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Australian Agenda -

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(generated from captions) Welcome to the program. Labor's

metal is certainly being tested at

the moment. Julia Gillard hoped

last week's budget would at least

broaden the debate beyond asylum

seekers and the carbon tax and put

the focus on some of the

particular economic management. On government's strength, in

the evidence so far the strategy

has not worked. The Newspoll and

Nielsen poll out today show the

government is continuing to cop it.

Tony Abbott is gaining ground on

Julia Gillard in the approval

stakes. And Essential poll out this

afternoon has slightly better news

for Labor, but as we will see

shortly, on the budget itself, it

has been marked harshly by those

SurfAid. Those I spoke to in Labor

today are putting on a brave face.

They know the only way forward is

just to plough on and look at the

long game. They hope that once the

carbon tax is bedded down and introduced people might not think

it is such a bad thing, and on

asylum seekers they hope the new

strategy of finding regional

countries to take asylum seekers

might see the boat's slowdown.

In the meantime, the Government is

getting on with the job. Julia Gillard was sticking to her lines

when asked about why the polls are

so bad. Jobs and training, that's

what the Budget is about, more jobs

and better jobs for Australians. I

want to see Australians get those

opportunities, get the benefits of

that all-important job, and through

training be able to improve the

jobs and opportunities they have.

There is nothing more important to

me than making sure Australians

have the benefits of work, that's

what the Budget is about - better

opportunities for all Australians

through access to work and training,

and I'm passionate about making

sure Australians get the benefits

of education and training. I've got

one focus, and my focus is on

keeping the economy strong so

Australians have got the benefits

of jobs. The Budget is about one

thing, making sure the economy is

strong and Australians have the

benefits of that opportunity. I

think we get the message. I think -

- for Tony Abbott's part, the

Opposition leader is freely

discussing why the polls are bad

for the Government and good for him.

His theory - Labor muddled its

messages. This is a Government that

plainly isn't listening, a

Government at war with itself. No

credible Prime Minister would have

undermined her own Treasurer the

way this Prime Minister had by

releasing new border protection

policies just a day or so before

the Budget comes out. It seems the

Prime Minister can't win a trick at

the moment. Later in the day she

took part in a panel discussion

with high powered business leaders.

They were discussing in part the

core Budget strategy to return to a

surplus within two years. He is what the business leaders thought.

For me it is not personally about

the service -- the surplus per se. We know the Commonwealth Government

has been awash with money. From my

point of view, I think to choose a

particular date and to promise or

commit to a particular date is not

are a the best approach, because there

the best approach, because there are a lot the best approach, because there

are a lot of things that happen independent of a Government's ability to influence the Budget

outcome. We have enormous revenues

coming through for the foreseeable

future. We have a very low level of

debt. You could argue, pushed aside

a date at which you should achieve

the surplus, it could use these

times to invest in the country in a

much bigger way than currently

being discussed. In other words,

now is the time to spend, not say. It's not just the Government

determined to bring the Budget back

to surplus. The Coalition argues we

should be getting back into the black sooner than the Government

plans. On the idea of the

Government, the plan for a carbon

tax, there were mixed views among

the business leaders. It's a great

way of Regis to beauty and -- of

distributing wealth, but curbing

carbon use won't change the way

reduce power. The sooner we move

towards an ETS, that's the way to

go. We believe that will make the transition to the less carbon

intensive environment faster and

less costly. There are many ways to

influence behaviour, but one thing

that would concern us is to ensure

along the way that our

competitiveness as a nation isn't

hampered. As a nation, I think our

culture is to have a go, not have a

whinge, and we will be channelling

that culture to have a go. In other

words, the Government is determined

to press on in the face of some

industry Opposition and certainly

criticism from the Coalition as

well. As Tony Abbott continues his

Government reconsidering its relentless campaign, if the

strategy on the carbon tax to at

least bring forward some details

ahead of the current timeframe of

releasing the plant in July? I

Minister, Greg Combet. spoke with the climate change

Tony Abbott visited another

business today that he says will be

hard hit by the carbon tax, a

leather factory in Brisbane.

