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Meet The Press -

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This programme is captioned live.

Good morning and welcome to Meet

The Press. The Prime Minister says

he can sympathise with Barack Obama.

The US President will delay - and

reduce - his trip to Australia this

month, as he tries to jockey

through major health policy reform.

It disrupts a diplomatic season

that began well with the visit of the Indonesian president.

But such warmth is nowhere in sight

in domestic politics. Government

frustration boiling over at the

Senate's obstruction of key

legislation. CPRS - oppose. Youth

allowance - oppose. Electoral Reform - oppose.

Then there's Tony Abbott's plan to

tax big business to provide six

months leave for parents on full

pay. Fair dinkum, I mean this is

completely irrational. Tony

Abbott's got this right - it's

where the Greens want to see

parental leave. Greens leader,

Senator Bob Brown is our guest. And

later, the CEO of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout.

But first what the nation's papers

fourteen. are reporting this Sunday, March

The Sunday Age reports con-men,

posing as tradesmen, are going

door-to-door preying on victims of last week's Melbourne hailstorm. last week's Melbourne hailstorm. door-to-door preying on victims of

The Brisbane Sunday Mail has Tony

Abbott accusing Kevin Rudd of not

being a fair-dinkum Queenslander. A

risky strategy, reports Stefanie

Balogh, to try to neutralise the PM's home state advantage.

Adelaide's Sunday Mail says a new

Galaxy poll indicates a surge in

support for Liberal challenger

Isobel Redmond ahead of next

Saturday's state election.

Now welcome to the program Greens

Leader, Bob Brown. Good morning.

The Prime Minister is doing hard

trying work, going around the premieres,

trying to convince them of the need

for his health reform plan. We are

used there will it? We need to see

the detail. In particular, how the the detail. In particular, how the

Prime Minister is going to get

better health outcomes for

Australians. We need to seek better

hospitals. The greens are very

strong from dental care. We want to

see a universal dental care system

to get rid of elating lip -- the

waiting list for half-a-million

Australians. And as a former doctor,

I know that if your teeth a lot in

good order, the rest of the EU will

suffer the consequences. Is that

the price for your agreement? It is

not the price for it, but the Prime

Minister is indicating they will

have some form of dental care, we

want to see the details of that. We

are interested in a dental care

system which gives people a good

primary healthcare. To take care of

toothache and wholesale teeth and

so on without having to wait a year

or in some cases, two years. We

would not put cosmetic dentistry

into that, because there has to be

a limit, but we want to make sure

that all Australians, not the least

ill people and the aged, have

access to a dental care system.

This is building on the dental

system which the Howard government

brought in to make sure that people

have serious dental health worries.

You mention regional hospitals,

would you be requiring some sort of

guarantee from the government that

they would not close? Yes, we do

not want to see wholesale closures:

In rural and regional Australia. We

want to see facilities available to want to see facilities available to

people in remote areas. I am

certain the government is looking

at that and so will the States.

There is a long way to go but we

are very supportive of national

funding of the public health system,

healthcare and dental care

generally. A lot can be done to

improve the system we have. If the

states agree, who is the Senate to

disagree? The Senate doesn't

usually disagree. The business of

that obstruction which the

government is building up has got a

lot of problems with it. We have

been in the business of getting

better outcomes. We did that with

the stimulus package. The

opposition are blocking things all

the way down the line, but the

Greens have gotten a better outcome

for --. It is the government that

is holding things up with climate

change, there seems to be a

blockage in their thinking. We will

continue to put up improvements on

issues like the health programme.

We haven't seen the details, we do

want to see them, the Prime

Minister is talking to the leaders,

but it will come to the Senate, and

we're really positive mood about

that. But we will look at improve

danger of becoming overpopulated? lets down the line. How we in

We are, we do not have a population

policy. Only the Green Party has a

population policy. There was a

national inquiry in 1994, the

results of that were put on the

shelf. The Prime Minister says we

have to get the game he is in

favour of expanding population.

