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Sky News on The Hour -

View in ParlView




14 JULY 2011


Subjects: News of the World; Role of the media; Carbon price; Global economy

JOURNALIST: Laura Tingle from the Financial Review, Prime Minister. The News Corporation Group are
facing questions in Britain and the US about whether they are led by fit and proper persons to
control such extensive media assets. Do our media ownership laws have sufficient fit and proper
tests in them and what will be the appropriate response from the Government if governments
elsewhere in the world make adverse findings against News?

PM: Like, I think, most Australians, I've been pretty shocked and disgusted to see the revelations
that we've seen in the United Kingdom, after seeing some of the things that have been done to
intrude on people's privacy, particularly in moments of grief and stress in their family lives,
I've truly been disgusted to see it.

And I'm not surprised that that's causing in our national conversation a consideration about the
role of the media in our democracy and the media's role generally. So, I'm also not surprised to
see that in parliament, or amongst parliamentarians, a conversation is starting about the need for
a review and I will be happy to sit down with parliamentarians and discuss that review that people
are obviously contemplating.

I would also point to the fact that there is in train already, and has been for some time, a
convergence review, which is helping us look at a section of issues about the changing nature of
media platforms in the electronic media. So, that's already underway, but of course what we're
seeing in the UK has principally been an issue about print media and print media is not covered by
that convergence review.

So, I anticipate we'll have a discussion amongst parliamentarians about this, about the best review
and way of dealing with all of this. I'll be interested in people's ideas and I think whatever
Parliament does or doesn't do there is going to be a national conversation about the media's role
and media ethics in the weeks and months ahead.

COMPERE: Next question from the Herald Sun - Phil Hudson.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Philip Hudson from the Herald Sun. I think it can probably be observed
that you've moved forward, so to speak, from being a shy girl, and today you've outlined very
passionately your case and your vision for why you're taking on this political fight, but does it
disappoint you that some of the people you meet, and as you've said today, give it to you pretty
straight, have been saying some pretty nasty things about you and do question your honesty and your
integrity, and given that what do you say to some of your own MPs, who it must be said, fear that
it's too late to convince people, do you think you can turn voters around on this by election day?

PM: For me, Phil, I know that your job and the job of many of the other media representatives
around the table is to make the calls on politics and write the opinion pieces and commentary from
various contending perspectives about the politics of it. I'm not being governed by the politics of
it. As I said to a community forum in Brisbane last night, it's pretty hard to explain having made
the judgement call to go ahead and put a price on carbon, if you were just going to be driven by
the politics of it.

So, I know for others this is all through the prism of opinion polls and the like. For me it's not.
For me it's about doing the right thing for the nation's future.

And I understand that people, Australians, do give it to you pretty straight. I think that's a good
thing, I think that's a great thing about our national characteristic and I'm always very happy to
engage in those conversations and I think I hold my end up in those conversations and I think
people are open to being persuaded.

I saw some evidence of that at the community forum in Brisbane last night too, when given the facts
and an opportunity to ask their questions, people did change their minds. So, I'll be working to
continue to do that over the weeks and months ahead and Australians will make up their mind.
They'll make up their mind in the 2013 election, but as a nation we will have done the right thing
by them and put a price on carbon.

COMPERE: Paul Bongiorno.

JOURNALIST: Paul Bongiorno, Ten News, Prime Minister. I've noticed over the years that governments
tend to claim mandates and oppositions deny them. In this-

PM: -Paul, you've lived too long.

JOURNALIST: Not long enough. In this very room-

PM: -No, I'm not saying I don't want you to keep living. If there was implication of that I, it's
not what I meant. I think that's what Phil Hudson just said to you.

JOURNALIST: Thank you very much. The wisdom of years is about to dawn us.

