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Transcript of interview with Jon Faine: 774 ABC Melbourne Mornings: 4 September 2013: population growth; National Broadband Network; infrastructure investment; Global Financial Crisis; Better Schools Plan; Roger Corbett; Rupert Murdoch; DisabilityCare Australia; Paid Parental Leave; asylum seeker policy; Clive Palmer; Steve Bracks; Mr Abbott's cuts

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Campaign Transcript


E & O E - PROOF ONLY _____________________________________________________________

Subjects: Population Growth; National Broadband Network; Infrastructure Investment; Global Financial Crisis; Better Schools Plan; Roger Corbett; Rupert Murdoch; DisabilityCare Australia; Paid Parental Leave; Asylum Seeker Policy; Clive Palmer; Steve Bracks; Mr Abbott’s Cuts. _____________________________________________________________

FAINE: Mr Rudd, good morning to you.

PM: Good morning Jon, thanks for having me on the program.

FAINE: Bureau of Statistics data reveals that the four fastest growing postcodes in the entire nation, no not in Western Australia, no not in Queensland, not in Western Sydney, all four of the fastest growing postcodes here in Melbourne. Tony Abbott says he’ll be the infrastructure Prime Minister. What do you offer to those people?

PM: If he intends to be an infrastructure Prime Minister why would you rip up high speed broadband? I think it’s just a no brainer in the first sentence. Broadband for us is a number one priority because it revolutionises people’s lives and for all your listeners, Jon, it’s about having access to high speed broadband, reliable broadband, affordable broadband and you using fibre optic cable and that’s what we offer. And also, freely connected to each house and each business premise because that is going to turbo charge productivity for the 21st century.

FAINE: But broadband doesn’t replace rail, it doesn’t replace bus, it doesn’t replace freeways, does it?

PM: Of course it doesn’t. Our record investment in infrastructure in Victoria is $13.5 billion. If you look up the regional rail link heading out towards Melbourne’s West from Southern Cross Station, that’s a $3 billion investment from us and Mr

Abbott says he’ll never invest in urban rail. I say, for the future, that’s important as is the proposed new metro upgrade in Melbourne itself but we’ll put those future projects through Infrastructure Australia because that’s the right body to consider them.

FAINE: There’s never been a better time for governments to borrow money to go into debt and to build some of the infrastructure that will see the next phase of growth in the nation. Why don’t you give up on pretending - as both major parties do - that you’re going to return the budget to surplus and invest in some of the much needed infrastructure that we’ve been calling for?

PM: Well the first thing I’d say Jon, in response to that is that during the Global Financial Crisis we temporarily borrowed and, if you asked all your listeners, who now have in their local primary schools a better new 21st century library, multipurpose facilities, new science centres, new language centres, new trades training centres. We’ve done a lot of that right across Victoria, in fact, we’ve got the sum of 600 new libraries, we’ve got 109 new science centres. And in terms of computers in schools - a quarter of a million new computers in Victorian schools. Many of them didn’t have one for one laptops before, now they do. So you ask about infrastructure, education infrastructure’s also a key part of this-

FAINE: - So why don’t we do it again? If you strip out the mining and resources sector from the economy, it’s clear that most of the rest of the sectors that contribute are struggling. Isn’t it time for another burst of exactly that sort of activity but in a different way?

PM: Well again I go back to the revolutionary potential of high speed broadband. It’s, in my view Jon, and I think the view of many analysts the equivalent of the railway network of the 19th century, the freeway and motorway network of the 20th century. If you’re not connected and fully wired in the 21st century, school to school, hospital to General Practitioner, family to family, business to business across the world or if you’re trying to attract international students to come and study at Victoria University, Melbourne University, RMIT or La Trobe or Deakin - guess what, they’re not going to come if we don’t have world class broadband. It is such a revolutionary piece of infrastructure and frankly for Mr Abbott to say he wants to be an infrastructure Prime Minister and then disconnect most of the nation from fibre optic cable. That’s just, in my view, just ludicrous and if you’ve got doubts about his ability to provide you with high speed broadband, I’d say to your listeners, you shouldn’t vote for him.

