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Transcript 17055

Prime Minister Transcript of interview with Paul Bongiorno Meet the Press 14 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: 14/02/2010

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 17055

BONGIORNO: Let's welcome back to the Program, Kevin Rudd. Good morning Prime Minister.

PM: Good morning Paul.

BONGIORNO: Tony Abbott does not resile from his linking of the deaths of the four installation installers to the program that was put in place by Peter Garrett. He says Peter Garrett has to pay the price and lose the job.

PM: Well what Mr Abbott has said is that Mr Garrett is guilty of industrial manslaughter. Let just step back a bit.

You see, in Australia, every year, we have about 138,000 industrial accidents involving serious injury. Each of those is properly investigated in one way or another. We have more than 300 industrial deaths each year in Australia and each of those is properly investigated by the coronial authorities or the industrial safety authorities.

What Mr Abbott has done in this case is, go out there, step right across the line, accuse Peter of industrial manslaughter without any of these independent investigations having concluded. I think this shows extremely poor judgement. Not only is this extremely poor judgement, even Barnaby Joyce thinks it has gone one step too far.

The responsible course of action lies in waiting for the police-coronal inquiry to conclude. To wait for the ones in Queensland, Workcover and the workplace safety authority and electricity safety authority to conclude, and having gone through those, we work out how the standards are applied in each case and what actually happened-

BONGIORNO: So are you confident-

PM: - instead, Mr Abbott has rushed to judgement.

BONGIORNO: So are you confident that none of these inquiries will find that the program which set up this installation, scheme, that none, none of this will be lumped on Peter Garrett?

PM: Let's go to the two core elements of this. One is the standard which applies to insulation products. That standard has been around since 2002, governing the use of foil insulation.

Secondly, we also have in the case of the Training Standards which apply, when this program was introduced by Mr Garrett, there were no nationally consistent training standards for the insulation industry, he had to introduce them.

So, these are the two core elements of, let's call it, the regulatory standards which apply to this industry. But I simply go back to my point, for Mr Abbott to go out there and accuse someone of industrial manslaughter without any availability of the conclusions of the police inquiry, the industrial safety inquiry. I think it is simply going way too far. Even Barnaby Joyce thinks that. He is an exercise in rash judgement.

BONGIORNO: Prime Minister if you had your time again, this insulation scheme, this massive scheme, does it look like a good idea at the time which has gone bad? Would you redesign it? Maybe take more time in the way you implement it?

PM: Well again, let's put all of this into context. In the height of the global economic recession, what the government was seeking to do, as we are doing with the building the education revolution program, is roll out the door a large-scale economic stimulus strategy to keep the Australian economy afloat. We know the economic results of that. This economy, almost uniquely, across the advanced economies has not gone into recession.

The second thing is this, in the last period of time, we have rolled out the door more than one million ceiling insulations. That means that you have had 7,500 businesses at work out there. It has been a huge program.

Now the relevant safety standards which you have rightly asked about, both about the product itself and the training standards of workers, they are really important and I responded to those earlier in our discussion. But I simply go back to my core point Paul. We've got to rely upon the coronial inquiry, the police investigations, the investigations by the electricity safety authority in Queensland, by Work Cover. These are the proper bodies to investigate the facts rather than Mr Abbott rushing to judgement and seeking to politicise this debate about culpability before the facts are known and I think that's what's critically relevant here.

BONGIORNO: On Wednesday, your ETS got through the lower house of Parliament, the House of Representatives. Nobody is expecting it to go through the Senate and Tony Abbott made this bold prediction about the future of the emissions trading scheme.

ABBOTT: I think the pressure is building on Mr Rudd to drop this whole crazy scheme and I frankly expect him to quietly slither away from this in the next few weeks.

BONGIORNO: Are you going to quietly slither away?

PM: You know something? The scheme that Mr Abbott has just described is the one which he fully supported two months ago and which the Liberal party under Mr Howard, under Mr Costello and under Mr Turnbull supported for years and years and years. So in terms of moving away from a consistent position of the past, I've got to say, Mr Abbott gets a gold medal for that.

