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Transcript of doorstop interview: 12 November 2007: Liberal Party Campaign Launch.

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Liberal Party Campaign Launch Doorstop Interview - 12th November 2007

Kevin Rudd

RUDD: The core truth is having listened to Mr Howard’s policy speech, I cannot see any new ideas for the future on hospitals; I cannot see any new ideas for the future on climate change; I cannot see any new ideas for the future on critical infrastructure challenges like broadband.

Mr Howard has run out of ideas for the future. His Government’s gone stale. How can you put out a plan for Australia’s future and have nothing new to say on hospitals, climate change and infrastructure like broadband.

The other thing I’d say about Mr Howard’s speech is this. Work Choices, the industrial relations policy that now dare not speak its name. Work Choices, obviously a core part of Mr Howard’s and Mr Costello’s ideology but Work Choices, this policy missing in action when it comes to Mr Howard’s policy

speech. And of course we know what will happen once Mr Howard hands over to Mr Costello - he’ll take Work Choices further.

The core point in all of this is as follows. Mr Howard is retiring and he will not be around to take responsibility for anything that’s been said today and so people across Australia will be asking themselves this question: what’s the point? Mr Howard has not even been fair dinkum with the Australian people to outline his specific plans for retirement: when it will happen and when he’ll hand over to Mr Costello.

I think what we’ve got to conclude from all of this is that Mr Howard, his Government has gone stale, run out of ideas for the future and if you don’t have anything new to say on hospitals, climate change and water as well as

infrastructure like broadband, we can only assume that for the rest of this campaign we’re in for the mother of all negative campaigns because Mr Howard is not running on a plan for the future. It is transparently clear from his statement today that if it’s omitting all these key areas he cannot be serious about having a plan for the future. Happy to take your questions.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) welcome what he had to say on housing affordability?

RUDD: I believe we have a better plan for housing affordability and we’ve been talking about housing affordability now for the better part of four or five months. Our plan is better because it deals with the whole question of affordable rental accommodation, it deals with the infrastructure charging by local authorities, it deals with incentives for first home buyers, it deals also with the challenges faced by the homeless themselves.

We have put forward a great set of policies and plans on the whole question of housing affordability. Remember this: Mr Costello has said that there is no housing affordability crisis.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, parents would welcome Mr Howard’s announcement today because it targets school fees. Your plan does not include school fees. Would you like to include an element of that in your future plan?

RUDD: I believe that when it comes to helping working families with education costs, we have a better plan to do that and right across the spectrum. We have a plan for early childhood education whereby a trained teacher, literacy

and numeracy, out there for all four year olds - 15 hours a week.

We have a plan to build trades training centres in every one of the country’s secondary schools: 2650 of them, government and non-government. We have a plan for an education tax refund. We have a complete set of plans and further things to say on the whole question of helping working families and education. It is a better plan and I am confident the policies we’ve put out and those we’ve yet to put out that it’s going to help working families a whole lot more than anything we have seen from Mr Howard.

JOURNALIST: What did you make of Mr Howard’s comments that Australians don’t know what you stand for and neither do you?

RUDD: Can I say this. I think I heard Mr Howard say something about people knew where he stands. Well Mr Howard said of the people who were on the Tampa that not one of them would set foot in Australia prior to the 2001 election and that’s before we had some hundreds of people from the Tampa

eventually make their home in this country.

Mr Howard’s said in the past he wanted to sink the knife into Medicare and destroy it once and for all. He now says he’s the best friend that Medicare has ever had. Mr Howard said before the last election that he would not increase troop numbers in Iraq before he doubled the troops that were present in Iraq. Mr Howard has said that working families have neve better off and what is he saying now?

I’m not sure where Mr Howard stands on these core articles of faith, from Mr Howard’s point of view, on which he has backtracked comprehensively.

JOURNALIST: Was Mr Howard’s spending initiative economically responsible?

RUDD: Well we’re still working our way through the precise costing schedule attached to it and that’ll take us some time. There is an overwhelming responsibility here for all of us in Australian politics which is to recognise that we must make the job of the Reserve Bank as easy as possible when it comes to the future of monetary policy and that means being disciplined on fiscal policy.

