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Transcript of doorstop interview: Greenacre, Sydney: 6 July 2009: global economic recession; major economies forum; Malaysian visit; people smuggling; Fromelles War Graves; Navy.

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Prime Minister of Australia


Doorstop Interview Greenacre Housing Construction Site Greenacre, Sydney 6 July 2009

06 July 2009

Subject(s): Global Economic Recession, Major Economies Forum, Malaysian Visit, People Smuggling, Fromelles War Graves, Navy


PM: Well it’s good to be here at Greenacre to talk about social housing and to be with the State Housing Minister David Borger and Mark Arbib, the Minister for Employment, because this is about practical action to deal with the worst global economic recession in three quarters of a century. You see to deal with the global economic recession we need local action, national action and global action because all these factors are at play in the impact on employment and on jobs around the world and here in Australia.

Local action - projects like this one. This project is one of about 10,000 which are being rolled out across NSW - 6,500 funded by our Government and about 3,000 or so funded by the NSW Government in partnership. And already we’ve got more than 500 houses under construction, we have something like 2,700 houses already approved and the rest of the 6,500 funded by the federal Government to be rolled out between now and - most of them - by the end of 2010.

That’s important practical local action creating local jobs and on this site alone I am advised, if you put together the direct and indirect jobs, we’re looking at something like a total of 63 jobs involving brick layers, carpenters, builders, sparkies, chippies and New Image steel fixing - well done mate, and companies like that. That’s local action, it’s practical action in areas like this.

Secondly, national action. This is all made possible because we have a Nation Building for Recovery plan being rolled out across the nation. Social housing, it might be 6,500 units here in NSW, it’s 20,000 nationwide. That’s a big investment in the national economy.

We’re also investing some $4 billion in energy efficiency measures to make sure that every owner-occupied dwelling has the possibility of becoming insulated in their ceilings to increase energy efficiency and to reduce greenhouse gases. And then the biggest school modernisation program the country has ever seen. That’s national action, nation building for recovery.

Global action is also necessary and we’ve been active on this front through our work in the G20, but that is why I am also leaving today for the major economies meeting to be held in Italy at the invitation of President Obama.

This is a continuation of the Government’s global economic action which we have been prosecuting through the G20. The focus of this major economies meeting in Italy is: firstly, dealing still with the impact of the worst global economic recession in 75 years; secondly, how do we restart global trade which has taken a battering because of the global recession; and thirdly, how do we prepare effectively to get the best outcome possible at the end of this year on climate change, balancing our economic and our environmental interests.

That’s so much the focus of what will occur in Italy this week. We have to use this week’s meeting to build momentum towards the next G20 Summit in Pittsburgh in September and for the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change in December.

In addition to attending the major economies meeting in Italy, I will also en route visit the Prime Minister of Malaysia later today. Malaysia is an important economic partner of Australia, an important security partner and important for us also in combating the real problem of people smuggling.

Secondly en route to Italy I will spend a day and a bit in Berlin at the invitation of the German Chancellor. Germany is a major economic partner of Australia, it’s a critical player in the G20 and I look forward to those discussions with Chancellor

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Merkel in Berlin.

Also in Italy, apart from the major economies meeting, I will have bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Berlusconi. Italy also being an important partner of Australia’s in the G20.

These measures, these actions of course are all part of our campaign, our work to ensure that we exercise as much influence as possible in bringing about as rapid as possible global economic recovery. But it all comes back to what we do on the ground here as well.

These houses being built here, 17 or 20 or so - 24 houses being built here are also going to provide real opportunities for decent housing for a bunch of folk who don’t have those possibilities now. Overall, David Borger was telling me just before that the combined impact of the measures we’re taking and the NSW Government is taking will provide some 17,000 people with a place to call home. That is really important and when you roll that out across the country that’s making an important contribution.

What are we on about with Nation Building for Recovery? Supporting jobs, small business and apprenticeships today while investing in the infrastructure we need for tomorrow. Including that machine down the back there as well, that’s what we’re on about. And David, do you want to add?

BORGER: Sure. I just wanted to say that the investment that the Commonwealth’s making is probably the biggest thing that has happened in housing since Ben Chifley signed the Commonwealth/State Housing Agreement. We’re going to start 40 homes under construction next week and that will continue to increase until it reaches 200 homes under construction early next year. And this is providing opportunities for people who are very disadvantaged who actually wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a roof over their heads in NSW.

So I just wanted to thank the Prime Minister for this investment. Many years ago I worked for a Housing Minister and in our wildest dreams we wouldn’t have thought that this level of investment in social housing was possible.

PM: Good. And the Employment Minister Mark Arbib is here as well and Mark was telling me before that nationwide some 10,000 is that right?

