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Transcript of press conference: Melbourne: 24 February 2012: Australian Labor Party



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Transcript of press conference, Melbourne

FRI 24 FEBRUARY 2012

Prime Minister

Subject(s): Australian Labor Party

PM: It is now certain that there will be a leadership ballot at the Labor caucus meeting on Monday. This leadership ballot will determine who leads the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party and who leads the nation as Prime Minister.

The choice that the nation faces and my Parliamentary colleagues face on Monday is a choice as to who has got the character, the temperament, the strength, to deliver on behalf of the Australian people.

This isn’t Celebrity Big Brother. It is about working out who can lead the nation, who has got the ability to get things done. That is the main question and the main choice - who as Prime Minister has the personal attributes and personal strength to get things done that the nation needs to be done.

As Prime Minister I have delivered reforms for the Australian people, they haven’t been easy reforms and I am asking my caucus colleagues for their support on Monday so we can spend 2012 delivering further much needed reform for our nation. So that we can continue to deliver our education reforms and build on them with a new approach to school funding and a new approach to skills, an approach that our nation needs so we can have a strong economy for the future.

So we can keep building on our proud record of job creation and keep creating jobs even as our economy transforms and changes and particularly that we can keep creating jobs in those sectors of the economy that are under most stress like manufacturing.

That we can keep delivering our health reforms, to make sure that they make a difference for people right around the country when they need to go to hospital or see a local doctor.

That we can keep delivering on our carbon pricing reforms, making sure that we are tackling climate change and we are giving Australian families much needed extra support in the form of tax cuts and family payment increases and pension increases.

And that we can continue to develop a National Disability Insurance Scheme, so whether you get a fair go in this country if you have a disability isn’t determined by a cruel lottery as to how you got that disability, but that we are making sure that we are caring for every Australian who has a disability.

Today I have been talking in Melbourne about two reforms that I have overseen, first as Deputy Prime Minister and then as Prime Minister. They are good examples of the approach I take to getting things done, working with purpose, working with a method, working with discipline, working over the long term to deliver results.

It was only by working in that way we were able to give equal pay to people in the social and community services sector. It was only by working in that way that we were able to deliver My School and more information for Australian parents on their child's school than they have ever had before.

Talk is easy, getting things done is harder and I am the person who gets things done.

Of course politics is a contest and I am very confident that at the next election Labor can prevail over Tony Abbott and that I, as Prime Minister, can lead Labor to a victory at that election.

I am very confident of that because our agenda will stand as a stark contrast to Mr Abbott always saying no. Always saying no to any form of change whilst he has no ideas of his own.

So I am asking my Caucus colleagues for their support so that as Prime Minister I can continue to lead a team with discipline and determination, that I can continue to deliver a Labor agenda to make sure Australians each get their fair share today but we are also building the country that we want to be tomorrow.

That is what I am asking my caucus colleagues to support.

When Monday comes and goes there will still be a nation that needs to be governed. There will still be a party which needs to live out its historic mission for working people. Those things can only be done with purpose, with method, with character, with strength and that's what I will seek to continue to deliver as Prime Minister beyond Monday.

I'm happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, have you lost the trust of the Australian public?

PM: Well I note that Mr Rudd did talk in his press conference today about questions of trust and questions of confidence and let me very directly address those.

On questions of confidence Australians can have confidence in me that no matter how hard it gets I've got the determination and personal fortitude to see things through.

Australians can have trust in me that I am the person who gets things done.

My track record shows that and that is the leadership that I will continue to deliver.

JOURNALIST: Kevin Rudd says you’re headed to the rocks under your leadership?

PM: Well let me say again, I am confident I can lead Labor to a victory at the next election because at the end of the day people judge what political parties deliver on their own life experience, on what has changed, on what has been done, not what has been said but what has been done and I am the person who gets things done.

Just look at the record over the last few years.

Who has delivered carbon pricing? I did.

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Who delivered a historic health reform agreement making changes in emergency departments for people seeking health care around the country? I did.

Who has delivered education reforms and is continuing to build on them? I am doing that and will continue to do that.

Who delivered the modernisation our telecommunications sector needed with the changes to Telstra through structural separation? I delivered that.

And I have delivered those things in circumstances where politics has been strongly contested between the political parties and in minority government.

But on the question of trust, let me also say this: Kevin Rudd spoke about trust today but spoke did not deny when challenged - did not deny when challenged - that he has spent time whilst I have been Prime Minister and he has been Foreign Minister, behind closed doors in secret conversations with people undermining the Government.

