Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Gillard's new feisty direction -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Gillard's new feisty direction

Broadcast: 03/08/2010

Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks with Kerry O'Brien - she promises to be more up front during
the rest of her campaign.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: At the start of the campaign we invited each major party leader to do
three feature interviews over the course of the election campaign. We've already done one with each
and tonight we have our second with the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, which we recorded in
Newcastle late this afternoon.

Julia Gillard, the Reserve Bank has done the right thing by you and kept interest rates on hold
today. The alternative would have been electoral disaster, given where your campaign is right now.
I just - I would think the sceptics would say more good luck than good management because there are
parts of the economy that are flat, as in, consumer spending, retails, and of course the rest of
the developed world economies, the major developed world economies are also struggling.

JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, Kerry, the Reserve Bank sets interest rates
independently and the Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens made it very, very publicly known that if
he thought interest rates needed to go up, he wasn't gonna worry that the election campaign was in
progress. He was gonna do what he thought was the right thing by the economy. But of course we got
an inflation number which was within the Reserve Bank's target band. Now this is in fair - sharp
contrast to circumstances when we came into government and inflation was running at 16-year highs.
We then set about investing in and expanding the capacity of the economy - skills and
infrastructure. Then we had the Global Financial Crisis; we had to take a set of decisions to
support jobs. What I think is now front and centre of this election campaign is who is better
equipped to make the economic choices the nation needs. I would say for this government, when
disaster threatened with the Global Financial Crisis we made the better economic choices, and for
the future, we've got the better economic plan.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And of course there are those who would say, including some leading economists, that
if the American and European economies turn sour next year, and you're - the remains of your
stimulus packages are either petering out or have petered out, that you'll have no more petrol in
the tank for a second round of recession.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I think when we look at the global economy, yes, there are signs of fragility
and things that are concerning, but if we look at the outlook here in this country, we've got
economic stimulus moving out of the system, there's still some stimulus in there now, but it's
tapering out, as is appropriate. When we look at our own economy with unemployment at 5.1 per cent,
what I think we can look forward to is coming out of this global economic shock, stronger than any
other major advanced economy in the world. Now, I think we went into this with some natural
advantages - that is true. But the Government made the right decisions in a tough time. If we'd
taken Mr Abbott's advice, we'd be in a deep recession with 200,000 extra Australians unemployed.
Kerry, you and I wouldn't be talking now about the outlook for the economy; we would be picking
through the rubbles of the recession. That's because we made the better economic choices, our
economy is in this state, and this campaign, I believe, has at its centre who's got the plan going
forward. I believe I do. Budget to surplus, investing in infrastructure, national broadband,
investing in skills, superannuation, company tax reduction, small business breaks - that's the plan
for the future.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Alright. All of those things. But all of that represents a real political puzzle.
The Government narrative, first under Kevin Rudd, now you, is that you saved Australia from
crippling recession. That's your narrative. That we are the standout economy in the developed
world. You've just said it all. Yet Rudd's been thrown out by his own party before the electorate
could. You now face potential defeat yourself. And opinion polls say the public believes the
Coalition will manage the economy better. Now, either the electorate is gullible, or the Government
is not as good as it says, or you're a communications disaster zone. So, which is it, and how on
Earth do you turn those perceptions around in a couple of weeks?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I believe, Kerry, what you do is you're out there, I'm out there now talking
about the things I believe in, talking about the decisions we made, but talking about our plans for
the future. Now I am the first to acknowledge that not everything went according to plan for the
Government. Some things went off-track; I've been very frank about that.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But the point is that Kevin Rudd before you - with Wayne Swan then; Wayne Swan now
with you, it's all been the same message: we saved Australia from a disastrous recession. But the
public, having heard all this coming from you for more than a year, believes that the other side
are better economic managers.

JULIA GILLARD: Well - and it is my task, Kerry, and I accept it, to explain to the Australian
people what the real choice is on 21st August. And I'm not going to the Australian people saying,
"Well, look at what was done after the Global Financial Crisis and don't look at anything else." I
think people should look at that. But I think people will judge on the economic plan going forward.

