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Budget 2011: Transcript of doorstop interview: Sydney: 16 May 2011: 2011-12 Budget; skills; regional processing; Industrial relations; planking



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Transcript ofdoorstop interview, Sydney MON 16 MAY 2011

Prime Minister

Subject(s): 2011­12 Budget; Skills; Regional processing; Industrial relations; Planking 

PM: Thank you very much to DB Schenker for having me here this morning. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a number of people who work in this business, including a number who are upgrading their skills through training.

The recent Budget was all about jobs and all about opportunities for Australians. We want to make sure Australians have the benefits of work, and we want to bring more opportunity to Australians, including by investing in their skills.

The Budget contains a $3 billion skills package, and that’s because as Prime Minister I want more Australians to enjoy the benefits and dignity of work. Our economy will be hungry for workers and I want those people who haven’t had an opportunity who are outside our workforce to get the skills and training that they need to get into work.

But I also want to make sure that people who work for businesses like this one have the opportunity to upgrade their skills, to get the next job, a better job, to be on a great pathway in life. I’ve talked to some individuals who have been doing just that, and the Budget enables us to invest more in that kind of training.

We have, in the Budget, a special skills fund to work with businesses so that we can partner with business and create training opportunities that are what industry wants today. It will create 130,000 training places.

Now, I know on a lot of occasions Australians are anxious when they hear about training places, that maybe it’s a lot of training but it’s not going to lead to a better job for people. What’s great about partnering with industry is we end up creating the training that industry needs.

We know that businesses want that training done, because we are working with them in delivering that training.

At the same time that we will be investing with industry in upgrading training, we will be investing to reform the system. Our training system does need reform. Around 1.7 million Australians study in our training system, but unfortunately, each year only around a third of students complete their course. Now that’s telling us that we need to do better with our training system.

So, a big part of the Budget is investing for reform to make sure that our training system is higher quality, more transparent and more matched to the needs of industry.

This is all part of a Budget that was about bringing more opportunities to Australians, making sure Australians have the benefits of work. We are determined to make sure we keep our economy strong so Australians can enjoy its benefits through a job and through training, getting a better job for the future.

I’m very happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, have you been satisfied with the way the Government is selling the Budget?

PM: Well, we’re out here today talking about something that’s very important to all Australians - jobs and training. That’s what the Budget’s about: more jobs and better jobs for Australians through enabling them to get better training.

JOURNALIST: But do you think that message has penetrated? I mean, is it getting a fair go, in terms of reception?

PM: Look, we’ll just be out there explaining to Australians what the Budget is all about. This Budget is the one our nations needs now. We have an economy that is growing in strength, and by 2012-13 it will be running at near full capacity. That means it’s hungry for workers, and I want to see Australians get those opportunities, get the benefits of that all-important

job, and through training be able to improve the jobs and opportunities that they have.

JOURNALIST: Are you frustrated with the Government seemingly just can’t take a trick in terms various initiatives, like the Budget, like the Malaysian (inaudible)? Are you getting frustrated with the reception of all these?

PM: As Prime Minister it’s my job to be explaining what we need for this nation’s future, and that’s what I’m doing with the Budget. There’s nothing more important to me than making sure Australians have the benefits of work. There’s nothing more important to me than making sure our education system is giving Australians opportunities.

I’ve been personally involved in reforming our schools education system and in reforming our university system. It’s time now to turn our attention to vocational education and training.

So I’m very happy, as Prime Minister, to be out there day after day working to improve the opportunities for Australians. That’s what the Budget’s about - better opportunities for all Australians through access to work and access to training.

JOURNALIST: And yet day after day they’re seemingly being rejected. At least, that’s how the headlines would have it, and that’s how today’s poll results would have it as well.

PM: Well, I’m very happy as Prime Minister to be out explaining what this Budget means and what the Government’s doing.

The important thing for Australians is for the economy to be strong. We know that our economy is strengthening, and that’s a good thing, but it does bring with it pressures that

need to be managed, and that’s why we’ve been determined to return the Budget to surplus in 2012-13, determined to ensure Australians have the benefits of work. 500,000 more jobs will be created over the next couple of years, and that comes on top of three quarters of a million jobs that have been created since the Government was elected, and I’m passionate about making sure Australians get the benefits of education and training.

I’m turning my attention, through this Budget, to skills and training for Australians like the Australians I’ve met here today who are very enthusiastic about the opportunity to get a new skill and get a new qualification and improve their prospects at work.

JOURNALIST: Based on that poll result, though, can you claw this back in terms of your own popularity as Prime Minister? (inaudible) past the point of no return?

PM: I’ve got one focus, and my focus is on keeping the economy strong so Australians have got the benefits of jobs, and on making sure we’re doing the right things to spread opportunity.

When I first spoke to the nation as Prime Minister I spoke about the benefits and dignity of work; I spoke about my passion for education; and I spoke about the kind of respect I want Australians to show each other.

In the recent Budget we’ve delivered on those things that I believe in - a strong economy, the benefits of work for Australians, bringing opportunities to Australians who have been left behind, my passion for education on display as we work to improve our skills training system, and of course the Budget is about the kind of respect I think Australians want to show each other, particularly through the new mental health package.

