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Transcript of joint press release: Canberra: 27 September 2010: Climate change committee; Afghanistan; Caucus



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The Hon Julia Gillard, MP

27 September 2010 Prime Minister

Transcript of joint press conference Canberra

Subject(s): Climate change committee; Afghanistan; Caucus PM: Well, can I thank everybody for coming along. I'm obviously joined today by the Deputy Prime Minister, Wayne Swan; by our Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet. I'm joined by Senator Bob Brown, the Leader of the Australian Greens, and obviously Senator Christine Milne as well, and we're here to make an announcement about the form of the multi-party committee on climate change.

It's my intention to make some opening remarks, then I'll ask Greg Combet to make some comments, and then Bob Brown. If I could ask you at that stage to confine your questions to issues associated with climate change and the committee; if people then have questions on broader Government matters we would deal with them at the end, and obviously I will deal with them separately to the general group.

Can I start by making the following things clear: obviously, the Government accepts the science of climate change and we believe in tackling climate change; and our priorities as a Government are in three areas - supporting renewable energy; promoting energy efficiency; and working towards the introduction of a price on carbon, and as a Government, we have consistently said that in order to tackle climate change, in order to cut carbon pollution to the extent that we need to, we need to put a price on carbon. That's a requirement to reduce pollution. It's obviously a requirement to encourage investment in low-emissions technologies, and it's a requirement to complement our other measures, including our measures for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

And really, the case for a price on carbon is a very simple one. When you put a price on carbon pollution you create an incentive so that less pollution is generated; you create an incentive for people to find new ways of doing things and create less pollution.

Now, of course, this isn't easy, but we intend to work through and tackle the question of reducing carbon pollution and how we deal with a price on carbon, and dealing with a price on carbon is necessary to cut carbon pollution. It's also necessary to give business the certainty that they seek, and in recent days, we've seen major business identities, including Mr Marius Kloppers, the head of BHP, talk about the need for certainty.

Dealing with the question of pricing carbon is also necessary so that we stay in step with the rest of the world. The global economy has already begun to shift to a low-carbon economy and if we fail to act on a price on carbon pollution we, of course, run a risk of falling behind.

Now, as everybody knows, the election which was concluded at the end of the August threw up a result that no-one was predicting during the course of the election campaign. We're in a new environment, and in this new environment, as a Government we entered agreements to say we would create a multi-party committee on climate change and that committee would work through with all options on the table to see what, if any, consensus could be reached about putting a price on carbon.

That committee will be participated in by Senators Brown and Milne. It was also be participated in by Tony Windsor, an independent Member of the House of Representatives. Of course, we have said the committee is also open to Tony Abbott's Liberal Party. We are saying very clearly to the Coalition that we would ask them to work in good faith with this committee.

In order to join the committee, obviously, we would need them to acknowledge that climate change is real and that in order to tackle climate change we need to put a price on carbon pollution, but I would reiterate my call to Tony Abbott today not to continue to play the role of wrecker, but to actually join the multi-party committee, which will work through all options for putting a price on carbon pollution in the national interest.

I'll turn now to Greg Combet for some comments, and then we'll go to Senator Brown.

MINISTER COMBET: Thanks very much, Prime Minister, and as the Prime Minister's indicated, the establishment of the multi-party climate change committee is an important forum that will consider what is a fundamental economic reform, and that is the establishment of a price on carbon in the economy, which is an incentive to reduce carbon pollution and which would unlock investment in things like renewable energy technology and of low-emissions technologies, and importantly generate certainty for investment in our economy, particularly in important industries such as the energy industry.

The Prime Minister's indicated that the multi-party committee would comprise the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, myself, and Senators Brown and Senator Milne, along with the independent MP Tony Windsor. It is the Government's intention also to write to the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, to invite the Coalition to nominate two representatives to the committee and of course other independents, should they express a willingness and of course be prepared to accept what is a foundation for the establishment of this committee and that is the recognition that a carbon price is an important economic reform.

