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Transcript 17524

Transcript of questions and answers: Speech to Queensland Media Club

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: 12/10/2010

Release Type: Economy & Finance

Transcript ID: 17524

Brisbane

HOST: Obviously, the focus of this speech was on reform. One of the criticisms of the previous Labor Government was that it was trying to do too much in one term, especially looking at the COAG agenda, which was quite bogged down with committees and sub-committees. If you're focussing one or two big-ticket items this term, such as the carbon tax, which seems to be back on the agenda again, have you decided whether you're going to try and push it, legislate it, this term, before the next election:

PM: Well, thank you for the question, and of course you did get first dibs, and that's fair enough.

The question of timing is a question before the Multi-Party Committee on Climate Change for consideration. I've been very clear in saying we don't want to be taking options off the table, and that includes, you know, letting the Committee work through, seeing if there is consensus considering the question of timing.

Now, it's, I know that causes excitement amongst particularly our media friends, but it just seems to me that any corporate board in the country, any council for an institution like a university, any board that administers the local sporting club wouldn't chuck options off the table and then sit down and meet. They would meet when all the options are still on the table and that's my intention with the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee.

HOST: So the bottom line is there's lots of consultation to be done. It's unlikely to be done before the next election?

PM: Well, we said the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee would start meeting now, and it has, and it would continue to meet until around the end of 2011, and we would obviously be in a position to see how far those discussions had got. It's our intention to have communiqu├ęs as the Committee meets so Australians are informed of the work of the Committee, but it is also our intention for that Committee to replicate a Cabinet committee in this sense - that some of the dialogue will be kept confidential until there are outcomes to announce.

HOST: OK, before I lose the microphone to my colleagues forever, I will ask one more quick question.

Surprisingly, on the front page of the Fin Review this morning, there was a story about, you know, Labor's overhaul of industrial relation laws, which is, as you're well aware of, a streamlining of, I think, 4,000 federal and state awards to 122 national awards, but there's been a lot of employers who are struggling with this.

Do you acknowledge that it has been pretty complex and burdensome for business?

PM: I acknowledge that it's been a change, getting rid of Work Choices and obviously employers, the employees' unions, are getting used to the change. We've certainly invested in getting them good sources of information, including our Workplace Authority's running very extensive education campaigns.

The story on the front page of the Financial Review, I should acknowledge the newspaper, the story on the front page of the Financial Review is a story about some employers now appearing to raise the question of their being more arbitration in the system.

Can I say this question was canvassed extensively during the discussions that led to the Fair Work Act, and in that consultation every employer organisation in this country argued for strict limits on arbitration, argued against broadening arbitration, and so I don't know if today's article indicates some people have changed their minds about that. If they have, obviously we're open to talking to people about the reasons why, but, you know, the perspective of employer organisations as the Act was being drafted was less and less arbitration and more and more bargaining at a workplace level, and that's what the Act reflects.

HOST: OK, I might throw open the microphone to my colleagues, if you could just say your name and the organisation you're from. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Cathy Border from Channel Ten. Welcome to Brisbane.

PM: Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Your colleague, Kevin Rudd, has taken to twitter today to make some comments on the school modernisation program. Do you endorse your Foreign Minister making comments about one of his colleague's portfolios or not?

PM: I haven't seen the individual tweets. I've got to make sure I get all my terminology right here - tweets and twitterverse and all that sort of stuff. I haven't seen the individual entries, but Kevin Rudd obviously is both the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Member for Griffith here in Brisbane, and every Labor Member who represents a local constituency - and our friends in the Senate as well - is excited about and engaged in the delivery of our education revolution, because there's nothing more important to local members than visiting their local schools.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Melinda Howells from the ABC.

This week you've been accused of Machiavellian bastardry and now Christopher Pyne has accused you of, and I quote, 'back-alley bitchiness'. Have you been part of a well laid-out political ambush over the Afghanistan trip, and is this all part of the new paradigm?

PM: Well, the answer to the question is no - just one word - and it's not my intention to add to this matter in any way, shape or form, to give further comments than I've given so far, which have been always to the effect that Tony Abbott's travel plans are a matter for Tony Abbott.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Angela Harper from Australian Associated Press.

Referring to another article in the Financial Review today, don't you think jobs should be based on merit, not gender, and while people continue to discuss gender over merit this issue will continue to fester?

In addition to that, do you think this discussion puts even greater pressure on those who struggle to juggle children and career?

PM: No, I don't agree with the premise of the question. I don't think there is a false divide between talking about merit and talking about gender.

I believe that merit is equally distributed between the sexes, and if you believe that - and I do - and you look at any institution and it's not around about half men, half women, you should be asking yourself the question why, because if merit is equally distributed between the sexes and the outcome is not half-half, then it must lead you to the conclusion that there are women of merit who have missed out for whatever reason, and so I think that would cause an organisation to query why is that happening; why are women of merit missing out, so it's essential, if we are going to have a merit-based selection method for occupations that is we see the merit in half of our community apparently not getting a fair go that we should address the issues as to why they're not getting a fair go.

