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Transcript of joint press conference: Sydney, 29 March 2012: National Broadband Network; Huawei; News Limited; Budget 2012-13; COAG

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Transcript of joint press conference, Sydney

THU 29 MARCH 2012

Prime Minister

Subject(s): National Broadband Network; Huawei; News Limited; Budget 2012-13; COAG

PM: I’m obviously joined by Minister Conroy, Minister Albanese and Mike Quigley the CEO of NBN Co. We’re in Tanya Plibersek’s electorate and she is here with us as well.

As we have just announced, today we are making available the three year rollout plan for the National Broadband Network which means that the National Broadband Network will go to more than 3.5 million homes and other premises; businesses, schools, hospitals.

In three years time, over 3.5 million premises will be connected to or in the process of being connected to the National Broadband Network. This is part of our plan to take make sure that there is broadband around the nation and we need to do that because whilst our copper telephone network has served us well, if we don’t embrace the future, our old network will choke off economic possibilities for the future and it will choke off the future for education and health services.

You have seen a very comprehensive presentation so we would be very pleased to take your questions.

Just to be clear we’ll take NBN questions first and when we have exhausted NBN questions then we’ll move to other issues of the day and I’ll try and field them and get them to the right person.

My experience of these press conferences is there are people who are very much interested in the technical questions and people with a broader view, so I will try and shepherd the questions on that basis. Yes.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) just wondering if you can provide any guarantee that we’ll see 3.5 million covered if there’s a change of government?

PM: Well there won’t be. If there is a change of government, then the NBN will stopped.

So for anybody who gets on the web site and checks out the status of their suburb, if you are expecting to get the National Broadband Network and the government changes at the next election, you can forget it.

There will be no broadband under Tony Abbott.

JOURNALIST: So can you give us an idea of how many premises will be covered by the end of next year?

PM: Well on that, Mike might have to do that for us.

QUIGLEY: We expect - we are under way now, by the end of this - under way building some quarter of a million premises, so that's work under way.

By the end of this financial year, we will be adding another 500,000 to that, which comes up to about three quarters of a million will be under way by the end of this financial year - under way or built.

What happens then is we obviously continue to ramp to achieve by June 2015 that total of 3.547 million premises.

JOURNALIST: So you can’t give us a figure for-

PM: -They’re the best figures we can give you. But if I can - I will go Minister Conroy on this but before I do, I just want to be very clear about this.

Wherever you are scheduled in the rollout of the NBN, your access to broadband is not safe if the government changes.

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Tony Abbott’s been very clear that he wants to demolish the National Broadband Network, so whether or not you’ve been connected or you’re hoping to be connected, the only way of ensuring that broadband is there and continuing to roll out around the nation is for our government to continue that mission.

Tony Abbott simply doesn't believe in people having the benefits of the National Broadband Network.

I will go Minister Conroy too.

MINISTER CONROY: Let's not muck around. Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull talk about fibreto the node, which means you’re using the copper tail.

You’re going to have to compensate Telstra for using their existing copper network.

How did Malcolm Turnbull answer this? He just said ‘Yeah that’s alright, Telstra will agree to vend it in or we’ll buy the copper’.

I mean seriously, buying the copper? Buying the copper - he wants to buy an asset that has been in the ground for 100 years in some cases, that is degrading, that has over a billion dollars of maintenance every year, and he wants to buy the copper.

This is a plan that is rooted in the last century; it’s a plan that ignores that the band width demands across the world and here in Australia continue to be exponential.

And you’ve just got to look at those Cisco figures I talked about at the Press Club in December, you’ve just got to look at some of the examples of evidence recently.

Malcolm used to talk about the New Zealand fibre to the node rollout, except they dumped it and said we’ve got to build fibre to the home.

Malcolm has been recently talking about the UK. Well I would draw your attention to, I think, the former chief technology officer for BT who are doing that rollout, who appeared before, I think it was a House of Lords committee just in the last few days and he said what the UK are planning will miss the next industrial revolution, we’ll still be using a candle while everybody else is using a light globe.

That was BT’s former chief technology officer talking about what Malcolm Turnbull is trying to sell to this country.

PM: Thank you. Yes, we’ll go along - so yes, you next.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, (inaudible) from the Fin Review, are you concerned in light of the (inaudible) that they’re investigating News in Australia, are you concerned-

PM: -Look, we’ll take other questions after we have done NBN.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you decision to block Huawei from tendering into the NBN, are you concerned that that will damage our relations with China?

