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Transcript of inteview with Paul Bongiorno, Jessica Irvine and Malcolm Farr: Meet the Press: 26 June 2011: Carbon pricing; taxation; agreement with Malaysia; Indonesian live export suspension; the Greens; gay marriage; women in politics

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26 JUNE 2011


Subjects: Carbon pricing; taxation; agreement with Malaysia; Indonesian live export suspension; the Greens; gay marriage; women in politics

HOST: Good morning Prime Minister.

PM: Thank you very much Paul.

HOST: Well that tax auction, Tony Abbott’s offering tax cuts without price rises. Pretty good deal?

PM: Well Paul let’s actually talk this through. Of course I want to tackle climate change by putting a price on carbon pollution that polluters will pay, and then use that money to assist Australian families. So I can confirm today that 9 out of 10 households will get assistance, that’s seven million Australians getting assistance. We want to help people through tax cuts, through changes to family payments, and of course through pension rises as well for older Australians, for veterans, for carers, and the vast majority we assist actually won’t pay any price because of the assistance that they receive.

Now Tony Abbott is talking about tax cuts, but there’s absolutely no details available. This is the equivalent of putting out a glossy brochure that says tax plan and then when you open it up all of the pages are blank.

HOST: He says he’s in opposition and really doesn’t have the resources to do it.

PM: Well Tony Abbott has said in the past that in Opposition they can’t do comprehensive budget replies or put out tax plans, Oppositions before of course have been able to do these things but Tony Abbott has said he lacks the capability to do it. Well today I do want to make an offer to Tony Abbott because I do believe Australians should be able to judge this on the basis of all the facts and figures; not slogans and assertions. So I’m prepared to make available to Mr Abbott officials from Treasury to work with him in the coming week to cost whatever he says he wants to do in tax so that we can see what it means and the billions of dollars that it would cost.

Now he’s already coming to this task with an $11 billion black hole on the budget bottom line, he’s already coming to this task saying that he wants to charge Australians families $720 a year to pay for his climate plan-

HOST: He can have Treasury officials this week helping prepare his tax plan for release when, before the next election, at the next election, at the same time as you unveil yours?

PM: Well I think the appropriate thing would be for him to then provide the details before the Parliament rises at the end of the week after. Paul let’s just be very clear about the position that Mr Abbott is in-

HOST: So you will give him all the resources or just a couple of Treasury boffins?

PM: Well we’d give him the resources from Treasury that would be needed to cost a tax plan from Mr Abbott. Now let’s just be very clear here, he’s already saying to Australian families that his climate change plan, which the experts say won’t work, will cost families $720 per year. So he wants to put tax up, now he’s saying he-

HOST: (inaudible)

PM: Well it’s beyond dispute that it’s going to cost people because he’s going to take money and use it for ineffective policies. So he’s going to put tax up by $720 per household, now he’s saying he’s going to put tax down. Well that’s very confusing, let’s not have the slogans and assertions, let’s have the details. Mr Abbott can have resources from Treasury to cost a tax plan, they’re available to him this week-

HOST: So this is a real offer not a stunt?

PM: Well I think Australians would be entitled to say Mr Abbott’s talk about tax is a stunt unless he takes this offer up Paul. We’re saying if he’s got a tax plan we’ll make the expert resources available to him to cost it. Now if he doesn’t take that offer up I think people are entitled to say ‘well this tax plan is a figment of his imagination because he’s got no idea where the money’s

coming from.’ I know where the money’s coming from for my assistance to families, it’s coming from big polluters who’ll pay the price. We’re entitled to say to Mr Abbott ‘where’s the money coming from?’ Here’s a good opportunity for him to explain it all.

HOST: Well let’s go back to where this whole argument began. I just wonder if this statement is one you most regret over the past 12 months?

PM clip: There will be no carbon tax under the Government I lead.

What did you mean when you said that?