Presumably these firms won't pay

the tax, but if they have high

energy imports, they will face

higher costs. What should they do?

Let's get some things straight.

Firstly, Tony Abbott is running

around, continuing his scare

campaign, and that is more of what

we saw today. Ian Campbell made

some ridiculous propositions during

the press conference today. What

was ridiculous? Suggesting

Gladstone will be wiped off the map,

completely absurd. Tony Abbott repeats these propositions as he

goes around the place. It is

ridiculous. It is totally out of

proportion, the mongering. Campbell

was quite extraordinary today. Both

of them are scare campaigning,

that's all it is. It is important

to bear in mind that the carbon

price will be paid by less than

1000 companies across our entire

economy, and there will be cost

that pass through the system,

that's why we are targeting a major

household assistance package at low

and middle income households, and

pensioners, to assist them with any

cost increases that come through

compensation for medium-sized firms. the system. There is no concept --

Unless they are trade-exposed, and

we have an important package to

support competitiveness that would

help in that part of the economy,

the costs will pass through the

system. Most businesses throughout

the economy will be in a position

to past -- to pass the cost through.

targets the household systems At which point, the Government

package. For those who use a lot of

energy, a dry cleaner, leather

factory, isn't this going to drive

some customers away? Lets keep it

in proportion. First of all,

electricity prices have gone up 40%

in the last three years. That is

multiples of what could be expected

upon the introduction of a carbon

price in terms of energy price

impacts. Both -- those prices are

being passed through to consumers.

The costs will be passed through to

the hands of consumers, at which

point the Government has an

assistant -- assistance package to

help with any price impacts for low

and middle-income households. Let

me go through some of the concerns

that industry have over there.

Today Kerry Stokes said, the carbon

tax is a good way to distribute

wealth, but he doesn't think it

will reduce carbon emissions in the

next 25 years. When will carbon

emissions start to come down?

That's also a false proposition, if

that's what Kerry Stokes said. The

very purpose of a carbon price in

the economy is to create the

incentive to cut our pollution, and

the principal way to cut pollution

is to innovate, invest in new

technology, invest in clean energy

sources, things like renewable

energy resources. That's the

incentive for those investments to

take place. So when will carbon

emissions come down? That's what

starts to drive emission reductions.

Firstly, an ETS, we will be setting

a limit for carbon emissions. For

the purpose of introducing it in a

steady way, we have indicated the

Emissions Trading Scheme will start

with a relatively Reef Next price

between three and five years. --

with a relatively fixed price. We

still don't know when emissions

will start coming down. We will put

out a profile about what will

happen with the mission. What is

happening in reality? It has been

taken as a medium-term benchmark,

Twenty20, as what sort of target we

would like to achieve. We will

start getting the incentive is

right, start the emissions

reductions in our economy, and move

to inflexible price arrangement

under an emissions trading scheme,

which the Government is keen to get

to in an expeditious way. That

starts to allow you to set caps on

emissions in the economy. Gail

Kelly has said she would like to

move the carbon tax to an ETS as

soon as is of all. Investor uncertainty will also be increased.

Can you remind us, why are we

starting with a fixed price? Why

not go to the flexible ETS? It will

give us a steady start. It gets the

processes in place when a price

comes into the economy, people

understand the price, that they are

flexible. What we have to do in the

design work I'm working on at the

moment, is how we ensure the

transition from the fixed-price to

an emissions trading scheme which

is fully flexible with a floating

price, how we can make that as

smooth as possible. That's one of

the reasons we are doing detailed

engagement with the business community about these issues. I don't fundamentally different with

the opinions expressed that you

have referred to. We need to get

started and move to an emissions

trading scheme arrangement in an

expeditious fashion and as smoothly

as possible. These details about the transition timeframe, how

households and industry will be

compensated - we are not going to

see that until you release the

details in July. We are still

looking at July as the deadline,

and I can assure you that there is

a lot of work underway to make sure

we deliver it. A good deal of work

and negotiating still to be done.

