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Transcript of joint press conference: Prime Ministers Courtyard, Parliament House: 30 July 2008: appointment of Chief Justice of the High Court; Doha Trade talks; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme; Clarke Inquiry; High Court Blue Mud Bay decision; ACCC grocery inquiry; Opposition; diplomatic appointments; Liberal’s\nand Nationals; Lyne by-election.



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Prime Minister of Australia

Interview

Joint Press Conference with Attorney General, Robert McClelland, Prime Ministers Courtyard, Parliament House

30 July 2008

Subject(s): Appointment of Chief Justice of the High Court, Doha Trade Talks, Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, Clarke Inquiry, High Court Blue Mud Bay Decision, ACCC Grocery Inquiry, Opposition, Diplomatic Appointments, Liberal’s and Nationals, Lyne By-election

E&OE

PM: The Government is today pleased to announce the appointment of Justice Robert French as the new Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia.

Justice French will be the first West Australian to be Chief Justice of Australia. The first West Australian to occupy this office, therefore, in 107 years.

His appointment is made necessary because the retirement of the Honourable Chief Justice Murray Gleason, which takes effect as of Friday the 29th of August, 2008.

We extend on behalf of the Government our congratulations to Justice French on this important appointment, the most important constitutional office in the land.

We also extend our congratulations to Justice Gleeson on his contributions as Chief Justice of Australia in recent years.

Justice French brings to this new appointment 22 years worth of service on the Federal Court. He is well regarded across the legal profession. He has had a distinguished legal career so far and we congratulate him on this most important appointment.

The Attorney.

MCCLELLAND: Thank you.

Yes, it is with great honour that I confirm that Justice French has been appointed as the next Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. He has had 22 years of distinguished service as a Judge on the Federal Court of Australia. He is regarded judicially as a leading jurist. He is regarded academically as a lawyer of great expertise.

He has written extensively, not only in judgments, obviously delivered in his role as a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia, but he is widely published on a number of topics. He is regarded as a constitutional law expert. He is regarded highly in respect to his expertise in administrative law, his experience in native title. He has served the broader legal community in a number of categories, including the Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales and he serves currently as a part-time member of the Australian Law Reform Commission.

So, he has constantly maintained a passion for the development of the law. He is regarded universally as a fair minded judge who gives the right of fair hearing to those who appear before him. He is respected for the clarity of his reasons and his ability to express the law in clear and concise terms. We are confident that he will provide outstanding leadership to the High Court of Australia.

PM: Over to you, folks.

JOURNALIST: Attorney, how many names were on your short list for this appointment? And were any of the sitting High Court Judges considered for the Chief Justice role?

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MCCLELLAND: Again, it’s inappropriate to identify those persons who were considered, but I can say, and it’s a matter of interest, that the process of consultation that occurred in respect to the appointment of Justice French is the most extensive that has ever occurred in Australia. Not only were the Premiers of the states consulted and Chief Ministers, Attorneys-General of course, but also law societies, bar associations, the community legal sector, legal aid commissions, and indeed the Deans of leading law schools as well as, of course, the women’s legal groups were consulted.

So, out of that process of consultation, to answer your question, quite remarkably there were in the order of 200 letters sent out canvassing views. Quite remarkably, of that 200, I can identify that there were 24 nominations. So, those who were nominated were clearly in the elite of Australia’s legal profession.

It is fair to say that any one of those persons would have performed admirably. We are convinced, however, that we have the outstanding candidate at this point in time.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) before the appointment, yourself and the Prime Minister, have you spoken to -

MCCLELLAND: No, no interviews were conducted. I, of course, spoke to Justice French before the Cabinet announcement. And he, of course, indicated he was very honoured to accept the appointment and he specifically indicated, as the Prime Minister has, his appreciation for the work of Chief Justice Gleason. And, indeed, I think he will acknowledge that in any statements he makes.

JOURNALIST: Attorney, do you expect he will be an activist judge or a black letter judge?

MCCLELLAND: He is a black letter lawyer. He has written a number of articles commenting on the development and the evolution of the law. So he brings to bare an interest in the practical development of the law, but in accordance with legal principles -

JOURNALIST: Another conservative on the High Court?

MCCLELLAND: He is I think you would describe Justice French as a fair minded jurist who is most certainly a black letter lawyer but who has shown an interest in the evolution of the law.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, what’s your reaction to the collapse of the Doha talks, and what does it mean to Australian producers, particularly agricultural exporters?

PM: At a time of great global economic difficulty, this is a body blow to the global economy.

The global economy needed a positive shot in the arm right now. And the best way to have delivered that would have been through a positive outcome in Doha.

The tragedy of all this is that it was well within reach. I, last night, or in the early hours in fact until about 2 this morning, on the phone to various people in Geneva. On the phone to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and others about how this could be rescued. It didn’t work. And I am deeply, deeply, deeply disappointed about its impact not just on the global economy overall, at these difficult global economic times, but also in terms of the impact for Australian primary producers, but also, our economy in general.