Secondly, our position when it comes to emissions trading is absolutely clear cut. It is the most effective environmentally, least cost system available to dealing with the challenge of climate change which is why 30-35 countries around the world, the advanced economies, have done just that.

But here's one other point. A very significant development this week, Paul, was when we had Mr Abbott, Mr Hunt and Mr McFarlane concede, virtually for the first time, that within four years or so, they themselves, will be reviewing the need for an Emissions Trading Scheme. We are upfront about our position. We have been so from the beginning. Mr Abbott is saying here's my climate change con job on the one hand, but on the other, by the way, I might actually bring in an emissions trading scheme a little later on. We're talking about consistency.

(Commercial break)

BONGIORNO: You're on Meet the Press with Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. And welcome to the panel, Jennifer Hewett, The Australian, good morning Jennifer.

HEWETT: Good morning.

BONGIORNO: And Malcolm Farr, The Daily Telegraph, good morning Malcolm.

FARR: Morning Paul.

BONGIORNO: By now according to a pre-election promise, the States would have all agreed to Mr Rudd's National Health Reform Plan or we would be heading for a Federal takeover. The timetable has slipped about ten months while the Prime Minister regroups.

HEWETT: Prime Minister, whatever happened to that sense of urgency and decisive action? Will we even have a reform package on the table for COAG next month?

PM: Well can I say that our position on the reform of the health and hospital system has not changed. We believe the system requires urgent surgery, we need more hospital beds, we need the elimination of waste between the Commonwealth and the States and that is why a bold reform plan for the future is necessary.

The second thing I'd say is we make no apology for the fact that we have taken longer than was planned to finalise this strategy for the future and the reason is simple. You have millions of Australians out there each year who depend on the health and hospital system, they are depending on us to get this right. The reform plan or blueprint was put down in July last year by Christine Bennett in response to the government's request.

Secondly we've have had large consultation with hospitals, more than a hundred of them since then, and we are now in detailed discussions with the States and Territories. We will bring forward this reform plan and as I've said before, if the States and Territories do not accept it, then plainly, we will take that matter to the people. Our resolve to do so hasn't changed one bit-

HEWETT: Well what's-

PM: -because the needs of the system are fundamental, they are long-term and they need to be dealt with.

HEWETT: What is the timetable for doing this? Co-operative federalism seemed to be a popular idea but the States are as recalcitrant as ever.

PM: Well, we've achieved some progress through the first Australian hospitals agreement, the healthcare agreement. We have increased our funding to hospitals by some 50%. We have increased the number of GP places by 35%, the nursing places by about one thousand plus. We've provided, for the first time, Australian Government investment into elective surgery procedures resulting in tens of thousands of additional procedures which would not have occurred. We haven't exactly been sitting on our hands for the last two years.

But the key thing is to get long-term reform right. If you look at this one core fact for the future of the health system. Expenditure from the states and territories on health and hospitals has been going up annually between 9-11% in the last number of years. But their own source of revenue growth has been in the vicinity of 4%. Things ultimately are not squaring up. That's why we need to eliminate the waste in the system, reform the system and make sure we are delivering properly for the people of Australia for the future and we are determined to do so.

FARR: Prime Minister, on another issue, there has been 12 boats I believe that have gone to Christmas Island so far this year. 700 passengers. It is straining credulity to think that Christmas Island isn't straining itself. Aren't you ever much closer to having to reintroduce the mainland reception centres?

PM: Well Malcolm, as we have said all long, Christmas Island is where we take people when they are intercepted in Australian waters, that's where they go. Secondly, there is a purpose-built facility there for that purpose. As far as I know, and my recent advice is, there is still capacity there. But as the minister has made plain for a long, long time we of course have additional capacity in Darwin and other places, should that become necessary. What we have dealt with in the last year or so is the consequences of huge instability in our region, a civil war in Sri Lanka which hasn't just affected us, it's affected countries right around the world.

So our response has been consistent. It's been hard. It's been difficult but that's part of the day-to-day decision-making of government. But I've got to say, on Christmas Island, we still have capacity as of today.

