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Transcript of interview with Kerri-Anne: 17 February 2009: [ Julie Bishop; Royal Commission into Victorian bushfires; infrastructure package and schools; maternity leave]

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The Hon Julia Gillard MP

17 February, 2009


17/02/2009 - Transcript - Interview - Mornings with Kerri-Anne

KERRI-ANNE: Welcome to the show. Without further ado I would like to welcome again Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Deputy PM, thank you very much for joining us once more.

JULIA GILLARD: Good morning Kerri-Anne. It’s great to be here.

KERRI-ANNE: Well, I tell you. The news this morning - politics yet again. The stir is on. The Liberal Party seems to be imploding. Yesterday we saw Julie Bishop removed. What’s your take on that one?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I guess you’d need to ask a Liberal politician for the inside story, but I feel a little bit sorry for Julie Bishop, in the sense I think she’s bearing the burden of the fact that Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberals don’t really have any plans for our economy so as Shadow Treasury spokesperson, she didn’t have much to say and I think Joe Hockey’s going to have the same problem. So, I don’t really think it’s the person doing the presenting; it’s actually the absence of policies that’s the real issue.

KERRI-ANNE: Do you not think facing Joe Hockey is going to be a tougher task? I mean, you know, he’s a harder performer than Julie Bishop ever was. Does that fill your party and you with a little bit more fear and trepidation, facing Joe Hockey?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I’ve faced Joe Hockey in the past. We have all faced Joe Hockey in the past when he was, of course, selling Work Choices to the Australian people, and that was a spectacular failure. So, really, the issue in politics is the substance of what you’ve got to say. If you’re saying to people we want your pay rates cut, they’re not going to buy it. If you’re saying to people we’ve got no plans in the face of the global financial crisis, they’re not going to buy it either.

KERRI-ANNE: There was some suggestion, probably not too much this morning, Julie Bishop’s exit has been part of the boys’ club. As a female politician, how do you react to that?

JULIA GILLARD: I wouldn’t be putting it down to the boys’ club. I think politics is a tough place. It’s a tough place for men, it’s a tough place for women and individuals in that

tough place sometimes, personally, confront difficulties and that’s what’s happened to Julie Bishop, but I wouldn’t put a boys’ club spin on it, no.

KERRI-ANNE: Key to survival?

JULIA GILLARD: Key to survival is do your work, always work hard, always stand up for what you believe in and most important of all, make sure that you are out there with the policies and plans that the nation wants to listen to, wants to debate, wants to discuss and wants to see adopted. People aren’t interested in us kind of commentating. They actually want to see substance.

KERRI-ANNE: Of course you’ve announced a Royal Commission into the tragedy of the bushfires in Victoria. Garry Nairn chaired an inquiry. There were some 59 recommendations. He was quoted by Laurie Oakes that virtually all of those recommendations have been ignored. This is a multi-million dollar inquiry. A new one will be embarked upon. To quote Garry Nairn, he said I am hoping that you or the Labor Party will read this, the inquiry that is, and ask what happens if it was watered down so as not to duplicate a Royal Commission? Will you read the previous inquiry?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, certainly the Federal Government knows about the previous inquiry and all of the recommendations. I can’t speak for the Royal Commissioner, Kerri-Anne, by definition the judge who is heading up the Royal Commission appointed by the Victorian Government is going to be fiercely independent and that’s exactly as it should be.

KERRI-ANNE: But surely somebody at some stage would say hang on, we’ve spent millions of dollars here only five or six years ago. There were some really good recommendations in here which mostly were ignored. Have a look at this so we don’t duplicate this. Is that common sense? Will somebody make sure this happens, or will it just be another face saving exercise?

JULIA GILLARD: I’ve got a lot of confidence in Bernard Teague, the Royal Commissioner. He’s a former Supreme Court judge. Everybody who speaks about him talks about him as a hard working, thorough professional and consequently, I think he will do everything to inform himself about everything to do with this bushfire, all of the history, all of the inquiries and recommendations in the past.

KERRI-ANNE: It just seems we’ve had so many inquiries, so many Royal Commissions over the years, nothing has been done. People are just afraid, not only that it’s a waste of money, duplication of information, but it won’t be read. We need assurance.

JULIA GILLARD: And I’m in a position to give it. Everybody who’s lived through this experience in Victoria and around the nation, is now asking themselves the question, why? What can we do better? What is the force of nature that human beings just can’t stand up to? What can we do, what should we do for the future?

KERRI-ANNE: Well, those answers, some of which were in the last inquiry…

JULIA GILLARD: And people will look to the Royal Commission to work its way through all of that and obviously, as soon as that is available, Government will respond. Federal Government, State Government. And in terms of things that came out of the Nairn Royal

Commission, I mean when we came to Government for example, the idea about an early warning system had first been raised in 2003, not much had been done and Kevin Rudd pushed it very quickly through the COAG agenda, so we’ve shown that when there’s a good idea we’re prepared to get there and act quickly. Now we just need the Royal Commissioner to do his work, to come back with the recommendations and I agree with you, no-one is going to want to see this as a book on a shelf gathering dust. People are going to want to have it on the desk and actioning the recommendations.