FAINE: Last night on ABC TV on Lateline, Emma Alberici interviewed Roger Corbett. He’s been on the Reserve Bank board, he’s the chairman of Fairfax, he’s been heavily involved of course in the supermarket duopoly through most of his working life as well. He had a massive whack at you and said basically you shouldn’t be elected. I’ve heard you already this morning saying: well, I’m more interested in helping him create jobs but is this a whack back at you because of

pokies reform, because of the supermarket duopoly comments that you made for instance on Q and A on Monday night?

PM: Well I think people around the country are worried about the accepted power on the part of Coles and Woolies. Farmers are, across the country, and I think some of these smaller, local retailers are worried about it as well -

FAINE: - Is that what motivated Mr Corbett to have a go at you?

PM: That’s a question for you to put to him but what I’d say is when we look at the huge stimulus given to domestic consumption in our country during the height of the Global Financial Crisis, much of which flowed through to retail outlets because 15 per cent of Australians have their jobs there. I think outfits like that have benefited enormously from the actions of the government, businesses have benefited enormously from interest rates being at six year lows. I respect Mr Corbett talking up his own business book and his business interests. That’s a matter for him. Mr Murdoch does the same but guess what? Australian voters make up their own mind.

FAINE: He also in the interview equated that Paid Parental Leave scheme Tony Abbott is offering with the National Disability Insurance Scheme that’s been bipartisan policy after being put through by Julia Gillard, just very briefly Prime Minister, here’s what he said about the NDIS and the Paid Parental Leave scheme.


FAINE: Do you think the two are equivalents?

PM: I think it unfortunately says a lot about various people’s set of priorities. The National Disability Insurance Scheme, which began out of the 2008, 2020 summit as an idea and is now a reality and Julia, as you just said, had huge role in making sure that happened. It’s out there to support half a million Australians, when it’s fully implemented, who have a disability. To equate that with a Paid Parental Leave scheme which costs $22 billion and which provide $75,000 in the back pocket of folks who have incomes north of $150,000 and not capped at millionaires and billionaires. It’s just unaffordable and it’s unfair. Particularly when the rest of us have to pay for it through our taxes.

FAINE: But is there a moral equivalence between the nation’s need for a National Disability Insurance Scheme on the one hand and a Paid Parental Leave scheme on the other?

PM: There is no moral equivalence at all between a National Disability Insurance Scheme and Mr Abbott’s unfair and unaffordable Paid Parental Leave scheme. We have a modest one. The first one in the country’s history which we brought in with some opposition back in 2010, which provides 18 weeks on the minimum wage. Therefore, we thought that’s a good way, an affordable way, to help

people. But this one, in terms of priorities, Jon, look at the amount being spent on it, $22 billion, more than $5 billion a year. It’s more than the entire payments by the Australia government to help everyone with childcare nationwide each year.

FAINE: Prime Minister the phone is very muffled, we are able to hear you but -

PM: Sorry.

FAINE: - If it’s possible to get it closer to your mouth I think it will take the strain out people’s ears as well. Scott Morrison has confirmed in the newspapers this morning that if he is the Minister for Immigration then asylum seeker numbers, boats arriving and people, will be treated as operational issues through the military and kept as official secrets.

PM: Well, as you know Jon, people are criticised a lot on the question of people smugglers and on asylum seekers policy. It’s a massively difficult policy issue but my attitude is with anyone around the world, if they are an asylum seeker or they become a refugee is that they are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity. Secondly we’re transparent about what happens under this government’s policy. Whenever a boat arrives we tell people, transparently, what’s occurred and what are the circumstances. I really do fear a culture of secrecy because Mr Abbott is out there claiming that he will stop the boats. Mind you, his policy more recently is how to buy back the boats it seems, then surely his side of politics would be open to the argument that they should be transparent about their success or failure against that measure.

