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Transcript 22721

Transcript of Press Conference

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 27/06/2013 to 07/09/2013

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 28/06/2013

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 22721

PM: Good morning or good afternoon. Thank you for your attendance. Yesterday as you know was a busy day.

We had the swearing in at Government House of myself, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer.

Of course, we also had Parliament.

Last night, I met extensively with my colleagues, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Deputy Leader in the Senate, as well as the Treasurer Chris Bowen.

We've been discussing at some length the composition of the ministry of this government and those discussions of course have continued this morning.

The new executive will be sworn in next Monday here in Canberra subject of course to Her Excellency's availability.

This morning I've also spent a lot of time with the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet being briefed on current budget priorities, economic priorities, other policy priorities, and national security matters.

This afternoon there will be a full briefing by the range of government officials beyond PM&C here in the Cabinet room, together with a briefing on national security by the full range of officials as well.

So we've had a few things on as you would understand.

Today what I would like to do is share with you the discussion I had with my caucus colleagues about 36 hours ago about why I have elected to return to the Prime Ministership of Australia.

I believe that this is important and it's important that the nation is fully aware of why this change has occurred.

Secondly, I also want to today share with you my overall approach to policy decision-making by the government. Finally I want to talk about the future of the national school improvement plan – better schools, better futures for our kids.

On the first matter, there are three reasons I sought to return to the leadership of this party.

It is rare a person is given a second opportunity to lead one of the major political parties of Australia.

Mr Howard was extended that opportunity.

I've been extended that opportunity.

I regard it as a singular honour for that to have happened.

First reason for my decision was that the government was on track for a catastrophic defeat at the upcoming election.

Not just a massive majority from Mr Abbott in the Lower House but also a massive majority in the Senate as well or at least a significant one.

Were that to occur then we would effectively have seen torn down so many of the reforms that this government, both under my Prime Ministership and Julia Gillard's Prime Ministership, we would have seen them simply disappear.

Whether we're talking about the National Broadband Network; whether we're talking about trade training centres; whether we are talking about Medicare locals; whether we're talking about proper investment in our schools; whether we're talking about investment in basic things like urban rail projects.

All these would simply be torn down were we to suffer such a catastrophic defeat.

Had we lost in the Senate as well, who knows what would happen and what would've happened in terms of the future of the Fair Work Act, which affects penalty rates and working conditions and overtime for so many of Australians.

Some of these reforms, good reforms, have been Julia's and I pay appropriate tribute to her work on the national school improvement program and her work on the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Some of these reforms of course date back to the period when I was Prime Minister after 2007.

Some of these reforms were the joint work of both of us.

My attitude was simply this: I could not stand idly by and allow all these good changes which have benefitted millions of Australians to simply be thrown away in the event that we suffered such a catastrophic defeat at the election.

Hence it was time to put up my hand.

The second reason is the mood I picked up across the Australian people over a long period of time is whatever their politics, they want this election to at least provide them with the opportunity for a real choice.

Many were saying to me and to my colleagues that they didn't feel as if they had a real choice.

That they were being forced to choose Mr Abbott when they didn't really want to.

I believe that my return to the leadership of the Australian Labor Party and as Prime Minister of Australia provides the Australian people with that choice.

A real policy choice for the next election and for Australia's future.

The third reason is that I want to make some policy changes.

Those policy changes will be considered in due course by the Cabinet once it's sworn in and over a period of time, these will be of course made public to you, the Australian media, and through you to the Australian people.

These have been hard times in any political party.

At various times in history, all parties have gone through such times.

Then those parties come through.

We intend to come through as well.

What I have said privately is what I have said publicly – any member of the ministry under Prime Minister Gillard who wishes to continue to work under my Prime Ministership will be welcome to do so.

I'm pleased and gratified that so many have chosen to do so.

My business is to harvest all the talents that are available for the good of the Australian people and for the good governance of Australia.

I also said I'd talk briefly about my approach to government decision making.

The Cabinet as I said will be sworn in next Monday.

Those of you good ladies and gentlemen of the press which expect an avalanche of policy decisions between now and next Monday, just chill for a while.

In fact, chill for quite a bit.

Because this will be done through the proper orderly processes of Cabinet decision making.

Everyone knows the budgetary environment which the governments faces and the nation faces.

Each of these decisions therefore will be properly considered through the normal machinery of government.

If I have learnt one thing from my previous period as Prime Minister and I've learned quite a lot from my previous period as Prime Minister, one of the things I have learnt is the absolute importance of proper orderly consultation with Cabinet colleagues on any major decision of the government.

