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Transcript of doorstop: Craigslea State High School: Chermside West, Brisbane: 4 June 2007

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Subjects: Death of Tom Burns; Trades Training in Schools; Climate Change: Polls

RUDD: I was really sad earlier today to get a phone call about the passing of Tom Burns. Those of you who have covered State politics over the years would now that I’ve known Tom for almost 20 years. Tom Burns was a great bloke, he was a great Queenslander, and a great son of the Australian labour movement. He was a Labor man through and through, Tom Burns. He made a great contribution to this State. He started working for the Labor Party back in 1959. His stories about being on the road for the Labor Party in the ‘50s are the stuff of legend. He can tell you stories about when Labor was in government before the split. And Tom was an inspiration for people like me.

When I first came here to work in the late ‘80s, I first met Burnsey and he was always a source of practical advice, encouragement, an occasional clip behind the ears if he thought what you were doing was wrong, that was our Burnsey.

He’s gone from us far too early. He loved the Bay. He loved Moreton Bay. That was his patch of heaven, Moreton Bay. Whenever you talked to Burnsey or went down to his place and sat on the little jetty outside his place, all he’d talk about was the Bay, his pelicans and his boat, which, in those days, used to be called the Electorate. He used to pride himself on always being out in the Electorate.

The other thing I’d say about Burnsey is, and less people know this, he was one of the architects of the Australia-China relationship as well. Burnsey was part of those original trips to China with Gough Whitlam. He was a trailblazer. China was always near and dear to his heart and he was a big contributor to the building of that relationship from very modest beginnings.

To Angela, his wife, and to his kids, on behalf of my family and on behalf of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, we extend our deepest condolences on this day of his passing.

I’m here today with Yvette D’Ath and Anna and Rochane, our School Captain and Vice Captain here at Craigslea High School. And the reason we’re here is to

talk about trades training in schools. As you know, in the Budget Reply we put out a policy of $2.5 billion for between $1.5 million and half a million dollars allocation for every secondary school in the country, more than 2000 of them. Why? To make sure that we produce the best trades training opportunities for our young people for the 21st century with the skills shortage right across Australia, and we thought this was a practical step forward to do something for our local school communities.

It’s part and parcel also to ensure we lift the retention rate in our schools from 75 per cent, where it is now, up high to 85 per cent and 90 per cent. If you do that, it’s the best investment in ensuring that our young people obtain a good job and they stay in employment.

The other part of that program which received less attention at the time is this: it’s what do we do by way of ensuring that school communities like this one have the funding necessary to organise school-based apprenticeships and traineeships. So, part of the program is here to make sure that workshops like these have the best and most modern equipment and, where necessary, they are rebuilt and refurbished, but the other is this. For one day a week for 20 weeks a year to provide the funding necessary for school communities like this, to organise apprenticeships and work experience and traineeships out there in the community.

There is a lot of organisation involved in that and I know that that takes time and effort. So, what we’re looking towards is providing a grant of funds which would do that. This would be, in the case of Queensland, an allocation of some $20 million and some $10,000 grants being possible in the case of each secondary school.

We’ve got some 205,000 young people in years 9, 10, 11 and 12. These are our target groups when it comes to trades training in our schools. We’ve got to make sure that they get a certificate for what they do. We also want to make sure that

they have practical on the job experience, and this program that we’re talking about today is designed to do that. Two hundred and five thousand kids, secondly across all 289 secondary schools in Queensland, to make sure that schools like this are eligible for a $10,000 grant to make sure that young people, such as young Lachie I just met here before, can have organised for them a decent work experience opportunity, school-based apprenticeship or school-

based traineeship. We think that’s a practical step forward when it comes to Australia’s future. This is a practical chapter, again, in Labor’s proposed Education Revolution.

One thing I’ll touch on is climate change then I’ll open it up to some questions.

On the question of climate change, Mr Howard’s been talking about that a lot in recent days. And the problem is Mr Howard is talking a lot but we don’t see a lot of action.

