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Transcript of doorstop interview: 9 November 20077: GP Super Clinic; roads; interest rates; inflation; Work Choices; Latham; welfare to work; BHP; car manufacturing; wagers and Work Choices; Mersey Hospital; razor gang; NAB.

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GP super clinic; Roads; Interest rates; Inflation; Work Choices; Latham; Welfare to work; BHP; Car manufacturing; Wages and Work Choices; Mersey Hospital; Razor gang; NAB

Doorstop Interview - 9th November 2007

RUDD: It’s good to be here with Nicola Roxon, the Shadow Minister for Health, John Hill the State Minister for Health and, of course, Amanda Rishworth our candidate here in Kingston.

Nicola and I have been going around the country talking

about the need for better services for our hospitals right around the country and better health services generally. And for the national government to put its shoulder to the wheel in helping out rather than just perpetuating the blame game and buck passing from one level of government to the other.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce here today that we’ll be providing funding, if we’re elected to become the next government of Australia, for a $12.5 million investment in a GP Super clinic here at Noarlunga. The reason for this is that we are determined to engage in practical partnerships with State Governments and local hospitals on how you can take pressure off accident and emergency services. I’ve been speaking to the hospital administrators here today. This is a hospital which in its A and E department is currently dealing with some 50,000 presentations a year. That’s a lot. So, the big challenge is what can you do to help local working families deal with the practical question if you’ve got a kid who is sick at night and you want to get quick attention, other than join the queue at A and E, what do you then do? In fact, one of the families I spoke to before told me that when they were last at A and E and they had to queue for I think, or they were told there was a queue for about three hours because of emergencies involving road trauma and the rest. So, a GP super clinic here at Noarlunga, $12.5 million, provides a practical means by which to provide those out of hours GP services and related services.

On top of that $12.5 million investment here at Noarlunga, Nicola and John have also announced in the last 24 hours funding of a further $20 million to service GP Super Clinic type needs in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. So, in the space of a day we have outlined our plans for three centres. Two in the north, one here, $32.5 million to assist in taking the pressure off Adelaide’s accident and emergency departments. We think that’s a very practical step forward.

Kevin Rudd Nicola Roxon

Amanda Rishworth

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Just on the local area, I’d like to take this opportunity while being here to announce that we will be committing to another $583 million worth of roads here in this part of South Australia. That will include a $500 million commitment to Adelaide’s South Road as well as $80 million for upgrades to the Dukes Highway and $3 million to investigate the feasibility of moving the main freight lines through Belair north of the Adelaide Hills.

South Road has some 70,000 passenger vehicle movements a day. Passenger vehicle movements, freight movements and other commercial vehicle movements. This is a very big transport artery in Adelaide. And is obviously the one which needs the most immediate injection of funds so it can be freed up. It’s important for commuters in this part of Adelaide, getting to town and getting home, it’s also important economically because it services the Port of Adelaide and getting freight to and from the port. And therefore, this $500 million we’ll be committing to do a number of things including flyovers along South Road at major bottleneck intersections of Grand Junction Road, Cormack Road and Wingfield rail line and Sturt Road.

This half billion dollar package that we’re putting forward today comes on top of the $451 million commitment we’ve already made for the Northern Expressway and the upgrade of Port Wakefield Road. And that I announced on a previous visit to Adelaide. These are important investments in Adelaide, in greater Adelaide’s road network, and we’re pleased to add to our previous announcements in terms of this overall commitment of some $1 billion. And Martin Ferguson the Shadow Transport Minister will be back in Adelaide soon with further things to say about other roads needs.

By contrast on the South Road question, the Government’s commitment of just a quarter of a billion dollars, $250 million - our judgment is that is not nearly enough to deal with the huge pressures that are on this important artery, this important north-south artery in Adelaide’s overall transport infrastructure.

Turning to more general national things and after that I’ll ask Nicola to just supplement some remarks that I’ve made on the GP super clinic.

Mr Howard is increasingly out of touch with working families who now have to deal with the double whammy of six interest rate rises on the hop and Work Choices. Mr Howard misled working families when he said that interest rates would not rise. They’ve gone up six times since then. And the impact for first home buyers is an extra $3,000 a year. The second part of the double whammy is

of course Work Choices. We’ve already seen reports which demonstrate that those on AWAs can earn up to $100 a week less than those not on AWAs under Mr Howard’s industrial relations system. So here’s the double whammy: rising interest rates when he said they wouldn’t go up and Work Choices and the impact that has on take home wages as demonstrated by that report.