We can all say it's too busy, there's a global financial crisis going on, sorry colleagues, don't have time, we've got to save the banks from falling.

These all seem pretty good justifications at the time but frankly decision making is always much better when it can be done collegiately.

I'd also like to mention before I take questions from you the government's approach to the national school improvement plan.

I've spent a lot of time with my colleagues the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Senator Penny Wong and Senator Jacinta Collins on a discussion last night and this morning on future of the national school improvement plan.

This up until now has gone by the name of Gonski.

I know David Gonski.

In fact, full disclosure, he's Chairman of my wife's board of her company.

So before any of you start writing the exposes, there you have it from the horse's mouth.

Mind you when this was first put forward when I was still Minister for Foreign Affairs in the previous Cabinet I did declare that conflict of interest.

The bottom line is I don't think David wants his reforms referred to as the Gonski reform.

I think when I last spoke with him, he finds that a bit too confusing.

I ran into someone recently in my electorate in Brisbane who said they're all for the Gonski reforms because their kids have been educated in a Steiner school and Gonski was kind of like Steiner and there you go.

I said well not quite.

So I think we have a slightly different challenge which is to take the absolute with substance of a plan for national school improvement and to describe what it actually does for Australian teachers, for Australian students, for Australian kids and for their schools physically as well.

This national school improvement program is about better schools and better futures for our kids.

It is a program which looks specifically at what we do to lift teacher standards, by bringing about a new standard for teacher education before they qualify as teachers in the first place.

That's important.

It's also about improving the quality of what is taught in schools.

For example, under this plan, science will be introduced as a testable item under the existing national testing program which at present applies to only literacy and numeracy.

That will be introduced under this national school improvement program.

In other areas, we go to the importance of greater autonomy for school principals, so that there is a much greater power to hire and fire and to use the resources available to the school with discretion, by the principal as they see fit.

On top of that, you also have greater transparency.

Every school under this will be required to develop a school improvement plan, which is to take your school from here to here in terms of the quality of its education outcomes for the kids, and also for how the resources of the school will be developed over time as well; and for that to be transparent to the parent community as well as to the wider public.

Finally, this is a reform which seeks to also provide reliable long term funding on the basis of needs-based funding for future.

Whether those schools are government schools or non-government schools, state schools or Catholic schools.

So therefore, for these reasons, in consultation with my colleagues this morning, but also given that there are certain time lines which are bearing down on us from various of the states and territories; the decision that I am announcing today is that under my Prime Ministership and under this government, we will support the national improvement plan for Australian schools, better schools, better futures for our kids.

Secondly in relation to the consultation deadline, which currently expires with the jurisdictions on this, expires I think on 30 June, we'll extend that by two weeks.

I look forward to the opportunity of sitting down myself with premiers and chief ministers from states which have not signed on.

I look forward to my discussion when I return to the people's republic of Queensland to speak with the premier thereof.

I'm sure I'll get a warm reception.

All we Queenslanders bond closely particularly after a State of Origin win.

On top of that I look forward to seeing Premier Napthine.

I look further discussions also with the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and also the premier of Tasmania.

What is really important here as well is the Catholic scheme where much progress has been made in negotiations, not yet quite concluded and the independent schools where frankly, there is still a gap between their position and those held by the government.

This is an important item of reform.

It's a major item of reform.

I pay tribute to my predecessor for the work she and Minister Garrett have done on it and because of the urgency of decisions, and timing surrounding decisions, that is why I have made it clear today that under my Prime Ministership, this policy direction will continue.

I am concerned about making sure we have proper certainty for future funding.

That we have also the parallel guarantee of the improvement of the education outcomes of Australian schools and for their kids.

Finally, the government’s about bringing the country together, not dividing it.

I know my political opponent is pretty good at that sort of thing.

I think it's time we all came together.

I look forward to spending some time with the business community pretty soon.

I look forward to spending some time with the leader of the trade union movement pretty soon.

I look forward to actually having a civilised policy discussion, even if in private with the Leader of the Opposition on some of the big challenges facing the country's future.

I look forward very much to an open public debate with Mr Abbott at the National Press Club, in the next week or so, on the question, to start off with, of debt and deficit.

I've heard a million questions in there.

Let's have it fully and out in the open at the National Press Club.

You folks at the National Press Club, you set out the rules. I'm relaxed.

Sometime next week, sometime the following week but let's actually have a debate about the facts.

Over to you for questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how are you going to unite your party after such bitter in-fighting over the past few months and how do you clearly differentiate yourself in policy from the former Prime Minister?

PM: Well the first point is that as I said before, governments go through and political parties go through periods of internal debates.