Tony Abbott keeps saying that the next election will be a referendum on the carbon tax and he will
rescind it. Bob Brown in the very room a couple of weeks ago, virtually said over my dead body,
that the Greens will stick by this reform. Tony Abbott, over the last couple of weeks, has come up
with a pretty whizz bang piece of political analysis, that some of us maybe regret we didn't do
ourselves, but he said that just as the 2007 election rejected Work Choices and the Liberals saw
that was the reason for their rejection and dropped off it, enabling your reforms to go through, he
says that if he wins the next election, the referendum, the people will have spoken and Labor will
help him rescind the tax.

I know you don't like hypotheticals, but this is a test of the reading of the Labor Party's
commitment to this reform. Can it survive and election?

PM: Paul, I don't think anybody, during these days can doubt my commitment, or the Labor Party's
commitment, to this reform and I am going to disappoint you and you'll probably bring your long
experience to judging prime ministerial answers on hypothetical questions, but I am going to
disappoint you and I'm not going to answer a hypothetical question for you.

I'm not going to talk about the days beyond the next election, I'm going to talk about today and
tomorrow and the days in between, as we move to 1 July next year and put a price on carbon. And
then, or course, Australians will judge that in 2013, but I'm bringing the same cynicism to this
task that is driving Mr Abbott. For him, this is all about the opinion polls. He has defined his
views about climate change entirely against the opinion polls. You can ask Malcolm Turnbull for a
fuller analysis of that.

For me, that's not what we're doing and it's not what why we're doing it. We're doing it because we
believe the science is real and our nation has to cut carbon pollution. We listen to the economists
and respect their advice when they say the cheapest way to do it is to put a price on carbon, and
that's exactly what I'm determined to do and we will do from 1 July next year.

COMPERE: Phil Coorey.

JOURNALIST: Good afternoon, Prime Minister. Phil Coorey from the Sydney Morning Herald, and as a
former Unley High Student myself, I'm often thrown out of class rather than sat up the back.

PM: There is no implication you were in the back of the class, Phil.

JOURNALIST: Very middling to average.

Can I ask you to expand on that, that towards the end of your speech when you spoke about your
shyness? Are you telling us that you feel you have a perception out there as being too robotic and
emotionless? Is that what you're trying to tell us and you're trying to appeal to people more
broadly, that that's not the case?

PM: Phil, I am who I am and I guess I feel the need, as Prime Minister, to show some more things
about myself, and you're a lot younger than me, it pains me to say it, so we weren't at Unley High
School at the same time. Had we been at Unley High School at the same time I think you would have
seen someone who wasn't known as an outgoing person. I am in a profession which requires me to be
in the public gaze and to be out there talking to people. I've always enjoyed chatting to people,
but clearly the circumstances under which I do it now, with TV cameras rolling and all of those
sorts of things there, not necessarily natural to me. I didn't come to this task with a
predisposition to be in the public glare in quite that way, and for me to show every aspect of
myself in that sort of odd environment that I live and work in, has been a challenge and I think
one of the things I've tended to is allow decisions to speak for themselves, rather than trying to
explain to people the motivations that drive me and those motivations are very deeply held and very
sincerely held.

So, one of the things that I think I've learned over the 12-month journey of being Prime Minister
is it's better to explain to people what's driving you as you make the important changes for the
country's future, and I'll be seeking to do that and I'm trying to do a bit of that today by
explaining the things that form my views about education and opportunity; explaining the things
that form some of my views about disadvantage and fairness at work; explain some of the things that
form my views about respect and how we can work together.

Those things are very important to me, they're deep within me and I'm very - pleased, I suppose,
isn't maybe the right word - I'm prepared to talk about them, to help explain to people some of the
policy decisions I make, rather than assuming people will see the values behind the policy

COMPERE: Next question from The West Australian.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Shane Wright, The West Australian.

Through the week that we've been talking carbon, overseas Moody's has discussed it's going to
downgrade American credit, Barak Obama today walked out on a meeting with Republicans about the
debt ceiling, the eighth largest economy in the world, Italy, there's a huge doubt whether it can
repay its debts. You talked during your speech about the problems back in 2008. Are we sleep
walking back into a repeat and has this Government got the wherewithal to react to what may be
occurring overseas?

