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Sunrise -

View in ParlView



19 MARCH 2010

Subjects: Barack Obama; Road Safety; Water Safety; Church of Scientology

DOYLE: Well, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd joins us now. Good morning to you. Is it locked in for June?

PM: Well, I'm going to be very happy any time the President chooses to visit. As I said the other
day, I'm pretty relaxed about all that. I know President Obama pretty well. It would be nice to
have him and Michelle and the kids. We had a conversation on the phone this morning. He'd like to
have a more relaxed visit than the 24-hour, whip in, whip in out that the last one had come down

DOYLE: So, does he just ring you personally? How does that work? And tell you that he's -

PM: Gets on the mobile to say 'G'day, Kevin. How are you?'

DOYLE: Does it pop up? Have you got his name in and it pops up 'Barack Obama'?

PM: If that was the case I would have to shoot you.

DOYLE: Okay, fair enough. So, maybe, what, maybe bring the family, spend a bit more time here?

PM: Well, that's what he wants to do, and you see, what's going on in the United States, there's
this huge health debate. It's massive. And in America there's no Medicare, the public hospital
system is not really available to poor people, so as a result there are literally tens of millions
of Americans who don't have any form of health care. So what he's trying to do is to get this
through the American congress. He's having a huge job.

I said to him I sympathise with him in two respects - one, I've got a Senate, too, and it blocks
most things I try to do, and the second is we're trying to get some new healthcare changes here in
Australia as well, so we had a good conversation, but it's going to be good to see him later in the

DOYLE: I know you might have to shoot me, but can you give me a snippet? What do you chat about? Is
he a good bloke?

PM: He's a lot of fun, actually. We talk from time to time and he's got a great sense of humour,
but it would be breaching all protocols to actually go to the content of conversation. But it's a
good relationship and he's doing great things for America, and for this part of the world. He's
going to Indonesia as well, so it's Indonesia, us, and so he's got to schedule it with both

DOYLE: He'll need it after June in Canberra. He'll want to go somewhere a tad warmer.

PM: June in Canberra, yeah. Port Douglas is sounding good - back to Queensland.

DOYLE: He'd like that. Alright, let's get onto some of our viewer questions for you this week.
We've got Nicky Chadburn in Adelaide. Nicky, good morning to you. Go ahead.

CALLER: Good morning, Prime Minister. My question for you this morning is when will we see some
definite action taken with regard to young drivers and the unnecessary deaths and injuries on our
roads? I understand it's a national problem. Is there no way we can create national laws by
coordination with other states and develop an action plan to minimise the road toll?

PM: Well, thanks, Nicky, for the question, and it's really important. Last time I looked at the
figures I think we've got between 1,000 and 2,000 Australians who lose their lives each year on the
roads, and we can do a lot better than that.

So your question, specifically, is what's the practical stuff that we can do? Number one is this -
not long ago we established a new driving program, I think it's called Keys to Drive.

Keys to Drive is a program whereby, if a young person is learning how to drive, we, the Government,
through your local automobile association - here in New South Wales, where I am at the moment, it's
the NRMA, and the equivalents right around Australia - we provide a free driving lesson for the
young person, but with their parents or their older brother, their older sister or the person who's
going to take on that mentoring role.

What we don't want to see happen is bad driver training practices perpetuated through families, so
it's best to use an accredited driving instructor. We, the Government, provide that one-off free
driving lesson, but it's to train the trainer, as it were.

So, that's one practical thing. It's costing us about $15 million, $20 million.

The other things is this, and you also asked about can we do better in terms of right across the
country - you're in Adelaide, is that right?

CALLER: Yep, that's right.

PM: So, we've established for the first time something called a National Road Safety Council, and
it's now meeting, for the first time, to exchange ideas right across Australia about how we can
have more uniform rules. But also there are great local innovations often brought forward by the
local automobile associations about how we can just do things better, so that's another thing
that's just started. It's had, I think, its first or its second meeting.

The final thing is about car design. We have brought in some new design standards for new cars in
Australia and one of them have got to do with stability control systems with the cars so that if
you're in wet weather or a young driver in particular loses control it becomes easier to regain

So there's three practical things we're doing, but, you know, it requires all of us to get out
there and be part of it, particularly with younger drivers.

