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The Nation

Arthur Sinodinis, Jane Caro, Peter Hartcher, Gary Punch

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Sky News The Nation program, Thursday, 22 July 2010

Panel: Arthur Sinodinis, Chief of Staff to Former PM John Howard, Jane Caro, advertising and
marketing expert, Peter Hartcher, Political Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Gary Punch, Former
Labor Minister to Hawke and Keating governments.

Interviewer: Sky News Political Editor David Speers.

David Speers: Welcome to the Nation. Week 1 of the 2010 election campaign has been, well, pretty
dull. Both leaders are trying to avoid risks and avoid differences on key policy matters. Tony
Abbott's adopting a "me-too" approach on industrial relations. Julia Gillard adopting a "me-too"
approach on border protection, or at least trying to. Tomorrow, the Prime Minister, though, will
unveil her climate change policy. Will we start to see more fireworks on that front? We're
certainly going to try and spark things up a bit for you tonight. Joining us on the Nation this
week Arthur Sinodinus, long serving chief of staff to former Prime Minister John Howard. Jane Caro,
a advertising and marketing expert, Peter Hartcher, the political editor of the Sydney Morning
Herald, and former Labor minister in the Hawke and Keating Governments, Gary Punch. Thank you all
for joining us.

David Speers: Arthur, you've seen a few campaigns. Has this one been the most risk adverse, the
most careful that you've seen?

Arthur Sinodinis: It's shaping up that way. I was saying to someone the other day you'd probably go
to sleep in the next day or so, wake up in about three weeks and probably you'd be hearing pretty
much the same as you're hearing now.

David Speers: Why is that do you think?

Arthur Sinodinis: Well, I think there seems to be a tremendous risk aversion and it's not just the
campaign. Over the last few years political parties seem to have become really keen to try and
control the boat as much as they can, try and head off potentially controversial issues. People
seem to have lost their appetite for really big battles and I can imagine at the moment there are a
lot of people in each of the bunkers trying to figure out how can we best control all of the
action, get the best shots for our person and try and sort of, if you like, get the other side to
dance to our tune and each side is trying to do it to the other while trying to make themselves as
safe and as friendly as possible and I think it can get a bit boring.

David Speers: Well, it can get a bit boring Jane, but does it also mean we're not really seeing the
real Julia Gillard and the real Tony Abbott?

Jane Caro: I think Tony Abbott has a real problem with not just coming across the way he is and no
matter how hard he tries. I think that's one of the things you can say about Tony, he is a
colourful character and he is authentically himself. Julia's more mysterious to me, certainly, and
I think she's playing it very safe. In a way though she has a natural advantage. She's different
just because she's Australia's first ever female Prime Minister and in a way that actually
constrains her. That means she does have to be a little bit more kind of, as a bloke would be,
almost exaggeratedly so, because she is being watched quite carefully by the population. She's new
just by being there.

David Speers: But she got there by being different, by being very sharp, very witty, very cutting
also in the Parliament, in the media. Should she stick to those strengths?

Jane Caro: I think she should because I think that was the part of Julia that we liked so much and
that made certainly women's hearts like mine beat a little faster with excitement about her, but,
yes, I think she has dampened that down. However, in an election campaign I don't envy her. She is
a trail blazer. This is, however confident, however together, however brilliant she may be, this is
hard and this is new and it's a hell of a spotlight to be sitting in.

David Speers: She is being careful, Peter Hartcher, but from what you've seen Julia Gillard seems
to be quite relaxed, quite enjoying almost the campaign.

Peter Hartcher: Yes and the pace at which she's moving around is relatively relaxed. She's not
cramming it with engagements or travel. She's kept her sense of humour intact. But I don't think
that helps explain why the campaign has been so dull. I'd add a couple of factors to what Arthur's
mentioned. One is I think both parties are suffering reform trauma. We see the Liberal Party
traumatised by the failure of Work Choices. We see the Labor Party traumatised by the collapse of
its climate change agenda. They've both elected leaders, Tony Abbott on the one hand and Julia
Gillard on the other, specifically to peg back the reformist ambitions of the party so I think we
see two parties suffering trauma and retreating from reform. I'm just stunned by the lack of reform
ambition that we see from either side in this campaign. The second factor, if I can just quickly
add one which I think is important: No-one wants to spend any money. It's severely constraining
them.

David Speers: Is that right, Gary? Is money one of the factors here that's keeping things at a
relatively slow pace?

Gary Punch: Well, Labor's always conscious of being seen to be good economic managers.

David Speers: Because that's a soft spot for them?

Gary Punch: That's a soft spot, and so she necessarily has to be conservative on that front. I
think particularly coming from, albeit the very, very soft left, in notional terms. I think the
second thing, David, is that she is quite concerned not so much to exude the personality that we've
all seen and come to love about her but in the middle of an election campaign to exude strength and
so that's making her a little bit more conservative in her batting movements and her comments, a
little bit of Margaret Thatcher with a lot of soul and she's doing that pretty, she's doing that
pretty well, I think.

David Speers: Margaret Thatcher with a lot of soul.

All: Yes.

Gary Punch: And she's got, she's shown that soul with traditional Labor values like the 50,000
apprenticeships, the trade school. That sort of thing, the common touch, the caring about people
who need a helping hand up but she's strong and, dare I say, silent in her personal demeanour more
so than what she's been in the past. The other thing about it of course, the third thing is that
whilst ever she plays the strong leading hand, the Prime Minister, the first female Prime Minister
in the history of the country, more pressure is going on Abbott and we are all in the Labor Party
waiting for Abbott to continue to make mistakes. We're all waiting for the next Abbott mistake.

