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Transcript 15698

Interview with Mike & Fitz, Radio 2UE, Sydney

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 07/12/2007

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 15698

MIKEGood morning.

PM:Good morning, Mike.

MIKE:And congratulations.

PM:Thanks very much.

MIKEI said you'd never do it.

PM:You did say it to me over dinner, sort of, how many years ago?

MIKEI don't know, five or six or seven or something.

FITZ:Prime Minister, does it still seem odd to you to be addressed as Prime Minister and to hear Prime Minister Rudd? Does it still ring odd?

PM:Well, I keep looking over my shoulder and saying who's the other bloke (inaudible). No, it's a great honour but I just see myself still as Kevin Rudd. I've just got a new job to do.

MIKEKevin from Queensland.

PM:That's true. I've just got a new job to do. It's an important job and it requires a lot of hard work - up early, to bed late making sure you're across what needs to be done on the day following. So it's a great responsibility and I'm just looking forward so much to how we can begin to roll out or agenda for the country's future.

MIKESo far the transition seems to have been seamless. There have been no heads rolling in the public service and so on. Do you intend to keep it much that way?

PM:I said before the election that we wanted to restore Westminster. Part of restoring Westminster means underlining the independence of the public service and the best way to make sure they provide you with frank and fearless advice is to ensure that they don't have to curry political favour (inaudible) election approaching and people may fear that their jobs are on the line. So we've decided with very, very few administrative changes in terms of secretaries in individual departments, that the previous heads of department in the Commonwealth Public Service, many of whom have served the Howard Government loyally for a long, long time, they should continue and all of us will be judged of course on our performance in the months and years ahead.

FITZ:Prime Minister, before the election you promised to release a Ministerial Code of Conduct and you said in fact that that would be released before the election. We're well over a week later and it still hasn't been released. What is the hold-up, may I ask?

PM:It's just a complex document, and you're right - I did say that before the election and I don't hide from the fact that it's taken a little bit longer than I thought. We will be releasing that after our first Cabinet meeting on Thursday and it's just a complex document. We just want to make sure it's got right because this is so much an important part of again restoring Westminster, to make sure the principles for the conduct of ministers are out there and clear for all to see.

It wasn't so much the problem with Mr Howard's Code of Conduct document in terms of its content, it was how it was applied.

MIKEWell Mr Howard applied it very firmly in his first year or so in office and ministerial heads rolled like nine pins and finally he decided it didn't work.

PM:Well the experience of the Howard Government is now for the historian to judge but we believe in high standards of ministerial accountability. We will entrench those principles in the Code of Conduct. That'll be out on Thursday. And then it really depends on the implementation of that Code over time. What I'm determined is that we will have good, sound principles of public administration. The first meeting of the full ministry within hours of sworn in - we went through some of these basic principles. But that'll all be formalised once we release the code on Thursday.

FITZ:Just before we leave Mr Howard, he gave you the concession, well he conceded to you that Saturday night and you had the time at the Lodge together. Was there any moment where he took you aside and wished you well (inaudible) from one Prime Minister to another, any of that kind of thing?

PM: Look, he did and I've been upfront in admitting that he's been entirely gracious and proper in the arrangements for the transition to Government of an incoming administration. And certainly his personal remarks to Therese and myself, and Mrs Howard as well, were kind and warm and I think very much this says a lot about the health of the Australian democracy, that we can fight often a very bloody election campaign but once the people decide, we've got a fairly civilised way of conducting the transition to a new administration.

MIKEOn that Ministerial Code of Conduct, the Howard Government over years (inaudible) abandoned the concept of ministerial responsibility. If things went wrong, ministers weren't told or it was the fault of their department and so on and so on. Will you expect your ministers to be responsible for the conduct of their department?

PM:Ministerial accountability means exactly that - that they should be responsible to the Parliament for their actions, to be responsible for the operation of their department as well. Of course there becomes a difficult and grey area - there might be a minor matter of administration within a department over which the minister has no direct oversight or no direct responsibility. But ministerial accountability means that the executive is accountable to the Parliament for the administration of the department of state. And that is a core principle of Westminster and a core principle, I believe, of restoring Westminster.

FITZ:So if a minister has failed in the administration of his department, would you expect him or her to resign or be sacked?

PM:Well my judgement on that, Mike, is that we would have to wait for the circumstances to unfold, you know the facts will be different in each case. The principle of accountability is clear. It's not a notional concept, it's a real concept and ministers must be responsible to the Parliament because the Parliament is the people's house - that's where the Executive of the Government answers to the people through the Parliament. Of course this places an onus of responsibility on ministers. It also places an onus of responsibility on the secretaries of departments. But I can't hypothetically speculate on what may unfold in months or years ahead.