Nonetheless, there is no point crying over spilt milk. What we’ve got to do now is dust ourselves off and get on with the task of where to next, and I’ll be engaged in discussions with various international leaders in the days ahead about how we seek to find a further pathway forward.

I don’t wish to hold out unnecessary hope on that question. But I believe, given that this possible agreement was so close and so nearly within reach, that it would be an absolute tragedy simply to kiss it all goodbye.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) bad sign for agreement on climate change if an agreement on trade can’t be reached?

PM: I don’t believe you can draw an automatic connection between the two. I think we have had a huge, huge set-back in terms of the political will of the governments of the world to act in concert for what is plainly in the global economic good, which is to expand free trade across the world.

Good for developing countries, good for developed economies, good particularly at a time of great economic challenge.

On the question of global climate change negotiations, they have a way to run through until Copenhagen at the end of next year. They’ll be tough, they’ll be hard, they’ll be difficult. We understand that, we accept that but we intend to be activists in that process.

Can I also say on Doha, to pass my personal and public congratulations to the work of Simon Crean, the Trade Minister.

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Simon has been an absolute Trojan in this. As part of the G7 group of negotiators Simon has tried every avenue known to man to try and pull this off. He has worked tirelessly and I would publicly acknowledge his contribution, as have many other international trade ministers and leaders to me in recent times.

JOURNALIST: Is now the time to be cutting domestic tariffs given that the multilateral trade negotiations (inaudible) failed? (Inaudible) considering cutting domestic tariffs?

PM: Well, by instinct, I and this Government is a Government of free traders. Because I believe, as I said of the international economy it’s what applies to the domestic economy, free trade grows jobs, it grows the economy. There’ll always be problems of adjustment and dislocation on the way through, but that’s the history of economic development.

On the question specifically, however, that you point to, which is the current reviews in relation to both automobile tariffs and to TCF tariffs, there are processes in place on that, they’ll report in due course.

JOURNALIST: Now that the Liberals have clarified their position emissions trading,

PM:When did that occur?

JOURNALIST: Now the focus is on whether you can get it through a 2010. Are you envisaging -

PM: The question is a serious one, I understood this was a the matter of the party room debate today - has that concluded, or?

JOURNALIST: Well, it’s clarified anyway. But, can I ask -

PM: Okay - I’ll put the preface to one side.

JOURNALIST:The focus now on 2010, do you envisage the start being the soft start that business wants so that the system can be tickled into perfection?

PM:Our responsibility as a Government is to take tough decisions for Australia’s long term future because it is the responsible thing to do.

Those opposite have been engaged in short term politics which has got more to do with their own internal party debates than the long term interests of Australia.

On the question of the future shape or our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, putting together the Green Paper we put out has been a huge and complex process. We’ve had a further discussion on the negotiation process now, consultation process with industry, which will now unfold in the months ahead. That will be comprehensive, it will be systematic, and we’ll work through the matters which are raised with us by industry one by one. And we’ll bring that to a conclusion with the White Paper.

When we frame our White Paper response, that is when we will make decisions in terms of what is called the trajectory, that is the pathway through to our 2050 target and we’ll do so only at that time.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd would you be willing to ease up on the cap for the ETS if there’s no agreement at Copenhagen?

PM: We believe that we have a responsibility to get on with it. There has been too much time wasting, there’s too much time wasting. The call of the international community and the call of the people of Australia is to get on with it and they want us to take action. They want us to show some leadership, I accept fully this will be tough and there will be pain along the way, I accept that I’m not going to back away from it. But what we need is a clear pathway ahead because we also need to be upfront participants in a global negotiating process which is consistent with what we are doing at home.

JOURNALIST:(inaudible) young man who dance for you in the Territory the other day?

PM:That’s just, I’ve have got to say, an unspeakable tragedy.

JOURNALIST:(inaudible)

PM: We believe that we’ve got to act, let’s put this into context. Our pre-decessors had 12 years to act, they did nothing until 5 minutes to midnight brought down this thing called the Shergold report. After the election then said we’re not really interested in that, then we are, then we’re not, then we’re half interested. Well I don’t really know where they stand.

Our position is clear prior to the election we said we would introduce a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. We said what

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our target would be to 2050, we said we’d start this process with a Green Paper, we’ve done so. We said that once we have concluded the consultation process with industry we would then define what the trajectory path would be through to 2050. And that’s what we intend to stick to so therefore we will not speculate on possibilities within that pathway or that gateway until we reach the conclusion of the process and the Green Paper speaks for itself on that question.

JOURNALIST: The Green Paper says that you won’t actually set the cap until 2010 (inaudible) so that does allow you to wait to see what happens in Copenhagen doesn’t it?

