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Transcript of doorstop interview: Adelaide: Adelaide Oval; National Broadband Network; Fair Work Australia; Schapelle Corby; Work Choices; AFL; COAG; Internet safety; River Murray

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Transcript of doorstop interview, Adelaide

THU 05 APRIL 2012

Prime Minister

Subject(s): Adelaide Oval; National Broadband Network; Fair Work Australia; Schapelle Corby; Work Choices; AFL; COAG; Internet safety; River Murray

PM: It’s great to be here with the Premier, with Kate Ellis here in her capacity as local Member, and also with Senator Don Farrell, here in South Australia at the great Adelaide Oval, celebrating what is the first week of this redevelopment, but also putting in the ground in a time capsule some of the dreams and hopes and aspirations of young people in South Australia who play cricket, play football and may end up playing on this great oval. So it’s a pleasure to be here. I’ll hand over to the Premier and then we’ll be happy to take questions.

PREMIER WEATHERILL: Of course this site also is a massive opportunity for a lot of workers to participate in this project. At its peak 700 workers will be working on this site, in 2013. 15% of the total hours will be about assisting some people into apprenticeships and traineeships to give them a start - people that might have otherwise have had some difficulties in getting access to employment. So this is, as well as being a magnificent project, is a great employment generator for our wonderful city, and of course it’s going to make a massive contribution to revitalising our beautiful city.

PM: Thank you very much, I’m sure we’ve got some questions.

JOURNALIST: How do you respond to allegations that the Labor Government is pork-barrelling Brisbane by shoring up its seats with the NBN rollout?

PM: The NBN rollout was determined by NBN Co - the company that is building the network, and they did it on engineering design. As the CEO Mike Quigley said as we announced the three-year rollout, they had a team of engineers working on the best way to do it, and those engineers wouldn’t have even known where the electoral boundaries were between seats.

The building of the NBN is going to be right round the country, but it’s got to build out rationally from, you know, Telstra exchanges and connection points, and that’s what explains the three-year rollout plan.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the last time you visited Adelaide was a fairly eventful occasion. Was there some trepidation in returning again? It seems every time you turn up something fairly major and bad for yourself happens.

PM: I don’t really know what you're referring to. I’m always very happy to be in Adelaide.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Fair Work Australia report, is it just a waste of time and money if it’s in a format that (inaudible) unusable for the Commonwealth DPP?

PM: Fair Work Australia, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, these are both independent agencies. They work independently of government, that’s the right thing for them to be independent so any questions and comments about the way in which they work are really matters for them.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on Schapelle Corby, there appears to be renewed hope she could be released (inaudible), what are your thoughts on that and is there anything the Federal Government can do?

PM: Schapelle Corby has made a clemency bid. As a Government we have supported her bid for clemency. We’ve constantly made representations in support of her clemency bid. This matter is determined by the President of Indonesia. It’s not in the interests of Ms Corby for it to be the subject of a lot of media commentary and speculation at this time. The matter will be determined by the President of Indonesia, but we have supported her clemency bid and we have made representations on a continuing basis on Ms Corby’s behalf.

JOURNALIST: Fair Work Australia, this was a body that was set up by a Labor Government, that was influenced by the unions. It’s a body staffed by union officials investigating unions. It’s found 181 potential breaches and its given its report to the one body that can’t seem to do anything about it. Is that a problem with the system?

PM: Well every assumption you’ve made in that question isn’t right, so let’s go right back to the start. We enacted fair work laws, we created the Fair Work Act to get rid of the hated Work Choices.

I think most people believe from a common sense perspective that in workplaces we’ve got to get the balance right between the interests of employers and employees. What Work Choices had done was taken the pendulum right up to one side, employers could do basically anything they wanted and employees were losing penalty rates, getting unfairly dismissed. So we fixed that, we got the balance right for a system that would work for working people and for businesses.

