PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 17152

Transcript of interview with Jon Faine 774 ABC Melbourne

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: 17152

FAINE: Kevin Rudd, good morning.

PM: Good morning Jon, how are you?

FAINE: Thank you, I'm well. Is Barnaby Joyce the equivalent in the Opposition to Peter Garrett in the Government?

PM: Look, I think when it comes to economic policy Mr Abbott has a few questions to answer. Appointing Barnaby Joyce as the alternative Finance Minister of Australia- bad judgment. Keeping him there for four months, very bad judgment. When you have someone who runs around the country and the world saying that America's about to default on its debts, the Australian state Governments are about to default on their sovereign debt, the Australian Government the same, equating this country with Greece. I mean, this is just grossly irresponsible stuff.

FAINE: But Barnaby Joyce has only uttered words. Peter Garrett's been in charge of spending money on a program that's been a disaster. Shouldn't you have sacked Peter Garrett, by your own standards?

PM: As you know from the statement I made some weeks ago Minister Garrett's responsibilities have been changed. The Government accepts full responsibility for the problems of the implementation of the home insulation program, and we're getting on the business of dealing with the practical problems which have arisen.

On the broader question of economic policy, I think it's fair to say that what Mr Abbott has put together is probably the weakest economic frontbench that we've ever seen from the Liberal party: of himself, he says he has no interest in the economy- Peter Costello said that he would not have him as his deputy because he had no interest in the economy, Joe Hockey, and then Barnaby Joyce. This is not a strong line-up. And the economic management's fundamental to everything else.

FAINE: The building program in schools is under question, in particular in New South Wales. They've had to admit that a $250,000 shade structure has been costed out at a million dollars, and this is being held up as but one example of an endemic problem in trying to spend a lot of money quickly, without proper scrutiny. Do you have to review now not just your home insulation program, but your building revolution for schools?

PM: Can I just ask you this question, Jon? How many schools do you reckon there are in Australia?

FAINE: Thousands.

PM: Nearly 10,000.

FAINE: Yep.

PM: How many projects have we got underway at the moment- about 28,000 across those schools, as I'm advised. I understand we've had complaints in relation to 0.73 per cent of those schools. Now what we set up from the very beginning was a system of audits and audit squads to go into any individual school with which there's a problem. If you were to ask your listeners to ring in about whether they are happy with what's happening in their local schools, with new state of the art libraries being built, new science centres, new language centres, new classrooms, new multipurpose halls, this is a very good program to protect jobs today, but also to build the school infrastructure we need tomorrow. Problems are always going to occur. But that's why we had audit mechanisms established. Those audit mechanisms have applied, and where problems have been identified, they were attended to.

FAINE: But there's always people out to rort any system and any program where Governments are handing out money, and you've got people trying to rort this one?

PM: Has anything changed, Jon, in the history of humankind? It's been around for a while. All I'm saying to you is that based on the figures I've got- by the way it's 24,000 projects, not 28- is that we have complaints in relation to 0.73 per cent, that's less than 1 per cent. And for a project which goes out and provides so many schools across rural Victoria, across the metro area, Catholic parochial schools which have never had a multipurpose hall in their history, new state of the art libraries. I've been to schools around the country which have never had a purpose-built library of any description.

FAINE: So you're saying it's worth having a few, a number of programs that aren't good value, in order for the overarching benefit to the economy that's being achieved?

PM: Well look, we did this deliberately, in order to protect jobs today and build the infrastructure we need for tomorrow. Remember, the Australian economy, unique of the major advanced economies in the world, over the course of the global economic recession had the fastest growth, the second lowest unemployment, was the only one to stay out of recession, and with the lowest debt and the lowest deficit. That's not a bad report card for the economy at large.

If we'd be generating the unemployment rates, say, in New Zealand, or in Europe, that they have there, if we had those in Australia, we'd have something like two to three hundred thousand more Australian working families who would be without a job. On the education front, and the dividend, as I said, you're always going to have problems which arise. So that's why from the very beginning, the Government established an audit mechanism with the state Governments so that if problems arose in the implementation then they could be dealt with. That's what's happened in the case of this school, too.