There will also be four independent experts who will advise the committee members, the committee members being as I've described. Those independent experts include Professor Ross Garnaut, who I think is very well known for his work in this area and others and an important economic thinker in our society, and Professor Garnaut, we welcome, has accepted the participation as an independent expert adviser to the committee.

Additionally, Professor Will Steffen, a climate scientist from the ANU, will be one of the experts.

Mr Rod Sims, who's currently serving as the chair of independent price regulator for electricity and other prices in New South Wales, but who has extensive energy market experience will also participate as an expert, as will Ms Patricia Faulkner, who brings a wealth of experience of knowledge of the social services arrangements in this country, and would be providing important public policy advice in relation to matters such as assistance for households.

These are all extremely important appointments as independent experts advising the committee and I think they'll bring a wealth of experience and we welcome their willingness to participate.

A Secretary's group from the leadership of the various the Departments which have a direct interest in the climate change policy area across the Commonwealth will provide support. That group will be chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

In addition, it's the Government's intention to establish two roundtable groups - one comprising business representatives, and another representatives of environment, unions and non-government organisations - to provide advice to the Government on this and various other matters.

So, it's a very important moment for consideration of this important reform.

SENATOR BROWN: Thank you.

Well, I'm delighted to be here with my colleague, Christine Milne, the Prime Minister and her ministers, and at the outset I thank you, Prime Minister, and your ministers, for your good offices in getting this process so far down the line that we are able to announce it's happening.

The nation will be very pleased with this result and it is as an outcome of the vote on the 21st of August.

There is widespread and popular concern about climate change, not least because it affects us, but because it affects our children, our grandchildren, and this great country and indeed the planet on which we live. We're in an age of dangerous and threatening climate change.

This committee is commissioned at looking at the alternatives that the Prime Minister and Greg Combet have just spoken about. It has a basis with top expertise.

We will be consulting with the community as we go down the line and it is clearly, from the outset, not a case of winner takes all. This is different politics. This is constructive. This is positive. This comes from the people. This is us, as their representatives, working to give them the result which will give them security in knowing that their elected representatives are working toward the best outcome for this great nation of ours.

There is give and take in all these things and we recognise that, but again, we take this with great responsibility; with great seriousness about the challenge that this committee faces; but a great sense, also, of optimism that we are working in the service of the nation to get the best outcome, and to put this country economically, employment-wise and environmentally into a safer trajectory into its future.

Sir Nicholas Stern said that those economies which are environmentally based - he was referring to climate change, here - will be the strongest in the decades ahead, and we want Australia to be the strongest, not just its economy but its society and its environment.

And, finally, we're always mindful in this that the fate of the Great Barrier Reef is in our hands; and that the fate of the Murray-Darling Basin is in our hands; the snowfields, Ningaloo, Kakadu, the living ambience of our great cities and our lifestyle in this nation, so this is working for 22, going on 23 million Australians, and we take that seriously, earnestly, and with a great sense of responsibility, so I look forward to the deliberations of this committee and we come to it with an enormously positive suasion.

I'll just ask if Christine wants to say a word or two, and then back to you, Prime Minister.

SENATOR MILNE: Thank you.

This is the opportunity for the parliament to unleash the creativity in the Australian community; rebuild the manufacturing sector; really make the change that will keep the expertise that we've developed in our universities at home; to make this major economic

reform; to actually create the jobs in the new, low-carbon economy about which we've spoken so many times.

The opportunity here is for the parliament to demonstrate what minority government can really achieve in bringing the community to the floor of the House through a collaborative process such as this. I'm really looking forward to the work that's ahead of us because I'm confident, with the experts that we'll have in the room, with the good will from the parliamentarians in the room, we will get a good result for Australia, a good result for the environment, and a brilliant result for the economy.

PM: OK - Latika?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, does this mean that you'll no longer persist with the citizens' assembly, and, roughly, do you have any time frame for how long you want this committee to convene?

PM: Well, in the terms of reference you will see that one of the tasks of the committee will be to work through on how best to harness a community consensus about dealing with climate change, and particularly putting a price on carbon pollution.

