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Transcript 17510

Interview with Kerry O’Brien, 7.30 Report

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: 24/06/2010

Release Type: Business & Industry

Transcript ID: 17510

KERRY O'BRIEN: Julia Gillard, you have worked closely and intensely with Kevin Rudd since the two of you came to the Labor leadership. You won an election together. You worked through the global recession together. Did you forge a genuine friendship in that time? How close did you become?

JULIA GILLARD: I think we did forge a genuine friendship in that time, Kerry. We worked side by side. We worked together. I believe that we have been friends. I hope for the future we can continue some sort of bond.

These are difficult things and as your viewers would have seen from the edited highlights of a dramatic day that you have just shown, obviously for Kevin Rudd this has been a day of raw emotion.

I know Kevin Rudd. I know his resilience. I know his fortitude. He is determined to continue to play a role in the Federal Labor Party and of course there will be a role there for him.

So we will talk about that. Today obviously is a time for him to spend some time with family and with friends.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So how hard then if you became friends was to it plant the knife?

JULIA GILLARD: These are difficult things, Kerry. I'm not going to adopt your description in your question.

I had to come to a tough decision. I have been Kevin Rudd's deputy. I believe I have been a loyal deputy. I believe I have done everything I could to work with him and support him. But ultimately I had to make a judgement about what is in the best interests of the nation, what is in the best interests of the Government, what is in the best interests of the people we seek to serve and what is in the best interests of the Labor Party.

I came to that judgement with a heavy heart in many ways. It was not an easy judgement to form but having come to it I spoke to the Prime Minister last night, the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and of course the events of today have then followed.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So as you saw the situation turning sour for Labor and for Kevin Rudd, was there a point where you looked him squarely in the eye and told him of your concerns about the Government going off the rails?

Did you identify clear things that you felt the Government needed to change and that he needed to change in his style or in his approach?

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry, I'm not going to canvass in the public domain conversations that I had as Deputy Prime Minister with the then Prime Minister.

I'm not going to canvass the contents of the conversation I had with the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last night. These are things between two colleagues working together and that's how they should remain. They are private conversations and I respect the privacy of the conversations.

KERRY O'BRIEN: I'm not asking you what you actually said. I'm just asking you whether you honestly eyeballed him at any point in these past few months and said, "Kevin, things are on the nose, I'm worried about our loss of direction here. I'm worried about where this is going. I want you to consider your change of style".

In other words, did you have an honest and candid conversation with him - without going to what you actually said?

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry, the best way I can answer that's to say I have had an honest and candid relationship with Kevin Rudd.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Okay. There is always a turning point in these matters. What was it for you?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, I actually don't accept the premise of that question either.

I'm not sure. I know that people like to tell history as time and event all turning on one moment. Maybe that is true for some parts of history. I think for me the reality of where I found myself was there wasn't one big turning point but a growing sense of concern.

Obviously I had to keep my own counsel. I was Kevin Rudd's deputy. It would not have been appropriate for me to canvass these matters widely but I needed to think about them deeply and I did.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So when Kevin Rudd came to your office yesterday angry and accused you of disloyalty, did that help your resolve in what you felt you had to do?

JULIA GILLARD: I don't accept any of those descriptions, Kerry. Once again, I am not going to go into the details of conversations I had with Kevin Rudd but Kevin Rudd did not come to my office angry. Every discussion I have had with the Prime Minister - the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd - was a respectful and proper conversation

KERRY O'BRIEN: But he did come to your office yesterday and he did discuss the leadership with you.

JULIA GILLARD: Well, Kerry, there has been nothing unusual about the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd walking into his deputy's office, nothing unusual about me walking round into Kevin Rudd's office. That has been the day to day stuff of my existence as Deputy Prime Minister and his as Prime Minister.

KERRY O'BRIEN: We are not being naive here. What I'm specifically - you know what I'm asking you.

