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Transcript 17937

Transcript of interview with Jon Faine, ABC Melbourne

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: 27/06/2011

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 17937

HOST: Prime Minister, good morning to you.

PM: Good morning, Jon.

HOST: We'll come to carbon tax problems in a moment, but I understand today you're going to get for your anniversary a writ from Big Tobacco, who are opposed to your plain packaging legislation. Do you concede they at least have an arguable case?

PM: We're not going to be intimidated by any of this, Jon. We are very confident in our reforms - confident we can deliver them and confident that they will make a difference to the number of people who smoke and that's what this is all about. I mean, smoking kills. You don't need to do anything other than pick up the words of the cigarette warnings, smoking kills-

HOST: -Then ban it.

PM: -and if we can take a measure that stops people smoking, then we should.

HOST: They're relying on international free trade agreements and saying that you are infringing on their copyright and they're claiming billions of dollars in damages. This could break the budget.

PM: Well, we're very confident of our position, Jon, and we're not going to be deterred by the actions of Big Tobacco.

HOST: You're prepared to fight this tooth and nail?

PM: Absolutely. We're not going to be intimidated by Big Tobacco's tactics, whether they're political tactics, whether they're public affairs kind of tactics out in the community or whether they're legal tactics.

We're not taking a backwards step. We've made the right decision and we'll see it through and we're very confident we can deliver plain paper packaging.

HOST: So, you won't negotiate a partial plain packaging, a reduction in branding? There's no compromise whatsoever behind the scenes?

PM: No compromise. We're going to deliver cigarette packages in that drab green, with no logos, you know, nothing glitzy or attractive or enticing about the package. That's the aim.

HOST: Even if it costs billions of dollars, just finally, you'll continue even if it costs billions?

PM: Jon, you're making an assumption about the legal action I'm not prepared to share with you. We are very confident of our position.

HOST: Alright, the Lowy Institute this morning have released some statistics from a survey they've conducted showing there's a considerable reduction, a decline in support for any measures on carbon tax, anything that costs people money by way of reduction in people's household emissions and the like. You don't have the support you might have had if you'd done this a few years ago.

PM: I'm determined to see this through, too, Jon, because pricing carbon is the right thing to do to tackle climate change.

The price, of course, is going to be paid the 1,000 biggest polluters. They're smart business people and once they pay a price for carbon they'll find a way of reducing that bill by having cleaner, greener ways of working.

We are going to assist Australian families with tax cuts and with increases in payments. 9 out of 10 households will get a tax cut or a payment increase or a combination of the two, and the vast majority of Australian households won't pay a cent as a result of the price on carbon.

So, I understand there's cost of living pressures out there and the message from us is we will be working with Australians, 9 out of 10 households getting a tax cut or a payment increase, millions not paying a cent and for the lower income households we'll make sure that there's a safety net there - a buffer - so that they're actually getting 20 per cent more than the expected impact on them of a price on carbon, because we realise they're the Australians with the absolutely tightest budgets and the least room for manoeuvre.

HOST: OK, cleaner and greener must mean pricier. If you have this massive investment in infrastructure for cleaner and greener then it's going to be pricier, and how can you offer compensation into perpetuity, into the future forever? You just can't, can you?

PM: Yes we can, we can certainly offer permanent assistance - and we will, Jon. The assistance will be permanent. The carbon price will be here to stay and the assistance will be permanent and the carbon price will drive a behavioural change so that people do find cleaner ways of working and greener energy sources. That's what will reduce their bill when they pay the price for their carbon pollution.

HOST: You're going to have to pay a political price, too, and Bob Brown over the weekend in a series of interviews, as the Greens prepare to take the balance of power in the Senate starting from 1 July, says he wants to shut down the coal industry totally. Do you think that'll ever happen?

PM: I don't agree with Senator Brown on that. I believe coal's got a future in this country and we will be delivering measures to work with the coal industry as we transition into carbon pricing. I've been very clear with representatives of the coal industry, both employers and union representatives, that we will be working with them.

HOST: What is coal's future?

PM: Well, I think coal's future will be a way of working differently. There are cleaner coal-

HOST: -How different can it be? You dig it up and you burn it.

PM: Well, Jon, it can be different because there are ways of making the use of coal cleaner and there are of course carbon capture and storage technologies which are being innovated on, if I can use that form of words. The innovation is happening, literally, as we speak. There are projects around the world that demonstrate this technology and we'll see further innovation in it so that you can capture the carbon and sequester the carbon.

HOST: But clean coal is totally unproven technology and you're placing a great deal of faith in it.

PM: I'm placing a great deal of faith on our ability as a nation to be confident, creative and to innovate for the future.

