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Transcript 15814

Interview with Neil Mitchell Radio 3AW Melbourne

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: 14/03/2008

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 15814

MITCHELL: Prime Minister, Good Morning

PM: G'day Neil, you're out there at the Grand Prix, having fun?

MITCHELL: Working very hard. The Formula One cars have just hit the track..

PM: Oh, good on you. Big event for Melbourne.

MITCHELL: It is. We might talk about it a bit later if we can. Are you aware the deeming rate has been increased?

PM: No, I'm not aware of that, so I'll take that one on notice.

MITCHELL: Is that automatic or not?

PM: Deeming normally is, but I'd like to get the detail on it. So, I will come back to your program when I have those details to hand.

MITCHELL: Okay, if you don't mind we might just be able to get some help on it. Shirley, hello Shirley. We've had several calls on it. Shirley have you been told its going up?

SHIRLEY: I am absolutely devastated. Yesterday I received a letter from the pension people telling me that the deeming rate has gone up, therefore, I was earning more money. So my pension has been taken down, quite a bit, but when I rang up the National Bank who I'm with, they knew nothing about the deeming rate going up and they are not giving me the extra deeming rate price. My pension is going down. This is affecting a huge amount of people over Australia. Something has to be done about it. It's another way that the Government takes off pensioners.

MITCHELL: Thank you Shirley. Prime Minister, I accept of course you wouldn't know all about it, but you have a look at it?

PM: Yeah sure, sure we will come back to your program on it. My normal understanding of these things it that it's an automatic formula which kicks in. But, let's have a look at it. And when it comes to your caller Shirley, if she's obviously dependant on the pension, then people need to make sure they are being treated fairly and properly and I understand how difficult these things can be. So let me come back to you Neil on that.

MITCHELL: What's your stand on deeming? What's your policy? I've always thought it's a little bit immoral actually to deem an interest rate regardless of whether you get it or not.

PM: Well, deeming was a matter resolved as a policy between both Government and Opposition going back a long, long time. I seem to remember the great deeming debate from memory was about the early to mid 90's. I don't think it's shifted since then.

MITCHELL: So you'd still be supporting the policy obviously?

PM: That's correct, there's been no shift from us, and as I understand it, no shift from the Liberal Party either. It was not a matter of debate in the last election.

MITCHELL: No, that's true. So what about the baby bonus ,is that safe?

PM: The baby bonus is absolutely safe, we committed ourselves to its retention before the election, and we will stick with it.

You've got to look at the data, and I think it has had an impact in terms of nudging up slightly the birth rate in the country. Some may dispute that, but I think it's effective. And most Mums and Dads that I've run into, they certainly welcome that cheque arriving.

MITCHELL: Well, you've got into Government, you've probably found a situation that's worse than you expect, haven't you, in the economic sense?

PM: The global economy is really tough, that's the first thing which has really unfolded in the last three months. You've seen the downward revisions in economic growth in America, Europe and now Japan. That all, of course, washes over the rest of the world and we're not immune from that. That's the first factor.

The second thing has been the depth of the inflation challenge and, as you know, that washed through into two sets of interest rate increases since the election. So it is difficult. We're fighting not just the fight against inflation, because interest rates hurts everybody. But we're also having to deal with the uncertainties in the global economic outlook as well.

MITCHELL: So in that environment, can you guarantee that every promise will be met?

PM: Yes. We are absolutely determined to honour what we said before the election, and we believe we can do that. Even if it means tightening our belt in other areas and for example, tax cuts which are due to be paid as of 1 July and a lot of people out there have criticised us out there in economic commentary land that the tax cuts should not be paid. My experience of working families under financial pressure is that they need every bit of help that they can at the moment with mortgages going up and everything else. That's, for example, one of the reasons why those undertakings will be honoured from 1 July.

MITCHELL: And that's all undertakings, everything? Nothing, you won't back down on anything?

PM: No, I think it's very important that you just are clear cut with people about what you stand for, what you're committed to prior to the election. You make that explicit, you cost them and we've put forward our costings on these promises prior to the election, and we intend to honour them.

MITCHELL: When will the computers go to the kids in school? Every child in every school gets a computer, access to a computer is the idea isn't it?

PM: The pre election commitment was that over the next four to five years that we would provide computers to every kid from year 9, 10, 11 and 12. So that's not every kid in every school. It's across that bracket.