FAINE: Instead we've got debt. Barnaby Joyce had a chat to us earlier this morning. He had this to say, on exactly this topic.

AUDIO OF JOYCE: It is vitally important that the Australian people still remain focussed on the fact that if we spend money the way we are spending it on such things as, everybody has seen how farcical now the so called building education revolution has become, the BER. It is really the blatant education rip off and we're finding that major contractors just use it as a mechanism to (inaudible) the Australian tax payer who is going to have to pay all this money back, and schools haven't really got value for money.

FAINE: And we've got massive debt now, where you inherited no debt.

PM: Can I say, Jon, we have the lowest debt and lowest deficit of all the major advanced economies. We've acted entirely correctly with strong, early, decisive action to keep the Australian economy going. Can you imagine what discussion we'd be having on your program this morning had we taken the Liberal Party's advice, sat on our hands, and done nothing? We'd have unemployment going through the roof, hundreds of thousands of working families across the country without a job. In terms of your own listening audience, tens of thousands who are currently in a job would be without a job. We acted entirely appropriately.

But secondly, on the Education Revolution, again I'd challenge you. You speak to your local P&Cs, your local parent bodies, at your Catholic, Independent, Christian schools right across Victoria and ask them whether they want to get their new library, whether they want to get their new classrooms, their new science centres, their new language centres, their new multipurpose halls. There's always going to be problems on the way through, but the overwhelming response from these 9,500 to 10,000 schools in Australia, those 24,000 projects, this is good for the economy, good for local tradies trying to earn a dollar on the way through, in terms of an economy last year which was throwing them out of work. And then, building school buildings that we need for the future.

FAINE: And the criticism comes through as you build up towards a federal election- typical Labor Government, not business experience, no real world experience, a bunch of bureaucrats and trade union officials and lawyers spending money hand over fist when they inherited no Government debt.

PM: So, you're reading from Mr Abbott's press release there it seems.

FAINE: No, it's-

PM: Can I just say, can I say in response to that-

FAINE: It's a circulating email that's come in-

PM: Sure.

FAINE: Do go on.

PM: Just in response to that question, that sort of criticism coming from the likes of Senator Barnaby Joyce, I mean, for goodness sake. If we took seriously the advice of the Liberal Party at the time, we would've sat on our hands and done nothing. What did the Australian Government do? In the midst of the greatest economic crisis the world has seen since the Great Depression, whereby growth was collapsing across the world economy, jobs being lost by the millions around the rest of the world, we did three things. We stepped in, and to stabilise the financial system, we provided for the first time an Australian Government guarantee for everyone's savings deposits. That prevented a run on the banks. I think anyone out there in the financial community recognises that fact. No such guarantee existed before. The previous Government had never provided it.

Secondly, we provided also a Government guarantee for the term funding arrangements of the banks as well-

FAINE: Yep.

PM: So that the lines of credit could still flow to small businesses, many of whom would be listening to your program this morning. And the third thing we did was, because every economy around the world was falling through the floor, we acted strongly and decisively for Government to step up to the plate, expanding the role of Government in the economy while the private sector was in retreat. Just as now, the stimulus reached its peak, frankly, at the end of the second quarter last year, and is now being withdrawn, consistent with what we laid out at the time. This is the proper approach to economic management. But also, as I said, protecting jobs now, but building the infrastructure we need for tomorrow.

FAINE: Okay 16 minutes past 9, Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister with me until 20 past, and then he has to move on. The Premier and Treasurers are meeting with your officials and Wayne Swan over the finetuning of a possible takeover of the states' health. Victorian Premier John Brumby has released a list of ten questions that he says need to be answered. Number one, will there be new money, generally, for health and money for new hospitals and other health infrastructure?

PM: The, I heard about John's letter this morning, I gather it's in The Age. I haven't got it yet. So I'm sure it's in the in-tray somewhere. On that one, can I just say that what we negotiated last year with the Victorian Government and the other states was a 50 per cent increase in the Australian Government's allocation to the hospitals run by Victoria and the other states. In the case of Victoria, receiving an additional $5.1 billion. That is flowing through now, next year, the year after, the year after that, and the year after that.