JOURNALIST: What does this say about your personal approval rating dropping today? Is that a reflection on the work you’ve done on the Budget?

PM: Well, we’ll keep explaining what the Budget’s about, the Budget is about one thing - it’s about making sure the economy is strong and Australians have the benefits of that opportunity.

I’ll keep working and explaining that. It’s important for every Australian that we do the right thing to keep our economy strong. This Budget is the right budget for Australia today.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Particularly as Prime Minister, can I say this to you: the important thing is what happens for Australians in their workplaces and in their homes; what happens for them in their lives. There’s nothing more important to making sure people have got a decent life, an opportunity in life, than having a job and having more skills and training to help them get a better job.

That’s the focus of the Budget, and that’s what I will keep working to do as Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST: Do you think you need to change tack in how you communicate that to the people, and to stop them, you know, the Coalition, gaining momentum in the polls?

PM: Look, my focus is on getting the job done, that the economy needs today and that Australians need done today, and that focus is about having a strong economy, delivering more opportunities for all. That’s what the Budget is about, that’s what the Government is about, and we’ll keep doing that work.

JOURNALIST: Well, aren’t the polls a representation that you’re not getting the job done, if you’re losing favour with them?

PM: The real impact of this Budget will more jobs - half a million more jobs for Australians. Now, I think Australians understand very, very deeply that if they don’t have the benefits of a job, if they don’t bring home that all-important pay packet, that for them and their families life would take a fairly grim turn. It’s very important for people to have the benefits of work.

It’s also really important for people to have a hope in the future and that if they work hard, if they upgrade their skills, that they can get a better job, that they can progress over their working lifetime.

That’s what we’re here talking about today - a $3 billion skills investment which will help people who haven’t had the benefit of work to get into work. It will also help working Australians like the ones I’ve met today to get an opportunity for a better job by getting a new qualification, and we will be reforming our training system. It’s got to work to meet the needs of the Australians who study within it and Australian business. That’s what the reform agenda is about and it’s what partnering with businesses like this one is all about, too - making sure that training is right for the jobs of today.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) a number of Labor backbenchers who are feeling uneasy about how Labor is faring in the polls. Are you feeling under threat?

PM: I’m feeling very determined to keep doing what the Government needs to do to keep the economy strong, to keep Australians in work and to bring to them more opportunities.

JOURNALIST: Why do you think people are so unhappy with things as they are at the moment? (inaudible) good things about the Budget?

PM: Well, we’ll keep talking about the good things in the Budget, and we’re doing that here today.

JOURNALIST: Two significant wage claims are being decided upon today. What does that mean for the costs of government and business if they do go that way?

PM: Well, thank for the question, and in the middle of today we will have the outcome of an equal pay case for the social and community services sector, and what I’d say about that case - obviously, the outcome is to be decided later today and so I can’t speculate on the outcome,

and I won’t - but that case has been made possible by the fact that I and the Government got rid of Work Choices.

Let’s just remember what it used to be like under Work Choices, when Mr Abbott was in Government and was spruiking the benefits of Work Choices to Australians. What Work Choices meant was you could have your pay cut, have your overtime taken away, you could be sacked for no reason at all, and there was no effective way under Work Choices for people

whose occupations had been historically undervalued, dismissed as women’s work, to get anything that looked like pay equity.

Well, we fixed that when we got rid of Work Choices and replaced it with the Fair Work system, and I certainly don’t want this nation to ever go back to the days of people going into work and wondering if that was the day that they’d get dismissed for no reason; wondering if that was the day that basic conditions would be stripped out of their pay packet, like an entitlement to overtime.

Of course, Work Choices was Mr Abbott’s system. I got rid of it. We’ve replaced it by the Fair Work system, and that’s what you’ll see working today.

JOURNALIST: Do you think there’ll be uncertainty surrounding Australia’s borders and your move with Malaysia may be having an effect on how people are feeling at the moment?

PM: I believe in strong border protection and we have entered a commitment with Malaysia for an innovative, new agreement which will make a difference. I released around about a week ago now a joint statement with the Prime Minister of Malaysia committing us to enter

an agreement which would help break the business model of people smugglers.

What they’re trying to do is sell a ticket to Australia and processing of asylum claims in Australia. We are trying to take that very product out of their hand. That’s why I’ve been very determined to send a message that claims won’t be processed in Australia. There’s no point getting on a boat because your claim won’t be processed, but we will continue to work

through with Malaysia, and it’s also very clear to Australians we’ve been in discussions with PNG.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, yesterday a Brisbane man died in a new craze called planking. What’s your message to people who are thinking of taking part in these kind of planks?

PM: Well, I guess there’s a difference between a harmless bit of fun done somewhere that’s done really safe and taking a risk with your life. This is a really tragic thing - there’d be a family that’s just devastated today - a really tragic thing. So, my message would be

everybody likes a bit of fun, but focus has to be on keeping yourself safe first.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister (inaudible) reports over the weekend, may you be attending your own wedding (inaudible)

PM: I dealt with those reports yesterday, but thank you for the inquiry.

Thank you very much