Last year we had the biggest

population increase in history.

With no government policy. We think

that is bad policy adults we are

writing to the Prime Minister this

week to set up their last --

national population inquiry so that

politicians do have an idea of the

carrying capacity of this country,

its infrastructure, its ability to

deal with those quite worrying

projections. We have to do better

than just say let it happen. You

have supported Tony Abbott's scheme.

Tony Abbott has little doubt his

paid parental leave scheme will

encourage women to have babies and

more of them. If there's more

support for families I suspect the

birth rate will go up. He says the

scheme, which you support, will put

up the birth rate. He his role, and

the pay the bonus was a mistake. We

should be giving parental

assistance, but to have an

incentive for people to have babies

for a military purpose in the world

with 6.8 billion people and is

headed for life 0.2 billion within

the last time Seville Australians,

it is very muddled thinking -- 0.2

billion 9.2 billion.

A programme was brought into the

Parliament lilacs ago but we are

still way behind the UK, Sweden,

Canada. The government's programme

is way behind the ball. Because it

is not a population question, it is

a question of parents being able to

spend those formative months with

their baby. We know that brings

much better outcomes. That is a

great thing for the child and for

the parents. Parental leave should

be available as it is in other

countries will it that you do look countries will it that you do l countries will it that you do look

believe it is an incentive or makes

children? it easier for people to have got

That has absolutely not been the

case in Britain, Sweden or in

Canada where they have parental

leave. Sweden has one-year lease,

what we are aiming for his six

months. But the government has a

paltry 18 weeks. I am surprised

that some of the commentary says

that will do well Australia. But it

will not do, we can do better than

that. Time for a break. When we

return with the panel, how would

Australia be if the Greens held the

balance of power in the Senate after this year's election?

This program is captioned live. You're on Meet The Press with

Senator Bob Brown. And welcome to

the panel, John Stanley from 2UE

and Stefanie Balogh from the Courier Mail.

The government has been taking aim

at Tony Abbott as Dr No - claiming

this is the most obstructionist

Senate in 30 years. But let's not

forget the Greens, who've not only

helped block bills, but also moved

the first successful Senate censure motion against a government in

years. There has been a gross

failure of governance by this Rudd Government.

The expectation of every

commentator is that if there is a

double dissolution election, the

green seemed -- the Greens will

hold the balance of power.

There is certainly true. At the

moment, Christine Milne has put

forward our interim pricing plan

which will put a levy on the big

polluters and it would free up a $5

billion to be spent on households,

to help them make sure that their

power bills went down a rather than up.

The government is not moving on

that. They say they are open to it,

we have had some negotiations with

Penny Wong but really, it is not

moving. In effect, the government

is obstructing a passage toward an

outcome there. We take responsibly

our job in the Senate, we continue

to negotiate. That doesn't mean

taking government legislation as it is.

After the next election, you will

have the balance of power. The

expectation is, leaving aside any

independence, you will have a clear

balance of power situation. Would

that changed the game? What they

take you more seriously?

I expect they would. That is a big

question to put to the government.

Have you talked to Kevin Rudd?

Yes I have. I wrote to him before

Christmas, after Copenhagen, about

climate change. We need to get

together to get legislation through

the Senate. I gotta know back

saying, talk to Penywaun. The Prime

Minister hasn't been talking to the

cross bench in recent months and it

would be better for the process of

the Parliament, because it is a

bicameral Parliament, the executive tends to run things in Australia.

The House of Representatives is a

rubber stamp, but the set isn't. It

is the voice of the people, it

takes two to tango and the

government has been remiss in not

being more involved with the Senate

at Prime Ministerial level.

Defined him personally dismissive in that aspect?

I did find Kevin Rudd dismissive.

When I did have talks with him,

they were very amiable. But no

talks is in its own way dismissive.

No talks doesn't lead to progress

and we are very keen and we do talk

with ministers and we talk with of

course, the opposition as well. I

went to see Tony Abbott the other

week to make sure that he had no

misapprehensions about the Greens.