KERRI-ANNE: $42 billion dollar packages have, in the past, been great news for you. But in 20 years time, what infrastructure is this country going to be benefitting by and be proud of, in 20 years?

JULIA GILLARD: In 20 years, we’ll be proud of our schools and that’s something, unfortunately, we can’t say now. I visit a lot of schools and some of them look exactly like the school I went to and, Kerri-Anne, I was in school a fair time ago. All of the world of learning has changed since and our schools around the country often haven’t kept pace. Evidence from around the world says world class facilities actually do make a difference to the way kids learn. You’ve got to have great teachers and good facilities make a difference too. This is a once in a generation opportunity to modernise our schools around the nation and make them fit for learning in the 21st century, so I’m hoping we’ll still be proud of those schools.

KERRI-ANNE: I think that’s exceptional. What other major projects will we recognise and benefit by in 20 years, besides education - that is a very good one - what else?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, the single biggest part of the infrastructure package is of course education because it’s for every school around the country, more than 9000 of them. Another important part, though, is social housing. The Prime Minister, I think, brought this issue to national focus by talking about homelessness and I don’t think any of us, when we’re at home at night, wants to sit there knowing that there are Australians who are sleeping rough, who are sleeping under bridges.

KERRI-ANNE: While our social conscience is very important having our people who are doing it tough looked after. What about the major projects - big roads, fast trains, pipelines with water. To solve a lot of the issues of drought and flood that we’ve had, will we have any major projects?

JULIA GILLARD: We’ve said that we will have more to say on infrastructure and of course we did make some infrastructure announcements at the end of last year, including rail projects, road projects, new money for universities. But, what’s the aim of all of this package? Well, it’s to do things that will matter for the long term, but to support the maximum number of jobs along the way. The great thing about schools and about social housing is it can make a difference in every community across the nation, so little construction sites right round the nation, supporting jobs right round the nation. That’s why that kind of infrastructure was selected for this package, because of its reach.

KERRI-ANNE: Are you doing a back flip on paid maternity leave?

JULIA GILLARD: No, I’m saying the same thing on paid maternity leave I’ve been saying for many months now, which is we understand the importance of paid maternity leave; that’s

why we asked an expert group like the Productivity Commission to inquire and report into it. The last thing we want to do is come up with some scheme that suppresses what’s already happening out there in the private sector in some big companies, where they’re giving paid maternity leave. That final report will be received by the end of this month and then things flowing from it we’ll consider in the budget context. I’ve said that every day I was asked.

KERRI-ANNE: You love a good stoush and I know some time ago you were suspended for 24 hours for a snivelling grub, you called Tony Abbott a snivelling grub. Have a look at this when you responded. [Shows clip] Do you think those sorts of remarks in Parliament build public respect?

JULIA GILLARD: No, I don’t think they do and that incident was actually - and I don’t want to get into a tit for tat cycle here - but we were complaining that Tony Abbott as the then Leader of Government Business had used this terminology directly about the Labor Party and nothing had happened so we were basically saying well if it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander. One way of making a point. I think when people watch our Parliament and watch Question Time they understand that that’s a particular part of the day, where they’re going to see some feisty exchanges. I’ve never worried about the feistiness of the exchange. I think if you’re fighting for something you believe in, you should be pretty up front about it, but sometimes I understand people look at it and think gee I wouldn’t want my kid behaving like that, so why the politicians?

KERRI-ANNE: Indeed. Maybe it’s getting better, we’re not sure. The Labor Party has certainly known its inner turmoil with your leadership woes in the past. I guess what we’re looking at today - Peter Costello, Brendan Nelson. If you were the leader and one of your people, i.e. Brendan Nelson in that portfolio and not told you, how would you react?

JULIA GILLARD: I would be very upset if that had happened.

KERRI-ANNE: What does it say?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I think it says that the Liberal Party isn’t functioning as a team and team work in politics is important. Unity in politics is important and, if I can come back to where I started, substance in politics is important. People aren’t particularly interested, I don’t think, in what we look like or what we’re wearing .They’re interested in what our plans are for the country and the Liberal Party, I think, hasn’t learned the lesson of the last election and isn’t putting forward any plans now. Personally, I’ll say it to Brendan to his face, but I’ll miss him in the Australian Parliament. When I was first a backbencher I served with him on a committee. He was the chair and I was a new backbencher and he was always a very gracious man, very easy to get along with and, I think, very concerned about some of the big issues for the nation so he’ll be missed.

KERRI-ANNE: And Peter Costello and Joe Hockey, that whole issue of who got asked first. It’s always awkward, isn’t it?

JULIA GILLARD: It is always awkward. Today’s newspapers tell us the tale that Mr Turnbull approached Mr Costello first. I suppose that would weigh on Joe Hockey’s mind.

KERRI-ANNE: Well, it’s always an interesting time and certainly the turmoil the Labor Party has been used to. You’ve got your act together now. It’s always a delight. So, you’re not cooking for us today? No spag bol?

JULIA GILLARD: Kerri-Anne, my cooking hasn’t got any better.

KERRI-ANNE: Gotcha. [Laughing] Thanks very much for joining us.


KERRI-ANNE: Julia Gillard, our Deputy Prime Minister.

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