The other thing we see from Mr Howard is Mr Howard becoming increasingly desperate after 11 years in office. Saying anything, doing anything in order to get

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himself re-elected. And, I think it’s very important to reflect carefully on what Mr Howard’s been saying in recent days because in terms of saying anything and doing anything, it’s starting to get ridiculous.

On the question of inflation, Mr Howard’s been telling us that there are only three factors relevant to inflation and they are basically beyond his control. Global economic growth, oil prices and the drought. And he’s gone on to say that when it comes to labour shortages, that’s not a factor fuelling inflation. That’s what he said quite clearly the other day. Unfortunately the Treasurer has fundamentally disagreed with him. The Treasurer has gone on the record and said that employers are in some cases competing with each other to get employees. That’s

putting upward pressure on wages and of course you’ve got some international factors. Looking at all of that, the judgment is that inflation is getting a little higher and should be the case and that’s why the Reserve Bank moved interest rates yesterday. Mr Costello, the Treasurer, has torpedoed the argument put forward by Mr Howard the Prime Minister on the causes for inflationary pressures in the

Australian economy. Mr Costello has said that labour shortages, the skills crisis, is driving inflationary pressures. Mr Howard says exactly the reverse. And it’s time the Government begun to sort out its own argument on this, or is this simply another case of them saying anything and doing anything in order to secure political office?

Then of course, it gets worse today, with further statements being made by the Prime Minister who was put this question today on the Neil Mitchell program:

MITCHELL: So you take responsibility for six interest rate rises?

MR HOWARD: No, no. I take responsibility for the strength of the economy

Well that’s quite extraordinary. That is, frankly, classic John Howard. Taking the credit when there is good economic news. Avoiding responsibility when there is bad economic news. I find that statement remarkable because if Mr Howard is out

there saying that he is prepared to take the credit for economic growth numbers, but explicitly rejects all responsibility for what happens when it comes to interest rates, that underlines a Prime Minister who is now desperate, saying anything and doing anything in order to secure the next election.

And finally, capping off Mr Howard’s problems with putting a coherent position to the Australian people, he was asked again today, ‘well, putting all that together is it true that Australian families have never been better off?’ Mr Howard’s new position on that is, ‘it’s true to say that the generality supports that proposition, but in individual cases no’. We have a new formulation on working families never having been better off. What does all this point to? That Mr Howard is making it up as he goes along. That is, prepared to say anything and do anything in a series of desperate pre-election statements in order to hold onto political power. And frankly, I don’t think it washes.

Finally, I’d say this before turning to Nicola, that what Australian’s are looking for

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is new leadership with fresh ideas to face future challenges. What Mr Howard is offering for the future is a retirement plan and for him to handover to Mr Costello who would take Work Choices even further. That’s the one plan for the future which is clear from Mr Howard and Mr Costello. Instead what we offer are fresh ideas and positive plans to deal with cost of living pressures for working families, housing affordability and as well as that, dealing with challenges facing our health and hospital system such as we’ve outlined today. Nicola, if I could ask you to add on the health and hospital front, and then I’ll take general questions.

ROXON: Thanks very much Kevin, and thank you to John and Amanda for being here for this today. And thank you to the Noarlunga Hospital for letting us traipse through their facility as we do. We are very pleased to be making this announcement here today. The Emergency Department at this hospital sees about 50,000 people every year. That’s a huge Emergency Department and unfortunately large numbers of those people are presenting for the low level categories - categories four and five, patients that could be seen by GP services if they existed.

This part of Adelaide is one part of the country where there are very, very few doctors. In some parts, one to 5,000, so we know that a Commonwealth investment in conjunction with the strategy of the State Government will be able to help attract new young graduates to this area. If we invest in designing infrastructure for multi-disciplinary teams so that young graduates who want to work with physios and dieticians; doctors who want to be able to train people but their facilities are not big enough to do it. This investment will allow that to happen. And I want to congratulate Amanda who has actually been responding - even pestering - us very regularly about this because the campaign locally to have a GP Super Clinic has had a huge response because families know it is something that will help them. It will mean that the hospital can concentrate on doing the work that the hospital needs to do. And they’ll be able to get the other services elsewhere in the community.

Let me say, this is in contrast to what has been going on with the Federal Government on health policy recently. We’ve made announcements of over $30 million in Adelaide with practical initiatives that will deliver to communities. Mr Abbott has more of his health strategies - if you can call them that - in a shambles. Mersey Hospital’s still a mess. We don’t know what their plans are for other hospitals like Noarlunga around the country. Originally the Government said that they wanted hospital boards to be in place for every public hospital around the country. Mr Abbott backed off from that and said just substantial sized hospitals - won’t tell us what that is. And then more recently has said that he actually when the sums were done on what this might costs over $1 billion and we asked the question of whether that was going to take money away from nurses and doctors and services in our hospitals, Mr Abbott has now said that these boards might be run by volunteers.

