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Meet The Press -

View in ParlView



November 30th 2008


MEET THE PRESS PRESENTER PAUL BONGIORNO: Good morning and welcome to Meet the Press. While he was
at the APEC summit the Prime Minister attacked the doom and gloom merchants who keep giving bad
economic news but no solutions. As he packed away his poncho, there was more recessionary talk from
the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, so by the time he was back in Canberra
Mr Rudd finally conceded the writing was on the wall for the budget surplus.

PM KEVIN RUDD (Wednesday): Major developed economies like dominoes are falling one by one into
recession. Under these circumstances it would be responsible to draw further from the surplus and
if necessary to use a temporary deficit to begin investing in our future infrastructure needs.

OPPOSITION LEADER MALCOLM TURNBULL (Wednesday): Experience and history tells us that Labor deficits
are never temporary - the last Labor deficit lasted for six years.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard is a guest. And later, is the blame game over?
We speak with Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. But first, what the papers are reporting this Sunday
November 30. "Mumbai siege over," is the headline in the 'Sunday Times'. The paper reports two
Australians among the 195 dead. And just in - first pictures inside the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel show
the extensive damage. Enough explosive was found in the hotel to blow it up. The terrorists were
thwarted in that plan as well as their objective to kill at least 5,000 people. The 'Sunday Mail'
in Brisbane praises its Premier for grabbing more funds from Canberra. The headline, "Anna Bligh
lands extra $4 billion for the States at COAG." The paper says the other States enlisted her
Queensland connection to get the bigger handout. The 'Sunday Telegraph' has "Grim news on child
care." Many parents will have a two year wait for places. The paper says dozens of centres have
closed their books for next year which could leave parents affected by the collapse of ABC Learning
in the lurch. Good morning and welcome back to the program, Deputy Prime Minister Julia
Gillard.Good morning, Minister.

DEPUTY PM JULIA GILLARD: Good morning, Paul.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The big announcement yesterday, the COAG $15 billion extra on top of what the
Commonwealth already gives the States. The Prime Minister put 300,000 new jobs on that. Is that
over the four years or is it more ambitious than that?

JULIA GILLARD: The Prime Minister has said that this will create new jobs. In his statement
yesterday, he said that 133,000 new jobs. This is about new money, new resources for the States and
Territories in vital areas like healthcare and schools. So, Paul, we're talking about more doctors,
more doctors. The kind of professionals that people rely on, and of course, in my own area of
Education, we're talking really about a new chapter in the education revolution. Transparency
school-by-school of results and resources and new investments to help with disadvantaged schools,
teacher quality, literacy and numeracy. We are determined to make a difference for the quality of
schooling in every school in this country.

PAUL BONGIORNO: During the week, we saw the OECD report forecast that we could see unemployment
rise by 200,000 in Australia. You've got the 133,000 that the Prime Minister spoke about yesterday.
I saw one report add more, but that's fine. Is that on top of the 75,000 that was tagged to the
$10.4 billion stimulus package that was announced earlier?

JULIA GILLARD: Yes, it is. This government has taken a series of important steps to protect jobs
and to invest in jobs in these difficult times flowing from the global financial crisis. We've
always said to the Australian community, we're not going to be immune from these global events.
These world events are going to touch our economy. So, step number one was the $10.4 billion
economic security statement. That's about jobs. 75,000 new jobs being the estimate. It's also about
training for jobs with new training places for Australians who need them. Of course, we guarantee
bank deposits as well in the early days of the unfolding global crisis. Now, we've taken this step
through COAG. New money, new investment, meaning new jobs and also new services in health and
education. And in December of course, the Prime Minister has foreshadowed an infrastructure
package. Infrastructure is obviously about job creation as well, and we've had the local government
package, $300 million, also about supporting and creating jobs locally.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Without the measures, unemployment would be significantly higher?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, we know that in these difficult days, we've got to invest in keeping our
economy moving. There is a contagion in the world and we are not immune from that contagion. What
we can do is act decisively in front and that's what the Government has been doing every step of
the way. And our single biggest objective is to support Australian jobs.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, the Prime Minister has said that - well, he said during the week that if
necessary, the Government would go into temporary deficit. The Opposition has no sympathy at all
for this talk. Here's how Malcolm Turnbull put it.

MALCOLM TURNBULL (Monday): Australians rightly regard the prospect of a deficit budget next year as
a failure in economic management.

PAUL BONGIORNO: But, it seems though that the Prime Minister doesn't expect a deficit next year. He
said yesterday for example that he would still retain a modest surplus after the measures. Is that
right? You don't expect a deficit next year?