David Speers: Well, he hasn't made any huge mistakes himself yet and we might get to what Work
Choices is still doing hanging around his campaign in a moment, but Peter tomorrow Julia Gillard
will be unveiling her climate change policy. What's she going to do?

Peter Hartcher: From what we can gather tonight, she's going to throw the policy to essentially a
large committee. I think it's got a fancy name. This large committee, an assembly of citizens or
some such, is apparently going to be given not a day or a week or a month but a year to deliberate
to come up with a new climate change approach.

David Speers: So we're given a year or more to stew on this, to debate this in some rolling summit
approach that will at least get the Government through this election on climate change?

Peter Hartcher: I think it has the virtue of getting the Government through an election, I think
it's sort of a place holder, it keeps the topic there but nothing's actually happening so there's
nothing specific to pin the Government on. Obviously, the Government will present it as a consensus
building exercise to bring the country together and tease out expert opinion but I think it's a
non-policy.

David Speers: Well Jane, Julia Gillard's talked about the need for a deep community consensus
before putting a price on carbon. I guess this is one way of achieving it but it would also be a
very Kevin Rudd-esque approach to have this sort of summit or continuing consultation.

Jane Caro: I'm sorry, I don't know, I like a bit of leadership. Call me old-fashioned but I like
when you vote for people, that they actually make a decision and do something. And particularly
over something that's complicated and complex as climate change I don't think you can expect the
general public to have a deep community consent. I mean what, what does that language mean? It
doesn't mean anything. Those are just "blah blah" words that people shoot into the atmosphere to
sound like they're saying something. Make a decision, do something about climate change. Kevin Rudd
was elected to do something about climate change. Had he gone to a double dissolution back when the
ETS went up, he would have won, he would be hero, we would have an ETS, everyone would be happy.
People have squibbed it and fussed about and been frightened off and I think that an awful lot of
people in this country are desperate for not another committee. They want some leadership. Funny
that.

David Speers: So why is Labor so scared of this ETS? I mean there has been a change in community
attitude towards climate change hasn't there?

Jane Caro: Yes because we lost, we had a failure of courage in leadership. While there were leaders
. . .

David Speers: But globally, that was in Copenhagen and . . .

Jane Caro: Yes, I know, I know and there's all there are some very strong voices with vested
interests about making sure we don't do anything about climate change and they're having huge
impact unfortunately. But I think that regardless of that, if this country and our leaders had
stayed strong on climate change, then we would be doing something about it. We missed a golden
opportunity because they were frightened to go to that double dissolution which they would have won
no doubt about it I don't think and we would have been leading the world. Instead we're sort of
doing that oh somebody else has to do it first or we're not going to, which means no-one will do
it. And I don't know, I'm not an expert about climate change, I'm no scientist, but I'm still on
the cautionary principle. If this really is making a difference and it does appear to be, I hear
about species dying off all the time, then we really need to be doing something about this and I
think the world is crying out for leadership on this thing. And for some reason because there has
to be losers, because they have to take on the very rich and the very powerful, it's hard. Well,
too bad, that's what you voted to do, the hard stuff.

David Speers: Arthur Sinodinis, there will no doubt be spending also on renewable energy from Julia
Gillard but this the way she's dealing with the price on carbon question by having, as Peter's
mentioned some sort of grand citizen-driven consultative process, is that such a bad idea?

Arthur Sinodinis: I think the Coalition would probably say, here we go again, all talk, no action.
Another 12 months of what? Now, of course, Jane's right. The Government could have gone to an
election and a double dissolution election on this issue and had to argue the case and that would
have been very dangerous. It was dangerous for Howard in 98 when he had to go to an election and
put out a tax reform agenda. He tried to argue it through.

David Speers: He nearly lost that one didn't he?

Arthur Sinodinis: Yeah he did . . .

David Speers: Do you think Labor would have lost this one or won . . .

Arthur Sinodinis: I'd be surprised ... I would be surprised but I mean Peter Hartcher picked this
up earlier in the piece when he talked about Kevin Rudd being missing, an article you did about
Kevin Rudd being missing in action on this issue and seemingly to allow all the focus to be on the
opposition and the division within the opposition. And the problem is, with this issue, is not just
whether there are vested interests out there who may not want to do something about it, but it was
also the concern among ordinary households about what was the impact that was going to be on us and
how was that going to be remediated and while the Government had a compensation package, it didn't
seem to engage the public in trying to explain what it was trying to do. And in the process they
lost a Prime Minister because he'd wrapped himself up in this so firmly that when he finally got
rid of it, it appears partly at the urging of Julia Gillard, he destroyed a big part of his own
identity.

David Speers: Look, Gary, climate change was a no-brainer for Labor at the last election. It was
one of the core reasons we saw a change of Government along with Work Choices of course and, Iraq I
suppose as well, but Labor seems to have got itself into a bit of a pickle on the issue. Why do you
think that is?

Gary Punch: We stopped communicating. We dug our own hole by stopping communicating. So whilst
Kevin was off at Copenhagen talking to the world, we just stopped communicating with the country
for the best part of three months and Abbott's message and the message of the right of the
conservative forces about this being a big tax, about this going to, as Arthur says, vastly affect
your electricity bills every week in, you know, in downtown Penrith, it really just cracked through
through want of anyone else on our side saying anything to the contrary and it was a classic case
of us failing altogether to talk to the electorate, now . . .

David Speers: Because the argument for the ETS was meant to be that it is going to be a cheaper,
more efficient way of dealing with this problem but Tony Abbott and I think Barnaby Joyce, Nick
Minchin and others were so effective in that big new tax campaign.

