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Transcript of interview of Chris Uhlmann: 7:30: 9 February 2012: Australian economy; Global economy; Car industry; Manufacturing; Australian Labor Party; Fair Work Australia; Surplus

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Transcript of interview of Chris Uhlmann, 7:30


Prime Minister

Subject(s): Australian economy; Global economy; Car industry; Manufacturing; Australian Labor Party; Fair Work Australia; Surplus

HOST: Julia Gillard welcome.

PM: Thank you Chris.

HOST: Prime Minister, if you’re such a good economic manager, why don’t you get more credit for it?

PM: It’s about getting the big things done that we need for our country’s future, that’s my focus Chris.

Look, we have come out of the global financial crisis strong, we acted to save jobs and we have created more than 700,000 jobs, that’s a good thing.

In fact I think that possibly is an achievement that we do need to keep speaking about, because work is so important for people.

We know what it’s like for families to lose the breadwinner and have the family devastated.

And if we look in global terms, I mean if you look at the American economy - we’ve created 700,000 jobs, they’ve lost six million. If they’d been creating jobs at the rate we’ve been creating them, they’d have created 15 million jobs in this period.

So we’ve come out strong, but we’ve got a lot more to do to build the economy we need for tomorrow.

HOST: And all of those things were true at the 2010 election and yet the electorate gave you a bare pass for that. Why is that?

PM: I think that this is an anxious age, people have seen the global financial crisis, the biggest economic-HOST:-But if you saved them why aren’t they grateful?

PM: Well, the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, I’m not surprised that that has made people feel anxious. And then they look at Europe and they see doom and gloom night after night, coming out of European meetings and European markets and the mouths of European leaders.

And I think that that does in the community mean people are thinking ‘Well, what does this all mean for us?’ It’s my job, it’s the Government’s job, to be explaining what it all means.

HOST: And have you failed at that job?

PM: Well, we’ll keep doing that job and there’s a lot of hard work in front of us to keep doing it and I’m very prepared to keep doing that hard work.

But the explanation of this not only needs to be about where we are now - which is strong in the world - but it needs to be about where we’re going to in the future. What’s the new economy going to look like, what are people going to do for jobs tomorrow, what skills will they need, what technology will they use?

And that’s what we’re concentrating on now.

HOST: Yeah, well let’s talk about the new economy, which is you’ve been talking about a lot lately. Let’s take a couple of elements of that, starting with the NBN. And yesterday you announced a $2 billion plan to build satellites, aren’t we wasting a lot of money on the NBN? Why can’t you lease existing space on satellites?

PM: Let’s just look at the dollars for the NBN. For every dollar we put in on behalf of taxpayers, a dollar and seven cents will come back out, so that’s the equation for the NBN.

And our nation will have the technology it needs to be productive in the future.

It’s one of the big transformative changes Chris, it’s like the railways, like the telephone line, the old copper line was in its day, like internal air flights in our country - I mean in the old days, if I can use that terminology, to get from Perth to Sydney was a nightmare, now of course we’re used to domestic air travel. That’s transformed business as much as its transformed the way families reunite and the way people go on holidays.

HOST: I’m not arguing that we don’t want broadband.

PM: These are huge productivity enhancing measures, real enablers, and the NBN’s the next one.

HOST: I understand that Prime Minister, I’m not arguing against it, I’m arguing though, could we get better value for money and it’s that a question that people constantly raise about your government?

One of the problems perhaps you have in being seen as good economic manager, is the sense that this government wastes money and lots of it.

Could the NBN be done cheaper, why couldn’t space be leased on satellites? Have you asked that question?

PM: Oh look, of course we’ve asked all questions and we have had every level of due diligence and reports and experts and advice, but it all comes down to this very simple proposition - do we think that we can have a prosperous economy in the future using yesterday’s tools? Do we reckon we would have a prosperous economy today if we didn’t have electricity, to take an example? Of course we wouldn’t.

We’ve got to have electricity to make sure that Australian businesses run. Well the NBN is the next big thing that will enable productivity.

Nations in our region will have it, they’ll be pushing information around that quickly through a National Broadband Network.

HOST: But you’ll be the only nation that builds it this way.

