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Transcript 17493

Transcript of interview with Matthew Abraham and David Bevan ABC

Photo of Gillard, Julia

Gillard, Julia

Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013

More information about Gillard, Julia on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 07/12/2010

Release Type: Environment

Transcript ID: 17493


HOST: Prime Minister Julia Gillard joins us on 891 Mornings. Good morning, Prime Minister.

PM: Good morning.

HOST: Prime Minister, you're coming back to Adelaide for Christmas. You'll be working, and are you staying with mum and dad, and have they still got your room as you left it?

PM: I am staying with mum and dad, and I will be in Adelaide for Christmas. My parents no longer live in our family home, so it's not my bedroom from when I was a teenager with, you know, David Essex posters on the wall, but they have got a spare bedroom for me, which is very nice.

HOST: So, you have a David Essex bedspread, or is it My Little Pony? No, you would have been, you were a bit older when you left home.

PM: I've moved on a bit now. I don't anticipate any of that being there this Christmas.

HOST: No, lovely stuff. Now, more opinion polls out on your Government. Do you think you'll ever lead a popular Government?

PM: I'll lead a determined Government, and I'm determined to deliver the big-picture reforms this nation needs. It's going to take time and I'll have to keep explaining to the Australian people what my vision for the country is, but 2011 will be a year in which people see that vision taking shape.

HOST: Are we a bit slow, are we? You have to keep telling us.

PM: I think complex public policy requires continuing explanation-

HOST: -Or they don't like your Government.

PM: Oh, look, it just, when you're doing big-picture things, it requires continuing explanation. That's a good thing, because it means that the nation is talking about the changes it needs to be an even better country in the future.

So, next year will be definitely working on strengthening our economy. That's, of course, about bringing the Budget to surplus, but it's also about continuing to create jobs and get more people into those jobs.

We'll be working on climate change, pricing carbon, water reform, and we'll be continuing to deliver our health and education reforms, because to be a genuinely fair society people have to have high-quality services and every child, in particular, has to have a great-quality education, and we'll certainly be out there governing for all of the country.

Adelaide is different from other parts of the country. Every community has got its own story, it's own issues, and I'll want, as a Government, for us to be working with each community on its vision of the future.

HOST: Have you worked out why so many people stopped voting Labor this year - State and Federal?

PM: Commentators will spend millions of words and lots of newsprint on all of this. I'm not looking back to the election that was. I'm looking forward to the changes that I want to deliver to realise the vision-

HOST: -It's not an unreasonable thing for you to do. I don't think anybody would criticise a Prime Minister who stopped, paused and thought, 'well, why have so many people stopped voting Labor?', and I expect, Prime Minister, that you have actually done that in your quieter moments, and I just wonder whether you'd like to share your conclusions with the people who did and did not vote for you.

PM: I don't spend my time thinking about the past. I spend my time thinking about the future. When I look at the election that was, we obviously had an election in difficult circumstances. We needed to be there, I needed to be there, talking to the Australian people about our vision for the future. We were met with what was a protest vote campaign from the Leader of the Opposition.

I think as we turn the page and move into 2011, people are looking to me to visibly deliver on that vision for the future, and I will be doing that, and I think they're looking at the Leader of the Opposition and they're saying 'hmmm, is there more here than a couple of slogans about stop this, end that, prevent the other?', which is where the Opposition leader finds himself, with a set of negative slogans, as we move out of 2010.

So, 2011- my eyes on the future, delivering change that matters for Australian families, and matters to them every day: jobs, health, education, tackling climate change.

HOST: That list you've just run off, does that come out of focus group research? In other words, do people sit down with you and say, Prime Minister, people want you to say that Tony Abbott talks in two-word slogans now? I think it was three words, and that you want to move forward, and these are the things that matter? Does that-

PM: -Absolutely not, no. Everything I've just said to you I've said because I believe in it, and I'm the architect of the analyses of Tony Abbott, of the three-word slogans. That's what I think. It's what I've said. I've said it in Parliament, and I believe people are looking at Mr Abbott and thinking to themselves 'gee, that seems right. He does wander around with three-word, negative slogan.'

HOST: Prime Minister, what are you going to do to stop the cost of living bruising Australians in 2011?

