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Meet The Press -

View in ParlView


September 16th 2007


MEET THE PRESS PRESENTER PAUL BONGIORNO: Hello and welcome to Meet the Press. The Liberal Party
room sticks with John Howard, but flirts with Peter Costello. The PM comes up with a solution - he
volunteers to be the first Australian PM going to an election promising not to serve out the full

PRIME MINISTER JOHN HOWARD (Wednesday): I won't find it easy if I'm re-elected to retire, I won't
find it the least bit easy.

WORKPLACE RELATIONS MINISTER JOE HOCKEY (Thursday): But if you've got a Don Bradman in the team and
you're going on an Ashes tour to England, you don't readily give up your Don Bradman.

KEVIN RUDD (Thursday): Mr Howard now has a short-term fix for the Liberal Party, but no long-term
plan for the country.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Workplace Minister Joe Hockey is our guest. And later, John Connor from the Climate
Institute takes the temperature of the major parties' global warming policies but first what the
nation's papers are reporting this Sunday September 16. The 'Sun Herald' leads with "It's on.
Rudd's daring call, let the games begin." The Labor leader launches his election campaign even
though John Howard is yet to set the date.

KEVIN RUDD (Yesterday): What Australians are looking for is new leadership, new leadership that
extends a helping hand wherever possible to working families.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The 'Sunday Age' has "The speculation that will not Peter out." The paper says the
supporters of Treasurer Peter Costello say the option of a switch of leaders still remains and it
could happen as soon as next Tuesday when the next Newspoll is due. The Sunday 'Herald Sun' reports
"Aussie has top stem cell job." Melbourne scientist Alan has been lured overseas, scoring a top job
in stem cell research and will head up a $3 billion program in California. The 'Sunday Telegraph'
leads with "Navy funds breast jobs. You pay for sailors to look sexy." The Defence Force admits it
pays for cosmetic surgery for women suffering psychological issues. Ten days ago the Workplace
Relations Minister was invited to join seven other cabinet ministers to take stock of the
Government's fortunes. By several accounts they concluded John Howard should consider his position.
And welcome back to the program, Joe Hockey.

JOE HOCKEY: Thank you, Paul.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, if we could just go to that report in the 'Sunday Age', that speculation
is rife that John Howard could step down as soon as next Tuesday?

JOE HOCKEY: It's complete rubbish, absolute rubbish. I can say with total conviction that John
Howard will be leading us to the next election and beyond.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Now, the paper says that Newspoll is due on Tuesday. Now, many people are expecting
a correction of that poll, from 18% lead back, but some of the pundits are saying you should look
at the preferred Prime Minister and approval of performance. Now if that drops dramatically, will
that put extra pressure on Mr Howard?

JOE HOCKEY: Look Paul, I think last week was a very difficult week for the Government. I would be
surprised if Newspoll were not the same or if not worse for the Government given what happened last
week. But Australians want to hear about the future. They want to hear about our plans for the
future. On Friday, we announced a $170 million program focusing on delivering more practical
training for nurses, and that's something people want. Unfortunately, far too many people in their
commentary on Friday's announcement were focused on other things, in the media, and we will
continue to roll out programs about Australia's future, real programs, unlike yesterday's stunt
where Kevin Rudd promised new leadership with old Labor, and came out with an announcement which
was quite bizarre. Kevin Rudd yesterday talked about creating yet another bureaucracy - he's
already announced 31 new bureaucracies - another new bureaucracy that will review the skills
shortage. He's announced 58 reviews. Where's the substance in Kevin Rudd? There is no substance
there at the moment. He's heavily manufactured and it's all about presentation and not about the

PAUL BONGIORNO: It's clear the PM was reluctant to become the sort of lame duck he felt Tony Blair
was when he flagged a timetable to quit. Here's how Mr Howard announced his retirement decision.

JOHN HOWARD (Wednesday): But I would expect well into my term and after those things have been
implemented and bedded down, I would probably, certainly form the view well into my term, that it
would make sense for me to retire.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Mr Hockey, he was clearly reluctant but can we believe him?

JOE HOCKEY: Of course we can. I think John Howard is a very fair dinkum person and he's being fair
dinkum with the Australian people.

PAUL BONGIORNO: But let me put it to you this way - if John Howard wins the election from now,
eight months of bad polls, the polls all say half a million people have gone from voting Liberal
and are going to vote Labor. He would be bigger than Menzies, it would be an extraordinary victory.