Gary Punch: Yeah, but they, we deserted the field. We left it to them and I think what she is going
to do tomorrow is two things. First of all, have Labor re-enter the debate so rather than what was
Kevin's position that we were deserting the ETS and the concept of it for an eternity, minus five
years, or however long it was going to be. We're back in the game, there's a finite period on it
but more importantly she's going to rebuild the consensus for it. So it's smart politics but it's
also an acknowledgement of how badly we did in that last part of last year and she's got to rebuild
the consensus for it, she's going to be seen tomorrow to be saying to the electorate we are going
to do something about it, we will take some political pain about it but we're going to think it
through and we're going to carry you with us in a lot better fashion than what we tried on ETS mark
one.

David Speers: Peter, election outcomes change the perspective on a lot of things. If Labor is
re-elected at this election, will there be a revision on Tony Abbott's approach on climate change?
If Labor, in fact, increases its margin, could people think well maybe he did get it wrong on
climate change? Maybe people still really do want action.

Peter Hartcher: I think by this time tomorrow we'll know a lot more about the Government's policy
and I think what we'll see from Labor is this sort of committee mechanism to temporise and have a
non-policy and will also have, I suspect, the announcement of some direct action measures. So
measure for measure probably we're going to see a rough equivalence in the direct action category
between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party with Labor having this forward looking mechanism for
building a consensus.

Arthur Sinodinus: Moving forward on consensus.

Jane Caro: Yes ... Standing up and then moving forward.

David Speers: What about the Greens? Where does this leave the Greens? They have perhaps their best
opening of this election?

Jane Caro: Absolutely. I think that the Labor Party is leaking people out the back door frantically
because in a way they've walked away from their core values and their core constituency. I mean I
keep asking in this election I know what the Liberal Party believes in, I know what the Greens
believe in. My problem is I don't know what the Labor Party believes in anymore. I have no idea. I
can't answer the question when people ask me. I'm going to be voting Green. I mean I'm a past Labor
voter. I'm going to be voting Green because I feel like on the issues that I care about, they are
brave enough to make statements about them.

Gary Punch: I'm impressed that you know where the Liberal Party stands. I always thought it was the
party of industrial relations reform for example. I'm not so sure anymore.

Arthur Sinodinis: I'm with Jane.

David Speers: You're voting Green?

Peter Hartcher: You're voting Green?

Arthur Sinodinis: I'm where the Liberal Party stands but can I just say on this Greens issue, I
think the Greens are an absolute disgrace. They could have got some sort of carbon policy up with
the Government but they chose to take a particular angle. Now whether it was out of self-interest
or naivety or what it was, I don't know, but for a party that professes to believe in these sorts
of issues and allegedly in the urgency of the issue, this is what gets me . . .

Jane Caro: Yeah I agree.

Arthur Sinodinis: . . . why wouldn't you be breaking your neck to do whatever you can to put
something into place which is a major institutional change. I just think that with respect to Jane,
you're wasting your vote on the Greens because, quite frankly, I don't think that they're serious.

Gary Punch: Absolutely Arthur and I'd say to Jane . . .

Jane Caro: Go on, counsel me guys.

Gary Punch: What I'd say is that what they were really doing was this party, that is supposedly
above politics, was playing bridge politics. It was trying to break off that schism of 7 to 15% of
our vote of our left-leaning, small-held Liberal Greenish vote and they did it for a time. Where
I'd also disagree with you is if you have a look at the polls, particularly on those detailed
analyses on this issue since Julia has been in leadership, that vote's come back to us. So I think
there's a lot more cynicism out there about the Greens than what there has been say three, four,
five months ago. I certainly hope there is because they deserve every amount of cynicism they cop.

Jane Caro: I totally agree with you on the ETS and I think purism is only useful for the purists
and I was very disappointed with them. The Greens are not necessarily my heroes.

Gary Punch: No.

Jane Caro: But when I look at policy by policy by policy, I agree with more of the Green policies
than I do anyone else's.

David Speers: Can I just pick you up . . .

Jane Caro: That's how you choose, that's how you choose your vote. Not because you think anyone's,
you know, the Messiah come to save you. That just doesn't happen anymore.

David Speers: Gary, can I just pick you up on your point that the sort of the Green vote has come
back to Labor. A lot of it did in that first week when Gillard was made leader of the Labor Party
but since then about half of it's drifted back again to the Greens. I suspect it's a case of
mistaken identity. They thought Gillard, oh look, she looks progressive, she's like us but then
after a couple of weeks listening to the policies that she was defending and pronouncing discovered
that she was actually just as conservative or more than Kevin Rudd . . .

Jane Caro: I agree.

David Speers: Half that vote's gone back to the Greens and other parties.

Jane Caro: Particularly over asylum seekers. A lot of people, I think, turned straight away.

Gary Punch: Yeah, look I'm not sure about that. I think there's enough product differentiation
there now to bring those Labor voters home. In any case if it doesn't the preference deal will
bring those people home . . .

David Speers: Bring them home.

Jane Caro: Yeah.

Gary Punch: . . . anyway and that I think is probably the second most decisive factor in this
campaign after the female vote.

Jane Caro: The Labor Party does have to be careful though because it does need to think about what
it stands for, what's its core beliefs because it's marketing mistake 101 to go out for the
swinging voter, for the non-loyal user, drop your price, change your packaging, do all those kinds
of things to attract them, meanwhile forgetting about your core users . . .

Gary Punch: Yes.

