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Budget 2011: Transcript of doorstop interview: Adelaide: 19 May 2011: 2011-12 Budget; skills; carbon price; Regional Cooperation Framework; ASIO; Defence Force

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Transcript of doorstop interview, Adelaide THU 19 MAY 2011

Prime Minister

Subject(s): 2011-12 Budget; Skills; Carbon price; Regional Cooperation Framework; ASIO; Defence Force

PM: I’m joined here today by Senator Chris Evans and I’m very pleased to be back in my home town of Adelaide. I’m also very pleased to be here today at Civil Train, a great training establishment here in South Australia and it’s actually leading Australia in training in the civil construction sector. I’m pleased that the Government, through our Education Investment Fund, has been able to make available more than $8 million to redevelop the premises that we’ve seen.

But even as the premises are now, this training facility is doing remarkable work, the kind of work that we want to expand right around the country through the initiatives in our recent Budget. Here today we have met some Indigenous Australians who are here doing training, but it’s not training for training’s sake - it’s training knowing that they have a job guaranteed on a major road works project here in South Australia. A great combination: an opportunity for someone to step up to new skills and to a job; an opportunity that isn’t training for train’s sake, but it’s training to get that all-important job and to enable people who have been outside our labour market to enjoy the benefits and dignity of work.

The Budget we delivered last week is about jobs and it’s about opportunity. That’s why it comes with a $3 billion skills package, a skills package that Chris Evans will oversee. The skills package will be about getting back into the workforce people who have been excluded from work by giving them an opportunity and giving them the skills they need and in doing that we’ll create 130,000 training places working with industry, the right kind of training

because we’re working with businesses to deliver it.

And we know with our economy increasingly becoming a patchwork economy, where different regions have different sorts of economies and different skill needs, that it’s important to be able to take training to where people are, which is why initiatives like the one you see behind me, with mobile training going to where jobs seekers are, going to where

workers are who need upgraded skills, are so important.

This is a great boon for regional Australia and fits well with the Government’s plans to spread the benefits of training right around our country.

I’m here in Adelaide, apart from visiting Civil Train today, to join with my ministerial colleagues for a Community Cabinet in Modbury Heights. We look forward to hearing the

views of people from Adelaide, who will come to meet with us later today and between now and then I’ll be very pleased to join with my ministerial colleagues, Nicola Roxon and Mark Butler, Mark Butler a great South Australian, who as Minister for Mental Health has overseen the development of the mental health package we delivered in the recent budget, a package to meet the needs of Australians today. Mental illness presses on the lives of many Australians and we wanted to make available new resources in a $2.2 billion package to help those Australians and their families.

Can I conclude by saying, as we stand in Adelaide today, we’ve lived through a very important 24 hours in the debate about carbon pricing. Tony Abbott has been running around the country trying to scare Australian families, trying to scare Australian businesses, trying to scare people and convince them that they’re going to lose their jobs.

Well, his scare campaign has come up against two big obstacles: his own colleagues. Greg Hunt, his Climate Change Spokesperson, has finally told us the truth - that Tony Abbott’s plan to tackle climate change is to put a $15 a tonne price on carbon. That is, after all of this fear mongering, Tony Abbott’s plan is to put a price on carbon per tonne of $15, but he won’t be providing families with any assistance for the cost of living impacts that would flow from his price on carbon. So, very important yesterday that Greg Hunt finally let the cat out of the bag and that Mr Abbott stands for pricing carbon with no assistance to Australian families.

And then last night on Lateline, Malcolm Turnbull also told us the truth. He told us the truth that basically this plan won’t work. He told us the truth that basically this plan won’t work. He told us the truth that it would blow the budget. And he told us the truth that the rest of the world is acting too, even though Mr Abbott has been pretending to Australians no-one is acting on climate change.

If I could just use some of Malcolm Turnbull’s words - he said last night, and I think these are very important words, when he was describing Tony Abbott’s plan - he said ‘This is a plan where industry was able to freely pollute, if you like, and the government was just spending more and more taxpayer’s money to offset it’, that ‘it would become a very expensive change on the budget in the years ahead’ - Mr Turnbull telling us that Mr Abbott plans to blow the budget.

And Mr Turnbull went on and talked about Prime Minister Cameron, a Conservative prime minister in the UK. He said that ‘conservatives, like David Cameron in particular, take the view that there is an enormous opportunity to get on the front foot and get into a leadership role in terms of clean technology, low emission technology, that is a coming technological revolution’. He went on to say that the “Prime Minister of Britain has vision and wants to be part of the change’ - a very sharp contrast to Tony Abbott.

