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Transcript of doorstop interview: Adelaide: 20 February 2013: Jobs plan for Australia; Adelaide Defence Precinct; Australian Greens; Federal Election; BHP Billiton; Community Cabinet; Electorate of Boothby



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PRIME MINISTER TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP INTERVIEW ADELAIDE 20 FEBRUARY 2013

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Jobs plan for Australia; Adelaide Defence Precinct; Australian Greens; Federal Election; BHP Billiton; Community Cabinet; Electorate of Boothby

PM: It’s great to be here in South Australia, back in my home town of Adelaide.

I’m joined by the Premier of South Australia Jay Weatherill and by the Minister for Finance Penny Wong.

We've been walking through this fantastic facility at Techport looking at the Air Warfare Destroyer and we've been talking about how, in 2007, what you would have seen here was sand dunes.

Now you see all of this and all of this is home to thousands of jobs for South Australians.

This is the kind of work that we can perform in our country, a country that can have a comparative advantage at making things; that can have a great Defence industry, a great manufacturing industry.

On the weekend I launched our plan for Australian jobs and it is about places like this.

It's about making sure that in the future we continue to have these high-skill, high-paid jobs.

Now, there are plenty of stresses and strains in the global economy at the moment and some of them impact on us.

The global economy still hasn't fully recovered from the days of the global financial crisis and of course because we stayed strong during the global financial crisis, we now have a very strong Australian dollar and that can make it tough for manufacturers and people who want to export.

But even with those pressures we can succeed, we can win through, we can have these jobs for the future.

The plan for Australian jobs that I launched on the weekend had a particular strategy of focusing on precincts - precincts where you would bring together the best of

our researchers with business people, large and small, to innovate, to think, to design the work and work practices and work products of the future.

In other countries overseas there is a better transmission of knowledge from research into industry than there is in our country, and given our advantage in the world is going to be based on how well we can innovate and the quality of what we do, it's important that we speed up that transmission, that collaboration between researchers and industry.

I'm very pleased that we will see a precinct in South Australia that will focus on Defence, on manufacturing, on areas that have been very central to this state's economy and will continue to be central to it for a long time to come.

Premier Weatherill has been charting the future of the economy in South Australia.

It's a vision compatible with our vision for the Australian economy.

It's about jobs, good quality jobs, high-paid jobs, high-skilled jobs for the future.

I'll call on the Premier to make some comments now.

PREMIER WEATHERILL: Thank you, Prime Minister and welcome to South Australia again. You're always welcome here.

PM: Thank you.

Can I say that South Australia believes in a manufacturing future for South Australia and it's an advanced manufacturing future.

What we're seeing here is precisely that future being played out, bringing together large principal contractors together with research institutions, together with small- and medium-sized businesses to create jobs for South Australians.

Just to give you an example of the sort of things that are being spawned by these developments here; a company, a small-to-medium enterprise called Sage Automation in 2006-7 saw the state government's push into the Defence and mining sector and on the strength of that strategic vision they decided to get into those sectors. They hadn't been in those sectors before.

Now they have 15 per cent of their work that’s being won through the Defence sector and not just here at Techport, although Techport was the basis for their foothold in the Defence sector, but also now they're winning contracts in Victoria and in other parts of the world.

So this is what can happen if you make a clear strategic vision for your state, you back it up with public investments like our $300 million ship-lift facility here, you have a Commonwealth partner that's prepared to use the power of their procurement to actually drive Australian jobs.

Defence contracting decisions, Defence procurement decisions, are industry development decisions.

So that is why it's so crucial that we continue to invest in South Australian jobs, back South Australian ingenuity so that we have a future for the workers here, a future for them and their families.

There's a very big procurement project which is on the horizon. It's the future submarines project, procuring something in the order of 12 submarines estimated to be in the order of $36 billion.

The largest single procurement the Commonwealth Government will ever enter into.

The Commonwealth have already committed to the assembling of those future submarines here in South Australia based at Techport.

What we're calling on the Federal Coalition to do is to make a similar commitment.

At the moment, Tony Abbott has refused to rule out buying these future submarines off the shelf.

This is absolutely crucial. Why wouldn't you back in Australian ingenuity to build these submarines?

Because we can see here this is the basis upon which you can actually grow an industry.

So we very much welcoming the Commonwealth's commitment to future submarines being assembled here in South Australia.

They've made two very important decisions in that regard: the land-based testing site will be here and the design centre will be based here.

Those two projects are getting up and running and we're expecting the first decision to be taken in the 2013-14 year.