You'll also see in the terms of reference that it's envisaged that the committee would work through until the end of 2011, where there would be a consideration at that time about the further need for the committee to continue.

Obviously, we are looking for this committee, inclusive as it is, of Senators Brown and Milne and of Tony Windsor and open as it is to the Opposition if the Opposition wants to work in good faith, we are looking at this committee working through options for putting a price on carbon. Ultimately the decisions rest with the Government and the Cabinet and our caucus as to what the position of the Government is, but this is a good opportunity to work together with, you know, an understanding of the new environment, particularly the new environment in this parliament.

Matthew?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister and Senator Brown, you're all in this together now and that's the nature of the election result. Do you both- Senator Brown just said this is not a winner-take-all situation. Can you please both outline the areas in which you see that your particular positions as being more open for negotiation than others? For example, the Greens have been more into the renewables, you guys have been interested in clean coal. Do you see areas for compromise within those, sort of, areas of difference?

PM: Well, if I can answer that first and then I'll turn to Senator Brown, the focus of this committee is on community consensus, on putting a price on carbon, and on looking at options for pricing carbon. I am indicating that all options are on the table and we are bringing an open mind to this question.

Now, clearly we are in a very different environment than we were during the election campaign, and this is just a simple recognition that, you know, the Government, the Australian Greens, Mr Windsor, Mr Oakeshott, Mr Katter, Mr Abbott, Mr Wilkie, could not go to the House of Representatives with a proposition without having consulted or collaborated and expecting it to be passed. Getting these questions dealt with in the House of Representatives will require consultation and collaboration and so this committee is going to play an important role in that work.

Now, I'm sure Senator Brown is going to say 'well, the Senate's always been like that', and of course that is the case. In the last parliamentary term the Government could not approach the Senate and just assume that legislation was going to be passed. Now we

have a parliament, both houses of parliament, where that's the case, and so we need mechanisms to work through and this is a good mechanism to work through.

BROWN: Thank you.

The unifying cause at the outset here has been establishing a carbon price, and it is a climate change committee because it also encompasses, as the Prime Minister and her team have said, energy efficiency and the renewables and any other method that's going to naturally help us towards tackling dangerous climate change and getting the advantages which tackling that involves.

I think one of the things that will bring us, focus our minds greatly, is the win for the economy that will come out of this once we start looking beyond the next six months and there's, you mentioned options there. They, of course, there's no options that's excluded from the purview of the committee. Our aim is to move towards a carbon price and with great deliberation and the best information we can get.

I don't see any matter that's beyond us talking over and trying to find common ground on, but we will have expertise in the room which is going to help facilitate this being a very informed committee, very informed in a way that - if I can just finish - in a way that parliamentary debates often are not, and I think that's a great advantage of this process.

PM: We're looking for a new paradigm of media civility, too, so we'll go to Laura in the back and then come across the front - Laura?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister and Senator, I just wondered, in setting these carbon prices, this carbon price, will you be just looking at the mechanism by which you do that, or will you be doing it towards a particular target of carbon reduction, and associated with that, is there an agreed position between the Greens and the Labor Party on what the reduction targets should be?

PM: Right, well, look, I'll get Greg Combet to talk about that, but can I just make this, the general point, and I made it in answer, partly, to Matthew's question - obviously, in terms of the mechanism, we will work through a range of options and you will see when you've had the opportunity to fully digest the terms of reference that it deals with a range of options. I did want to draw your attention to that, but I'll let Greg speak.

COMBET: Well, the first point is that of course the Government has long articulated its emissions reduction targets, ranging from between a 5 percent cut over 2000 levels by the year 2020 up to as much as 25 percent depending upon the international circumstances. I don't think it's news to report that the Greens have had a different view about targets, and both the Government and the Greens retain, I think, a different view about the emissions reduction targets.

However, as Senator Brown indicated a moment ago, what we have committed to do here is to examine ways in which a carbon price could be introduced into the economy to start the important work of reducing emissions, and you've always got to come back to the purpose of a carbon price and why we have common ground in this respect for the purposes of discussion at the committee, and that is that a carbon price in the economy will provide an incentive to start the work of reducing carbon pollution.