PM: Well, let's be very clear about the decision we have made here. I have stood up for Australia's national interests. I note that the Opposition is standing up for the interests of a Chinese company.

We have made decisions in the national interest. We have made decisions that we have the ability to make. Any suggestion that this is somehow in breach of our trade obligations is simply untrue.

And I note that China itself takes a view about its own telecommunications system and rollout that it’s got a special approach to whether or not there should be foreign investment in that.

So we’ve taken a decision in the national interest and of course we stand by it.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, David Ramage from the Australian Financial Review. Isn’t it a bit of a misleading thing to say that there will

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be no broadband under the Abbott government, given that you can get broadband on copper, wireless, everything else?

PM: Well there’ll be no National Broadband Network. He has been clear that the mission he is on is to demolish the NBN.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how do you respond to a report today it is the most expensive rollout of NBN?

PM: I may let Minister Conroy, who is champing at the bit to get into that.

MINISTER CONROY: Look, I have done a couple of press conferences on the economic intelligence unit analysis which says in its assessment process that any investment by the public or government in this gets a zero out of 10 or 20 rating. We reject this utterly. Utterly reject this.

This is right wing economic dogma. They then have serious factual errors which I pointed out 12 months ago, that they continue to have in their economic analysis they’ve just released - continue to talk about it’s only a 100 meg plan and continue to misquote the number of homes to be connected.

They just get it wrong. I can only point it out publicly so many times, but I’m happy to do it again.

JOURNALIST: Where does your analysis place the cost of this network in terms of-

MINISTER CONROY: -In terms of is anyone else doing as an ambitious project in terms of government support, I don’t think so.

There are many countries involved in national broadband network rollouts, despite Mr Turnbull saying we’re the only country.

We’re certainly the only country who is committing as much and we are proud of the fact, we are absolutely proud of the fact that we are contributing as much money as we are, the $27 billion commitment from the Government before it then moves into equity funding by NBN Co itself.

So we do not resile from this at all. We are proud of the fact that we are taking the step.

The market failed. What the economic intelligence unit doesn’t want to accept is this has been a clear market failure.

This is a natural monopoly. Economics textbook 101 - natural monopoly, you can look it up, they apparently missed it, but this is a natural monopoly where we have seen consistent market failure.

The infrastructure competition model has failed miserably in this country. 150 disputes in the one sector compared over the eight or nine years, compared with four in all the other infrastructure sectors. This is a market failure.

PM: Can I just say too, from a common sense perspective in terms of rollout in Australia - we’re a very big country. And so you would expect that needs here for rollout are different than some places in the world which are much higher population density and much more geographically compact.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Steve Marshall from Television New Zealand. Back to Huawei, your decision to block Huawei, its involvement in the NBN, where does that leave the planned New Zealand Australia submarine cable, which Huawei has been contracted to build?

PM: We took a specific decision about the National Broadband Network. On other decisions, including decisions involving New Zealand we will continue to take a prudent approach and if we’ve got anything to say to our friends in New Zealand about that, then at the appropriate time we will.


JOURNALIST: Nick Ross, APBC, given Labor's position in the polls and given the vast difference with the Coalition policy on this, and the given there’s a big public kind of cynicism about the NBN, why don’t you push it more?

Because the only time you kind of see Labor championing the benefits of this is at (inaudible) conferences like this.

There's no kind of like marketing or anything like that. People just don't know this and this is probably going to be the only opportunity to find out these figures and then it will go all cynical again.

PM: I actually don't accept your analysis of community opinion about the National Broadband Network.

I think people do want to see us embrace the future and they do understand the possibilities of the future.

Now, inevitably with a new technology like this, levels of understanding will vary across the community. But when I talk to business people, they're very aware of the economic possibilities of the National Broadband Network.

When I talk to people in health care, they're very aware of the ability it's going to give them to diagnose and cure across great distances.

Certainly when I talk to people in education, they're very aware of how it's going to open for them a window on the best of education and the best of learning around the world.

When you go to regional Australia, there are many regional communities absolutely champing at the bit to see the NBN come to their community because they understand it's going to end a tyranny of distance for them that they've lived under.

We will be out there explaining the benefits of the National Broadband Network, the way we are today - explaining it to communities.

