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Transcript of press conference: Fraser Coast Anglican College, Hervey Bay: 22 July 2009: Nation Building for Recovery; Afghanistan; higher education; Coalition positions on CPRS; coal industry; hospitals.

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22 July 2009 Transcript of press conference Fraser Coast Anglican College Hervey Bay

Subject(s): Nation Building for Recovery; Afghanistan; Higher Education; Coalition Positions on CPRS; Coal Industry; Hospitals

PM: I’ll say a few things then ask for some questions. The Government’s commited to a plan of Nation Building for Recovery. What does that mean? It means investing in jobs, small business and apprenticeships today, while at the same time investing in the sort of infrastructure we

need for tomorrow.

That’s what this project here at Fraser Coast Anglican College is all about, and projects like it around the country. We’re in the business of rolling out these sorts of projects in every one of Australia’s 10,000 schools - whether it’s state-of-the-art libraries, whether it’s state-of-the-art language centres, state-of-the-art science centres, multipurpose halls or

classroom modernisation, or something as basic as the sorts of shade cloth which the principal’s talking to me about to enable the primary school kids to have a shaded place to be during the day.

And that need I’ve seen in so many schools right across the country.

But what it’s all about is making a difference today for the jobs and the apprenticeships, the sorts of workers I’ve been talking to on the site here, in the here and now, when the economy is doing it tough, while still providing through our investments the schools, the state-of-the-art schools we need for our kids for tomorrow.

It’s what we’re trying to do. Two objectives at once, investing for tomorrow while supporting jobs and apprenticeships and small business today. And talking to a number of these businesses, these besser bricks I’m told, these bricks here, are coming from a works in Maryborough. That’s providing local work. A couple of tradies I’ve spoken to have come down from Bundaberg. That’s providing local work. The architects and others from this region as well, as I’m advised. That’s providing local work as well. And this is what we’re trying to do in communities right across the country, making a difference.

If you look at the global economy, there are huge challenges. You see unemployment going up right around the world, you see growth having collapsed right around the world. We in Australia have tried to make a

difference by our Nation Building for Recovery plan. And here, on the ground at Fraser Coast Anglican College, we believe we’re making a difference.

The other thing I would say more broadly about this wider region, is to indicate some of the investments the Government has engaged in more broadly. In education, or should I say in overall economic stimulus in this wider region, the federal Government has invested some $375 million,

including $150 million in 2008-09.

The reason is to provide activity into the economy now while the private sector is in retreat because of the global financial crisis. This is to make a difference on the ground. But also in practical areas like education that I’ve been talking about. In the wider region, $78 million is being invested in the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program, 67 new building projects in 43 primary schools. $13 million for eight science and language centres across the various secondary schools in the region.

On top of that, $8 million under the National Schools Pride program for 126 refurbishment programs at 58 schools. And I’ve also just been talking to the principal about the Computers in Schools program, and some 2,000 computers have been provided in around 16 schools in this wider region. And I’m told here at this local school there has been a further addition of

computers as well, as the school moves towards a ratio of 1:2, which is what we’re seeking to achieve on the ground here.

On top of those education outlays, in health, the Government’s providing up to $5 million for investment in a GP Superclinic in Bundaberg. Also, in social housing, nearly $3 million for the construction for eight new units of social housing. And $1.6 million for repairs and maintenance to 374 existing public houses. And then on top of that, a range of roads projects as well. Also, if I could just mention the 32,000 pensioners who work in this area, who benefit from the Government’s increase of $32.50 per week for the full rate for single pensioners, and $14 a week for couple pensioners.

All these measures are designed to provide support for families and for jobs in the here and now, but also building, in so many respects, the infrastructure we need for tomorrow.

It’s good to be in this part of Queensland, this part of Australia again. I’ve been here over the years in various capacities. It’s nice to be back as Prime Minister of Australia, and I’d like to thank the principal, the staff,

and the students of Fraser Coast Anglican College for making me feel so welcome here today.

Okay, over to you folks.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Well, I’ve visited our troops in Afghanistan on a number of occasions now. And together with the advice of the Chief of the Defence Force and others, we have been very mindful of their mission, and very mindful of the resources which we’re advised they need on the ground.

This is difficult and dangerous work. In the last day or so, I’ve spoken with the parents of the soldier who has recently lost his life. And this is a tragedy for his family, but the work that our troops are doing on the

ground in Afghanistan is important. Because we cannot allow Afghanistan to once again become a safe haven for terrorists. Never, ever forget September 11. Those terrorists, in part, as part of the broader terrorist operation, were given succour and support out of al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Remember also that terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia have in part involved terrorists who have been trained in Afghanistan. So, the mission is important. It’s difficult and it’s dangerous. But our troops on the ground are doing a first-class job.

JOURNALIST: Wilson Tuckey says Malcolm Turnbull is arrogant -

PM: Sorry, this one and then you.

JOURNALIST: On the note of what you’ve said today, obviously you’ve mentioned that a lot of people here, the students have a lot of opportunities, I’m just wondering your thoughts on the Senate Inquiry that’s going on at the moment into independent Youth Allowance. A lot of

these kids are actually going to have to move to Brisbane to study and continue their studies, they’ve indicated to me they want to. How realistic is it of you and the Government to expect those kids to work 30 hours instead of 15, and make in the vicinity of $20,000 while they study?

