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Transcript 17053

Prime Minister Transcript of interview with David Koch Sunrise 12 February 2010

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: 12/02/2010

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 17053

KOCH: Well, last week the Prime Minister had to tackle everything from IVF to gay marriage to Schapelle Corby, so what's on the agenda this week for our regular Ask the PM segment?

Let's get straight into it. The Prime Minister joins me in the studio. Kevin Rudd, good morning.

PM: Good morning, Kochie.

KOCH: First question is from Steve Foster, he's a truck driver who wants to know what's happening with the upgrade of the Pacific Highway. Steven, you have the ear of the Prime Minister - go for it.

CALLER: First all, g'day team, how are you? Mr Prime Minister, sir.

PM: Steve.

CALLER: The Pacific Highway, in the last 20 years I've been a truck driver and in the last 20 years a little bit has been done to it, not a hell of a lot, and I'd like to know when it's going to be repaired properly. It's, at this stage, a goat track. Not all of it, but a hell of a lot of it, is a goat track, and I'm going to make you an offer. In fact-

PM: I think I'm going trucking with you, is that right, Steve?

CALLER: - I would like to take you on a trip, pardon?

PM: It sounds like I'm going trucking with you, is that right, mate?

CALLER: Ah, yes, pretty much. I'd like to offer you a trip from Brisbane to Sydney with me so that you can see just how bad it is for yourself.

PM: Well, mate, I'm from Queensland, so if you made is Sydney to Brisbane you might be onto something there, so -

CALLER: Well, it doesn't matter which you go, if it's Sydney to Brisbane or Brisbane to Sydney, the roads still the same. It's a goat track.

PM: Okay, I understand that, mate, it's where I end up at the end -

CALLER: - Oh, please, sir, there's 12 -

PM: - Let's go to the substance of it.

KOCH: Let the Prime Minister answer, Steve.

PM: Let's go the guts of it. You're right, Steve. The Pacific has got huge gaps in it in terms of what's needed for a modern road system for the 21st century.

Second point is this. I spoke to the Transport Minister Anthony Albanese about this in the lead up to the last Budget. We have set a timeline for finishing the final duplication of the road, so that it's safer on the way through, particularly for truckers like yourself.

Two practical pieces of work we're now doing. One is up near Kempsey - finally, that duplication work up there. We saw that horrendous accident there many, many years ago. We've funded that. That's one further missing link in the chain.

One other thing we're doing at the other end of the highway which is not technically on the Pacific, but it's called the Hunter Expressway which actually assists with getting traffic onto the New England as well. That is another major piece of work.

Each of these costs hundreds of millions of dollars, but on the actual completion date for the duplication of the highway, I'll come back to you next week. I can't recall the exact date.

KOCH: Okay, let me help, because I think it's 2016 at the moment is the time for it. But Steve, I reckon you're narky and most of us are narky because the Pacific Highway is one of the busiest and most dangerous roads in the country.

Take a look at this. In the past 20 years, over 1,000 people have been killed, there have been 45,000 crashes, the NRMA says that only 50 per cent of the upgrade has been completed, and it seems, Prime Minister, that every time we have a Federal election or a state election, everyone promises to upgrade the Pacific Highway, but then nothing happens, money gets sucked out again. Like, when this promise was first made in 1996, it was planned that the whole dual carriageway would be finished by 2006. Now it's 2016. What happens? Do you give the money and the State steals it from you for other things, because it's their road, isn't it, the New South Wales Government.

PM: Look, what the New South Wales Government does with its funding, I can't answer for that, but what I do know is there are two major areas of work underway now which we're committed to. One is, as I said, around Kempsey, big piece of road up there. The second, and it's not technically on the Pacific but it does affect the traffic flow between -

KOCH: Oh, yeah, the Hunter one, yeah.

PM: That is huge, and that has been on and off -

KOCH: - But why can't we just get it completed, because everyone says 'yes, there's the money', then, all of a sudden, there's not the money?

PM: Well, our attitude is: put out a realistic timetable and do it block by block. I think we have been consistent with what we've said we'd fund. We are doing it. These are the two which we are going forward with. If you like, in terms of next week, as I give my response to Steve's question I'll give you our realistic timeline, what the next blocks are, and when we hope to have it done by.