Jane Caro: . . . and losing them because you've suddenly you're not paying any attention and you're
not looking after them. Labor Party, from a marketing perspective, needs to put some serious
thought into getting back those Green voters and getting back to what does it believe, what is its
core beliefs and remaining true to its constituency.

Gary Punch: David, am I allowed to ask Arthur a question?

David Speers: Please.

Gary Punch: You said you know you were sure about what the Liberal Party stands for. It's the party
at this election that's proposing an increase in the corporate tax rate, it's the party that's
saying there won't be any more industrial relations reform. What does the Liberal Party stand for?

Arthur Sinodinis: Can I tell you firstly on industrial relations. I know why you say that and I can
also understand if I was a strategist why Abbott would want to inoculate on industrial relations,
given the scarifying impact of the Work Choices campaign last time around, but I think if you have
a change of Government on industrial relations what will happen is a couple of things. First of
all, things like the building commission that was put in place will, if anything, be strengthened
by the very fact that it'll have a supportive Government in place. That I think will be important
in the construction sector which remains . . .

David Speers: Will it remain independent though that commission?

Arthur Sinodinis: Yeah, but I think having a Government of the day and Gary will know this better
than anybody, when you change the Government, you change the country and I think the whole tone of
debating industrial relations will change if you have a change of Government because I think you'll
also have a Government which is more likely to stand up to unions which are starting to ramp up
wage demands as the economy starts to get stronger. So, on one level, while Abbott is seeking to
inoculate on the Work Choices thing, I think there's still some leeway for him to take a stronger
stand on industrial relations.

David Speers: We might explore this possible strengthening on industrial relations. We will have to
take a quick break and then back with more about IR, Work Choices and where Tony Abbott is really
going to go on this.

[Part 2]

David Speers: Welcome back. We're joined on the Nation this week by Arthur Sinodinis, former chief
of staff to John Howard, Jane Caro, an advertising and marketing executive, Peter Hartcher from the
Sydney Morning Herald and former Labor minister, Gary Punch. Arthur, we left on the issue of
industrial relations. Tony Abbott has said Work Choices, dead, buried, cremated. He will not change
the Fair Work Act for the first three years of an Abbott Government. Now if we accept that he's
good to his word on that, within that framework if he doesn't change the law, what can he do?

Arthur Sinodinis: Well, I think he can use what Kim Beazley used to call the bully pulpit of the
Prime Ministership to try and change the tone of industrial relations. Indicate that the Government
of the day won't be as perhaps dismissive in terms of the environment that's created for unions and
others to maybe make wage demands they shouldn't be making.

David Speers: But if unions know he's not going to change the law, surely they're going to push the
limits as well?

Arthur Sinodinis: Look he may not change the industrial relations law but there are all sorts of
other ways in which he can affect what organisations do and he's shown through the stuff to do with
the Electoral Act and taking away the free right that the unions get on union elections being
conducted by the AEC, there are ways to do it.

David Speers: Wouldn't you run the risk of being seen to be sneaky then and having promised one
thing but done a completely different thing.

Arthur Sinodinis: Not if at the same time as I think he's making clear in this campaign, he's also
interested in trying to improve the Australian economy or trying to keep it as strong as he can
make it. It's consistent with that.

David Speers: The issue though does continue to haunt him this week anyway.

Arthur Sinodinis: It haunts all of us, mate. I can assure you. It's a dinosaur from the Howard
Government. This is it.

David Speers: What can you do to kill, to bury, to cremate that dinosaur? Why does it keep popping
up?

Arthur Sinodinis: Well, he can get in a spaceship and take it into outer space and try and get rid
of it that way. Look, at the end of the day, all he can do is he started out seeking to inoculate
on the issue. He had a couple of days which we got a couple of messy headlines out of it but in a
funny way if the impression the public got at the end of that was well he's not going to scare us
with taking away penalty rates or doing X, Y or Z, then maybe it's actually had some impact in
terms of softening expectations of a return to a more punitive industrial relations regime.

David Speers: You've worked with Tony Abbott closely over the years. Does he believe in what he's
saying now?

Arthur Sinodinis: You mean?

David Speers: That Work Choices, he doesn't want it?

Arthur Sinodinis: I think Tony Abbott believes that he can provide stronger Government and if that
means inoculating on an issue like Work Choices, well, he'll inoculate Work Choices.

David Speers: So he's doing this for political reasons?

Arthur Sinodinus: Well, he's trying to balance good policy with good politics.

David Speers: Jane, what do you think about it? A balancing act?

Jane Caro: I think the problem is that it's not about inoculating against Work Choices. It's
actually about the fact that people have a belief that the Liberal Party is the party that will,
given half a chance, have a go at penalty rates and they just they have an idea in their head an
image of the Liberal Party as being tough on the workers. Pro the bosses, tough on the workers.
Right or wrong. And, of course, what Work Choices did was absolutely inflate that image right back
up again and all the inoculation the world at the moment isn't going to help that perception. That
fear that people have and it's only three years ago, less than three years ago, so the fear remains
and it'll take some time, I think, for any Liberal Party leader to be able to get away from that
baggage. That baggage is not something you can just use another set of words around and promise and
sign bits of paper and use a bad phrase like dead, buried and cremated, because you have to be
cremated before you're buried.

David Speers: Well, it's one or the other I would have thought.

Jane Caro: Yeah, exactly.

David Speers: Peter, Work Choices might have been toxic with a lot of voters but in the business
community there's a few people a bit concerned about this declaration to freeze the laws as they
are and not touch them for years and years. Is the Liberal Party going to come under some pressure
from their traditional mates in the business world to rethink this?

