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Transcript of doorstop: Sydney: 29 June 2007: Airport Security; Health policy; Indigenous policy; Prince William.

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Subjects: Airport Security; Health policy; Indigenous policy; Prince William

RUDD: Today’s report about airline and airport security is deeply disturbing. We now, some six years after September 11, some two years after the Wheeler Report, and still we have these practices when it comes to the non-screening of cargo luggage on passenger aircraft.

This is the government which constantly prides itself in its credentials on national security. So my question to Mr Howard is, how is it that six years after September 11, two years after the Wheeler Inquiry, that we still have a situation where cargo luggage is not being properly screened when it comes to our passenger aircraft. That is air cargo is not being properly screened.

When you go to the Wheeler Report itself, it is important to look at the documentary record. The Wheeler Inquiry is dated September 2005, the government has said that is has fully implemented the recommendations of Sir

John Wheeler. If we go to Recommendation 14 of the Wheeler Report, it says this:

“It is recommended that the Australian Government require that the screening of cargo be expanded and include mandatory screening of all cargo on passenger aircraft where passengers checked baggage is screened.”

That is clear-cut, its black and white, it’s here in the Wheeler Inquiry Report. It cannot be more explicit than that. Furthermore the Government has said it has fully implemented these recommendations. Well my challenge again to Mr Howard is how is it six years after September 11, how is it that six years after

September 11, two years after the Wheeler Inquiry, we still have the non-implementation of these basic recommendations when it comes to the screening of air cargo on passenger aircraft. That’s the key question here. I’d be very

interested to hear what Mr Howard’s response is to that.

On top of that we have today reports of the state of our public hospitals and the report which has been released on that. Yesterday I released a national strategy on preventative health care and these two matters are directly linked. The

challenge to our public hospitals is made more acute because we are not investing enough when it comes to preventative health care. If you look at some of the statistics contained in this report, for example on diabetes and on renal services, one of the huge impacts on the budget of our public hospitals lies with the increasing caseload coming out of diabetes.

Of course, when it comes to diabetes and Type 2 diabetes, these are preventable diseases and our challenge again to the Federal Government is, is that Australia needs to invest more when it comes to preventative health care in order to take the pressure off our public hospital system.

We’ve put forward a strategy for doing that, we want preventative health care to form a core part of the Australian Health Care Agreements. We want to see a new system which takes the emphasis off so-called six minute medicine, or six minute consultations, and heading more in the direction of primary health care so that when it comes to treatable, preventable diseases like diabetes, like cardio-vascular disease, we can take the burden off our public hospitals as well.

The final thing I’ll say on it is this, Mr Abbott always seems to play the blame game when it comes to our public hospitals and blames the States and Territories. Can I say when you are not acting properly on aged care beds, when you are not acting properly on dental care, when you are not acting properly on other areas such as preventative health care then obviously the burden faced by our public hospital system across Australia is going to be greater.

I think states and territory governments obviously need to do more in this area themselves. But I think the Australian public are sick and tired of the blame game - they want answers, not just finger pointing.

Happy to take your questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, the idea for preventative measures, there is obviously going to be a lag in time for that to have an effect on waiting times for elective surgery. What are you going to do in the interim?

RUDD: What we need to do is ensure that we have an arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States which deals with the current misallocation of acute care beds because there is an under-supply of aged care

beds. That’s where we need to see action - and action now.

Right now in Australia there are something, I’m advised, in the order of 2,000 people occupying acute care beds in hospitals who have already been classified to go into aged care facilities. The cost of an aged care bed is much, much less than an acute hospital bed and because these acute hospital beds are being occupied, that blows out, not just the budget for public hospitals, but it makes it harder for people who need emergency treatment in hospitals to get it. So in terms of up-front action - that’s what’s necessary. Long-term action is taking the pressure off our public hospitals by investing much more creatively, up-front with preventative health care in the areas that I outlined in our strategy document yesterday.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, could you say categorically that you would not have AWAs or any other form of legislated individual workplace agreements under Labor?

RUDD: We have no intention whatsoever of having AWAs in the future.

JOURNALIST: About the cargo situation. Under a Labor Government, what do you think would be the ideal level of scrutiny dedicated to freight and cargo that flies through Australian airports?

RUDD: I believe that based on this recommendation from Wheeler it has to be done. Remember how Wheeler came about in the first place. We’d had a whistle-blower, Alan Kessing, who effectively put his career and his freedom on the line by putting this information out in the public domain. Now, that whistle-blower had to run the gauntlet of the courts, he was prosecuted and what resulted from his revelations in large part was the commissioning of the Wheeler Inquiry. The Wheeler Inquiry made these 17 recommendations, or 19 recommendations, 17 recommendations in its report and the Government has said they have implemented all of them - they haven’t implemented recommendation 14. We will.

JOURNALIST: So 100% of scan…

RUDD: There is no alternative but to implement this. If you are serious in responding to the recommendations of the experts, when it comes to air cargo being carried in passenger jets, you have to be absolutely sure that you’ve got absolute security on such questions.

If you look further at what is said in the Wheeler Report, it says that the system, referring to the existing system, does not prevent the shipment of drugs or illegal commodities and cash within Australia. Also, it has the potential to permit explosives and explosive devices on passenger aircraft, quote unquote from the

report. If you take that seriously, you’ve got to act on it. We will.

JOURNALIST: On another air safety issue, the EU have decided to ban Garuda Airlines. Do you think a similar step is appropriate for Australia?