As I understand it from my discussions with Julia, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister for Education, the initial submissions or applications and submissions, for the first round of those goes out fairly soon. And we will be rolling this program out together with the States and Territories over the course of the next several years. It's a tough program but we intend to honour it.

MITCHELL: Just further on this pension issue, we're getting many callers now saying they have $10 or $20 taken off their pension and Centrelink has told them there was an announcement on the 20th of March that they're not even allowed to talk about it with clients now. But I suspect now it's out there it will be addressed publicly won't it?

PM: Yeah, well as I said, I'm not briefed on that Neil and I will come back your program on it. I expect it is the automatic application of a pre existing deeming rate. But let me come back to you on that in some detail either through my office or through the Minister responsible.

MITCHELL: Fair enough. Gold $1000 an ounce, share market down, oil prices another record. In this environment, is $26 to much for the wage increase?

PM: Well, we think on the minimum wage, you've got two realities you've got to deal with here. One is inflationary pressures at home, and secondly, working families under financial pressure. It's tough, it's hard but we want a fair reasonable balanced outcome for working families, particularly those who are dependant on the minimum wage, and that's why we think it's important that those families get some relief through this.

MITCHELL: Is $26 too much?

PM: Well the unions will always argue an ambit position -

MITCHELL: That's an ambit claim is it, $26?

PM: That would be what the unions would argue for, and -

MITCHELL: But is it an ambit or is it real?

PM: Well if you're a union in negotiation, Neil, I would suggest that you would describe it as an ambit claim.

MITCHELL: Okay, so what do you want $18, is that right?

PM: Well I'm not putting a number on it, and nor does our submission put a number on it. In fact, neither of the two previous submissions from the Federal Government to the Australian Fair Pay Commission put a number on it.

MITCHELL: Yeah but arguably this is a slightly different environment isn't it?

PM: Well, they're an independent body, what we've simply confronted them with is a series of arguments. That is, on the one hand the inflationary challenges in the economy, and the other is that working families under financial pressure. And wisdom lies somewhere up the middle of that, in terms of a decent number.

But we want to make sure that through that, and through a decent industrial relations system which doesn't penalise people like the way AWA's and Workchoices did, together with tax cuts due from 1 July, an increase in the child care tax rebate, we help those families.

MITCHELL: But if you think that $26 is an ambit, which means it is too much, you must have a figure in mind? That's reasonable.

PM: It's an independent body.

MITCHELL: Yeah I know but the Government will be entitled to put a submission on it. You're entitled to argue for a figure aren't you?

PM: The Government has pursued the same policy as our predecessor in the two previous rounds which is not to nominate a figure and that's consistent with the Treasury advice that we've received as well.

MITCHELL: The unemployment figures yesterday were good. I saw you and Wayne Swan in Parliament welcoming them. They do put upwards pressure on interest rates though do they not?

PM: Well, the big sleeper in the Australian economy is the skills shortage and it's been around for a long, long time. As you know the Reserve Bank issued about 20 sets of warnings on skills and infrastructure shortages and if you got those shortages, what happens is that it produces inflationary pressures. And if you've got those out of control, it produces interest rate rises. So that's why front and centre to our agenda in Government has been what do you do on the skills front.

Hence why within the first couple of months in Government we've released funding for an additional up front 20,000 training places in areas of critical need right across the country.

MITCHELL: So, is it correct then, or is it no longer the case, that good unemployment figures mean upward pressure on interest rates?

PM: Well, the zero sum game which some people engage in, which is that you either have a complete trade off between inflation and unemployment, I don't believe that's the way to go. Good policy consists in keeping your target of full employment firmly in mind while keeping your lid on the inflationary bottle. Unfortunately the lid on that bottle has come unstuck in the last year or two.

What's the answer to that is making sure that your boosting two things. The quantity of skilled labour, and that goes back to the skills point I was just making, but also doing what you can to boost the participation rate in the workforce as well. And hence our policies on childcare.

MITCHELL: Ok well we will take a quick break here and come back with more from the Prime Minister who has been meeting with sports officials on alcohol abuse.

[AD Break]

MITCHELL: Mr Rudd, how did you go with the sports authorities on alcohol? Did you get anywhere?

