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Transcript of doorstop interview: 24 August 2009: Jobs for Australia forum; Julia Gillard has got to back down on Youth Allowance changes; Sarah Henderson; investing in infrastructure; Labor Party's focus on gossip and smear; emissions trading; Renewable Energy Target; nuclear\npower.



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Mon, 24th August 2009

Turnbull Doorstop - Jobs for Australia forum, Julia Gillard has got to back down on Youth Allowance changes, Sarah Henderson....

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP Leader of the Opposition

Subjects: Jobs for Australia forum; Julia Gillard has got to back down on Youth Allowance changes; Sarah Henderson; investing in infrastructure; Labor Party’s focus on gossip and smear; emissions trading; Renewable Energy Target; nuclear power.

E&OE

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Sarah and I and Senator Ronaldson just had a very constructive Jobs for Australia forum - the 58th that we have held around Australia and the 31st that I have attended, but the first I have attended with you, so it’s very good..

SARAH HENDERSON:

And my pleasure. It’s wonderful to have you here.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yes, it’s been good.

Now a big issue today is the way the Government is unconscionably disadvantaging young Australians, particularly in rural and regional areas, with its changes to the student Youth Allowance. Not only has it changed the rules which young people relied on with the advice of school counsellors and Centrelink, and the Government itself, changed the rules so that they now are not going to be able to qualify for the Youth Allowance in the way they were told they would, but it also has in particular disadvantaged young people in rural and regional Australia, making it harder for them to get a higher education.

Labor has got to change. It has got to back down on these changes. Julia Gillard has had the message again and again that she has got it wrong. And we are committed to changing this so that, firstly, the students who are currently doing a gap year will not be disadvantaged and, secondly, there will be a scholarship set up, a scholarship scheme set up for students in rural and regional Australia to ensure that they are given the additional support that they need.

But Julia Gillard has got the opportunity to back away from these unconscionable changes she is inflicting on young Australians and get it right - and we hope she does.

QUESTION:

Ms Gillard said this morning, Mr Turnbull, that she will speak to students. Would you concede that Labor are still prepared to tinker at the edges of the changes?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well she has met with a lot of students. I mean, some of you may have seen the Q&A program a few weeks back, and she got some very direct feedback there from several hundred young Australians, told her exactly what they thought of her changes. She has had meetings with students. She knows what the situation is. It is causing enormous unfairness and injustice. You cannot, you simply cannot change the rules which people have in good faith relied on, planned their life on, planned their higher education on and then just change it, just pull the rug out from under them and expect them to be happy about it. It’s an outrage and she’s just got to fix it.

QUESTION:

If the Government doesn’t change Youth Allowance, will the Coalition block it in the Senate?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well we’ll seek to amend it, it’s going before a Senate Committee at this stage and we have certainly flagged some amendments but, really - and the amendments, I might say, have been structured in such a way that there is no net cost to the budget, so that we’ve found savings in the measure. Christopher Pyne, the Shadow Education Minister has set all that out and of course it’s going to be the subject of a Senate Committee - but, you know, really what we need is action now. The Government needs to take action right now to fix this problem.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull, your visit to Geelong today - and this is [inaudible] from the north suburb of Melbourne that [inaudible] down here in Geelong. Sarah Henderson, pre-selected candidate for the seat of Corangamite - new visions, new approaches by you and your party when you get into government; Sarah an outstanding candidate; Geelong really looking forward to some improved support from the Federal Government.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well you could not have a better advocate for Geelong and for Corangamite than Sarah Henderson.

QUESTION:

Are you confident that Sarah will get the seat from Darren Cheeseman?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I’m confident that Sarah will win this seat. She is an outstanding candidate and I’m confident we’ll win the election. Corangamite needs a powerful, persuasive

advocate. It needs a representative that will ensure that this community gets the services and the investment that it deserves, and you couldn’t have a better advocate than Sarah Henderson.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull, are you worried your own showing in the polls could hinder Sarah’s attempt to get back the marginal seat?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well we’re focused on election day. The polls go up and down. The real choice for the people of Corangamite, the most immediate choice, is between Darren Cheeseman, who has failed to stand up for Corangamite, and Sarah, who we all know will stand up for Corangamite.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull, you’ve heard a lot of issues around Geelong today including the infrastructure to grow Geelong. Is that something that… I know you’ve spoken to the Mayor about this and the CEO. Is that something you’ll also take back to Canberra?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Oh, very much so. We’re very focused on infrastructure right around Australia. The importance of investing wisely. One of our biggest concerns, probably our biggest concern with the Rudd Government, is not simply that they’ve incurred so much debt, but they’ve incurred it with so little so show for it. You know, where are the big infrastructure projects that you’d think $300 billion of debt would warrant? Far too much of this money has not been spent wisely. It’s been spent very unwisely, and what we need to ensure is that every dollar of taxpayers’ money is spent wisely to maximise the economic return for the community in which it’s invested and for the nation as a whole.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull, you spoke strongly today about the world of agriculture, and certainly Geelong is surrounded, through the Western District, with a great farming community. Did you feel that the farming community can be appeased, particularly in the area of the economic, the climate change proposals?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