JULIA GILLARD: And Kerry, I'm not - yes, I do know what you are asking me and I'm not seeking to shy away from answering it. I'm going to protect private conversations as is proper.

If you are asking me - and I believe you are - did Kevin Rudd and I have a series of frank exchanges yesterday about the circumstances of the Government, then of course we did, yes.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Were you shown the disastrous polling from New South Wales Labor about Kevin Rudd's deep unpopularity before you did decide to dessert him?

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry, I'm a professional politician. I'm someone who moves in the community. I represent an electorate in this Parliament. I obviously am in touch with community members.

That's what I have done as Deputy Prime Minister. It's what I would seek to do as Prime Minister. I don't need someone to show me polling to understand that a good government was losing its way. I don't need anyone to show me polling to understand that the Australian community had its concerns about that, its real concerns, deep concerns.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But did they show you?

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry, obviously the Labor Party as a professional political party conducts polling. Yes it does. I'm the Prime Minister of the country...

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well we know they conducted this polling. I'm asking you whether it was shown to you yesterday.

JULIA GILLARD: Well look, I'm the Prime Minister of the country today. I was Deputy Prime Minister yesterday. I was the second most senior person in the Labor team. You would expect me to be in contact with our senior campaign figures and to deal with what is a routine matter in politics, which is opinion polling.

But Kerry I'm not going to leave this conversation with the implication that I made a decision based on a bagful of polling. That is not true.

I made a decision having thought deeply about the circumstances of the Government and having concluded that a good Government had lost its way, having concluded that I could not resolve that from the position of deputy, and having particularly concluded that it was in the national interest, in the interest of the Government and the interest of the Labor Party for the Government to get back on track. And that is what I will deliver as Prime Minister.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You told Australian Story four years ago, "I had to fight hard to get preselected. I had to play a factional game to do that. I had to count numbers. I had to make deals and I'd do it all again tomorrow if I needed to."

Now what should we read into that in this context? What does it say about you? Whatever it takes?

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry, I am in the business of being a Member of the House of Representatives, a Member of the Parliament. That means by definition every three years I seek preselection from my political party to have the honour and privilege of representing them in the elections in the electorate of Lalor. And every three years I ask around 100,000 people for their trust and support to be the member for Lalor.

And as I have become more senior in politics, obviously, the way in which I canvass the Australian community and seek their trust and support is beyond my own electorate.

Consequently, of course, I'm a person that needs to have a view and stay in touch with community opinion. I'm a person who needs to stay in touch with my colleagues and what they are thinking. I do that willingly because I always believe you are strengthened as part of a team.

But what drives me in politics is not getting out sheets of paper and marking names and votes and numbers on sheets of paper. What drives me in politics is my passionate belief about delivering change in this nation - change in education because education made me; change in our health care system; making sure people have got the benefits and dignity of work.

These are the things that drive me in politics.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You didn't have to count the numbers this time. There were others to do it for you. Are you going to reward the plotters?

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry, once again, all very theatrical value-laden terminology.

If your question to me is, have I engaged in making any deals or arrangements to secure anyone's support for this position as Prime Minister, I have not.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Does that mean we are not likely to see Bill Shorten promoted in the ministry when you announce your new ministry?

JULIA GILLARD: I will work my way to announce the new ministry and what I will do Kerry, is I'll take soundings from my colleagues.

I genuinely believe that we are strengthened working as a team, that two minds are better than one, that a few more pairs of eyes on things is a good thing. I will talk to my colleagues and then I will make a decision.

Obviously the first point, the first thing to do is to speak to Kevin Rudd and to talk to him about a future role in the Labor Government. I will do that first and then of course make decisions on ministerial arrangements.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Now, can we just get a little more clarification on what you are saying to Kevin Rudd? Is-is a Cabinet job his for the asking? Is it somewhat less than that? Everybody knows his expertise in Foreign Affairs. Is that kind of portfolio open to him?