Peter Hartcher: It's difficult for the Liberal Party. I wish I had Arthur and Jane's confidence in
the identity of the Liberal Party because a lot of, I think, a lot of businesses and traditional
Liberal donors are losing that confidence. The Liberal Party, if it's not about industrial
relations reform and it's not about lowering taxes, proposing to increase corporate tax rates, what
does it stand for? Absolutely, there's an existential question I think for the Liberal Party.

Gary Punch: It stands for re-election apparently.

Jane Caro: Yes.

Peter Hartcher: Apparently. And the Labor Party has the same existential question. What the hell
does it stand for? It's moving forward apparently.

Jane Caro: Yeah.

David Speers: The ghost that continues to haunt Labor in this election campaign is Kevin Rudd,
Gary. What a conundrum. Just a few weeks ago he was there running the country and everyone was
answering to him in the Labor Party. Now no-one seems to want anything to do with him. How does
Julia Gillard deal with this in a campaign? It's an extraordinary situation where the memory is so
fresh in everyone's mind of how he was brought down by her.

Gary Punch: Yeah. It's a difficult one, David. There's no doubt about that because it is so recent.
He's doing what he has to do to get out and about in his seat, to hold his seat and to be seen to
be wanting to hold his seat and stay around.

David Speers: Are you surprised he's doing that?

Gary Punch: I was at first, I was at first. When I first heard that on the day of his defeat that
he was going to stay. Having said that, she's made it very clear there's a senior spot for him in
the Government should we win, so he's obviously staying around for that. I think the UN part time
position is quite a beat up really. I mean we've got, I think Bob McMillan sits on the UN committee
part time.

David Speers: He's not a senior cabinet minister though.

Gary Punch: No, but you know let's not let's not forget that when Doc Evatt was the external
affairs minister or the foreign minister as we would have him now, he was also the President of the
whole of the United Nations so these things are not unprecedented.

David Speers: Yeah.

Gary Punch: And having a senior Australian minister at the table of something of an international
body on climate change can only be good for this country so. . .

David Speers: [inaudible] see if it's that different when they get through the election in the next
few weeks though.

Gary Punch: Yeah, if it happens.

David Speers: How do Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd negotiate things? I mean when you get to the
campaign launch for example former Prime Ministers are treated as heroes at the Labor campaign
launch. What do they do with Kevin Rudd? Do they you know have the spotlight on him and the
cheering for the former leader that they've just torn down?

Gary Punch: Well, I think, they have to do that to be consistent, you know. Paul's there and Bob's
there and Gough if he's well enough, I think, you know they have to do that for Rudd. There'll be
various people doing the intermediary discussions between the two.

David Speers: Yeah.

Gary Punch: I think it looks like Kevin wants to stay in politics. It looks like he wants to
continue to play a role so I can't see him being the spoiler that some people fear.

David Speers: Well just on that Peter, do you think Kevin Rudd is trying to spoil anything for
Labor deliberately or do you think he is being a team player at the moment?

Peter Hartcher: He seems to be keeping his head down and behaving himself and getting on with his
re-election campaign. I think if I were, you know, the Federal Secretary of the Labor Party I would
be wanting to get Rudd out campaigning in Queensland in the next few weeks.

David Speers: Outside Griffith?

Peter Hartcher: Outside his own seat, exactly. And that may there may be a tense moment in the next
couple of weeks where they ask him to hook his shoulder to the wheel for the team and . . .

David Speers: What, because you think he's a vote winner in Queensland for Labor?

Peter Hartcher: I suspect he's a net positive in Queensland for Labor, yes and I don't know how
he'd react to that request. Emotions are raw. It could be an interesting moment.

David Speers: But they need every vote they can get in Queensland, don't they? Jane, there's a lot
of media fascination in this story, understandably so.

Jane Caro: Yes.

David Speers: Do you think he is a popular figure there in Queensland? Do you think he should be
getting out of Griffith, out of his own seat and helping the Labor cause?

Jane Caro: I do and I actually think he's doing something very smart. He's coming across as rather
gallant. There's something really admirable about the way he's copping it and the way he's being a
team player. I think he's actually re-energising his popularity. The number of people who have said
to me, you know I didn't like Kevin Rudd before but now that he's not Prime, I always think we want
the Prime Minister we haven't got, it seems to be the way Australians are.

Gary Punch: Yes.

Jane Caro: But he's kind of . . .

Gary Punch: But we used to say the same thing about Beazley.

Jane Caro: Yes. It's funny isn't it. But I actually think he's doing a really good job of
re-inventing himself in the eyes of the Australian public and I watched the news program with him
in the school today and his humour and his warmth and the word that came into my mind was gallant.
There was something very gallant about him and yeah, I think, it's I think it's smart on his part
and will probably lead to some interesting work for him in the Gillard Government and maybe in the
UN. It's a smart move to do it that way.

David Speers: What do you think, Arthur?

Arthur Sinodinis: I'd encourage him to be out as much as possible and because . . .

Jane Caro: Are you being gallant, Arthur?

Arthur Sinodinis: Well, he's being gallant, I'm sure. He's always very polite to people. I think
they have a real issue over this because they haven't quite resolved all these questions around how
Julia did the deal that she did with him. But, look, to some extent he's enjoying the notoriety.
When he was running around his electorate yesterday with all that posse of media following him,
yes, he was acting very correctly but he was loving it and he loved telling them where he was going
. . .

David Speers: The media were told to be there so ...