Now even the former Liberal leader in Victoria, Robert Doyle, who is now chair of the Royal Melbourne Hospital Board in Victoria, has said he would not do it as a volunteer. Because hospitals are complex organisations; they are multimillion

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dollar businesses and suggesting that people will be able to run these boards as volunteers is really not appropriate.

So I think you see their hospital schemes in a shamble, no health policy. I think people should fasten their seatbelts and expect to see some whiz bang announcement at the Liberal Government campaign launch. That will be piecing together some sort of fabulous designed-at-the-last-minute hospital strategy. So far all we’ve seen is inconsistencies and no practical solutions to the country’s problems in contrast to the sort of announcements we have made here today.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, is Mr Latham (inaudible)

RUDD: I have been asked about that this morning and I haven’t read the article in question -

JOURNALIST: I have a copy here, if you’d like.

RUDD: I haven’t read the article in question, I’ve actually been reading about South Australia today. And, I don’t intend to revisit the past, I’m on about the future.

JOURNALIST: He said that Australia has become intensely materialistic as a result of the market reforms under Keating, Hawke and John Howard. What do you think about that? And he also says that both parties have given up on fair go and egalitarianism.

RUDD: I think he can speak for himself. I put forward a plan for the future and I’m very proud of that plan which deals with future challenges for working families and also the immediate cost of living pressures which they face.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, there tends to be a bit of a tendency when some issue that’s difficult or awkward for the Labor Party is raised you say, “Oh, I haven’t seen that report” - how thoroughly are you reading the newspapers in the morning and how comprehensively are you being prepared to answer to the news

of the day?

RUDD: Well, I’m here in South Australian and I’ve been spending a lot of time this morning working my way through the pattern of Adelaide’s roads and where the South Road fits. I’ve also been having discussions about how these GP Super Clinics fit into the overall pattern of the delivery of health services in South Australia. And they have actually been my priorities this morning, together with attending to local interviews on local Adelaide radio.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, in the Labor pantheon, where would you place Mr Latham?

RUDD: That’s a matter for historians to judge.

JOURNALIST: You expect Mr Howard to accept his past, why do you seem to be

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distancing yourself from Labor’s past?

RUDD: Well, as someone asked me last night, I think it was on Lateline, about various previous Labor Prime Minister’s and I ran through a large number of them who in various ways have shaped Labor’s present and made exceptional contributions, so the premise of the question actually isn’t right. I ran through the contributions historically of Prime Ministers Fisher, Curtin, Whitlam, Hawke, Keating - so I actually don’t think that holds up.

JOURNALIST: No one is closer to Mark Latham apart from Julia Gillard, according to John Howard today, should voters be worried about that relationship?

RUDD: Well, Mr Howard I think has his own challenges at the moment which is sorting out his script on what’s driving inflation at the moment given the completely contradictory statements now made by Mr Costello. You see, you can’t actually have this both ways. You’ve got Mr Howard out there saying that labour shortages and the skills crisis is not contributing to inflationary pressures present in the economy; you have the Treasurer of the Commonwealth saying exactly the

reverse. Where is the coherence in that argument? Mr Howard’s argument seeks to do this. It seeks to remove all responsibility from himself when it comes to articulating a clear cut strategy for fighting inflation in the future through a coherent skills strategy.

JOURNALIST: You indicated on radio this morning that there might be some kind of review of the welfare to work program if you take office. What would that review entail and would you look at dismantling some of the Government’s -

RUDD: We’re absolutely committed to welfare to work. What I was talking about his morning was how do you - what I was talking about this morning was how do you best inject into the welfare to work framework better training and other arrangements like better childcare to ensure that people can effectively make that transition. You see, it’s the missing element in the equation. If someone out there is on welfare the moment and they’re seeking to get back to work and we as the Government want to encourage them to do that, good for them, good for the Budget. You’ve got to actually provide the means for getting there. And part of that lies in providing flexible training programs and part of that also means providing enhanced childcare services. And we’ve announced something on both of those fronts in our policies to date.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, are you genuinely saying you have not read a word of Mark Latham’s text today?

RUDD: I have not, because I have got other priorities today. But it’s been described to me. But I haven’t read it. Let’s be direct in the sense that -

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) the description that you’ve been given in terms of what he actually said?