HOST: Will you compensate the coal industry for the cost of this so-called transition?

PM: We'll work with the coal industry in this transition, Jon. All of the details will be available when we announce the full carbon pricing package, but we will be insuring we work with coal, we work with the people who work in coal mining, to get the right policies and plans for that industry's future.

HOST: This is the magic pudding's theory of economics isn't it, Julia Gillard? That somehow there's always more there for everybody and no-one ever has to pay?

PM: They will be someone paying, Jon - big polluters -

HOST: Well, are they going to be paying so much that everybody else is looked after and yet at the same time big polluters are coal companies and you're not going to penalise them, you've just said, nor compensate them.

PM: Jon, we will take the money from the big polluters. We will deliver a-

HOST: -But not coal?

PM: Well, you're putting words in my mouth there, Jon, and I'm not going to allow you to do that.

I've said that we will work with coal so that the industry has got a future and we will do that, I'm very determined to do that, and to support the employment of people who work in the coal industry.

On how all this adds up, let me be very clear with you - big polluters will pay a price, we'll use that revenue to support Australian families with their cost of living pressures, to protect Australian jobs including working with industries around the nation to ensure job security, and to fund programs to tackle climate change.

HOST: Do you accept it's the magic pudding's theory of climate change? Somehow magically there'll always be enough money for everybody to be OK. It doesn't stack up.

PM: No, that's a completely ridiculous assertion with respect, Jon.

We will raise money from polluters and we will use that money for the purposes that I've just outlined. Dollars coming in and dollars being used for appropriate purposes as we tackle climate change. It will all add up, you'll be able to see the figures, run your own calculator over it.

HOST: It's just revealed in today's Australian newspaper that a Chinese coal company has bought forty three farms for more than $200 million dollars around Gunnedah in New South Wales, triggering a land boom, paying extraordinary prices - 10-year gains for some people in five, ten years' worth of ownership. And they're going gang busters, they're building, they're counting on building more coal mines whilst you're talking about innovation of a kind that doesn't yet exist?

PM: Well, Jon, I'm not going to agree with that either. I mean there are projects with carbon capturing storage, there are people working and using technology, yes there's innovation that has to happen - absolutely.

But you know, Jon, can you really wake up every day in today's world and say to yourself in the mirror in the morning ‘innovation's not possible'? I mean the story of our lifetimes, Jon, we're around about the same age, the stories of our lifetimes have been a story of innovation. You know my life today is built around things that no-one could have even dreamed of when I was growing up as a girl. The new technology, we have the information technology, we have the blackberries, the internet, the speed with which we can move information around the planet, broadband. No-one knew anything about any of those things when I was growing up. The story of our lifetime has been innovation and that story will continue. I think we should have an unbelievably high degree of confidence about that.

HOST: Alright, well, we'll see, we'll keep our fingers crossed.

In the meantime, Tony Abbott - you offered to him over the weekend the chance to have Treasury run a ruler over his costings on his alternative for dealing with climate change. He says, ‘look, Julia Gillard is politicising the public service by making that offer'.

PM: We'll, you've used the terminology ‘magic pudding' in this interview Jon. Where that terminology rightly applies is to Tony Abbott's plans.

Tony Abbott needs to fund the climate change action he says he's going to take. Unfortunately, all of the experts say that it's going to be ineffective, but he's determined to fund that and that will be an impost on Australian families of $720 a year.

Then he says he's going to decrease tax. We'll I think Australian's would like a debate informed by the facts and figures, not by mystical and magical assertions, and I'm giving Tony Abbott the opportunity to do that, and he says-

HOST: -Until the next election your costings, his costings will both be subjected to independent scrutiny. What's wrong with that?

PM: Well, unfortunately, Jon, last election Mr Abbott didn't appropriately submit his costings to independent scrutiny. When they were the subject of independent scrutiny after the election, there was an $11billion dollar black hole.

So, rather than go through a process like that again I think Australian's are entitled to a debate informed by the facts and figures, not by, sort of, empty words and sloganising. So, I'm simply saying to Mr Abbott, and it's a generous offer not normally made by a government, why don't we end up in a situation where I put out my carbon pricing plan with every dollar and every cent for Australian households. People will be able to see how it all adds up, every figure they need will be there, and why don't I give you the assistance of Treasury officials, so, Mr Abbott, you can put out policies and plans as detailed, and Australians can compare.

HOST: I mentioned a moment ago about the deals up in NSW where Chinese companies are buying properties for prospective coal mines. Meanwhile, in the Western district here in Victoria, Qatari interests are buying up farms for food production. Are you prepared to even look at the rules on foreign ownership of, in particular, farming assets and land in Australia as they currently stand?