Kevin Rudd asked people to consider questions of trust, well there's a question of trust right there.

When I was Deputy Prime Minister, and I said this yesterday, I challenged anybody in the media - anybody in the media - who had ever heard me utter a disloyal word about Kevin Rudd on or off the record to print that.

And today no one has. And no one has because it never happened.

In a very sharp contrast to that Kevin Rudd today, when asked whether he would reveal if he'd been in conversations undermining the Labor Party and undermining the Government, he refused to answer.

Well, what I've got to say about my role as Prime Minister and the future I intend for this country and for the Labor Party, I will say right out loud, not in meetings behind closed doors with an endeavour to keep it secret.

Yes.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) Kevin Rudd today, he said that you argued for the ETS to be delayed? What does that say about your credibility?

PM: Well I’m happy to be judged about my credibility on carbon pricing - I’ve got it done. Didn't talk about it, got it done.

Kevin Rudd, when the going got tough couldn't get carbon pricing done.

I, in the toughest of all possible political circumstances, got it done.

And it just seems to me that these claims actually point to some amazing contradictions in the position that Kevin Rudd is putting to people today.

He seems to be saying I lacked commitment on carbon pricing, whereas I am the person who got it done. He asked people to consider questions of trust while, of course, he won't reveal to the Australian people the conversations that he has had undermining the Government.

And he continues to talk about the so-called faceless men but he has announced a plan today to enable factional decision making about who should be a minister in Government.

These are essential contradictions at the heart of what Kevin Rudd has had to say today and I think he should answer to those.

JOURNALIST: It appears you’re trying to rewrite history about what happened that night when you went into his office. Do you stand by your version of events?

PM: I certainly stand by my statements made as recently as last week, as recently as yesterday in fact, that I made my final decision to ask Kevin Rudd for a ballot in the Australian Labor Party on the day I asked him for that ballot. I certainly stand by that statement. And I worked damned hard as Kevin Rudd’s deputy, worked very, very hard in days of chaos and paralysis to try and keep his government running. That’s the truth, that’s the history.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, will you retain the party members who have supported Kevin Rudd during this like Martin Ferguson in your cabinet if you win the ballot?

PM: I’ll do what I’ve always done which is select my team on the basis of merit, and the ability to take up the fight to the Liberals.

JOURNALIST: Did you or Mr Swan tell Mr Rudd the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme should be dumped altogether (inaudible)?

PM: I’ve just dealt with that, but let me deal with it again. On carbon pricing, who can put their hand up and say they’ve got it done? I can. As Australian Prime Minister I have shown my dedication and determination to put a price on carbon. I mean anybody who was here for one day of last year cannot doubt how hard it was, how politically costly it was, to stump up to this parliament and to get a price on carbon. I had the courage in those circumstances to work on legislation and to get it through. That remained to be done because under Kevin Rudd’s Prime Ministership, in a different parliament, when he had majority government, a leader of the opposition who agreed with him on carbon pricing, even in those circumstances he wasn’t able to get a carbon price through.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Mr Rudd says he’ll challenge once and only once; he also said that people shouldn’t make unbelievable promises. Do you believe that he’ll only challenge once?

PM: Well only Mr Rudd can answer that question for you, but I do reiterate the concern that I have that Mr Rudd today refused to deal publicly with the conversations of destabilisation and undermining of the government that have clearly gone on. And we are, as a Labor government, and my approach to being in government is I am very determined to deliver a government and deliver government programs that make us a stronger and fairer nation. A Labor government, with a Labor vision, with Labor plans, with Labor programs. Now that’s not always easy. It means you stump up to really hard reforms like getting carbon pricing done. And they can be politically costly and we have paid some cost. That cost is the cost of doing big things that matter to the nation’s future. The cost that shouldn’t be paid is the cost of destabilisation, hampering the work of the government.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, have you got the numbers to win on Monday?

PM: I have been speaking to my caucus colleagues and as I have, I have been reassured that I have got strong support. I have said consistently I’ve got the strong support of my colleagues and my conversations with my caucus colleagues certainly verify that.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you (inaudible) you are the person who gets things done, why do you think those reforms haven’t really translated to electoral success in the polls?

PM: Look these are hard reforms, and when you’ve engaged in hard reforms that are about the future, that are big things, difficult things like carbon pricing, inevitably there’s a political cost. And what leadership comes down to is are you prepared to pay those political prices?

