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Transcript 17150

Transcript of interview with David Koch Sunrise

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: 26/03/2010

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 17150

KOCH: Good morning to you, Kevin Rudd.

PM: Good morning Kochie.

KOCH: Did Mr Abbott make a mistake in putting Barnaby Joyce into Finance?

PM: Well, I'm from Queensland, I know a little bit about things up there. Look, this was just bad judgment putting Senator Joyce in as the alternative Finance Minister of Australia. Bad judgment to keep him there for four months, until the criticism just rose and rose.

I think it also shows that on these core questions of the economy, big questions arise about whether Mr Abbott's judgment can be trusted on the economy. This is a significant role, Finance Minister of the Commonwealth, you are responsible for the entire public finance management of Australia's revenues. And this is a serious position, he should never have been there.

KOCH: Yeah, but they've got Joe as Shadow Treasurer, who's well qualified and good at his job. He's the chief bean counter, if you like, for the Opposition, isn't he?

PM: Well let me give you an example of how the Government works. When we frame a budget, and we meet on a regular basis as a budget policy committee of the Cabinet, it's myself as Prime Minister, Julia as Deputy Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the Finance Minister, backed by all of our officials. This is the group which determines on a weekly, monthly basis the financial settings of Australia. And what Mr Abbott did was put Barnaby Joyce in the middle of that, and Barnaby as you know is running around the world saying that the United States was about to default on its debts, Australia's about to default, the state Governments of Australia were going to default, our debt was like that of Greece - I mean, these are just irresponsible statements, that's on that position, very bad for Australia's image abroad.

KOCH: Alright, we don't want it to get in to a free kick for you. So let's go to viewer questions, the first one from Scott Spence in Perth. Scott, you've got the Prime Minister's attention.

PM: G'day Scott.

VIEWER: Thank you Kochie, G'day Prime Minister. Mr Prime Minister, my question to you is, when will you get your head out of the sand and realise your policy on illegal boat people isn't working? Under the previous Government's Pacific Solution, this stopped desperate people from getting on rickety boats and risking their lives practically overnight. Your approach to this is encouraging them to risk their lives and lining the pockets of the people smugglers. So when will you stop handballing the issue and acknowledge you've got it wrong?

PM: Scott, on the question of asylum seekers, let's just go through a few of the figures there. Boat people at various stages in Australia's history, they have been coming on and off, in various numbers, for the last 30 years. It depends very much on global security circumstances- whether wars have flared, or whether they have calmed down.

Second point is this. In the period that you referred to, Mr Howard's period in Government, at various years there were 6,000, 4,000, 5,000 people coming by boat in a given year. In the last year in Australia, 2009, I think we had just under 3,000. And this will vary from year to year. The key thing is to respond to the practical circumstances each year.

The other thing to bear in mind, Scott, is this - people legitimately focus on those who may arrive at boat, but there are also those who claim asylum from within Australia as well, and that's gone on year and year and year again, 4 or 5,000 people I think, from memory, for example who arrive here by plane claim asylum. They don't make the headlines, but they are those here each year.

But here is the final point. Forever and a day, this country has probably taken each year about 12 or 13,000 refugees each year. Back through Mr Howard's time, the same under me, and that is our overall ceiling in terms of those who are granted refugee status in this country. And so that's against a total migration intake of what, about 170, 180,000.

KOCH: Alright, I don't think anyone would argue that we shouldn't be taking asylum seeker be taking asylum seekers, refugees - that's our responsibility as a global citizen. But it is people jumping the queue, they're taking the place of others who are doing it the right way. I reckon that's what the average Australian gets narky about.

PM: And you know something, so do I get narky about it as well.

KOCH: Well why don't you do something about it? Because we've had two dozen boats this year. The UN has reportedly criticised your handling of the Oceanic Viking, they say fast-tracking the application of asylum seekers on that boat sends a bad message to the rest of the world.

PM: Let me just go to -

KOCH: What are you going to do? Pacific Solution under the Howard Government seemed to be a better policy.

PM: Well here is one fact for you Kochie. Under Mr Howard's Pacific Solution, what percentage of those folk came to Australia anyway? 70 per cent ended up here. So it was a nice piece of signposting to say they'll all be processed in Nauru, and all be processed at Manaus Island, 70 per cent of them came here anyway.

The key thing is to make sure that you've got enough cops on the beat, that is, our people in uniform, our Customs Officers, our Naval Officers doing the work on the ground. And what goes unreported each day is the huge number of interruptions and interceptions of vessels which occur. You know what? In Indonesia, for example, we've had something like 100 or so interruptions of people smuggling ventures We've got in Australia now more than 100 either before the courts or have been convicted. So this is all going on below the surface.

KOCH: So you reckon you're still tough enough?