PM: I understand cost-of-living pressures are weighing heavily on people's shoulders, so we'll be there, working with Australian families to try and lift some of the burden. To take one really practical example, people will go into the Christmas period, they'll come out of Christmas, spend some time, and then of course it'll be time to get the kids back to school. When it comes around to getting the kids back to school, we'll be there with our Education Tax Rebate, saying to Australian families 'we understand that getting the kids back to school costs a bit. Keep your receipts and you'll be able to claim that for a tax rebate', and we will be extending that in the future so that it covers school uniforms.

Of course, for people with younger kids, they worry about the cost of childcare, and where there is a partner saying 'we will pick up 50 per cent of the out-of-pocket costs of childcare', and we've got some reforms to come during this period of Government, like helping families who have got teenagers with the cost of teenagers. We've got a funny thing in our family tax benefit system now where the amount you get drops off when your child turns 16, whereas I think we all know 16-year-olds don't cost less than younger kids. If anything, they probably cost a bit more, so we're changing the family tax benefit system to make a difference to that.

HOST: Are you going to get people like Ruth Webber off taxpayers' backs? If you're talking about helping families and you've got a former Labor Senator who's been forced to repay almost $20,000 in using gold pass flights - she chalked up, according to The Advertiser, she lost her seat in 2008, chalked up 147 individual flights costing $116,662 under the Gold Pass scheme for retired federal MPs. All of them were business class, by the looks of it, and there's no purpose test for free flights, according to the Department. Are you going to get her off people's backs?

PM: I think what that story shows is that there are clear rules for parliamentarians and if you breach them then you've got to give the money back, and that's appropriate.

HOST: What, that level of travel is appropriate for a retired Senator?

PM: Well, she's, as I understand the story here, and obviously I haven't had time this morning to get comprehensively briefed about this matter, but as I understand the issue, we're talking about a former parliamentarian who seems to have made claims outside the rules and she will be required to pay that back.

HOST: She'll have to repay, according to Phillip Hudson's piece, $18,855, but the total bill was $116,662. She's still able to rack up, legitimately, some $100,000 worth of travel, and you're talking about getting people off, you know, getting the burden off people's backs. I'm asking you whether that sort of gold pass travel is a fair cop, and what people who are looking to you to get costs of their backs would be thinking about that?

PM: Well, first and foremost I'd need to study the individual details of this matter, so I don't want to be seen to be commenting on an individual case I don't have the full details of, but in the broad, can I say this to you - for people who are in parliament, yes, there are costs associated with having a democracy and having parliamentarians. I understand people-

HOST: -This is after she lost her seat, Prime Minister.

PM: Well, I'm coming to that in just one second, and I understand that people will debate those costs from time to time. For me, the cost of parliamentarians, the best way for dealing with all of that, is to have an independent tribunal that deals with it, clear rules, and if someone breaches the rules then, obviously, they have to pay the money back.

For former parliamentarians, I'm the successor to Barry Jones in my seat of Lalor - probably one of the most-loved parliamentarians this country has ever had - and I know for a fact that people still ask Barry Jones to come and speak at their Rotary Club, they still ask him to go to event associated with science, as enthusing young Australians with a passion for science.

HOST: So you're defending the Gold Pass?

PM: I'm giving you an individual example where I think people would say if someone like Barry Jones is invited, perhaps, to go to a science awards function for young people in Sydney, that people would say 'yep, I get why that would happen. I get why someone would want to have Barry Jones there', so my point to you is simply I think it's a little bit more complicated than just going 'Members of Parliament, former Members of Parliament, gee, you know, any expenditure to get them to a different part of the country is a waste of money.'

HOST: I didn't say that.

PM: I think it's a bit more complicated than that.

HOST: I didn't say that.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard here on 891 Mornings with Matthew and David.

I was just asking whether a former Labor senator who spends $116,000 on 147 individual flights, whether you regard that as just off the planet.

PM: Well, look, I'll look at that individual example. I'm not going to-

HOST: -It doesn't shock you?

PM: Look, I'm going to look at the individual example. Taxpayers' money needs to be spent wisely. Obviously, I believe in that. We're a Government that watches the dollars and cents. We're engaged in big work to consolidate the Budget, to bring it to surplus in 2012-13. We're very focussed on doing that, on making sure that we make prudent decisions with taxpayers' money, but it's not prudent of me to make statements about an individual example without looking at it in full.

