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Transcript of press joint press conference: 13 May 2007: Galaxy Poll; climate change; industrial relations; campaigning in Bennelong.

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Subjects: Galaxy Poll; Climate change; Industrial relations; Campaigning in Bennelong

WATKINS: Thanks for coming folks, lots extraordinary things this week in politics locally. The first thing is John Howard is actually campaigning out here campaigning twice in the one week in the 12 years that I’ve been a local Member, I’ve never seen that. John Howard is now out here in his electorate. And you know why, because Maxine McKew is the Labor candidate.

The second thing which is quite extraordinary, whenever you go out in public with Maxine McKew, people come up to say congratulations, well done, we’re going to vote for you. Or just come up to meet her, but because she’s quite an extraordinary, national figure, well respected right across the country, and the level of support for Maxine McKew is truly amazing. On the streets of this electorate which I’ve known intimately for 12 years, I’ve never seen anything like it. And that augurs well for Kevin Rudd and the election later this year. She’s an amazing woman, she’s well respected, she’s a national figure of course, the

people of Bennelong are warming to her. I’m very pleased that she’s here today seeing what the local people do on a Sunday, which is come down and watch their daughters play soccer. So, I’m very happy to introduce Maxine McKew.

McKEW: I’m drowning in the praise John, thank you. I think looking at those polls this morning the first person I rang this morning was my mother, I rang her this morning to say happy Mother’s Day, and she had already heard the

news and like all mothers she took credit for it. She said it must be all those prayers I’ve been saying to Mary McKillop and who am I to argue, of course she’s right. But it is encouraging, I think all one can say is it’s an early snapshot and it does reflect on some of the things that I’m hearing and what we’ve heard John refer to and that is there is a mood for change. I think that in peoples’ comments, any number of people have come up to me in weeks and said that we are Liberal voters, but this time, we are thinking of voting Labor and we’ve already decided to vote Labor.

When you ask them why, it comes down I think to one thing and some say breach of faith. They feel that the Government has disappointed in a number of ways. One example would be in the last week which has seen the Prime Minister and Peter Costello suddenly discover the importance for higher education. In a few weeks time they will no doubt discover the importance of climate change and if they can throw enough of money at it. If people see then I

think they see that as (inaudible) so perhaps that’s what we’re seeing reflected in this poll

JOURNALIST: A swing of 18 per cent, you must be happy with that.

McKEW: Well it’s very encouraging, it’s the only way I can describe it, I’ve got what, either four months or six months to consolidate that. If that is real support and not soft support, which it could be, then I know I’ve got a very hard

job ahead of me.

JOURNALIST: How would it feel to bring down one of our longest serving Prime Ministers?

McKEW: I don’t know, I’ll see after the election if that happens, I’m not assuming that is the case at all. It would require a miracle of gigantic proportions for Labor to take this seat. The Prime Minister has held this seat since 1974, he is exceptionally well known, he brings the whole stature of Office, the highest Office in the land to this seat. So, I have a very hard job ahead of me.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) that poll reflect mood change and how much it’s a bounce in the change in the boundaries?

McKEW: Well no doubt the seat strictly on demographics, is much easier for Labor. One of the reasons I was confident about putting my hand up for the seat in the first place was because it was a genuine, marginal seat. It requires just a swing of over four per cent to fall into Labor hands I’m convinced that eventually, in a metro seat, it will eventually be a Labor seat. The demographics are moving Labor’s way, so that is one thing. On top of that, as I say, there is a mood for change. More and more people are feeling disappointed, let down, by Mr Howard and they are looking for something different. They are looking for, I think some of the messages that Kevin Rudd has been stressing about and that is the focus on the future, investment in education; investment in high-speed broadband; creative solutions about climate change, this is what the people are talking about.

JOURNALIST: One of the big issues in that Galaxy poll this morning that people said was an issue was the economy, what can you do to reassure them that Labor is going to do a good job with the economy particularly in this electorate?

McKEW: I think that’s where that poll is spot on, people are concerned about economic management. The Labor Party recognises that that is a central issue. If we’re to have a real debate about the real economic concerns, that most Australians and certainly the people in Bennelong, what I’m hearing about in terms of the real economic issues, are things like the high cost of childcare, inaudible) way above the inflation rate. What I’m also hearing when I go down to

Eastwood Mall, which was where the Prime Minster was yesterday, the shopkeepers down there will tell you that they are paying 30 per cent more in rent for their shops, but they’ve not getting a corresponding 30 per cent increase in business. They’re the real economic issues that people in Bennelong are

talking about - that’s what economic management is about.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

McKEW: Interestingly I was at Coxs Road yesterday in the shopping centre area there at 9 o clock and I stood there for an hour and a half and I was there straight after the Budget. I was in Canberra earlier this week thinking that people would be talking about the Budget or about Kevin’s Budget in Reply, it didn’t come up. Not one person mentioned the Budget with me, and I had real budget material there. People wanted to talk about a range of things, the things that come up all the time, just what I’ve mentioned, the cost of living, water, people cannot begin to understand, you know, why we’ve suddenly realised that

our water, our rivers are drying up and that we’ve got leaking pipes in the cities. Well Labor’s got a plan to redress that.

They also talk about industrial relations - it comes up all the time. They don’t say it’s industrial relations, but they talk about a system that is now hurting working families and which they think has gone a bit too far. It’s given too much power to employers - that issue comes up all the time, it doesn’t matter where you go.

JOURNALIST: One in three people didn’t really know who you were, will we see more billboards?

McKEW: Well it doesn’t surprise me that the latter would be the case, I’ve been campaigning for about six to eight weeks, the Prime Minister has been campaigning for 30 years. His profile is undoubtedly higher than mine. But I’ve got a big job ahead of me as I say, I’ll be out and about and I’ll be doing all sorts of campaigning to make sure that come election day, people know who the Labor candidate is.

JOURNALIST: How do you think the redistribution has (inaudible) this latest poll (inaudible)

McKEW: He is on a four per cent swing, it requires a swing of just under four per cent for the seat to fall into Labor hands. I don’t so much look at the demographics, you need to look at all of the sophisticated break-down of those demographics. I came out here and I’ve see all sorts of Australians I see you know I see parents, I see school children, I see shopkeepers, I see volunteers, it is a wonderful community. I come across all the time people who have as I would describe, who have open minds and they have warm hearts and that is well reflected in a great spirit in this community. And they’ve been very welcoming to me. Nobody has said, “who do you think you are coming out here

and taking on the Prime Minister”, nobody has said that and I think it’s because what’s recognised here is that it is democracy, anyone can put their hand up. And I think there’s a real respect that the Labor Party is taking this seat seriously

for the first time.


[13 May 2007]