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry, nice try but my conversations with Kevin Rudd will be conversations with Kevin Rudd.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And you haven't spoken to him about this yet? You have no idea what is in his mind at this stage?

KERRY O'BRIEN: I have not had that conversation with Kevin today, Kerry. I think you gave the statistic of how many hours and minutes I have been Prime Minister for. This was a day of major events. Obviously for Kevin Rudd it has been a day of very deep emotion.

I will at the appropriate time have that conversation with my colleague, Kevin.

KERRY O'BRIEN: I've got another statistic for you now, actually, on the election timing. You will have governed for three years in November - although as Kevin Rudd recently pointed out, technically you could govern until March or April of next year - but five of the six Prime Ministers who tried to hang on significantly beyond the three years lost at the ballot box.

I don't imagine you are too keen to follow Prime Ministers like Billy McMahon down that road, are you?

JULIA GILLARD: Well I'm certainly old enough to have some recollections of Billy McMahon as Prime Minister, though I was pretty young at the time, Kerry. I want to point that out, I was pretty young at the time.

Kerry, I said today to the Australian people when I first spoke as Prime Minister that what I would do is obviously go and see the Governor-General in coming months we will be have the election. And all Australians as a matter of birthright have their vote and will exercise their say in that election.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But are you saying...

JULIA GILLARD: In the time in between then I'm asking the Australian people for their support as I do what is necessary to deliver the best possible Government for this country.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But can you indicate whether you are considering next year as part of the equation- of a legitimate part of the equation for this term, that you could govern through to March or April of next year?

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry, I can absolutely rule out next year. The election will be in 2010.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Okay. I'm glad we got that one off the table.

JULIA GILLARD: You were obviously deeply fascinated with it, Kerry.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well I am. I am.JULIA GILLARD: So it is off the table now.

Your Christmas leave is safe, Kerry.

KERRY O'BRIEN: We were talking about Kevin Rudd a minute ago. You've said that you won't move in the Lodge until you are endorsed at an election by the people. Does that mean that Kevin Rudd will be able to stay there?

JULIA GILLARD: I haven't spoken to Kevin Rudd about this and my view is just simply, it's no more complicated than this, Kerry - Kevin Rudd has been through a profoundly difficult day. He is a man with a family. He is a man with a son in school in Canberra. He has been the Prime Minister of this country.

I think Australians sitting in their loungerooms listening to the conversation between you and me tonight would very quickly say - because Australians are very decent, generous people - that he needs whatever time is necessary for him to make arrangements for the living circumstances of him and his family.

I'm not going to set any time limits on that or speculate about that. That's a matter for Kevin to work through with his family.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You said today you would run a more inclusive Government drawing on the best efforts of Cabinet and so on, but you were a part of that very centralised executive Government that Kevin Rudd ran.

You were one of the gang of four. Did you at any stage say to him, "Kevin, this is wrong. We are not being inclusive enough. We need to consult Cabinet more widely"? Did you at any stage express that kind of sentiment?

JULIA GILLARD: Once again, Kerry, I'm not going to canvass past conversations when I was Deputy Prime Minister with the then Prime Minister.

What I am going to say is I believe when people look at the way that I seek to work they would say that I seek to work inclusively. I seek to bounce ideas around, I seek to get people's views.

The pressures of Government are strong, Kerry, and during the global financial crisis particularly we needed to make quick decisions - quick decisions in unheard of economic circumstances.

We had to do what needed to be done to keep Australians in work. But my predisposition is to draw on members of a team for their best insight and ideas and that's the way I will work as Prime Minister.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Can we look briefly at the toughest political issues that you have to deal with between now and the election - the issues on which Labor has lost ground this year.

You have said for instance on asylum seekers that you understand people's anxiety and this issue. But does that mean you are prepared to change Labor's policy to toughen it up?

Will you do what Kevin Rudd swore he wouldn't do on this issue, lurch to the right?