Arthur Sinodinis: Yes exactly. So he's enjoying all of that and on one level that's very natural.
But it does raise a broader issue that if you take Rudd out of, for whatever reason Rudd's not
appointed to the ministry and you've taken Faulkner out of the equation and he's on the backbench,
you've got Lindsay Tanner leaving Parliament. You're looking at a situation where Julia after the
election is going to have to appoint some people to some pretty senior jobs in the Government. It's
really leading to quite a new line up at a senior level in the Government. Now you could say there
are plenty of people there who might take those jobs. Well, maybe she should nominate who'll they
be before the election so the public have a bit of a feel that it's a team because at the moment
what's happening is to Jane's point, it is very much showcased around Julia. But this is a team
that's meant to run the country and who are the experienced people who are going to be running the
country?

David Speers: Isn't there a danger, Peter Hartcher, that if you do roll out Kevin Rudd more broadly
in this campaign, there is going to be a focus on it. What I don't think there has been much focus
on so far in the campaign, that is, the failings of the first term of this Labor Government that he
oversaw, whether it was the stimulus spending, the insulation, the school building projects and
many of those other areas. They haven't really featured a great deal in the last four or five days.
Wouldn't Kevin Rudd's face appearing in the campaign more often be a reminder?

Peter Hartcher: Malcolm Turnbull today was campaigning in Queensland for various Liberal Party
backbenchers. I think Rudd could easily do the same thing without keeping to his newly imposed rule
of talking only about local issues. I think he could do that without any serious difficulty. I
think the hard questions about the failures of their first term need to be asked of the current
leader who was the deputy prime minister in the first term, Julia Gillard. One of the criticisms
that the Liberal Party makes is that it's like day zero for her. It's as if she's never been in
Government. She's getting, because she seems to be getting, a free ride and I think on balance that
it is true. That the media is actually giving her a honeymoon, allowing her less scrutiny than
might otherwise be the case.

David Speers: Do the rest of you agree with that?

Arthur Sinodinis: Well, look, she's a bit of a celebrity at the moment so she's getting, I think,
some of that effect. Abbott's been around for a while. There are large sections of the media who I
don't think are very sympathetic to Abbott at the best of times. But look to some extent having
hostile media scrutiny can be a benefit to a politician. I think . . .

David Speers: See John Howard had a lot of that.

Arthur Sinodinis: I think I think it made Howard . . .

David Speers: We've seen him. . .

Arthur Sinodinis: . . . actually a better operator and a better politician for having that sort. It
kept him on his toes.

David Speers: How do you deal with that? Was it simply ignoring it? Was it just developing a thick
line?

Arthur Sinodinis: He just accepted this was the way things were going to be and you operate
accordingly. For example, if you wanted to get over the head of the press gallery in Canberra, he'd
do it by going on the talkback shows or doing media across the country so he was getting to a
broader group of people than having it mediated, say through the Canberra press gallery.

Gary Punch: Let's not forget, however, that I mean talkback radio completely across the dial is
totally pro-Abbott. I mean this is all, this is not all one way in the media for Julia Gillard. Far
from it. I mean Peter's article today had an anti-Gillard influence.

Peter Hartcher: No, no, it didn't. It was a question about where's the policy.

Jane Caro: Yeah.

Peter Hartcher: It wasn't an anti-Gillard.

Gary Punch: Oh, okay.

Peter Hartcher: Please go ahead.

Gary Punch: Okay. Well, the spotlight was on her and the questioning was on her so I don't think
she's got quite the honeymoon that people are depicting.

Jane Caro: She's got huge novelty value.

Gary Punch: Yeah.

Jane Caro: And she's making the most of that as she should.

Gary Punch: Yes I think that's right, but also let me just say this I mean 72 hours ago I was in
New York and that country is on the bones of its backside. I mean, yes there were mistakes made in
this first term under Rudd's leadership with Julia as the deputy prime minister but we did not go
into recession, the economy is doing, albeit somewhat patchy in various spots, it is doing better
than the rest of the world by and large but she has been honest and straightforward enough to come
out and say some mistakes were made along the way and indeed that's why I'm here as the leader.

David Speers: That's why she's moving forward.

Jane Caro: That's right.

David Speers: The piece that Peter did run today does raise an interesting issue. Population has
been the mantra, well for both sides, but particularly Julia Gillard since taking over the
leadership. She's talked a lot about not wanting a big Australia, she doesn't support that 36
million figure that Treasury says we're heading to under the current migration and fertility rates,
but when it comes, Peter, as you point out to the question of is she going to tackle the
immigration intake, she doesn't want to talk about that. Is it credible to talk about population
and not talk about immigration?

Peter Hartcher: It's not credible to talk about population and avoid talking about any of the
components of population policy, no. As you say, she resists the big Australia tag and the implicit
36 million dollar, 36 million people . . .

David Speers: Person.

Peter Hartcher: . . . target there or not target but indicative outcome, but she won't nominate a
different number. Nor will she talk about the two sources of population. You know the birth rate,
people who are already here. No, that's off the agenda because it's a matter for personal choice.
But she's also refusing to talk about immigration which is the only other source of population. So
you cannot have a population policy that ignores all of that. Now the Government says but we want
to talk about where the population is and we want to talk about congestion and we want to talk
about infrastructure. Well, that's fine, talk about congestion, talk about infrastructure, talk
about population distribution or whatever you want, whatever components, but don't pretend this is
a population policy because there's nothing in there about population.