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RUDD: Well, he’s talking about his views of the world. That’s a matter for him. I’ve explained to you through the course of this campaign what my plans are for the future of Australia. And I’m on about the future with fresh ideas for Australia’s future.

JOURNALIST: The Victorian side of the Melbourne to Adelaide Road is receiving significantly more funds than the Dukes Highway. Do you think $80 million is enough to actually fix the problems on that road?

RUDD: Well, I’m acutely conscious of problems on the Dukes Highway because there are real difficulties in ensuring that it’s properly serviced into the future. We are particularly mindful about immediate priorities of providing further overtaking lanes, rest areas and pavement reconstruction for the Dukes Highway which has a poor safety record, and I’ve also been advised of the tragic loss of life on the Dukes in the last week or so. Can I also say that the Shadow Minister for Transport Martin Ferguson will still have further announcements to make in relation to roads between now and the election.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, just in terms of BHP’s proposed takeover of Rio, what’s your view of the takeover and would you subject this bid to (inaudible) Foreign Investment Review Board?

RUDD: Well, the normal processes of Australian law would apply. And, when it comes to this matter, I was briefed on this some time ago by the Chairman of BHP. I have spoken also this morning with the global CEO of Rio. The normal processes of the law will apply in relation to this. It is currently constructed as a proposal. But because these matters are market sensitive, I therefore do not propose to comment further until the market is more fully formed.

JOURNALIST: How many days (inaudible)

RUDD: Quite some days ago, and I spoke to Rio this morning.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the overnight report that car markers are concerned about the continuing (inaudible)?

RUDD: Well, some of the practical things you can do to assist manufacturing is to provide assistance with innovation. I’ve said since the day I became Leader of the Federal Labor Party, I don’t want to be Prime Minister of a country where we don’t make things any more. I’m a passionate believer in the future of the Australian manufacturing industry.

And here we are, two weeks before an election and for the last six months or so, I’ve had out there a half million dollar green car innovation fund specifically designed to assist the motor vehicle manufacturing industry in this country.

When it comes to producing, for example, in the future of Australian designed and produced hybrid cars, most people go out there and they’d like to buy one, a bit of a challenge at the moment because you can’t. Therefore, it’s there to help. I don’t

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see any parallel form of assistance being offered by Mr Howard’s Government and they’ve been around for 11 years now, with two weeks to go we may see some panicked announcement today as a desperate measure.

JOURNALIST: What will you do with tariffs though?

RUDD: On the questions of the current set of assistance measures for the industry, our position is clear cut. We would bring forward, to early next year, the review of all the competitive pressures currently faced by the industry and therefore, subject to that review, we would announce our policy response at that time. In anticipation of that we have put a half billion dollar green car innovation fund on the table. A fund which I announced here in Adelaide, I think, about six months ago.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, you’re here today with the South Australian Minister. Why will you campaign with the South Australian Government Ministers but not with New South Wales Government Ministers?

RUDD: It depends which Ministers are around on which day, I mean, frankly that’s a level of machinery detail I’m just not across.

And can I just say we’ve had some good yacks before about how to push the health dollar further here before and John’s available today and that’s terrific and I really appreciate it.

JOURNALIST: Can you guarantee that wages won’t increase faster under a Labor Government than they currently are under Work Choices?

RUDD: The responsible course of action here is to be fair dinkum with the Australian people. One, on interest rates: level with the Australian people and say this, the Reserve Bank sets interest rates. The job of Government is to provide maximum downward pressure on inflation by using Budget policies, skills policies, infrastructure policies to achieve that end.

Secondly, when it comes to employment - our view is that the job of any responsible government is to make sure that we’ve got the highest employment levels and the lowest unemployment levels and the best participation rates which are possible. And that means having what we constantly describe as the need for an education revolution on one hand and an effective child care policy on the

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other to assist in increasing the overall workforce participation rate.

And when it comes to wages policy which I think is the core of your question there, the responsible course of action there is to have an industrial relations system which is productivity based and which can therefore yield productivity based wage outcomes in the future.

Labor has put forward such a policy and I would conclude by returning to where Mr Costello left this argument yesterday. Mr Costello says that under the current industrial relations system, that is existing under their laws, there are now

pressures, inflationary pressures, coming from the labour shortage and the skills crisis, in complete contradiction of the line put by Mr Howard.

JOURNALIST: If you won’t address the substance of what Mr Latham’s saying, what about the timing? Do you think this is just a spiteful move by a man who made no secret of his dislike for you?

