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Transcript of doorstop interview: Australian Institute of Internationl Affairs NSW Conference, Sydney: 27 August 2007: APEC; climate change; Kyoto; GST; health; polls.
FEDERAL LABOR LEADER KEVIN RUDD MP
TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS NSW CONFERENCE, SYDNEY, 27 AUGUST 2007
E & O E - PROOF ONLY
Subjects: APEC/Climate Change; Kyoto; GST; Health; Polls; Equine Influenza
RUDD: APEC represents a great opportunity for Australia to take a leadership position on climate change. Climate change is important right across the Asia Pacific region. We have, of course, China itself. We have other economies which are significant emitters. We also have the United States. This presents a remarkable opportunity for Australia to show leadership on climate change. Mr Howard has been in the past, a follower not a leader, on climate change. It’s time to turn that on its head.
Australia, therefore, must commit to a program of bold action itself nationally, and through that, put a bold agenda on the table for APEC leaders when they meet in Sydney next week. This is in Australia’s national interest. It’s in the region’s interest, and it’s also in the global interest.
We have a major ministerial meeting coming up in Bali at the end of the year, post dating, we think, the next Australian federal election. It’s very important that Australia do everything that it can now to use the APEC summit as a stepping stone to a concrete outcome for the Bali conference on the future of global governance of greenhouse gas emissions.
I’m happy to take your questions.
JOURNALIST: Is it likely that there will be such an agreement between now and the election?
RUDD: Well, it’s a matter for Mr Howard and his leadership. As I said in my remarks early today, I wish him well. He represents Australia at this summit and I hope that we can produce a good outcome on climate change. For it to be a good outcome, it’s got to have some significant benchmarks.
One, we need to have a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a realistic target. And Labor, of course, has a clear cut policy on that.
Secondly, we also need to need to make advances when it comes to an emissions trading regime, cap in trade, not just nationally within Australia, but on top of that to ensure that what is done nationally is compatible with what is emerging as the international emissions trading regime as well. We think we’ve been behind the eight ball on that. Concrete outcomes like that are steps in the right direction when it comes to the future of climate change. Absent those things, and I’m concerned about once again no progress being realised.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned ratifying Kyoto by the Bali conference, that’s in December, how long after that will we be seeing the coal-fired power plants being shut down?
RUDD: When it comes to our attitude to Kyoto ratification, it’s clear cut. One of the first acts that an incoming Labor Government would be to ratify Kyoto because we want to be part of the global solution, not just part of the global problem on climate change. Australia also can then act as a global leader, through diplomatic negotiations, on bringing about positive outcomes at the Bali conference.
On the question on the future of the coal industry, Labor has long said that what we need is an emissions trading regime with a clear cut target, a cap in trade system, through an emissions trading market which sets a carbon price. That is the way in which the investment community then know how in the future to invest their capital in clean green energy options for Australia’s future.
One of those energy options is, of course, carbon sequestration. I’m a long term supporter of the coal industry but we need to make sure that the carbon sequestration is proceeding apace. And the best way of ensuring that is to make an emissions trading scheme deliver a price for carbon and, therefore, a signal to the investment community about future investment in the sequestration projects.
JOURNALIST’: Mr Keating, commentating on your APEC message, he said that climate change and trade were second order issues (inaudible).
RUDD: Paul’s always welcome to make a contribution to public debate on these questions. I’m saying that front and centre, we have challenges now when it comes to global financial markets, a continuing challenge when it comes to the trade liberalisation agenda on which so many developing and developed economies depend. There is a critical challenge of incomplete work on climate change. I’ve spoken also of the importance of underlying security policy tensions which can be transacted at the margins, or through the unofficial mechanisms at APEC, and of course then there’s the question of India. I think this represents a substantive agenda for APEC. I’ve commended to Mr Howard in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation and I’d hope he would take it onboard.
JOURNALIST: Do you support the elevation of the (inaudible) with Japan at the Foreign Minister level to leadership level (inaudible)?
RUDD: I would, on the question of the trilateral security dialogue between Japan, the United States and Australia; we have been long standing supporters of that. As you know, that’s transacted currently at a ministerial level. That is a good development. In terms of further developments on that to the leadership level, we would see no particular objection to that. I would like to be more fully briefed, however, whether the Government had anything else in mind beyond a dialogue. And I’ve indicated that in the past in terms of any binding arrangements concerning defence pacts.