MIKEWould you expect your standards to be higher than those of the Howard Government?

PM:Absolutely because I still for the life of me can not understand through the $300 million wheat for weapons scandal, whereby Australia became the largest source of illicit foreign funding to Saddam Hussein's regime, that no minister, no minister, was held accountable or responsible for that gross failure of public administration.

FITZ:Will you use the power of your office now to continue investigations into AWB and finally get to the bottom of it?

PM:I said prior to the election and just after that once we form government - that was only on Monday of this week - we'd take advice on that and that's being prepared. But that will take some time to prepare and to deliberate on. I've regarded that as a, and I regard it still, as a matter of gross failure of public administration and I still for the life of me can't understand how no minister, no minister - the foreign minister or the trade minister - was held responsible for this great corruption scandal whereby Australia became the largest source of foreign illegal funding to Saddam Hussein's regime.

MIKEHow deep is that investigation going? (inaudible) documents, are you asking, you know, departmental briefs and all that sort of thing?

PM:I'll be seeking, obviously, advice from the Prime Minister's department in terms of what matters remain to be properly instigated including, more broadly, how these things could be taken further. But I reserve judgment on all of that until we've received advice.

FITZ:All right, Prime Minister, your first step, your first move after being installed as Prime Minster was to begin the process of embracing the Kyoto Protocol. You were interviewed yesterday by Cynthia Banham of the Herald and said that basically you want to now take the lead, for Australia to take the lead, in climate change. You were reported as saying that you wanted to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries on emissions control. Huge step for Australia to go from being laggard on Kyoto to being leader.

PM:Well I believe the best traditions of Australian creative middle power diplomacy is just to do that - think in times past. (inaudible) could for example become the peace broker for Cambodia which had been rendered asunder by civil war the death of so many of its people over a long period of time. Australian diplomats are very good at this and Australia, in its best tradition, is capable of acting creatively and imaginatively on the international stage.

But you're right, Fitz, we've had bad record on climate change when it comes to the Kyoto ratification process. We've now put that behind us and I believe we now need - and we've got a responsibility to Australians, not just the international community - to do whatever we can to bridge the gap between the developed and the developing world because right now that gap is huge. I can't guarantee any success in this enterprise. It's tough but the tasking we'll be giving to our diplomats and to our negotiators headed by Penny Wong is to make sure that everything possible is done to secure an agreement.

MIKEWill you try and encourage China then, and India to move towards binding targets on their emissions? Very tough.

PM: Look, if we're going to succeed in this enterprise for the planet, it is absolutely fundamental that we obtain commitments from the major developing country emitters like China and India and that we also have clear cut commitments from the developed world as well and that includes the United States. Everyone has a stake in the future of the planet and if we fail in this task, the people who will pay the price will be not our grandkids, but our kids. And in fact we're starting to see the evidence of it now with impact on rainfall patterns across the country.

FITZ:Given the importance of this issue, it seems extraordinary to have your Environment Minister Peter Garrett effectively gagged in the lower house in terms of answering questions on climate change and then have your Treasurer, Wayne Swan, be the one to answer them.

PM:Climate change is a huge economic challenge. The question that will be on most of our minds this year domestically will be: how do we frame a national emissions trading regime? Responsibility for that will lie in large part with the modelling work done in the Department of the Treasury. In fact, some of that work has already been commenced by us in opposition through the Garnaut review. And because that modelling work will obviously involve an analysis of the impact of interim carbon targets for Australia, the large slice of that work will be done by the Treasury. So it's entirely appropriate that the Treasurer be the minister accountable in the House of Representatives.

MIKEIt certainly though seems a downgrading for Mr Garrett, who is after all the Environment Minister and you'd think would be representing, would be taking questions that could be addressed to Penny Wong in the Senate. Why the Treasurer?

PM:Well, because if you go to the core questions on the national agenda this year on climate change, the core one, and business will back this view if you put it to them, as will the rest of the country seriously engaged in this question, we must establish an effective national emissions trading regime which involves the determination of interim carbon targets. We know what our target is by 2050 which is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 against 2000 levels. But an emissions trading regime means we need interim targets. The modelling for that work has been done in the Treasury. This is the lion's share of the climate change agenda within Australia this year, this coming year, and the year beyond, and therefore there is no more appropriate Minister in the House of Representatives to be answerable on climate change than the Treasurer because so much of the work will be done there in conjunction with the Department of Climate Change, headed by, whose Minister will be Penny Wong, but who is in the Senate.