We did that in the Labor Party and many businesses and other organisations are doing it now. In the Labor Party, when we confronted it, I mean, really, we were just confronting the age-old stereotype that if you'd addressed a Labor Party gathering like this 15 years ago and said to everybody 'close your eyes and imagine a politician, close your eyes and imagine a prime minister', almost everybody in the room would have closed their eyes and imagined a man in a suit, and so by saying 'well, you know let's have a think about targets, about merit, about making sure we get the best people in parliament', we changed that culture, and now, I would hope, if people in a room like this are asked to close their eyes and imagine a politician, even imagine a prime minister, there's some chance that the figure they conjure up in their mind is a woman.

That's a good thing, and I'd like that to be the same thing that happens when you say to people 'close your eyes and imagine a CEO of a huge corporation', 'close your eyes and imagine the chair of the board', 'close your eyes and imagine a boardroom table, who's around it?', I'd like people, when they do that, to imagine women in those jobs, too, and if we can have people thinking, 'well, you know, women in those jobs, it's about merit, merit's equally distributed, it's equally distributed between the sexes, how can we get outcomes that reflect that equal distribution of merit?', we'll get the best people and we'll be fair to everyone.

JOURNALIST: Kym Ages from Australian Associated Press.

Support for you as preferred Prime Minister is up, and also support for Labor on a primary vote is up. What do you think Labor has done correctly, or what do you think the Coalition has done wrong in the last four weeks to produce the change?

PM: I suspect I'm really going to disappoint you, and I'm going to give the age-old answer that we don't comment on the polls. I don't comment on the polls. I'll leave that for others, and I find I'm never short of media friends who want to comment on the polls.

HOST: Do you think Tony, I might just jump in, do you think Tony Abbott's just back to his old, aggro ways and he can't the discipline of election an campaign for a full parliamentary term?

PM: Well, I think I'll allow our friends from the media to work their way through that question, too.

JOURNALIST: Andrew Fraser from the Australian newspaper.

Just to pick up one of the themes of your speech, the main ones seemed to be the case for reform and reform is a good thing, which was, I think, the overall theme. In front of an audience like this, I don't think this is a particularly hard sell. However, with the general population you're always up against it.

People don't like change. Look at the Tea Party movement in America, which has many elements, but its main one is negative, it stops things.

How do you propose, if you're talking about a reform agenda, to take people with you?

Firstly, do you acknowledge that that's going to be an issue, and secondly, I guess, how do you propose to take people with you?

PM: I'm always wonderfully gratified when someone from The Australian agrees with one of my speeches. It's not my normal experience, but thank you very much for that.

HOST: (inaudible)

PM: So, thank you very much for that, and we'll see how it's reported tomorrow in that light, but having had that unusual and gratifying experience, I would say to you yes, there is a real question here about how you drive reform and sustain reform conversations, and I said in the speech, and it's true, a traditional way of getting reform has been to buy it, so you have people [audio break] shove a whole lot of money in their [audio break] enables you to deliver reform.

Our Government is not in that circumstance, so we are going to have to have some very tough reform conversations with the Australian community and persuade people about the benefits of reform. Now, that puts an onus on us and I don't shy away from that onus - that's what leadership's about.

It also put an onus on the media and the way in which we disseminate information, and I think one thing - governments around the world are still coming to grips with - it's not just us, it's President Obama's administration, it's administrations in other parts of the world - I think we're all still adapting government and having deep reform conversations to the new media environment.

Not everything can be reduced to a tweet. We are in a media environment now where you could make a blockbuster environment. As you're doing the press conference, someone is tweeting about it. Whilst you're doing the press conference a journalist is doing a stand up using you as a back drop. By the time you've walked back to your office, journalists are interviewing journalist about what the announcement may or may not mean, and two hours later someone is ringing my press secretary saying 'have you got a story for us?'

Well, I think we all - we all - have got an obligation for a nation that makes its economic way by pursuing a reform path. We all have an obligation to help sustain those deep conversations.

Now, I don't mean uncritically. I definitely don't mean that. I think, you know, I said when I had the education portfolio that if I could pick up newspapers every day and the first 20 pages were debates devoted to debating education reform and 10 of them were saying what I was doing was complete nonsense and 10 of them were saying what I was doing was OK and the contest was fast and furious, I would have thought that was fantastic, because that's how you sustain a reform conversation, so we've all got to play our part in that.

JOURNALIST: Dennis Atkins from the Courier Mail, Prime Minister.

Queensland is such a big state that we happen to enjoy both speeds of the economy as it goes along. I was wondering, when you're talking about a reform agenda, what you can say to Queensland small businesses who are having trouble getting access to credit and to a tourism industry that's being hit by an exchange rate that's punishing them? What can you say to these sectors is in the reform agenda that will be of benefit?

PM: Thanks for that question, and I deliberately used the expression 'patchwork economy' because I think some of the tradition imagery about two-speed economy does conjure up whole states - you know, Queensland, WA, boom states and other states not in that position - and of course, you know, there is huge commodities wealth here in Queensland that's driving a lot of economic growth, but I think just saying that then doesn't lead you to think about the other parts of the Queensland economy, and so that's why I deliberately used the terminology patchwork.

