PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 16060

Press Conference, Asan Medical Centre - Cochlear Clinic Seoul, Republic of Korea

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: 11/08/2008

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 16060

PM: It's good to be at this Asan medical centre here in Seoul in the Republic of Korea. It's a practical example of Australian technology at work. Cochlear, most but not all Australians are familiar with this remarkable piece of Australian technology to help the hearing impaired or those who have suffered near total hearing loss.

To see these little kids just before and the great progress which has been made in their lives I think is a wonderful thing. It's not just a good thing for families and for kids in giving them a decent future, and in this case 3,000 people have been helped by this Australian technology, it's also great for Australian exports. It's also great for Australia's international standing.

A lot of my discussions in China and elsewhere have focussed on the resources and energy sector. But what we need equally to emphasis is Australia as a major, major centre of biomedical research, of medical technology and of medical appliance application and we see that here as well.

I would congratulate Cochlear and this great centre as Asan for the work that they are doing. Good for the local people, good for the continued branding of Australia as a high technology country producing such marvellous devices to help the rest of the world.

The second point I'd make is that it's good to be here in the Republic of Korea on my first Prime Ministerial visit to this country. I'm looking forward very much to spending some time with President Lee later in the day. We have much to discuss in what is an important economic relationship for both of us.

This is Australia's fourth largest trading partner, fourth largest export market I should say, and for us therefore it's a major economy which means a lot for Australia in the future. That's why I am here to build bridges with the political leadership of this country and also with the corporate leadership as well. And that I think is important for both of our countries' future.

This is a broad based relationship, strong in the economy. What I am seeking to do through this visit is to enhance the political dimensions of the relationship as well. If there's one thing you could say about the relationship in the past, it's been a very strong and vibrant economic relationship, less developed at the political level. We need to change that for the future.

Our Government is committed to deepening, broadening and strengthening the political relationship between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Republic of Korea as well as enhancing the future possibility for security cooperation as well.

I think I will leave it there and throw it open to you because I know we are time pressed.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd there's a discussion paper out today on the pension saying that the single pension is too low and amongst the lowest in the OECD is that not compelling evidence to give pensioners more?

PM:Well the Senate inquiry which was commissioned last year was actually established by Labor in Opposition and it was that Senate inquiry which recommended that the Government conduct a comprehensive review of the pension and the adequacy of the pension to meet the requirements of our seniors into the future.

That's what we have done in the first six months or so of being in Government and I understand the full discussion paper will be released on that today in Australia.

We've said repeatedly that pensioners are doing it tough in Australia. In Opposition we committed to conducting a formal review of this, we have done that now within the first six months. The discussion paper is going out today and we will be very attentive to what its recommendations will be.

JOURNALIST: So Mr Rudd how long will pensioners have to wait before they see some benefits of your Government's commitment to this? How long would you forecast the delay will be before they will actually see (inaudible)

PM:What I could say Tim is that there has been a 12 year wait already for pensioners to get a fair deal and we intend to do this thoroughly. We have said that the Harmer report will come down at least by February next year. We're looking forward very much to its report and we will take appropriate action once that report comes down.

The other thing you will find when the Harmer report is brought down is it outlines the numbers involved in this. We're talking about the total payments involved in this sector of the economy; it is huge, absolutely huge. Therefore we have to make sure we are doing it absolutely right. But our Government recognises that pensioners, carers are doing it very tough out there. This is concrete course of action to deal with the challenge facing pensioners.

We can't solve every problem overnight but we have honoured what we said we'd do. We're getting on with the job of doing it and the report, as we said, will come down by February next year.

JOURNALIST:(Inaudible) Will the Government reconsider direct cuts to fuel excise in addition to the provisions made in the ETS?

PM: What we've said as you know through the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the clear arrangements in terms of drawing down the fuel tax according to the additional impact which arises as a consequence of the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

That is our commitment, we have always said we will be attentive to the cost impacts on working families, working Australians, pensioners and carers they're doing it tough. I've noted what's happened in terms of the impact of these events in Georgia. Tragic for the people in Georgia. Very disturbing in terms of global security, also roll on consequences for the global economy.

The bottom line is working families, working Australian's, pensioners and carers are doing it tough and the cost of living pressure are significant. We will take practical actions in the future to help. We've spoken about pensions today, we indicated what we will do with the introductions of the Carbon Pollution Reduction scheme.

JOURNALIST:(Inaudible)

PM: First of all let's get our names right, it's an Asia Pacific Community we are talking about and the concept here as outlined in the original speech is not for a political union, it's not for a monetary union, its not for a customs union and its not for an economic union.

It is however a long term goal for 2020 to have a body across the Asia Pacific region which enables all of the countries of the region to cooperate not just on economic matters but on political and security matters as well. That's the long term goal and what we are looking for in the years ahead is a discussion on that proposal. Nothing more ambitious than that, a discussion on that proposal and that's very much the way in which this matter has been handled in talks that I have had so far with President Yudhoyono, with the Prime Minister of Malaysia as well as with the Chinese leadership as well and I sure today with President Lee of Korea and with others.

This will be a long term process and we've set a long term goal. But we are in the process of having Dick Woollcott our special envoy go out there and talk to regional Governments, that will take time. We will continue to refine this proposal in response to regional suggestions.

But I am firmly of the view that you either have a discussion which is focussed about the future shape of our region or you just let it happen. I'd much rather be in the business of setting a goal, setting a broad concept as the objective and focussing the regions discussions, and that of the alternative, that I don't want to see happen, is any long term drift in the reverse direction and that is toward the polarisation of the region. I don't want to see that..

JOURNALIST:Aren't you lowering expectations there by saying (inaudible). When it first came out

PM:Did you read my speech when it first came out

JOURNALIST:You talk about the European Union style (Inaudible)

PM:I think if you look carefully at the speech what it said was this. Let us learn from what Europe was able to do in this respect. France and Germany at each other's throats for 200 years, they established a body which initially was not called the European Union and that through the processes and habits of cooperation over 50 years we now have the result we have across broader Western Europe. That has been a positive development, that was the reference in that speech and if you read it carefully that's exactly what it said.

Therefore what I'd go on to say is this. The habits of cooperation on political, economic and security matters are those which we are seeking to advance through an Asia Pacific Community. This will be a long debate, it will be one where we will take submissions and views and opinions from right across the region. The concept will be amended and evolve over time but we will continue to prosecute this into the future, because what's the end point. Stability and prosperity for this region through the Asia Pacific century rather than allowing it to drift in any reverse directions.

JOURNALIST:Will you pursue a free trade agreement with Korea (Inaudible)?

PM: There has been some discussion between our officials about what we would describe as the importance of pre-negotiations on a possible FTA between Australia and the Republic of Korea. This work has not yet formally begun, but what I would like to discuss with President Lee today is how we begin let's call it the informal processes surrounding that.

As I said this is a big economic relationship, it's pretty open but we can make it more open. Remember when it comes to the sale of education services, the sale of these technology products and investment in an economy like this. It's very important for Australia; we intend to make let's call it a modest first step in this direction in our discussions with President Lee today.

Transcript 16060