KERRY O'BRIEN: How credible is it, just a couple of months after the Budget, in the midst of a
troubled election campaign, to have to raid the coffers of Medibank Private to the tune of $300
million to pay for your promises?

JULIA GILLARD: Well we've been advised of course by Medibank Private that this dividend can be paid
and that they've got sufficient reserves so that Medibank Private can keep doing what it does:
providing health insurance to people.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But the point is this: you've had to go to them, I mean, I'd say cap in hand, maybe
it's not quite cap in hand, but you've had to go to them in an election campaign. This is very
last-minute stuff. What does it say about your economic planning, your planning even of your
election promises that you've suddenly had to nick over the road to Medibank Private and say, "Can
we have $300 mill'?"

JULIA GILLARD: Well, Kerry, I'm happy to talk about our economic planning and how we're dealing
with expenditure matters in this campaign.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But just address that question.

JULIA GILLARD: And I'll address that matter. We've been advised by Medibank Private that this
dividend is possible. Now we are going to use that dividend as part of our commitment to make sure
nothing we promise in this campaign adds a cent to the Budget bottom line. And we are putting in
our promises for costing, we're publishing daily figures - where we are with expenditure and where
we are with savings. Mr Abbott - he's got $20 billion of promises out there; less than 10 per cent
have been submitted for proper costing and he hasn't put any of the big ticket items in for proper
costing. He could be hundreds of millions of dollars out on the education tax rebate or his paid
parental leave scheme or both of them. And I think, you know, it is appropriate and Mr Abbott does
have to be challenged to put in his policies for proper costing. What is he running scared of?

KERRY O'BRIEN: The political wisdom of the past to do with election campaigns is that the most a
leader can expect to move public opinion over the course of a campaign - the five, six weeks of a
campaign - is two, at the absolute most maybe three per cent. Labor's primary vote haemorrhaged six
per cent in one week last week. I can't think of that ever happening before in an election
campaign. Is that why you suddenly want another debate after refusing Tony Abbott's challenge to
have three?

JULIA GILLARD: I've certainly said that I'm moving away from the traditional playbook of Australian
politics as to how we run election campaigns. And, you know, it's not just the Labor Party. There
is a general philosophy in both political parties that you have a media event, you try and get your
message for the day up, you're very risk averse, you don't do too much. That's how Mr Abbott's
running his campaign. I've ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: But you've had a shock, haven't you?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, look, I wanted to change that style, and, yes, have we faced difficulties in
this ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: No, no. You've had a shock, haven't you?

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry, do you want ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: Yes, I have, Kerry.

JULIA GILLARD: Do want me to acknowledge that last week was a very difficult week for us? It was a
very difficult week.

KERRY O'BRIEN: To the tune of six per cent of your primary vote gone in a blink.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, look, I'm not gonna comment on the polls, but, Kerry, I'm also not gonna sit
here and try and defy simple reality with you. Yes, we had a very, very, very hard week. And as
....

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well I'll come back ...

JULIA GILLARD: As we close out on election day, I've decided that that requires election
campaigning - my style is for me to be out there talking to people, putting the things I believe
in, showing more of myself. Now, having had a bad week ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: But when you say putting the things I believe in immediately implies that you
haven't been putting the things you believe - well of course it does.