But we, the Australian Government, don't physically go out and do the bitumen bit, but we do fund huge slabs of this because we know how much traffic goes onto that highway and we need to make it better for motorists, we need to make it better for truckers like Steve.

KOCH: We just want it finished. Alright, mate, there you go, the Prime Minister will work out whether he'll hitch a ride with you back home.

Two quick questions for you before our next viewer question. Pauline Hanson says she'll never run in an election again. What do you think about that?

PM: Matter for Pauline. I mean, she's had a very colourful political career. Obviously, I don't agree with her political standpoint but, you know, she's had a rough trot from time to time, but I think she's just decided to move on, and I think, frankly, the Australian body politic want to move on as well.

KOCH: Okay, alright, Peter Garrett has now admitted he was warned repeatedly about flaws in the home insulation program. You've got to move him on for this, don't you? You've got to sack him from that portfolio, it's just a schemozzle.

PM: The handling of this very big expansion of insulation has been a huge task. There's over a million homes in Australia which in the last 12 months have had insulation put in.

The second thing is that it's provided employment for about 6,000-7,000 businesses. This is a massive expansion of activity. You just referred in your intro to employment numbers in Australia in the last set of data. That's because we've been out there doing this.

The implementation of this has been done with the Minister, his Department, taking advice from industry, from the regulators, on the way through, and the key standards here have been those which apply to the quality of the product used, the occupational health and safety standards, and on top of that, what you do in terms of the proper training of workers. And what he did was introduce the first nationally accredited training system for workers in the installation industry.

KOCH: But it hasn't worked. We've had houses burning down, we've had people electrocuted, deaths of tradies, the whole lot - lots of people saying they weren't even trained, a lot of dodgy operators.

PM: What we've now got is a whole series of proper, properly constituted investigations by the coroner, by WorkCover, New South Wales WorkCover, Queensland, into each of these individual circumstances. And the question in each of them is how were the standards, the safety standards, applied?

KOCH: They knew months ago, he has been warned about this.

PM: The Minister, in response to representations from industry, from others, has taken a series of steps along the way to make sure that the delivery of this could be as absolutely safe as possible. Safety has been his number one priority.

Obviously, there have been tragic deaths in this, and no-one should try and pretend that this is in any way acceptable for the families concerned. It's not.

But let's also bear in mind that the product itself has been used in Australia for decades, secondly, that the safety standards associated with it are nationally established safety standards, and thirdly, when he became the Minister - you ask about action - there was no nationally accredited training program for workers in the insulation industry, and he actually had to bring one in and set up specific standards for that and appropriately accredited courses.

KOCH: So he's going to stay? You have full confidence in him?

PM: I have absolute confidence in the Minister. It has been a very hard program to implement. There have been tragedies for people's families, I understand that, but there are also tragedies with industrial accidents across the country in other areas. But this one we get to the bottom of properly through the investigations by the coroner and by others into each of the cases involved.

KOCH: Okay, moving on, a lot of attention on you and how you've been performing over the last couple of weeks. Front page of the Financial Review yesterday did a poll of talkback radio hosts about your personality, whether you've lost the ability to communicate. This is what Howard Sattler from 6PR had to say yesterday on the show.

PM: Big fan of mine, Howard.

SATTLER CLIP: Paper mache model spruiking the same sort of line all the time, and whether you like him or not Tony Abbott is more understandable than Kevin Rudd. Kevin's up there in the clouds with some of his comments and I think he's losing out as a result of that.

KOCH: What do you reckon about that, because in all honesty, we get lots of viewers saying "we preferred the Sunrise Kevin Rudd than the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd". Are you getting advisers that are telling you to act a particular way, rather than the way you are?

PM: Not at all, Kochie. I am who I am, and people will like it, they will loathe it, that's part of the political process. As I said recently when people asked me about this, I can always improve in the way in which I communicate what the Government's done. I understand that.

There's always going to be criticism, but the key thing is what you actually do. It's what you actually do out there. And on the doing front we've had our sleeves rolled up for the last 12 months keeping economy out of recession, and if I haven't had as much time as I should've to go out there and communicate what we've been doing or communicate it more effectively, that's my fault.

