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Transcript of doorstop interview: Canberra: 17 February 2012: Trade Training Centres; Education; Air Australia; Economy; Jobs; Gambling reform; Car industry; Australian Labor Party; Asylum seekers; Caltex

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Transcript of doorstop interview, Canberra


Prime Minister

Subject(s): Trade Training Centres; Education; Air Australia; Economy; Jobs; Gambling reform; Car industry; Australian Labor Party; Asylum seekers; Caltex

PM: We’re here today for a special celebration of the Trade Training Centre that will not only serve this school, but three other schools. As I said when I addressed the assembly, this is about every child’s education, making sure they get the opportunities and choices they want to live their dreams.

Not every child is the same, they’ll want a different pathway, and they’ll want schools today to be able to support them. Whether their dream is going to university - and I’ve met a young person today who said that she wanted to do that and be a journalist - or whether it’s their dream to become a chef and I’ve met young people today who want to do just that. Or whether their dream is to work in construction and I’ve met a young man who said that to me today. We’ve got to make sure that our schools are equipped and able to support them as they choose all of those different pathways.

This is about lifting quality for every child in every school, it’s about every child in every school leaving school ready for the next stage of their lives. Our economy is in days of change, and that’s going to put new demands on the workforce of the future for higher and higher skill. We know that in the economy that these kids will live in, for every low-skilled job that is created there will be two and a half high-skilled jobs created. We’ve got to get children ready for those jobs, and we’ve got to make sure that they leave school with all of the attributes for living a successful life as an adult. And in this school you can feel not only the academic excellence, but also the sense of community and spirit that is building these kids for the rest of their lives. So it’s been a wonderful pleasure to be here, I thank Michael the principal for so much facilitating the visit and I’ve really enjoyed talking to the kids.

I’m here with Peter Garrett, the Minister for School Education. We continue to deliver groundbreaking reforms in education. More money in school education, but importantly a major reform agenda to drive change.

On Monday we will release the report of the Gonski Panel; led by David Gonski a group of eminent Australian who have looked at school funding. Of course on Monday the Minister and I will be talking through all aspects of that report. But, we want to work through - step by step - the challenges for the nation for funding our schools for the future.

We know that we live in the region of the world that’s growing economically. But other nations in our region are investing to improve their school system. Indeed, four of the five highest performing school systems in the world are in countries in our region. So we’ve got to make sure we not only keep up but we win that education race. We’re very focussed on a reform agenda to do that, and we will, following the release of the Gonski report, be working through what are an enormously important set of questions that will require study and consideration and work with stakeholders. So we’re looking forward to that on Monday.

I’m going to turn now to Peter Garrett for some comments, and then our local members will say a few words. We are in Gai’s electorate and she has a very close connection with this school. She was very enthusiastic about me coming here, but what we have seen today will service not only students in her electorate, but also in Andrew’s electorate so they’ll both make a few comments. So I’ll turn to Peter now.

MINISTER GARRETT: Thanks very much Prime Minister. Look, it has been a great event here at Mary Mackillop, and I think the fact is that we are providing unprecedented levels of investment and support for students in schools right around Australia. And the fact that young students here can get the opportunity to learn in first-class facilities and decide whether or not they want to take a job option on that skills pathway which really gets them going in employment once they leave school.

Coupled with the significant investments that we’ve made in school facilities, including in this school, and as well as that the national partnerships which we’ve been delivering through the states focusing on things like teacher quality, literacy and numeracy, and of course assisting low SES communities as well. All of these things add up to a substantial, far-reaching reform agenda on education that is absolutely essential for this country as we go into the 21st century - a century which is going to be very much charged by the activities in our region, and where students in our region will need to be able to have the best possible education that they can.

BRODTMANN: It’s a great pleasure to be here today and I’d also like to thank Michael Lee for hosting such a wonderful reception and event. I’m a very strong advocate of vocational education, I was president of the RMIT in Melbourne, and so I’ve got a very strong tradition in my family as well. But what I love about what we’ve seen today is the fact that this investment is in the Catholic college system here in Canberra, but it’s not just here on the south side in Tuggeranong. We’ve also got an investment in Griffith at St Claire’s College and on the north side in Andrew’s electorate and I’ll let him speak about that.