PM: Well, we've shown that we've got the wherewithal to react to all circumstances no matter how
pressing, how urgent and how dire. We did that during the days of the global financial crisis.

As for where we are in the economic cycle globally, you're right there are some troubling things,
some very troubling material that comes out of Europe. We see that, we've seen it with Greece,
you've just referred to Italy, and we of course are seeing a sluggish American economy where whilst
over time there have been some better signs in some of the indicators, there have also been some
disturbing signs, for example the most recent employment figures were a disturbing sign.

So, we live in a world which still has cause for concern in the global economy, but we've taken all
of that into account as we've worked out how our nation is positioned and what we can look forward
to in our economic future, and I'm confident that the predictions that have been made for the
Australian economy continue to hold true.

The underlying fundamentals of our economy are very strong. We've had natural disasters pushing us
around and pushing around the economic figures. We of course have got the stresses and strains that
come with an economy where a high Australian dollar driven by resources is putting pressure on some
other areas of the economy, but even with all of that the underlying strength of the economy is
there and we will continue to see it manifest in things like low unemployment numbers and our most
recent unemployment number continued to have a four in front of it.

So on pricing carbon and how it fits in, of course we've got to keep working to keep our economy
strong, but given we know the fundamentals of our economy are strong, I would say to people what
better time to come to dealing with this challenge than now? We can cut carbon pollution; we can do
that whilst our economy continues to grow strongly; we can do it as employment continues to grow
strongly; and we can do it as we assist 9 out of 10 households. If you can achieve all of that my
rhetorical question would be why on earth wouldn't you do it?

COMPERE: Mark Riley.

JOURNALIST: Mark Riley from the Seven Network. Prime Minister, I'm always asking you about you so I
wanted to ask you about us.

PM: Let's talk about you for a while, Mark.

JOURNALIST: Let's talk about me - me and my friends here.

I think a few of us have been reflecting on this in the last few weeks and certainly in the last
couple of days, very sharply, on our responsibilities. When we see a gentleman in Gladstone trying
to encourage people to take up arms against the Government; a woman in Melbourne being shoved out
of a public meeting and harassed down the street to tears; you confronted in a shopping centre by
people screaming and Liberal Party members calling you a liar; and then a radio station coming here
and broadcasting all day in the first day back of Parliament to whip climate change opposers into a
frenzy, how do you see our responsibility and the way that we should be reporting this matter?

PM: I think we will have a long debate about media ethics in this country, but if I could put it as
clearly as I can, I'd say to you: don't write crap. Can't be that hard.

And when you have written complete crap, then I think you should correct it, so I'd like to see as
many column inches confirming that there's no 6.5 cent a litre charge on petrol, as I saw reporting
Tony Abbott's claims that there would be.

I'd like to see as many column inches and minutes on the TV news reporting that the future of the
coal industry is bright and strong as verified by a huge coal company like Peabodys as I saw
coverage of Tony Abbott standing in a Peabodys mine saying the coal industry was going to close

I'd like to see as many minutes of coverage and column inches on the steel industry and the work
we've done with the steel industry so they are satisfied with the arrangements that we've made
about carbon pricing. I'm not saying they're not under pressure - they're under pressure because of
the global economic winds we were just talking about but they are satisfied about carbon pricing.
I'd like to see as much time devoted to that as was devoted to Tony Abbott's claims when he stood
next to steel workers that Whyalla was going to be wiped off the map. And there's a new one today -
we've had Nyrstar, they're involved of course in making zinc, they've put out a statement and it
says 'the impact of this tax is not considered to be material to Nyrstar'. This is against a Tony
Abbott claim: 'if we have a carbon tax that smelter closes down.' Well, I think the Nyrstar
accuracy needs to get as much exposure as the false claim did.

And if we saw some of that, some accuracy and facts out there, I think what I had the opportunity
to do at the community forum in Brisbane last night, and I don't mind taking criticism on the chin,
that's part of my job, but when I was there talking to people about the facts and talking to people
afterwards more casually, you could see once they got that information the sense of reassurance it
gave them and it changed a lot of minds.