JOE HOCKEY: Well, Paul, whether it's an extraordinary victory or not, people want to know what
you're doing for them, what you're doing for the country, how we lock in economic prosperity. How
we ensure that the issues that matter to Australians such as water security, such as security for
education funding, such as how can we help working families. They want to know the answers to that,
not about whether John Howard is re-elected for another term being some sort of moment in political

PAUL BONGIORNO: It does look like he's saying, in fact if the Australian people are so kind to do
it, and the Labor says he basically wants a lap of honour, a gold watch run at the prime

JOE HOCKEY: Well, I think that's just complete rubbish. You hear for example sportsmen all the time
say, "Look I want to go to the World Cup and I'll retire after the World Cup" or they'll say, "I
want to go on the Ashes tour and this will be my last tour and I'll retire at the end of that" or
play the US Open or whatever the case is. People set themselves a timetable. John Howard has done
that, because he's fair dinkum with the Australian people, unlike Bob Carr, Peter Beattie or Steve
Bracks, who pretended to go to the election promising to serve full terms and then reneged on it.

PAUL BONGIORNO: On December 4, 1994, in front of Ian MacLachlan, PM promised Peter Costello that he
would step down after a couple of terms and he reneged on that promise.

JOE HOCKEY: I can't confirm that. I don't know about the history of that, but what I can say is
that John Howard has always put the interests of the Australian people ahead of his own interests.
And the best reflection of that is the fact that today we have 4.3% unemployment, we have our
highest level of real wages ever, and 60%, believe it or not, of Australian households pay no net

PAUL BONGIORNO: Yesterday Mr Howard moved to assure the voters of Bennelong he would be their
member for a full 3-year term but there was a get-out clause, have a look at this. J

OHN HOWARD: If I'm returned and the Government's returned at the coming election I'll serve my full
term as the member for Bennelong, the full three years, and I won't be inflicting a by-election on
the people of my electorate.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The get-out clause is "if the Government is returned." If the polls are right, the
Government's not going to be returned so there's no real guarantee there won't be a by-election.

JOE HOCKEY: If the Government's not returned I don't know whether the Prime Minister would be
holding Bennelong. Who knows? This is all hypothetical. It's into the future. It's not uncommon for
prime ministers to stay in parliament after they've finished their terms. One of the most
celebrated cases was one of my predecessors in North Sydney, Billy Hughes, who hung around for 30
years, and I wouldn't put it past the Prime MInister to still be in parliament for a long period of

PAUL BONGIORNO: Even if he was a backbencher in Opposition?

JOE HOCKEY: Nothing would surprise me. John Howard is as tough as teak and he he's committed to the
parliament. He loves parliament and everyone knows that.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Just before we go, were you surprised, shocked, gobsmacked, even, to be invited by
Alexander Downer to a discussion on John Howard's future the other week?

JOE HOCKEY: You know what, Paul? We obviously canvass all issues and we do it in a responsible
manner in the Liberal Party. We don't go through those so-called blood-lettings that the Labor
Party undertakes every two or three years. You only need to look at the way the Labor behaved in
relation to Mark Latham and the way they dumped Kim Beazley and the way Julia Gillard would love to
take advantage of a stumbling Kevin Rudd and you can see the real Labor Party versus the real
Liberal Party - and I'll back the Liberal Party every day.

PAUL BONGIORNO: When we return with the panel - is there any antidote to the electoral poison of
WorkChoices? And the leadership showdown left some Government MPs breathless and others talking in

LIBERAL MP GREG HUNT (Wedneday): He's got bottle, and I tell you what, there is no stronger leader
for the Liberal Party, there's no stronger leader for Australia.

BILL HEFFERNAN (Tuesday): I'm not speaking in Manchurian, or Mandarin or anything else, I'm
speaking in bush language - it's bullshit.

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet the Press with Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey, and welcome
to our panel, Jennifer Hewett from the 'Australian'. And Mark Kenny from the Adelaide 'Advertiser'.
Good morning Mark. The leaked Crosby-Textor research for the Liberals showed that the unions'
anti-WorkChoices campaign had become an embedded perception of the Government's laws, a perception
reinforced by a Sydney University study released during the week which shows young workers
exploited before the new laws are even more vulnerable now.