These are very important decisions for the future of South Australia.

They will secure skills and capabilities here in South Australia that are not only important for the Defence sector but they also allow these industries to step out into mining, step out into other areas of advanced manufacturing, securing jobs for South Australians.

MINISTER WONG: Thanks very much, I'll just say a few words before we move to questions.

Can I say first, as a South Australian Senator, as a Minister from South Australia and as the Minister responsible for the ASC, it's a great pleasure to welcome the Prime Minister as well as the Premier to these facilities.

As we walk through, what we're reminded of today is the importance of government policy, of government decisions to help deliver jobs for Australians and to help deliver jobs for South Australians.

There are over a couple of thousand people who work at this facility.

Highly skilled people, people who are showing the rest of us the future of manufacturing in this country and as the Premier said, it's a reminder of what can happen when industry and government work together to ensure those jobs.

We in South Australia, we get it; we get that federal government policy, when it comes to industry, when it comes to the Defence industry, matters.

It matters to us, it matters to our economy and it matters to South Australian families.

That's why this Labor Government has been so clear about our commitment to Defence and Defence manufacturing here in South Australia.

Thanks very much.

PM: Before we move to questions, if I could just say two quick other things.

First, yesterday the Leader of the Australian Greens, Christine Milne, indicated that she was bringing Greens’ agreement with the Government to an end.

This is my first opportunity to comment publicly on that.

What I would like to say is in 2010 Australians voted for a parliament in which no major political party could form government without working with others in the parliament.

In 2010, I entered a series of agreements to enable us to form a government and get on with the job; get on with the job of keeping the economy strong and making sure that it offers people the benefits of work; get on with the job of helping families who are under all of the pressures of modern life, make ends meet and help their families; and get on with the job of the big things we need to do to shape our nation's future.

When I entered those agreements we then worked as a government and we will continue to work as a government.

I am unsurprised that in this election year the Greens party has chosen to walk away from its agreement; unsurprised by that because at the end of the day the Greens party is fundamentally a party of protest rather than a party of government.

The Greens party is fundamentally a party that would prefer to complain about things than get solutions.

And second, I'm not surprised that the Greens party has walked away on the basis of a difference about jobs.

We will always stand up for the jobs of Australian workers here and right around the nation.

As a Labor Party, we understand that there's nothing more important to families and to them making a life than having access to work, decent work, high-quality work, good working conditions.

It's at the centre of what we do and of course we will never deviate from that.

In terms of the stability of the Government, the Leader of the Greens has indicated they will continue to provide confidence and supply so there are no consequences in relation to stability.

The only other thing I wanted to say before going to questions is the Premier mentioned Sage - I'd just like to say my nephew works there.

Let's take some questions.

JOURNALIST: You talk about jobs, Prime Minister, unemployment in the northern suburbs is 43.4 per cent and in the southern suburbs where you’re going tonight it’s 31.6 per cent I think.

What are you doing about jobs for the northern suburbs and the southern suburbs if it’s all about jobs?

PM: Well I'm not necessarily going to accept your figure work but what I can say we are doing about jobs is, first, the things that we've talked about here today, through our plan for Australian jobs.

Our economy is undergoing a time of change and you can't wish that away or pretend it's not happening.

The world changed when the global financial crisis happened and we won't be going back to that old world, the world changed.

And the way in which it changed meant that we are going to see for a long period of time Europe struggle to get back to growth, the American economy struggle.

At the same time, a big resources boom, that's a good thing but it also means our dollar is very strong, putting lot of pressure on, and the dollar is going to be sustained high for a long period of time.

So we are dealing with a transformation in our economy that we've got to manage to make sure we are getting people good-quality work.

Now there's plenty of upside because we live in the region of the world that is going to be the source of the biggest growth in this century.

That's why we last year released the Asian Century White Paper, to make the point that we will be living in the region of the world with more middle class consumers than anywhere else.

And so we can take advantage of those opportunities if we get the policies right and the plan I announced on the weekend is about getting the policies right.

In terms of distribution of jobs across cities, we always provide extra resources and support for those parts of cities, our nation, that have particularly high unemployment rates.

We do that through our local employment coordinators and like approaches that focus on particular places.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, getting back to the Greens situation, how much of the decision, do you think is that there is, from the Greens’ point of view, they have a total lack of support in you as Labor leader?

PM: The leader of the Australian Greens announced her decisions yesterday so they're not mysterious, they're known. You can read the speech that she gave at the Press Club.