It’s not unique to the Labor Party, it's happened before with the conservatives, it's happened before with us and then people bind together.

Secondly, it's important to heal the wounds by making a very simple statement, that those, whatever their views of me in the past, who wish to serve in the ministry in the future will be welcome to do so.

I've had many, many constructive conversations, positive conversations with a whole bunch of ministers who wish to continue.

As for the question of future policy directions I go back to my earlier comments about the orderly nature of Cabinet decision-making.

I will say this, however, it's really important that we bring the country together.

I really do not support the politics of division, whether it's on the basis of class or anything else.

I actually believe we are much better as a nation working together.

Therefore, I'm saying that under my leadership, there is a hand outstretched firmly to business, to work with us, as it is also with the unions and I intend to have those meetings very soon.

JOURNALIST: One of the policy issues you've had trouble with last time and I don't think you mentioned so far today is asylum seekers and boats.

Will you be going to Indonesia to see the Indonesian President to discuss it?

And what philosophical position will you have in dealing with the boats?

Will you be trying to for example, will you be saying you're going to stop the boats or will you be trying to manage them or encourage people to come in a more orderly way under regional processing?

PM: The great thing about this country is we have long believed in a system of orderly migration.

The problem with the current situation is that I really fear that we begin to see some fragmentation for the overall national support for a system of orderly migration in Australia.

That has stood us so well since the days of Arthur Calwell way back in the post-war period.

We actually have to be very attentive to a basic national interest, which is to sustain broad public support for a system of orderly migration.

Secondly, on the question of Indonesia, I will be briefed this afternoon by colleagues who've been working on the proposed visit to Indonesia and following that briefing, of course, I will announce a decision about going to Jakarta.

I will be speaking with President Yudhoyono sometime after I finish with you good folk here this afternoon in Canberra.

I would also if I went to went to Indonesia be speaking frankly on the much broader questions of our common national security interests.

On top of that, a really big one, which is I am concerned about Mr Abbott's policy where he says that he can turn the boats back to Indonesia as he states, and when he states now more recently, only when safe; and when the Indonesian Government says they will not accept such a policy.

I'm very concerned about whether if Mr Abbott were to become Prime Minister and continues that rhetoric and that posture and actually tries to translate it into reality, I really wonder whether he's trying to risk some sort of conflict with Indonesia.

It's not a good thing.

It's a really bad thing.

Let me tell you, if you are a student of the Australia/Indonesia relationship which I have been since the days of the late forties until now, there've been some pretty tough times in the relationship.

I never want to see that happen again.

A quarter of a billion people live to the north of us.

We have a huge national interest in having a working relationship with them.

On the question of the attitude I bring to bear on asylum seekers, it will be in the national interest, mindful of the need to sustain popular support for the overall integrity of the migration program.

JOURNALIST: Do you accept Wayne Swan's budget parameters as they exist now, as in the 2013-14 budget, or is everything on the table and my second question is: have you had any thoughts about one of the controversial policies which is moving single mums onto the lesser Newstart payment?

PM: I've had a lot of thoughts about many things. That's one of them.

But these are deliberations for the Cabinet.

As I said, that will occur next week.

Secondly on the question of budget parameters, there will be a discussion about that this afternoon.

I'd rather not, frankly, make any broad sweeping statement about budget parameters, prior to receiving proper briefings by PM&C and Treasury as to where things stand.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can I go to what commitment you might have to party reform because it is a matter of interest for a number of your senior supporters.

There's going to be preselections now in Rankin, Perth, Kingsford Smith, all the plum Labor seats.

Will you be insisting on local plebiscites?

Will you be opposing the parachuting in by the party organisation?

PM: I thank you for raising the question.

Party reform as you've studied a few of my previous statements on this is near and dear to my heart for a range of reasons.

One of which is also near and dear to my heart and that is how we conduct ourselves in an orderly fashion in the future on questions of the leadership of our parliamentary party.

I will speak to that at some length later on.

On the broader question of party reform, can I say this: I am revolted by what I have seen unfold in New South Wales.

I am revolted by what I have seen unfold through the ICAC inquiry.

I am revolted that this could've been seen to have been acceptable practice.

I will therefore be having a very deep discussion with cabinet colleagues of an entirely political nature about the new direction for New South Wales and more broadly, where we go on the overall remit of party reform nationwide.

You asked, Malcolm, specifically about local preselections.

The overwhelming preference is there will to be local democratic ballots.

The only exception I see to that is if you have a genuine crisis of time.

In the seats you've just mentioned I'm not sure that such a crisis exists. I really am not.