JULIA GILLARD: What the Prime Minister said in Parliament last week and what he said again
yesterday is that our projections are for a modest surplus. But, we aren't going to hide from the
Australian people the fact that the global financial crisis is still unfolding. Its effects on our
economy are still unfolding. These are unpredictable days and the Prime Minister was saying in
these unpredictable days, we will do everything necessary to support Australian jobs. And what I
would say to Malcolm Turnbull is, perhaps after Parliament rises at the end of the coming week, he
should spend his time hopping on a plane to Perth to talk to his Liberal colleague, Premier Colin
Barnett who yesterday very clearly said, "Even in a resources boom State like Western Australia,
the unfolding financial crisis may cause them to consider a deficit." Now, Colin Barnett gets it,
Malcolm Turnbull doesn't.

PAUL BONGIORNO: At the end of the first year of the Rudd Government, you've been acting Prime
Minister almost 70 times. Almost co-Prime Minister. Isn't Kevin Rudd overdoing the travel?

JULIA GILLARD: Kevin Rudd travels overseas when it is necessary for the voice of this nation to be
heard in the important counsels of the world. And of course, as the global financial crisis has
unfolded, it's been even more important for our Prime Minister to be in the decision-making forums
that matter, the G20 and APEC. These have been the two recent trips and he had to be there as the
leaders of the major economies in the world sat down to deal with the aftermath and management of
the global financial crisis. So, in those meetings, that's the right place for him to be if he's
going to protect Australian jobs and keep our economy in front.

PAUL BONGIORNO: He has got the lurgy. He admitted as much and it sounded like it when he was over
there in Lima. Do you think you would advise him to stay home a little more often next year?

JULIA GILLARD: I think Kevin himself made point that he would happily never get on another plane in
his life. But, his job doesn't enable that. His job of course means that he travels this country
extensively to talk to people right around it in shopping centres and shopping strips, schools and
hospitals and he goes overseas when he needs to to represent this nation when it matters.

PAUL BONGIORNO: When we return with the panel, has Julia Gillard really put a stake in the heart of
WorkChoices? And Kevin Rudd attended his first APEC summit last week and brought home a special
item of clothing. The big question is, what does he do with it? Hang it in the garage or save it
for a cold Canberra morning.?

KEVIN RUDD: I think it is just part of the APEC colour and movement show. That's kind of what you

REPORTER: Do you think you'll wear it again?

KEVIN RUDD: Are you asking me out or what!


PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet the Press with Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard. And welcome to
the panel, Annabel Crabb from he Sydney Morning Herald. And from the 'Adelaide Advertiser', Mark
Kenny. On Tuesday, the Deputy Prime Minister unveiled the final version of her new industrial
relations system. It stirred surprisingly little controversy at the time.

ACTU PRESIDENT SHARAN BURROW (Tuesday): Today is an historic day and it turns back the tide on the
attacks on workers' rights.

MALCOLM TURNBULL (Tuesday): We will not oppose the Government's Fair Work Bill in the House of
Representatives. But we reserve our right to propose amendments to improve the operation of the
Bill following the Senate committee process.

MARK KENNY, 'ADELAIDE ADVERTISER': Ms Gillard, Have you exceeded your mandate. You said that you
would get rid of WorkChoices but there are some aspects that seem to take industrial relations back
past 1996 and even past 1993 in terms of the use of Fair Work Australia for imposing settlements
and the like. Is that exceeding of your mandate?

JULIA GILLARD: What we said to the Australian people last year was that we would create a whole new
system which would be about taking us forward. Indeed, it was called Forward with Fairness. We
published it in April 2007 and the bill I brought into the parliament this week delivers on
promises of Forward with Fairness. We promised to sweep WorkChoices away and this bill does. We
promised to give people fairness and balance in their work place, and we promised to give them an
industrial umpire who would be there if things went wrong. But we also promised a system that was
based on work place bargaining and that's what our system is. So, people will be able to go around,
make their own arrangements, their own bargains. They've got to be better than the safety net, and
I predict people will get about co-operative workplace relations under this bill.

MARK KENNY: Given the predictions we see for the economy over the next 12 months with predictions
of quite significant unemployment, would a prudent employer now who might be considering the
possibility of trimming his workforce for example, would he be clever and the smart thing to do to
in fact get rid of any employees now that he might want to get rid of later simply because it is
going to be more difficult under your new laws?

JULIA GILLARD: I certainly don't think so. I think employers look at their businesses, even in
these difficult times, and they say to themselves, one of their single assets is the hard-working,
highly trained staff. And even in tough times, they will do everything to keep those staff on
board. In terms of the employer reaction to our new Fair Work Bill, some employers said that the
bill goes too far. Some unions have said it doesn't go far enough. That's what I expected. I think
what that means is that we've got the balance right.