It will also provide an incentive that will unlock, I think, a significant amount of investment in low-emissions technologies; in renewable energy technology. It will drive and create jobs from that standpoint. It will generate business certainty, particularly, as I said earlier in relation to key parts of the economy, such as the energy market, where, because of the uncertainty at the moment investment is in investment backlog -

decisions have been deferred, and yet we need significant investment in the energy market, and as the head of BHP, Mr Kloppers, indicated a week or so ago, a carbon price will be a very important for the medium- and long-term competitiveness of our economy as action is taken in other countries with which we trade.

So, it is important reform. That is the basis upon which the committee has been developed. You'll see, when you do peruse the more detailed material, including the terms of reference, that I will have responsibility as Minister for Climate Change for taking the options developed by the committee back to the Cabinet and, of course, on behalf of the Government the Cabinet will have the decision-making responsibility at the end of the day for the position that the Government adopts.

BROWN: Thanks. You'll know that the targets that we had set in the run to- well, throughout the last period of parliament were 25 percent and 40 percent respectively, but it's part of the working to this new search for a consensus at political level to match that that came from the voters of Australia that all things are on the table.

Business certainty is a central reason for achieving a carbon price, but community certainty is no less important: certainty about how our children and our grandchildren will find this country; certainty about the freedom to not be facing destructive cyclones, hailstorms, droughts, bushfires, sea level rises, and in an uncertain world where hundreds of millions of people are on the move, it's very important to many people in our community, so we'll be searching out a best way forward in these deliberations and I feel very confident we share a common goal in doing that. We will go back to our Party room at the end of this process and also deliberate on the outcome, but we are looking forward with optimism to agreement.

PM: I think, OK, we'll go Andrew, Phil, Dennis, and then through the back.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if this about community consensus, then why is it that you intend to keep the deliberations and the paperwork a secret from the public? And, secondly, when it comes to the Opposition, if you get an answer in the negative from Tony Abbott, then would you actively go out and invite individual members of the Coalition who have shown enthusiasm for a carbon price such as Malcolm Turnbull, Greg Hunt and Mal Washer?

PM: Look, I'll start with the second question first, and obviously Mr Abbott does lead a political Party that's profoundly divided on questions of climate change and putting a price on carbon. Indeed, the leadership of his political Party changed on precisely that question and that's why he is leader and Mr Turnbull is not.

What I would be saying to Mr Abbott as the leader of his political Party, and indeed the leader of the Coalition, is that he shouldn't seek to wreck this and he shouldn't seek to fear monger about it. He should seek to participate in what I think is a process in the national interest looking at options and methodically working through.

Now, you ask why are some things are confidential. Well, obviously, the committee will have outreach work to the community. There will be some expert reports and other things prepared for the committee that may well be able to be distributed publicly, but the actual discussions in the committee need to be confidential. We are talking about matters that are sensitive - sensitive in an economic sense, sensitive in a range of ways, and so it's proper and appropriate for the committee to be able to work through and for the outcomes of its deliberations to be announced.

Yes, Phil?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, given you see committee winding up at the end of next year, is it your intent to seek a mandate at the election after, should we run three years, for a policy to put a price on carbon, whatever that policy is? Will you be taking something to the election?

PM: Well, look, we're going to get this up and running. We're going to have it working. Obviously, we're determined to make progress, and we'll be monitoring the degree of progress over time, and that's why the timeframe of 2011 is in the documents - to see

how far we've gone in that time period, so I'm not going to engage in any hypotheticals or what ifs. We're going to get this committee up and running, get it working, allow that work to happen and then see what can come out of this process.

JOURNALIST: So your options are flexible-

PM: -Well, look, as I said in my opening and in answer to some other questions, I believe, you know, if you're going to have this work then you've got to have options on the table, not immediately start the usual rule in, rule out games.

Dennis?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, and Senator Brown may car to comment as well, but the mentioned international linking, is this just a price on carbon in Australia, or are you also, is it also on the table, the option of putting an impost on Australia's coal exports so that we don't just export the carbon problem?