RUDD: Look, I don’t try and go into the business of motivations. That’s something to be put to others. My responsibility, as the alternative Prime Minister of Australia, is to put out a plan for the country’s future. I’m doing that and you’ll be round with me as I explain it to various people and various centres across Adelaide today, get your running shoes on.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe there’s a difference between saying sorry and…

RUDD: and we’ll add one for that smirk (laughs).

JOURNALIST: Do you believe there’s a difference between saying sorry and an apology?

RUDD: I think Mr Howard is playing word games. He’s playing semantic games. The key thing here is does he accept responsibility for misleading working families at the last election to get their vote when he said that interest rates wouldn’t go up

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and they’ve gone up six times since then. He has not accepted responsibility for so fundamentally misleading people on interest rates.

This election he’s seeking to mislead people on both interest rates and Work Choices. And the great misleading of them all is Mr Costello then taking over and putting his hand on heart and saying he won’t take Work Choices further, himself

with a 15 year career pedigree from HR Nicholls Society view of the world which says the only thing you need in industrial systems is a minimum wage and everything then is left open to a free bargain. But just on that, you know, Mr Howard talks about the future occasionally. He has one plan for the future and that’s his retirement so when he says he has a plan for the future on x, y and z, what does it mean? It has no content because he won’t be there. What’s the

point? What’s the point? That is a core factor emerging in this election campaign.

What is the point in taking anything Mr Howard says seriously about the future when he has said he will hand the Prime Ministership to Mr Costello and Mr Costello is not telling people what his views on the future would be.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, when are we going to get some detail on the $3 billion in savings that Lindsay Tanner has identified? What sort of area of the public service do you imagine will be cut and are you afraid of a union backlash?

RUDD: The $3 billion that Lindsay’s worked on some time ago was with some variations, one side and the other, put into the public domain, so that’s out there. We…

JOURNALIST: But have they changed since?

RUDD: No, no, hang on, I was going to say and we have further by way of savings to put publicly as well and that will occur between now and election day. And I’ve said what I said before, I am dead serious in government, if we are elected, to have a razor gang. I’m all about making sure we have the most efficient use of Federal taxpayers’ dollars so that critical services such as those being delivered here at Noarlunga, through this hospital, are met rather than being consumed idly through administration and I’ll go back to something that Nicola said just before. Mr Abbott and Mr Howard are in a shambles on the future direction of their policy on health and hospitals.

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The Mersey Hospital was supposed to be the template for the future. It’s the model - what’s happened to that? It’s sort of fallen over in a heap in terms of the administrative arrangements and the poor folk down at Mersey trying to make it all work on the ground. I have complete sympathy for those trying to make the system work on the ground.

Secondly, he said that the great new dream for the future with hospital boards for every one of Australia’s 759 public hospitals - whoops, can’t do that anymore.

Thirdly, he said they’re all going to get paid, now they’re not all getting to get paid, they are going to be volunteers. Has anyone actually looked at the size of these hospital budgets? Here at Noarlunga, the budget of this hospital, I seem to recall from before is about $35 million. That’s a large entity. You don’t get people who have quality experience to simply volunteer their services. Mr Howard and Mr Abbott are making it up as they go along. Every step of the way. And can I say when you look at key funding programs like that, which they’ll probably try and pull some rabbit out of a hat come their campaign launch and after eleven years pretend that they are serious about it. We have put our policies out there for a long time now and on the savings front, we’ve already identified savings.

JOURNALIST: But you haven’t answered the question. What areas have you identified in the public service?

RUDD: Well, this list is already out there of what we’ve done and we’ll be…

JOURNALIST: Can you spell them out?

RUDD: They go for example to the huge waste in Government advertising which in the last calendar year alone ran to some $350 to $370 million. Over the course of the Government it was some $2 billion. The reason I just spoke at length about hospitals and health was to make one point generically, a razor gang is necessary in terms of current government administrative expenses to redirect services at the

pointy end - that is what services the public. They are about to embark on an administrative explosion within the health and hospital system through the construction of these multiple hospital boards across the country.

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I want to see, instead, resources used not in administration but in front-line service provision.

JOURNALIST: NAB are apparently considering raising interest rates again, after already having passed this one on, regardless of what the Reserve Bank does. Can you just comment on that?

RUDD: I haven’t seen that statement from the NAB, I’d rather study it first. Can I say the fundamental architecture of Australia’s interest rates regime as it effects the public, is established by the Reserve Bank’s determinations and when it comes to the responsibilities of Government, it’s through fiscal policy, skills policy and infrastructure policy to make the job of the bank as easy as possible.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

RUDD: I’d rather read that report first.

Authorised by Tim Gartrell, 161 London Circuit, Canberra City, ACT 2600

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