The core argument is this. If Australia fails to act on climate change now the risk to our future economy and environment is great. We know this already from various Australian industry groups and business groups. We know it also from international reports like the Stern report, that the cost to the economy of failing to act on climate change now is huge. But despite that, we have from the Prime Minster over the weekend, his proposal for an emissions trading scheme which has this huge hole in the middle of it - and it’s called the absence of a carbon target.

Basically, with Mr Howard, we have someone who is still a climate change sceptic pretending to be a part of the climate change solution, and evidence of that pretence is the absence of a clear cut carbon target.

When it comes to the Commonwealth Treasury, we found out only a few days ago that the Commonwealth Treasury hasn’t even properly begun the task of the economic modelling of the implications of various policies towards dealing with carbon-based emissions.

Again, if Mr Howard was serious about this, this work would’ve commenced a long time ago. Yet going to the next election, Mr Howard is saying, ‘trust me, I don’t have a carbon target but we’ll be all OK in the end’. Well, Mr Howard, for his entire political career, has been a climate change sceptic now trying to pretend to be part of the climate change solution, and we don’t think that’s the right way forward.

Mr Howard attacked Labor because we put forward a clear cut carbon target of reducing our emissions by 60 per cent by the year 2050. He says that this is somehow an extreme position. The Republican Governor of California called for an 80 per cent reduction. His conservative counterpart in Canada has a 20 per cent cut by 2020. Are these extreme positions?

I think Mr Howard is simply trying to create a fear campaign around climate change when in fact the real fear is this: the risk of failing to act on climate change is a huge risk for Australia’s future economy and environment.

I’ll take your questions.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) recession doesn’t have to have a ‘Garrett recession’, your reaction?

RUDD: Well, if Mr Howard was serious about that, he would, therefore, be saying that Governor Schwarzenegger in California is a radical

extremist, that his Canadian conservative counterpart in Ottawa is a radical extremist, I mean, let’s get real about this. What we need to do is act on climate change in a balanced, proper, forward-looking way based on the science, which is the basis of our policy. Mr Howard is trying to be, I think, too cheap by half, too clever by half, too cunning by half, by saying, ‘trust me, I’ll give you a carbon target after the election’.

JOURNALIST: How is your comparison with California and Canada equal to Australia (inaudible)?

RUDD: Well, if you look at the energy intensity of economies like Canada, plainly it’s important to look at what other countries are doing around the world. Remember, Mr Howard constantly says a target of 60 per cent reduction

by 2050 is too great a risk and he says it’s a European target. California’s not in Europe. Canada’s not in Europe. These are other countries which Mr Howard has many positive things to say about under normal circumstances. I simply

draw your attention to what those countries are doing.

The core argument is this: how can a government so full of climate change sceptics pretend now, three months before an election, to be part of the climate change solution when they can’t even put forward a long term carbon target for this country?

JOURNALIST: Peter Garrett has mentioned a few times a 20 per cent reduction by 2020. Will you, as a Party, give (inaudible) reduction target like that before the election?

RUDD: When it comes to our policy it is absolutely clear cut - 60 per cent reduction by 2050 against 2000 levels. We have said that throughout.

Secondly, what we’ve said is that when it comes to sub-targets within that period of time, we will establish those sub-targets once the Garnaut Report comes back to us by June 2008. We commissioned Ross Garnaut, Professor of Economics from the Australian National University, in conjunction with the States and Territory Governments, for the provision of funding, to establish an analysis of the economic cost of various policy responses to emissions reduction targets and that report is due to us by the middle of next year.

Interestingly, the Commonwealth Treasury, under Peter Costello, has right up until now, not been properly tasked with finding out the answers to these questions in terms of near term targets. I ask, if you’re responsible about Australia’s economic future, why hasn’t that work been done?

Anna Bligh, the State Treasurer, told me recently that State Treasurers and Territory Treasurers put to Mr Costello not long ago a proposal for the

Commonwealth and the States together to fund the sort of analysis that Professor Garnaut is now undertaking. Mr Costello declined. I ask why.

So, what we’ve done instead, as the alternative government of Australia, is partner with the States and Territories, to commission exactly that report, and you’ll recall a press conference we had with Ross Garnaut at Waterfront Place some weeks ago.