But I think you will increasingly see businesses and education institutions and people involved in health care and people involved in

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looking after older Australians who rightly want to stay in their own home for as long as possible, starting to increasingly talk to their own communities and the people that they deal with about the difference the National Broadband Network is going to make.

MINISTER CONROY: Sorry, could I add just, Nick, I've seen your commentary on this. And I think you make a compelling case. You make a compelling case that there is a need for greater community education.

I think you probably don't listen to 2GB or some of the other stations in Sydney but I think you would even discover in the last few days NBN Co has actually just started an advertising campaign on radio.

And I think if you wait to the weekend's papers you may discover there's some more advertising about to take place.

But I think you’ve made a very compelling case, I agree with you and I’d probably just say be patient for a little while longer.

PM: So we will definitely be out there. Yes.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Chris Evans from (inaudible), just back to Huawei, this is a company that's been in Australia for a few years now, it's worked in 150 other countries including our allies, are you concerned that the corporate work that’s already done in Australia and with other allies in terms of rolling out NBN has compromised these allies and compromised corporate Australia already?

PM: No of course I'm not. We've made a decision about critical infrastructure for Australia's future and that is the National Broadband Network.

And I stand by that decision, it's in Australia's national interest. I note that Opposition spokespeople are out criticising the Government for that decision and effectively advocating on behalf of a Chinese company.

Well we have taken the appropriate decision in Australia's national interest about this critical piece of infrastructure.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Josh (inaudible) we saw that during the period between the last election, before you formed a minority government that NBN Co actually had to stop rolling out that work. Will that happen again in this election period?

MINISTER CONROY: No, that is not right. In fact, I think by accident some described as political genius on my part, I would love to tell you that was true.

While that 17 day period was going on, NBN Co in fact were about to start digging and began digging the weekend after the election.

You understand, the NBN had that plan in Armidale that we had announced six or eight months before the election was called. So we had no idea that Armidale and New England would become such a vital national seat that everyone wanted to talk about.

We’d started the process, NBN Co in actual fact started constructing in the streets, digging trenches in the streets in that period while the rest of us were all acting or not even acting ministers we were all technically without portfolios, that issue was being decided.

So NBN Co kept going through that period so there was no cessation of construction.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) this time.


PM: The risk factor here isn't some risk factor which comes from the mechanics of having an election.

The risk factor here is that if Tony Abbott is ever Prime Minister he has promised to end the National Broadband Network, to stop it, to prevent communities getting it and he's threatened to demolish it. That is the risk factor.

JOURNALIST: James Hutchinson iTnews. With the three year rollout plan, now when do you now expect to (inaudible) the fibre rollout?

PM: I will go to Mike on that. He can talk you through each of the stages.

QUIGLEY: As you know this is a long - close a decade-long rollout. We've had some delays obviously with the negotiation of the Telstra deal and having the Telstra deal approved by the ACCC, which has happened just recently.

They got their SSU through. That’s really now allowed us to get the information we needed to complete the work we’ve been doing and then really get going.

So we have to submit a new corporate plan to the Government by the end of this May.

We will be updating that plan and we’ll be trying to do everything we can to recover that start delay and keep right on track to where we were. Now we can't commit to that, but we are working pretty hard. But it’s about, overall it's about a decade long rollout.

JOURNALIST: So you expect it by 2021 now?

QUIGLEY: I wouldn’t comment at this point, as I say we are still a work in progress.

While there was been a delay in the start due to that and what we did on the construction contracts, as you know, and integrating in the 14 points of interconnect moving to 121 points of interconnect, we are taking all of that into account, working that through and we’ll be submitting at the end of May a new plan to the Government.

PM: Okay, so who haven't we taken a question from, I’m trying to be fair. Yes.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible). A question for Mr Quigley. Mike, what was the reaction from the NBN Co’s engineers that you wouldn’t be able to consider Huawei as part of the rollout?

QUIGLEY: Frankly, I really don't want to comment, either one on tender processes, or also on issues that as the Prime Minister has said, are issues of national security.

We as a government business enterprise execute on the instructions given by our shareholder.

JOURNALIST: Have your engineers examined Huawei’s equipment to see whether there could be a backdoor or some sort of technical-QUIGLEY: -I really won't comment on those kind of issues.