We talk of everybody, we talk with

our fellow crossbenchers, and we

innovate. As we did with the

economic stimulus. Left to the

opposition, that would have been

blocked, strode the would have gone

into recession and we would have

had thousands of people out of work.

The Greens didn't allow that to

happen. We take our position in the

Senate very responsibly and the

government has to be more involved.

One area at his health reform. The

Victorian premier John Brumby wants

to see the outcome of the Henry tax

review. Where you stand on that?

Why is it the Henry tax review not

out in the public arena? It is a

publicly paid for document, it is

recommending changes to the tax

system and every player thinks that

is a good thing if you have seen

the tax legislation. It is this

thick. The government has had it

now for quite some time and it is

sitting on it. That's not good

governance. That document belongs

to Australians and it should be

released. John Brumby is right about that.

You were disappointed with Peter

Garrett going to the Labor side. If

he was ever going into politics,

the expectation was that he would

have become a green. You have any

satisfaction at his fall?

I feel very sad what has happened

has. I feel amazed that Peter got a

report last April, nearly a year

ago, are saying that his department

couldn't handle a multi- billion

dollars program for home insulation

and so on. That report wasn't read

and no notice was taken of it. They

needed to bring in consultants to

be able to handle such a big new

job and the Prime Minister again,

he keeps close watch on what

happens in that department of the

Environment and the government has

a huge mess of its own making.

Hence, that censure motion, which

is the only wine during that period

of government. Quite a number

during the Haward period of government.

Can we assess the process? Is their

personal side of it we look at it

and think this is somebody who

could have been with us?

I feel very sorry because Peter is

a great guy. He has enormous

integrity end he has spoken up for

a long time now about issues of great importance to Australians.

Whaling is one and that is an area

where you don't believe he is doing

as much as he could.

I can't believe... tuna fishing.

Astra is going to be one of those

countries that doesn't move for a

ban where New Zealand does. -- Australia.

Though his fish I headed for

extinction and when it comes to

whaling, we have the great and

courageous while defender now in --

or whale defender who is in Japan.

Where are you Peter? Really? It is

unbelievable that we're not seeing

a better outcome from Peter Garrett.

To think he has compromised some of

his green credentials?

He has been compromised by the ride

government. This is not an

environmental government. --

And Australia should be leading the

world on these issues. This is the

international year of biodiversity.

You wouldn't know it.

Thanks for being with us Bob Brown.

Next, Heather Ridout. Our Thanks for being with us Bob Brown. Next, Heather Ridout. Our favourite

cartoon this week comes from Peter

Nicholson in the Australian.

Surprise! Tony Abbott's parental

leave scheme leaves Big Business holding the baby.

This programme is captioned live.

You're on Meet the Press. One year

after the stockmarkets bottomed out

around the world, things are

looking pretty good in Australia.

But there are abundant new worries for business, including Opposition

threats of a new tax, and new

pressures on wages. We're joined

now by the CEO of the Australian now by the CEO of the Australian Industry group Heather Ridout. Good

morning and welcome Heather Ridout.

Yes trillion services union has an

equal pay claim, or does your grip

support pay parity? We support pay

equity and always have. The issue

of pay equity is much more

complicated than you think. If you

come in as an entry-level

apprentice, you are paid the same.

In the graduate as a trades person,

you're paid the same. It is a much

more complex issue and it goes to

broader issues of gender equity broader issues of gender equity

which will not be the subject of

this case. Given that, the minimum

wage claim a separate, last year it

was frozen because of the economy,

now we see the economy rebound.

Wedd has accrued stand on that? The

unions will ask for a bigger

increase to make up for last year's

frees? Our group has always been a

singular organisation in supporting

increase in minimum wage. It is

complicated the sea because from complicated the sea because from

the 1st July, and knew a lot of

Award changes will cut in. We will

be supporting a modest increase. We

will also be looking at a different

treatment to some of the industries

which will be subject to a wage

increase. We have given the paid

parental leave scheme of Tony

Abbott - you claim it will put

extra pressure on business. Will it

push up wages? It will push up

costs generally. The companies will

look to pass it on to consumers. It look to pass it on to consumers. It

is bad parental leave policy, it is

bad tax policy. I cringe at the

fact that this sort of policy is

being made in such an ad hoc manner.