PM: Well we’ve got to be keeping pace and I don’t agree with your proposition. There is public investment in broadband in other countries

Page 1 of 3 Transcript of interview of Chris Uhlmann, 7:30 | Prime Minister of Australia


apart from ours.

HOST: Entirely public owned.

PM: And do the maths, do the maths.

HOST: Can you name another country that is doing it precisely the same way that Australia’s doing it, which is an entire government-PM:-Oh look, we’ve got our own solution, but let’s just compare Australia to other countries around the world.

Would it surprise you Chris that we’ve got a unique solution? We’re a continent; we’re huge, relatively small in population. The challenges of getting NBN here are different to Singapore, I mean heavens above of course they are.

And so we’ve had to tailor make a solution for our nation. But the question as you tailor that solution is ‘do you want to be left behind, or do you want to be able to have the kinds of technologies that other nations will in the future?’

We can build this, getting a return for taxpayers, with all of the productivity benefits that will come from having it. That’s part of the new economy.

HOST: And you want a modern car industry, obviously you’ve said that you’re going to spend money to do that. Why then did you cut $230 million from the Green Car Innovation Fund?

PM: We’ve got a $5.4 billion plan and we judged that that was the right size. So every dollar’s got to work and every dollar’s got to do the maximum amount of work we can make it do and we judge the plan is of the right size as it is now.

The debate here is between our New Car Plan, where we will keep co-investing with car industries to keep making cars in Australia, versus the plans on the other side of politics for cuts and the loss of car making jobs.

HOST: They’ll still spend lots of money; they’ll just spend less than you. And you decided at one point in time on a Green Car Innovation Fund that less was OK and perhaps the Coalition, if they’re going to get the same outcome, spend the money more wisely.

PM: Well I think Chris you’re misunderstanding the position of the Coalition and you’re misunderstanding the needs of the car industry today.

HOST: (inaudible) Howard plan?

PM: Well let me just explain that, the Howard plan, precisely. Thank you for saying those words.

The opposition’s got the Howard plan, half a billion dollar cut now is what they’re saying and the Howard plan was for no more assistance after 2015. If the Howard plan is enacted today after the days of the GFC, with the Australian Dollar where it is now, Mr Howard was not Prime Minister with an Australian Dollar where is now, that is the death of the car industry.

That is what the opposition stands for.

HOST: So you’re promising industry assistance forever. What happens if we continue to lose jobs, because you can’t guarantee that we won’t lose jobs, I mean even manufacturers in this industry, can you?

PM: Oh Chris, absolutely and I have been very clear about this. Car making will change, manufacturing will change.

The last thing I am doing is saying that I can hold the tide back when it comes to change. I’m in fact saying the complete reverse. I’m saying things are going to change. We’ve got to be in front of that change. We’ve got to shape that change and we’ve got to bend it for the interests of working people and our nation overall.

The car industry is important because it’s another one of those enablers. The NBN - helps you do things, you can move information more quickly than ever before in human history.

The car industry also is an enabler, the skills in it, the innovation in it, doesn’t just matter for car making, it matters for all of manufacturing. That’s why it’s so important.

HOST: Prime Minister, do you think that one of the problems that you have in convincing the Australian people of these things and that you are a good economy manager is because you have broken your word before.

You said that you wouldn’t challenge Kevin Rudd and you did. You said there wouldn’t be a carbon tax and there was and you signed this agreement with Andrew Wilkie that said that there would be mandatory precommitment and there won’t be.

PM: Well Chris, I’m happy to go through all of those examples if you like, but I’ve answered those question a million times on the public record in the past and so I think we’d be better spending our time talking about what the economy is going to look like in the future. That’s been the debate this week.

HOST: But isn’t that a matter of trust too. One of the things that’s most important, Prime Minister, is that the people trust him or her. Is there a trust issue?

PM: People can look at the debate that has been in Parliament this week, but you watch how we as a government, and I as a Prime Minister, have been laying forward our economic plans, doing things that we need to do to get our economy in the right place for the future.

You and I have had a conversation about NBN - that’s one thing, that kind of productivity enhancing change. Of course skills is important too, how are people going to work in the future, what are the skills that they’re going to need.

We are going to keep talking about what we need to do make our economy strong, but more importantly than talking about it Chris, we’re going to be delivering it step by step, plan by plan, and people can judge us on that.