Fair Work Australia’s the independent umpire, it has amongst its ranks people who’ve served in trade unions, people who’ve worked in employer organisations, people who’ve been employers in businesses, people who’ve worked in education institutions and who are expert in the study of labour law. So it makes decisions independently of Government.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Look all of these are questions for Fair Work Australia, it’s independent of Government.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Look, what the Senate Committee wants to request is a question for the Senate Committee, and how Fair Work Australia responds is a question for it. This is an independent body, and it is not appropriate for me and it’s not appropriate for Tony Abbott to be trying to give directions to an independent body.

If we looked at this in a different context, would you think that it was satisfactory in a major industrial dispute for the Prime Minister of the day to get involved and direct an outcome?

Would you think it was satisfactory for a future Prime Minister, say if Tony Abbott was ever Prime Minister, to get in and direct that your pay should be cut in half and that you should lose your penalty rates? This is an independent body for good reason.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) CEO of Energy Watch, a major sponsor of the Melbourne Football Club, is in some hot water over some racist comments on his Facebook page. He’s also made derogatory comments about yourself. Do you have any response to those comments?

Page 1 of 3 Transcript of doorstop interview, Adelaide | Prime Minister of Australia


PM: Look, I’m not at all, you know, worried or concerned about the comments involving me, but there are amongst the things reported today to be on this site comments that are deeply offensive, very deeply offensive, and on what I’ve seen in the reports some that would particularly concern me are the comments about indigenous Australians and indigenous players. I mean the AFL has done remarkable work to profile and showcase indigenous Australians, to pursue the cause of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia.

So to see someone associated with one of the great football clubs making comments like that is really deeply disappointing.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister are you concerned about the COAG next, next week’s COAG meeting given the pact that’s been made between the eastern states being Liberal premiers?

PM: No I’m not. I've worked with COAG whilst it’s had a number of Liberal premiers amongst its number. We struck the health reform agreement that is getting billions of dollars extra into health care with Liberal premiers around the table.

We did that shortly after the election of Premier Barry O’Farrell. And what that has meant for people right around the nation is more doctors, it’s more money into the public hospital system, it’s going to mean less waiting times in emergency departments when someone in your family’s sick, less waiting time on elective surgery waiting lists. So, we’ve been able to work with premiers of all political persuasions in the interests of the nation.

The only thing I’ve ever asked around the COAG table is people come in not, you know, clutching their party ticket in their hand, but come into the room clutching their plans for our nation’s future.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) controversy surrounding Mitcham Girls’ High School, the girls who were involved in the sexually explicit video and put in online, do you have any views on that, and you’ve had a bit to do with the (inaudible) system in other states, do you think South Australia should sign up to that?

PM: I mean, for the individual girls involved, I mean this was a very, very silly thing to do and they’re now caught up in the consequences of it. The internet - online - is changing our world in all sorts of positive ways, we work more efficiently, we can share information more efficiently, people can engage in social media, they can keep in touch with their friends in a way we never have been able to before.

But it’s also got its dangers, and that’s why this conduct was very silly by the girls involved. But it’s something that needs to be now worked through, not by me or the Premier, it needs to be worked through by them, their families and their school. On, you know, cyber security, cyber safety arrangements, we are working around the country to put a highlight on the dangers that can be there in the cyber world. Dangers like cyber bullying, and to try and keep kids safe, and round the country premiers in their own schooling systems are making some choices about how to do that too.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you relieved that (inaudible) Craig Thomson won’t be charged?

PM: All of this, Fair Work Australia, DPP, independent and the decisions made are a matter for them.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, it was a body set up by your Government. Do you think this is an example of the process working well, or does there need to be a re-think of the way this body is (inaudible)?

PM: Well, decisions about this matter are for Fair Work Australia. We generally, on how workplace relations is working now, believe the Fair Work Act is working well. Let’s remember what we replaced. We replaced Work Choices, where you could get the sack for no reason at all and have no remedy. We replaced Work Choices, where people were getting their penalty rates ripped off without a cent of compensation. We replaced Work Choices, because the evidence was that people, particularly young people, particularly women were at risk of just having their pay cut.