At comment you have made has also

been supported by some backbenchers.

On the evidence you have seen so

far, few believe a Tony Abbott led government would be economically

sound? The Conservatives have been

very economically responsible in

government. They ran a very tight

economy during the John Howard

years. When you are in opposition

you are one thing, when in

government, you are another thing. government, you are another thing.

That goes to Bob Brown's comments

as well about their credentials.

Has you mentioned, you were part of

the Henry review... No comment. We

handed in our recommendations, and

this is now a political debate. I

hope it is released, because we

need to seen that the songs in

Australia. We have to have big

reform. This document is about that. reform. This document is about that.

I hope it has received maturely.

Not a series of one-liners on front

pages. Good luck with that. In pages. Good luck with that. In

terms of singing the big songs, you

have spoken about climate change

and set out a series of principles,

should we be confronting the issue

of a nuclear power? Even the most

ardent supporters of the nation of

climate change action say we should

be looking at nuclear-power. We

haven't we looked at it? We are

very keen for nuclear power. We

have 40% of the world's uranium.

Waste processing technology has

moved on. A lot of the issues have

been resolved. We are now setting

up an expert group, we will be

involving other people to try to

build a case to move towards the

adoption of nuclear power. In terms

of green issues, it is central to

the solution. Not only here but

around the world. The nuclear war

issue has been mute -- muddled up

with a nuclear power issue and if

you look at the number accidents,

it is minor. Has it become more of

an economic issue? About reliance

on Kohl has made us reluctant. We

are different to the rest of the

world. In the northern hemisphere, world. In the northern hemisphere,

it is about energy security. We do

not have that problem. We have 300

years of cold, massive amounts of

gas, it is a different debate in

this country. But nuclear is part

of the future. When the carbon

prices put in place and matchless

the viability of exporting nuclear

power, we need to be ready for it.

We are supportive of this and our

group will be working TO try to

ease the community into a more

rational debate. It is one year

since the stock market bottomed out.

Where do you see Australia going in

the context of a global recovery? I

think the global recovery is a

laugh recovery. In the UK, they

have dropped it, in the year -- in

Europe, it is also miserable, in

Asia, it is the shape. It is not

tough love here, we're getting the

benefit of Asia. It is not tough

enough for us, but in the UK and

Europe, also the US, they're very

flat line as well. But we should flat line as well. But we should

not get ahead of ourselves. Our

members are saying it is very flat,

very patchy across manufacturing

and services. Housing is doing a

little better, so what is still

very flat. So the stimulus package

should not be reduced to early. We

should let it ease its way out. We

are seeing interest rates rise, the

dolorous high, all of those issues

are putting pressure on industry.

If we are not careful, we will

choke off recovery. There is

monetary stimulus, you would like

the Reserve Bank to be cautious?

They -- the Reserve Bank has put

them up by 1% and they say we're

getting back to average, but we are

not an average economy. We're

getting close to where they should

be for the time being. What about

wages in broad terms. Where should

they be as we emerge? Wages should

be moderate. We should be

disciplined and trying to match

productivity. Productivity is very

flat and Australia and we have to

work hard run that. If you put up

wages out of step with productivity

will put pressure on employment and

investment. Wages have been quite

disciplined. We are going through

wage negotiations at the moment.

But in some parts of Australia,

they are rising quite strongly. The

challenge is not to let the surge

in the mining sector to spillover

into others. Thanks for being with

us Heather Ridout. Thanks to our

panel, John Stanley and Stefanie

Balogh. A transcript and a replay

of this programme will be on our

website. Paul Bongiorno is back

next week, until then, goodbye.