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Transcript of interview with David Koch and Melissa Doyle: Sunrise, Seven Network: Sydney: 12 June 2009: swine flu; unemployment; solar rebate; Indian student attacks; Australian language.



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Prime Minister of Australia

Interview

Interview with David Koch and Melissa Doyle - Sunrise - Seven Network - Sydney

12 June 2009

Subject(s): Swine Flu, Unemployment, Solar Rebate, Indian Student Attacks, Australian Language

E&OE

DOYLE: Good morning to you, thank you for coming in.

PM: Good morning to both of you.

DOYLE: Swine flu is all everyone’s talking about. The emails are coming in thick and fast. We've had rugby league players quarantined. We’ve had a Swimming Australia meet cancelled. A lot of the response at this point seems to be State-based and quite different between the States. Is it time to step in and coordinate a Federal response?

PM: Can I just say from day one that’s what we’ve been doing. The Chief Medical Officer each day virtually links up with State counterparts and so does the Federal Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, get on the phone with her State counterparts as well. And the overall response has been driven by the best medical and scientific advice. Our national responsibility is to make sure among other things that we’ve got an effective supply of antivirals, Tamiflu, Relenza. Per capita we’ve got the biggest supply probably or one of the biggest supplies in the world and to respond to individual state demands to make sure that’s being distributed effectively from the national stockpile.

I think in terms of preparedness we’re okay, but let's look at the fact that Australia is a highly mobile population and a lot of Australians travel internationally and as a result we’ve got some challenges to deal with. The committee which deals with this involving Commonwealth and State Officials will be meeting again this morning to look at the WHO’s overnight changes in the global status. We need to work through this calmly, methodically, step by step.

KOCH: The funny is we’re all thinking it’s not that bad and we’ve overreacted. And then there’s the World Health Organisation saying we’re going to pump it up to the highest level because of Australia and we go what on earth are you talking about?

PM: Well, I think if you look at the WHO statement, it’s in response to a range of developments around the world. That’s one point.

The second is, we simply need to be just methodical. You know, there are practical measures to taken, you’ve all been conveying those on television, in terms of sneezing, washing your hands and those sorts of things. If people get sick, make sure they go to the doctor straight away. Make sure that an adequate supply of antivirals is around. But influenza in any given year can be a problem in any community. This is a strong form of influenza and we need to be very careful and we’re doing that on a daily basis.

KOCH: Okay.

DOYLE: We have an email question, we are obviously as we know Australia’s rejected the recession avoiding two negative quarters of economic growth but our -

KOCH: All because of our reject the recession dances -

DOYLE: Without a doubt (inaudible). Our unemployment rate -

PM: The dances have been good.

DOYLE: Did you like, yeah we’ll bring them back, the choir, you know the choir. The unemployment rate -

PM: By the way we aren’t out of the woods yet.

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KOCH: Oh, here we go.

DOYLE: Okay, that’s not what I want to ask you. (inaudible) unemployment -

PM: Oh no, it’s not here we go, that’s just a fact.

DOYLE: But unemployment is the biggest issue. I mean anecdotally we all hear, we all know friends, it’s happening, it’s spreading. We’ve got 1,700 more Aussies out of work. What can we do now to stop more people joining the jobless queue?

PM: Well, firstly on the figures, the unemployment numbers which came out yesterday put us among the major advanced economies, I think at probably the second best performing. I mean Japan has got slightly lower unemployment than we do. We have at present, of the major advanced economies, the fast growing economy with the least debt and the least deficit.

But one more unemployed Australian as far as I’m concerned is one too many. Therefore, what do you do about it? Two things. What we’re doing through the Nation Building for Recovery program is continuing to inject activity in the economy.

Phase one, cash payments - subject to a fair bit of a debate, but if you want to know one key factor in terms of why the economy remained positive in the first quarter of this year, relative to others around the world, it’s because we were out there acting early.

Phase two, the school modernisation program underway right across the country. That’s kicking in about now.

Phase three, long-term infrastructure - National Broadband Network, road, rail, port. All for the Government to step in while the private sector is in retreat.