ANNABEL CRABB, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD': Can I move you to education now, Deputy Prime Minister? We
had COAG yesterday, another great gush of federal spending. You're now spending nearly twice as
much on computers for schools as you told the Australian public. How could a competent Government
have underestimated this spend so badly?

JULIA GILLARD: We said in our election policy that we would ensure children in upper secondary
school years 9-12 had an effective one-to-one ratio, computer to children. We said that that would
be a 4-year program and budgeted it at $1 billion. When we came into government we said to the
States we were happy to talk to them about on-costs and we would have a credentialled process to
deal with that, so we had the Grimes Review to look at what the legitimate on-costs were. We also
discovered in the first round just how bad the situation was in schools with many schools in this
country having more than eight children fighting to get access to the one computer. So, we've said
that we're going to deliver on the promise. We will deliver on it. The new money made available to
States means that we're delivering on making sure on-costs are met.

ANNABEL CRABB: Sure, but this is a basic thing. Any family buying a computer knows that it is not
just the cost of the laptop. You've got to buy the broad band network and in-build the service
costs. It is completely obvious to a family buying a computer, why wasn't it obvious to you?

JULIA GILLARD: It was always obvious to us that we were going to have to work with schools and work
with States and Territories and the Catholic and independent school systems on the roll-out of the
program. And from the first days of the Government, in the first 100 days, the applications went
out for round one of computers in schools we were working co-operatively. And we worked with them
to crystalise what the on-costs are and now we've dealt with the question of on-costs. But I think
it is important to remember what is this all about. It is about striving for excellence and making
sure that kids in secondary school, particularly upper secondary school, have the learning tool of
the 21st century. We needed to step in to do that because the former Liberal Government had left it
badly undone.

PAUL BONGIORNO: This week, thousands of parents are wondering if their parents will still have an
ABC Learning Centre to attend next year. The Childcare Union is putting the weights on the
Government to take further action.

NATIONAL SECRETARY OF THE LHMU LOUISE TARRANT (Tuesday): The banks have got to step up and take
responsibility and government can't be allowed to sit back and allow the banks to determine what
happens to our children's future.

ANNABEL CRABB: As a Government, you've guaranteed bank deposits in recent times. Are you in a
position to guarantee families are not going to be without child care in the new year?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, the Government has already acted to guarantee to families who use ABC Learning
Centres that care will be there for them until December 31 in the earliest days when ABC Learning
went into administration and then receivership. We said our highest priority was continuity of
care. We were going to make sure it was there. Then we said we were going to work with the
receiver. We now know 656 centres will be there next year, providing care for families. We're
working on the situation of the remaining 380-odd centres and the receiver has said you'll be in a
position to make a further statement this week. And every step of the way, we've worked with the
receiver including having expert staff embedded with the receiver working alongside him.

ANNABEL CRABB: When you say you're working on the remainder of the childcare centres, does that
mean that there could be good news for parents down the track in terms of further Government
assistance to keep the centres open?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I think it is important to recognise the receiver said, being on the list of
380 didn't mean your centre was necessarily going to close. It just meant that there was more work
to do. And we are going to be doing that work with the receiver. Our highest priority here has
always been continuity of care. And obviously, as this week unfolds, we will be in a position as
the receiver makes more information available to be talking to working mums and dads who rely on
the childcare centres about what to do next in relation to their child care.

MARK KENNY: Your partner, Tim Matthieson, attracted a good deal of criticism this week after his
appointment as a men's health ambassador. That's' a fairly bruising introduction to public life.
How does he feel about it and will he make any other forays?

JULIA GILLARD: I think this at heart was a simple thing. Tim obviously wanted to do, on a voluntary
basis, work to raise awareness of men's health. We know that men would be in better nick this this
country if they more regularly went to the doctor. Men often think of themselves as the strong and
silent types. They don't like to complain and they don't like to see professional health and we're
trying to encourage them to do so. Tim thought that he could play a role in that and hence the
Men's Health Ambassador, it is no more complicated than that.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Are you surprised at the controversy?

JULIA GILLARD: I'm never really surprised by anything in Australian politics, Paul, things happen,
but obviously Tim wants to play a voluntary role assisting with men's health and I think that is a
good thing for him to be doing and a good thing for men to be thinking about looking after their
health. Julia Gillard thank you very much for joining us today.

JULIA GILLARD: Thank you, Paul.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Up next, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. And in the 'Australian', Kudelka has a new
T-shirt coming out of the closet for the Rudd Government. Not Kevin 07, but Deficit 09. "No, Wayne,
it doesn't make your bum look big."

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet the Press. This weekend's Council of Australian Governments meeting
in Canberra was hailed by the Prime Minister as a new beginning in Federal/State relations. Kevin
Rudd is promising to end the blame game. The States willing to accommodate for a price. And they
seem to have done very well. $15.1 billion extra put on the table and a new way of doing business.