Page 2 of 3 Transcript of press conference, Melbourne | Prime Minister of Australia

30/10/2012 http://www.pm.gov.au/press-office/transcript-press-conference-melbourne-0

Are you prepared to show the courage and determination you need to, even in the most difficult of circumstances, to get things done? I have proven that I am able to do that.

During 2012 I’ve got a very clear agenda that I want to lead our government and our nation in. It’s about jobs, it’s about education, it’s about skills, it’s about the future of our economy, it’s about getting working families the services they need. I will prosecute that agenda if I receive the support of my caucus colleagues on Monday, as I expect to do. But the political price that I shouldn’t have to pay is a political price that comes form undermining and destabilising.

JOURNALIST: How are you personally handling this challenge? Running the country and fighting for your job?

PM: Just fine.

Yes.

JOURNALIST: If you lose on Monday, would you be prepared to serve again in a Rudd cabinet?

PM: No I would go to the backbench as I’ve announced and renounce any further claims to the leadership.

JOURNALISTS: (Inaudible)

PM: I’ll give a question over here - you haven’t had one.

JOURNALIST: You’ve laid a lot of blame with Kevin Rudd for the position Labor’s in now, (inaudible) accept yourself though about your situation in terms of polling and your standing?

PM: I think what I’ve just said to you actually gives a lie to your question. What I’ve just said to you is big reforms can be politically costly. You’ve got to work out whether you believe in those reforms, whether you’ve got the courage, the method, the discipline, the purpose to go out and get them done.

Well I’m someone with plenty of courage, I’m someone with plenty of discipline, I’m someone who gets up every day and does it all again no matter how hard the going is. That is who I am. I’ve brought all of those skills to bear in 2011 to get big reforms done like carbon pricing. And I understand the political cost of those reforms. I also understand the benefit. We will be a nation with a clean energy future, because I got that done last year. That will be Australia’s future and it wouldn’t have been our future if I hadn’t got it done.

I’m happy to show the courage in the face of those political slings and arrows, I think that’s politics as usual. What shouldn’t happen in politics is you shouldn’t be dragged down by someone who is on your own side, who today is unable to deny that they have been in conversations locked behind closed doors, talking to people and undermining the government.

There was a question - sorry you haven’t had a question.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) say you lead a government struggling for traction, it’s the middle of the parliamentary term, you’re seeking some clear air to show your policy successes of the past and what you hope to achieve in the future, and now you’re challenged for your job by a senior colleague. Do you consider it an act of political treachery, and I guess, if you’ll take my supplementary, how does that differ from the events of June 2010?

PM: Well I’ve dealt with the events of June 2010 pretty comprehensively yesterday. The government in those final months particularly in 2010 was in a chaotic state and a paralysed state. That is why I stepped up to the plate. I asked Kevin Rudd for a ballot. He had so little support in caucus he did not present for that ballot. That is the history of 2010.

As for the history that will be written about this year, well we will look to Monday’s ballot. What I am looking for from Monday’s ballot is a decision from caucus that is in the nation’s interest and that decision is to have a person continue in the job of Prime Minister who has got the character and temperament to get the job done.

Yes.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister do you think that having Rudd popular with the people, a lot of commentators have said the past couple of days that Kevin Rudd’s popular with the people, you’re popular with the party, even though it’s a party who gets to decide on Monday who do you think would rather be the Prime Minister?

PM: As I said, this is not an episode of Celebrity Big Brother. This is about who can be the Prime Minister of this nation. I’ve got the attributes to do the job, just as I have been doing it.

JOURNALIST: With a bloc of support already behind Kevin Rudd, and Ministers falling into line as well, isn’t your leadership already damaged?

PM: I will seek the support of my caucus colleagues on Monday. I expect to receive their very strong support.

JOURNALIST: If Kevin Rudd was as (inaudible) as you’ve put it and as dysfunctional as Simon Crean has put it, how does the government justify having him in such a senior portfolio as Foreign Affairs?

PM: I formed the view that Kevin could acquit that task. His expertise is in foreign affairs, so I formed the view that he could do that job and should do that job for the government. Clearly he chose to resign that job this week. What Kevin obviously struggled to do when times were a little bit politically tough, particularly in 2010, was to run a government with any sort of method or purpose or discipline, internal processes, ability to get things done. That’s what I have sought to rectify as Prime Minister.

Thank you very much.

Page 3 of 3 Transcript of press conference, Melbourne | Prime Minister of Australia

30/10/2012 http://www.pm.gov.au/press-office/transcript-press-conference-melbourne-0