David Speers: Well, as Mark Latham told us last night, the former Labor leader, he said look yes
you can have all these programs to attract people to Townsville and other regional centres, people
don't want to move there. They want to move to Western Sydney. The joint's full. You've got to talk
about immigration. You've got to cut immigration. The Coalition have identified very early on in
this debate, Scott Morrison said that the net overseas migration figure of 180,000 is too high but
again he won't identify a figure either that would be more appropriate. The Coalition want the
productivity commission to tell them what an appropriate figure should be. Is that the mob that's
going to really suggest that immigration be cut, Arthur? It's more an economic body. Aren't they
going to say keep growing the population?

Arthur Sinodinis: I mean the productivity commission can give you some parameters around it all but
I mean people seem to forget that we've controlled immigration for years. We do actually control
immigration rates in various ways and over the years there has been an attempt to match immigration
to labour demand in the economy, there's been a family reunion program. I'm quite relaxed about I
have to admit about high immigration and I declare a bias, I'm the son of immigrants, so I'm quite
happy that they came to this country.

David Speers: So what's this debate all about? I mean is the flexibility there at moment?

Arthur Sinodinis: Well, I think, this debate is being used as a proxy for other debates.

David Speers: And that is?

Arthur Sinodinis: I think in part there's a bit of dog-whistling going on. I think it's an
acceptable way for Labor to dog-whistle on the boat people issue.

David Speers: Not just Labor though. Is it both sides doing this?

Arthur Sinodinis: Well I'll come back to Liberals a sec but if I'm looking at what the Government's
doing on the issue, I think part of it is dog whistling and I'm a bit uneasy about it.

David Speers: Well, what's the Coalition doing then if they're not doing the same?

Arthur Sinodinis: Look, on boat people my experience in Government was always that if we didn't be
seen to be controlling that intake, it was potentially putting at risk our overall migration
program or support for the overall migration program so I always believed . . .

David Speers: Is that support still there for the overall migration program is what I'm getting at?

Arthur Sinodinis: Well, I think if both sides of politics keep talking like this you have to ask
yourself that question and it seems to me very defeatist to talk about we're going to put up the
sign that it's full, as opposed to actually dealing with the infrastructure bottlenecks, the other
issues that are there and if I put on a commercial hat for a moment I like the idea of having a
bigger population. That gives you economies of scale. It makes you more competitive internationally
as well.

David Speers: Again it gets back to this question of leadership I guess Jane.

Jane Caro: Yes.

David Speers: Why if higher immigration, higher population is a good thing for Australia, why is
this debate heading in the other direction?

Jane Caro: I think it's xenophobia, I think it's thinly disguised racism, I think it's fear and
loathing, I think it's free- floating anxiety out there in the community and it latches on to
difference and it latches on to strangers and because we have a kind of vacuum at the top where we
don't have a Malcolm Fraser who really did kind of step into that and a Bob Hawke over Tiananmen
Square, step into that and take hold of it, that kind of free-floating anxiety is allowed to have a
way disproportionate influence over policy. I mean we're talking about a handful of people on
boats. And to be honest this whole debate about people smuggling drives me nuts because you know
we're all supposed to be about market forces, everybody loves market forces. What people smuggling
is about there is huge demand and when there is huge demand there will be someone who will supply
it. This is just basic market force stuff.

David Speers: I guess it comes down to this argument and people, yes it's a small number but people
want control over the borders.

Jane Caro: Well, we could stand hand in hand around the outside of Australia, all the ones of us
who are here and we wouldn't get around New South Wales probably. I think we I mean we're so lucky.
We're not, we don't have truckloads of people coming from through the Chunnel. I mean in comparison
to other countries who are dealing with this movement of people from the poorest and most war-torn
parts of the world to the richest and most, you know lucky, we don't even rate and we . . .

Gary Punch: But you've got to have some control somewhere.

Jane Caro: I agree.

Gary Punch: But we've got to have . . .

Jane Caro: I agree. I'm not saying open it up and let everyone in but I think we could have a
civilised, generous, thoughtful debate about this, where we weren't using it, as you put it quite
rightly ,I think proxy for xenophobia and racism to some extent but this free-floating anxiety
that's out there in the community that just fixes on those people who aren't like us.

Peter Hartcher: On the broader question of immigration, who's arguing the national interest at the
moment? Nobody. We have a failure of national leadership from both the Government and the
opposition. Nobody is making the case that we are an immigrant-dependent society where over the
last ten years labour demand has been running at 2.5% growth a year and population the growth is
only 1.5% a year. Well, how do you close that gap? If you don't, if we don't have immigration, we
have labour shortages and we have hot spots, we have labour price inflation, we have the Reserve
Bank increasing interest rates and and we have not only higher mortgages but we have an economic
slowdown.

Arthur Sinodinis: And our labour force will age over time.

Jane Caro: Yes.

Arthur Sinodinus: And we'll need to offset that . . .

Peter Hartcher: And the shortage [inaudible] but who's making that case in our national leadership?

Gary Punch: Well, Peter, you're absolutely right. Someone needs to do that and that someone needs
to be both political, major political parties. I mean when I did economic history in my commerce
degree way back in the 70s at New South Wales University, the one constant about Australian
economic growth was that it needed two ingredients. Foreign capital and immigration and with both
of those this country grew in large steps and nothing has changed in that period of time. If
anything, as Peter I think is hinting, we've probably become more dependent on that. Now we need
both political parties to be honest about that. I would put to you that trying to get a number on
immigration is perhaps the last statistic we need to come up with. We need to look at what we can
actually facilitate by looking at where you can put people, what infrastructure you can put in for
people, what is the natural rate of birth in this country, do we want to encourage it, if so, can
we encourage it and how we encourage it like Costello did with his baby bonus which seemed to work.
I myself think that, with some experience in this area, think that the biggest single factor is
water and water supply. We need to come to grips with all of that and then define an immigration
target. You won't get any of that in the middle of an election campaign but we need some
bipartisanship about this in the national interest after this election.