In addition to the investment that we’ve made - $5.7 million - into Trade Training Centres in the Catholic education system, we’ve also just last year announced an $8 million investment in public Trade Training Centres in the Tuggeranong Valley. So it just underscores Labor’s commitment to investing in Canberra and investing in education in Canberra and particularly investing in vocational education.

LEIGH: Thanks Prime Minister, I’ll be brief. One of the things that’s great for me about this centre is the fact that it brings together four ACT Catholic schools. Students at Merici, at St Francis Xavier’s, at St Claire’s and here at Mary Mackillop sharing facilities for trades training. Learning how to be the great carpenters of the future, the great chefs of the future.

When I speak to employers in Canberra, they’re crying out for talented young tradespeople, and centres like this one are going to produce those students. The other thing I love about Trade Training Centres is that a lot of the stress in education is at points of transition, when children have to move from one system to another. But with a Trade Training Centre we’ve taken away one of those points of transition, so students can move from high schools straight into trades training without the emotional stress that often accompanies those sort of moves, and that helps us to bring down the dropout rate from education which is absolutely critical to building a first rate education system.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’re talking about these students getting jobs. Just on the issue of jobs, 300 people today stood down from Air Australia. Obviously some sectors of the economy are doing it extremely tough, you know how many thousands of people have lost their jobs in the past few weeks and months and on the other hand thousands of people are finding themselves in work and that’s been reflected in this month’s jobs figures. How can you reconcile that so many people are losing their job at the moment and yet on the other hand so many people are finding work?

PM: For a long period of time now we’ve talked to people about what we’ve referred to as the patchwork economy. And what that means

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


is that our economic fundamentals are strong, we do have a strong economy. When you look around the world the strength of our economy is obvious. But we also have big changes in our economy. A very high Australian dollar in particular driving structural change in our economy. So that means that there are enormous opportunities, I mean if you look at the resources sector more than $400 billion of investment in the pipeline. That’s not just going to create jobs in mining, it’s going to create jobs in construction, it’s going to create jobs in all of the services sectors that then work with the mining industry including top end services like legal services and managing money and all the rest of it.

So, we’ve got tremendous strength in sectors like resources. But the high Australian dollar is also putting pressure on other parts of the economy; manufacturing, tourism and a number of other sectors. At the same time we’ve got various industries undergoing structural change. Retail is in a world of change. Your own industry, the media industry is in a world of change, so we’ve got these different effects in different parts of the economy.

What that means is every time we see a worker lose a job, we’re of course concerned for that working person and his or her family and we want to support them in that circumstance to get the next opportunity and the next job. And for major industries that are so important to our future like manufacturing, we’re working hard to make sure that the strong resources boom doesn’t hollow out those industries, that we’ve got them of the future.

On this particular company today, my immediate concern today is not only for the working people caught up in this circumstance but also the passengers who are caught up. I want to say to the administrators that they need to do everything they can to ensure that people who have been passengers with this airline get back home. I do understand that Qantas and Jetstar are stepping up with some additional seats to help get back home, but I do want to see maximum support for those Australians who have been stranded from the administrators of this company, and then of course we want to see them deal with their workforce properly, including supporting them, and we’ll want to see them supported so that they can get another opportunity too.

JOURNALIST: Would you consider a charter flight perhaps to get some of those stranded Australians or would the Government step in at all?

PM: Look on my advice at the moment, both Qantas and Jetstar have indicated a preparedness to step in and step up and I very much welcome that. But the fact that they’re stepping in and stepping up doesn’t mean the administrators should down tools. The administrators of this business should also be doing everything they can to help passengers get back home.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you concerned at all by claims by workers (inaudible) this aircraft company (inaudible) they’ve been paid $90 a day including incentives?

PM: I am concerned by those claims and I know some have been made on Melbourne radio today too. As I understand it the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations has referred this to the Fair Work Ombudsman. That’s the right place for it to go and if there has been any mistreatment or any breaching of industrial standards then of course that’s against the law, it’s against our Fair Work Act.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Clubs Australia agreed in principle last night to supporting a trial in the ACT but do have some concerns over compensation and the participation of Queanbeyan clubs as well. They of course want to meet with you. Given the February 2013 deadline, how quickly would you like a meeting with Clubs ACT?

