PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 16022

Interview with Rhys Muldoon, 666 AM Radio, Canberra

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: 18/07/2008

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 16022

MULDOON: I'm joined by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

PM: Good morning, Rhys. How are you?

MULDOON: Very well. How are you?

PM: Not too bad. You're in downtown Canberra, I'm in downtown Sydney.

MULDOON: Oh, you're in downtown Sydney. It's a little bit busy at the moment?

PM: That's true. 150,000 pilgrims and it's a lot of folk in town.

MULDOON: Yeah. Which leads me straight away to my first question. As Prime Minister obviously you've met all sorts of incredible people and had all sorts of incredible experiences.

I'm just wondering, out of these three things, what would you consider your highlight: Signing the Kyoto Protocol, meeting the Pope, or doing the traffic report with me on 666 ABC Canberra?

PM: A, B and C above.

MULDOON: That's a very brilliant answer. Now I do know that -

PM: I believe I did the traffic report last time I was on this program.

MULDOON: Yeah, we did. And I'm not sure if you recall, but there wasn't too much to report that day.

PM: No, it's true. I was just told by public servants that they were an hour late for work because they got all the street names wrong, so.

MULDOON: Oh really, well that's very helpful. Now, I believe it was Therese's birthday yesterday.

PM: That's true, yeah, she had a great birthday. It was (inaudible) day that she also met His Holiness the Pope - Pope Benedict.

MULDOON: Yeah, it makes it quite a memorable birthday.

PM: Certainly was. And, I can't claim to have organised it that way, either the timing of her birthday or the timing of the Pope's visit. It certainly worked out that way. So it was really good.

MULDOON: Have you ever given her a birthday present that was just a complete dud?

PM: Ah, any asked male listening to this program would have to say in the span of their married life, or their relationship with their partners, that they have bottomed out on certain major occasions. I'm one of them (inaudible).

I think it's a golden rule - don't go for the kitchen appliances. I think that's kind of the way to go.

MULDOON: Yeah, maybe not sending out great signals.

PM: No, no, no. That's basically no. Just don't go there. I found that in the very early years of our married life and, my mother always appreciated (inaudible)

MULDOON: Now, when we first met you were Shadow Foreign Affairs, and obviously you've since became Prime Minister.

Now, in show businesses, I remember that someone once described directing a film was like simultaneously making love and getting root canal.

Is being the PM similar?

PM: I've never had a root canal, so I can't answer that question.

MULDOON: Okay. I just thought it might be an interesting, um...

PM: I'll tell you what it is though, it is a real challenge, a good challenge, but yeah, in a country like Australia your in a set of global circumstances which are rapidly changing. Global financial crisis which has been rolling now for the better part of 12 months. The global oil crisis, running for the last several months, in terms of this extraordinary increase in the price of petrol around the world.

Us having been elected for the first time in 12 years, having to bring down a tough and responsible Budget while at the same time honouring the commitments you gave to the people of Australia before the election.

So, it's been a pretty full six or seven months since we got in.

MULDOON: Yeah, now with the whole climate change challenge coming up, sometimes when you have to sell something politically or give some medicine, you have give it with a little bit of sugar. Would you agree with that?

PM: Oh, no. I think the case of climate change, which people understand the need to act. My job as Prime Minister is to look at these scientific facts, look at the economic facts, and then make a balanced judgment for the country's long term future. And then when you look at the science facts and the economic facts on climate change, the fact that temperatures are going up and we're already the world's hottest and driest continent, and we'll become, therefore, likely candidates to be the hardest and earliest hit by climate change. And the economic facts are simply these that the economic cost of not acting on climate change (inaudible) greater than the economic costs over time of acting on climate change.

Then, you've got to take a decision. We've done that. What I said yesterday, in many interviews, was that I'm not going to look the people in the eye and say that this is not going to come without cost. It will come with cost. Therefore, it is necessary to make adjustment payments, provide adjustments, of course, for households, particularly lower income households and for businesses. And that's essentially what our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is about.