PM: Can I just say, we'll always look at practical measures to respond to new circumstances. What's changed in the last 12 months is this - no one predicted a civil war in Sri Lanka, and the bulk of the problem has arisen because you've got this huge outflow, not just to us, but around the rest of the world.

One final point on the UN. The UN regional representative said that our circumstances in Australia were broadly consistent with other countries as well. So I think there's been some, frankly, some misreporting of what they've had to say.

KOCH: Okay, let's go back to viewers. Barry Harding from Maroochydore. Barry, good morning to you. What's your question to the Prime Minister?

VIEWER: Good morning. My question is - stop people on the dole just leaving school, getting the dole money, and living on a beach. Why can't we have conscription back? Put 'em in the forces. Give 'em an education.

PM: Okay Barry, how are you? How's the weather in Maroochydore?

VIEWER: Well at the moment it's just getting light.

PM: Okay. Alright mate. The - couple of points. Firstly on young people, we have introduced in the last 12 months something called a Compact with Young Australians. What does that mean? You must be earning or learning. That is, if you are not - if you are in the age bracket of 17 to 25, you've got to be either at school or in a full-time training course, or earning an income. Otherwise we actually do not provide people with Youth Allowance. That is a new change we have brought in.

The other thing, Barry, I'd say is this. On - you mentioned conscription, national service. In our history in Australia, we have done this very rarely, and only in times of, well, mainly in times of war, like the Second World War.

Right now, none of our service chiefs would back the introduction of conscription or national service. Neither do I. Our armed forces are made up of volunteers, they're a first-class force, and at this stage we have no problem in terms of recruiting enough volunteers for the needs of our armed forces.

KOCH: Okay. Alright, thank you for that Barry. And school buildings program - New South Wales has reportedly overturned a decision to build a shade structure for a million bucks, it'll use the money for new classrooms instead. Is this an admission that the rip-offs are just out of control in school buildings? Julia Gillard said we've got to put up with the rorts, because, basically, this saved the economy from going into recession. Is that a good enough answer?

PM: How many school projects do you reckon are underway across Australia right now?

KOCH: Tell me.

PM: 24,000. How many schools? About 9,500. You ask our viewers, whether they are from P&Cs or P&Fs, Catholic schools, Government schools right across Australia, are they happy with the fact that they are getting a new library, a new language centre, a new science centre, a new multipurpose hall, a new classroom?

KOCH: But it's costing the same as the Opera House, though.

PM: Hang on, Kochie, I'll come back to its economic impact in one sec. The other thing is this, is that the total number of complaints have at this stage reached 0.73 per cent, that is 0.73 of one per cent. That is less than one per cent. Now let's put all this into context. It's inevitable when you're running a massive program that you're going to have some problems. Good on the auditors for going into that project at that particular school, because that's the system we set up, so that you get a complaint that comes in, people go out and look and say hey, that's not happening right, go and fix it.

KOCH: So the rorts are less than one per cent?

PM: 0.73. But for the economy benefit, you know as well as I, we came through with the only economy -

KOCH: I know that.

PM: - Which avoided the bullet of the recession, because we put forward a whole lot of Government initiatives. This is one of them.

KOCH: And did it quick.

PM: We did it in order to protect jobs today, hundreds of thousands of them, to build the schools we need for tomorrow.

KOCH: Okay, just quickly, homework - subsidies for swimming lessons for kids?

PM: Yeah, last time it was Jacqui who asked me from Wollongong about this. Very quickly, $20 million we currently provide as a Government to support water safety organisations. In fact, an organisation called Austswim oversees a national training program for people who want to teach kids water safety techniques. But here is the critical one - a Living With Water DVD which we put together with Laurie Lawrence. If you want to get a hold of that, go to www.kidsalive.com.au, and also a Swimsafe program in her state of New South Wales, which she should contact the New South Wales Government on. But we don't provide direct subsidies to mums and dads, sorry about that Jacqui, but they are the things we're doing.

KOCH: Okay, excellent. You've got Good Friday off. Have a good Easter Break.

PM: And Saturday, and Sunday.

KOCH: What are you doing?

PM: Well, Therese and I have decided we're going to do some gardening.

KOCH: What, at The Lodge? You do your own gardening?

PM: Ah, no, we've got guys that do all of that - but, as they have for years and years and years - no, we're going to, as I said to someone recently, we're going to stick in some flowers, grow some veggies. There's a vacant lot down the back.

KOCH: A veggie patch? The Prime Ministerial veggie patch? I love it.

PM: Well, we'll get some advice on how best to do it in terms of the ground concerned.

KOCH: Okay.

PM: We're going to bring you in some produce some time later on.

KOCH: Excellent. Prime Minister, we'll be back in two weeks, so keep your questions coming ahead to the Soapbox.

Transcript 17150