But frankly, my preoccupation, what I've been doing, is in there with the Ministers trying to keep this economy going so that we didn't fall into recession and hundreds of thousands of people lose their jobs.

But I can always lift my game as far as that's concerned, and fair cop with the criticism. I don't have a problem with that.

KOCH: Okay, well let's get you doing something for our viewers now. Debbie Williams is with us. Now, Debbie, what do you want to ask the Prime Minister?

CALLER: Hi Prime Minister.

PM: Hi Debbie.

CALLER: I'd like to know what your personal view is on euthanasia, and do you think that every individual person in Australia should have the legal right to have a choice if they are terminally ill?

PM: My personal view is that I don't support euthanasia, and let me tell you why - that is because I always worry about pressure being felt by older people, frailer people, in terms of how they feel about the responsibilities they are putting onto others, their family, their carers, et cetera, and does that put pressure on them in terms of taking a decision to lawfully, if you had euthanasia, take their own lives? And that's the reason I don't support that.

Of course, when this has been debated in the parliament in the past it's always been a conscience vote, and if we had such a vote in the future, I'm just telling you how I would vote in conscience and the reason for it.

KOCH: Okay.

CALLER: Could we get the ball rolling for a conscience vote instead of sweeping this issue under the carpet, because it seems to be put in the too hard basket every time it's brought up?

PM: Well, I can't remember the exact time when it was last dealt with in the parliament, but it's probably been within the last decade, Kochie, I think, and it was defeated fairly soundly.

I don't see a huge push to bring that for further consideration by the parliament, but individual members can raise these concerns if they wish. Individual members raise private members bills all the time, but I'm just saying where I would stand on this, and I know it's not universally popular, but that's my view and the reason for it.

KOCH: Okay. Alright, before we let you go, you had some homework from our viewer from last week, Rebecca. So many others have emailed us to this IVF question, has become more expensive for couples. Now, you've done the homework. What have you come back with?

PM: This is really interesting, and I really do fear what Rebecca is being charged in terms of the changes that we've brought in. This is all paid for through the Medicare Safety Net. The Medicare Safety Net enables out-of-pocket expenses to be reimbursed up to a certain level for people who use IVF and a whole lot of other things as well.

What we found was, when we looked at this, is that many specialists were using this to the hilt, and we found that, in fact, some 10 per cent of IVF specialists were taking $4.5 million each out of this system each year.

So we made some changes, but in fact, for a typical IVF treatment, what we have done through the changes we've made is make the rebate or the recompense for the $6,000 average treatment, raise that from $3,000 to $4,000. That's what we have done.

The second question Rebecca asked was the difference in treatment if eggs are your own eggs or whether they are donated by somebody else. There is nothing whatsoever the Government has done which would cause any change in charges for that. Okay? So I would strongly say -

KOCH: - So why are people paying more, then?

PM: That's what I -

KOCH: Are the specialists rorting the client?

PM: Well, I don't want to use the word rorting, but I would really like Rebecca to take this up directly with her specialist in terms of what is the justification for the charge that she has got. Because we have been through this in terms of the changes we made, the reasons for it. We've consulted closely with the peak body, which is called Access, which represent the IVF couples, and we brought in these changes.

My advice is they were happy with those changes because we'd increased the overall amount of money going back to folk, so I'm puzzled as to what's happening there.

KOCH: Maybe it's something Nicola Roxon as Health Minister can take up and find out what on earth is going on with these doctors.

PM: If Rebecca is watching this morning, I will have Nicola get onto it, because I'd really like to nail this one down because we've been through this and I can't see the justification for the case that she's referred to.

KOCH: Alright, we should give a plug for your better half. Tonight she's appearing on Better Homes and Gardens with Jo Griggs, showing us around the garden.

PM: There she is.

KOCH: Is that your work? Do you get out there with the secateurs and do a bit of pruning?

PM: Yeah, I planted that one and that one and that one and I killed that one and I killed that one. And Therese is the creative department in our family and I wouldn't have a clue. She's been trying to get me into the garden for a long time. She loves it.

KOCH: She could buy you gumboots for Valentine's Day. Prime Minister, good to see you.

PM: Thanks, Kochie. Appreciate it.

KOCH: See you next week.

[ends]

Transcript 17053