JOURNALIST: John Howard has also announced that first home buyers savings accounts tax free. (inaudible) Does that trump yours?

RUDD: Well Mr Costello just told us quite recently that there was no housing affordability crisis. And I think not long after we’d indicated our own approach to that, Mr Howard himself said isn’t it better to say that here is additional tax relief particularly for low income people, let them decide how to spend it rather

than the Government fiddling with the housing affordability policy question. That’s Mr Howard out of his own mouth on the 15th of October. So I would contrast that with Mr Howard who is always, of course, in his own words consistent in what he says. It seems that he had a different message then to what he had today but Mr Costello is the killer of them all. He says there is no housing affordability crisis at all.

I’ll just go back to this one point. Nothing of what has been said today by Mr Howard, as far as a project for the future, counts because Mr Howard has said he’s retiring and therefore working families will legitimately be asking themselves, what’s the point? Mr Costello will make up his own plans in the future.

JOURNALIST: On the Reserve Bank, the quarterly statement on monetary policy has re-estimated underlying inflation to 3.25. Isn’t it beholden on both you and the Government to reduce your spending promises. What are you doing to do to control inflation?

RUDD: There is a three point plan for dealing with the challenge of inflation and I note carefully what the monetary policy statement of the Reserve Bank has said today. It refers specifically to the challenges created by labour shortages. Now in the last few days we’ve had the Government at war with itself on this very factor.

The Reserve Bank is speaking about capacity constraints and labour shortages and the impact on inflation. We have Senator Minchin saying there is no skills crisis. We have Mr Howard and Mr Costello saying different things on different days about that. We have a Government which still can’t make up its mind on what the causes of inflation are and therefore come up with a coherent strategy for dealing with it. That’s purely on one element.

The other is infrastructure and I draw your attention to the fact that in this 45 minute speech from Mr Howard I don’t see anything there on infrastructure including broadband and on Budget disciplines. I have said from the beginning we will not be spending as much as Mr Howard does in this election and furthermore we’ve already nominated $3 billion worth of savings. I’ve seen nothing from Mr Howard or Senator Minchin yet and furthermore I’ve said that if we are elected to form the next Government, we’ll be instituting a razor gang to get to the core of administrative waste within the current Howard Government.

JOURNALIST: Will you allow (inaudible)

RUDD: I believe absolutely that Labor has a better plan when it comes to helping working families on education, on health and hospitals, on helping them with housing affordability and on dealing with the other great challenges

which families face today. We have policies out there which are better than what the Government’s put forward and those which we’ve yet to release will underline further how much better they are.

JOURNALIST: Are you saying that hospitals, climate change and critical infrastructure challenges will be three key themes of your policy launch?

RUDD: What I’m noting is Mr Howard said that this election was about the future not the past. That seems to be interesting when Mr Howard has said first of all, no new plans on hospitals. Secondly, no new initiatives on climate change and thirdly nothing on infrastructure and broadband. Unless of course they’re planning to drop something in the next ten days but if you’re serious about a policy launch, I would’ve thought your manifesto has to be out there and I go back to the core point again. Mr Howard’s not serious about the future because he’s already indicated that his core plan for the future is his retirement plan for the future. Therefore people are legitimately asking themselves what store should we place on anything Mr Howard’s now saying because he will not be there to take responsibility for any of it.

JOURNALIST: What about childcare (inaudible)

RUDD: Well, can I say on the childcare, remember, Mr Brough told us recently there was no childcare crisis in the country. Mr Costello said there is no housing affordability crisis. And of course, we all know why they think there are no crisis in those two departments - because Mr Howard has told us that

working families have never been better off. It all dovetails, one with the other. On childcare, we have led the debate by undertaking to increase the childcare tax rebate from 30 to 50 percent. Furthermore, some time ago, we’ve already indicated that we would be establishing an additional 260 childcare centres across the country. And on top of that, specific initiatives on the supply side to assist with the training of more early childhood education teachers and childcare workers. I go back to my overall point, we have a better plan for working families for the future, because do you know something, if I’m elected to become Prime Minister I’m going to be around for the future. Unlike Mr Howard, who said he’s retiring. And therefore, will owe no responsibility for anything that has been put forward today.