PM: Look, I'll get Greg Combet to deal with that, but I think you will see from the focus of the documents that what we are seeking to do is to deal with that which is of profound importance to climate change and our environment but also profound importance to the Australian economy and our ongoing competitiveness as the globe and global economy move towards a low-carbon future.

COMBET: I think the answer to that, fundamentally, is that we need to examine the options that are available to us. You might recall that under the CPRS there was certainly no anticipation of an impost on coal exports and on the Government's part I wouldn't anticipate that would be an option we would be very enthused about either. However, we do need to and we have committed to look at the options that are possible for putting a price on carbon in our own economy.

But one of the other pieces of work that we do anticipate commissioning as a consequence of the committee's deliberations is having a look at what, in more detail, a factual analysis of what is going on in other countries overseas and the effective carbon price that is developing in a range of economies, developing and developed countries with which we trade in particular, so that there's a bit more substance to the debate about what is happening internationally, because a number of initiatives are being taken and there's been quite a deal of discussion about the measures being undertaken in the Chinese economy and I think we need a better factual basis for having a look at it.

BROWN: I think I generally agree with that. Enthusiasms will differ, but our uniting enthusiasm is to reach an agreement through this process, and Greg's right - other countries are way ahead of us and we'll, as part of the early deliberations here, all be well informed about what other countries are doing in terms of a carbon price and generally tackling the emission of carbon and how to reduce pollution of the atmosphere.

JOURNALIST: So you'd still like to see that on the table, then-

PM: -We're not playing rule in, rule out games.

BROWN: I'm not flagging that at all. We haven't drawn lines on that. What we have underlined is our need to achieve a carbon price in Australia.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you seem to be saying that membership of this committee, it's prerequisite that you accept that a carbon price is what your heading towards. We know that officially the Coalition's position is not that, so are you only inviting members of the Coalition to join this in their official position representing the Coalition, or, just to follow up an earlier question, will you invite (inaudible) who may have a (inaudible) to join. If you're only inviting them knowing that (inaudible), what's the point? Can I just ask, before I finish, Senator Brown, on the issue of secrecy, you were always in favour of open and public debate (inaudible) Afghanistan is a case in point. Why have you agreed to secrecy in the deliberations (inaudible)

PM: Well, can I just say - and obviously Bob Brown will make some comments in relation to your second question - can I say in relation to your first question you're a braver woman than I am to diagnose the position of the Coalition on the question of carbon pricing. You really are, and all credit to you, but my understanding is that we had an arrangement with the Coalition to put a price on carbon. Tony Abbott wrecked that consensus and took the leadership by a vote and they said at that stage that they wouldn't be in the CPRS. Then they announced a series of direct action measures, as they termed them, but always indicated that they were open, over the longer term, depending on movements in the global economy, to a price on carbon here in Australia. And then, during the election campaign, it appeared that that position shifted again and that there was never going to be such a price on carbon under the Coalition.

Which position they have today - I've been in a few meetings so I'm not up with the contemporaneous reports of the wires services. You might be in front of me, but which position they have today I think is probably best asked of the Leader of the Opposition by correspondence where he clearly writes it down, and it will be very interesting to see what it is.

BROWN: Just on the question of secrecy, Cabinet meets in secrecy. So do Party rooms, and people respect that because they know that you have to be able to put forward differing viewpoints with a view to coming to consensus. The process of us standing here today and announcing this committee, I think it's a big breakthrough, but it's come through us being able to talk and reach agreement.

We have a bigger task in front of us now, and I expect that the average punter will think 'they're going to have to be able to talk over complicated and at times contentious matters, good luck to them'. The end result's going to be very public and a bit of secrecy or confidentiality along the way to getting the best result possible is a reasonable price to pay.

PM: Michelle Grattan - Michelle?

JOURNALIST: Senator Brown, you've pursuing your more robust targets through this process. Will that be a priority for you and the consequences that flow from that, and do you think it's important to get an adequate price on carbon for Australia regardless of

what other countries are doing (inaudible)?