On people who have lost their jobs, the other thing we’re doing in high unemployment areas is we’ve appointed local priority employment coordinators with a separate dedicated fund of $650 million around the country to get in behind local employment initiatives.

So if any of your viewers are coming from areas where it’s going through the roof, what we want to see is ideas generated from those communities about what we can do with the not-for-profit sector, local chambers of commerce, local projects which mean something, so that you can build local infrastructure that provides training and apprenticeship opportunities on the way through, so that when the recovery globally comes we’ve also got people who’ve obtained new skills during the downturn.

KOCH: Yeah, when you consider America’s 9.4 per cent unemployment, seven million unemployed, it puts it in -

PM: Well, this is a huge challenge and Government stepping in to make something of a difference through our injection to the national stimulus strategy has had an effect, but we’re not out of the woods.

KOCH: Okay, speaking of stepping in, lots of viewers angry at your stepping in over the solar power rebate, cutting it off, solar panel rebate, cutting it off three weeks early because it was too popular. Brian in Queensland wrote to us expressing his anger. Tarah asks ‘how can you justify it when you spend $600 million a year on coal fuel power stations?’ Soraiya from Queensland says ‘what about the advertising of solar panel companies, it’s all been cut off early’. Why?

PM: But hang on, let's just put this into context. At the end of last year we said we’re moving to a new system in the middle of this year. Prior to the election we said we’d have a $150 million program to fund 3,000 of these installations each year. Do you know how much we’ve invested so far? $700 million.

KOCH: That’s fantastic though isn’t it?

PM: That’s right, let me just go to the numbers and that has supported the installation of something like 80,000 of these across the country.

KOCH: Beauty.

PM: From the industry’s point of view, do you know how many are in the queue at the moment but waiting to be done, which will be funded under the pre-existing scheme? 63,000 of them. It’s a huge amount of work coming through.

KOCH: Great.

PM: And we said we’d be moving, at the end of last year we said we’d be moving mid-year to the new scheme under the

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renewable energy certificates and that’s what’s happening. And the rebate under that will be a bit less, that’s true, understand that. But we always said we were moving to a new system.

KOCH: But what’s three weeks? A lot of people were waiting -

DOYLE: And eight hours notice (inaudible) -

KOCH: Yeah, exactly right, you know they were thinking about doing it in the next three weeks. It’s great for the environment.

PM: Of course it is, that’s why we’ve supported it. That’s why we’re about to construct the biggest solar energy plant project anywhere in the world, a 1000 megawatts. That’s why we’re out there with eight times the number of these installations compared with our predecessors. We believe in this stuff, but we also said we’d be moving to a new system.

KOCH: Yes, 30th of June.

PM: We said we’d move mid-year and the point is whenever we made that move, whenever we made that move, it was going to be unpopular, I accept that. That's just the fact. I accept that it is unpopular.

KOCH: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

PM: But for example -

KOCH: It’s in even worse though when you change it and bring it forward with no notice, for a piddly three weeks.

PM: Well when you are looking at the new scheme which will come in place, for example, I was looking at some figures in Melbourne the other day. Once you use renewable energy certificates for these sorts of projects, you’re still looking at subsidies which are in the many thousands of dollars. This will make a difference in terms of people making decisions for the future and your local retailers are out there selling this stuff, are able to act on behalf of the scheme, the renewable energy scheme, to use those certificates to actually bring the price down over the counter as well.

KOCH: Okay -

PM: But, as I said, 80,000 of these in 18 months.

KOCH: It’s great.

PM: Sure.

KOCH: Can’t put a price on that, that’s the environment -

PM: Our predecessors in 12 years -

KOCH: Ah-ah, don’t bring them in -

PM: Oh, I will. Our predecessors -

KOCH: Why?

PM: Well, because people have got to make a choice. You’ve got the other mob saying this is a terrible thing, 10,000 they installed in 12 years. Let’s be fair about this.

DOYLE: Email from Richard. There’s a lot of tension on the streets of Melbourne and Sydney involving Indian students. Richard asks, he wants to know how you plan to clear the air?

PM: Well, as I said I think a couple of days ago in Melbourne, I think it’s time for everyone just to take a deep breath and just calm down. I mean there’s too much action and reaction. As I said the other day, any violence against any student in Australia, foreign or domestic, Indian or wherever, is completely unacceptable.

It’s equally unacceptable for anyone else to take the law into their own hands. Australia, I’m advised in the statistics is one of the safest places in the world for foreign students, international students to study. Let’s put all of that into context. If you’re a student in London, you’re a student in New York, there’s always a possibility that you’re going to run into violence on the streets.

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DOYLE: These pictures are going everywhere. What do we do? How do we stop this happening apart from just taking a step back? Do you think it’s something we all stop talking and will end naturally or -

PM: Media make their own decisions and I have never been in the business of telling you guys what you should do. That’s fine. Objectively I’m just conveying to you what is the underlying statistical data. This is one of the safest environments in the world. And obviously there are going to be people on various sides of the debate who have a bit of an interest in kicking this along. I understand that. Obviously, there is also a problem in terms of individual students who’ve being attacked. Let's work our way through it calmly and methodically.

As I indicated the other day, in the last decade or so in India, we’ve had something like 20 Australians who’ve either been murdered or the subject of sexual assault or other forms of assault. Well, these things happen in large cities where you’ve got, you know, where you’ve got evidence on a continuing basis of violence in urban communities. So let's just put it into context. Let’s work our way through it, work with the student bodies. Julia Gillard’s been doing some great work there. But everyone should just take a deep breath.

KOCH: Okay. Alright, can’t let you go without asking you about your ‘ocker outburst’ of late. And we reckon -

PM: Strewth Kochie! Strewth! Strewth!

KOCH: We reckon you’re channelling another icon. Take a look.

PM CLIP: Oh, fair shake of the sauce bottle mate.

HOME AND AWAY CLIP: Strike me pink.

PM CLIP: Fair shake of the sauce bottle mate.

HOME AND AWAY CLIP: Strike me pink.

PM CLIP: Well, again fair shake of the sauce bottle mate.

HOME AND AWAY CLIP: Strike me pink.

KOCH: Joel from Queensland pointed out on page 77 of the Macquarie Australian Slang Dictionary the correct saying is ‘fair suck of the sauce bottle’. Are you fair dinkum? Or having a lend of us?

PM: Well, I grew up on a farm in country Queensland and my father always use to say ‘fair shake of a sauce bottle’. I’m the son of a farmer for God’s sake, I come from, I come from -

DOYLE: Do you normally speak like that though? We just kind of haven’t heard it, it’s like when Kochie tries to get into groovy language and I sort of giggle at him.

PM: He’s been with me on Kokoda. I mean, is my form of language always -

KOCH: Ah, no, not when he’s climbing a (inaudible) grade hill. It’s quite colourful language then.

PM: Can I just say, you know, if you’re making a speech at the United Nations or whatever, you’re going to speak in a particular way. If you’re talking with an Australian, what’s wrong with Australian English?

KOCH: (inaudible)

PM: I mean, what we’re supposed to have homogenous kind of Hollywood English which sort of says this is the way you’re going to speak.

KOCH: Can you say -

PM: I don’t like the look of this.

KOCH: Can you say, ‘fair suck of the sauce bottle’ in Mandarin?

PM: No I can’t. And beyond that, beyond that our good Chinese viewers would not have a clue what I was talking about.

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KOCH: Well, we’ll let you hit the frog and toad. But before you do -

PM: Have you had a Dad and Dave this morning?

KOCH: Yeah, yeah, I have, but wish Therese and Nick all the best for climbing Kili too.

PM: Yeah, they’re training hard, they’re doing well. She’s a strong lady.

KOCH: She sure is. And Nick did Kokoda with us, so we know he can do it.

PM: Yeah, yeah, he looked after me in the end.

KOCH: Thanks for coming in. Yeah, he sure did.

PM: And you.

KOCH: Alright mate.

PM: Thanks.

DOYLE: No wonder you took him. Thanks guys very much, there you go.

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