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Transcript of interview with Leon Byner: 5AA, Adelaide: 29 june 2010: leadership; RSPT; food security; asylum seekers; Adelaide Oval; election.



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The Hon Julia Gillard, MP

29 June 2010 Transcript of interview with Leon Byner 5AA Adelaide Subject(s): Leadership; RSPT; Food security; Asylum seekers; Adelaide Oval; Election

BYNER: Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard, good morning.

PM: Well thank you very much.

BYNER: Now we obviously have a challenge in front of us in the country because we had recently one of your chief advisors Bruce Hawker describe Kevin Rudd, only days before his demise, as the intellectual powerhouse of Labor. Do you agree with that assessment?

PM: Kevin Rudd of course is an incredibly intelligent man and that's why if the Government's re-elected, and I'm not taking anything for granted, it's going to be a close hard contest, but if the Government's re-elected I'd be delighted to have him serve as a senior Cabinet Minister.

I believe that across the Government these is real depth in the team, I think it's a good team and I'm obviously now leading the team to do the things that I believe are necessary to get us back on track and to deal with a series of issues that have obviously caused community concern.

BYNER: Julia, Prime Minister, you will know that many of your backbench colleagues, some from WA, have actually gone public and said, quote, we want more substance and less spin. Do you concur with that?

PM: Look I believe I'm a person of substance, I mean I understand that it's fashionable to chide politicians about spin Leon. What's motivated me in politics is substance and as Minister for Education I think I'm entitled to say I've delivered reforms of substance that will be making a difference for Australian kids and for the future of this country in five, 10, 15, 20 years time.

BYNER: But Prime Minister you're in electoral trouble, or you were with Kevin Rudd, with those same policies, so what's changed?

PM: Already I've stamped my direction on the Government. To give one example of that, I've stamped my direction on the future of population policy which of course is such a major issue as we try and envisage the Australian of 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050. I've said I don't want us hurtling down the track to a big Australia.

I think it's time to sit back, take a moment, take a breath and look at the policies that we need to deal with congestion and pressures in some parts of the country and crying out for more workers and more people in other parts of the country.

BYNER: Well you talk about sustainability which is sensible. But the ability to grow food is being undermined by the global Pacman that seems only interested in corporate profit. How highly do you rate food security?

PM: Of course Leon, people have to eat - having just chomped my way though a banana - people have to eat. And obviously making sure that we've got secure food supplies is vital.

Leon, all of these things are the stuff of Government and one of the things that I very, very much believe is that Australians want to see a steady and methodical approach to Government, taking things a step at a time, piece by piece. I am that kind of person and that's the kind of Government I want to lead.

BYNER: Well that's good to hear, but you see my question or point on this this morning is predicated, and this is only one example, that in general we trade with China, China's a great country but in terms of our competition with countries like China they have a labour advantage in cost of 30 to 1, let alone the occ-health and safeties and other issues with pesticides and other farming practices which we ban here that are not necessarily banned in countries for whom we import. Now all of these things carry a cost, and the fear I think of Australia and you would surely understand this, is that we have to make sure that when we trade, we trade fairly. And what seems to be happening at the moment is many of our growers are being undermined by a market that is not fair. And not only that, you then have European Economic Community Governments that subsidise many of those products that end up on our shores cheaper, and of course our growers can't compete with that, so that's why I'm asking you about food security.

PM: Leon, we are a great trading nation. You know, I don't think, I don't think we should be afraid or anxious about our abilities to compete on the world stage, we are a great trading nation. Our farmers show that each and every day, how they can hold their own on the world's stage.

BYNER: How do we compete with a country that has a labour advantage of cost of 30 to 1?

PM: Well the reality is Leon we do, and in the environment of competing with that country, we are still a great trading nation, where of course our farmers are there trading their produce around the world -

BYNER: We are becoming -

PM: We still have successful manufacturing enterprises -

BYNER: Oh yes we do -

PM: - including the car industry that as a Government we did a lot to work with and help -

BYNER: Did -

PM: during the global financial crisis. I think Leon, you know, the difference perhaps here is, you know, should we be afraid of needing to hold our own of the world's stage? My simple answer to that is no we shouldn't, we're well and truly up for it.

Should there be fair rules and, you know, good standards, you've raised the question of importing food, do I believe the food we important should be absolutely safe and we should have good quarantine arrangements and all the rest? Yes I do.