PM: Paul I understand many Australians have looked at that statement and then looked at me and the plan to price carbon and have said to themselves ‘gee she didn’t tell us the truth before the last election’, I absolutely understand that. During the last election campaign we were talking about the best way of pricing carbon and I believe the best way of pricing carbon so we can tackle climate change is to have an emissions trading scheme. Now we’re going to get there Paul but through a fixed price period; effectively like a tax. So Australians are looking at me and saying ‘what did she mean then?’ Well I

am doing something different now Paul, I want to be really frank about that, but I’m doing something different in order to make the right decision for the nation. We’ve got to tackle climate change, we’ve got to price carbon, we’ve got to get to an emissions trading scheme and we will get there.

HOST: Well there’s a question from Facebook from Kurt McAllister, who says why won’t you publically acknowledge that the Greens are the reason the Government is pushing ahead with a carbon tax?

PM: Because that wouldn’t be the truth. We’re pushing ahead with pricing carbon because we’re determined to tackle climate change Paul and the best way of tackling climate change is to put a price on carbon and that’s what we’re going to do. Now Paul I understand people looking at that statement before the last election would say to themselves ‘she said no carbon tax then, there’s going to be a carbon tax now’ but it’s a stepping stone to getting to where I always wanted this nation to get to and what I’ve talked about before the election campaign which is an emissions trading scheme to tackle climate change. So it’s a different way of getting there and I’m happy to keep explaining to people that we will get to a place that tackles climate change the most efficient way.

[Break in broadcasting]

JOURNALIST: Good morning Prime Minister.

PM: Good morning.

JOURNALIST: Whether or not you agree that Scott Morrison needs to go to Malaysia to ask these questions, those are valid questions that he’s raised in Parliament about the funding. You’ve outlined $292 million of funding for this agreement, is that for a year, is that for six years, 20 years? How long is that funding for?

PM: Well I can be very clear about this. $76 million of that funding is to facilitate the transfer agreement with Malaysia. The rest of the funding is about us taking extra refugees. We’ve said under this arrangement that we would take 4000 more refugees. I believe that that’s the right thing to do.

What we’re aiming to do here is to break the people smuggler’s business model, so if you get on a boat you end up at the back of the queue in Malaysia whilst we take 4000 more genuine refugees from the front of the queue and the vast majority of the money is to facilitate taking more refugees.

JOURNALIST: So I guess it’s a question of how long does that take?

PM: Well of course we provided the funding over the forward estimates period like every other line item in the Government’s budget, health and education and defence, they’re all account for over the forward estimates period. What I’m really asking the Opposition and the Liberal Party to do today is to show some financial responsibility too, I’ve made a very generous offer about seeing whether or not they can stack up funding over the forward estimates period and show us where the money’s coming from for some of their big spending promises like their chatter about tax cuts.

JOURNALIST: So if that part of the deal has been negotiated how long before we’ll see some ink on the paper, how long before this agreement will become a reality?

PM: Well we’re in very advanced discussions with Malaysia, some time back I was in a position to put out a statement, a joint statement with the Prime Minister of Malaysia, to inform people that this was our intention and Malaysia’s intention. Since then we’ve worked on negotiating the details and we’re in very advanced discussions.

JOURNALIST: Days away?

PM: Well I’m not going to give a timeframe but I am going to say to you this is the toughest possible step we could take against people smuggling. So at the end of the day when you step back in this debate I want to break the people smugglers’ business model and when you look through all of the stunts from Scott Morrison what he’s actually saying is: the message he wants to send to people smugglers is you can still get people to Australia, they’ve got to come via Nauru. The message I want to send to people smugglers is: you can’t get people to Australia.

JOURNALIST: Well Prime Minister you call it the tougher of the two options, others would say it’s the cruellest of the two options, how do you feel personally about being behind what is now considered one of the cruellest methods to stop asylum seekers?