PM: Well what we have said is that we will indicate what our pathway will be and that is a decision which we will take in the context of the White Paper. We have said consistently that we will be simultaneously engaged in a global negotiating context and as I have said many times before as other countries have done in terms of a band within a pathway, that can be entirely tailored for international negotiating circumstances. For example the Europeans have put out some time ago a band which is upper and lower to a particular destination point consistent with the pace of international negotiations. I’ve said before that’s a reasonable approach, it was outline in the Green Paper as well.

JOURNALIST: Within the last 24 hours we have seen the publication of an ASIO submission to the Haneef inquiry indicating that ASIO said there was no danger to Australia from Dr Haneef. The Queensland police said something similar, isn’t it now time to give this inquiry the powers of a royal commission to get to the bottom of this properly?

PM: Well the Clarke inquiry is still underway, it still has a way to process through all of the matters which are put before it. Matters of fact and the submissions associated with that. I think we should be calm temperate and responsible and wait for the outcome of that inquiry. I think that’s the right way to go ahead.

JOURNALIST: The High Court’s decision today to uphold exclusive access rights of traditional owners to Northern Territory tidal waters. Do you have concerns for that elsewhere in Australia and would your Government consider moving to provide access to non indigenous fisherman to those areas?

PM: This matters been a subject of extensive legal deliberation by various courts and most recently by the Full Bench of the High Court of Australia. Secondly the officers of the Attorney’s department are now studying the actual detail of the decision which was only handed down today.

Thirdly we are encouraged by the positive and constructive attitude which has been demonstrated thus far by organisations such as the Northern Territory Lands Council in terms of ensuring that there are flexible and sensible arrangements. Negotiated arrangements put in place which can properly balance the rights of interests of fishers both commercial and recreational.

I think the key way through this is common sense, we would urge all parties to show common sense and as this matter has been the subject of legal deliberation for a long, long, long time then its time now for common sense to prevail on the ground now that the High Court has clarified the law.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Well working families, working Australians, Pensioners, Carers are under huge cost of living pressures and the reasons go to the fact that we have a rolling impact of global economic developments, global financial crisis which rolls through to unofficial interest rate rises, goes to global oil shocks - the third great oil shock since the 1970’s and the roll through costs again in terms of not just petrol but food as you point to it.

We will await the release of that report but can I say our view is we need to continue to examine all practical measures, practical measures to assist working Australians under financial pressure. We’ve started that process through the tax cuts which came into effect as of 1 July. We started that process in terms of the changes to the child care tax rebate which came into effect as of 1 July, education tax refund begins to flow from the next point, that is 1 July next year, but becomes operational in terms of the collection of receipts during the current financial year and other measures as well including establishment of the teen dental program.

These do not solve all financial pressures for people who are doing it really tough at the moment - and they are. But our overall charge is this, to do whatever we can to continue to strengthen the Australian economy for the long term. That is the most responsible course of action that we can undertake for all those under pressure now.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd as a former Opposition Leader of how do you think Brendan Nelson’s leadership looks today?

PM: That is a matter for the Liberal party. The problem of the Liberal Party is not one of personalities, its policies like WorkChoices and simply being a bunch o climate change sceptics. That’s the problem, that’s the problem.

JOURNALIST: Has there been any progress in the appointment of a High Commissioner to London?

PM: Closer than yesterday.

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JOURNALIST: What’s taken so long?

JOURNALIST: Are you waiting for Peter Costello to retire?

PM: All the processes of diplomatic and other appointments go through proper channels and this one as together with others has yet to be concluded. Some take a little longer than others but it will done in due course. Properly considered fashion and we’re perfectly relaxed with the process.

JOURNALIST:Can a former politician be ruled out?

PM:Can a former politician be ruled out? We will adhere always former, serving or future, we’ll always adhere to the proper process. As you see in the case of Tim Fischer’s appointment I have not ruled out the appointment of former politicians to diplomatic appointments. But this is always on a case by case basis as is appropriate to the post and to the challenges and to the skills of the person involved.

I think Tim’s appointment was entirely appropriate.

JOURNALIST:Peter Costello would make a good High Commissioner?

PM:That is a matter on a broader front in terms of his future to be resolved by the Liberal Party.

JOURNALIST:(inaudible)

PM:You should ask Mal Brough. See what Mal’s views are on these questions. The key question for the Libs, the Nats in whatever form is not one of personality, not one of structure but one of policy. The Libs and the Nats stand for WorkChoices, they stand for scepticisms on climate change, they had no solution in terms of exiting our troops from Iraq.

Lets just be very clear about this, the problem on the conservative side of politics is not branding, its not names, its not structures. It’s the policies they stand for, they are policies we fought hard in the last election and the policies fight hard against come the next election.

JOURNALIST:(inaudible)

PM:Well as I have said before Michelle in reference I think to Mayo, maybe in a reference to Lyne as well I can’t remember. These are seats which have never been held by Labor and in the history of their having been established as seats in the House of Representatives.

Secondly unlike various other political parties, we don’t have a million bucks to throw at every by-election that comes along. Which is precisely what the other mob threw at the by-election in Gippsland. But we have yet to reach a final decision on that.

Ok thanks folks

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