HOST: Prime Minister, why don’t you just tell Kevin Rudd to stop briefing the media against you?

PM: Chris, I’ve dealt with all of these questions on the public record too and I really haven’t got anything to add.

HOST: Why don’t you just ask him to stop briefing journalists, because clearly he is? I know that you believe there’s a lot of smoke there and no doubt there is, there’s also a fire and it’s pretty easy to see where it’s coming from.

PM: Look Chris, I’ve dealt with this very comprehensively in many media engagements over the last week. It’s not where my focus is, my focus is on whether Australians are going to have jobs, the quality of those jobs, the income they’ll get from those jobs, the sense of job security, not which comes from having a job for life, because people won’t have that, but knowing that they’ve got the skills and attributes and capacities that mean they can get the next job.

And the things that matter for Australian businesses-

Page 2 of 3 Transcript of interview of Chris Uhlmann, 7:30 | Prime Minister of Australia


HOST: -As this question rises again with Kevin Rudd, as it will, because it’s not gone, it’s just sleeping at the moment. Why don’t you ask him to have a press conference and say he won’t challenge?

PM: Chris, you can be endlessly fascinated by all of this. I’m endlessly fascinated about the prospects for our nation, our economy and for working people.

HOST: Prime Minister, are you going to ask the Fair Work Australia inquiry to simply do this: release the outcome in March when it’s finished?

PM: It would be highly improper Chris and no I’m not. And I’m not going to ring up the Chief Justice of the High Court and ask the High Court to come out with a particular decision in a particular time. I’m not going to ring up the Police Commissioner and say ‘can you make sure you investigate a particular matter within a particular time’. I’m not going to ring up the independent industrial umpire and do that either, that would be grossly improper and it’s grossly improper of the opposition to call for it.

HOST: Prime Minister, you’ve had a very strong opinion on the High Court and on a decision they made and you made it quite plain, you made it quite plain and people at the time said that that was perhaps inappropriate-PM: -Chris, now you’re being absurd and I’m not going to allow you to draw that analogy, because that is ridiculous. The High Court made a decision; of course it made a decision properly, independently, as the High Court does and as the High Court should.

I had some things to say about that decision after it was brought down. What I am being asked to do by the opposition is to ring up the industrial umpire, the independent industrial umpire, whilst they are dealing with a matter - not after they’ve dealt with it - whilst they’re dealing with a matter and tell them what to do next. That’s wrong and I won’t do it and it’s wrong for the opposition to ask for it.

HOST: Prime Minister, with the incident on Australia Day, which I know you will say again has been canvassed over and over, doesn’t it show a problem in your office is that there’s too much concentration on Tony Abbott and not enough concentration on governing?

PM: Chris, I was happy to spend all of this interview talking about the new economy and talking about the things we’re doing, but Chris there is a choice in Australian politics. I’ve made some choices, the Government’s made some choices and I think it is the right thing to do to point out the alternative.

I think as we go into 2012, where our focus so centrally has to be on keeping our economy strong now, but doing what we need to do today to make sure it’s strong for working people in the future.

I think in that context it is fair enough to say to the Australian people - you’ve got a choice here, build for the future or endorse Tony Abbott and stand still.

You’ve got a choice here, run the economy in the interests of working people, or do what Mr Abbott’s inviting you to do, which is run it in the interests of the few who are already privileged. I think it’s fair enough to point out those choices.

HOST: You’ve been demanding this week that they guarantee a budget surplus. Can you guarantee a budget surplus?

PM: We’re determined to deliver a surplus in 2012-13 Chris, and we will.

HOST: That’s not a guarantee.

PM: I’ve just said and we will.

HOST: You will?

PM: And we will.

HOST: And if you don’t what-PM: -Look Chris, I don’t know why we’re splitting hairs about the English language here. I don’t think I’ve said anything confusing. We’re determined to deliver it and we will.

HOST: And if you don’t, will that be a measure that your government can’t do the things that it said it’s going to do?

PM: Well Chris, why don’t you watch the surplus come down and then you can ask me that question afterwards. Actually there’ll be no need to.

HOST: OK, I’m sure we will. Prime Minister, thank you.

PM: Thanks Chris.

Page 3 of 3 Transcript of interview of Chris Uhlmann, 7:30 | Prime Minister of Australia