RUDD: I haven’t seen that report. I would like to see what the basis for it is before I comment further. Obviously airline security is of paramount importance. I would like to see what the Australian regulatory authorities have said themselves about that and examine carefully what the European Union has said and the reasons for it.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, in light of the Howard Government’s take-over of indigenous affairs in the Territory, what does Labor believe should remain as conditions, and I am specifically thinking about land rights for Aborigines and royalty payments for mining?

RUDD: Well in terms of continuing rights and entitlements in indigenous communities, it is important that they are properly protected. The basis for the action in the Northern Territory, for which we provided, in principal, bi-partisan support is how do you protect children. That is it. Therefore when it comes to protecting children from child abuse, protecting children from child sexual abuse, radical intervention has been necessary. If you look at the numbers alone in the Report which has been produced, they command urgent action.

When it comes to the detail of that action, be it the Police plan which has been proposed, the medical examination plan which has been proposed, what would need to be done, visa vie child protection, what would need to be done on the ground in terms of the reform of housing arrangements - these detailed plans have yet to be produced to us by the Government. We await Mr Brough’s response to a letter which has been sent by Jenny Macklin on these matters and we would like to examine that in core detail. Beyond that which is absolutely necessary to deliver the outcomes for the protection of children, the indigenous communities in the Northern Territory should be able to continue to exercise rights and entitlements which exist for them under pre-existing laws.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister though this morning said that there’s no guarantee that the land will actually be given back to communities and is also backing away from the five year number, there’s no time-frame for how long

those communities will remain in their control. What do you make of those comments?

RUDD: The objective here is to deal with the problem of child abuse and child sexual abuse. That’s what’s got to be dealt with here and Mr Howard has already outlined a proposal and as I recall it, Mr Brough’s briefing to us was

for a five-year limit. It would be interesting in the extreme if the Prime Minister was proposing to go beyond that.

I note for example that there are reports that the Prime Minister has not given commitments in terms of police resourcing, medical resources and other personnel on the ground beyond the six month period, yet more broadly, he’s now talking about five years perhaps being an uncertain limit for the future when it comes to these other arrangements as they affect pre-existing legislation on land. I think it is important that we see the absolute detail of Mr Howard’s practical plans on the ground, the policing, medical personnel and the rest, including child protection, including housing beyond the next three months, beyond the next six months and into the future.

If you are serious about solving these problems long-term, you’ve got to deal with these problems on the ground in a systematic, sustained way, you can’t just go in, come out, and pretend that it is fixed. It’s not, so we are waiting with keen interest the response to the letter on that and I’d be surprised about any intention by Mr Howard to go beyond the five year limit and I would like to see his reasons justifying that.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, it’s been a week now since (inaudible) do you think the Government is being fair-dinkum about this?

RUDD: I would like to see the actual content of Mr Brough’s reply to Jenny Macklin’s letter on this. We entered this exercise in good faith with the Government. We want to deal with the problem of child abuse on the ground. It’s real. The document says so, the numbers speak for themselves. But to be real, the plans for dealing with it on the ground have to be real as well.

I’ll go to one example, 60 communities have been talked about here in terms of what would be taken over, effectively, with Commonwealth control. What are the policing needs for each of those communities? What new Police functions will be discharged in each of those communities? How many AFP are going to be sent for what period of time to each of those communities? How many existing Territory Police are there within those communities? How long can State and Territory Police who have been sent, stay in those communities?

In other words, what’s sustainable long-term to bring about measurable change? And parallel questions, the medical resources, education resources, child protections resources and housing reforms? I want to see the answer to Jenny’s letter to Mr Brough on that and we will form our views based on that detailed response.

JOURNALIST: I just wanted to ask your opinion on one of those sex issues that’s been floating around this week, how would you feel personally about the prospect of children in those areas having sexual health checks?

RUDD: Look, when you look at the data on the incidence of child abuse and child sexual abuse, all the care and responsibility of the State has to be directed towards the protection of little ones. Protection of little children. That may cause pain and difficulty on the ground and I have a deep sense of that, but our concern as a society must be directed towards the protection of children. Wherever these interventions occur, it’s always going to be a matter of controversy. I understand that. I really understand that but can I say that when

you have got reported incidences of abuse of the quantity that we’ve seen in the Northern Territory, extraordinary measures need to be embraced.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd are you saying, in fact, that authorities may have to act without the approval of parents?

RUDD: Authorities must always act within the ambit of the law, so when it comes to these matters I’m sure that all medical officers will be acting fully within whatever powers exist for them within the law. As I said, the organising principal here for us, is what is necessary to protect children? But medical officers, and for those matters all public servants, can only operate within the law of the day.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, on a…

RUDD: I’ve got to zip to something in a minute, but go on…

JOURNALIST: How do you feel about Prince William coming out as our Governor General?

RUDD: Geez, there’d be some parties at Yarralumla wouldn’t there? You reckon you’d get an invite? I think Australia overall is probably much better at exporting Royals, like Princess Mary, than importing Royals, so for those reasons I think that there are many other qualified Australians, whoever wins the next election, may nominate as Governor General. I think, when it comes to Prince William, he’s 25 years old, I think it would be party, party, party out at Yarralumla wouldn’t it? So I probably don’t think that probably the right way to go.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, you said…

RUDD: I mean, General Cosgrove and Australians like that would be interesting people to consider for positions like that, whoever would win the next election, Peter Cosgrove, other significant Australians.

JOURNALIST: John Howard?

RUDD: Other significant Australians who have made their contribution to Australian life, there are many, many Australians who would be suitable for positions like that, but I think we might just leave that one there.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, you said before that Labor had no intention of having AWAs in the future, are you also ruling out any other form of legislated individual agreements.

RUDD: Absolutely.