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Transcript of interview with John Morrison: ABC Statewide: 18 May 2011

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Transcript of interview with John Morrison, ABC Statewide WED 18 MAY 2011

Prime Minister

HOST: I’m pleased to say Ms Gillard joins us on the line this afternoon. Prime Minister, good afternoon, welcome to Statewide.

PM: Good afternoon and thank you for having me on.

HOST: How’s Tamworth at the moment?

PM: It’s terrific, thank you very much - a gentle evening light.

HOST: A light has kept you busy today - there’s a number of visions that have presented themselves, but certainly around Tamworth you’ve been busy opening the official area for the new sports complex there, again, Government-funded, or partly Government-funded.

PM: A fantastic partnership between the Federal Government and the local government. We contributed $5 million, but the local government stepped up and made a huge contribution itself and well supported by local sporting associations, local businesses and it’s had a real sense of celebration to do the official opening today, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet with some of the young kids who are going to be playing there, so that’s been a very special moment for me.

HOST: They’ll certainly welcome it, as will the hospital. The local hospital in Tamworth has received a funding boost for more places there, part of the initiative to get more money into regional Australian hospitals.

PM: That’s right. The local hospital here in Tamworth has succeeded, through our regional round, through our Health and Hospital Fund, to get $120 million for its Stage 2 development, so I walked through the maternity ward where you meet some wonderful staff and excited new mums, but the facility is a very old one and they do need a more modern facility, so that’s what Stage 2 will achieve, and I was able to announce that there would be $20 million put into the School of Rural Health - that’s $15 million in Tamworth and $5 million in Armidale, and of course that’s all about training medical and allied health professionals locally because all of the evidence tells us that if someone gets a great training experience in a regional centre, then when they’re working out where they’re going to practice, they’re much more likely to return to the place they had a great training experience.

So, more capital to create student accommodation and more training facilities and some more funded places, too - 8 specialist places and 16 GP places.

HOST: Yes, so those places will be coming through in terms of, as you mentioned already, training places and also places for improved hospital care, but the NBN is also one of the other projects that will be launched tomorrow. That will be taking place in Armidale. Armidale’s bringing on nearly 3,000 premises to the NBN. Somebody would also say that this is terrific move forward, but a lot of the concentration, we’re already seen the money coming into one particular electorate, and of course we know that Mr Windsor is the representative of this electorate. Mr Windsor citing, of course, the NBN as a key factor that moved him across to support the Government. Shall we draw anything more from that, Prime Minister?

PM: Well, Tony Windsor is a great advocate of his local community. That’s his job and he does it very well, but the money for the Tamworth Hospital is part of a $1.8 billion regional round of our Health and Hospitals Fund. We’ve had the first round and then there will be a

second round, so that there’s $1.8 billion of expenditure going into regional health care.

So, we’re aiming to make a difference for regional communities right around the nation, and then on the National Broadband Network, I will have the opportunity to switch on the first mainland site tomorrow.

It’s actually the NBN Co, the company that’s developing the National Broadband Network for us, that picks the release sites. What they’ve tried to do is in different parts of the country, put the National Broadband Network sites into different sorts of terrain, so Armidale is one place that’s going, but for example it’s going into outer suburban Adelaide, so in a very different environment, an urban growth corridor. So, they’ve done all of this deliberately to learn lessons for the rollout when it happens right around the nation, but starting the rollout in a set of very different communities.

HOST: Yes, Prime Minister, I noticed the opt-in rate is quite remarkably high, some 90 per cent of the premises that it was offered to have taken it up, which suggests there’s a keenness for this point too.

PM: It is going to transform regional Australia, that’s my view. It’s going to transform regional economies, because what has always stood in the way of businesses in regional areas is the tyranny of distance. Can they compete with the businesses in the big cities? Can they compete with businesses overseas, given they’ve got the transport costs associated with moving their products or their services from where they’re based in regional Australia?

Well, the NBN ends that tyranny of distance. You will be able to trade in real time with someone who might be in the CBD of Sydney, or they might be in the CBD of Shanghai. I mean this is power, economically, of the NBN, and then of course it will also transform the way that people get health services and education services. If you need a very particular form of health speciality you will be able to have a face-to-face conference with that person over the NBN - even if that means you’re talking to the leading expert who lives in Perth, that will be possible.