JOURNALIST: Just a question on the people who are - (inaudible) from Channel Nine, sorry - the question of people who are missing out. Everyone’s going to be racing to this list.

How are you choosing which suburbs miss out? Like for instance just from looking at this, there's a cluster of suburbs of say Crowsnest, Naremburn, Chatswood but Willoughby is missed out in between. So would that mean you’re going to roll the trenches through there-PM: -Mike can explain, this has been about the engineering. So Mike can explain exactly how sites have been selected.

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QUIGLEY: We do sites in modules, so modules are about between 2,500 to 3,000 premises and we plan to do those and when you see locations, they’re the modules that go to build up a whole area.

So what we do is you may find that there are constraints in particular areas, depending on whether we have the links available back to a certain place, or it could be just straight engineering.

Often we don't want to do too many places in the same area concurrently because otherwise we congest the streets. Because there is as you know, we’ve got to haul fibre through the Telstra ducts, that means there's trucks in the street. We just can't afford to have that going on everywhere at once in a given area.

So we've tried to make sure we’ve sequenced this effectively but haven't congested area.

JOURNALIST: How would you feel if every suburb around you had it, but you were in the middle and didn’t have it? It wouldn’t seem to make a lot of-QUIGLEY: -That is just a function of us trying to as I said, those principles that I outlined before. We’ve sequenced it that way. We know

we're going to have some people who are disappointed.

But if I can keep reiterating we will have in another three months some more announcements and we will be announcing that next year, in a year's time, so people will be picked up eventually.

MINISTER CONROY: Let's be clear, no one is missing out. OK, in 12 months time, as Mike has just said, we will be giving you a 12 month update for the following 12 months.

And what you are likely to see is those areas that are possibly in those holes you’re describing, it grows out sort of organically. So no one is missing out.

We can’t do every street in Australia in the first three years. It is a massive national infrastructure build. You mentioned rolling out the trenches.

Part of what Mike has talked about is we're now using the Telstra existing ducts. So we're pulling through rather than necessarily digging trenches in our own right.

That's what Mike was talking about in terms of cost savings to the build. So no one is missing out.

Those people, there’s going to be disappointed people - we can't fit 12 million homes into the three year plan. So the engineers have used all the algorithms and things that Mike’s talked about.

But everyone ultimately in Australia gets the National Broadband Network.

PM: OK, yes, over here.

JOURNALIST: This might be a question for Mike actually, (inaudible) what percentage of premises already connected to the NBN have actually taken up and using it?

QUIGLEY: OK, that varies across the - we have eight sites now, as well as the greenfields sites, we have eight brownfields sites, the five in mainland Australia and the three in Tasmania.

And the take up rates do vary. If I can just reiterate, we built those sites, the three sites in Tasmania and five in mainland as trials to test operations, construction and general products. The take up rate in fact we are very pleased with.

In some of those sites particularly Kiama and Willunga in South Australia, Kiama just south of us here, those take-up rates are now above 25 per cent.

If you compare that with fibre to the premise rollouts overseas they don't get those sorts of take up rates until three or four years after they started.

So these are very high take-up rates and one last point, remember, the copper network is being retired. Which means when the fibre rolls out, 18 months after that the copper network's retired, so take up rate isn’t really an issue for this project.

PM: And one of the things - we've taken these questions before - I think one of the things that’s always has to be remembered here is how people adapt to the use of new technology.

Even as we've been having this discussion today I've seen a number of heads bent over their Blackberries or iPhones. And when that technology first became available there were a lot of people, I'd have to say including myself, when mobile phones first came out, those big bricks, I said to people I was working with then, I don't see a use for them quote unquote.

Now how wrong was I? Well very, very wrong because I'm as an intensive a user as the people who are bent over their phones now.

That is how quickly the introduction and adaptation and use of that technology has taken hold in our community.

With the National Broadband Network we're going to see the same sort of expansion.

So people will understand its use, want it, get using it, once they get using it then they’ll understand even more applications for it and on and on it would go.

I can't think that there were too many people here who when they first heard about mobile phones understood the world of applications that we would be in today.

We will go across, yes.

JOURNALIST: On what evidence did the Government base its decision to ban Huawei?

PM: We took appropriate advice and used that advice to make our decisions.

JOURNALIST: Who was the advice from?

PM: Look, I’m not commenting in detail on what ultimately are national security matters.

JOURNALIST: Huawei have said that they expect, or they were hoping to pick up some work in the NBN down the track. Is that a possibility, or what-PM: - Look, I’m not speculating about hypotheticals for the future. We made a decision in Australia's national interest based on appropriate advice.

The Government's made the right decision. We made it carefully. We made it well informed and it was the right thing to do.

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JOURNALIST: A huestion for Senator Conroy. Has the Government made a policy decision on the battery backup issue or will NBN Co be rolling out 3.5 million backup batteries?

MINISTER CONROY: That is one of the issues we're still talking with Mike and the team about in terms of the update of the corporate plan.

So no final decision has been made on that yet.

JOURNALIST: So a decision by the end of, by the time the corporate plan is-MINISTER CONROY: -Obviously they have got to incorporate a cost one way or the other. So we will be having, finalising that discussion over the next month or two.

PM: OK, we’ll take a question here?

JOURNALIST: Phil Jacob from the Telegraph. Just going back to what you were saying (inaudible) so there won’t be any new suburbs added (inaudible)

PM: Yes, there will be. So, I will go to Mike for the more technical description but the best way of saying is, we're rolling out, which means we're on a roll.

So you will see continuous updating as NBN goes through, so there will be more information each three months.

There will be another plan in 12 months time, which shows you as the rollout keeps going where it's going to next.

For the technical reasons Mike understands and can describe to you in detail, as you start then you build there, then you can roll out the next bit beyond and the next bit beyond and the next bit beyond and people will be kept continuously updated as that rollout happens and grows on what we have announced today.


JOURNALIST: This is probably more a question for Mike. When are we going to see the first copper being switched off in whatever area?

QUIGLEY: Well the deal with Telstra just became unconditional, as you know, in the last month or so as the ACCC approved the deal.

Once we have declared an ESAM, that’s these modules I’ve talked about of 2,500 to 3,000 people, once we declare that done, we then are in a process with Telstra where we begin that migration and it will take, overall we've allowed 18 months.

Although the CEO of Telstra has said he really wants to do that faster. So both companies will be working on accelerating that switching off of the copper module by module.

JOURNALIST: So you don't have a time or a place where -

QUIGLEY: -That will happen as we build the modules, we will do them one at a time. It won't take place all at once. It will happen module by module.

PM: Yes.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask one last question on NBN stuff, China’s comments, from the Foreign Ministry, have lashed out at Australia’s security decisions. Doesn’t this put down Mr Swan’s comments that it won’t harm trade relations, and just a technical point, does this mean we rate the invasion of China as a more likely scenario than an invasion by France?

MINISTER CONROY: Alcatel are a French company.

PM: That’s not what has motivated the Government here, so I know you've asked a rhetorical question and so I don't want my response to be seen as in any way embracing the premise of your rhetorical and, with respect, very silly question.

On the decision we've taken here and relationships with China, we've got a strong, robust relationship with China. We are deeply engaged at every level. We have a strong economic relationship. We have increasing ties at every level. Diplomatic ties, multilateral ties, people to people links and you will continue to see our relationship with China strengthen and grow.

Now, does that mean that there will never be a moment where we see things differently?

Of course not.

There will be moments when we see things differently, and I am not surprised that this is a moment where we are seeing one thing differently.

But it would be a great error indeed to move from a moment where we are seeing one thing differently and then extrapolate that to the full dimensions of the relationship - a very grave error indeed.

And once again, I do reiterate the decision we have taken is not in breach of any trade rules or trade arrangements with China, that is simply not true.

It is a decision open to the Australian Government. We've taken it for the right reasons through the right process, based on the right advice about a piece of critical infrastructure for our nation's future.

I do note that in China people also make decisions about their nation's future and who should be involved in the rollout of their own telecommunications.

They want to make those decisions for themselves, completely understandably so do we.

Yes, we’ll go here.

JOURNALIST: Tim Christian from AAP, are there any plans to assist businesses who missed out on this rollout over the next three years?

PM: The rollout is going to keep happening as we have described it. It simply can't happen everywhere at once.

So I understand businesses will be anxious for the rollout. Put as simply as possible we're determined to get the National Broadband Network around the country.

We're working on it hard. We're working through the National Broadband Network Company.

We’ll certainly be saying to the Australian people this is a project of significance to our nation's future and our economic future. Under us, you can be assured that it’s going to continue, if the government changes then it will be dead.