FAINE: But you have been competing with each other to see who can come up with the most draconian policies. It’s almost as if once he’s announced this it’s something your side of politics might have wished they’d thought of too.

PM: Absolutely not. We’ve been in office for five or six years, when have we ever sought to close down or create censorship over the number of boat arrivals and the number of folks here? We have had plenty of opportunities to do that if we wanted to and we’ve chosen not to because in a democracy this should be dealt with transparently and also on the question of asylum seekers, we’ve increased the official intake of refugees into this country from 12,000 a year to 20,000 a year and depending on the success of the implementation of the regional resettlement arrangements would then considering increasing our refugee intake up to 27,000 a year, which makes us close to the second largest resettlement country in the world behind Canada.

FAINE: You’re at risk from disappearing from us again Mr Rudd.

PM: It must be downtown Melbourne. I’m in the back of a car so -

FAINE: - I think it’s more to do with the way the handset’s arranged but either way let’s keep going. I’ve got just one more if I may…

PM: Yeah sure.

FAINE: Clive Palmer is reported on the front page of today’s Australian newspaper to be calling on his staff and paying people to be candidates and to hand out how to vote cards. Is that how democracy should be practiced in Australia?

PM: Look I don’t know the details of what Clive’s up to. Frankly, he’s a unique individual, our Clive. So I don’t know what he’s doing in his campaign. Good luck to him. It’s a democracy. People get to choose but the important thing in this country, Jon, is that people get the opportunity to make up their own minds. Looking at what’s happening an unfolding in Syria at present we’re reminded of the precious nature of a democracy and therefore how much every person’s vote is valued and considered and therefore I just urge all your listeners and I’m sure they will anyway that when they are voting to remember as they go to put that piece of paper into the ballot box that there’s a whole bunch of people around the world who never have that privilege.

FAINE: And the front page of the Age reports that it’s Rupert Murdoch’s fault that things aren’t going so well for the Labor Party. You’re quoted as saying that you’re fighting the coalition of Liberal Party and Rupert Murdoch in this particular campaign. Is that just a making Rupert Murdoch a scapegoat, an excuse for any failure on the Labor Party and your part?

PM: All that I’ve reflected there is what I’ve reflected before the election campaign began, Jon, and that is, you know as well as I do, what the stated position of Mr Murdoch’s newspapers are and he controls 70 per cent or owns 70 per cent of the newspapers in this country. Therefore it’s clear he supports Mr Abbott. He’s made that absolutely clear from day one and your listeners will make up their mind about whether that represents fair and balanced coverage. But plainly, you see the newspapers which Mr Murdoch owns running a very strong line in support of Abbott, well, good luck to ‘em. It’s a democracy. I don’t think it’s a crime against humanity to point out a fact.

FAINE: No but you courted his support and at various times had their support too.

PM: Well I’ve got to say, going into the 2007 election, if you remember what happened during 2007 both myself, my wife, my family, were put through the wringer by Mr Murdoch’s newspapers big time. My wife’s business interests came under sustained attack by Mr Murdoch’s newspapers. I think people need to look very carefully at what happened in ’07. And in terms of what’s happening now, I think people would see this as an entirely different kettle of fish.

As I said, it’s a free country. People get to make up their own mind but, and I’m sure all your listeners will make their own judgement about whether there’s been fair and balanced reporting by Mr Murdoch’s mastheads. In fact if you go through

all the capital cities of Australia. The city I come from, Brisbane, the national daily - the Australian - is owned by Mr Murdoch, the Courier Mail is owned by Mr Murdoch, your local throwaway newspapers are owned by Mr Murdoch. So the same basically in Adelaide and almost the same in other capitals as well.

FAINE: And now you’ve got the chairman of Fairfax having a go at you as well who publish the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age and the Financial Review.