PM: Yeah, we had a good meeting. Ben Buckley from the Football Federation of Australia - soccer; Australia Demetriou, AFL; John O'Neil the Rugby; David Gallop, League; Kate Palmer, Netball; and James Sutherland from Cricket Australia.

Basically what we agreed is this: Firstly that sport is not the cause of binge drinking, but we want sport to be part of the solution to this problem which is effecting so many kids around the country. So three and four specific areas of agreement.

One is, here in Victoria there is a program called the ‘Good Sports' program, which I understand operates at a grass roots level. Currently used a lot by the Netball Association of Australia. It's been effective, as it's been judged by the Government and by the sporting organisations. For the first time the Australian Government is going to kick into that - $5.2 million to expand the application of it to other codes as well. And that just takes it down to grass roots level.

The second one is we want a Club Champions program. There are literally tens of thousands of sporting clubs out there which belong to those six codes - $2 million to assist identifying a senior player and either a senior coach in each club to become the ambassadors for responsible drinking codes in clubs.

And then finally, we have asked the clubs, and the clubs have already indicated to us they're doing this with us, to put together a consistent national responsible drinking code which will apply to all sporting organisations.

The last thing, Neil, is that they very kindly said that for our proposed upcoming television, radio and internet advertising blitz on the damage of binge drinking to young people's health, that they'll come forward with sporting stars to assist us with that advertising campaign.

MITCHELL: Oh, at no fee, I hope!

PM: I certainly hope at no fee, we didn't get down and dirty on that, but I hope it's at no fee.

MITCHELL: I sometimes wonder if it's a bad look when any elite team wins a Grand Final or something, they tip beer all over each other and go out and get legless drunk for days on end. I know that it's probably the first time for six months they've had a drink, but it's not a good look, is it?

PM: Look, you know, I'm not in the business of belting up on these individual sports men and women. The more you look at the binge drinking problem the more complicated you see it as being. This is I think a very deep underlying change in social attitudes which has been going on for a long, long time

MITCHELL: I notice some people beating up on you. It might have been the Sydney Morning Herald, they said, what right have you got to raise this when you had a famous incident in a strip club in the United States when you couldn't remember what happened?

PM: Well, I think as I said either in the Parliament or elsewhere recently, don't look to me to be a paragon of moral virtue on these questions. But, what I'm really concerned about is 12 to 17 year olds, kids, where the survey data tells us there is a 168,000 of them engaged in binge drinking. And that survey data is two years old. And binge means, consuming within a fixed space of time, seven drinks if you are a young boy, five if you are a young girl. Now, the damage which can be done permanently to your brain and to your body by that is huge. So, I'll take any incoming flack about yours truly, but I've got one target in mind, which is to get that number down.

MITCHELL: How old were you when you had your first drink do you reckon?

PM: Actually, I didn't start drinking till I was in my 20s, to be quite honest. We had a basically, a sort of relatively non-drinking household. Mum didn't drink and Dad had a tot of rum most evenings after he came in from the farm. I think he had more than a tot down at the local, though.

MITCHELL: Hello Ned, go ahead please Ned.

NED: Yeah, hi Neil, good morning Prime Minister.

PM: G'day Ned, how are you?

NED: Yeah, good thanks. I just want to sort of ask your views on a particular topic. It's regarding the carers allowance.

PM: Yeah, sure.

NED: My second son was born deaf, and as a result of that we received the carers allowance.

PM: Yeah.

NED: And, acknowledgment must be made that every bit does help. It's not much, but we are very appreciative of that.

PM: That's right.

NED:However, a couple of months ago my son (inaudible) was also diagnosed, the same son was also diagnosed with autism. And, if anyone who is familiar with living with a deaf child and an autistic child, the autism component is probably five to ten times more costly than the daily ongoing -

MITCHELL: So how does that relate to the carers allowance, Ned?

NED: Well, when we ask for any sort of assistance from Centrelink, we're thinking, well, we've got one problem so we receive one payment. Now we've got another problem, there they just turn their back and say well you are receiving something for one thing, but now we are saying, we've got a problem, a bigger monster that what we had. Yet you're happy to give it for that, but your not prepared to extend it to anything beyond that, because they are two different illnesses, two different problems, two different costs and, I just want to get your view on that.

MITCHELL: Yeah thanks Ned, thank you very much for calling.