JULIA GILLARD: Kerry, I can absolutely rule out lurching anywhere. I won't be doing that.I do understand the anxiety and indeed fears that Australians have when they see boats, they see boats intercepted. It does make people anxious. I can understand that, I really can. And I can understand that Australians therefore say to their Government that they want to know what we are doing to manage our borders and what we are doing to manage asylum seeker flows. And I will be explaining as Prime Minister to the Australian people how we do that.

Of course, I obviously believe that as Prime Minister it is the role of the Government to do everything we can to best manage our borders.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But does that mean that you are prepared to change policy or not? Are you just going to explain or are you going to change as well?

JULIA GILLARD: Well Kerry, I'm going to explain and we of course we deal with changing circumstances. We have got some decisions to make about potentially changing country circumstances in relation to Sri Lanka for example.

I will continue day by day working with my ministerial colleagues like Chris Evans and Brendan O'Connor to work through the complex question of asylum seekers.

What I also say, Kerry, what I also say is that it is not appropriate for the Opposition to seek to inflate this into a language of crisis, to seek to scare people. I understand that even if the Opposition never said a word that Australians would feel anxious about these matters. But I am also very, very critical of political strategies to try to mount those anxieties for political profit and unfortunately that's the conduct that Mr Abbott has shown.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Very briefly, on climate change you have said you will re-prosecute the case for a carbon price as global economic conditions improve and as the Australian economy continues to strengthen. That's what you have said.

That sound to me like you are still wedded to the same timetable for an emissions trading scheme that got Kevin Rudd into hot water in the first place. So your leadership on that crucial issue will make no difference?

JULIA GILLARD: My leadership will be about talking to the Australian people about climate change.

I believe climate change is real. I believe that it is caused by human activity. I believe that we have got to therefore change the way we do things and that this nation will in the future need a price on carbon.

I also believe that if we are to have a price on carbon and do all the things necessary for our economy and our society to adjust we need a deep and lasting community consensus about that. We don't have it now.

That's why I said today if elected as Prime Minister at the forthcoming election then I will take the time to re-prosecute the case with the Australian community to develop that deep and lasting consensus. In the meantime of course there are steps we can take to address climate change, including better harnessing the great renewable resources of this land - solar and wind.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But what you are making clear is no change on the ETS before the election.

On the mining tax, you've dumped the Government's advertising campaign, you've won an early concession from the mining industry with its advertising but beyond that what has changed? Because the miners are not going to keep their minds open, as you have asked them to do, unless you put everything on the table including the size of the tax and whether it goes on existing projects or not.

Is everything up for discussion?

JULIA GILLARD: What I have said today is what I mean. We are opening door of the Government for negotiations. We have asked the mining representatives to open their minds. I asked for a show of goodwill from them as a reciprocation for what I was prepared to do and that was to take the Government advertising off TV.

I think today we have established some more goodwill. I think we have already established, as a foundation stone for agreement, that the mining industry can pay more tax and that Australians are entitled to their fair share.

Kerry, I'm not going to seek to design the parameters of the Resources Super Profits Tax here in a media interview several hours into being Prime Minister.


JULIA GILLARD: But what I've found in my life and with complicated issues in the past is if you get people round a table with a modicum of goodwill and some respectful conversations, you never know where you might get to and I'm be willing to lead a government that has those negotiations and respectful conversations.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Okay. We're right up against it for time but I have got to ask one personal question. On a personal note, Kevin Rudd's personal hero was the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Yours I understand was the iconic Welsh Labour figure in British politics, Nigh Bevan.

In a couple of sentences, why? Because he never did make it to the top.

JULIA GILLARD: He never did make it to the top but I suppose to be true to my roots - I was born in Wales - to be true to my roots, you would expect me to pick a Welshman. You'd also expect me to pick a Welshman that had sought to make a difference to people's lives with vital services, in his case health services.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Julia Gillard, thank you very much for talking with us. A historic day.

JULIA GILLARD: Thank you. Good day for redheads.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You got me.

Transcript 17510