Now you would say it's not your job to change minds about a Government policy and that's true - but
I think it is your job to get information to people that's accurate and rigorous. Some of the
crazier claims we've seen in this debate need to be put to one side and the accurate facts get out

COMPERE: The Canberra Times, Ross Peake.

JOURNALIST: Ross Peake from the Canberra Times. Good afternoon, Prime Minister.

I don't think anyone who heard your speech today would doubt the passion that you're putting into
this drive. Now, look I don't know if Greg Combet's heard your speech but he said this morning you
were doing brilliantly, so I wanted to know whether you agreed with that assessment, and secondly
when are you planning to visit the Latrobe Valley and if you do will you be dropping in on the
Hazelwood power station?

PM: Thank you. Well, I'll let Greg Combet's words speak for themselves.

On the Latrobe Valley, I understand that there's anxiety there in the Latrobe Valley. Of course
there would be. I'm quite familiar with the Latrobe Valley. I mentioned in my speech about working
at Slater and Gordon, we had an office in the Latrobe Valley, we did a lot of cases down there. I
didn't do them personally but the cases down there were mainly workers compensation cases, there
were some asbestos cases and the like. So I've travelled to the valley on many occasions and I'd be
happy as Prime Minister to go there and talk to people about the future of the Latrobe Valley

It's a place that's undergoing a journey of change. It's already undergone a big journey from the
days of state electricity generation then privatisation came, that made a big change to job
numbers, to apprenticeships, to trainees. They've been through that journey of change and I'll be
happy to talk to them about what I believe can be a very strong future for the Latrobe Valley.

COMPERE: Kieran Gilbert.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Kieran Gilbert from Sky News. Following on from Mark's question, you
showed a bit of emotion in your speech today and there have been at times vitriolic attacks against
you, you've been labelled a liar basically on a daily basis, a lot of agro in this. Are you feeling

PM: I don't say I feel a burden from that personally, no I don't.

I feel a sense of determination about getting this done and I always understand that the political
contest is going to be hot and I've never shied away from a red hot go in a political contest,
that's not in my nature either. So, I'm not someone who lies awake at night pondering poor news
coverage or the use of harsh words. I don't worry about those kinds of things.

I do worry to the extent that it may make it more difficult for us to achieve what we need to get
done, so my aim here is the clean energy future and getting us there. It's a hard thing to push
for, it's been a very hard thing to push for in this country. We're not the only democracy to have
struggle with this big challenge - President Obama's had his ups and downs too, but I'm absolutely
determined to push and push through and get us there. So, the sense that any of this may be making
that task more difficult, I think about that, but it doesn't personally upset me or distress me. I
am in essence made of pretty tough stuff.

COMPERE: Michelle Grattan.

JOURNALIST: Michelle Grattan from The Age.

Ms Gillard, the ALP primary vote is now down to 27 per cent in the two major polls. While it's
clearly taken a knock in the carbon argument, obviously there have to be other factors at work.
Could you outline for us what you think those are and what Labor can do about them?

PM: Well, Michelle that's a pretty big question and may need to be the subject of another speech
and another address.

I believe that the traditional concerns of the Labor Party, our traditional values, are well on
display in this Government, and that people can see from the things that I push and the things that
the Party pushes for and we believe in a strong thread of continuity from Labor Governments past.

Now, how our Labor values shape public policy of course changes in the modern age. We're about the
distribution of opportunity. In ages earlier we were about the distribution of income. We of course
care still about the distribution of income, about decency at work, but the modern challenge is to
distribute opportunity fairly so the kids don't stay in the back of that class, the kids that are
there now get the same opportunity as other kids for a great education and a successful future, to
take just one way in which opportunity can translate in our society.

But we live in an age where traditional political party, rusted-on voters for traditional political
parties are less than they used to be, more is in contest than used to be and consequently we've
always got to renew and redo how we pursue our values as those things change about our population.