PM: People can talk their own business book, that’s a matter for them. Mr Murdoch obviously has business interests. I’m sure Mr Corbett does as well and there’s a whole lot of other business interests like mining companies who would welcome Mr Abbott’s proposed change to get rid of the Mining Tax because that goes to their bottom line. So, corporate interests have big interests at stake in this election. My interests and my job as Prime Minister is to look after the jobs of each and every one of your listeners, their pay and their conditions, whether they’re going to have proper funding for their schools and hospitals. As we began this conversation today, whether they’re going to have broadband as a universal right or just a privilege for some.

FAINE: Steve Bracks was appointed by the Labor Government to be our envoy to New York and Julie Bishop’s office are saying that they refuse to confirm his appointment and indeed the whisper is he’s been told he needn’t bother packing his bags if Tony Abbott is successful. Is that dirty pool or not?

PM: Well, Steve Bracks is a good man and I’ve known him for a long time.

FAINE: But he’s a Labor man.

PM: I seem to remember when I was Prime Minister appointing people like Tony Fischer, sorry -

FAINE: - Tim Fischer?

PM: Yes, (inaudible) Tony Abbott before, Tim Fischer, to Rome to the Holy See also Brendan Nelson, a former leader of the Opposition, to be our Ambassador and permanent representative to NATO and to the European Union in Brussels. I remember appointing Peter Costello to be a member of the Future Fund and I have a very simple principle which I articulated back then and it got me into all sorts of trouble with my own team sometimes which is, you know, we should be a nation of all the talents and that is when a person exits political life, let’s use them and harness them for the broader good and I would have thought Steve Bracks falls into that category as well. So I’m a bit surprised by that. I’m more surprised that there seems to be more and more arrogance creeping into the Liberal Party camp who seem to believe that they have this election in the bag without actually asking the Australian people first.

FAINE: Do you still believe you can win? The polls clearly say you can’t.

PM: Well, this is a tough election. I said on day one that we entered this race as underdogs and we remain as underdogs. But my job is to go out there and fight for your listeners who are concerned about their jobs, their job security and whether they are going to have penalty rates and overtime in the future and fight for their schools…

FAINE: Sure but if -

PM: - And the rest and so the whole question about who wins on Saturday, that’s a matter for your listeners and -

FAINE: - Absolutely, but it you’d tracked the opinion polls, if you’d called an election earlier in your return, your phoenix-like return, to the Prime Ministership you may have capitalised then and quicker on the post-Julia Gillard lift in the polls that the Labor Party had and instead it seems that it tapered off very suddenly.

PM: I think there’s no point in having retrospectives about any of that, Jon. We had some things we had to attend to as a government, one of which by the way here in Victoria is spending several weeks bringing, finally, this government, the State Liberal government, to the negotiating table and reaching an agreement on the Better Schools Plan. And so for the good kids and familes of Victoria to have an agreement between the Australian Government and the Victorian Government which will result in billions of additional investment on a needs-based funding formula into Victorian schools was worth doing as a government. You mentioned before the NDIS -

FAINE: - Yes.

PM: - We were also able to use that period to negotiate finally Western Australia coming on board with DisabilityCare Australia. We used that period effectively. It was only four or five weeks but it was the right thing to do. In this election campaign we’ve been out there putting our plans forward, putting a spotlight on Mr Abbott’s alternative plans - which is cuts, cuts and more cuts - and bringing the argument just up to the Australian people for their consideration. And as I said, if there are doubts about Mr Abbott’s ability to manage the economy and create jobs and cut your job then don’t vote for him. Simple as that.

FAINE: I’ve gone way over time and we may get to speak again whether you’re Prime Minister or opposition leader or ex-member of Parliament, Mr Rudd. Either way, to every other candidate and Tony Abbott I’ve said good luck. I say good luck to you, too.

PM: Thanks very much Jon. Thanks for having me on your program. I appreciate it.


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Authorised by G. Wright, Australian Labor Party, 5/9 Sydney Avenue, Barton, ACT, 2600