PMWell, Ned is obviously wrestling with a real problem there which is how to deal with a kid multiple disabilities. And it is not easy and carers allowance is one way in which assistance is provided and carers payment as well and of course the eligibility for proposed things are different.

On his individual circumstances, Neil, as soon as we finish the program, if I could get his contact details we'll come back to him. That's the first point.

On autism, can I say, this is huge. On average, one kid, I think in 160 is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. This is an emerging problem. And that is why we support the Helping Australian Children with Autism package which provides $190 million over five years. Now this is not by way of direct payments to families. I grant you that.

That's dealt with through the carers arrangements we spoke about before but we certainly get the point that autism is an emerging, huge, problem for parents across the country.

MITCHELL: Ned, hold on and give us your details if you are comfortable to do that.

Prime Minister you obviously want us to cut back the amount of money lost gambling on poker machines, is that true?

PM: Well I am concerned about the impact which this has on families doing their entire dough. I don't have all the science on this one Neil. I notice John Brumby in Victoria I think has done the right thing by ripping ATMs out of poker machine premises. I think that is a good step forward.

But I have indicated in my discussions with others, other Premiers, that we want to look at this during the course of the year about what further can be done. I don't pretend to have a complete solution to this.

I want to get some science around it. That is, the extent of gambling addiction, the extent to which this is best dealt with while balancing that against the 77,000 people who work in the gaming industry in the country.

MITCHELL: If you start to cut it back though, I mean, Victoria, it just takes about $1 billion a year from pokies, they might be looking at you to compensate for the lost revenue?

PM:Yep, I understand that Neil. That's why it is a tough decision at multiple levels. You have got, in the industry, 70,000 or 80,000 people who earn their living through the gaming industry. You have got the revenue dependency on the part of States and Territories.

MITCHELL: So would you look at compensating?

PM: Well, I think on this one, everything is on the table as far as a solid look at; First of all, how big is the problem. Secondly, what works to fix it, in terms of poker machines. And thirdly, what will that cost the taxpayer. And I am just being upfront about the fact, we don't have the answers to this, during the course of this year, including at the upcoming 2020 Summit, we'll be kicking these ideas around.

MITCHELL: Okay, I know you need to get away. A couple of very quick things. Petrol, it's nudging $1.50 in Melbourne. Is there any chance that the Petrol Commissioner is going to have an impact on this? We could be over $1.50 by Easter.

PM: Yeah, I am really worried about what is going to happen at Easter, given what has happened in previous years. Certainly the Petrol Commissioner is going to provide an added level of scrutiny on to the oil companies. I don't want to pre-judge what the Petrol Commissioner does and the sorts of determinations that Pat Walker will make. But certainly, there is firstly a detailed examination, an ongoing monitoring of the buy-sell arrangements as well as a whole series of other things that he has in his kit.

And, I have got to say, we have got to make sure that his office works effectively. It is going to be tough. A lot of these things, as you know, are driven by global prices, but we are deeply concerned about competitive arrangements within the domestic Australian industry.

MITCHELL: So what do we say to motorists, be patient?

PM: Well there is no silver bullet on this. I didn't say there was before the election either. I said what we needed is greater competition scrutiny within the domestic oil industry. And remember our predecessors had, what, 12 years to do something about this, and didn't. We have been in office for three months and we have appointed this bloke, and we hope, we hope, it adds some competitive scrutiny to an industry which hasn't had a lot.

MITCHELL: Are you coming to the Grand Prix on Sunday or not?

PM:Don't know if I am going to get there mate. I'd like to if I could but I don't know if I am.

MITCHELL: Fair enough, do you think it is a good thing, you mentioned earlier, do you think it is a good thing for Australia to have it?

PM: Yeah absolutely.

MITCHELL: Because I think we are about to lose it.

PM:I have seen some of the debate on that, and I am not on the ins and outs of the timing of the race. Are you actually springing around the track yourself at the moment are you?

MITCHELL: There's a Formula One car that just went past.

PM: I thought you were doing the interview in the back of one. But I don't suppose there is a back of a Formula One car. But I think in terms of tourist promotion for Australia and for Melbourne it has been fantastic. On the ins and outs of the debate about, you know when the race should be held and all the rest of it, I'll leave that to the locals.

MITCHELL: I appreciate your time, thanks very much.

PM: Thanks Neil.

Transcript 15814