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Transcript of doorstop: Mardi Dam, Wyong: 25 May 2007: water; Jackie Kelly; Indigenous children/English; climate change advertising; Therese Rein's business.



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FEDERAL LABOR LEADER KEVIN RUDD MP

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, MARDI DAM, WYONG, 25 MAY 2007

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Water; Jackie Kelly; Indigenous Children/English; Climate Change Advertising; Therese Rein’s Business

RUDD: Well, it’s good to be here today with Craig Thompson, our candidate for Dobell, and Belinda Neal, our candidate for Robertson, and Anthony Albanese, the Shadow Minister for Water and Infrastructure.

Why are we here? Because we’re concerned, at a practical level, about how you deal with the Central Coast water problems. And we’ve looked carefully at what the Prime Minister’s National Water Plan provides and we’ve offered the Prime Minister on many occasions, our bipartisan support for dealing with the great challenges of the Murray-Darling. And that’s important and there are still challenges to deal with when it comes to the position of the Victorian Government.

One of the problems with the Government’s current approach to our national water crisis is the Government still has not advanced any proposals for dealing with the challenges or urban water. Some 17 million Australians rely upon one form or another of urban water supplies. And we believe we actually need to work in this area as well.

The Murray-Darling initiative is good in itself, though we’ve still got to get the detail right. But when it comes to the need for urban water across Australia, there we don’t see any proposal so far put forward by the Government. That’s where our proposals come forward.

Most recently, in the Budget Reply, I indicated that Labor would be funding a quarter of a billion dollar national pipes repair plan. Basically, it’s like this. When it comes to water pipes across the country, one of the big problems that you have is the amount of leakage which occurs from old pipes. And in certain cities, as much as 10 per cent and in other cities it goes as high as 30 per cent. And fixing the quality of our water pipes represents such a huge part of an overall national solution in dealing with this most precious resource, water. And that, of course, is a proposal we’ve put forward for use in towns and in cities across Australia in partnership with local water authorities. And we think it’s a very practical plan.

Here today we’re dealing with another practical plan. And that is how do we go about linking this dam here, the Mardi Dam, with the Mangrove Creek Dam behind us, some 22 kms away? And this again, is a practical proposal we want to get behind and support.

I’ve had, so far, many representations from Craig Thompson and from Belinda Neal about what we can do to support this in a practical way. And, therefore, what I’m announcing today is that if we’re elected to form the next government of Australia we’ll commit $40 million, that’s half of the $80 million needed, to construct a pipeline which links these two dams. If we construct this missing link, what happens is we provide a basis for long term water security for this important part of Australia’s Central Coast. And I think it’s a very practical plan for the future and I’m pleased to be able to support it.

The representations which have been made by our two local candidates have been strong and, from our point of view, successful because there’s lot of competition from right across Australia for the available funds which are dedicated to water projects of this type. And we decided to support this one.

If we construct this missing link, we think it’s a very practical step forward in order to secure long term water supply. I’m very pleased to be able to support this.

And before taking your questions on any other subject, I’ll quickly flip to the candidates who might wish to add in terms of this important project.

THOMPSON: Well, just quickly, it’s a tremendous announcement for the Central Coast. We’ve been on Level 4 water restrictions for close to two years, and without this missing link, that’s something that we’ve continued to look to in

the future. What it actually does for us on the Central Coast is increase the catchment area three-fold so we go from having a small catchment area up in the mountains to being able to harvest the water from the coast, where we’ve had

the most rainfall in recent times, but also to increase that catchment area three-fold. Without this, the Cental Coast was close to running dry and it’s a central part of the infrastructure, one that we’ve campaigned hard on. We’ve had five and a half thousand signatures within the last two weeks from people saying, ‘let’s just get on and build the pipeline’. And Kevin’s promise today makes that possible if there’s a Labor Government that’s elected.

NEAL: The Central Coast community has told us that what is important is water. A solution to the crisis for the Central Coast and we have listened to those views expressed from people on the Central Coast and we taken steps necessary to secure water for the Central Coast and provide a solution to their real problem.