JULIA GILLARD: No. No, no. No, no - showing more of myself, Kerry. So it's not a question of I've
been saying things other than what I don't believe. No-one makes words come out of my mouth except
me. But in this election campaign there's the received, traditional wisdom about how you run them.
In fact, people would say, as times get tougher, get more risk averse. I'm doing the reverse. I'm
actually gonna be out there doing the interviews, putting the story, here with you, making sure
that we're prosecuting our case as far and wide as we can.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well I'll come back to the style in a moment. But, at the moment I'd like to stay on
credibility. One of the things you promised on becoming leader was proper Cabinet consultation.
You've since repeated that promise, yet one of the centrepieces of your new climate policy,
building on top of what you already had, a citizens assembly was not taken to Cabinet for
discussion and consideration. Why not?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, Kerry, I'm not going to talk about Cabinet conversations, but I will say this:
my colleagues and I have had extensive discussions about building a deep and lasting community
consensus for a cap on carbon pollution and a market-based mechanism to make sure pollution doesn't
go over that cap. Now when we look at the climate change policies in this campaign, I announced, as
part of working to that deep and lasting consensus, a citizens' assembly. That ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: Yes, but you know the point I'm making and you know that I'm not asking you to
reveal Cabinet secrets. I'm not asking what he said, she said. I'm asking you why you did not
formally put the citizens' assembly to Cabinet for discussion.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, and, Kerry, you know as I do that everything about Cabinet is confidential
including ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: But that's not true.

JULIA GILLARD: Including what's on the agenda and how things are discussed.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But prime ministers in the past have been prepared to acknowledge that things have
been discussed. Not necessarily what has been - the content of what's been discussed. Why can't you
even acknowledge, as has been reported with strong sources from within your Cabinet, that you did
not put the citizens' assembly on the table? Perhaps if you had you might not have had to take the
hit that you did from a public that clearly believes it's nonsense.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, Kerry, we had discussions about climate change and the need for a deep and
lasting community consensus. We've had discussions with my colleagues about where we are and where
we need to get to next. And when we look at the climate change policy in this campaign, yes,
citizens' assembly - one mechanism to help us have the kind of community debate that I will lead to
lead us to the consensus we need for a carbon pollution reduction scheme, but it's not fair to say
that is the climate change policy announced in this campaign.

KERRY O'BRIEN: No, no, I said it's a central part of what you've built on top.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, we announced that policy so that's that much and then we announced a billion
dollars for transmission lines to get the clean energy from our record investments in solar and
renewables into people's homes. No more dirty coal-fired power stations. Different places to work.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But what you've copped a a hit for is your idea for a citizens' assembly, and I'd
suggest respectfully that you're taking the principle of Cabinet confidentiality to an extreme that
I haven't seen before.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, Kerry, I'd rather urge on the side of confidentially and proper Cabinet
processes, and I would also say to people: judge our climate change policies in their entirety. We
have announced a big suite of policies from a leader who believes in climate change and will lead a
community debate for further action, but we're taking actions now.

We would use a selection that got a representative group, and Kerry, then you and others would
report the working of the citizens' assembly. That would help inform community debate. It's not
gonna be deliberative, and I say again: it is this much of a policy that is this much, and I would
ask you and others to look at the full breadth of the policy and my commitment to leading this
debate, to getting us to a situation where the Australian community and Australian economy are
ready for a carbon pollution reduction scheme. Mr Abbott will never do that because he really
thinks the science here is, to use his terminology, "absolute crap".

KERRY O'BRIEN: And there's a lot of people out there who think the idea of a citizens' assembly,
dare I say it, is absolute crap.

JULIA GILLARD: Well - and they would, though, at least say this: that it's important to work
through an end point - to an end point where people have the discussion, have the debate and we get
a consensus about a carbon pollution reduction scheme. I will lead that debate ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: You're assuming that the consensus will come. Bob Hawke and Paul Keating didn't need
a citizens' assembly to help them sell their tough reforms like tariff cuts. John Howard didn't
need one to sell his GST.

JULIA GILLARD: But this is ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: It implies a lack of confidence by you in your own capacity as Prime Minister and
leader to lead the nation in this debate yourself.

JULIA GILLARD: Oh, Kerry, I think, once again, there's a degree of cynicism I'm just not gonna cop.
You know, Bob Hawke had a tax summit. Now you could have sat in that chair then and go, "Oh, toss,"
you know, "Imagine having a tax summit, getting all these people to Canberra to talk about tax. Why
doesn't the Government just decide that?" Does that show ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: And what happened? Paul Keating didn't get what he wanted. Paul Keating did not get
what he wanted.