BROWN: Christine will say a word on that, but we went to the election very clear on those things. We got 13 percent of the result. We're here with Prime Minister Gillard, who has Government in the House and we recognise our strength and position in the

Senate.

We are not putting pre-conditions in the way of this process because we want to get a good outcome, and so in the sense of putting it on the table as a pre-condition, no, we

don't do that. We're aiming to get the best outcome we can and I'm sure that we're all in agreement here that this isn't a pre-condition committee that we go into - it's a committee with the end point being the important part, not the starting point, and so we go into it with great optimism and without throwing stumbling blocks in the way at the outset.

PM: Christine wanted to say something, then we'll come through.

MILNE: I'd also just remind everyone we're also meeting in the context of the Copenhagen Accord. Australia signed onto the Copenhagen Accord, and that was a commitment by the signatories to constrain global warming to less than two degrees, and we are all agreed that that is the aim of all the signatories and indeed anyone who wants to avoid catastrophic climate change, so that is understood. That is an Australian commitment, and we'll have the benefit on this committee of one of Australia's leading scientists, Professor Will Steffen, who will help to inform the committee about what that means.

PM: OK, we'll take Malcolm, and then in the back we're going to have to move soon. I know I and my two colleagues are now running hideously late for a meeting.

JOURNALIST: There's the prospect of a public forum on the issue. Would climate change skeptics be allowed to turn up there as well? I mean, how much of a closed shop is this?

PM: Look, people in the Australian community of all shapes and sizes and all predispositions are going to debate climate change in all sorts of ways. Public consultation processes of course, the doors will be open, talkback airwaves, the airwaves are open, people write letters to the newspapers, they blog, they do the whole routine. So, you know, people in the public will have their say across a broad variety of perspectives.

That is a different question, with respect, to who should sit on this committee to try and work through to a proposition about putting a price on carbon. Obviously, as the terms of reference make clear, appropriately, we are making that opportunity available to people who agree with the foundation stone - that is, that climate change is real and that in order to tackle it and to tackle carbon pollution you need to put a price on carbon.

Yes, down the back?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister and Senator Brown, the three Defence (inaudible) charged with manslaughter over civilian deaths in Afghanistan-

PM: -Can we just, I will answer your question, but can we just conclude any further questions on this, because I'll answer that separately.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Alright, well, you're going to look depressed otherwise, aren't you? Yep, Sid?

JOURNALIST: Look, I guess I'm just- I will, yeah.

PM: I very rarely see you look happy at the end of the process, but I'll see how we go.

JOURNALIST: I always live in hope.

Look, I guess I'm just a bit interested as to why, perhaps, we can't see Professor Garnaut's report - he's updated his report - when it's released, and also why would we

be able to see reports from the Australian Academy of Science on the latest science? I mean, is this process going to be more closed that the last process, because if we can't see them, then I guess-

PM: -Well, look, I think let's just get a little bit sensible about all of this. Let's have the analogy with Government, how Government works in terms of Cabinet confidentiality.

This Government, government over the ages, State governments, local governments indeed, release documents to inform public debate each and every day, but you still have discussions that are held in-confidence. For us, they are called Cabinet discussions.

Now, in this process there will obviously be dialogue with the Australian community. There may well be all sorts of information that is informed by the experts working with the Committee, indeed informed by the Australian Public Service, that will be released publically to inform the public debate, but it is also appropriate that on the committee, the committee members can have some discussions that are kept between themselves as they work through on a complex question. The public interest here is in knowing what the outcome is and people will know what the outcome is.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, when will the committee hold its first meeting, and what would be important (inaudible)

PM: We're looking to hold the first meeting in October.

Phil, last question.

JOURNALIST: Both Greens and Labor, you both have to be prepared to be flexible with your targets, your 2020 targets, you 5-15 and your 25-40. Are they no longer preconditions going into this committee?

PM: No, let's just be a bit clear about this, too. The Government's-

JOURNALIST: -(inaudible)

PM: I can understand. The Government's commitments on targets are the Government's commitments, so yes, we're holding to them.