If an emissions trading scheme were designed in a way to support agriculture, it could be quite beneficial. Our proposal is, as, which is exactly what the Americans are doing - so it’s a pretty good precedent - our proposal is that the emissions from agriculture should be excluded, but that offsets should be included. Now that would provide an enormous incentive - and additional cash flow, I might say - to the farming sector, and land management sector generally, to invest in our landscape, to make our soils and our countryside more productive.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull, another senior Labor Party member has said today that it was you who approached him regarding a job at the ALP. What’s your response to that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I think it’s comical. Look, the reality is this, that if I had wanted to join the ALP I would have joined the ALP. It is not very hard to join a political party. The only political party I have been a member of is the Liberal Party. I first joined the Liberal Party in 1973. I ran for preselection in the 1980s as a Liberal Party candidate. I was scrupulously non-partisan during the time I was chairman of the Australian Republican Movement, naturally, because we were seeking bipartisan support. And after the republican referendum was over, and the ARM’s affairs were settled, and the debts were paid off and so forth, I rejoined the Liberal Party. And I just have to say that I’m fascinated by this outpouring of Labor Party supposed reminiscences, but it’s a bit hard to see why they are spending so much time on all of this smear and gossip instead of focusing on the real issues that concern Australians, which relate to the economy, to jobs, to debt, to the design of the emissions trading scheme.

QUESTION:

On the emissions trading scheme, what guarantee are you able to offer business going to the next election on the ETS when you’ve got senior Nationals such as Barnaby Joyce talking about dismantling the scheme completely?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well look, Barnaby Joyce is speaking for himself, he’s expressing a personal opinion. At the moment we do not have an emissions trading scheme. The Government hasn’t finalised its emissions trading scheme. Now we are very firmly of the view, the very practical view that the design of the emissions trading scheme should not be finalised until after the Copenhagen conference. And in practical terms, let’s just be quite clear about what that means. That means that we would finalise the legislation in February next year as opposed to November this year, which is what Mr Rudd wants. So for the sake of 90 days he is going to have us voting on a scheme, if he has his way, without knowing what the American legislation looks like and without knowing what the world’s nations have decided at Copenhagen.

Now we will seek to persuade him to do the right thing and legislate next year, and we will obviously seek to engage, as we did on the Renewable Energy Target, with amendments of the kind we discussed in the room today that will protect agriculture and protect jobs. But as to what the emissions trading scheme, assuming one is passed, before the next election looks like, at this stage it’s too early to say. Mr Rudd hasn’t even finalised his proposal.

QUESTION:

Surely though it makes it a difficult sell for you given the open disunity I suppose within the Coalition over having an ETS at all, let alone the shape of it, but whether you take one to the next election at all?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, look, people have different views. It may be that the Nationals have a different view on the ETS in the final analysis. It’s not the first time the Nationals and the Liberals have disagreed. You have to remember, we not only took a proposal for an emissions trading scheme to the last election, we actually started legislating for one under the Howard Government.

QUESTION:

Wayne Swan and Chris Bowen have announced that ASIC will play a supervising role over the Australian financial markets. Is this appropriate?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look, I haven’t seen the detail of their announcement so I’ll come back to you when I have.

QUESTION:

And back on ETS, do you think all Liberals will vote together?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yes I would expect so. We don’t have the sort of ruthless discipline that the Labor Party has where people have to always vote precisely as the caucus resolves. So Liberals do have the right to exercise individual conscience, if you like, and sometimes people do vote differently to the resolution of the party room. Again, that’s rare, just as it’s rare for the Nationals and the Liberal to disagree. But there is overwhelming support in the party room for the approach we’re taking on climate change as was evidenced by the unanimous support for the compromise we reached with the Government on the Renewable Energy Target last week. So if you want to see a trial of the approach we’re taking, there it was in the party room last week - unanimous support.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull, do you agree with Barnaby Joyce’s comment that there should be a referendum on nuclear power or with Nick Minchin in that he is saying that the debate on nuclear power is futile?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, look, rather than pick between the two, why don’t I tell you what I think. I believe that nuclear power is an important part of the world’s electricity generation technology. Nuclear power generates about 14 to 15 per cent of the world’s electricity now, and of course with the pressure from concerns about climate change,

that percentage is likely to grow. There are many new nuclear power plants being built around the world. That’s why we are selling a lot more uranium. Okay. Now, that’s a fact.

Second question, second issue is, should we be building a nuclear power station in Australia to generate electricity here? You will never have nuclear power in Australia until you have widespread community support and bipartisan political support, and we are a very, very long way off having that. It’s a debate that will continue. It’s certainly a worthwhile debate to have but in terms of raising it as an immediate issue, I think Nick is, I wouldn’t say it’s futile, but I would say it’s a long way off, but it’s something that is worth examining and debating, not least because we are the world’s largest exporter of uranium. We have a vested interest in the growth of nuclear power around the world.

QUESTION:

… possibly taking over revenue collection from states and local government. Does this make sense?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look, again, I haven’t seen that. Thanks for letting me know, but I haven’t seen that proposal.

Okay. Thank you.