By the way I'm pleased you've referred to the seat of Rankin as a plum seat.

I don't think Craig would regard it as that nor any of us from the Queensland branch just right now.

JOURNALIST: The third for taking back the leadership was changes you want to make.

It was widely telegraphed when you challenged last year that you wanted to move the carbon price quickly [inaudible] floating price. Bearing in mind what you said about processes needing to respected, is that something that you’re going to be looking at [inaudible]?

PM: That's a great question. It's all about the carbon price.

I will be speaking with my Cabinet colleagues on that.

Yes, I didn't telegraph it before in times past.

I actually said it and I own that.

Don't walk away from anything I've said.

It's a silly thing to try to do for anyone in public life.

I'm also very mindful of due process.

I want to discuss this fully with the Cabinet including the budget implications which flow from any such decision and the timing of any such decision.

That I think is the right way to go.

JOURNALIST: Just following up on [inaudible] you indicated one of the reasons for your return is some policy changes without giving us the detail on what they are.

Can you tell us the areas broadly that you do want to see policy changes and carbon being one of them and the timing here, this could take some time.

Will you cover off all the policy changes before going into campaign mode?

PM: Look, I can't on the one hand say we believe in orderly Cabinet-based decision making and then 12 minutes later say ‘okay mate, let's make an exception, I’ll just tell you what I’m about to do tomorrow.’

It’s not like that.

Business of government is not like that and there is sufficient time for us to work through some of the big policy challenges we face in an orderly fashion.

I intend to do that.

As for your other question about what happens during our period of government as opposed to when we go into caretaker mode, look I would hope to get major policy settings right before we enter caretaker mode.

But as you always know electoral contests are often about a few new ideas as well.

So I would emphasise the importance of sticking to orderly decision-making processes.

JOURNALIST: Back on border protection for a tick.

PM: I'm surprised by that Andrew!

JOURNALIST: I know, sorry about that. But Bob Carr in recent days has been talking about how the area has been controlled by people smugglers and been talking about economic migrants. Is this the sort of rhetoric that you embrace?

And secondly do you rule out recalling parliament to get some potential changes to legislation through?

PM: On the question of the parliamentary schedule, that of course has not been discussed with Cabinet colleagues, least of all with the Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, and Leader of the Government in the House.

So whoa behold anyone who makes such an announcement in the absence of talking to Albo.

So let’s just put all of that to one side.

You’ve referred I think to Bob Carr’s recent language and his specific reference to economic migrants?

Look, let’s just face some facts here. A whole budge of people who seek to come to this country are economic migrants who are seeking to comport themselves as refugees.

That's why we have seek a decision-making process, and some are genuine refugees.

And the Wisdom of Solomon lies with those in our national immigration service and our Refugee Review Tribunal to sort out one from the other. It's a hard business.

But you would have to be deluding yourself if you thought that there weren't a l bunch of people seeking to come to this country for purely economic reasons.

Our challenge is to minimise that number and to ensure that we still maintain our commitments under the refugee convention.

JOURNALIST: You spoke, I think on Wednesday night – it’s a bit of a blur – about not leaving the bush behind, about regionalism. Can you give us any ideas about why you mentioned that? What you’re looking at there?

You also spoke about manufacturing in similar terms as when you first took the leadership. Do you think there needs to be any policy shift, or changes more generally?

PM: Look, I’m just kind of telling it like it is. I’m a kid who grew up in the country and I’ve never left that behind me.

So when I talk about nation building, I think of rural areas. I think of farms, I think of animals, I think of horses, I think of little communities of 200 people, I think of larger towns of 10,000 like the big smoke I went to secondary school in in Nambour.

I will come back in a minute by the way to give you an example of under the better schools plan what Nambour State High School – I’m advised – would receive by way of an additional allocation under the proposed national schooling improvement plan.

The advice I had was that over six years, Nambour State High School would be something like $10.8 million dollars better off.

Now having been through that school – and I don't think Nambour ever having been a seat ever owned by the Australian Labor Party, maybe back in Andrew Fisher's day I'm not quite sure – I feel pretty passionately about those kids having needs-based funding and the best opportunities for the future of any other kid in the country.

That's where I come from.

You spoke about manufacturing. Well we didn't do a lot of manufacturing in Nambour. There was a welding works but I think it shut sometime in the 60s.

It is absolutely critical for our economic future that there is a viable manufacturing industry in this country. It is not an old industry. It is a new industry.

It is being reformed because of the innovations and materials research, new materials research and the innovations which are now occurring in the forms of new copying technologies.

This therefore creates us with a whole bunch of new opportunities to regenerate cities for example like Geelong and elsewhere.

