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Transcript of doorstop: Campbelltown: 17 November 2008: opening of University of Western Sydney School of Medicine; Better Universities Renewal Funding; GP training places; ABC Learning Centres; Australian Council of Local Government meeting; G20 Summit; Global Financial Crisis; Fair Work Australia legislation.



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The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Minister for Social Inclusion. Deputy Prime Minister

17 November, 2008

Transcript

Doorstop Interview - Campbelltown

Opening of University of Western Sydney School of Medicine; Better Universities Renewal Funding; GP training places; ABC Learning Centres; Australian Council of Local Government meeting; G20 Summit; Global Financial Crisis; Fair Work Australia legisl

JULIA GILLARD: Can I say it’s delightful to be here in Sydney’s West for the opening of the School of Medicine at the University of Western Sydney. This is a great day for the West of Sydney. A great day because its Medical School is opening; a great day because it’s going to give young people who grow up in the West of Sydney a real opportunity to go and study medicine, to go to the university down the road in their region and study medicine locally; and a great day for people in the West of Sydney generally because the students who study here are far more likely to stay and work in Sydney’s West. This is an area that has faced medical shortages. This Medical School will make a long term difference for health care in this region - home grown doctors to meet home grown needs.

It’s been an absolute delight to be here to talk to the staff of this university, to the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, the staff who work in this Medical School, but most importantly of all, to talk to the students - the students overwhelmingly from Sydney’s West who want to become doctors to work in Sydney’s West.

It’s also been a delight to be here to announce the way in which our $15.8 million investment in this university through the Better Universities Renewal Fund will be used. It will be used for five separate projects across the campuses of the University of Western Sydney. It’ll make a difference for student amenities. It will make a difference for science, for engineering, for Indigenous students. It’s great to see that money put to such good use in such a great university.

Of course that $15.8 million was part of our half a billion dollar investment this year in the future of Australian universities. We want to make sure that Australian kids can come to universities with great facilities. That’s what the Better Universities Renewal Fund is about, and of course, what investments like this one in the Medical School in the University of Western Sydney is all about.

JOURNALIST: The enthusiasm here today, Julia Gillard, is really a sort of tacit admission, is it not, that you’re playing catch up on health in Western Sydney, aren’t you?

JULIA GILLARD: I think the enthusiasm here today is a function of people knowing that there is a need in this community and that this is a big part of the solution. All the evidence shows that if you train in a region, you are much more likely to stay and work there. So the

students that come to this university who overwhelmingly have lived locally will overwhelmingly stay and work locally. It’s home grown doctors for home grown needs, and I think that that is fantastic for this region.

JOURNALIST: How would you describe the facilities and the amount of doctors in the West at the moment? I mean you’re coming from behind, aren’t you?

JULIA GILLARD: This nation is coming from behind on doctor numbers. One of the first things that the former government, the Liberal Government did, when it came to office right back in 1996 was cut the number of GP training places—the number of places to go and learn and become a general practitioner. Now we all know it takes a long time to make a doctor, so those cutbacks in 1996 are showing in communities across the country now and they’re showing in Sydney’s West.

What can we do? Well, we can invest in facilities like this one to make a difference for the future. We can also increase the number of GP training places and the government has just move to introduce 175 new general practitioner training places at the cost of $148 million. So, I agree, we have a legacy left from the former government where we’re short of health workforce right around the country. We’re short in Sydney’s West. This School of Medicine is a big part of the solution and investing in our medical workforce through new GP training places is also part of the solution.

JOURNALIST: What about State Labor? I mean would you endorse the job that State Labor’s done when it comes to hospitals over the last 10 years in Western Sydney?

JULIA GILLARD: We are working with our state and territory colleagues around the country for better investments in health. We know that when the last health care agreements were struck between the Howard Government and state and territory governments around the country, more than $1 billion was cut out of those agreements. We want to make sure that there are new investments in health. Already this Government has invested $1 billion in our hospitals extra, $600 million extra in dealing with elective surgery waiting lists, and at the

Council of Australian Governments meeting at the end of this year, we will strike new health care funding arrangements for the future. We’ve got to be investing in health. It’s vital to Australians right around the country and, of course, it’s vital to those in Sydney’s West who will be looking to this new Medical School as a big part of the solution for their future.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it would be a good idea for local councils to take over ABC Learning Centres?

JULIA GILLARD: We have said to people around the country who have expressed interest in the future of ABC Learning Centres to register that interest with the receiver. Local councils are saying they want to step forward. We have some companies who want to step forward. We have some not-for-profit organisations who want to step forward. The process is for all of them to register their interest with the receiver and then, of course, the receiver is working through with the Australian Government, the Rudd Labor Government, the future of each and every ABC Learning Centre.

But the Government has already provided up to $22 million to the receiver to ensure that ABC Learning Centres stay open until the 31st of December this year. And I would stress that money has been made available to the receiver. I think some people have come to the conclusion that money has been made available to ABC Learning. That’s not right. The money has been available to the receiver to support the centres so that they’re there providing care to working mums and dads until the 31st of December this year. And prior to the end of the year, we’ll announce, having worked with the receiver, the future of each ABC Learning Centre.