We are working pretty hard. That is

still six weeks. Do you acknowledge

that this long, drawnout period of negotiations is hurting you

politically? It is the only way we

could have gone about it. I can

articulate clearly what our policy

was, engage with all the

stakeholders, which we have been

doing, and plenty of that has been

playing out in the media. As been a

lot of debate expressed. We had 700

submissions by Wednesday last week inputting into the policy

development process, we have

negotiations underway, we have Ross Garnaut's report, the productivity

commission... Without the detail,

there is a lot of uncertainty, and

Tony Abbott can exploit that. Do

you acknowledge this is hurting you

in the polls? He is just running

around, scare-mongering, chicken

Little, "The sky will fall them."

You can have a look at the detailed

package. There will be a special

focus on lower and middle income households. There will be

protection for competitiveness in

the trade-exposed parts of the

economy that are energy intensive.

And there will be measures that help us drive towards clean

energy... If all of that is true

and this is the only way to go

about it, the most sensible

approach, why do you think you are

having such a rough time? This is a

major policy reform, a very

significant environmental and

economic reform, and it was always

going to attract a lot of debate.

There are still a lot of debate and

criticism, a lot of support

expressed as well... But nothing...

Others can judge that. At the end

of the day, this is the right thing

to do for the nations future. It's

important that we get ourselves on

a path to reduce pollution levels

and drive the investment in clean

energy. In time it will be a

massive impetus to innovation and

low emissions technology in our

economy that will improve our productivity and generates job

growth in different parts of the

economy. It's an important reform.

Although there is a lot of debate

and criticism, and Tony Abbott is

running around doing baseless scare

campaigning, it's important that we

do the policy work in a detailed

way. A final question. As a union

leader, Fair Work Australia has

today been considering the case of

community service workers, whether

they deserve a pay rise,

particularly in the private sector.

They have asked for more

submissions on this front. With the

Government support all welcome this

sort of 25% pay increase? I welcome

it, given my background as a trade

union leader this decision from

Fair Work Australia. Under the Government's legislation, getting

rid of work choices, it has allowed

for the proper remuneration of

workers, and that's very important

for the workforce. We will welcome

the decision. There's more work to

go on the issue of the actual

amount of increases that would

Government will provide attach to this decision, and the

information... I also notice that

Tony Abbott says he does not support this, the wage increase. Just consider the political

opportunism in this. He is running around, running a scare campaign

over the cost of living. In

Brisbane he is up there again,

trying to frighten the life out of

people over the cost of living, but

he won't support an increase for

the lowest paid workers in our

economy. What a hypocrite.

After the break we will look at

another poll out this afternoon.

Before we get to the panel, we will

check the latest news headlines.

Julia Gillard says she is going to

get on with the job of governing

despite two opinion polls showing

declining support for her and her

government. Her personal rating has

taken a dive, with Tony Abbott

closing the gap as preferred prime

minister. The primary vote remains

flat for Labor. The Newspoll and

Nielsen poll show that if an

election were held today, the

Coalition would win. Police have

issued a child abduction alert for

a Gold Coast girl after the bodies

of a man and a woman were found in

an apartment. The bodies were

discovered in an apartment in

Robina this morning. It is believed they were murdered. Police say

there are signs of a struggle at

the apartment and the bodies had

signs of trauma. The IMF has been

left reeling after its chief was

Dominique Strauss-Kahn will face charged with sexual assault.

court in New York today, charged

with raping a chambermaid. He was

tipped to run for the French

presidency next year. Hundreds have

paid their final respects to boxing

legend Lionel Rose at his funeral

in Melbourne. He died last week

after a long illness. He became the

first aboriginal world champion in

any sport, in 1968, when he took the world bantamweight championship.