FITZ:Prime Minister, there's been much comment on the fact that Julia Gillard, your Deputy, has two major portfolios in education and workplace relations. Can I ask you simply, did the drive for her to have those two portfolios, did it come from her (inaudible) or was it your decision that she should have them?

PM:Well, I determined the composition of the Ministry. I did that on the basis of merit and I determined the allocation of portfolios. But with Julia, with whom I've worked very closely in the last 12 months, and we were both elected to the leadership and deputy leadership of the Party only 12 months ago yesterday, we have got to know each other really well. This is very much a meeting of minds when it comes to her being responsible for education, responsible for employment and also responsible for workplace relations. And the rationale is this: that this is the core of Labor's productivity agenda for the future - how we educate and train people for the workplace; how we maximise workforce participation, particularly given the ageing of the population; and on top of that, what laws are appropriate for balance of fairness and flexibility within workplaces once people commence work. This we regard as a seamless (inaudible) and I think many people out there in the business community agree with the way in which we put that together.

MIKEAll right, Prime Minister, your first big diplomatic trip is going to be to Asia and Bali obviously (inaudible). When do you think you might focus on the United States and a trip to Washington and the White House?

PM:Well, I spoke to President Bush the day after the election and he very kindly telephoned me to extend his congratulations. We talked then about the possibility of my travelling to the United States next year. We haven't turned our mind yet to precise times but it will be, I imagine, in the first half of next year but we have a very substantial domestic agenda to roll out. For example, we've been talking now about climate change and that's huge and the other part of it goes to Peter Garrett's responsibilities in rolling out these climate change mitigation measures for households like solar programs, like water efficiency programs. This is a massive area of responsibility where we've made a whole lot of commitments for the future as well. And Peter is going to have his hands full doing that, together with the rest of the Environment, Heritage and the Arts portfolio. By the way, these are really important for households.

MIKEOK, but you're going have to rebalance if you like the relationship with the United States, away from the Howard Government subservience and brownnosing to a more mature relationship. How and when are you going to start that or are you going to leave it to Stephen Smith, your Foreign Minister?

PM:Well the relationship with the United States is something I regard as core business for the Prime Minister and always has been in previous governments and I imagine it will be in the future. I've always said and believe that an alliance with the United States does not mandate automatic compliance with the United States in every element of foreign policy. I believe America's an overwhelming force for good in the world and if you look around the world today at the enormous good being done by America and various leaders, you've got to admire this country and its peoples' determination to still be players, positive players in global affairs. We will have our disagreements with the Americans and our disagreements with the Unites States over the Iraq War is well documented but that will not stand in the road of us cooperating with the US Administration and I look forward very much to meeting President Bush when I get to Washington.

FITZ:Will you urge him to ratify the Kyoto Protocol?

PM:Well our position vis-à-vis Kyoto is clear cut and that is that all the developed and developing countries need to be part of the global solution. And when it comes to developed countries and significant emitters like the United States, we need to see our friends in America part and parcel of that process as well.

FITZ:So you will urge him?

PM:And therefore, and therefore, we do need to see the United States, as I've said before, as a full ratification state when it comes to Kyoto.

MIKEPrime Minister, when do you expect Parliament will sit again?

PM:We have not finally determined that but I would imagine, Mike that that would be a normal season which is the first part of February. That's when Parliament traditionally resumes.

MIKEAnd there you would face a hostile Senate which may get in the way, particularly, of your workplace reforms - abandoning AWAs.

PM:Well we'll cross this bridge as we come it but we have, we believe, a very clear cut proposal to the Australian people for fairness and flexibility in the workplace. That's been put to the people. The people have said yes to it and we therefore will be preparing that legislation to go before the Parliament early next year and we believe that reason should prevail on the part of Senators when they deliberate about legislation when it goes to the Chamber.

MIKEAll right, last question, what do you want for Christmas? You've got everything you ever wanted.

PM:Let me see. What I'd really like is to spend a week or two with Therese and the kids, the cat and the dog, and be able to switch off for a week or two. That'll be great.

MIKEAnd will you do that? Will you have that week?

PM:Previous Prime Ministers normally take a week or two off over the break and that's what I would certainly like to do as well because everyone needs to recharge their batteries and I'm sure you blokes do as well.

MIKEYour responsibilities are rather larger than ours. It's good to talk to you again.

PM:You're rendering too modestly the impact of your program.

MIKEYou're very kind.

PM:All the best.

FITZ:Thank you very much.

MIKEThank you kindly. Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

Transcript 15698