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Rudd sweetens health deal for States -

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TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: Welcome to the program I'm Tracy Bowden filling in for Kerry O'Brien who's
on assignment in the United States.

The Federal Government's motto in recent weeks could well be, "If at first you don't succeed, try,
try again".

The home insulation program ran into major problems so a new minister was appointed; public
disquiet emerged about the nation's rapidly-burgeoning population so a population ministry was

Today it was Education Minister Julia Gillard appointing a $14 million taskforce to police alleged
rorts in the school building program.

And the Prime Minister continues to sweeten the deal for states holding out on his new health plan.
Could it be an election is in the air?

Political editor Chris Uhlmann.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: Okay, we all set, team?


TONY ABBOTT: It's a beautiful town.

KEVIN RUDD: Nice to see you again.

CHRIS UHLMANN, POLITICAL EDITOR: Welcome to the era of the endless election campaign.

PATIENT: I'm quite happy to meet you.

KEVIN RUDD: Well, I'm glad to meet you.

CHRIS UHLMANN: For a week the Prime Minister has been trooping through marginal seats in
Queensland, handing out money.

KEVIN RUDD: The Government intends to invest half a billion dollars...

CHRIS UHLMANN: And the Opposition leader has rebadged his annual charity bike ride as a listening
tour through Victoria and New South Wales.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: You going to take us in somewhere and have a chat, mate?

CHRIS UHLMANN: But there are signs the date of the real campaign is being pondered, with the
Government trying to tidy up some troublesome loose ends.

JULIA GILLARD, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Like every school community I want to get real value from
every dollar spent.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The Government set aside just over $sixteen billion of its stimulus package for its
school building program.

And it has repeatedly rejected allegations that there is significant overcharging and rorting but
today it announced it will spend $14 million establishing a taskforce to ensure taxpayers are
getting value for money.

JULIA GILLARD: The taskforce will receive, investigate and respond to complaints regarding the full
operation of BER, including individual school projects.

TONY ABBOTT: It certainly hasn't been value for money. I think that if we've got $8 billion worth
of value for $16 billion worth of spending we'd be lucky.

CHRIS UHLMANN: It's the fourth problem the Government has tried to sweep under the mat in the last
two months.

In February, Greg Combet was drafted from Defence to fix the botched $2.5 billion ceiling
insulation program. That's linked with 120 house fires and perhaps as many as 240,000 million dodgy
insulation jobs.

GREG COMBET, ASSISTANT ENERGY EFFICIENCY MINISTER: It is a big, difficult job and as of this
afternoon, I'll just have to roll my sleeves up and get stuck into it.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Then another troubleshooter, Tony Burke, was appointed Population Minister to quell
growing public disquiet about the booming population.

TONY BURKE, POPULATION MINISTER: There'll be a very high degree of consultation in the coming
months as we work through an area of policy which has always affected Australia but we've never
actually had a strategy to develop previously.

CHRIS UHLMANN: On Friday, after months of claiming its softening of laws on asylum seekers hadn't
been a factor in the spike of unauthorised boats arrivals, the Government essentially conceded the
point, suspending visa applications from Sri Lankans for three months and Afghans for six months.

CHRIS EVANS, IMMIGRATION MINISTER: The changes we're announcing today send a strong message to
people smugglers that they cannot guarantee a visa outcome for their clients and a message seeking
to employ people smugglers that they may find themselves found not to be refugees and returned to
their country of origin.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Now the Government's sandbagging against attacks on its school building program.

Many schools are happy with their lot but trouble is emerging everywhere.

Tony Abbott found some at the foot of the Snowy Mountains.

The library at Berridale Public school was meant to cost $285,000. It came in at 900,000. And in
one of the chilliest parts of the state, the windows can't be closed because the chimney isn't

FIONA SUTHERN, BERRIDALE SCHOOL COUNCIL: We want to see that there are payments gone out to actual
expenses because there is no way on earth that that is worth a million dollars.


CHRISTOPHER PYNE, OPPOSITION EDUCATION SPOKESMAN: And that audit, of course, wouldn't even be about
value for money, would it? It would simply be about process. That's the problem with the New South
Wales audits.

TONY ABBOTT: Process. Yes, yes.

FIONA SUTHERN: Well we keep hearing about audits. We keep hearing that this is under investigation.
Why can't we see anything?

CHRIS UHLMANN: When pressed, the Minister will only cite one example of where she believes a
complaint has been substantiated.

MARK COLVIN, ABC PRESENTER, THE WORLD TODAY: How much rorting has there been?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, obviously we have seen some examples of that have concerns, like the example
of the Hastings Public School.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: This is a cynical election year fix designed to get them out of a sport of bother
because the number of examples and the sheer magnitude of the waste in this school hall rip-off
program has become too embarrassing for the Government.

CHRIS UHLMANN: There might be one another thing concentrating the minister's mind.

The Auditor General has been investigating the program and the report is due out next month.

The Auditor allows 28 days for the subject of its reports to respond before publication and it's
given a copy to the Education Department.

So it's likely that Julia Gillard has seen it but the auditor won't say and the minister says the
law prevents her from saying whether or not she has seen it.

MARK COLVIN: I've been told that you've had it for three weeks.

JULIA GILLARD: You need to speak to the Auditor General about questions related to the audit

CHRIS UHLMANN: Thee Deputy Prime Minister has another fight on her hands. The teachers' union has
voted to boycott national testing because it doesn't want school performance being compared on the
MySchool Website.

ANGELO GAVRIELATOS, AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION UNION: This is clearly in the minister's court. We have
said there is a national moratorium. The national tests will not proceed unless the government
introduces measures in order to stop the damage caused to students and schools by league tables, to
stop the misuse of data.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But Julia Gillard isn't for turning.

JULIA GILLARD: I've certainly got a very different view from the executive of the Australian
Education Union. I believe they've made the wrong decision today. They should not be boycotting the
national tests.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The Prime Minister is trying to turn the premiers into fans of his health plan by
pumping millions more into it.

On the weekend he offered a half a billion dollars to cut emergency waiting times to four hours.

Today another $740 million was offered to lift the number of aged care places.

And this evening, in what we're told is the Commonwealth's final offer, another $650 million was
put on the table to fund an extra 90,000 elective surgery procedures.

But every dollar hangs on the Premiers signing up to the whole package.

KEVIN RUDD: You can't just get a blank cheque on the basis of a system which currently does not
work, and which wastes taxpayers' money.

TONY ABBOTT: The fact that we've had bits and pieces dribbling out day by day, every day a new
announcement, every day more spending, none of it funded of course.

CHRIS UHLMANN: They say that money can't buy love, but it has been known to turn the heads of

That said, Victoria still seems unimpressed and one of its key concerns is the Commonwealth's grab
for 30 per cent of the Goods and Services Tax.

That might be a deal breaker.

We'll know soon enough whether it's all brinkmanship, the Prime Minister and premiers will gather
to thrash it out in a week.