SHADOW INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS MINISTER JULIA GILLARD (Thursday): It shows workers in that sector have
lost up to 30% of their income because of Mr Howard's extreme laws. They have seen basic conditions
stripped away - penalty rates, overtime, all gone.

JENNIFER HEWETT, THE 'AUSTRALIAN': Minister, you may dismiss that study but isn't the Government's
problem the fundamental mistrust of WorkChoices and the fact that nothing you've said has actually
altered that?

JOE HOCKEY: Well, the $100 million scare campaign launched by the unions and the state Labor
Governments has been effective. We recognise that. But what we ask people to do is to look at the
facts and the facts are that since the introduction of WorkChoices, we've had increased real wages,
we've had more jobs created, and of those 417,000 jobs created, over 85% are full-time jobs.

JENNIFER HEWETT: You're still talking about tweaking. Isn't that just going to confuse people more
and what actually is that going to mean?

JOE HOCKEY: We are committed absolutely to the fundamentals of our workplace relations laws. We're
not going to change them. Obviously, it has been a challenge in the face of the fear campaign to
bed them down.

JENNIFER HEWETT: More than a challenge.

JOE HOCKEY: I have no desire, I promise you, no desire to undertake further structural reform to
the workplace relations system for the next three years.

JENNIFER HEWETT: Because it will just confuse people more.

JOE HOCKEY: I think it would create - if you were to undertake further change, it would confuse
people. I think most people don't even know what agreement they have with their employer at work.
And I think we've got a lot of work to do to bed it down in terms of getting information to
individuals, but bear in mind this - the Labor is not just promising a new workplace relations
system, tearing up the existing system, they're promising a transition system which is going to be
a red tape nightmare for business, and it's quite possible on January 1, 2010 you can have four
employees employed under four different systems if the Labor Party were elected. What a disaster
for business.

MARK KENNY THE 'ADELAIDE ADVERTISER': Minister you say that the $100 million campaign the Labor and
the unions have run has worked. Is that an admission you've got the politics wrong and if that is
the case and if it is one of the key reasons why the Government is still trailing so badly, are you
happy to be the fall guy if the Government loses the election and this is one of the key reasons?

JOE HOCKEY: Mark, let me point out this - that I think that we introduced the reforms but we didn't
properly explain to people why the reforms were necessary. When we introduced tax reform, we
obviously explained carefully to the Australian electorate why tax reform was necessary and then we
introduced the reforms.

MARK KENNY: And you did it before the election.

JOE HOCKEY: On this occasion, you know, 44 times we've been to the parliament seeking to abolish
the unfair dismissal laws over the last 10 years. No-one can accuse us of hiding that under a
bushel. So, I think what we failed to do was to properly tend the soil before we planted the seeds
and grew the crop, and unfortunately, with an incredibly well-funded union campaign, and a Labor
Party that is going to deliver in full what the union bosses want, we've faced a challenge over the
last 18 months. No doubt, people will say, "Why did you do it?" We did it because today there are
417,000 new jobs created, 85% full-time, wages are up by more than 3% in real terms, and we've got
the lowest level of strikes since 1913 and it's not an accident.

JENNIFER HEWETT: Minister, you've also got lousy polling. How do you think...

JOE HOCKEY: Good policy actually has to be delivered in the national interest and it's not just
focused on polling. I make no apologies for being the Minister for Employment and Workplace
Relations who is delivering more jobs and higher wages. And if that means that, you know, I'm the
one that loses my seat or we lose the election, well, we have delivered a strong economy and it's
not an accident.

JENNIFER HEWETT: How credible really is this two-for-the-price-of-one scenario? If Peter Costello
is so good as leader, why not have him now?

JOE HOCKEY: Well, I think it's a fair dinkum scenario. The scenario is that, as John Howard has
outlined, there'll be a number of initiatives that will be announced between now and polling day
which are about the future. And John Howard wants to deliver them. And then, he is being honest and
forthright with the Australian people in saying Peter Costello will be his successor. Now
unfortunately Peter Beattie, Steve Bracks, Bob Carr, they weren't as fair dinkum with the
Australian people, but what we do know is that if Kevin Rudd stumbles, Julia Gillard takes over.
And Australians need to think carefully about the implications of that.

JENNIFER HEWETT: Well, people are saying that Peter Costello is ready now and also they're saying
that the Government is saying Peter Costello would be ready not for a few years, and yet people are
saying they want a change. How do you kind of marry those two things, it itself seems on the face
of it contradictory?