And can I say one further point on the broader question of the economy?

When I look at the challenges of rest of this year, and certainly for the upcoming three-year term, the huge outstanding economic challenge for us is the end of the China resources boom.

This will have a dramatic effect on our terms of trade, a dramatic effect on living standards in the country, a dramatic effect also potentially on unemployment unless we have an effective counter-strategy.

What Government has been seeking to do is of course to boost national productivity, and there are encouraging figures in terms of labour productivity, but across the board we have to do a whole lot more as well.

And with the benefit of a lower dollar, assist and work with industry in diversifying the Australian economy.

Remember I got ridiculed so much in time’s past by Peter Costello and others when I used to stand up and say ‘what are you going to do Mr Costello, Mr Howard, once the mining boom is over?’

I had abuse hurled at me because this was an unpatriotic statement back in 2007.

I’ve got to say it's happened, and the whole reason for the productivity reforms that we've brought in through infrastructure, through education, et cetera has been to gear the whole economy to deal with these new challenges of the future.

And a lower dollar begins to put our agricultural industries, our manufacturing industries, and our service exports into a better space to create the new jobs which may come off in our resources sector.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, can I just take you back to some of the language about what would happen if Tony Abbott turned back the boats to Indonesia. You used the term ‘risking conflict with Indonesia’, and asked us to consider the history. Are you talking about the possibility that that policy would raise armed conflict with Indonesia? Or do you want us to think about [inaudible]?

PM: No, no, I'm talking about diplomatic conflict. But I'm always wary about where diplomatic conflicts go.

Confrontation with Indonesia evolved over a set of words, and turned into something else.

Let's call it for what it is.

If the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia in Australia says that the policy of the Government of Indonesia is not one which would faintly support the policy put forward by Mr Abbott, and secondly if Mr Abbott as Prime Minister then seeks to do that, you end up with a pretty robust diplomatic conflict and I become a little uncertain as to where that heads.

And I have had enough experience in international relations, as a serving diplomat, as Foreign Minister, and as Prime Minister to know one thing: you really need to have some pretty cool hands on the tiller when you're dealing with the Indonesia relationship.

JOURNALIST: Is there an armed conflict risk between Australia and Indonesia troops.

PM: I just said there is a risk of diplomatic conflict and if you're mindful of the history, you have got to be mindful of where conflict leads you.

I for one, as Prime Minister of Australia, will do everything within my power to continue to improve the relationship with Indonesia, rather than to put it at risk.

I'm not suggesting that Mr Abbott would intentionally head in that direction at all.

But I'm saying very clearly that you have a policy collision here between what he says and what the Government of Indonesia says.

Mr Abbott has said he has already started writing his victory speech as Prime Minister. This is not a hypothetical thing.

He's been well ahead in opinion polls for a very long period of time. Therefore, we've got to ask this question. What happens on Day 1 when field marshal Tony puts out the order to the captain of the Australian naval frigate X to turn back a bunch of boats?

And you've got naval frigate from the Indonesian navy on the other side of the equation.

I think that there's sufficient maturity in this country and I hope certainly on the part of our friends and colleagues in Indonesia to avoid such a contingency.

I'm simply putting a spotlight on a direct policy conflict. Mr Abbott seeks to take personal political capital out of his three-word slogan.

It has huge foreign policy consequences. All I’m saying is, that's a diplomatic conflict, if it goes anywhere else – I certainly hope it doesn’t – I don’t believe it would. I hope it wouldn’t.

But I just think it's time to be honest about all this.

JOURNALIST: To call it what it is in your terms, isn't the solution to stop the boats leaving Indonesia in the first place?

And don’t you need to have a robust discussion with them about that?

That wasn't going to be my question, but anyway.

All of your predecessors as Prime Minister, including rather bizarrely yourself, have had press conferences like this in which they promise to have an open-door policy, to consult widely, to release policy in an orderly fashion and then have shut the door, talked to themselves and thrown things out like sausages.

Not being unkind that was a criticism of your prime ministership in the end.

What undertakings specifically have you given to your team that you won't be like the original Kevin?

PM: Well what I’ve said to the Cabinet colleagues that I've been just referring to this morning; Deputy Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the leader of the Government in the Senate, Deputy Leader in the Senate and to some other colleagues, is that anything major goes through the Cabinet.

There are from time to time genuine national security crises. Some of us do get telephone calls in the middle of the night.

I remember having to on the spur of the moment ring President George Bush and ask specifically, from an Australian national interest point of view, would he take actions necessary to support and to save a very large insurance company in the United States because it had huge re-insurance implications across the Australian insurance industry.