JULIA GILLARD: But you're asking me - you're comparing me unfavourably with Labor leaders past
because I have talked about something which would be a part of a broad suite of policies. I
genuinely think, Kerry, it's unfair to say that Labor leaders past, great prime ministers like Bob
Hawke, haven't also found mechanisms to consult and debate. They did. I'm saying no more than that.
At the same time as we're, you know, investing in record investments in solar and renewable,
transmission lines to get the energy to you and me and the like.

KERRY O'BRIEN: OK. Alright. You made a big fuss yesterday, as we started to talk about earlier,
about breaking out of your campaign straitjacket. What is actually different in how you're running
the campaign. Because from the outside, it does look the same. Does it mean you're going to have
more shopping malls? More pig facts? Or are you actually trying to break out of the straitjacket of
spin that politics has now been in increasingly over the last couple of decades?

JULIA GILLARD: I'm trying to play my own game. I'm trying to be out there talking to people as
frankly as I can in my own style about the issues that this election campaign is about. I come from
a great AFL state, so I've used an AFL analogy. I know not everybody is a devotee of the Aussie
Rules. But the crowd always boos when the coach says, "Lock it down, play safe." The crowd likes it
when people are playing assertively, and I'm gonna be doing that, Kerry.

KERRY O'BRIEN: We've had our fill of football analogies.

JULIA GILLARD: Well - and, to take one small example, there would be lots of professional political
wisdom that would say: minimise your encounters with Kerry O'Brien during the campaign. I'm not
doing that; I reckon Mr Abbott is.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Presumably at the end of each night, or the first thing of each morning, you're
still gonna get briefed on the end-of-day phone polling or focus groups. You still talk with your
party machine. You're still gonna refine your message or adjust your pitch for each new day, aren't
you?

JULIA GILLARD: And I will be out there putting my message and talking to Australians out there,
talking to people as broadly as I can. Ah, Kerry, I ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: So is this gonna be tough Julia, looking for knockout punches? Is it the Julia who
knocked off a leader with barely the blink of an eye? What are we looking for here?

JULIA GILLARD: What you're going to see is feisty Julia who's very determined to fight each and
every day of this election campaign. We're up against it. You've gone through the poll numbers.
We've got a lot of ground to make up if we are going to win this campaign. I've said photo finish;
I genuinely believe it. Australians have got a choice to make: do they wanna wake up on Sunday 22nd
with me as Prime Minister, with my economic plan, or with Mr Abbott as Prime Minister with no
economic plan? That's the choice, and I'm not gonna die wondering, Kerry.

KERRY O'BRIEN: What I wanna know is how I find feisty Julia for this interview. Perhaps we'll come
to the Kevin Rudd section.

JULIA GILLARD: Well I'm sorry I haven't been feisty enough for you so far. I'll try and do a bit
more.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Since you deposed him, if I've got it right, you've had just one conversation with
him. Is that right?

JULIA GILLARD: We had a number of discussions about his role in the ministry and team. So those
discussions have occurred.

KERRY O'BRIEN: That was early in - that was in those first few days after ...

JULIA GILLARD: Yeah, look - that's right. And Kevin now is recovering from an operation. And I was
very, very deeply shocked to see on the weekend that whilst he was literally lying in a hospital
bed, the Liberal Party thought that was a good time to go on the attack against Kevin Rudd. It's
pretty disgraceful.

KERRY O'BRIEN: OK. But I'd like to focus on your relationship with Kevin Rudd because you're going
to welcome him back into a senior ministry if he still wants one. We've seen all of these leaks.
They imply that there are still significant strains in the relationship. You and I talked in the
interview I did with you the night you became Prime Minister about the fact - you said that you had
built a real and genuine friendship with this man over the time you've worked together. Now, he
went to hospital for a gallbladder operation. I've read somewhere that you sent him a note. Why
wouldn't you lift the phone that would have been at his bedside or his mobile at some stage either
before to wish him well or afterwards to say, "How did it go? How are you feeling?"