RUDD: OK. I’m happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, are you confident that the State Government will put some money in now? They have been less than enthusiastic about supporting this project and have said it’s all up to the councils?

RUDD: Well, we’ve made sure today that it’s not all up to the councils. I understand the local Liberal Member’s attitude to this is a 100 per cent council responsibility. We’re saying, no, 50 per cent of the money’s going to

come from us. But we are looking to the local councils to help shoulder the burden and take the other 50 per cent on their shoulders as well. That’s the partnership. The State Government as I understand it, has made many other investments in water in this wider region and I’m sure Anthony can comment on that further if you wish. Any other questions?

JOURNALIST: It’s understood that Jackie Kelly isn’t contesting the next election, is that a sign that she’s jumping the Titanic of Mr Howard?

RUDD: Oh, look, I think each individual Member of Parliament makes their own decisions. I know Jackie Kelly pretty well. I just wish her very well, all the best. I wish Jackie Kelly all the best for her retirement from politics.

I’m sure she wants to spend some time with her family. Whatever our political differences are with Jackie Kelly, she does work hard, I concede that, and all I’d say on a day like this is we wish her well.

JOURNALIST: Do you think now that you can win Lindsay, now that’s she’s not going to recontest?

RUDD: Can I say that every seat in Australia, including the seats of Dobell and Robertson, are going to be tough seats for us to win. Remember, history is against Labor when it comes to this election. We’ve only won from Opposition twice since the second World War. Winning seats like Lindsay,

Robertson, like Dobell, is going to take a huge amount of effort. But our challenge is this, it’s to put forward a comprehensive plan for Australia’s future. A big part of that plan is climate change and water. And a big part of that plan in turn is what we’re planning to do here with this 22 km pipeline which links this dam with the one on the other side at Mangrove Creek.

JOURNALIST: But her departure will make it easier for you, won’t it? Obviously, it’s a slap in the face for John Howard, isn’t it?

RUDD: My attitude to this is that every seat, whether it’s Lindsay or whether it’s Robertson or whether it’s Dobell, is going to be a tough ask. We’re up against the most clever politician this country has seen, in Mr Howard, and I know we’re going to have a really tough fight come election day. And, therefore,

every seat, whoever the candidate is for Labor or for the Coalition, it’s going to be fought very much on the question of our alternative plan for Australia is future versus Mr Howard’s, and our alternative plan for local communities, be they

Lindsay, be they Robertson, or be they in Dobell. Can I just say, water is essential, it’s the life blood of local communities. Getting it right, in terms of the need for water in our towns and cities, if we don’t get that right we’ve got a huge problem ahead of us. And that’s why I’m proud of this plan that we’ve put forward to you today - $40 million - practical support for the people of the Central Coast.

JOURNALIST: On your problems with your wife’s company, any thoughts to giving up your day job yourself?

RUDD: I was talking to my wife last night in London and Therese is coming home from London a little earlier. We’ll be talking all about her company and those sorts of questions when she gets back to Brisbane tomorrow sometime.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

RUDD: Well, look, I love my wife dearly. I’m proud of all that she’s done, building up a business from nothing over nearly the last 20 years. This is a really tough question for her and for us. I’ve always supporter her in what she’s done. She’s always supported me in what I’ve done. But we’ll be having a couple of cups of tea over the weekend up in Brissy.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

RUDD: No, what I’ll be clarifying is that Therese is on her way back from London and she’s coming home a bit early and we’ll be having a chat in Brissy over the weekend about these things. Therese has worked really hard to build up this business over a long period of time. We all make mistakes. I make

them in politics and I’m sure she’d say the same in terms of business. And, as she’s indicated already in her statement and in mine yesterday, she’ll now review all these matters concerning the internal arrangements with her company and the common law contracts and make sure that if there’s anything wrong, they’ll be put to right.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, in regards to your comments yesterday, you’ve been accused of taking a swipe at the PM’s wife and her plans to choose to stay at home. Did you want to make a comment about that?