The sporting stars he inspired were

all there to say farewell. Final preparations are underway in

Florida ahead of the last flight of the shuttle Endeavour. The

commander is Mark Kelly, the head

of -- husband of wounded congresswoman Gabriel Gifford's.

She was shot in the head earlier

this year. Remarkably she has made

a strong recovery and will be in

Cape Canaveral for the launch,

later tonight our time. As we have

seen today, the polls are good for

Labor. They are not good for Julia

Gillard. The Newspoll and Nielsen

poll show Labor stuck in the 30s in

the primary vote, and Tony Abbott

making up ground in the approval

ratings. There is not much good

news in the Essential poll for

Labor. Peter Lewis is in Melbourne.

You do have some slightly better

news for Labor in the actual primary vote and two-party

slightly better story preferred result. We have a

slightly better story from Labor. preferred result. We have a

There are a couple of things are

underneath those figures. As you

know, we run a rolling two-week

average. We crunched them together.

The shift to Labor came before the

budget. Because it runs out to a

percentage, it has really budget. Because it runs out to a percentage, it has really gone from

53.5, down to 52. It is either side

of the decimal. There has been a

one-point increase for Labor in the

primary vote, but it is pretty

stable. When primary vote, but it is pretty stable. When you asked specifically

about the budget, people did not

seem to like it, either personally

or in terms of whether it is good

for the economy. That is right. The

big shift this year has been the

number of people shifting from

thinking the budget will be good to

either be neutral or don't know.

or do not know. 45% on the economy are uncommitted

45% on the economy are uncommitted

or do not know. There is the sense

the budget has not excited. Another

question, is the economy heading in

the right direction? The majority

say yes. It is hard to argue that

with unemployment where it is. The

asylum seeker issue will not go away for the government. Julia Gillard called the Malaysia deal

innovative, and she is also talking

to Papua New Guinea about reopening

a detention centre there. What do

people think about the offshore

approach? Again, people think about the offshore approach? Again, not overwhelming

support, but we have got 40-40. On

this issue for Labor, this is the

first time they have not been

totally hammered on this particular issue. totally hammered on this particular

issue. It is probably a policy that

has been a little bit more complex,

and the fact the UNHCR is coming

behind it has put a few voters

behind it as well, probably good

news for Labor. Peter Lewis, thank

you. We go to the panel, and

joining me in Canberra, Grahame

Morris, former chief of staff to

John Howard, so the banks. Thank

you for joining us. The polls are

not good. Even the Essential poll

shows Labor stuck in the mid-30s.

The Newspoll and Nielsen poll were

worse. Why is Labor in such

trouble? Essentially what you have

seen from the polls is no change. I

don't think anyone in the budget

was expecting the budget with the

sudden reversal. In fairness,

budgets really don't watch through

until they start hitting people's

pockets, which we won't see until

July. It has not been as favourable

as the last couple of budgets Wayne

Swan has delivered, but it is still

better than three of Peter Costello

and John Howard's budgets. Pretty

much a middle-ranking response. The

government had to make a lot of

tough decisions, so $22.5 billion

of savings don't come without pain.

The government will be taking a

long term view about this. It is

not the most popular, but they are

setting up for a longer term

picture. It is hard to hand down a

tough budget and get a bounce. The

problem is the communications plan

for the government seems to be run

by 12 rolls. If you cannot control everything that a government does

in the communication sense, but I

don't think they are even trying.

If this budget was so important,

why on earth would you leak two

thirds of the week before? Why, on

the Sunday before the budget, with

the Prime Minister go out and talk

about a Malaysian Solution for

asylum seekers? Why would anybody

allow the Prime Minister's partner

somewhere around budget time to do

an interview, headlines coming out

in the Sunday papers, saying "Julia,

marry me ". It was meant to be a

focus on the budget. It seemed to

me, even the Treasurer's budget

speech was awful, but the press

club the next day was a beauty. It

got around by all this other stuff.

Was a silly media strategy to have

the Malaysia deal announced on the

eve of the budget? I don't think so.