JOURNALIST: Just on the issue of local councils, the mayoral conference starts tomorrow. There are reports you’re going to loosen the purse strings and throw a bit of money their way. Is that because you’re trying to bypass state governments? I mean, is there a preference to

work with local government on the part of the Federal Government now?

JULIA GILLARD: Having this local government conference in Canberra tonight and tomorrow is a very important new development. It’s the first time 565 mayors of local councils right around the country have come to Canberra to talk directly to the Federal

Government. I’m looking forward to attending it. I will be there this evening and tomorrow morning. What I expect is we will hear from local council about needs in their areas right around the country. And, of course the government, prior to the election, said we wanted to talk to governments about the potential for constitutional recognition of local government, and we’ll further that discussion at this local government conference.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t it a reflection of dysfunctional state governments though?

JULIA GILLARD: It’s a reflection of the fact that the Rudd Labor Government last year, in the lead up to the election, said we believe local governments are the level of government closest to their community and we believe that the Federal Government should have a direct relationship with the level of government closest to community needs.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Prime Minister should’ve made it a little clearer at the G20 as to what our financial direction is? It was a very generic outcome. Australia’s economic position is certainly very different to those that were also at the Summit.

JULIA GILLARD: Can I say, firstly, I think it was very important that the Prime Minister attended the G20. It was a gathering of world leaders to deal with the consequences of the global financial crisis. What world leaders have agreed on is that we need to be stimulating

economies around the world. Of course, the Rudd Labor Government is in front of that curve. We’ve already invested $10.4 billion in our Economic Security Statement.

JOURNALIST: Why won’t you say the word ‘deficit’ at the moment?

JULIA GILLARD: Okay, we’ll take one more from you and two more … two or three more and then I seriously have to go.

JOURNALIST: What happened to the ABC for one brief period, are you or your office receiving first-hand calls from parents or families worried about what’s going to happen next year with their child care? Have you been hearing from families directly?

JULIA GILLARD: Look, I have heard from families directly. Obviously, Members of the Government have heard from families directly. We want to make sure families get the benefit of the most up-to-date information. That’s why almost immediately, within hours of the receiver taking over ABC Learning, we created a dedicated information hotline—the number is 180 2003—and why we have regularly updated the mychild.gov.au website so people can get information. Both the hotline and the website are showing demand, showing traffic. People are ringing in, people hitting on the relevant pages of the website. We want to make sure that the information is there each and every day. So if anybody is anxious about the situation, I would certainly advise them to use the hotline or to go to the website.

JOURNALIST: In regards to the State Labor, the NSW Party, do you think the impact of the NSW dramas will affect the Federal Government at all? What impacts do you think?

JULIA GILLARD: Obviously we want to work with our state and territory colleagues around the country on issues of importance to Australians around the country. In my own portfolio area, there’s nothing more important to the future of this nation than our education system and that’s why we’re working with state and territory colleagues to deliver, at the Council of Australian Governments meeting at the end of this year, new funding arrangements for education; better and new investments into schools around the country. So we will keep working on the key priorities of health and education with all governments, including the NSW Government. Now I’ll take a question here because you’ve missed out shockingly.

JOURNALIST: In the polls this morning, 68 per cent of people said they were happy with Rudd’s handling of the economy even though 22 per cent they were worse off now than what they were a year ago. What was your reaction to that figure? Were you surprised it was so

high?

JULIA GILLARD: I think Australians understand these are difficult times, that the global financial crisis is feeding into recession in many countries around the world and that that’s not going to leave this nation untouched. I think Australians understand that. I think they also understand that the Rudd Government has acted decisively to keep our economy growing.

That’s what the $10.4 billion Economic Security Statement was about. So I think we are seeing those sentiments reflected by Australians. I’ll take one more question.

JOURNALIST: Going to watch The Howard Years tonight?

JULIA GILLARD: Unfortunately, I’m not able to. I will be attending the dinner associated with the local government conference, but I might catch up with it in due course. You never know.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, I just really need to get in a question about the stuff in the Fin Review, about your industrial legislation. Is it the case that union leaders will be able to look at employee records, including employees who might not be union members under your legislation?

JULIA GILLARD: What is certainly the case is under our legislation we want to strike a balance where everybody abides by their legal obligations. We want to make sure that in workplaces right around this country, no one is being underpaid, no one is being ill-treated. Unions have had a historic role in looking at records. If they are trying to investigate a breach of an award or agreement—that is, they’ve got a reasonable suspicion someone’s being underpaid or badly treated—in those circumstances they will be able to look at records, but they will have to abide by every obligation under the Privacy Act and there will be strict penalties for misusing information so people’s privacy will be guaranteed and protected.

JOURNALIST: Just quickly Ms Gillard, if that’s all right— in regards to South Each Queensland, they’ve been hit by storms - will the Federal Government consider funding relief for them, to help with the storm relief?

JULIA GILLARD: We’re always prepared to talk to State governments when there are circumstances of natural disaster in line with the normal protocols. Obviously State governments respond first and then we work through the issues with them. Okay, thank you very much.

Media Contact: Deputy Prime Minister's Press Office: 02 6277 7758 media@deewr.gov.au Non-media queries: 1300 363 079