RUDD: I admire Mrs Howard enormously, and I’ve said so consistently in the past and my wife, Therese, has said so as well. What I was saying yesterday was that women must have the right to choose, the right to choose to be a stay at home mum, the right to choose to nurture a home or the right to choose to go to work or to build their own professional career. That’s the right to choose on the part of women that I support and that’s what I was saying yesterday.

JOURNALIST: Back to water, do you think Mr Howard will now agree to match the amount that you’ve put forward today or even maybe putting in some more?

RUDD: Well, can I say this. My concern for communities like this, and this is a beautiful community, I’ve been here a few times before, in fact I’ve an aged aunt who lives down the road somewhere and I’ll be having a chat with her on my way back to Sydney, is that when it comes to beautiful communities like this, the most practical thing the government, or alternative government, can do is to ensure its long term water supply. We put our money on the table and my challenge to Mr Howard is let’s be positive as well. Let him do the same. I’m a bit disappointed that the local Liberal Member hasn’t been out there campaigning on this. He should be. Because it depends on the strength of your local representation that you actually get support for projects like this up. And can I say, the competition for available funds for water projects nationwide is huge. But when you have a Craig, and when you’ve got a Belinda coming to us with these very strong representations, decisions are being taken up, lots of work in the local community, and we listen to that and get behind it. It’s also a project, I understand, which has the endorsement of the local council.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of laws, possibly being introduced that all Aboriginal children be taught English?

RUDD: I haven’t studied the detail of what Mal Brough has said today, but I think as we approach the 40th Anniversary on Sunday, I’m interested in getting behind in a positive way, for things that are going to benefit indigenous Australians. And therefore, I don’t want to be a hypocrite and say that I don’t support some of the things that the Government is putting forward. Making sure that young, indigenous children speak not just their own language, but also speak English well, is a priority which both sides of politics in Australia share. So, as a matter of general principal, I see nothing wrong with what has been put forward by Mr Brough at all, but I’d like to study the detail.

JOURNALIST: In regards to Sunday (Inaudible)

RUDD: It is really important because you know the wonderful thing about this country of ours Australia, is that we’re a country which recognises the great achievements of our past. Also recognises because we’re such a practical bunch of people where we’ve got a few things wrong. And I think this provides us with an opportunity for sober reflection for what was done right back in 1967 and the work we still yet have to do when it comes to lifting the life expectancy of indigenous Australians. It’s going to be an important event - I’m looking forward to participating in it.

JOURNALIST: Do you think this is a vote winner (inaudible)

RUDD: I always say this: I support local candidates and members who get behind their local communities. If they work hard and get in behind their local communities, I’m pretty confident local communities will then get in behind them. But you know, if you’re just into short term pre-election politics, it never really works. The Australian people look you in the eye and what they want to know is whether you’re fair dinkum about standing up for the things that matter to them. Water is basic, this 22 kilometre pipeline is basic stuff, it’s good stuff that governments can do. We’ve put our money on the table and I’m confident both Craig and Belinda will be getting that message out to the local people here.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, another $23 million ad campaign from the Howard Government on how well they’re dealing with climate change.

RUDD: I might say something on that and I’m going to turn to Anthony Albanese who’s been following this forensically. Yesterday in Parliament, I think it was yesterday Anthony? Yesterday in Parliament, Mr Howard denied all knowledge of the government having signed any contracts for any new advertising campaign on climate change or the environment, I think I’ve got that absolutely right haven’t I Anthony? Suddenly, mysteriously today, we have a $23 million campaign about to burst on to our television sets and into our letter boxes. Funny that. Can I just say: when it comes to something as important as climate change and water, the Australian people want fair dinkum, long-term policies that work, not short-term pre-election pitches through a PR campaign. Anthony, why don’t you add to that?

ALBANESE: This week we asked in Parliament about whether the Government had a climate change information plan planned. It is the case that not only has a $178,000 research, market research activity been commissioned in order to commission polling groups and focus groups on the pamphlet that’s planned, but also on the letter from the Prime Minister that will go out as a

covering letter for that campaign. It’s quite extraordinary that the Prime Minister said very explicitly in Parliament that neither the Government or his department or his office had commissioned that work.