Did I sit down and have a Cabinet meeting about that? Nope. So I'm just saying that's the caveat. Stuff happens and you've sometimes got to act on it quickly. You've got to use your judgment.

But on anything major, which is a major structural policy shift, a major policy shift which affects large constituencies in the country, I believe it's really important to put it through the cabinet and that's what I will be doing.

JOURNALIST: On the issue of education, you’ve changed, you’ve announced name change and a deadline change.

Are we expecting to see more money offered?

And on the issue of party reform and being revolted, are you reopening the pre-selection in the Northern Territory for the Senate given your good friendship with Trish Crossin?

PM: The first point is about – let me just answer the question on party reform.

On party reform, it's near and dear to my heart.

I've said on the public record the principles which I apply to it.

I've been pretty upfront about it.

I’ve got some other thoughts on it as well and I think the challenge we have in New South Wales is here, present and immediate.

That stuff you see before ICAC doesn't seem to just fall out of nowhere and therefore you've got to act on it.

On the question of party preselections, I will take advice from colleagues as the best way forward. I have not turned my mind to any specific preselection anywhere for the simple reason, as I outlined at the beginning of this, there has been a fair bit on. Lane…

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Can I just go to Lane please?

JOURNALIST: You said Mr Rudd this morning (inaudible) and have you asked any of those who've indicated that they want to stay on?

PM: On the question of the swearing in, it will be either announced on the day or before.

It depends a bit when frankly it's all ready and done.

A little practical thing is this: get your administrative arrangements right.

Orderly decision making means that when you are assigning ministers to portfolios that the precise administrative arrangements are dealt with.

That takes a fair bit of time.

For my sins I was once a Cabinet Secretary in the Queensland Government.

I'm sure I got it wrong a few times. In fact you were up there at the time, Lane.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, just to take you back to preselections, obviously under your predecessor there's been a lot of talk about gender politics, including gender politics within the ALP.

What is your attitude to getting women into some of the now quite a few seats that are coming up, and have you given any thought to Batman?

I take your point about not giving thought to preselection individually and in general but that's been very high profile.

Do you have an opinion on that?

PM: A strong high profile role for women in Australia's national political life is absolutely essential.

You heard me say that when I was first elected as Prime Minister.

You've seen me do that when I went to that election in 2007 with Australia's first woman as Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

I think you saw that also when I recommended to the Queen the appointment of the first woman as Australia's Governor-General.

And I believe that we have had a strong, very strong team of women ministers in the Australian Government and there will still be a very strong team of women ministers in the next Cabinet as well.

On top of that, in terms of getting more and more women into the Australian Parliament, that is my aspiration as well.

I want women to have every, every opportunity.

I support their full participation in our national political life and consistent with the local preselection processes.

I would be urging people to take consideration of women who may stick their hand up.

I notice some recently had their hand up then pulled it down, in the case of Jed Carney.

But frankly, I think our national political life is much better served by the fact that what I have discovered in my own family with a fairly strong wife, a fairly strong daughter and a very robust lunged granddaughter, is that we actually see things through slightly different eyes these two genders of ours and it's important that we have all that round the Cabinet table and in our parliamentary debate as well.

JOURNALIST: Congratulations on your big increase in your Chinese followers.

PM: Sorry, I have no idea where you're from. I’m just running across the line.

JOURNALIST: Julia Gillard mentioned just in this room about her (inaudible) about her visit to China in April (inaudible) Are you satisfied with the current relations between the two countries and are we going to see some policy changes in this respect?

PM: I think the relationship with China is in very good working order.

Everyone knows that we have massive economic interests which we have in common.

We also know that on many, many foreign policy questions we have an identical or common view and from time to time we have the odd difference on questions such as human rights.

Kind of as it's been for a long period of time.

The state of the relationship is good.

What I'd really like to see and this has been a tough, tough process and I would say to our friends in Beijing, let us conclude the free trade agreement between China and Australia.

This thing has been moving across the Sahara at the pace of a slightly lame camel.

It really needs to be brought to conclusion.

That's no criticism of any Trade Minister who's held a portfolio but it's been very difficult.

If I could say this to our friends in China who are often concerned about the impact of Australian agriculture on their own domestic agricultural industry.

If Australia exported all of its agricultural exports to China it may cater for the extra food demands of Guangdong province, maybe, on a good day.

We will not by simply the size of the agricultural output that we have, create so much as a minor disruption in the Chinese agricultural industry and I think in terms of Chinese consumers' demands, for an increasing range of food products, and of our appropriate environmental accreditation, that there is a huge opportunity for us as Australians to huge opportunity Australians to do much better in Australians in the Chinese agricultural Australians and I'm sure in the Chinese market.