PM: Minister Macklin has been meeting directly with Clubs ACT and I understand that those discussions have been going very, very productively, so I’m keeping in close touch with Minister Macklin. But all of the reports to me are that everybody’s working well together to see this trial get underway.

JOURNALIST: The Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson has basically warned against propping up industries saying it takes the economy backwards. Is (inaudible) Treasury Secretary at odds with Government policy?

PM: Martin Parkinson has been talking today about the strength of the Australian economy and he’s been making what I think is a very important statement about how damaging it can be when people talk the economy down. And we’ve just seen two weeks in the Federal Parliament - the Opposition talking the economy down even though yesterday we saw a reduction in the number of Australians unemployed. More Australians are in work today than ever before. There are Australians facing change and challenging times, but more Australians in work today than ever before is a remarkable result when you look overseas and see literally millions and millions of adults and young people unemployed.

On industry support and assistance, we always analyse very closely how we are going to work with industry and why we’re going to work with industry. When we’re working with the car industry it’s not a question of propping up an industry we think doesn’t have a future, we think car-making’s got a great future in this country. These are days of stresses and strain, days of change, but we are one of a precious few nations on earth that can do everything from designing a car to making it and see it roll off the production line. We need to keep skills in our economy like that because they support the rest of manufacturing. So that’s the approach we take.

JOURNALIST: There’s media reports today that Kevin Rudd thinks he has the numbers to challenge you (inaudible) back bench (inaudible). Wouldn’t it be best if that just happens so you can clear the air (inaudible) better for Labor and yourself?

PM: Well I’m here as Prime Minister today doing what I always intended to do today which was spend some time at this remarkable school. So nothing is more important to me than just getting on with the job we need to do to give these kids the best possible future, but also to give our nation the strongest possible economy for the future. So when they graduate from here and whatever the rest of their education journey brings they will be young adults in a prosperous economy where they can get an opportunity and get a chance.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, was Martin Parkinson wrong when he said that strategic assistance can hamper structural change in the economy?

PM: Look Martin Parkinson obviously will speak for himself, but I think we’ve got to be very careful about what it is that we are doing as we work with industry. So I don’t want my comments to be viewed as somehow counter to Martin’s comments, because when you look at the full context I don’t think that’s going to prove to be right. We’re not in the business of propping up industries that don’t have a future in our economy. But that’s not the car industry. That is not the car industry. It has a future in our economy. We are specifically saying to Australians these are days of economic change, and you know we’ve got a choice. Do we try and pretend we can stand still, or do we embrace the challenges of the future? Well I know the other side of politics is saying pretend you can stand still, I think common sense tells you change is going to happen. The choice you’ve got is do you shape change or let it shape you? Well I’m for shaping change so that the economy, both today and tomorrow, serves the interests of working Australians and serves the interests of these young people today who are going to be tomorrow’s working Australians.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, two more boats intercepted overnight. You want to stop the boats, Tony Abbott wants to stop the boats. Why can’t you come together and work out a solution to it?

PM: I don’t think Tony Abbott wants to stop the boats at all. I think that’s the last thing he wants to see happen. I think Tony Abbott wants to see more boats, and so at every stage when we have sought to work with the Opposition and we’ve been prepared to compromise, we’ve been prepared to talk about things in good faith, whenever we’ve done that the Opposition has repudiated those approaches because Mr Abbott has made a hard headed political calculation that it is in his interest to see more boats.

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Now in terms of that political calculation, I think Mr Abbott is doing the wrong thing. We all know the consequences that can happen when people risk their lives at sea. I don’t want to see more people getting on boats, but I’d also have to say this. I am absolutely opposed to Mr Abbott’s pledge and plan to risk the lives of Australian Defence Force personnel through his policy of supposedly turning boats around.

JOURNALIST: Caltex is reviewing two of its refineries today. Does the Government - in terms of - is there a strategic consideration that the Government should step in to ensure Australia actually retains critical refining capacity?

PM: Well we’ll obviously talk to Caltex and work with Caltex as it goes through this review process. They too are facing days of change, but I don’t think we can run all the way to what the conclusion’s going to be. Caltex is in a change journey too and as we talk to businesses every day we’ll talk to Caltex as well.

Thank you very much.

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