So, 24 hours on, we know Mr Abbott wants to price carbon, he doesn’t want to assist Australian families, he’s out of step with his Conservative colleagues around the world, he’s out of step with the world in general.

We want to stay in step with the world. We want this nation to have a clean energy future. That’s why we are moving to put a price on the 1,000 biggest polluters in our economy - big businesses who will pay the price of putting carbon pollution in our atmosphere.

With that price on carbon they will innovate and change and produce less carbon pollution and we will be able to use that money to assist Australian families to protect Aussie jobs and to fund programs that tackle climate change.

I’m very happy to take any questions. Yes?

JOURNALIST: Just on that issue of climate change, Bob Brown this morning has denounced the Murdoch press, saying they’re the hate media, particularly when it comes to debate on this issue of climate change. Do you agree with that?

PM: Well, it’s very important that we see accurate reporting on a major reform debate, like the reform debate about climate change and we’ve seen, even acknowledged, for example by, The Australian, that they have at times very inaccurately reported people’s comments. One instance I can remember very recently was the headline which went with comments made by Gail Kelly, the CEO of Westpac, an error that The Australian newspaper acknowledged.

So, I think it’s very important to get the facts to people. Tony Abbott’s been trying to do the complete reverse, to scare people. I mean today, just to take one example of the scare, I understand Mr Abbott is at Sanitarium - we all know Sanitarium, it produces Weetbix. He’s there trying to pretend the Australians that pricing carbon means an end to Weetbix. I mean, this is just getting ridiculous. What he hasn’t told people is Sanitarium isn’t one of the 1,000 biggest polluters in the country and Sanitarium won’t be paying a price on carbon.

JOURNALIST: Speaking of scare tactics, the Climate Change Minister released some flood plain mapping for Adelaide this morning. How much will a carbon tax reduce the sea level rises in a place like Adelaide?

PM: Well, I think once again it’s important to get the facts to people and climate change is changing our planet. The scientists tell us that it will bring rising sea levels, it will cause a problem for coastal communities, it will bring more extreme weather events, longer droughts, a greater prevalence of drought.

I think Australians do want to tackle climate change and they’re entitled to the facts about what climate change will mean. They’re also entitled to get from government a responsible plan to tackle climate change - pricing carbon is that plan, it’s the most efficient way to do it.

And let’s be really clear now about the nature of this debate. Let’s put aside Mr Abbott’s scare campaign, which after the 24 hours we’ve just been through has been smashed around by his colleagues.

Both sides of politics stand for cutting carbon pollution by -5 per cent. We want to do it in the most efficient way. We want to assist Australian households as we do it. Mr Abbott wants to do it without assisting Australian households in a way that is inefficient and would blow the budget and which won’t work.

I mean, what Mr Abbott is advocating is actually the reverse of what Australians want. Australians want action on climate change. He’s out there with a plan that won’t work. Australians want assistance given the cost of living pressures they face. He’s out there with a

plan with no assistance.

Well, we’re putting forward a plan that will make a difference to carbon pollution and it comes with assistance for Aussie households.

JOURNALIST: The Chamber of Commerce has also said that setting a price on carbon ahead of the rest of the world will clear fell Australian industry. Do you think that’s a valid concern?

PM: Well, let’s just go to Prime Minister Cameron in Britain on this question of what the world is doing. David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Britain, he’s a Conservative. If he was in Australia he’d be the holder of a Liberal Party ticket. They have had a price on carbon for a

number of years and he’s announced that he wants to see a 50 per cent cut in carbon pollution in the UK by 2025.

We are looking for a cut in our carbon pollution of -5 by 2020. He’s saying -50 by 2025. So let’s not make any errors here. The rest of the world is moving and the risk for Australia, because we have a high emissions economy, is that we will get left behind, that other parts of the world will have a clean energy economy, clean energy jobs and we’ll get left behind.

Now, I’m saying that to the Australian people, but Malcolm Turnbull - also a Conservative, a member of Tony Abbott’s political Party - was saying last night, he said about David Cameron that ‘he’s taking the view that there is an enormous opportunity to get onto the front foot and get into a leadership role in terms of clean technology, low emission technology, that this is a coming technological revolution’.

Well, that’s true. I want us to get the jobs from this revolution. Mr Abbott wants us to miss out on them.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) asylum seekers, is the Government processing asylum seekers until the deal with Malaysia is finalised?