I'm an optimist. I believe so strongly in those values, I believe in their ability to win through,
so even in an age of more challenges where less people automatically vote for a political party,
where the way people get their information is different, I still believe those values can win
through. So, Michelle I might be more optimistic in the analysis than you or others sitting round
your table.

COMPERE: Next question's from The Australian.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Stephanie Balogh from The Australian. Is it appropriate for ABC
executives to make approaches to ministers when public tenders are being considered and how many
ministers have raised concerns with you about this?

PM: And what was the last question?

JOURNALIST: And how many ministers have raised concerns about this with you?

PM: Well, it's not going to surprise you - you haven't lived as long as Paul Bongiorno, I can tell
that - but it's not going to surprise you to the extent that there's been reporting today and the
reporting has suggested that Cabinet proceedings, that like Prime Minister's across the ages, I
will say to you that Government functions with Cabinet as a confidential meeting place and we need
to continue to do that to do all of the economic work we do and national security work and I've got
no intention about talking about any Cabinet discussions of any nature.

And because there's a tender process in train I obviously have to be careful about what I say
generally about the tender process, but it is public that additional criteria were recently added
to that tender. We've also announced that the decision making, that there would be a Cabinet
discussion and that the decision maker would be Minister Conroy. I believed and obviously the
Government's believed that's the appropriate process given the importance of Australia's voice to
the world. I certainly believe all ministers have conducted themselves absolutely appropriately at
all times in relation to this issue and we'll get the tender done in the time frames that we've

COMPERE: Lenore Taylor.

JOURNALIST: Lenore Taylor from the Sydney Morning Herald, Prime Minister.

In your speech you compared this reform with previous reforms that we've undertaken, but to take up
your answer to Mark Riley's question, do you think there's more crap written and broadcast written
about this reform than previous reforms we've argued out as a nation? If so, why? What's different
this time, and why do you think this debate stirs up such strong emotions?

PM: I think what's changed is the volume of crap.

So I'm not suggesting that in past everything that was written was wonderfully accurate and that we
used to pick up our newspapers and have pages and pages of public policy analysis, but I think with
the new media environment where you are both restless and relentless in terms of content, where
with 24/7 media and the media cycle with the news channels that we have now, people have to keep
getting new content into the debate.

I think the quality of the content is possibly lower just because the volume has had to be higher,
and I'm not putting that in a prejudicial sense - I'm full of remarkable wonder about some of the
things that Kieran and David and Chris Uhlmann and others do. I just can't imagine how people can
just keep talking for that amount of time about sometimes very small pieces of content and there
they are, hour after hour and I go and I go to a Cabinet meeting and I come back and put Sky on and
go 'He's still at it, how is this possible?'.

So it's a trade, it's a craft and it would do my head in, so I've got no sense that I'd like to
swap positions, but that does mean that volume-wise there's a lot going on and the accuracy of it
isn't always as good as it should be. So I think we've probably all got to steady a bit and think
what's really important in this debate and try and ensure that the facts get out there.

Now when you've got the facts, you're still going to have contending opinions. We can both
absolutely accept what Nystar says about its Zinc smelting and still have a debate about carbon
pricing, but we shouldn't get that central fact wrong. That's what I'm suggesting the challenge is
for all of us.

COMPERE: Two more questions, the first of them from Michael Keating.

JOURNALIST: Michael Keating from Keating Media, Prime Minister.

How will Australia's trade competitiveness be affected internationally by a carbon tax,
specifically in regard to our major trading partners in emerging markets such as China, India and
Japan, and will there be any loss of jobs and investment offshore to our trade competitors who do
not have a carbon tax?

PM: You would see from the package I announced on Sunday that we've been very careful to work with
trade-exposed industries that effectively take the world price and which are emissions intensive,
so we've worked hard with them to get the package right.

There's more than $ 9 billion in that, and then of course we've got the work with coal and the work
with steel; the work with manufacturing; the work with food and foundries, so that there is still
some price signal to them for change, but so we are understanding the international conditions they
trade in.