You take circumstances as they

arise. If you have an important

deal like that, you have to

announce it. The government has got

a problem with asylum seekers

arriving. They cannot sit there and

pretend there is nothing we can do

about it when they have the

solution sitting there. A Labor

minister said to me today whether

you play the media strategy or not.

When you have got an agreement, you

just announce it. But isn't there a

point when you have to think about

giving voters a chance to digest

something? In an ideal world, that

is right. Politics throws up

complications and you have just got

to deal with it. On the issue of

asylum seekers, the real issue is

the government has to effectively

reduced the number of arrivals and

has to get that under control. What

would you have done, Grahame? Would

you have sat on the Malaysia deal?

Cyan Mac Yes. If there were

whispers, you would wait and see.

Then everything gets drowned by the

budget anyway. Goal if you had an agreement like

agreement like that sitting in your

pocket and a couple of boats turned

up and you did not exercise the

policy, it is only active once it

is in the public domain, you simply

cannot do it. Then you would be

charged quite rightly for having

allowed boats to come when you had

a solution in your pocket. You have

to announce it. The other thing,

people are wondering why middle

Australia is walking away from the

government and you think, one of

the best observations I have heard

about the budget was Robert

Gottliebsen, who has forgotten more about budgets and the Labor Party

Avenue, and he came up with a list

of nine things went middle

Australia got it in the neck, private health insurance,

contractors, there were nine things

went middle Australia were affected,

and we have not even got the carbon

tax yet. Greg Combet was just

telling us before that again we are seeing industry criticism, with

Kerry Stokes weighing in, and they

are not going to change their

timeframe and will still announce

this in July. Should they bring it

forward? No, they have to get the

detail right. Yes there is a lot of

buffeting going on and a lot of

criticism and jostling by people

trying to get a better outcome for a particular industry, but the

reality is that government is set

on a firm course. We will see a

final announcement in the middle of

the year and ultimately the price.

It is part of the mid-term game

they are playing against type --

tony Abbott. They know full well

that when this letter does is presented and they can

It through the parliament, the

Tony Abbott. problem of rollback becomes that of

Let's take a leaf out of previous

leaders, who had consultation: 4

months. It kills you. Make a

decision and get on with it. At the

moment the Government is almost

bleeding terminally, because the

power of the office of the Prime

Minister is enormous. If they would

just get out of their own way.

Interesting point. Good to talk to

you both. After the break we will

look at the fair work ruling today,

or was it a ruling? They have asked

for submissions. An important case

for many low-paid workers in the

social and community services sector.

Fair Work Australia, the industrial

umpire, was supposed to hand down a

landmark ruling today for 2000

social workers and community

workers in the private sector who

have long claimed they are

underpaid. It was about a 25% gap

Fair Work Australia acknowledged to those paid in the public sector.

there is a pay gap and acknowledged

might -- it might have been due to

the gender of difference. But it

wants further information. It has

asked for more submissions before a

final ruling on what should happen

for these 200,000 workers. In a

moment we will hear the business

case and reaction to this decision.

First, to the unions. I spoke to

the ACT to's secretary, Geoff Lawrence.

What is your reaction to this

ruling from Fair Work Australia? I

think it's generally a positive

decision, because it recognises the

fact that pay equity issues -- Mark

and it puts in place a process

where it seeks to deal with those,

so there is work to be done but I

think it's a decision that we can

work with and the ACT due will be

talking to the unions involved, and

we will map out a strategy. I think

it's a positive decision that we

can work on. IQ disappointed there

wasn't a final decision today that

they deserved 25% more? Of course

we would have liked to see it in

full, but I think we need to take

it step by step. It is a bit like the low-paid bargaining stream,

where there was a decision a few

weeks ago. We need to analyse the

commission's decision, take it away

and do the work required, see the

required submissions. The business

sector is pointing out that if you

did grant this pay rise that the

claimed the unions are making, with

inflation running at the top end of

the target band, it will put upward

pressure on interest rates and

inflation. There is no evidence of

that, I must say. Today as well, we

are making these submissions in a

minimum wages case, and I have been speaking with Fair Work Australia

all morning, making that case. We

are in a position where we have

favourable economic circumstances,

unemployment is going down,

inflation within the Reserve Bank's

band, underlying inflation... It is

heading up. But within the band.