JOURNALIST: Could it not create some sort of two speed economy though, between businesses who have it and those who don’t?

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PM: Look, you can only do what in the real world you can do. If I could snap my fingers and have every premise in Australia connected in the next second , would I do it? Of course I would.

But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where you’ve got to have trucks in streets, trenches dug, fibre rolled out, connections worked through. You’ve got to work on the basis of the infrastructure from Telstra that's there and the right way of rolling this out.

That’s what we're doing now. That’s the only way it can be done.


JOURNALIST: Can we move on to-PM: OK, so are there any other NBN questions? Last one.

JOURNALIST: One more sorry, you said that the Huawei decision was based on advice. Was it based on evidence?

PM: The people who give us advice, base their advice on sound analysis and their understanding of the facts.

OK, right we will move to other questions.

Thanks, Mike. We will let you retire from the fray. Yes.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can I ask are you concerned about fresh allegations of misconduct at News in Australia?

PM: Look, I might have the relevant Minister address that.

MINISTER CONROY: Yeah look, thanks.

The claims that there is criminal conduct - if there is any and if the AFR aware of any - 14,000 emails is a lot as you know. I haven't read them all. You perhaps have.

I certainly think Neil has. But if there's anything in there that he thinks constitutes criminal conduct he should refer to it the Federal Police.

JOURNALIST: You’ve referred-MINISTER CONROY: -We've not referred anything to the Federal Police. The Federal Police have already said publicly they haven't received a referral.

If there's any evidence of that, then the AFR should put to it the Federal Police, but we have not made a reference, the police have not received a reference, as obviously as they have indicated an ongoing support that they're giving the UK. But the Government has not referred anything to the Federal Police.

PM: Yes.

JOURNALIST: Does the Government plan to make any referrals on those allegations to the AFP?

PM: No, the Minister has just dealt with that. If there is anyone who has in their possession material that they think raises a concern about a criminal offence then they should refer to it the police.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Alexandra Ristway from Channel Seven News, on another issue, the Treasurer said this morning that the upcoming budget is probably one of the toughest he’s ever had to deliver.

What assurances can you give that families won't be worse off under the upcoming budget?

PM: Well, the assurance I can give is we will take to the forthcoming budget our Labor values about managing the economy in the interests of working people and our Labor approach about supporting families.

When the world was threatened by the global financial crisis, we stepped up; we managed the economy in the interests of working people, we supported jobs and we also worked to provide new benefits to working families to help them with cost of living pressures.

Now, in the days beyond the global financial crisis, we can look at our economy, our region, our world and say to ourselves that the pre-GFC world is never coming back. It's never going to be the same again.

We live in a different world now. We live in a world full of opportunities because of the growth in our region, but we also live in a world that does confront us with some challenging choices.

We've got a strong Australian dollar that’s putting pressure on some parts of our economy. We've got companies that are coming into this period with losses that they can bring to book against the tax system - that’s affecting revenues.

We've got continued instability in parts of the global economy, particularly out of Europe.

So what is the right thing to do in all of those circumstances? Well, the economic imperative is to bring the budget to surplus. That will lock in the confidence we need for the future and we will do that.

As we make the choices to bring the budget to surplus, we will take our Labor values about supporting working people and working families with us as we make those decisions.


JOURNALIST: Can you guarantee the childcare rebate won't be means tested?

PM: I have seen budget processes before and I've participated in them as Prime Minister and I am not here at this stage of the budget preparation cycle, going to get into a rule in, rule out game about specific benefits or parts of the Government's agenda.

I know where this leads. And two or three days out from the budget it leads to a game of ‘will you rule out selling the Sydney Harbour Bridge, will you rule out exporting the Opera House’ and so it goes.

So I am not going to start playing the game. But on child care, can I say look at what this Government has achieved to get an indication of what we think about child care.

There has never been a time in our nation's history where there has been more government support available for families who need childcare than there is under this Government today.

JOURNALIST: Is means testing being considered?

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PM: Well I've just said to you I am not playing your rule in, rule out game.

So make of that you will. Because the next question you will ask me will be about another government program and another government program. I’m not going to get into the game, but you can judge the Government on what we have done.

So what does this Government think about childcare? Well we obviously think it's a veru high priority, otherwise we wouldn't be investing more money than the nation has at any other time in our nation's history.