And you point to exactly the right issue - we've got different growth rates in different parts of the economy. A high dollar is good for some and bad for others. It's obviously bad for inbound tourism and obviously makes overseas holidays cheaper for Australians as well, so it introduced competitive pressures because people have more choices for the same expenditure.

What I would say to those small businesses, particularly in tourism, is the following - first and foremost, we obviously have coming down the pipeline the promised company tax reduction, which small businesses will get first. Now, not every small business is a company - many are, many are not, and for those others there is still tax relief coming in the form of being able to write off new capital that businesses need.

Skills development is particularly important to small businesses. The larger the organisation, the easier it is for them to sustain internal, often very complex training structures, whereas small businesses tend to be more reliant on the appropriate and innovative provision of training for the people that they seek to employ.

Economic stimulus has obviously played its part, and we have delivered economic stimulus differentially to some regions that were badly affected by the global economic downturn and now continue to show those effects, so there are some regional centres in Queensland, traditional tourism capitals, that when you look at the amount of investment we've put in there it's been deliberately calibrated more highly.

Then, of course, we need to work through, national and state, on our tourism promotion strategies. We're actually having a bit of a conversation about that at the table. That requires constant innovation. You would have seen the fact we'll be showcasing Australia on the American market through The Oprah Winfrey Show and those sorts of things. That is also important.

This will continue to get dedicated attention. I've not only asked Martin Ferguson to continue to have a responsibility for Tourism but Nick Sherry will be working with him and the whole team will be working with Simon Crean, our new Minister for Regional Australia, to look at regions, look at place, look at space, and look at tailored economic development strategies.

HOST: We've probably got time for one or two more quick questions, and if there's a journalist and students who are hiding under the table now, if they- oh, they're ready to go? OK, well, we'll get one more question from the working media and then we'll switch over.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Natalie (inaudible) from the ABC.

On the issue of asylums seekers, how hopeful are you that the East Timorese Government wants to partner with the Australian Government, and is there a price tag for that partnership?

PM: Look, Minister Bowen is in East Timor, and I believe has made some comments from there today and we are taking this, you know, in the spirit of good faith and good work that has prevailed so far.

Every time I have had had the opportunity to speak to the leadership in East Timor the message has been the door is open for dialogue. Obviously, I asked Minister Bowen to go to East Timor because we were having those reactions.

There's a big conversation to pursue, and so I'll have to let that conversation work through and for East Timor to talk to us about the proposition for a regional protection framework and a regional processing centre, but I am determined to about it because I believe a regional protection framework and a regional processing centre would take away from people smugglers the very product they sell, the very incentive to get on the boat that they then sell to desperate people for their own profit, so we'll keep pursuing it.

I've been very clear with the Australian people, as has Minister Bowen. We're not going to create any, you know, false deadlines here. You know, we're not the people wandering around with three-word answers to complex problems. We're the people who, methodically, are going to work it through and that's what the dialogue with East Timor is about.

HOST: OK, just quickly, one of the journalism students got a question, there?

STUDENT: Prime Minister, Emma Hart from the Q.

In line with putting a price on carbon, has your Government further considered an emissions trading scheme?

PM: The Multi-Party Climate Change Committee has all options on the table about pricing carbon. Obviously, we worked in the last parliament to develop an emissions trading scheme, the carbon pollution reduction scheme, and to seek a consensus for it in Parliament House, which we had, having shaken hands with the Opposition about it only to have Tony Abbott become leader and then take his hand away from the handshake, so in those circumstances and after the election that was and the parliament that Australians had voted for, we now have this multi party structure. It has all options on the table as it works through.

HOST: OK, is there another question there from- OK, final question, thanks.

STUDENT: Prime Minister, regarding the polls and research that show that 80 to 90 per cent of respondents disapprove of the proposed internet filter, do you really think that pushing through this legislation is in the public's best interest?

PM: I understand that there's been a lot of commentary on this and there are a lot of views about it and a lot of concern. My fundamental outlook is this - it unlawful for me, as an adult, to go to cinema and watch certain sorts of content. That's unlawful, we believe it to be wrong - you know, content that is child abuse, incredibly violent pornography. We say that's wrong and we don't show it in Australian cinemas. That's unlawful and we all accept it.

If we accept that, then it seems to me the moral question is not changed by the medium that the images come through, so if I cannot properly go and view such things in a cinema, and certainly I don't want to, but if no-one in this country can lawfully go and view such things in a cinema then I don't believe it should be lawful to view such things over the internet, and in those circumstance I think the internet filter is appropriate.

I understand that then raises a set of technical concerns about the 'how' question. It's obviously fairly obvious how we try and stop unlawful things being show in cinemas. It's much more complex how we do that on the internet, and Stephen Conroy, particularly, has been involved in the set of consultations with internet service providers to work through that 'how' question so it doesn't stop people, in some accidental way, viewing content which of course is perfectly, you know, fine to view, and it doesn't, in some incidental way, slow down internet speeds for people who are just using the internet for entirely garden-variety uses that we all use the internet for, so the 'how' question is more complicated, but the underpinning moral question, I think, is exactly the same.

Transcript 17524