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Transcript of interview with Michael Rowland: ABC News Breakfast: 23 August 2013: small business package; Paid Parental Leave; polls; Sky News people's forum; Daily Telegraph; Syria

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Campaign Transcript


E & O E - PROOF ONLY _____________________________________________________________

Subjects: Small Business package; Paid Parental Leave; Polls; Sky News people’s forum; Daily Telegraph; Syria _____________________________________________________________

HOST: We're joined on the program now by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. He is campaigning in Western Sydney this morning. Prime Minister, good morning and thank you very much for your time.

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. Thanks for having me on the program.

HOST: You are about to announce a very important policy regarding GST for small business. Talk us through that.

PM: Sure, well small business is a huge part of the Australian economy. There are about 3 million small businesses out there. 3 million-plus, probably employing about 5 million Australians altogether. So, it's one of the pillars of our future economy. Therefore, the responsibility of government is to constantly seek to remove the red tape burden from them. Yesterday, in Geelong and Victoria, I announced two specific measures to make sure that small businesses were in fact going to be able to benefit from the Government's superannuation clearing house on the one hand and also a central clearing house to deal with small businesses parental leave questions as well.

To take those off the back of small business and to use Government to, in fact, process all the paperwork for them. This follows in exactly the same direction, it's about how we reduce the compliance burden for small business for the Goods and Services Tax. Currently, if you are a small business with a turnover of more than $2 million a year, what happens is that you have to complete a Business

Activity Statement four times a year. Now, that is a big, big administrative burden. In fact our analysis suggests it takes up about 50 per cent of the compliance time faced by small business.

Our change today is we are going to take that threshold from $2 million right up to $20 million. We are going to increase it by 10 times and the reason for that is that we want 1.35 million Australian small businesses out there to be able to spend more time in their business, less time acting as the compliance agent for the Australian Government.

HOST: You're campaigning this morning in Western Sydney, Mr Rudd, the latest Newspoll out today shows that the Labor Party is set to lose a swag of seats in that region, including Werriwa, which you know was once held by former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. Is the Labor Party campaign now simply about saving the furniture?

PM: I think the people need to think about this in the terms of some political history. I am old enough to remember what happened in a campaign 20 years ago in 1993, where the then Australian Labor Prime Minister Mr Keating entered the race as the underdog, then we got down to the last week or two of the campaign where people then really focussed on the detail of what they were thinking about supporting, in terms of then Liberal leader John Hewson. I believe we are heading in a similar direction here in Australia, in this campaign because the simple choice is this - everyone's core focus here in Australia right now is on their jobs, job security and having a family or a household pay packet. If you don't have that, everything else falls away.

I am passionate about jobs. The last five or six years, despite the GFC, we’ve added nearly a million jobs in the Australian economy and we are going to continue to build jobs into the future. That is a core part of what we are saying to the Australian people. The alternative is Mr Abbott who says he's got 70 billion dollars in a hidden plan worth of cuts to jobs, to health, to education, he will take away all forms of co-investment support from the car industry that employs directly and indirectly a quarter of a million Australians.

On top of that, 3,000 frontline health workers and he says his priority is in fact this paid parental leave scheme, $22 billion worth of payments to give folk up to 75,000 dollars for six months, even if they are millionaires or billionaires. So when it all comes down to it, people are going to ask themselves does Mr Abbott share my priorities or not? Who is best at building the jobs for my community and my business for the future? And on top of that, is something as bizarre as this unfunded and unaffordable paid parental leave scheme represent the right priorities for Australia? I think it's going to get into very sharp focus in the remaining couple of weeks of this campaign.

HOST: You're in Western Sydney, a lot of people voting in Western Sydney buy The Daily Telegraph every day and we're going show our viewers the front page

greeting them this morning. It is a mock-up of you as the Mr Men character Mr Rude, based on your encounter with that make-up artist in Brisbane. Firstly, Prime Minister, I want to get your views on this front page on The Daily Telegraph and also whether you worry this encounter going to harm you electorally?

PM: I actually have a belief in something just called the truth. The truth of what this beat-up on the front page of one of Mr Murdoch's papers is on about today, the truth underpinning it is this - in the Brisbane debate the other night with Mr Abbott, two or three minutes before going on this person comes in, I didn't know they were coming actually, to put some stuff on my face before I went on to participate in the debate. I was talking to my staff and thinking about, in the zone if you like, about what I was about to do. I look up, I smile, something gets splashed on my face, I smile and then I'm walking in the direction of the stage. That’s actually what happened. No words were exchanged. I was in the zone.

Now, if from that, I think you should also look at what this person had to say on their Facebook page or in their online communications yesterday, where they regretted the comments that they’d made. I don't intend to make a mountain out of a molehill, it is just one of those things that happens during a campaign. Not an angry word was exchanged and I simply smiled. Now people can take different things out of encounters like that.

I think the more interesting thing is why is it that day after day after day, whether it's The Daily Telegraph, or the other papers Mr Murdoch owns right across Australia, The Courier Mail, The Herald Sun, The Adelaide Advertiser, The Hobart Mercury, and the Sunday equivalents of those papers in every capital in the country owned by Mr Murdoch, why is it that they are constantly taking a club to our Government and not putting Mr Abbott under one minute's scrutiny? The answer for that is pretty simple - Mr Murdoch wants Mr Abbott to be the Prime Minister. He's said so directly again during this election campaign. So, I don't think we're getting exactly what you describe as a fair shake of the sauce bottle out of those guys.

HOST: Just finally, briefly, Prime Minister, we've been covering the ongoing crisis in Syria on the program this morning. France, as you may with aware, is now calling for force to be used as a result of that chemical gas attack. Would you support such a move?

PM: Well, what I've said yesterday and what I have said again there morning is that the first responsibility for any national leader at times like this is to calmly and coolly evaluate the facts. I have seen all the footage, it's horrific. It makes your stomach turn. But I have also been in contact with our Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Quinlan. Australia is now on the UN Security Council. In fact, will chair the council next month, September, in New York. And the current focus is on the UN Secretary-General having the existing inspection

team in Damascus, being given permission by the Syrian Government to establish what was used here, who did it and how many people have been killed and injured.

That’s where it's up to today and I intend to be talking to the UN Secretary-General within the next few hours because I understand he has a further statement to make on this matter within the next 24 hours. Once we establish the facts, the next stage is what does the international community do in terms of an appropriate, robust and effective response.

HOST: Prime Minister, thank you very much for your time this morning.

PM: Thanks for having me on the program.


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