has criticised the move, saying he won't be "blackmailed into voting for bills", while Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said "if you thought last week was ugly in the Senate, you ain't seen nothing yet".

Another crossbencher, Ricky Muir, questioned why the Prime Minister made the announcement on Monday, of all days.

The federal government needs six of the eight crossbenchers to vote in favour for the bill to be passed. If the bills are not passed, the double dissolution election will put all senators' jobs on the line, forcing even those senators with six-year terms to face re-election.

Turnbull did have a fan in Frank Underwood after his Monday morning announcement though. The House Of Cards account tweeted Turnbull saying "I admire your methodology, Prime Minister."

"If you don't like how the table is set, turn over the table."

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