KEVIN RUDD (Yesterday): Boosting our investment in education and health, improving our hospitals.
Improving our schools. And also, training more quality teachers, nurses and health professionals.

PAUL BONGIORNO: And welcome to the program, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. Good morning, Premier.


PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, your home town paper has no doubts that it was the Queensland connection,
Anna Bligh-Kevin Rudd that got the extra money out of the Feds. Did you have to fight very hard?

ANNA BLIGH: Well, we set out 12 months ago to transform the Federation. The Australian people had
made it very clear they wanted an end to the blame game and they wanted the country to work better.
That meant getting a more co-operative relationship and streamlining and redesigning the
architecture of how we do business across States and the Federal Government. You can't redesign the
architecture if up don't improve the relationship. You can't have a good relationship if one party
is walking away from their responsibilities and the previous Federal Government had walked away
from investing in health and education. So all of that had to come together. Yesterday demonstrated
that you can actually improve these relationships. The $15 billion will go a long way in very very
difficult financial circumstances to improving our hospital system and boosting schools and other
important areas.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer flagged about $11 billion. Why was that
not enough?

ANNA BLIGH: Quite simply, while we understand the very difficult financial circumstances, not only
facing the Federal Government but each and every State and Territory, we also understand that in an
area like health, we just can't afford to slip backwards. The costs of running a health system grow
every year. We had to make health a priority, we had to make schools a priority. When we looked at
the total package, States and Territories were prepared to be reasonable, but we took the view that
we couldn't leave COAG unless we could honestly say that this keeps up our performance in the
important areas and where possible, has a modest increase. That's what happened.

ANNABEL CRABB: Premier, it must be getting annoying for you Queenslanders, you go to all of the
trouble of installing the Queensland mafia in Canberra and all they seem to do is give all the
money in NSW. Yet again, we have NSW running away with the lion's share. Is this a reward for
fiscal incompetence?

ANNA BLIGH: The way that relationship works financially, quite appropriately, is that the
Commonwealth allocates the funds on where people live in this country and NSW has a very high
population. As well as adjusting for need with things like distance and vulnerability of particular
groups like Aboriginal communities.

ANNABEL CRABB: So, you're happy with it?

ANNA BLIGH: The distribution I think is a very fair distribution. Of course, every State wants to
put their hand up for a little more, but at the end of the day, we're part of a nation and we need
to see a national effort that's in the national interest.

MARK KENNY: Premier, Kevin Rudd promised to take over the hospitals if the States didn't lift their
performance over a fairly short period of time. I think by 2009. 2009 is not far away. This deal
has just been done. Are the hospitals now fixed? Has that threat been averted?

ANNA BLIGH: The investment decisions made yesterday will certainly go a long way to adding to the
State effort to improve the performance of the hospital system. What's refreshing around the COAG
table these days is having a Prime Minister who was previously a senior official at COAG
representing a State, who knows the reality of what it takes to run and improve and change big
systems like health and education. And it not only takes money, it also takes real change in the
way that you account for the money and what you expect when you put the money in. Premiers and
first ministers have been saying this for many years. Now we've got ears who want to listen and I
think we'll see some real change. This is a big system. Nobody, I think, reasonably expects that it
will all change overnight. What they want and what this will deliver is demonstrable improvement on
a consistent basis.

MARK KENNY: There were four COAGs since Prime Minister Kevin Rudd took over. Will that be the
agenda for next year as well or are we getting COAGed out now?

ANNA BLIGH: We set ourselves a very bold agenda. What we delivered over the last 12 months is
actually much more substantial than just a funding package at the end of 2008. We've gone from 96
Commonwealth-State agreements across a plethora of areas across to six streamlined arrangements in
the key areas of health, education, housing, disabilities and others. What this means is that we
can now really identify the outcomes, rather than just talking about the money that goes in. What
are the outcomes we want for the Australian people? And recognising that that might be achieved
differently in some parts of a State like Queensland than it might be in South Australia, simply
because of our geographic and cultural differences. So, what we can expect to see over the next 12
months is COAG will now turn its mind to tougher questions about roles and responsibilities and
that's going to be a very interesting debate.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Just before we go, speculation is rife that you're clearing the decks up there in
Queensland for an earlier State election. Can you confirm that this morning for us?

ANNA BLIGH: I've said repeatedly that I intend to go full term. The election is due in September
2009 and you can expect our government to be working hard to earn the votes and respect of
Queenslanders right up until that time.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for being with us today, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. And
thanks to our panel, Annabel Crabb and Mark Kenny. Until next year, goodbye and have a happy
festive season.