I'm sure the Chinese will have some further requests of us as well.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, you're extending the deadline on the school funding reforms but are you offering any flexibility on the structure those reforms.

Would you offer any flexibility on how much the States contribute or how much Canberra contributes to that deal?

PM: Well David, I'm just a reasonable guy.

So you walk in the door, you shake someone's hand and say OK this for the nation's good, what can we do about it.

I also would pay tribute to Barry O'Farrell who's copped it neck from his Liberal parliamentary colleagues here in Canberra for actually taking a decision based on the future needs of the kids in New South Wales and I’d actually appeal to all the Premiers and Chief Ministers to kind of just look above the parapets here and look to how it will unfold for the next decade.

So on the question of the fundamentals of the Commonwealth position, it will not change.

But I'm a reasonable guy.

I will have a chat and if there's an argument I will either shoot it down in flames or say well let's have a think about this.

But can I say, the parameters for variation are very, very narrow, very, very narrow.

Not least because the good folk of NSW and a few other States have already signed up.

JOURNALIST: Some of you colleagues believe that leaked against, stalked and tore down Australia's first female Prime Minister. Can I ask you to respond to those concerns? Secondly, will you be acting on your new-found opinion on gay marriage?

PM: On the first question, the answer is that those accusations are completely untrue.

On the second, as you know, through some would describe as my tortuous essay on my change in position on marriage equality, I didn't arrive at that position lightly.

It was a journey. I arrived at that position and I actually would stay to Mr Abbott right here and now.

Whoever wins the next election, please let's just have the civility to open this to a conscience vote for all.

I've indicated publicly where I will go on this.

If he doesn't, then I think we then have to look at other mechanisms, including the possibility of recourses to plebiscite or referendum, including the possibility.

But I would much prefer to have this thing just resolved.

My position is out there. The position of so many other members and senior ministers is out there.

I think I'm now the first Prime Minister of Australia who is a full signed-up supporter of marriage equality.

I don't think anyone else was. I would like to see this and the reason I want to see it done is, frankly, because it causes so many people such unnecessary angst out in Australia, in the gay and lesbian community.

It just shouldn't be the case.

JOURNALIST: You have policy decisions to make that have budgetary implications.

What would you, without getting into the detail of any of those, what will be the attitude you bring to that?

Will you bring the fiscal conservative?

Will you bring the fiscal stimulator?

What is your attitude towards the budget and if I may your predecessor when she came in said she would not move into The Lodge until she'd been confirmed at an election.

What is your attitude towards moving into The Lodge?

PM: On the question of the economy and the approach I bring to bear, if I was to sum it up in two simple terms, it is economic responsibility.

By which I mean this look carefully right now in 2013 at what has happened to the British economy, because the British conservative government, it's entitled to do this, decided to implement a full blown austerity package in the midst of very troubled global economic circumstances and even worse in Europe.

They plunged the British economy back into recession and have come within a hair's breadth of a triple dip recession.

If Mr Abbott adopts that approach, as he has said and his economic spokesmen have said they will, let me say this very bluntly: he will tip Australia into recession and bring about significant unemployment.

What I know from economic history in this country is that once you've done that, it takes so long to get people back into employment and sometimes you end up with a lost generation or a lost half generation.

So my attitude is this: if everything was normal right in the global economic cycle right now, then of course, you would bring the budget back to surplus immediately.

But guess what it’s not. I have consistently said throughout my public policy career, that we will balance the budget consistent with the economic cycle, is to cater for contingencies such as we have at present.

So therefore, I bring to bear an attitude of economic responsibility.

It is economically irresponsible to undertake a massive austerity drive based on slash and burn which would tip the economy into recession and practically every mainstream economist in Australia agrees with that.

I'm looking at Fiona, the Director of Communications.

Hang on, hey folks, I will come back to that.

If I keep on talking here, half of you will right that he just went on and on and on and I could go now and the other half would say he didn't answer my question.

So what do you want me to do?

OK, I will stay for about another five minutes or so and let's go to this question.

On the question of The Lodge I really haven't turned my mind to that at all but at the appropriate time and certainly when Julia has vacated the premises, then when I'm in Canberra I will use The Lodge.

That's what the Prime Minister of Australia does.

But I will be spending a fair bit of time in Brisbane.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you plan to repair the mining tax before the election?

PM: What I'd like to be briefed on when we get to a budget briefing soon is the revenue projections from the mining tax.

And again I won't go into the business of policy speculation.

But I just want to be briefed on what are the revenue projections at present?