I've got a 16-year-old at the moment. He's out having driving lessons, and my heart goes into my
mouth every time it happens, like all parents, but I think these are the sort of practical things
we can do.

DOYLE: Thank you, Nicky, for your question. Are you teaching him to drive?

PM: No, Therese is. You know why?

DOYLE: Like most households.

PM: She is calmer, she is more relaxed, and she's better at it.

DOYLE: OK, good point. I like that you acknowledge that. Let's go to Jackie Perry in Wollongong.
Jackie, good morning to you. What's your question for the PM?

CALLER: Good morning, Mr Rudd.

PM: Hi, Jackie.

CALLER: I'm a mother of two children - hi, sorry - I'm a mother of two children who feels strongly
about the need for water safety skills. My son has been taking swimming lessons for two years now,
which has cost me over $1,000 to date, and my three-month-old daughter will start swimming lessons
when she's six months' old, at which point it's going to cost me $1,104 a year just to give my two
children water survival skills.

So, my question to you is, with such a need for water survival skills, why is it that there isn't a
Government subsidy to assist parents with such a high cost?

PM: Jackie, I wish I had the straight up answer for you, but I don't, and I'm going to have to come
back to you on this one.

In terms of water safety for littlies, can I just say it's really important. I mean, we were a bit
like you with our three kids. We started them off very early, usually at the ages of two or three,
and take them to the local swim schools up in Queensland, and they actually were pretty expensive
if you added it all up.

But in terms of what's available through either local councils, state governments or the Federal
Government, can I just be honest with you? I don't know. Let me come back to you and that's my
homework for next week.

But your concern about littlies and water safety is real. Up in Queensland, Laurie Lawrence, who
you may know of in terms of his Olympic fame, he's just an absolute champion on the question of
water safety for kids, so I'll come back to you with some concrete responses next time.

DOYLE: Thank you, Jackie. Alright, and Laurie Lawrence is amazing. I mean, the DVDs he's put out.
He does so much in that area.

Can I ask you about something else this morning? Both sides of politics we've seen reject calls for
a Senate inquiry into the Church of Scientology. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon who's led the
charge is now saying he's going to have a third attempt at trying to get this through. I just want
to show you a clip from a woman who claims the Church pressured her to have two abortions.

CLIP: It was my baby - excuse me - my body, and my choice, and all of that was taken away from me
by Scientology. All we want is our chance to have our say to a Senate inquiry, and I say to Kevin
Rudd and Tony Abbott, please don't make us suffer in silence.

DOYLE: So, what's your view?

PM: On the Church of Scientology, what I've said before and I have the same view today, I have
real, real concerns about this organisation. I've said it in the past, it's my view today as well.

So, to go to the specific question about a Senate inquiry now, as I understand it, a number of the
allegations right now go to potentially criminal matters. If they are potentially criminal matters,
we've got to be very careful about using parliamentary forums to air potentially criminal charges
or criminal allegations, I should say, and these are often best dealt with through the law
enforcement authorities.

I will, in respect to your program, look at this again, but that's the advice I've received so far.

DOYLE: Can we have an inquiry some other way? I mean, there has been a lot of controversy lately.
There have been a lot of calls for it to at least be looked at, which hopefully will then sort it
out one way or another. The Church of Scientology can be left alone if there's no problems. If not,
they can be dealt with.

PM: Well, let me take some further advice on, let's call it the separation between general concerns
about the Church of Scientology, many of which I deeply share, on the one hand, and on the other
hand allegations of criminality on the other, or criminal misconduct, which are properly left with
the law enforcement authorities and the criminal justice system.

So, if that's capable of some separation, maybe, but I'd rather take very careful advice on that.
The lady that's just been on your program just now is obviously in huge distress, and obviously she
has been through a terrible experience, and I don't diminish that one bit.

I've just got to be very careful about how you shine a light on a problem, deal with it, but at the
same time don't interfere with criminal justice matters, and that's not where politicians should

That's my own view.

DOYLE: Thank you, alright, well, we'll get something more from you next week or so on the swimming
lessons for kids, so, thanks for joining us Prime Minister.

PM: Thanks for having me on the program.