PM: Well I don’t agree with that characterisation. There’s nothing humanitarian about people getting on boats and risking their lives. We’ve seen people lose their lives doing that, we’ve seen children drown, we saw that on our shoreline of Christmas Island just before Christmas here in Australia. So we’ve seen kids drown Malcolm, any steps we can take to make sure people don’t get on boats are the right thing to do, and then in this

Malaysian agreement we’ll take 4000 more genuine refugees, there’ll be kids amongst that number too.

HOST: Well Northern Territory cattlemen came to Parliament during the week with this heartfelt plea:

Rohan Sullivan clip: We want this fixed, we want it fixed because not only do we care about the animals we produce and what happens to them, but the livelihoods of thousands of people right across northern

Australia are at risk.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is involved in negotiations with Indonesia on the live cattle trade. At the moment he’s in Africa, then he’s going to Kazakhstan, then he’s going to Burma. Apparently in Kazakhstan he might have some pull asides or some sort of meetings with Indonesia and Malaysia authorities at that meeting. That’s hardly getting him involved up to his ears in this problem isn’t it?

PM: Well Kevin Rudd has been involved in this work, in getting the live export trade resumed to Indonesia. Let’s be very clear about this, I don’t want this trade suspended one day longer than is necessary to ensure that we can deal with animal welfare issues, and when I’ve spoken to representatives of cattlemen they’ve said to me they don’t want to see their animals treated like that. So they want an assurance too that the animals will be treated appropriately in Indonesia, that’s what I want and I don’t want the trade suspended one day longer than necessary to ensure animal welfare. Now in terms of the team that’s working on this of course I’m working on it personally, Joe Ludwig is working on it as our Agriculture Minister, Kevin Rudd’s been involved in appropriate discussions with his counterpart in Indonesia, Craig Emerson our Trade Minister has also been involved in discussions with his counterpart and we’ll keep pushing at all levels to get the animal welfares issues right and to resume this trade.

JOURNALIST: How confident are you that you’ll get a decent outcome from the MLA, the meat and livestock organisation, given they knew about all this about a year ago and did nothing?

PM: Well I have been concerned that there wasn’t enough response when the Minister Joe Ludiwg said to the MLA earlier this year ‘I want a plan on animal welfare’ that there wasn’t sufficient response from them, there was a scanty document in March and then not much more in May. So we’ve got to get this right now, we will be pressing MLA to get it right, we will be pressing to resume the trade with Indonesia under appropriate circumstances and that requires two things: it means we’ve got to have the right standards in the abattoirs that Australian animals are headed to and we’ve got to have the ability to track where Australian animals go so we’re putting in place both.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Paul Holmes á Court, who actually supported your ban, a couple of weeks ago he thought it would only take three to four weeks to fix this up, is that being too optimistic?

PM: Well we’re going to be working and we are working as hard as we can to resume this trade. We’re not letting the grass grow under out feet Paul we’re getting on with this as quickly as possible.

[Break in broadcasting]

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister you’re probably not aware because you’ve been in transit but the Greens are going to have 69 shadow portfolios, but Greens Leader Bob Brown today said that he was confident of an agreement,

a carbon pricing agreement sometime in the next month, and he called it a platform. Now what did he mean by that, is this agreement just going to be the start of further negotiations or is it going to be just a statement of principles or is this going to be the beginning and the end of what the Government’s going to introduce?

PM: Well obviously I can’t speak for Senator Brown so you’d have to ask him to clarify his words. What we are working towards and we’re working towards with good faith and progress is being made, is a plan to price carbon, to get

the big polluters to pay, and to use that money to assist Australian households - 9 out of 10 households getting assistance, that’s millions of Australians that will have money in their pocket as a result of the way in which we will get big polluters to pay. Now that is the best way of making sure that we tackle climate change. Yes of course there are other measures in place like our renewable energy target and they will continue to be there, but those other measures will have less work to do when we put a price on carbon which is the most efficient way of tackling climate change.