JOE HOCKEY: I'm very happy to be a part of 'Team Howard' up against 'Kevin 07' and a heavily
manufactured Leader of the Opposition who's trying to run a presidential campaign in a Westminster
system. This is not a presidential campaign. This is about a change of government. And the change
of government has huge implications for the nation. You change the government, you change the
nation. Putting Kevin 07 into the Lodge is a hell of a lot more than what he's pretending it will
be. 70% of his frontbench are former union officials. Does anyone really believe that Kevin Rudd
will stand up to the union bosses when 70% of his frontbench are former union officials? Does
anyone really believe Kevin Rudd will stand up to the State Labor premiers when they are spending
millions of dollars trying to get him elected in Canberra so that Labor for the first time ever
controls every Government in the country?

PAUL BONGIORNO: Are the people of Australia going to be electing a Howard government, then a
Costello government, but they really won't know what the Costello government will be on about?

JOE HOCKEY: Well they will be electing a Coalition government, a Liberal-National partnership that
is focused on delivering a stronger and more prosperous economy. In my area it means full
employment. When the Labor Party talks about...

PAUL BONGIORNO: Yes, but leaders bring their own view. We really won't get a chance to know exactly
what Peter Costello thinks for example on IR. He's had some pretty tough statements on that, that
he may have another agenda that we won't really know about?

JOE HOCKEY: Well, I think people will know the Coalition agenda, I think they'll know...

PAUL BONGIORNO: What about the Peter Costello agenda?

JOE HOCKEY: The John Howard-Peter Costello agenda is clear. I mean, people have had a good look at
Peter Costello for the last 11.5 years.


JOE HOCKEY: Of all the treasurers of Australia, he has had the greatest scrutiny. Kevin Rudd is a
blow-in. He's new on the scene. People don't know him, just like they didn't know Mark Latham.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, we don't know Peter Costello as prime minister, but thank you very much for
being with us today.

JOE HOCKEY: Thank you Paul, great to be here.

PAUL BONGIORNO: When we return, John Connor from the Climate Institute and the 'Australian'
newspaper's website has provided this nautical view of the PM's exit strategy with Peter Nicholson
drawing the picture and Paul Jennings the voices.

JOHN HOWARD AS CAPTAIN OF SINKING SHIP: Knick off Costello, you're putting me off, I know exactly
where we're going. Costello, would you move those deck chairs, they look much nicer over there near
the life boats and you can tell the band to keep playing. Another thing - how would you like to be

PETER COSTELLO: Who me, beauty, it's a ripper, when?

JOHN HOWARD: About two or three years. You can hold your breath that long, can't you? Now, let's
put this thing into reverse.

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet the Press. The Federal Government is set to commence its
taxpayer-funded $23 million climate advertising campaign today. It comes after the APEC summit with
its Sydney declaration on climate change.

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER MALCOLM TURNBULL (Tuesday): The breakthrough that occurred at Sydney - and it
was a vital breakthrough - was that for the first time developing countries, and in particular
China, agreed that they would work towards a long-term global emissions reduction goal.

SHADOW ENVIRONMENT MINISTER PETER GARRETT (Tuesday): We had the so-called aspirational goals, the
aspirational targets that the Foreign Minister says is a code for a political stunt. What
hypocrisy. Labor has said all along that we ought to have targets here and we ought to support
targets globally.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well good morning and welcome to the program, John Connor of the Climate Institute.
Well, do you agree that overall, even without set targets, we at least had the United States,
China, and Australia for that matter, talking about climate change as a major problem and aspiring
to fix it.

JOHN CONNOR, THE CLIMATE INSTITUTE: We welcome the PM putting climate change so high on the APEC
agenda. It was important. What the tortured negotiations around the Sydney declaration showed was
how important the Kyoto framework is and what a triumph of global diplomacy that was. It's the only
international agreement which is actually cutting greenhouse pollution. It's the only agreement
which is driving billions of dollars of investment in clean technologies in developing countries.

PAUL BONGIORNO: I think you were critical to the extent that you said that the APEC discussion was
in a sense 10 years old. What did you mean by that?