When we came to government we deliberately said support for families wasn’t enough and we worked with families to increase the support available to them.

So I think our track record counts for something when people are assessing the Government's priorities and plans for the future.


JOURNALIST: Just another one for Senator Conroy on the NDS allegation. Are there any ongoing investigations of any News Corp companies by AFP?

MINISTER CONROY: Well look, I couldn't comment on any ongoing investigations.

They don't keep me informed and it's not appropriate for me to ask questions about are you investigating this company or this company.

So, you would address that question to them. But they don't give me a running daily update about who they're investigating.

JOURNALIST: Has the Government made any referrals?

MINISTER CONROY: No, not that I’m aware of.

PM: OK, we’ve got a question right at the back.

JOURNALIST:A question for Senator Conroy, if the Federal Police aren’t investigating at this stage, the News Corporation allegations, should ACMA be looking at it, especially given the analysis (inaudible) appropriate that Foxtel (inaudible)

MINISTER CONROY: The ACCC are considering that particular matter and there's a whole range of rules that they have to test against and they are conducting that.

On the issue around the ACMA, it's again, another independent statutory authority. And you would need to ask them whether or not they believe there's a need, following these allegations, for there to be any action but they are an independent statutory authority.

They’re fully funded by the government, as you would know and they do administer broadcast law, which includes journalists. No-one is objecting to that recently.

But you would have to put that to the independent statutory authority.

PM: OK, we’ll take a question here and one here. Yes.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Saturday saw the fall of the Labor Government in Queensland, are you worried that from now on in COAG meetings will be a lot more difficult?

PM: I’ve worked as Prime Minister with state and territory colleagues irrespective of their political persuasion to get things done in the national interest.

So for example, we got ground-breaking health reform done and the Minister is here now and she'd be able to give you chapter and verse, the differences that those reforms are making on the ground today for people who need health care.

Now I did that in circumstances where there was plenty of media speculation, saying that with the political complexion of parts of the country changing that COAG wouldn't work and there we had it, walked into a room and came out with a national health reform agreement to improve health care around the country.

So my perspective in COAG will be I'm not looking at what political party card people have got in their pockets, I'm looking at the best things we can do for the nation collaboratively and my experience generally is that Premiers and Chief Ministers walk into that room, not focussing on the political party card in their pocket, but focussing on what's in the best interests for their State.


JOURNALIST: Perhaps anotherquestion for Minister Conroy. Now that the classification review has been handed down, can you give us an update on the state of the internet filter project?

MINISTER CONROY: Look, as you know, we've been waiting to see that come down. I'm very interested in it. We're having discussions about it, as I think I've said, and there's been a little bit of misreporting that there are a number of companies already introduced a voluntary filter against the Interpol list.

We welcome that and think it's a very, very positive step. I would hope all companies would introduce that voluntarily.

We're in a situation where we're still having some discussions with the industry association and I think we may come to a very positive outcome.

JOURNALIST: So what does that really mean-MINISTER CONROY: -I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise.

PM: That's a new line at press conferences.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, back to the upcoming budget, why not simply give families a break and delay the surplus?

PM: Because it's in the interests of families right around the nation that we bring the budget to surplus. There couldn't be anything more in their interests.

If we look at the world that we live in now, this post-global financial crisis world, there has never been more punishment meted out to countries that don't meet their fiscal targets than there is today.

You've got to stay the course and you've got to do what you've said you will do and that is bringing the budget to surplus. This is also the right economic choice for our nation now.

We are an economy that is returning to trend growth. The right economic choice, when you've got a growing economy, is to bring the

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budget to surplus and that is what we are going to do.

So if you care about jobs, if you care about the prospects for families in the future, if you genuinely care about the economy that people are going to work in tomorrow, where they're going to have jobs, where they're going to make their livelihoods, then you must endorse the economic imperative of bringing the budget to surplus in 2012-13.

Right we’ll break from our last question and make this the last, last question and then we’ll go.


JOURNALIST: Sorry, is it really a coincidence that all six crossbenchers get NBN in the next three years?

PM:Well that question should have been put when Mike was here, but Mike has described to you the way in which the decisions for this roll-out have been made.

Thanks very much.

Page 9 of 9 Transcript of joint press conference, Sydney | Prime Minister of Australia