HOST: Now, we've got a raft of energy measures, we've got Premier Mike Rann talking now about a bigger shift to renewable energy here, and his Energy Minister concedes that that means more expensive power here. We've got a similar thing happening in New South Wales with their solar tariff rebate, which has pushed up the average electricity bill, according to some reports, by $150. Every State Government is moving on these issues, and the result has been a big increase in power costs for Australians. Are you going to grab this by the scruff of the neck and should there be a coordinated approach, rather than having every State Government running off, trying to get pats on the back in Cancun?

PM: Well, I don't think that's necessarily what State Governments are doing. I think what politicians are grappling with, what I'm grappling with as Prime Minister, what individual state Premiers are with, is how we make the transformation in our economy to a low-pollution economy for the future.

Now, in terms of grabbing issues by the scruff of the neck, to use your terminology - I like that, a grab by the scruff of the neck - we are doing that through grabbing the issue of carbon pricing by the scruff of the neck. This is a complicated question, a difficult question which we are working through, and we're being very honest with people. There are pressures on electricity prices now. That's absolutely right. Overwhelmingly, those pressures are arising because of a decade of underinvestment in new electricity generation, and part of what's driving that underinvestment is a lack of certainty about carbon pricing.

HOST: So, is that a good time to add on a carbon price?

PM: Well, we have to, as a country, grapple with this issue, and I don't want the next 10 years to be another 10 years of underinvestment in electricity generation causing pressure on prices and the real risk of black outs because we haven't grappled with this issue.

HOST: Are you able to guarantee that the most vulnerable people won't be out of pocket as a result of a carbon price?

PM: We are going to work through on carbon pricing. I understand that for Australians, particularly Australians on fixed incomes, as we work our way through this issue, we will be showing concern for their position. I'm not going to get into a rule in, rule out game now about what a carbon price will look like, but from me to you and to you listeners, of course I think every day about what we can do to assist Australians who are bearing the burden of cost of living pressures, and particularly to assist Australians who are doing it the most tough.

That's why, for example, the Government delivered an historically large increase in pensions, because we think about those things every day.

HOST: What was your average power bill in the last year at Altona, at your home in Melbourne. I know you wouldn't be there a lot, but what would it be?

PM: Oh, look, I wasn't there a lot, but look, it's always in the hundreds of dollars, even for someone who's not there very much.

HOST: Hundred, three hundred for a quarter?

PM: Oh, look, routinely in the range of $350-$380, that kind of amount a quarter for someone who's not there very much.

HOST: And how much has that gone up, do you know? Is that a 50 per cent increase on the year before, or 25 per cent?

PM: Oh, look, I'm not able to give you a percentage increase, and look, I am not the best test case because in one quarter, just the way I've lived over the last 12 months, one quarter, say, over the summer period I can be there a lot. Another quarter, when Parliament is sitting, I can be there very little, so I'm not a good person to say 'let's compare this quarter with that quarter', because the amount I've been in the home has changed. I'm not in the same position as a family who's lived here every day and is able to say, well, our power usage each and every day has been basically the same but the cost that we're paying for it is more now, just because of the lifestyle of being Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister, but I don't-

HOST: -Well, would you know what they've gone up for your neighbours, or Victorians in general?

PM: Look, let's just be really obvious commonsense about this. I don't need to look at my own power bills to know that around the country, depending on which state you live, people have experienced big increases, some of those increases in the order of 30-40 per cent. I don't have to sit at home looking at my own power bills to know that.

I know that because people talk to me about it. I know it because obviously it has been extensively reported in the newspapers, people expressing concerns about how power prices are putting pressure on them, so if you're saying to me 'do I understand that Australian families are feeling this pressure from power bills?', yes, I do, and I don't have to sit in Altona puzzling over my own to work that out.

HOST: Prime Minister Julia Gillard, thank you very much for your time this morning.

PM: Thank you.

HOST: We appreciate it.

HOST: I was thinking we could always go for some solar Christmas lights. That'll help.

PM: Well, just on renewables, we have set a renewables target for 2020 and we are making record investments into solar and renewable technologies. We're a nation with abundant sunshine, with the opportunity to use other renewable sources of energy, and it's going to be a big part of our future, including for Christmas lights.

HOST: I was suggesting a Christmas present for mum and dad or Tim or something, that's all.

PM: Alright, thank you for the suggestion.

HOST: You can get some quite nice ones. Prime Minister, thank you for talking to 891 Mornings.

PM: Thank you.

Transcript 17493