JULIA GILLARD: Well, Kerry, as you know, we're in the middle of an election campaign, ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: Five minutes.

JULIA GILLARD: And, well, that's not the point I'm making. In the middle of an election campaign
you know that inevitably everything I do and say becomes the subject of public speculation and
further commentary ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: But what is there to speculate about you, as an act of human kindness, ringing this
man that you spent hundreds and thousands of hours working alongside over the last two and three
quarter years in a spirit of friendship?

JULIA GILLARD: And, Kerry, you know and I know that if I went to, say, see Kevin Rudd whilst he was
in hospital, that there would be, you know, 10 TV cameras and 40 journalists trailing behind me.

KERRY O'BRIEN: A discreet private phone call.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, Kerry, in my world because I'm asked by journalists questions every day, I've
done two press conferences today, I'm here with you now, a number of radio interviews - I would be
asked - I would be asked to reveal the conversation. I think ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: A lot of people would be comforted, I would think, and perhaps reassured, who are
still not over the way Kevin Rudd was deposed to hear that you'd actually lifted the phone to him
in his hospital bed.

JULIA GILLARD: My judgment, Kerry - and you can dispute it - but my judgment is in the middle of an
election campaign when Kevin Rudd has had an operation, actually the best way of helping him,
giving him a bit of time, a bit of ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: You think a call from Julia might (inaudible) him?

JULIA GILLARD: No, no, no, no, not getting him more involved in the media interest that there is in
his circumstances. I think he probably needs a bit of time and space to recuperate. I think that
got cut into by the shenanigans of Mr Downer and the Liberal Party on the weekend. I'm not gonna
cut into it more. Let's just get, you know, get Kevin well, and when Kevin is well he has said that
he will be campaigning for the re-election of my government.

KERRY O'BRIEN: OK. Will you ensure Kevin Rudd has a place of honour at your campaign launch?

JULIA GILLARD: Yes, I want Kevin Rudd to be honoured as a former prime minister, and if we are
re-elected on 21st August, with the photo finish that I've described - this is a tough campaign.
But if we're re-elected on 21st August, I want Kevin Rudd to be a senior member of my frontbench
team.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Now what exactly are campaign launches for exactly these days? Launch implies that
it would be something that would start something. So a campaign launch would imply that it starts a
campaign. You're having it with four days to go to the vote.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, Kerry, as you know and I know, campaign launches are held well into the formal
election period.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Not this far in.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, you know, we've made our arrangements, we've made our arrangements ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: This is almost like an exit.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, we've made our arrangements, and at the campaign launch what you should expect
to see is further detail, building on all of the things I've said during the campaign about what I
intend to do as Prime Minister and particularly my economic plan for the future.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Very briefly, Lindsay Tanner, speculation began that Lindsay Tanner himself could be
a source for those damaging leaks from Cabinet. He was interviewed this morning, as you would know,
and he just refused point blank to deny that he was the leaker. Now that seems to me, particularly
in an election campaign, particularly all the sensitivities, a very strange reaction. He could have
stopped it in his tracks.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, look, I haven't speculated on any of this, Kerry, and I not gonna be diverted
by it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But wouldn't you have expected Lindsay Tanner, another of your close colleagues that
you've worked side-by-side with, to defuse that aspect of it at least by saying, "Of course I'm not
the leaker"?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, look, what Lindsay said today is a matter for Lindsay Tanner. He is of course
choosing to retire at this point from his political career. He's got a young family. He's very -
very much loves and wants to spend more time with. And so, you know, that's Lindsay's decision. I'm
not gonna be diverted by any of this. I'm getting on with being out there talking about the things
that will matter to the Australian people after 21st August. When all of this speculation is
political history and people like you and I are still interested in it, but no-one else is, people
will want to know if they've got a job, a good school and decent healthcare.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And we're out of time. I look forward to the next one, but thanks for talking with
us.

JULIA GILLARD: Thanks, Kerry.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And we look forward to our next interview with Mr Abbott.