JOHN CONNOR: The problem that countries like Australia and US are talking about are going back
prior to the Kyoto framework to a voluntary targets by nation by nation approach. That failed. The
Kyoto framework - and remember that the Kyoto target ends in 2012, but there was a Kyoto framework
agreed where developed countries have binding targets and there's a clean development mechanism
which gets investment into developing countries. That's the chassis and engine that's driving
billions of dollars of investment in clean technologies and that's what we need to build on to
really turn around greenhouse pollution going forward.

MARK KENNY: John, as Paul mentioned, the Government's launching its $23 million publicity campaign
today on what we can all do to address climate change. What's the Climate Institute's response to
that campaign?

JOHN CONNOR: The Climate Institute believes that money could be very well spent converting many
families' households into carbon neutral households, but what's really important... MARK KENNY
Butisn't it a good thing to get people thinking about that and to encourage them to make material
changes to their lives?

JOHN CONNOR: There's plenty of strong advertisements out there on pushing people to be carbon
neutral but what's happenening right now, today, because of failure of State and Federal government
lack of targets and policies, companies which help families go carbon neutral are going under,
they're laying off staff right now.

JENNIFER HEWETT: When we say carbon neutral, obviously people want to be part of the solution,
etcetera, but don't you have the reality which is that no matter what Australians do it's actually
not going to improve global warming or the condition of global warming one iota?

JOHN CONNOR: That's not true. Households can do a lot but Australian Governments can do a lot as
well. They need to make the big decisions to reverse our greenhouse pollution and to make sure we
have clean technologies. Australia has around 1.5% of global pollutions. It's not much less than
the UK, for example. But it's also, when China and the US do start to move and they'll have to move
dramatically, they're not going to hang around waiting for 1.5%, it's up to our leaders to put us
in the best position and put our economy in the best position for a clean energy economy that's
going to dominate the 21st century.

JENNIFER HEWETT: Obviously Labor has been trying to make an advantage of its policy on this. Do you
think they've got a better policy than the Government's or are they both about the same?

JOHN CONNOR: Well, we welcome the Prime Minister coming forward with an emissions trading scheme,
putting a price on greenhouse pollution. The problem with that is we won't see the actual
short-term targets until the next election. It's a terrifying prospect. But neither of the parties
have a real plan for the future. You can't have a plan for the future if you don't have a plan to
reduce our rising greenhouse pollutions. It's got to change the shape of that curve. If you don't
have a plan for the future, if you don't make sure all new electricity comes from clean energy -
wind, solar, biomass - you don't have a plan for the future if you don't join the rest of the
international community which is powering forward through the Kyoto framework. MSRK KENNY: The
Prime Minister says that you can't get base load energy from those alternative sources, that it
just isn't up to the task, that coal and gas and hydro can deliver.

JOHN CONNOR: Those that hold the view, it's a furphy frankly. South Australia has some 16% of its
power come from wind, they're not having brown-outs or black-outs, countries around the world,
Denmark and others.

MARK KENNY: A few in summer.

JOHN CONNOR: Well, that's not because of the wind, but Denmark have very substantial proportions
from wind, renewable can provide a base load solution. But also, we're ignoring the benefits that
can be done from energy efficiency. Australia is one of the worst performers in terms of energy
efficiency improvements in the developed world. That's where we should also be focusing very
significant attention.

JENNIFER HEWETT: But should that come more from business or should it come from households?

JOHN CONNOR: Well, it's got to come across the whole economy and it's in the sectors of business
and steel, cement and other areas where we've got to have significant efficiencies, but also in the
built sector. People's homes, people's workplaces. We are well behind in terms of the efficiencies
we could be having, and that means savings for business and for households as well going forward.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The Government says that it's in fact going to reach its Kyoto target of 108%, so
Australia must be doing something right?

JOHN CONNOR: Well, we might be within cooee of the Kyoto target, we think they're going to struggle
to keep that by 2010, but again we've got to change the shape of the curve. The Government's
projections have us rising greenhouse pollution going forward through to 2020 and beyond.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Before, you were saying that it could be another three years before we do anything
concrete. Just briefly, why is that a problem?

JOHN CONNOR: Because a number of studies, the Australian business leaders' round table, work at
CSIRO and ABARE and others have shown that we actually need to get on with the job right now. If we
take decisive action now, it will be cheaper in the future because we'll have to have very drastic
actions around 2020 if we're going to have the greenhouse pollutions cuts that we're going to need
to avoid dangerous climate change.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for joining us today, John Connor. And thanks to our panel,
Jennifer Hewett and Mark Kenny. Until next week, goodbye.