Arthur Sinodinis: Look, Gary, let me give an example . . .

David Speers: We have to go to another break just quickly, Arthur. We'll come back and get that
example from you. Stay with us.

[Part 3]

David Speers: Welcome back. We're joined this week by Arthur Sinodinis, former chief of staff to
John Howard, Jane Caro, an advertising and marketing executive, Peter Hartcher, political editor of
the Sydney Morning Herald and Gary Punch, former Labor minister in the Hawke and Keating
Governments. We were talking earlier at the start of the show about where are the big reform ideas,
where's the leadership in this campaign. We're getting plenty of good leading ideas here tonight.
Arthur, more than Australia you mentioned just before the break, this question of water that Gary
raises how we tackle this, it's not been an issue in the campaign so far. Has this fallen off the
radar in terms of the agenda of both major parties.

Arthur Sinodinis: I think it has and to Gary's point that report was done on Northern Australia for
Gary Gray last year, I think it was, did suggest that while the environment up there is fragile,
there are real opportunities to develop that environment for that and I think we have an obligation
to look at these big ideas. I remember in my time in Government with budget speeches when we used
to test them after they were delivered, the number one issue that always came up is what are you
doing to develop the country, what are you doing to develop water.

David Speers: We're not getting much in the way of economic reform either. Are we Peter?

Peter Hartcher: No, no we're certainly not.

David Speers: There's a lot of talk about tightening the belt, spending less, cutting here, cutting
there that to grow the economy.

Peter Hartcher: Well and I would argue that it's actually a good thing that we don't have the usual
spend-a-thon and we in fact had a Dutch auction to see who can spend less. I think that's actually
a happy outcome for the national interest. But above and beyond that, no, where's the economic
reform. We haven't heard the phrase used in this first week of this campaign. We have a Government
by imposing a mining tax promising to spend more money on infrastructure, give small business a tax
break and also to facilitate an increase in the superannuation guarantee levy. Now that's that's
the only sort of expansive economic reform that's coming out in this campaign. The Liberals are
saying quite the contrary. No, we don't agree with any of those because they involve more taxing
and more spending and we don't want to tax or spend.

David Speers: I want to finish on a couple of issues that I think are hanging around both leaders
in this campaign. Julia Gillard, first of all. She came took the job saying she wanted to fix a few
things that she inherited from Kevin Rudd. There was asylum seekers, the mining tax, climate
change. Tomorrow we'll see what she does on climate change. But on those first two and perhaps on
the third from what we know, Peter, how can we score her?

Peter Hartcher: On the issues that she was pledging to solve, to fix?

David Speers: Asylum seekers, mining tax, climate change.

Peter Hartcher: Well, on two of those, she put in place a sort of emergency fix before rushing to
an election. Those emergency fixes are unravelling. The asylum seekers fix for a regional
processing centre was quickly exposed to be very tentative at best. The mining tax fix we now see
unravelling with the junior miners up in arms and threatening to resume an advertising protest
campaign. Now we'll see the climate change policy tomorrow. My suspicion is that based on what we
know so far, it won't be well received. It will be seen as a hollow temporising device and so that
will unravel as well, so I think all three of those aren't really standing up to the test of time,
time of only a couple of weeks.

David Speers: And the other big unknown on the other side for Tony Abbott I think is going to be
how women react to him. Now we've heard a lot of theorising that he has a woman problem, a problem
with female voters. Jane, is that the sense you get?

Jane Caro: Absolutely.

David Speers: Or is this overstated?

Jane Caro: No. He has a problem. Tony, in a way, if Tony had started his career 20 years ago
setting out to convince Australian women that he was not their friend he couldn't have done a
better job. He continues to make statements that are just extraordinary like a girl's most precious
gift is her virginity. Ah, please. These things are very alienating to most educated women. In
fact, there is a big reform that no one's talking about and that is Julia Gillard being Prime
Minister. That is underestimated, the effect that that has on the female half of this population,
the excitement when that happened, when a female Governor General swore in a female Prime Minister
and the feeling that women had about the opportunities that were suddenly available to them and
more importantly to their daughters. That's half the population who haven't felt, we're talking
about developing resources, well that's half the population we haven't thoroughly developed yet.

David Speers: Is that . . .

Jane Caro: That's a good thing.

David Speers: Is that a big sleeping issue in this campaign?

Gary Punch: The gender gap which is now opened up according to today's polling for Abbott of 9%
negative, 9% for him, I think, is the most decisive factor in this election.

David Speers: The decisive factor in the election.

Gary Punch: The most decisive . . .

David Speers: We're nearly out of time. Arthur, do you think it's also such a problem?

Arthur Sinodinis: Look there'll also be a divide between the inner city and the outer suburbs,
rural and regional areas verses metropolitan areas.

David Speers: The gender gap?

Arthur Sinodinis: So and in that the gender gap will play a role as well. I think Tony's got to
confront that directly. He's not going to be running the Government on his own. It may have his
values but he'll be part of a cabinet so if people are expecting him to impose really extreme
policies in this area, I think that will not be the case.

David Speers: All right. We're out of time. Arthur Sinodinis, Jane Caro, Peter Hartcher, Gary
Punch. Good to talk to you all. Thanks for joining us. And we'll be back same time next week. Hope
you can join us then. For now I'm David Speers. Thanks for your company.

ENDS.