When you look at the terms of reference, and I do - know you'll say to me 'oh well, I didn't have an opportunity to read that before asking all the questions' - but when you look at the terms of reference, it's clear that what we're working through here is questions of pricing carbon and designing mechanisms.

Now, I understand, I'm sure Senator Brown and Senator Milne understand, that we're coming to this with different perspectives about questions of targets, but we're coming to it with a commonality of purpose about the need to put a price on carbon and a preparedness to work through options as to how putting a price on carbon could be best done in the environment in which we are post the election.

SENATOR BROWN: Our targets are different, but our targets are the same. We are aiming to get a good outcome from this committee and we do that, as I said, with a great sense of responsibility and contribution coming down the line. It's going to be hard work, but it's going to be worthwhile.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Afghanistan question?

PM: Yes, and so I think-

JOURNALIST: -And Senator Brown, can I get your reaction to that as well, the charges against the three Australian soldiers?

SENATOR BROWN: I think I'll leave that here to the Prime Minister, but I'm happy to give comment on that after my Party room meeting.

Thank you.

PM: OK, so if you want to do your question again?

JOURNALIST: Just your reaction to those charges, and do you think it will shake public confidence in the war?

PM: Look, can I say I have been advised and I am aware the Director of Military Prosecutions has decided that three Australian Defence Force members will be charged in relation to an incident in Afghanistan on the 12th of January 2009. This is a matter for an independent military legal process and I don't believe it's appropriate for me to offer comment on that or to be seen in any way to prejudge the outcome. The accused persons will be offered legal support.

Obviously, overwhelmingly in relation to the ADF I would say the following - our Australian Defence Force has strict rules of engagement and I think they've got the finest tradition and the finest reputation as they go about very difficult and dangerous work.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, wasn't the battle actually in February, and will the charge against three soldiers increase the danger for Australian troops on the ground in Afghanistan?

PM: I thought I did say February, the 12th of February-

JOURNALIST: -January, I think. Sorry.

PM: Oh, did I? Sorry, I meant to say February, so I may have mis-spoken. I'm sorry.

Our rules of engagement in Afghanistan and our mission there remain the same. Obviously, there is a process here through the military prosecutor and military legal process and I don't want to be seen to prejudge matters involving these individuals. That wouldn't be appropriate.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you worried, though, that this might have an impact on the soldiers that are serving there at the moment who are perhaps hesitant that some of their actions could result in charges?

PM: Well, look, I think we should understand this - our soldiers are well-trained and one of the things that they are trained in is rules of engagement and obviously in their strategic mission when they're involved in combat as they are in Afghanistan. So, if you talk to anybody involved in our Defence Force, anybody who's a professional soldier, they will talk to you about how they are trained and understand our rules of engagement, so that is part and parcel of what they do - understanding what the rules of engagement are.

JOURNALIST: Has there been any review of the application of those rules of engagement?

PM: Look, I'm not aware of any review of those rules. The rules of engagement are clear and obviously there's this is a question now of whether or not they've been abided by in

a series of individual circumstances about which I don't want to be seen to make any comment.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can I ask a final question about the committee?

PM: May have missed your moment.

JOURNALIST: Do you envisage it will report by the end of 2011, or will it report before it goes to Cabinet, or, I mean, Senator Brown said we'll get a very public outcome - when will these members be released from their confidentiality requirement?

PM: Well, look, I'm not going to add to what's in the terms of references, and I know that's not going to satisfy you but it's not going to add to what's been said already.

JOURNALIST: Where is the Government up to on this issue of who will be nominated as Deputy Speaker and will support confidence?

PM: Well, I've got some processes to go through, including attending a meeting of my own Labor Caucus, so I better go and do that before I can deal with-

JOURNALIST: -So Albo will come and tell us later, will he?

PM: Sorry?

JOURNALIST: Can Albo tell us later?

PM: Oh, look, Albo will be dealing with the- well, I should be saying Minister Albanese will be dealing with the report out of Caucus as you would expect.