There was a lot of publicity, a bit

of publicity about a so-called

wages breakout. There is no

evidence of that. What is happening

in terms of bargaining is moderate

within the overall trends that are

applied historically. All that

material is now being examined by

Fair Work Australia. It is

therefore appropriate that the 1.4

million workers that are dependent

on award rates have a reasonable

compensation. At a time when the

cost of living is going up,

executive salaries are spiralling

and profits are going up, the

wages- profit share is at the

lowest it has been since 1964. It

is a matter of equity. Back on this

particular case. Finally, what

further evidence will you be able

to provide that this is a gender

issue, women are being underpaid

because they are women? A more

detailed examination of the

circumstances is required, in the

particular industry. We will be

talking about that, and I'm

confident the union can come up

with the material that will satisfy

Fair Work Australia. Thank you.

That's the union reaction. What

about business? I spoke with Peter

Anderson from the chamber of

commerce and industry.

Thanks for your time. What's your

reaction to the fair work decision

today? The decision on equal

remuneration, we are pleased that

the tribunal has decided that a

large part of the union claim is

simply not acceptable, is a try on,

but we are concerned that the

tribunal has kept the case alive

and it wants to hear additional

submissions on a narrower point,

whether or not there is a gender

inequity between public sector and

private sector wage rates. And on

that score, the tribunal starts to

go down some dangerous ground,

because we know that there are differences between the public and

private sector, but they don't have

to do with the agenda. One is

funded by Government and one is

funded by private employers. Fair

Work Australia said that gender has

been an important factor, not the

only factor. They have hardly

dismissed that suggestion. No, what

they have done is rejected the idea

based on some arguments from the

unions about a decision in

Queensland that the Queensland-type

of genders is -- decisions should

flow onto the federal sphere, but

the tribunal has also said there

are a complicated range of factors

that have affected the setting of

wage rates in federal industrial

awards. And what is confusing from

a business point of view is that

just as Uraco the Government said

the new industrial awards had been

modernised, including the wage

rates, and is now, 12 months on, we

have the tribunal wanting to delve

more deeply into whether or not

there is some structural gender

inequities. That has the potential

- and I just say the word potential

- to go down a dangerous path,

particularly if you try to flow

public sector wage rates in the

private sector. That is new ground

from the wages system, and is

dangerous ground. The unions say it wouldn't be dangerous and it

wouldn't put pressure on inflation.

Depending on the size of any

increase, it certainly could push

wages pressure into the marketplace.

The case of the unions - it has a

heavy dose of comparative wage

justice, and if you are trying to

flow public sector wage rates

across to the private sector, you

start to get into some really

difficult area that passed

industrial tribunals have not

wanted to go. I think a degree of

caution is required. I'm pleased

that parts of the decision have

ruled out elements of the park --

union argument. I'm concerned that

the argument will stir to -- still

go down the path of taking further submissions, because if the

tribunal applies a comparative wage

justice principle between the

public and private sectors, then we

have got some real issues that

confront wages policy in the

country. Finally, argue saying that

there is absolutely no gender

issues? -- argue saying. It is very

hard to see them, because we know

the private sector awards have

exactly equal remuneration between

men and women. They don't

differentiate. But we do know, as

the tribunal has said, there are differences between the private

sector awards and a number of

public sector awards. We believe

those differentials are based not

on gender but on a range of factors that affect the capacity of the

employees pay, and we will be

putting those submissions to the

tribunal when the case resumes. Peter Anderson, thank you.

That's all we have time for this

afternoon. We will be back the same

latest Sky News. time tomorrow. Stay tuned for the

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