One, getting the long term reduction of greenhouse gas emissions right for Australia.

Two, providing adjustment payments for households affected by those costs on the way through.

And three, support payments also for Australian business so that we minimise the dislocation of the economy.

MULDOON: And, with, sort of, let's just say for argument's sake that it turns out that we were sort of leading the world in the global challenge as far as climate change goes, what do you think the tricky bits are going to be convincing the Chinese to use the coal that they buy from us, using it responsibly?

PM: A big challenge with coal is simply this - how do we, in partnership with the rest of the world, get it right when it comes to clean coal technology. Before the election, we committed to a half billion dollar clean coal innovation fund, we have already made investments from that. The challenge from us, in partnership with our friends around the world including those who buy our product, is to apply this technology to coal fired power stations at scale, here I mean large scale, and establish its workability and it's cost. That's what we're working on now. That's the big challenge for all of us.

But, it's not just coal. At the same time we established a half billion dollar renewable energy fund. And the idea there is to mainstream more renewable energies into the Australian electricity grid, and we're working on that through our mandatory renewable energy target, undertaking to increase that to 20 per cent by 2020.

So, if you do that on coal, you do that on renewable energy, and thirdly, also, bring about a national strategy for energy efficiency in households and in businesses to help households and firms reduce their overall demand on electricity in relative terms

[phone breaks up]

MULDOON: Sorry, you just dropped out for a sec.

Did you like the fact that the Pope mentioned the challenge of global warming?

PM: I didn't know in advance what the Pope was going to say, obviously, both on the question of Indigenous Australians or on climate change.

I think His Holiness is responding to the challenges as he identifies them around the world. Climate change is real, an international panel of climate change scientists, 4,000 essentially humourless guys in white shirts and white coats with their heads stuck down test tubes, they've come up with this conclusion over the course of the last decade plus, that climate change is happening, that it is caused by human activity. And furthermore, their projection that in the 21 st century, that world temperatures could go up between one and six degrees commands all of our attention.

And I'm sure His Holiness has received reports to that effect. In his sermon yesterday at Barrangaroo, which I attended, he was drawing particular importance to how do we manage our planet sustainably. And there I think he is echoing the concerns of the world.

MULDOON: And so was there any part of the Pope's message yesterday that touched you personally.

PM: I think, I had a long private conversation with His Holiness which I enjoyed very much. We covered a whole range of subjects.

MULDOON: Was he aware of your interest in Dietrich Bonhoeffer by any chance? The German Philosopher?

PM: We normally don't go to the detail of these conversations but I think it fair to say that Dietrich got a Guernsey.

MULDOON: I would have loved to have heard that conversation. Just particularly, I suppose just I mean, like, just on a funny little level, just the fact that he was a Lutheran too. Just to see, you know, because obviously what has been one of the amazing things about World Youth Day is how it is, it seems to have united more than just Catholic's in a lot of ways. Just seeing that many people taking their faith seriously.

PM: Well what I have said to the Holy Father at his official state reception yesterday at Government House in Sydney was not only is he a genuine and welcome guests and among friends here in Australia with the Catholic community, but also I believe from the wide Christian community. Also from the community of other faiths, and my sense and understanding of it from the general Australian community as well.

I think the good thing about this World Youth Day, and I congratulate those who have organised it in considerable difficulty and adversity, is it is a great and positive celebration of life, of faith and work and I think that transcends denominational divides as well.

MULDOON: And with the Pope obviously he has a message to share with the world and is continually asked for his message and I am wondering, with his message and say with the message concerning climate change, do you ever think there is a danger of message fatigue?

PM: Well I think I can't speak of course for what the Vatican may say from time to time, that's a matter for them. But I think for all of us in various forms of leadership, the challenge is to look at the facts as they present themselves to us, in the case of climate change and dispassionately work your way through what then needs to be done and go out and do it and tell people why you are doing it.

For example on the question of climate change, I see no point going around to the Australian people and saying ‘oh by the way we are going to act on climate change and it is going to cost nothing'. I just think that is wrong.