In terms of the opportunities that that gives our great trading companies, I actually think we're
working with them to protect Aussie jobs now and to protect competitiveness, but actually, to use
the language of economists, all the things we can do in the future are on the upside. This is going
to be a change around the world that drives new industries. I've had people talk to me about solar
panels coming from China on ships and I've said to them, well just think about what you're telling
me - China sees that there's a huge market in making solar panels. Why do you reckon they think
that? Oh, because they think the world's going to a clean energy future. So we need to make sure we
are seizing our fair share of these jobs in the clean energy future and that's the economic
opportunity that pricing carbon is going to drive and I'm not going to prepared to have us sit here
and miss that economic opportunity.

COMPERE: And our final question today from Misha Schubert.

JOURNALIST: Misha Schubert from The Sunday Age. Prime Minister, you've taken us on a bit of journey
back in time today with reflections on your time at Unley High and as a Slater's lawyer. Can I ask
you to strap on the goggles of hindsight one more time and take us back to that moment when you
made that pledge, some days out from the election campaign that there would be no carbon tax under
a government you lead? Can you tell us, what was going through your mind at the time? Did you
appreciate that Labor's model at the time did have a period with a fixed price in place or did you
just not conceive of that as being akin to a carbon tax? And do you regret having used words that
closed off that option so tightly for you and be brought back to haunt you so much in the interim

PM: Look, when I said those words we were obviously in the midst of an election campaign. We'd come
it after a very divisive debate on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and that had smashed
itself to smithereens in the parliament and wasn't going to get through, and against that backdrop
of a very divisive debate I think there was still a great deal of community confusion about what
carbon pricing was and meant and the various forms of carbon pricing, so in my own mind I had a
very clear view about an emissions trading scheme: putting a price on carbon; putting a cap on the
amount of carbon pollution our economy could generate; having the market generate the price as we
kept the carbon pollution capped, as opposed to an ongoing structure of not moving to the cap and
trade scheme but endlessly having a carbon tax. So, I had those two models in my mind. I did
understand that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme had a fixed price at the start.

So, I said the words that have been so well and continuously reported and was dealing with what I
thought would be a scare campaign about an ongoing carbon tax where that is not what I had in my
mind as the future for our country. I had in my mind pricing carbon and reaching an emissions
trading scheme.

Now, when I said those words I mean every one of them and so to go back in time, you say things you
mean and I meant what I said.

Then we had the election that was, the results that were and I did face a choice in this Parliament
and I could have said in this Parliament 'I'll hold to those words' and the absolute logical
consequence of me doing that would have been to say we'll put carbon pricing in the too-hard
basket, we'll put climate change in the too-hard basket for another three years.

Or I could say to myself the most important thing here is to reach that clean energy future. If we
get there via a three-year temporary tax and we get to that emissions trading scheme, that's going
to give us the clean energy future.

Now in judging those two and what was best for the nation I decided seizing the clean energy future
was what was best for the nation. Now, the politics of it have obviously been very, very difficult,
and you and others will reflect on that in your writings and if I wanted to take the politically
easy path then it probably would have been politically easier to have shoved climate change in the
too-hard basket but it wouldn't have been the right thing for the country, so I'm determined to get
this done and we are getting it done.

And can I just say on the, use a bit of license off your question, if I can just ask people to
reflect on the journey here.

I can't count the number of times I had a journalist say to me 'you will not get this done', 'it is
not possible in this Parliament to strike an arrangement that will pass the Parliament to price
carbon', 'you cannot get this done', 'it will not happen'. Well, we've got it done. It will happen.

And I'd also say standing here that after what has been a long and difficult debate and a big scare
campaign, I think the things in that scare campaign are crashing to the ground day after day.
Little bits of this scare campaign just come flying off it every day: wrong about coal; wrong about
petrol; wrong about steel; wrong about zinc, and the list will go on. The scare campaign I think
will continue to have bits fall off it because people get the facts and get the truth.

COMPERE: We'll conclude on that note. Thank you Prime Minister.

PM: Thank you.



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