And she fundamentally said in that speech that they've got a different view about jobs than the Labor Party does.

They don't think that we should be allowing any exploration in the Tarkine. Well, that's about jobs for Tasmanians.

They've got a different view about jobs across the economy.

Well, we're a Labor Party, we're the party of work, we're the party of making sure working people have got access to decent jobs and good working conditions so that's the difference.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what's your response to suggestions today that there is enormous pressure within the party on Bill Shorten to bring support over Kevin Rudd?

PM: Well I don't run commentary on columns in the newspaper because if I did that I wouldn't get anything else done and I've got lots of important things to do.

JOURNALIST: What do you say to your MPs that are spreading this disquiet, that are leaking effectively against the Government?

PM: We've got a lot of work to do and we’ve got a very clear plan between now and election day and a clear plan that we will present for our nation's future.

When we entered 2013, I said that at the centre of our nation's life in 2013 would be policies and plans for the economy for the long-term, and meeting the needs of modern families who are under all of the stresses and strains in family life today.

As Prime Minister, across this year, I will be working on both strengthening the economy and helping modern families get through.

On strengthening the economy, nothing more important than jobs, and that's why we announced the plan for Australian jobs on the weekend.

And we will follow that up with the work that we've got to do in Australian schools, making sure every child gets a chance, every child gets a great education, but our economy also has the benefits in the future of those highly-skilled, highly-capable individuals.

And we've said too this year will be about launching the National Disability Insurance Scheme, because that's a big challenge for families today, supporting someone with disability.

So that's the plan for now until the election and the plan beyond is about keeping our economy strong, focussing on jobs and fairness and opportunities for the future.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, were talks about the leadership the reason for you being late today or delayed this morning?

PM: No, not in any way. I actually had some calls to make this morning relating to the announcement of BHP and Marius Kloppers and I do want to take the opportunity to say I wish Marius Kloppers well with his future life beyond BHP.

I've the opportunity to work with him whilst he's been in that role and I'd certainly say that we'll look forward to working with his successor Andrew MacKenzie.

JOURNALIST: Is that the final dagger in the heart of the Olympic Dam expansion, if Mr Kloppers gets his marching orders?

PM: I don't accept your characterisation of the change at BHP and you need to talk to people at BHP about that.

On Olympic Dam, this is a set of decisions that have related to commodity prices, particularly the price of uranium, and we have seen some reductions in uranium prices.

BHP has continued to say that Olympic Dam is there and something that they're keen about.

There's been a lot of myth-making about the future of Olympic Dam and I don't think we should be starting myths today based on analysis of-

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Well, I think you will find when you actually look at BHP and its personnel that the incoming CEO, Mr MacKenzie, has been very strongly involved in this project.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the Greens, if you could see this coming and if you have such fundamental differences with them on the issue of jobs, why didn't you end the relationship?

PM: We entered an agreement with the Greens and with a number of independent members of Parliament to pursue issues that we thought were of importance to the country and we've got a number of them done.

And for that period of time I do think the Greens stepped up to taking some responsibility for some of the changes our nation needs, but I did always anticipate that they would revert to type and they've done so.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what did you actually say to Christine Milne when she called you?

PM: She rang and advised me she was about to make a speech and outline this at the Press Club and I said sort of, "thanks, righto," and that was it.

JOURNALIST: Do you share the ‘good riddance’ sentiment?

PM: I've just said to you what I feel about this.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, this morning Tony Abbott said on 3AW that his office was preparing for a strategy for a third option as Prime Minister or as leader. How are you dealing with that, given Abbott’s already preparing for whether it’s Bill Shorten or an alternative to even Kevin Rudd?

PM: Well that’s just more of Mr Abbott's negativity and what he's not spending his time doing is producing a plan for jobs, a plan for health, a plan for education.

JOURNALIST: Do you feel secure in your position?

PM: I've addressed all of these. We dealt with it all last February.

JOURNALIST: Will you be leading the party to the next election?

PM: I've dealt with all of that in the past too.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you're holding Community Cabinet tonight in a marginal Liberal seat. Is that overly ambitious given the events of the past few days?

PM: Well I'd like to see Boothby better represented in the Federal Parliament.

I grew up there so I know about that seat, I know about its issues, I know what could be done for that seat if it had a more active representative and that's what we want to see at the next election.

So we'll be in Boothby talking to people about the issues that matter to them, but I'll certainly be advocating, come election day, that it's time for a change and time for a more vibrant representative than Dr Southcott.

Thank you very much.

[ENDS]