BYNER: Alright, I want to ask you about your ascension to power because in the dying days of Kevin Rudd losing his Prime Ministerial job, he made public statements to the media about factions within his party, the same factions that have asked you to take over for reasons they've already made public, that wanted him to be tougher on border protection. Has that ask been made of you, as it was to the former Prime Minister?

PM: Leon, I think you know me pretty well -

BYNER: Yes.

PM: - and I think you know I'm a person of strong mind and I make my own decisions. I made my own decision and it was a tough one. I made my own decision to call for a ballot and obviously as we all know out of that ballot I have became Prime Minister.

When it come to the question of dealing with asylum seekers and policies about border protection, I will make my own decisions, I will rely on the advice of my team, my Cabinet, but the aim here is for me to say I do understand that boats being intercepted up north causes anxiety for community members. I share that anxiety, I understand it, people want to make sure that we're managing our borders well.

BYNER: So is there a watch this space message in what you've just said?

PM: Well there's a check this space message in the sense that a lot of things are already being done to manage our borders, including having more naval assets, more patrols up there than we've ever had before -

BYNER: And we're also getting a lot of people seeking asylum than we've had before for a while.

PM: Yes and you know we've had events in our region like the events in Sri Lanka.

Leon, I'll have something more to say about these things. We've got a deadline looming. We said there would be a processing pause for Sri Lankan asylum claims - that processing pause comes to an end on the 8th of July and Government's got to make some decisions about that in the days beyond, so I'll have something more to say about this in coming days.

BYNER: When do you plan to sit down with the mining executives, that is the mining executives that have the lion's share of the ores market, which we mine and sell and the royalties are paid to the States, have you sat down with them yet or are you about to do it in order to nut out the mining tax debacle which has not helped you?

PM: Negotiations, genuine negotiations are underway Leon, they will continue, they will have my personal attention and focus. I believe that in a spirit of goodwill and showing some respect to each other we can get this sorted out, we can see a meeting of minds and that's my aim.

BYNER: Because what you probably can't afford to do, correct me if I'm wrong here, is to make any decision or compromise which then means that the bottom line delivery to your getting that budget help you need for that deficit, it needs to be based on what you've already calculated?

PM: Leon you're right, the mining tax is obviously being used in the Budget papers to fund a series of things like cutting the company tax rate.

We're going to work with the miners genuinely. Leon, we'll have those negotiations, we're having them now, we'll have them in a focussed way, in a respectful way and I do believe there will be an endpoint here, but what's driving me is not the, you know, temper of the polls or the tenor of the debate, what's driving me is it's not in the national interest for uncertainty and indeed acrimony to be there in the public debate.

BYNER: Okay. You may be aware that in Adelaide now we're having quite a controversy about an Adelaide Oval redevelopment and its cost. We recently heard that the cost to get what we want is going to be at least $700 million plus, but we've only got about $530, $540 million. Might you have a mind to put in, to help us get this development to a standard to which we aspire?

PM: Leon I'm obviously very, very fond of Adelaide, it's my home town and it's where my family still lives, but I'm also a Prime Minister who's very focussed on making sure that the budget returns to surplus in 2013. So Leon, you'll have to excuse me if I decline your invitation to make a commitment worth hundreds of millions of dollars on your show.

You know, obviously, I'm, you know, open to ideas and discussions but, you know, I want to run a Government that is very prudent about the budget and focussed on the dollars and the cents.

BYNER: Okay, when are we going to the polls?

PM: Leon, an election is due in the second half of this year, that's the ordinary time for an election. So I'm not going to nominate election day. You know, my focus now is on delivering good, steady, stable Government and the election will be held in the second half of the year which is the normal cycle and when it's due.

BYNER: Prime Minister, thank you for joining us today.

PM: Thanks Leon.

BYNER: My hope is, I mean you are regarded by many as one of the best Parliamentary performers and if you like question-answerers in the media, I like specifics, we tend to try and get some of those from you, I know you don't disagree with that because that's what we're here for, the hope is that you can do as Prime Minister, what you are able to do in the Parliament.

PM: Well Leon I'll be aiming whether I'm in the Parliament or elsewhere around the country, I'll be aiming to do my best.

BYNER: Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister.