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Transcript of interview with Lisa Wilkinson: Today Show: 15 April, 2009: ABC Learning Centres; Qantas; global recession; Nation Building and Jobs Plan; Building the Education Revolution.

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The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Minister for Social Inclusion Deputy Prime Minister

15 April, 2009


Today Show Interview


ISSUES: ABC Learning Centres; Qantas; Global recession; Nation Building and Jobs Plan; Building the Education Revolution

LISA WILKINSON: Joining us now is Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Good morning to you, Julia.

JULIA GILLARD: Good morning, Lisa.

LISA WILKINSON: Now, we’ll get to Qantas in just a moment but first this morning thousands of anxious parents will learn the fate of ABC Learning Centres today when receivers announce exactly which centres are to be axed. What will the Government do help those families who do lose their child care places?

JULIA GILLARD: We’ve been working with the ABC Learning receivers all the way along, Lisa. I think we’ve got to remind ourselves last November when ABC first said that it was no longer going to trade, that could’ve caused complete chaos in child care - more than a thousand centres, tens of thousands of kids - and at that stage the Government stepped in. We said we’d work with the receivers, we would support those centres which were viewed by the receivers as unviable. We went through a process to clarify the vast majority of centres, more than 700 of them, would be the subject of a usual sale process and would be ongoing. We identified 55 that had to close but we worked with the receivers to find alternate care for those kids and today we will be dealing with the remaining 241 centres. So we have been working with the receivers, makings some government money available so this can be a process that gives parents as much certainty as possible. I understand it’s difficult but we’ve been there every step of the way because we didn’t want just chaos to break out in the child care market when ABC said that it was no longer going to trade.

LISA WILKINSON: All that is understood but what will you do for those parents who don’t any longer have child care places?

JULIA GILLARD: Well we worked with the receiver. The receiver of the 241 centres will make an announcement today. I obviously can’t pre-empt that announcement but I can

certainly say that if centres are to close, any of these centres are to close, we would do what we did for the 55 centres that closed before Christmas and that is work with the receiver and with parents to identify nearby child care opportunities that meet their needs. And Lisa, we ended up in this situation because ABC profited from a situation where the former government let the market rip. It got big, it got unsustainable and we’re dealing with cleaning up that mess and we’re doing it on the basis of trying to give maximum certainty for parents.

LISA WILKINSON: Sounds like there’s still a lot of uncertainty there, though. We will find out a little later this morning exactly what’s happened. If we can turn to Qantas now, Qantas posted a profit last year of $1.4 billion. Ten weeks ago they were predicting a profit this year of $500 million. That’s now been revised down to just one fifth of that. Is that an indication of just how quickly things are sliding in this country?

JULIA GILLARD: Well what Qantas had said for itself is that it’s seen a huge fall-off in international travel, an unprecedented fall-off in international travel and I suppose we can easily conclude that’s the global recession at work. Qantas’ business taking Australians overseas, bringing people from overseas here and taking them around the world and as we see the world move into recession, the US, the UK, the European zone, our nearest trading partners like China, radically cut their forecasts for growth - that’s all going to feed into a market like international travel. So, Lisa, this is more evidence that the global recession is bearing down on Australia and our economy. The Government always said that we weren’t going to be immune. We can’t stop this at the shores of Australia, we can’t make people fly internationally when from the countries from which they come like the US and UK are in recession and they’re cutting back, but what we can do is act in Australia to cushion Australians from the effects, the full effects of the global recession. We can’t stop it but we can act to cushion those effects. That’s what we’ve done with our stimulus packages including our $42 billion jobs and nation building plan.

LISA WILKINSON: You have but it would indicate, I mean the Australian newspaper is reporting this morning that the Australian tourism industry is in freefall. It would appear that those stimulus packages haven’t had any effect. The mounting jobs crisis just goes from worse to shocking. What can you possibly put in that new stimulus package that was talked about at the G20 that would change things?

JULIA GILLARD: Well the recent $42 billion stimulus package is only going to work in our economy now. The first part of it was cash payments to people which have been received in the recent period but the biggest part of it is new and vitally needed infrastructure, including the biggest school modernisation program this country’s ever seen. The stimulus through local schools - local primary schools literally becoming construction sites, hives of new activity supporting jobs - will be rolling out in the next few months as will our new investments in social hosing. What we’ve seen from the stimulus package we did last year is support for retail sales and certainly support for the housing market as first home buyers move to take advantage of our first home owners boost. So the aim here, Lisa, is waves of stimulus going into the economy. We’ve had stimulus move into the economy from our first stimulus package. Now of course we’ve got the stimulus moving in from the biggest school modernisation program the country’s ever seen and from new investments in social housing.

LISA WILKINSON: Are you expecting that construction work to have an immediate effect on the economy?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, it’s going to be very quick. We are moving quickly with the states and territories, with the Catholic and independent school authorities so people will see activity at their local school very, very quickly. That means that local tradies - plumbers and bricklayers and carpenters, all of the people that you need to put a school building together - will be engaged in working in those schools very quickly. We’ve already made available $1.3 billion through our National School Pride Program and that’s for minor repairs and work in schools and once again, that rolls out quickly.

LISA WILKINSON: OK, Julia Gillard we will have to leave it there. We do thank you for your time this morning.

JULIA GILLARD: Thanks, Lisa.


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