PM: What we’ve done is asylum seekers arriving post my announcement with the Minister for Immigration about our commitment with Malaysia, the day that I published the joint statement from the Prime Minister of Malaysia and by me, from that time anybody who’s arrived has been taken into detention pending removal and they will be removed to a third


JOURNALIST: Has that been confirmed with Malaysia, because there seems to some message out the Malaysian Government that this deal is still several months from being finalised and they won’t be accepting anyone until (inaudible).

PM: Well, the second part of your question is a misreport of the words of the Malaysian Minister and I’d suggest people actually look at what he said. What he said, of course, and it’s just simple common sense, is that people wouldn’t be taken to Malaysia until the agreement’s been entered in to - well absolutely, obviously. But that’s been misreported today.

We are working with Malaysia, exactly as I announced we would when I released the commitment from the Malaysian Prime Minister on the Saturday before Budget week.

JOURNALIST: You’ve been accused of jumping the gun on this. Do you agree with that?

PM: We’ve worked patiently and methodically with Malaysia since last October, worked in a patient and methodical way, we went to Bali and worked with the countries in our region to get a regional framework. That regional framework has within it a reference to transfer agreements between two countries. We’ve been talking to Malaysia since last October about

a transfer agreement.

So, we’ve been talking to Malaysia since last October about a transfer agreement, I thought it was appropriate when the Prime Minister of Malaysia was indicating his preparedness to issue a joint statement with me about the matter, that the joint statement should be issued.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) that’s a pretty daunting increases to utility prices her in Adelaide recently. You’re going to face a lot of angry people tonight at Community Cabinet. How do you do you expect to allay some of their fears about (inaudible)

PM: I don’t think it pays to make assumptions about what people will come and talk about tonight. I think we’ll get the full range. I think there’ll be people there talking about child care and we’ve increased the child care rebate. There’ll be people there talking about the

quality of their child’s school and we’ve brought huge new resources and new reforms to improve schools.

I think there’ll be people there talking about the quality of their local hospital and our plans for health reform and our huge new investments in health. We had a lot of damage to fix up after Tony Abbott’s stint as Health Minister and we’ve been investing in cancer care, in emergency departments and we will continue to invest to improve hospital care.

I think too, there will be people there raising cost of living and what I would say to them is, first and foremost, we are determined to bring the budget to surplus in 2012-13 because that’s the right thing to do by people’s cost of living pressures. We shouldn’t be adding to inflationary pressure in our economy when it is coming to full strength. That’s why we’ve got to bring the budget to surplus - so we’re not putting extra pressure on people’s cost of living.

And then in the recent Budget we delivered a number of measures that are important to people’s cost of living: new family payments for families with teenagers; expanding our education tax refund so you can claim back a portion of the cost of the school uniforms, part of the cost of getting kids to school; bringing forward the low income tax offsets so lower-paid Australian workers see more money in their pay packet each week or each fortnight.

These are important measures for cost of living, but they come on top of three years of tax cuts and increases in things like support for childcare.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there’s a Bill before parliament that would expand ASIO’s powers to (inaudible) surveillance. There’s worries that this could see groups like (inaudible)

PM: That’s just nonsense, absolute nonsense. Our security agencies, including ASIO, do their work properly to address threats to Australian security. They are oversighted, including through Parliamentary oversight, so I think anybody who’s trying to put those two things together is drawing a pretty long and fanciful bow.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is it true that there are only seven customers hooked up to the NBN in Armidale?

PM: Yes, exactly as planned - exactly as planned. The NBN, which I switched on on mainland Australia yesterday, is a great boon for whole country and particularly for regional Australia. I went to a community yesterday, the community in Armidale, that had been campaigning to get the National Broadband Network. They know their town well: they know its economy well; they know its jobs pattern well; they know its health well; they know its education well.

And they, as a community, wanted the National Broadband Network because they knew that would give their businesses greater economic opportunities. They knew that it would change the way we deliver health care and give them better access to health care specialists. They knew that it would transform local education and connect the classrooms their kids are in to classrooms and museums and art galleries right around the world.

Yes, there are seven customers in the trial. That was absolutely planned - seven customers trying it out, you have a trial first, that’s just a prudent approach and anybody who’s trying to spin something out of that is really misrepresenting what happened in Armidale yesterday.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, when will we know who the Chief of the Defence Force will be?

PM: We’ll make an announcement at the appropriate time and, of course, Angus Houston is there as the Chief of the Defence Force, continuing to do a world-class, first-class job.

Thank you.