And how the tax is being implemented.

I think that’s the responsible course of action.

I don't foreshadow anything dramatic.

JOURNALIST: Two questions, on your question about your economic responsibility and being a fiscal conservative, would you basically look - if you are making any policy changes to make sure that they are revenue neutral and offset in savings.

Second the government announced in the budget that it would be reviewing the whole question of refugee humanitarian status.

Have you been briefed yet on where that review is up to and would you anticipate you will have an answer that you could take to Indonesia if you go?

PM: On the first question about offsets that's generally been my conservative approach.

I await however the briefing.

Which is about to occur so I simply add the caveat I have not yet been briefed by Treasury officials but that's been my general approach in terms of offsetting new expenditure initiatives.

On the second point I've been briefed this morning on the progress of the review.

G'day Bill, how are you? Senator Bill Heffernan, good to have you here.

On the other question, could I say this: the secretary PM&C has briefed me on where that's up to.

There's still a lot of work to be done and the precise conclusion of it I just don't know.

JOURNALIST: Business has been scathing about the previous government's Fair Work legislation which went through the Senate last night and the 457 legislation which will go through we think at about 3pm today.

Will you commit to further consultation with the business community around these two pieces of key legislation as part of your promise to work more closely with business.

PM: Well it seems to be your question which is suggesting the conditionality’s of what constitutes a good working relationship with business.

If I was to define a good working relationship with business with ticking the box of everything that business community asks for, let me tell you the Commonwealth would've been bankrupt about 10 years ago.

Secondly, I have had an initial look at the provisions of the legislation you just referred to.

Particularly the local testing for employment purposes by firms who then seek to make recourse to 457s.

As far as those local testing are arrangements are concerned, on the face of it, they seem to be fine to me. Once this legislation is passed, I will be very attentive to any real cases put to me by the business community as to whether that's created a real operational problem as opposed to something which is rhetorical.

Remember this: we run one of the most open labour markets in the world.

We have a system of very large migration to this country, including people on all sorts of skills classes, as well as the use of 457s which you know has grown very considerably in recent times under us.

There is no government which has stronger credentials in saying it's a global labour market and therefore - my wife is Chairman of a global company and she understands these things.

She's dealing with different labour market jurisdictions all the time and how you move people from one jurisdiction to the other.

But I don't think it's too much of an ask to simply say if you want to employ somebody, can you stick an ad in the paper and then have a look to see whether the local talent pool can be sufficient to it?

JOURNALIST: I want to ask you about your rallying cry for young Australians to get involved so you can cook with gas?

Are you looking at policies particularly for young people or do you think the personality of Kevin is enough to engage young people?

PM: No, the personality of Kevin would turn a whole bunch of people off, quite frankly. (laughter) Don't laugh so quickly!

The bottom line is this: a lot of young people including my own daughter, Jess, have spoken to me long and hard for example on marriage equality and wherever I go in Australia it just hits you in the face what young people think about this which is that our current arrangements are just wrong.

So frankly my position on that is clear.

Mr Abbott's position on that is clear.

I've announced the reasons for the change in my position.

But can I just add one other thing?

In terms of cooking with gas, which Jessica told me last night was one of the daggiest things she had ever heard me say - none of you are daggy dads? Anyway.

The use of broadband with decent bandwidth by younger Australians is taken for granted.

I've spoken to a whole bunch of foreign student who is come to Brisbane to study, from China for example, and they say what is it with your local broadband speeds?

These things are just not up to world standards.

Frankly, the digital generation know this. Older folks tend not to.

So I’ve got to say marriage equality, decent world-class broadband, these are two big selling points to young Australians all of whom are fully wired for sound.

Now folks I have really got to … one for Karen then I will go.

JOURNALIST: Three years ago when this job was taken from you, your successor said that a good government had lost its way.

I’m wondering what was it about her government that led them to the catastrophic state you have described?

How much was it the matter of her elevation and how much of it was something else? What was it?

PM: Karen, I don't think there's anything to be served by going into any of those things in the public domain.

I've said this to my colleagues and very mindful of personal experience back in 2010, is that I will not tolerate anyone going out there and trashing Julia's reputation.

Let me tell you, I have a bit of experience of that, it's not pleasant and it's not right.

Frankly, I don't think the Australian people like it either.

So history will be the judge of all these things.

I'm pretty relaxed where people will reach their judgments over time as to the decisions that have been taken.

But in terms of just dealing with a human being and having been in this situation myself, I believe Julia Gillard should be treated with appropriate respect and dignity as a former Prime Minister of Australia. Thank you very much.

[ENDS]

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