We know now that not only has market research been done, but a contract has been signed with advertising agencies for that particular campaign. We know that it was approved by the Government committee which looks after advertising on which Tony Nutt, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff sits as his representative. And yesterday in the Parliament, at 4.30 I rose, opposite the Special Minister for State, Gary Nairn, who was in the chamber at the time as the Minister on duty and challenged him to deny that the Prime Minister had mislead the Parliament

on this issue. You can’t have, I don’t think, 11 years of climate change inaction and indeed denial and scepticism and then spend tens of millions of dollars of

taxpayers’ funds in the lead up to an election and have any credibility on climate change and water.

And I think that the Prime Minister has some very serious answers to give as to how his answers in Parliament match with the truth of what has occurred here and they are matters which will be pursued next week.

JOURNALIST: Just finally on, the Prime Minister will find out today (inaudible) a $10 million freeway over the Blue Mountains, the State Government also chucked in the other half, is that (inaudible)

RUDD: I like the idea of chopping $5 million by the way, but can I just say this: I’m not aware of the details that the PM has put forward, it seems to me to be a very significant project talked about here and I’d much rather get across the detail first before I comment if that’s okay.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) effect you chances at the election and also how do you think (Inaudible)

RUDD: Look as I said yesterday in Canberra, this has been pretty embarrassing for myself and my wife, Therese. As I said we all make mistakes, I make them in politics. I was talking to her last night and she knows that mistakes are made in business too. But she’s determined to make sure all that’s right and I understand the Government has now got the Office of Workplace Services looking at these matters as well. I think it’ll be important to ensure that all these matters are properly attended to, but in terms of it being embarrassing, of course it is. What Therese has indicated is that she’ll be reviewing carefully all of her existing Commonwealth contracts to make sure there are no problems and of course dealing with any which arise and that’s what she would do normally in the management of a large company. Therese’s company built up from scratch, employs about 1,200 people around the world in four different countries and I think she said to me last night she wishes she had have paid more attention to the detail of this when she purchased this new company in the middle of last year in Victoria.

On the second question you raise which is the compatibility of careers, it’s a tough one for us all. Anyone who has got a working partner, a working husband or working wife or just juggling with the life/work balance in terms of home commitment of raising kids and making a home, this is a tough challenge for everybody. In terms of Therese and myself, obviously that’s a big one, it’s a challenge for us, I’ve always supported Therese in business, she’s built up her business from scratch into a large company which is now an Australian exporter and I’ve always been very reluctant to ask her to do anything different to what she would otherwise do. But we’ll have a chat about that over the course of the weekend.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

RUDD: Well look on these questions as I’ve said before, obviously this has been embarrassing, but when it comes to the future of Mr Howard’s industrial relations laws, Mr Howard’s program for Australia is his AWAs. And AWAs are recognised by so many working people across this country as not providing fairness or balance within the workplace. We intend to restore the balance for all Australian workplaces and that’s why we are committed to an alternative program on industrial laws.

JOURNALIST: How soon will you and your wife make a decision, Tony Abbott said it needs to be resolved quickly?

RUDD: Well I’ll leave what he has to say to one side. This is a family matter for Therese and myself, I think it’s very important that the Australian people have got some idea of where we stand on these questions in the lead-up to the election.

JOURNALIST: Do you accept there is a conflict of interest?

RUDD: Look, we’ve always said that if the Australian people elected the Labor Party to form the next Government of Australia, then what we would do, we’d take the advice of Dr Peter Shergold, who is Mr Howard’s Secretary of

the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the advice we’d seek from him would be on the whole question of any conflict of interest in Government. Now, because of the events of recent days and what I said in Canberra yesterday, I’ve discussed with Therese the need to have a bit more of a look at all this and we intend to do that in the days ahead as a family and as a husband and as a wife. And it’s a challenge we face very much at a family and personal level.

ends