JOURNALIST: So, no interim, then, before the …

RUDD: No, we’ve said, ‘here is the long term target’. And what’s the long term target based on? Science. You have got to have a science-based target, because the objective here is to stabilise the atmosphere, to stabilise carbon dioxide emissions between 450, 490 parts per million, in that vicinity, which the scientific community establishes as the necessary target if we are to ensure that we don’t produce irreparable damage in the future. That, therefore, is the public policy target and that, therefore, forms the basis of our view, a responsible course of action for the future.

JOURNALIST: What compensation would Labor view describing families with higher power prices (inaudible) emissions?

RUDD: We have already indicated that one of the key principles from and emission trading scheme under us is fairness, and that is fairness in terms of the economic and financial impact for working families when it comes to higher costs of electricity and the impact on various appliances. On the detail of that, we’ll have further to say. The principle however, upon which it’s based, was released in my Fraser Lecture in Canberra just last week.

JOURNALIST: John Howard’s (inaudible) comments (inaudible) ‘Garret recession’ that Labor can’t handle the economy of climate change (inaudible).

RUDD: Australia faces an economic risk through Mr Howard failing to act on climate change. The business community has said that and also we had the same evidence from various international reports about the cost of

inaction. You had the business community, in the case of the Australian Business Roundtable, pointing clearly to the cost of inaction on climate change, international reports such as the Stern Committee. The Stern Committee report says that a failure to act may cost the global economy somewhere between five and 20 per cent of output.

The key thing is this: there is a risk to the economy through not acting now on climate change, a risk to jobs in agriculture, a risk to jobs in tourism a risk to the entire economy. They are the risks we invoke by pursuing Mr Howard’s policy,

which is to still put your head in the sand.

JOURNALIST: So, it is a scare campaign?

RUDD: Mr Howard is not being fair dinkum with the Australian people about the risks to the Australian public and to the Australian economy by not acting on climate change, that is the real risk here. What we put forward, by contrast, is a responsible long term target based on the science.

JOURNALST: Have you seen the ACTU’s legal advice on (inaudible)?

RUDD: No, I haven’t.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe it?

RUDD: I’ve got to examine it because I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve seen that there is report on it today. I would much rather read it first.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) of the Coalition’s gaining ground, in reaction to the Galaxy poll today?

RUDD: My view is that this is always going to be a really tough election. I have said many times before this will end up being 51-49. I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the case. What that means for me and my team, including

Yvette, is we’ve got to continue to put our best foot forward. It’s going to be tough, its going to be tough.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

RUDD: In terms of the tightness of this electoral race, there are a whole bunch of factors involved in this and we know that it’s going to be tough, really tough and really competitive, and I don’t think I’m saying anything new here. I’ve been saying this from day one - come election day, it will be 51-49, everyone will be biting their fingernails, we will go home at night and find out the result probably between nine and 10 that evening.

JOURNALIST: Back to the (inaudible)?

RUDD : I’d like to study it further, to be blunt, I’ve seen one report …

JOURNALIST: Will you be doing that now?

RUDD: Yes, I will be, I will be studying it further, but I would rather not comment on something I haven’t read in detail.

JOURANALIST: Just a couple of quick questions about (inaudible). Kevin Reynolds and Joe McDonald, the union leaders, (inaudible).

RUDD: I made comment on this when I was in Western Australia, just the other day. I was in Perth on both Friday and Saturday morning. And my comment then was that I will not be tolerating any unlawful behaviour when it comes to the construction industry in the future. I have made it absolutely plain and clear cut, that is my view. I also say when it comes to the future of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, it should have a life which continues through to 2010. Construction is a critical industry for Australia’s future. We’ve got to make sure that there is no hiatus and, therefore, that is what we are going to do and in due season we will create a robust alternative body by that time to ensure that the industry continues to be properly regulated and there is no return to any unlawful behaviour.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

RUDD: I have made it very clear cut what my attitude is to the future. Some of these things may have been swept to one side in the past. I’m the Leader of the Labor Party now. I’ve indicated very plainly what I regard to be an appropriate benchmark in the future. And when it comes to construction, zero

tolerance when it comes to any form of any unlawful activity, zero tolerance means zero tolerance.