It is going to cost the economy to adjust but we have hit upon a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme for example which makes what we think is the most effective, gradual and economically responsible adjustment over time. And if you do not adjust now, you will be looking at a much steeper, sharper and costly adjustment later on.

So I think it is .far better with whatever policy challenge you are facing and whatever level of political leadership you are facing, is just to be upfront about the difficultly and complexity. Explain how you are going to have a go in responding to it, and get on with it.

MULDOON: So do you think, I mean finding yourself as Prime Minister, this time, this place, with this, sort of huge global challenge, do you see some difficulty. Do you see in some way that you may have to kind of throw yourself on the grenade of this challenge at some political cost?

PM: That was good for you until that last analogy.

MULDOON: Maybe not grenade. I shouldn't have used.

PM: Look I have got a pretty simple view and I have said this many time before. There is no point being Prime Minister of Australia for the sake of Prime Minister. I have said before the election, climate change is a real challenge for the country.

Those who preceded us had 12 years to act. They failed to act, put their head in sand, refused to ratify Kyoto, refused to take action.

And therefore, in six or seven months I think we have made more progress on this than our predecessors did in 12 years. We are still going to get attacked from the left and the right for either not going far enough or for going to far.

But my job is to get the balance right for the country, both for the economy now, because it effects are being registered within our immediate time frame.

Look what's happening to the Murray Darling. Look at the impact which that has potentially on agriculture over time, on the projections from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource economics, is that absent any change on climate change, then we are looking at 20 per cent more droughted months in Australia by 2030.

We are looking at a 63 per cent reduction in Australia's agricultural exports.

Now that, translates into real economy, real standards of living and real jobs.

So you have got to address that reality and at the same time, beyond the economic interests of this generation, look at your kids squarely in the eyeballs and say, well you know, I got to do something for kids and grand kids too.

Because if you are looking out across the span of the 21 st century, the effects are being felt now and the curve gets steeper the further we get into this century unless we nationally and internationally act.

This is going to be really tough. Getting a global negotiated agreement done, it is going to be really tough. But I know one thing for sure Reece, it is far better to be around the negotiating table, having ratified Kyoto than sticking yourself to one side, taking out a spade, digging a very big hole and sticking your head in it. Which is what out predecessors did.

MULDOON: Who do you, who are some of the world leaders that you have met since being Prime Minister that have actually impressed you personally?

PM: Oh there is a large number, who I have encountered who I think are dealing with very challenging national circumstances which they find themselves in. I am not in the business of ticking some off and crossing others.

But can I say overwhelmingly encountering women and men of goodwill trying to the best for their countries and more often than not, try to do what is good for the planet as well.

It was a good opportunity recently in Hokkaido at the G8 Summit to spend time with Prime Minister Singh of India, with also other global leaders including Prime Minister Fukuda of Japan. The good thing and I think the privileged thing about being in this position is an opportunity to work with to her global leaders on common global challenges.

Global climate change is one. Global food security crisis is another. How do we deal with the global energy crisis and it's flow through impact on the price of petrol for lower income households world wide.

These are real challenges. Now that I have said that Reece, I am about to fly to Brisbane.

MULDOON: Yeah I know so I am just about to wrap it up. I have just got one very last quick question. Now I know that your son Nick is a huge reader and I recently read Bob Carr's book on all the books that he loves. Is there any chance that you are going to put out a book like that, with all the books that you love?

PM: No I think Bob has covered the field. And I think Bob Carr's book is terrific. I am failing at finding decent time to read at the moment but I am wading my way through a biography of Lincoln at the moment, which is a good read.

So I would recommend it to people. For a good study of, whenever you think life is going a bit tough, in politics, have a look at Lincoln's presidency during the civil war. Now that's what I call tough.

MULDOON: Ok, thank you very much for speaking to us today Prime Minister. Have a great flight.

PM: Thanks Reece, cheers.

Transcript 16022