This is a pretty big additional investment. But the other thing is this: beyond the current healthcare agreement, we through the proposal we've now got for a new national health and hospitals network, would in fact take on nearly $4 billion worth of future growth in the Victorian hospital system on to the Commonwealth Government's books, which would otherwise be borne by the Victorian Government.

FAINE: So you're confident-

PM: The reason we're doing all this Jon, is this - you know, we've looked at all the figures. You go out, 20 or 30 years' time, state budgets cannot bear the future expansion, radical expansion, in the health and hospital costs of the country. In fact, by 20 or 30 years' time, all the state government budgets would be consumed entirely by health, and not a dollar for anything else. That's why we're acting. And I think John would surely accept that there are still problems in his hospital system. That's what every other-

FAINE: It's not perfect, but you're confident you can strike a deal, clearly. I don't want to use up all our time on health. Kevin Rudd-

PM: It's a pretty important subject, so I'm happy to talk about it, but I haven't got John's letter yet, but I'm sure it's in the mail.

FAINE: Are you going to expel an Israeli diplomat?

PM: You know something Jon? The important thing is to work through each of these matters, that is, the use and abuse of Australian passports, carefully. It's currently with the Australian Federal Police and others. We'll work our way through the detail of it and we will respond to it appropriately. Those investigations are ongoing.

FAINE: You've said nothing in answer to my question, basically.

PM: Well Jon, when you're dealing with very complex legal, police and security matters, you don't rush to judgment. You work your way through it. What I have said in the past, very plainly, is that- as has the Foreign Minister in his dealings with the Israeli Ambassador to Australia- is that we have asked some pretty basic questions about what happened here-

FAINE: Are you worried about upsetting the Jewish community, and maybe jeopardising some of their support?

PM: Jon I've said when the Israeli Ambassador was called in to see the Foreign Minister, some pretty basic questions were put, and subsequent to that, both the Foreign Minister and myself have indicated that we are not satisfied with the answers we've received. The investigations are ongoing. Once they have concluded you'll have a full and comprehensive statement from the Government. These are detailed, complex matters, and we will judge them on their merits. In terms of our relationship with Israel, and broader policy towards the Middle East, we also deal with that on its merits as well, as we did recently in a vote at the United Nations General Assembly.

FAINE: Alright. And just finally, on the stimulus, whilst you're spending money on building school halls and the like, the Tax Office is holding up billions of dollars for tens if not hundreds of thousands of Australian taxpayers, and small business in particular saying their cash flows are being ruined by the Tax Office computer glitch. If you want to stimulate the economy, just start the Tax Office refunds flowing and you'll achieve that by nothing other than getting the tax system working properly.

PM: Well, on the problems in the Tax Office, what I'd strongly suggest is that I get the Treasurer on to your program and go through the complaints which have been made, and how they'll be rectified.

FAINE: Four months, no refunds.

PM: Can I say more broadly, however, on the question of stimulus, when you look at growth collapsing around the world, and not just at the margins but fundamentally in those economies, the fact that we the Australian Government stepped up to the plate in order to keep jobs going and small businesses in business and protect apprenticeships, that's fundamental. If you want to know what the difference is between us and the rest of the world in response to what happened last year and the millions of people who are still without work throughout the rest of the world, that's because we stepped up to the plate and made a difference. Not perfect, but it was the right course of action.

FAINE: Are you going to the Grand Prix, Kevin Rudd, in Melbourne this weekend?

PM: Ah no, I'm not going to the Grand Prix in Melbourne this weekend, but I wish everyone who does all the very best.

FAINE: Don't want to go?

PM: I've been to some races over the years. But I've just got some other things on this weekend, in fact, I've got a few things on on the health and hospitals front, and I would- I'll attend to those. But I wish everyone all the best for the Grand Prix. It's been a big event for Melbourne for a long period of time.

FAINE: Thank you for your time this morning, it's been good to talk to you, and I've got lots of text messages as well which I shall now read- thank you.

PM: Thanks very much, bye.

Transcript 17152