JOURNALIST: On the Water Summit, Steve Bracks is meeting with John Howard today, he may be meeting now, I’m not sure, but is he being unreasonable (inaudible)? Is he an embarrassment to Labor?

RUDD: No, I have always supported, on a bipartisan basis, Mr Howard’s attempts to bring about a national consensus around his Murray- Darling initiative. My criticism in the past has been the absence of an appropriate

set of urban water initiatives for the 17 million Australians who are not directly affected by the Murray-Darling Basin. On the Murray-Darling itself, however, it is a critical waterway for Australia. The framework put forward by the Prime Minister, we support, though there are still some problems to be resolved on the detail.

And on this meeting with the Victorian Government, I wish them both well. I’ve constantly said to Premier Bracks that I hope that he can achieve an outcome and agreement with the Prime Minister. Remember, irrigators in his State and farms in his State have raised a whole range of technical concerns and problems with the PM’s proposal and I’m not sure that each of those concerns and problems have yet been properly addressed by the Commonwealth.

JOURNALIST: So, you’re supporting this action of Steve Bracks?

RUDD: No, I support the framework put down by the Prime Minister. But what I have urged on both PM and the Premier is to take a constructive attitude to resolving these technical level concerns.

When I was recently out in Dalby and talking to farmers there about some of their practical concerns and problems about the implications for the Murray- Darling plan for this end of the system, I understand something of the texture of the

concerns which farmers in Victoria are also concerned about. These have to be worked through systematically and methodically. I just hope there is an attitude of goodwill that will prevail.

JOURNALIST: Back to the polls, do you think the Prime Minister’s movement on climate change in the last week has had anything to do with it?

RUDD: Look, my job is not to be an opinion poll commentator, my job is to put forward an alternative, positive plan for Australia’s future. My challenge to Mr Howard would be to engage the Australian community and what his positive plans are for Australia’s future rather than simply a negative

campaign against his opponent.

JOURNALIST: Are you nervous?

RUDD: Can I just say, the number of times I have been asked that since all this began quite a long time ago. Look, the key thing is this: put your best foot forward, put your arguments out there to the Australian community, put them the best way you can and understand this will be a very tight and competitive race, including here in Queensland, including in the seat of Petrie.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) of the Queensland Liberal Party?

RUDD: I have seen those reports about what’s going on in the Queensland Liberal Party. Because they are currently the subject of an AFP investigation, I would rather not comment on the substance of them.

JOURNALIST: Is it right that Tom and Gough went to China before Nixon (inaudible)?

RUDD: Gough got to China in ’71, the Nixon visit was ’72. Remember when Gough got back from China, Billy McMahon said that he had been played like a trout and it was then to be revealed a week or so later that Henry Kissinger was in Beijing at much the same time in the early preparation for the Whitlam visit. The great thing about Tom is that, you know, he had a passion for the bush in Queensland, a passion for working people wherever they were, and a passion for Australia’s role in Asia and in China.

JOURNALIST: Did you work with Tom on the railways back then?

RUDD: Now, you are really testing me, I’ve got to say. Tom was, I think, I think the Minister responsible for rural communities. I worked with him

then on the establishment of the rural communities policy unit and, from what I can recall, the establishment of government agencies across a number of our smaller communities. I travelled with Tom quite a lot across rural communities at that time.

JOURNALIST: How do you explain that (inaudible)?

RUDD: Tom’s early experience as a Labor organiser was to be out there and to be recruiting for the Labor Party wherever it took him. I think his first car was an FJ, as he described it, and off he went and he just drove and drove and drove. And whenever you talk to Burnsey about a problem here and a problem there, his first instinct was to jump into the car and let’s go and deal with it, however long the drive happened to be, like hundreds and hundreds of kilometres. Burnsey just new State Labor like the back of his hand. He knew Queensland like the back of his hand. He was a lovely bloke, a lovely bloke.