FARR: It would seem though, that for political reasons, you are jamming them into Christmas Island just so you don't have to take that step of having a mainland processing centre, even in Darwin. Because originally 1,200 was the capacity of that Island. I don't care how many tents and camp stretchers you send in, when you're having an extra 700 in two months, that has got to be a big problem now, logistically.

PM: The thing with Christmas Island, Malcolm, is that you will find over a long period of time that the pressure on the capacity they will ebb and it will flow. It will change from time to time.

Remember, when Mr Howard had this thing built, we were told that the Pacific solution and other formulas adopted by him had solved the problem but at the same time they were building this institution to take people in on Christmas Island. To take, you know 800, 1,000, 1,000 plus people. That's why prudent planners back then under Mr Howard knew that you would have increases and decreases in the number of asylum seekers in a given year.

Boats have been coming to this country Malcolm, as you know, since the 1970s. I think for 24 out of the past 33 years they've been coming, but the key thing is to use the facilities you have got, to use them effectively but on the question of reserve capability in Darwin, Minister Evans has made it absolutely plain that that's part of his long-term contingency planning and he said that from the beginning.

HEWETT: Prime Minister, you have said this morning that the government was up front about emissions trading, you have described it as the great moral challenge of our generation. Do you have the courage to go to a double dissolution election on this?

PM: Well Jenny, can I say, the Senate's got a little way to run on this. We only just put it through the House of Representatives where Malcolm Turnbull had the consistency of conviction to cross the floor and vote with the Government on an emissions trading scheme. Which Tony Abbott, only two months ago, fully backed himself-

HEWETT: Prime Minister-

PM: -it goes now to the Senate. We are engaged in continued discussions with Senators from all parties including the Greens and what happens there. On the future Jenny, can I say this, whenever the next election is held and whatever form that election takes, both emissions trading and action on climate change will be front and centre in that election because this problem will not disappear. It is real for this generation of Australians and the next one.

(Commercial break)

BONGIORNO: You're on Meet the Press, with the Prime Minister. As we saw, ACOSS in its latest survey, says vulnerable people are increasingly at risk. It's a concern we picked up from some of the public queuing to get into Question Time. We gave them the chance to quiz the Prime Minister.

VOX: I've got a question for Mr Rudd. I just wanted to ask, in May 2008 you declared that homelessness was a national obscenity... but since then homelessness has actually increased. I was wondering, how do you intend to meet your target of reducing homelessness by 20% by 2013?

BONGIORNO: Prime Minister?

PM: Can I just say on the question of homelessness, we remain absolutely committed to our objective to reduce it by half. Secondly, through the impact of the global economic recession, of course you'd have a lot more people out there, presenting themselves to aid agencies, and to charities, for assistance. As people have gone into unemployment and as other pressures on the family budget have risen.

But can I just say in response to the question raised by your viewer, firstly, this Government has embarked upon the biggest expansion of social housing in the country's history. 20,000 new units of social housing being built. 7,000 or so underway as we speak. Secondly, we've undertaken repairs already, essential repairs to 59,000 units of social housing out there. And on top of that we've increased our investment in homelessness services by some 50%. This is the practical action underway. We have been in government for two years. We spent the first year delivering our first White Paper which was a report on homelessness-

BONGIORNO: You've done all that-

PM: -and one year later we are now implementing that.

BONGIORNO: You've done all that, do you need to ramp it up now to achieve your targets?

PM: Look, can I say, you cannot build additional houses overnight. We spent a year analysing the problem with the entire participation of the Church and welfare organisations including the Brotherhood of St Lawrence. One year later, we have some 7,000 houses under construction, 59,000 houses already in social housing which have been repaired and a program to roll out our total construction to 20,000. So, therefore, you cannot reduce homelessness unless have got extra capacity. That is what we are doing. Can I just say though, these numbers, nothing was done about them in the 12 years of our predecessors. We are turning the ship around and there is investment to do it and a program to do it and we're proud of our achievements.

BONGIORNO: The Opposition believes the electorate are increasingly dissatisfied with your broken promises. Joe Hockey-

HOCKEY (In house of Reps): How can they expect their Prime Minister to solemnly look the Australian people in the eye and honour commitments made in 2010 when as each day passes, Australians are suffering the impact of broken promises.