JOURNALIST: Over the last four weeks, Mr Howard has been accusing you of me-too policies. Do you get a sense in that campaign launch that he was in fact copying from your ideas in relation to…

RUDD: This speech today is the ‘no new ideas for the future’ speech. It is the ‘no new ideas for the future’ speech because Mr Howard is locked into the past and his only real plan for the future is to retire and hand over to Mr Costello.

JOURNALIST: How can you say he has no ideas when a lot of them are quite similar to what you’ve put forward in this campaign?

RUDD: Well, on the question of hospitals - you have on the future of our nation’s hospitals you have a $2.5 billion plan from us. It contains within it a $600 million plan top bring down elective surgery waiting times. On top of that, we have released something in the order of $700 million plus of dental care initiatives and on top of that we have released plans also for 2000 additional aged care beds. And that’s not the end of what we put out there in terms of health and hospitals.

And here we are, a week or so before an election, 11 years into the Howard Government, and we have nothing new by way of announcements about how they’re going to reform the health and hospital system. If you’re not serious

about the future of hospitals or serious about the future of climate change and water and not serious about the future of broadband infrastructure, how can you be serious about the future? And I go back to this point, after 11 years in

office, no new ideas for the future. And it is the ‘no new ideas speech’ of the election campaign.

JOURNALIST: What can we expect from you then on Wednesday? What areas will you be targeting?

RUDD: You know, from day one I’ve outlined my positive plan for the country’s future. I’d draw your attention back to the first policy document I released in January this year which outlines the core elements of what we want to do in terms of an education revolution.

I’ve outlined the core elements of how we want to fix the Federation. By ending the buck-passing between Canberra and the States on hospitals. I’ve outlined what difference we would make on climate change in terms of Kyoto, in terms of a carbon target, in terms of renewable energy target. We have been unfolding a constant plan for the country’s future all year. And here we are, a week or so before an election, nothing from Mr Howard on these core elements of our country’s future and the future of our families as well.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) attacked some Labor themes. Are you flattered by that?

RUDD: I think when it comes to my core theme for the future, it is, how do you plan for the future for our families who are under financial pressure and lay out a future for the economy as well? And I say again, I have a plan for the future, Mr Howard increasingly is stuck in the past and if you cannot be fair dinkum with the Australian people, and in a policy speech level with them about your handover arrangements to Mr Costello, I wonder how serious you are actually being.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) would you agree with Mr Howard that the overriding issue of the campaign is economic management?

RUDD: Well, from day one in the policy document that I referred to before, I said that the overriding task of the Australian Government and the alternative Australian Government is to build long term prosperity beyond the mining boom. Hence the need for productivity growth, hence the need for an education revolution and infrastructure investment. And business deregulation to let loose a new round of productivity growth in the economy. That’s been our theme, our message, our core economic message all year. And we stand by that and it’s underpinned practically everything we’ve put forward on the future of the economy.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) the Government’s tax rebate for education goes to everyone from people on Family Tax Benefit A to people right up the income spectrum. How would you categorise that?

RUDD: Well, I believe when it comes to helping working families under financial pressure with education costs, the right approach was what we did, which is to defer tax cuts for those earning more than $180,000 and use that

to provide education tax refunds for all those working families struggling with the costs of education, with kids at primary school and kids at secondary school.

Now, I conclude with this: it’s 11 years since this Prime Minister was elected. He says after 11 years he wants to serve into the future. But he has put forward no ideas for the future in such core areas as hospitals, climate change, infrastructure and broadband. And water. And I ask, therefore, how you could be serious about it? And the only conclusion I can draw is that Mr Howard has already concluded his retirement plan. Mr Howard’s already concluded his retirement plan and that’s why there is no plan for the country’s