ARBIB: Yeah, 10,000 construction jobs have been added to the economy in the last three and half months. So the work that we’re doing in terms of the stimulus, the 35,000 projects that we’re rolling out over the next 12 months are having an effect on the construction sector.

And the important thing is not just the direct effect in terms of jobs but also the multiplier effects. So on this site alone you’re talking about something like 63 extra workers, all of those workers are going to go use the local grocery stores, they’re going to use the takeaway stores and that’s going to support jobs and small business there. They’re going to go fill their cars up at the local service station - that will support jobs there, use the local department stores. So it’s about not just keeping people employed but it’s also stimulating small business so they keep people employed. That’s what the stimulus package is about.

PM: So the practicalities, in conclusion, are as the two Ministers have said. It’s about adding all this extra opportunity for people who need a place to call home and through that also providing a large number, thousands of extra jobs in construction when the economy needs it now. 33,000 - is that right, projects?

ARBIB: 35.

PM: 35,000 projects across the country and thousands of extra construction jobs being added. We’re not far from Roselands here are we?

ARBIB: 10 minutes.

PM: Having started my working life, working for Grace Brothers in Roselands for six months, it’s good to also see that local department stores and, as the Minister was just saying, local retail outlets also benefit from workers on site going off to buy their lunch, going off to buy a few other things on the way through. It’s the direct jobs and the indirect jobs that make a difference in the worst global economic recession we’ve seen in three quarters of a century. Over to you folks.

JOURNALIST:Prime Minister how can the Malaysian Government help you to crack down on people smuggling? [Drill starts up nearby]

PM: I’ll take that in one sec.

JOURNALIST: They can’t let a minute go by.

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PM: No, it’s good. I appreciate it. I just had a traumatic memory of a dentist, that’s all. Anyway, over to you.

JOURNALIST: I’ll ask again. Prime Minister, what real discussions can you have with the Malaysian Government that might make an impact on people smuggling?

PM: Well Malaysia now has a new Prime Minister, Prime Minister Najib. I am looking forward to those discussions with him. Secondly what we see worldwide is a large increase in the number of illegal people movements right around Asia and beyond.

Therefore the active cooperation between ourselves and regional governments on security, on intelligence, on border control is really important. We are seeking to enhance that with our friends in Malaysia, enhance it with our friends in Indonesia, enhance it with our friends elsewhere in the region.

Each one of these things is a practical building block towards tighter cooperation in the immigration sphere, the security sphere, as well as in the intelligence sphere. That is what’s necessary and what we’re doing with this new Prime Minister Najib in Kuala Lumpur is taking our existing cooperative framework and elevating it to a new level.

JOURNALIST: Does it all come down to the problem of passport control in Malaysia?

PM: Well you see, right across the region, you have large of numbers of people coming into the region out of central and south Asia. And the push factors at work here in terms of insecurity and instability in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Sri Lanka and in other parts of the region mean that our effective coordination on border control systems and monitoring vessels moving across the wider archipelago and our interdiction arrangements means that we have to work hand in glove with our partners. It’s been working well so far, always room for improvement and we’ll do that with the Malaysians as well.

JOURNALIST: What would you like to see out of this meeting, an ongoing plan to crack down on the problem?

PM: Well, we already have a range of bilateral protocols in place with the Government in Kuala Lumpur. They are always capable of improvement at our end and I’m sure at the Malaysian end as well. And the practicalities of that I will be discussing with Prime Minister Najib on the ground.

This is a good relationship, goes back a long period of time and this will be my first opportunity to visit the new Prime Minister in Kuala Lumpur. I’ll only be on the ground for a few hours but it struck me as a great opportunity to spend a few hours on some practical questions given that people smuggling is a real challenge for us, the Indonesians, the Malaysians and all countries within the region.

JOURNALIST: Are you worried that we’re short-changing the memory of our Diggers in Fromelles?

PM: I have seen those reports, I am advised by the relevant government officials that all the necessary precautions are being taken to ensure that our Diggers are treated with respect and that the reinterment process is being properly handled.

We will now make doubly certain of that, in the case of this particular and sensitive matter, and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs I am sure will be highly attentive to any representations from veterans’ bodies on this questions, veterans’ organisations on this question. Every Australian who has lost their life in service of our country must be treated, should be treated with absolute respect and that is the determination of this Government as well.

JOURNALIST: Do you think they’d then be proud if they knew what was happening on certain Navy vessels in the country?

PM: I’ve seen those reports and I’ve seen also the statements by the Chief of Navy and can I say I am sure the Chief of Navy has all those matters under active investigation and that appropriate action will be taken.

JOURNALIST: What was your response though when you heard the reports and what -

PM: Well these, these alleged behaviours are disturbing but it’s important also to get to the facts of it all and we will await the investigations by the Chief of Navy to establish all those facts.


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