JOURNALIST: GST. There’s talk it may be increased if your hospital plan goes ahead.
RUDD: Oh, this is Mr Costello hyperventilating. This is part of pre-election desperation politics by Mr Costello. Under no circumstances would we ever increase the GST, and over my dead body would there ever been any increase in the GST.
The bottom line is this: we’ve said upfront that we intend to reform the nation’s health and hospital system. We’ve given that a timeline to develop cooperatively with the States and Territories and we have said that if, by the middle of 2009, that was not able to be achieved cooperatively with the States and Territories, then we’d seek a mandate from the Australian people to assume total Commonwealth funding responsibility for hospitals into the future.
Now, we’ve also said in black and white we would then make parallel reductions in Commonwealth payments to the States. That is absolutely clear cut in the document we put out the other day and Mr Costello is just playing pre-election scare politics, something he’s very good at in Parliament, but frankly, people have stopped believing it.
JOURNALIST: Will the States continue to receive their full amount of GST?
RUDD: Well, as I said before, if we get to the stage that the States and Territories fail to negotiate a cooperative agreement between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories on the future Hospital and Health Reform Plan, then we go to stage two, which is we seek a mandate from the Australian people. And under those circumstances, if with the Commonwealth then assumes full funding responsibility for the hospital system in this country, it will be necessary to make parallel reductions in Commonwealth payments to the States.
JOURNALIST: Is that including from the GST (inaudible)?
RUDD: Including from all necessary sources.
JOURNALIST: That’s a big change (inaudible). The GST was set up to go directly to the States.
RUDD: Well, the Howard Government made that statement at the outset of the GST arrangements. What we have said in our Hospital Reform Plan is that currently there is a lot of money expended in this direction. Currently, the system needs to be improved. We’ve got a plan to improve it over time and that is through negotiations between Canberra and the States. We put a timeline on that and if by the middle of 2009 we cannot get a negotiated outcome with Canberra and the States, we would move to the next stage, seeking a mandate for the Commonwealth to take over.
What working families want are solutions on the ground. That’s why, together with Nicola Roxon, the [Shadow] Health Minister yesterday, I released a $220 million plan for GP Super Clinics to assist in delivering better health outcomes on the ground for working families, and secondly, to take some of the pressure off accident and emergency in this nation’s 750 public hospitals.
We will reform this system cooperatively. If that fails, we will then seek a mandate for the Commonwealth to take over funding for the hospital system. And on those circumstances, there will be no financial windfall to the States. We will then make the necessary reduction in Commonwealth payments to the States.
JOURNALIST: The Galaxy Poll. (inaudible)
RUDD: Look, you know, these things just change from time to time. What I’m focussed on is the final battle with Mr Howard, and I know I’m up against a very clever and a very cunning politician. I also know that Mr Howard and the Liberals will use anything and say anything in the lead up to the federal election, to try and claw their way through to holding political power. So, this is going to be a very tough and a very hard race and I’m expecting it to be right down to the wire.
JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, what do you think about the horse flu and how it’s going to affect preparations for APEC and the Melbourne Cup and various other events?
RUDD: The equine industry is a very big industry in Australia. Many jobs hang off this industry right across the country. If you look across the horseracing and thoroughbred industry, it affects so many communities across our country. Yesterday I was in the Hunter Valley where there are a number of thoroughbred studs, and can I say the impact on those communities is potentially
very significant indeed. Therefore, I think two things need to be said clearly. This challenge with equine flu, we need to know exactly how all this came about.
I believe there needs to be an urgent and independent inquiry as to whether there has been any breakdown in Australia’s quarantine procedures because the impact for Australia’s equine industry is so huge. We need to establish that because if there is a hole in the quarantine system it needs to be plugged straightaway.
And secondly, in terms of the impact on the industry itself, we would always be attentive to any submissions being made to State and Territory Governments about assistance to the industry at what will be, we think, a difficult time. Anything else?
JOURNALIST: Kevin Andrews’ CV, a discrepancy there.
RUDD: I’ve seen those reports in today’s papers. Look, I don’t know anything about Mr Andrews’ CV. That’s a matter for him. I’ll let him answer all those questions.