FARR: PM, don't you have a credibility problem?

PM: Well you know something Malcolm, I think it's pretty rich coming from Joe and the Liberals, the party that said never ever would there be a GST. Secondly that interest rates will be kept at record lows. Tony Abbott himself saying he would never change, or not change, the Medicare safety net. That rock solid-iron-clad-guarantee. I mean, let us put all this into context. Secondly, do you know what we have been doing for the last year or so? Wrestling with the biggest global economic crisis that the world has seen for three quarters of a century.

It follows that we are proud of our record of achievement. We said that we would get out there and lead the economy during this difficult time. We have produced low levels of unemployment, some 5.3% through government action. We've got some 34,000 projects of construction under way out there. We have acted in so many different areas of our pre-election commitments including those which affect the family budget. Increasing the childcare tax free rebate-

FARR: Yeah, but-

PM: - increase in pensions, but can I just say Malcolm, the easiest thing you can do as the Liberal Party is to throw around an accusation. I stand proud of this Government's achievement and I look forward to election day of matching our record in just two-years and two and a half, three years against the 12 years of the Howard government in each of these areas and I look forward to doing that.

FARR: But people are looking at what was said in 2007 and what has happened now. Rightly or wrongly, whether expectations were entitled to or not, they are saying you have not delivered everything you promised. Isn't that a problem coming into an election which will very largely be based on policy credibility?

PM: Can I say, Malcolm, that in dealing with the challenges of this global recession, obviously some changes had to be made because of the impact on government finances. I accept that and take full responsibility for it.

At the same time, the government, through its actions in the economy, kept this economy out of recession and had we not done that and, for example, followed the path of other countries around the world, hundreds of thousands of Australians would be without jobs right now. I said before we have unemployment gone down to 5.3% and on the broader question, however, on pre-election commitments, we said for example we'd ratify the Kyoto protocol. We ratified Kyoto. We said we'd increase the renewable energy target. We've done that. Troops out of Iraq, we've done that. Increasing the childcare tax rebate, we've done that. Boosting the pension, biggest rise in one hundred years, we've done that. Very easy to bandy around the charge from the party of core and non-core promises, that's the Liberal party.

HEWETT: Prime Minister-

PM: We are proud of our achievements and we'll stand by them.

HEWETT: Prime Minister, nevertheless, the opposition is gaining some traction with this all talk and no action idea. Some of your own colleagues, many of your own colleagues, in fact, say that some of the problem is the fact that everything gets log-jammed, some of the issues get log-jammed in your office. Do you actually think you need to change your style on that as well?

PM: Can I say Jenny, the implementation of pre-election commitments, complex business. You've got to roll it out. Make sure it happens in a proper way and that it actually hits the ground but can I just say, this is a core part of the business of government. You know, I think, if you put together the ledger of our pre-election commitments, right across the board, hundreds of them, against what is being implemented, what has been implemented, and our record on the economy, in terms of the big challenges of last year, we will stand proudly in defence of our record of achievement.

BONGIORNO: Prime Minister-

PM: Against those opposite, those opposite who actually have a completely different record over twelve years.

BONGIORNO: We are just about out of time, but there is news today of a major NATO offensive in southern Afghanistan in the Helmand province. Are you hoping, along with President Obama and the NATO governments, that this major offensive will be the beginning of the end of the Taliban or is it just an endless, ceaseless war?

PM: Well I can confirm today Paul, allied forces, British, American, Afghan, in the centre of Helmand Province, have launched a major offensive because Helmand is a particularly strong centre for the activity of the hardcore elements of the Taliban. But your broader question is, where does this go in terms of the long-term war in Afghanistan? Our approach is this. We, in our part of the country, have a responsibility to train up that Afghan national brigade. Transfer responsibility of security, to them and once we have achieved our mission in the province to bring our troops home but part of that also is to secure the perimeter, secure the country from these hardcore elements of the Taliban. That's why we're with there, with the Americans all the way.

BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for being with us today, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Thanks to our panel, Malcolm Farr and Jennifer Hewett.


Transcript 17055