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Opposition Deputy Leader discusses opinion polls; Senator Santoro; and broadband.



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JULIA GILLARD M.P.

Deputy Labor Leader

Shadow Minister for Employment & Industrial Relations Shadow Minister for Social Inclusion

E&OE TRANSCRIPT INTERVIEW TODAY (NINE) 7:10AM FRIDAY 23 MARCH 2007

ISSUES: Polls, Santoro, broadband

KARL: Well it has been a tough week for the Government; Ageing Minister, Santo Santoro fell on his sword after failing to disclose scores of share deals, Tuesday’s Newspoll saw Kevin Rudd surging ten points ahead of Mr Howard as preferred PM, while another poll showed 68 per cent of voters think Mr Howard is arrogant.

SARAH: While the Opposition may be smiling, there is a long way to go until the Federal election and joining us to discuss this this week was Deputy, the week that was…

KARL: Yes, the week that was.

SARAH: That was a bit of a tongue twister there, sorry about that. Deputy Opposition Leader, Julia Gillard and from our Canberra studios, Health Minister, Tony Abbott. Good morning to you both.

JULIA: Good morning Sarah, good morning Karl.

SARAH: Tony, he didn’t mean that.

TONY: That’s ok.

SARAH: But seriously, looking at those polls Tony, I mean the way it stands at the moment you are going to lose this election. You must have thought about that possibility?

TONY: Of course I have and that’s why it is so important that the pressure now comes on Kevin Rudd to explain why he is going to junk AWAs and put the employment of a half a million Australians, at least, at risk, how he is going to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent without sabotaging the economy and so given that these polls do say that Kevin Rudd could easily be Prime Minister by Christmas, let’s get some real policies and some real explanations from him.

KARL: That is a fair concession on your behalf that you have thought about losing and probably others in the Party have at this stage thought that they could possibly lose the Federal Election.

TONY: Well the PM has been saying for months that this is a two horse race and obviously one horse, or one donkey perhaps, is well in front at the moment.

SARAH: Do you think there is some concern, I mean, I don’t know, you don’t have to answer this but do you think the Prime Minister overstayed his welcome, would the Coalition have been better off with Costello at this point?

TONY: We made the judgement back in the middle of last year that John Howard was by far the best qualified person to lead the country. I still think that’s the case and I think that’s the view of the Party Room, the clear view of the

Party Room.

KARL: Alright. Julia, are you believing the polls, do you believe you can get over the line and win?

JULIA: You know, when you look at the polls what you conclude is, we have still got a long way to go. I think the new Labor leadership meant people looked at Federal politics again. They have looked at Kevin Rudd, they like what they see but they still want to know more about him before they ultimately are prepared to vote for him on Election Day. So that’s our challenge, to make sure that the Australian people know everything Kevin stands for. But I think the message for the Howard Government in these polls is very simply that people are starting to think the best days of the Howard Government are behind it and that Mr Howard has stopped listening to their concerns and that the Government has got more, looking at itself internally, more arrogant, more self obsessed rather than looking at the interests of the nation for the next five, ten, fifteen years.

SARAH: Well Julia, a week is a long time in politics because last week you smashed Tony Abbott for smearing Kevin Rudd and that the Government should be focused on policy. Now this has been a pretty big week, Santo Santoro, I think you have been supping with the devil.

JULIA: I haven’t been supping with the devil, I promise. But I did ask a number of questions in Question Time about the Prime Minister’s role in the Santo

Santoro affair. We got a piece of information that his office, as long ago as December, had been on the phone to Senator Santoro saying, why did you put ‘share trading’ on your declaration of interests? Why don’t you change that to ‘share interests’? So we wanted to know about that. I think that’s legitimate. The Prime Minister is the man in the chair, the buck stops with him.

KARL: That is exactly what Tony Abbott said about Kevin Rudd last week, those same words.

JULIA: Though Tony Abbott was talking about matters when Kevin Rudd was an 11 year old boy. I am talking about things the Prime Minister has done as Prime Minister within the last 12 months. And that is the difference. I never made a personal statement about Senator Santoro. In fact the person who made the most personal statement about Senator Santoro in this was the Minister for Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey who went out and called him a dope on national TV and radio. I didn’t do anything like that. I asked factual questions which are about the Prime Ministers conduct and we have got a right to know.

KARL: Ok. Tony, considering the fact that the Government is trying to take a higher moral ground with politicians, has this been extremely embarrassing for the Government?

TONY: Look, of course Santo should have complied with the code but Santo has paid the ultimate political price, he has lost the Ministry which he had aspired to for so long, he is now resigning from Parliament. I think he should be left to get on with his life.

KARL: Ok, just as simple as that.

TONY: Absolutely.

KARL: Alright. Julia, let’s get onto economic credibility because yesterday it was announced, or Mr Rudd has announced that he is going to be trying to get broadband to the majority of Australians. That means though that you are going

to have to raid the Future Fund for broadband, is that economically responsible, are you still going to be able to look after superannuation?

JULIA: Certainly going to be able to look after superannuation. All the market analysts are telling us that the public service superannuation liabilities will be acquitted as early as 2012, the Fund was supposed to hit its target in 2020, it is on track to hit it eight years early. And what we are talking about is not the whole of the Future Fund, we are talking about the Telstra shares in the Future Fund and when the Government set all of this up, it particularly put the Telstra shares in its own little basket and the Government said it might deal with those shares in the

future, they were carved out separately. And what we are saying is this nation needs broadband if our economy is going to be strong. So let’s sell down those

shares in Telstra, let’s put the money into another productive investment which is a joint venture to bring broadband to 98 per cent of Australians, fast broadband that really works. And that’s about kids doing their homework but as much as that, it is about small business and business generally and improving productivity. So if this nation is going to pay its way in the future, we are going to need state of the art telecommunications and in the modern age broadband is it.

SARAH: Well Tony, Peter Costello has panned Mr Rudd’s plan. I mean, you have to admit, broadband is a problem in this country and can we rely on private corporations to step up here?

TONY: I think the answer is yes. Obviously, if you are going to give private corporations a pot of money, they will certainly take it but this is a commercial business and they should operate on a commercial basis. But I don’t think Julia can fairly say that raiding the Future Fund to fund Labor’s election promises is economically responsible. Certainly, the head of the Future Fund, David Murray thinks that this is quite damaging and it just goes to show, in my view, that you still can’t trust the Labor Party with money.

KARL: Alright, we will leave it there for this week. Again we thank you Julia and Mr Abbott. Tony, I didn’t mean it at the start of the show.

SARAH: He is calling you Mr Abbott now.

TONY: Oh look Karl, its ok, its ok. You don’t need to be as polite as all that.

KARL: You have had worse I am sure.

TONY: Absolutely right.

KARL: Alright. Thank you. It is going to be another interesting week in politics.

ENDS