PM: Can I say that one of the big challenges the Government has faced is probably a decade plus of underinvestment in higher education. That’s why the Government, through the Education Fund, has put such a huge investment into higher education. If you were to look at what’s now being invested in tertiary campuses across the country, you are looking at one

of the greatest single investments in our higher education capacity seen for quite some time.

Secondly, when it comes to particular things which affect a student’s ability to work their way through university, one of the things which obviously affects them is HECS.

One of the practical measures that we’ve taken is, for students studying maths and science at university, to halve their HECS, and if they go on to work in the field again, to halve it again. There are many other practical measures which are being advanced by the Education Minster, Julia Gillard.

I understand how difficult it is, in terms of students funding their way through university. It’s tough, it really is tough. We want to make sure that there are education facilities and through other practical support we provide them are as best as we can, but the Education Minister, I know, is working hard on a range of measures.

JOURNALIST: Wilson Tuckey says Malcolm Turnbull is arrogant and inexperienced. Is he right?

PM: What I’d say, on climate change is, you know, the Liberals should stop tackling each other, and instead start tackling climate change. That would be the right way ahead, frankly.

This is serious stuff. I’ve just come from the G8+ Summit in L’Aquila in Italy, where we spent, as leaders of the major economies of the world, a long time on the question of how do we bring about a global agreement

on climate change.

President Obama is dealing with this challenge, Prime Minister Brown, Prime Minister Berlusconi, President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel, the leaders of China and the leaders of India and Brazil and of Mexico - all working their way through this. These are difficult challenges.

But can I say, what’s required is leadership. And instead what we have is, on climate change, I think, a divided rabble. My challenge, again, is this - the Liberals and the Nationals should stop tackling each other and start tackling, instead, climate change. Australia and the world need that to happen.

JOURNALIST: Is it difficult to negotiate with a divided Coalition?

PM: I was speaking with Senator Wong about this most recently. It’s virtually impossible, because you don’t know where they’re coming from, and it changes all the time.

We’ve got a responsibility and a mandate from the Australian people from the last election to act on climate change. We said we would introduce an emissions trading scheme. We’ve got a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme which has passed the House of Representatives, it’s been exhaustively negotiated with industry, which now lies road blocked in the Senate.

We’ve also, prior to the last election, said we’d increase the Renewable Energy Target - 20 per cent by 2020. We’ve introduced that legislation as well. The Liberals still can’t make up their mind which way they’re going to go on that.

Can I just say - Australia deserves better than this, and because the challenge of climate change is so real, across the world, across our country, that frankly people have to start getting real about this.

The economic cost, the environmental cost, of not acting on climate change will be massive on this country. We are the driest continent on Earth. We, therefore, will feel the impact of climate change earliest and hardest of all continents in the world. That’s why we must act.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, Prime Minister, can you tell me how important is the coal industry to the financial recovery?

PM: Coal is important, which is one of the reasons that L’Aquila and the G8 Summit that I’ve just attended in Italy, together with President Obama I launched the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. What’s all that about? It’s about how do we actually work on clean coal for the future.

Coal-fired electricity generation is projected to increase, I think, from something like 40 per cent of global electricity generation now to something like 53 or 56 per cent by mid-century. Therefore we must act

on this.

We must act in terms of making clean coal technologies feasible, establishing the technological feasibility, establishing the price impact. This is a huge investment from us, globally. That’s why all leaders of the major economies have got behind us on this.

But nationally, can I also say this - we are investing something like $2.5 billion in seeking to bring to fruition large-scale carbon capture and storage coal-fired electricity projects in Australia, backed by this fund. Of all governments around the world, we’re right out there in trying to make this happen. We’ve got a responsibility to do so because we’re the largest

coal exporting country in the world.

JOURNALIST: Can you give us any update on the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission? There are reports the Government’s considering taking over the ancillary services.

PM: We’ll put those reports out in due course, and it’s a complex task, and we’re working our way through it methodically.

JOURNALIST: Do you have a timeframe for when the public might be able to see the Commission’s report?

PM: In the future. I said we’d release these reports before we go back to parliament.

JOURNALIST: One last question on the troops. How long will they stay, and what (inaudible)

PM: Well, on the first question, what I indicated most recently when we increased our training effort in Afghanistan was this - our mission is clear. How do you, in our province, Oruzgan, which we’re responsible for, together with our Dutch allies, train and equip the Afghan national army and local police to take responsibility for the security of that province, so we can then go?

That’s the mission, and the reason I have, with the support of the National Security Committee of the Cabinet, increased our training effort, is so that we have a greater capacity to raise an Afghan national army battalion and additional military capabilities and police capabilities so that security of that province can be handed over.

That is the mission statement, and that’s what we’re working to on the basis of the advice from the Chief of the Defence Force.

The second point you ask is what would happen if we were to exit? Can I say Australia is in Afghanistan because of our alliance with the United States in the first instance. When September 11 happened, it was an attack on our American ally. The ANZUS Treaty was invoked, because of an attack on the metropolitan territory of the United States. We take our alliance obligations seriously, that’s why we’re there.

But the underpinning reason in addition to that is what we need to do as a society of civilised countries in acting against the global threat of terrorism.

Having said that I’m already late for a civic reception at Hervey Bay, and I’d better zip. Thanks, folks.