And for school kids it means that they will be able to open the doors to libraries and museums across the nation and around the world.

HOST: Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister, is our guest this afternoon. She’s visiting both Tamworth today and Armidale tomorrow for a look at a number of regional issues and to make a number of regional announcements, including the major announcement concerning the NBN.

Prime Minister, we did mention this to our listeners who were turned in to Statewide, if they’d like to put some questions through the SMS system, or the text system, to you and they’ve come up with quite a range of ones.

I suppose the most succinct one is: ‘Will Ms Gillard, will you let the people of Australia vote on the carbon tax’. Now that is the most succinct question. It sums up a whole range of questions concerning the carbon tax. It is of course the story today as you go about- various Ministers talk about the pricing of the carbon tax. But that’s the most succinct question: ‘will you let the people of Australia vote on it?’

PM: At the last election, as Prime Minister, I went to the Australian people and said ‘we need to tackle climate change, we need to cut carbon pollution’ and the best and most efficient way of doing that is putting a price on carbon. That means businesses will innovate, they’ll change, they’ll cut the amount of carbon pollution that they generate, because there’s a price on it, as opposed to being able to pump it out into the atmosphere for free.

Now, the mechanism that I was advocating at the last election is what is called an emissions trading scheme, where you cap the amount of carbon pollution your economy will generate and you let a market develop of buying and selling permits and there’s a floating price. I did

say that I didn’t want a fixed price model. Now, the truth is in the parliament that the Australian people elected we will get to that emissions trading scheme, we’ll get there via a fixed price for a limited period. So, yes, things have changed - I didn’t intend to mislead anybody before the last election, but we will get to where I always wanted the country to get to, which is to an emissions trading scheme.

And we haven’t got time that we can just allow to go by. Both sides of politics, you might be surprised to hear this given some of the terminology in this debate, both sides of politics are committed to reducing our carbon pollution by -5 per cent by 2020. The sooner we start, the easier it will be to get there and we’ve got the choice of the most efficient mechanism - pricing carbon - or doing it in a lot more expensive way. Well, you know I’m saying to the Australian people, let’s get on with the job of using the most efficient mechanism: pricing carbon.

Tony Abbott some days says climate change isn’t real, but on other days when he is acknowledging climate change is real, he is advocating a more expensive way of getting to our -5 target.

HOST: Well, Prime Minister, that is indeed the question today, whether it has been every sort of compass direction on the price, whether it be north, south, east, or west of $40 and that has been a figure that has floated, because a number of our other questions just related to the impact of the price, of pricing carbon, on the cost of living.

PM: Well, I can answer that. First and foremost if you hear any figure on the radio, on the TV, or you read one in your newspaper, don’t believe it. People-

HOST: -Not even the one you’re about to tell us?

PM: Well, no, I’m not going to use a figure. People who are out there saying ‘oh, the carbon price is definitely going to be this amount’, people are just speculating. Indeed I think some people are just making things up.

You know, I see Mr Abbott from time to time go out there with claimed figures and he’s just made them up.

HOST: Could you give a ball park figure, Prime Minister? In the sense of that people do have to make adjustments for what they’ll be looking for?

PM: What I would prefer to do is what I am doing now, which is we are consulting with the business community. We will announce the full details in the middle of the year. People will be able to see the price that the 1,000 biggest polluting businesses in this country will pay for generating carbon pollution. They will be able to see the assistance available to their household for any price impacts that flow through and they will be able, dollar and cent, to sit at the kitchen table with a calculator and work it all out.

That’s the best way that people can get certainty and know what it means for them and given some of the things that have been said publicly, with a lot of dramatic rhetoric and speculation, I think when people see the details they might be a little bit surprised that some of the drama has just been that - drama.

HOST: Prime Minister, time is going to beat us. I appreciate your time in joining us this afternoon and good luck with New England North West and rug up tonight. You might need to.

PM: Terrific, and having spent some time in Canberra-

HOST: -You’ll know all about it-

PM:-I know all about it. That’s right. Thank you.