JOURNALIST: So it’ll be a complete package that you will announce in the next month or so and apart from any things that might come up with drafting of legislation, there won’t be any further negotiations or add-ons of subtractions?

PM: We are working towards announcing a complete package and that means I’ll be able to say to Australians, every Australia, this is how it’s going to work, this is how much money is coming in your direction, this is what the big polluters are paying and this where the money is coming from, it’s coming from big polluters. Today of course I’ve spoken to Paul about making an offer to Tony Abbott to say well get your facts and figures out, we know you want to put a $720 a year tax slug on Australian families, now you’re talking about tax cuts as well, you appear to not have any idea where the money’s coming from, we’ll give you some Treasury officers to cost your plan, Australians deserve better than slogans and generalities and figments of imagination in the public debate.

JOURNALIST: So Prime Minister just thinking beyond issues, beyond climate change, when the Greens do have that increased power in the Senate, I mean it’s been a frustrating year for you, are you sort of looking forward to having you know sort of a greater ability to get your agendas through the

Senate? Are you excited about having a Green balance of power in the Senate?

PM: I haven’t experienced difficulties in getting legislation through, I’ve done the talking, done the work, done the negotiating and the Government’s delivered in it legislative agenda. We’ve put more Bills through this Parliament

than the Howard Government did in its first year. There’s not one amendment

that’s been carried that the Government wasn’t supporting. So we’ve delivered our legislative agenda day after day, very big pieces of legislation like the structural separation of Telstra, a microeconomic reform that eluded the previous Government and for consumers Australians will mean more choice, more options, more competition, better prices. So the Parliament is working and working well.

JOURNALIST: Yet there are calls on you to go further on some issues, for example over the weekend we’ve had New York State pass legislation to legalise gay marriage and also WA Labor delegates, you know, met on the weekend and decided that that’s an issue that’s important to Australia, and that means that there’s WA, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, Northern Territory all in support of action to legalise gay marriage in Australia. What will it take to convince you that that’s something that’s worthy of putting on the legislative agenda?

PM: Well I think we’ve got to be clear about the two different propositions you’ve asked me about. Is the Parliament working now? Yes it is. The Government’s legislative agenda is going through, with the Senate changing on the first of July I’m very confident the Government will continue to deliver the legislation the nation needs so we’re making the right choices, pricing carbon, the right choices in health, right choices in education, the right choices to bring the budget back to surplus as promised and all of that is going through the Parliament.

Then of course we have Labor Party people come to Labor Party Conferences and talk about ideas. People who go and take out a Labor Party ticket are normally people who are full of enthusiasm about public debate.

HOST: Will these ideas convince you that gay marriage should be there?

PM: I will continue to have my view but as Labor Leader I am not someone who’s interested in closing debate down, I think it’s good that people come to Labor Party meetings and want to talk about ideas, they’re doing it now and they’ll do it at National Conference later this year.

HOST: On sixty minutes you gave Australians a glimpse of your relationship with Tim, some commentators though that this scene was demeaning of you as Prime Minister:

TIM MATHIESON: She’s doing as she’s told.

PM: I’m hanging on the outside of the shed as instructed.

JOURNALIST: Ostensibly that was about promoting men’s issues and the right for men to talk quietly about their health, but how do you feel is has affected you in the last year, being the first female Prime Minister. That was a

big deal a year ago that we got our first Prime Minister, there’s not been much talk about that now, have you felt that it’s been harder for you as a woman?

PM: In my day to day moving around a still feel that, I get any number of women come up to me and want to talk about me being the first female Prime Minister. I get any number of mums and dads who bring up their young daughters or ask me to sign something for their young daughters.

HOST: I don’t mean to be rude but we’re rapidly running out of time, do you think that that was demeaning, that you should have been allowed in the shed, in 5 seconds?

PM: No I don’t, we were having a little joke.

HOST: Thank you very much for being with us today Julia Gillard.

PM: Thank you.