Really basic things like what time of day you’re going to get called in to work, whether you can make appropriate arrangements for the care of your children, whether you’re given enough notice to do that before you’re required on shift at the risk of being sacked with no remedy if you don’t get there. I mean these things were, you know, dreadful, they were un-Australian, they weren’t the Australian way, they weren’t the culture of a fair go and we got rid of all of that and replaced it with Fair Work.

So the system’s working to do what we wanted it to which is to get rid of that dreadful unfairness of Work Choices. There is a review of the Fair Work system underway, we always said there would be a review at this point, so if people have got ideas about improving the system that’s how they can put them forward.

JOURNALIST: How can you say that it is actually working, Prime Minister, when you’ve got the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions saying that he’s been given a report that’s essentially useless by Fair Work Australia that cost millions of dollars of taxpayers’-PM: Well I just took you through the industrial relations system and the working of it, and if you were someone who walked into work and had their penalty rates ripped off under Work Choices I think you’d be giving a tick to the Fair Work system. If you were someone who got unfairly dismissed without a cent of compensation, no notice, no reason, just tossed out the door, not able to pay your rent or your mortgage anymore because that had happened to you, I think you’d be giving a big tick to the Fair Work system.

If you’re someone who’s concerned about the balance being right between employers and employees, not employers having all of the say, and workers having none of the say, I think you’d be giving a big tick to the Fair Work system. On the specifics of this matter, Fair Work Australia is an independent body and it’s dealt with it independently.

JOURNALIST: Just on Adelaide Oval, you announced the Commonwealth’s (inaudible) late last year and subsequently the SCG. Given some of the budget constraints you’ve been facing since and some of them you’ve announced even this week, is it justifiable to be spending that kind of money on football?

PM: Of course it is, because as I believe the Premier described inside, the change here at Adelaide Oval, of course it’s about football, it’s about sport, but it’s also about redesigning the way that this precinct works and its flow into the city.

This is an important setting for South Australia, whether it’s coming to watch a match, whether it’s kids getting access to the site with all of the sporting work that happens from here, whether it’s the economic benefits of having a world-class ground that can attract and hold world-class events, or whether it’s the flow-on economic benefits of people coming here, watching a match, wandering through to the city, going to a show, having a night out, having a meal out, spending some money, supporting some jobs, that economic benefit’s important.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Absolutely. We want the River Murray to be healthy and we particularly want that for the people of South Australia. I know how important the River Murray is to this state, and I know what it’s like to live here and to worry about the river and to worry about what’s happening to the river because of the actions of people upstream. So we want to get this right, we want to get it right so we’ve got a healthy river, we’ve got sustainable agriculture, we’ve got vibrant river communities and we want to be guided by the best science available.

Page 2 of 3 Transcript of doorstop interview, Adelaide | Prime Minister of Australia


So we’ve got more work to do, but the voice of South Australians is being raised about this matter and that’s a, you know, completely understandable, completely appropriate given the importance of the River Murray to this state and it’s being listened to.

JOURNALIST: There was a Newspoll this week in South Australia that has Labor only four points behind - state Labor, compared to Queensland a very healthy position. Is the, South Australia pretty much Labor’s last bastion, and why do you think the party and presumably the Federal Labor’s holding up here better than other states?

PM: Well look, I’m not a commentator on opinion polls, because we have so many of them. If I took up commentary on opinion polls I’d do very little else with my time.

My preference with my time is to get about realising our vision for the nation’s future, and for South Australia, of course that vision means a prosperous state, you’ve got an economy in change, huge potentials for the future, Olympic Dam, the ability to keep strengthening manufacturing here, even during difficult days with a high Australian dollar, your comparative advantage in defence projects.

There’s a great future around the corner for South Australia and that great prosperous future means we can have benefits that we can all share. Things that we’ll be working on together around the COAG table, like a new system to give people the skills they’ll need for the future, and ultimately new benefits like a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the elevation of Mr Weatherill has helped the party’s fortunes?

PM: Look I think Premier Weatherill’s doing a great job, but I’m not a poll commentator, you need to go to someone else for that.

Thank you very much.

Page 3 of 3 Transcript of doorstop interview, Adelaide | Prime Minister of Australia