PM: The first thing we're doing is looking at the facts. This may surprise you, but as a Federal Government we don't automatically have a complete set of information about what is happening with land holding in our nation. That's of course because land transactions continue to be transactions overseen by state governments.

HOST: But foreign investment's controlled by the Commonwealth?

PM: Yes, yes it is, Jon, but it obviously has to be foreign investment at a particular level and a number of these land transactions happen and they don't trigger the Foreign Investment Review Board work that does happen for major foreign investments.

HOST: Is that a loop hole?

PM: Well, first and foremost we're saying ‘let's get the facts'. Obviously people's eyes always go to the things that are changing, so the transactions that you've referred to, rather than the total picture of who owns what in Australian land. We want to get that total picture. Bill Shorten is working on that right now and obviously that total picture can then go to inform a policy conversation I think the nation probably wants to have and policy action by Government if that's necessary.

HOST: Over the weekend, Julia Gillard, New York State in the USA has finally approved gay marriage, and as best as I know civilisation hasn't come crashing to an end, the sky hasn't fallen in. Are you changing your mind as more and more jurisdictions around the world, including some European and Catholic countries, accept gay marriage?

PM: Well, Jon, I've never suggested that a change would cause the sky to fall in or civilisation to come to an end, but I have said that it's my view that the Marriage Act should stay in its current form and my view is unchanged.

HOST: And there you are, you're the first unmarried couple to be living in the Lodge, you present your de facto partner to other heads of state. Some people thought this would usher in some era of inclusion, and you're shutting the door, slamming the door on gay couples.

PM: Well, Jon, that's not a fair characterisation either. The Government's very broadly worked to ensure that the discrimination that was in federal law against same-sex couples and de facto couples has been removed. The really practical things about superannuation, immigration, social security that used to tie people up in knots as they went about their lives, we have addressed.

Now, of course, there's community debate about the Marriage Act. I expect that that community debate is going to continue. I've made my view clear and my view is unchanged. I've made my own life choices under Australian law as it is now.

HOST: Is it what you really believe or is it what pragmatically and politically you think you think you have to say in order to not look like you're too progressive and frightening people in the electorate?

PM: No, it's what I believe, Jon.

HOST: Really?

PM: Yes, really. You can use that querulous tone of voice with me but it's not going to change my view.

HOST: And just finally, my time, I know is nearly up. The Malaysia plan - Scott Morrison Shadow Minister for Immigration is visiting Malaysia. He'll be speaking to us shortly on the radio this morning. There's still no flesh on the bones of your plan for Malaysia and it doesn't seem to pass the most basic human rights test.

PM: I don't agree with that either, Jon, and I don't want to argue with you today but there's a number of things I can't agree with.

We've been clear all along that our arrangement with Malaysia would respect the human rights of the asylum seekers transferred, and we've been clear all along too, that we would take 4,000 more refugees from Malaysia to Australia.

And I've seen some of the publicity generated by Mr Morrison's visit today. He seems to have had conversations and the journalists travelling with him seem to have had conversations with people who have been found to be genuine refugees and been waiting periods like 10, 15, 20 years for a resettlement opportunity. Well, we are going to give 4,000 of those people the resettlement opportunity they dream of - to come here to Australia.

HOST: Julia Gillard did you see any of the SBS program Go back to where you came from?

PM: Unfortunately I didn't. I've had many, many people talk it up to me and say what a wonderful program it is, so when I can, Jon, I'm going to settle down and have a look, but I haven't been able to watch it when it's been on the TV.

HOST: It humanises the refugee experience and takes it away from statistics and slogans and lets us see the real people who we're talking about here. We're not talking about abstracts, we're not talking about policies, we're talking about people and their lives and the hardship that they face.

PM: Yes we are, Jon, talking about people and their lives. We're talking about people who have got into boats and lost their lives. We're talking about children who have drowned in sight of the horrified population of Christmas Island. We're talking about an evil trade in people smuggling and we're talking about people around the world who have been processed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, found to be refugees and are more than a decade later still waiting for a resettlement opportunity and a start to their lives.

HOST: And a compassioned vacuum from Australian political leaders from both sides, it would seem.

PM: I do not agree with that, Jon.

It's not compassion to have people get in boats and lose their lives. It's not compassion to have refugees in Malaysia and other places around the world 10 years in, 20 years in, still not getting a resettlement opportunity. I don't want to see people on boats. I do want to see more refugees here.

HOST: I'm grateful to you. I've exceeded my allocated time. I'm grateful to you for speaking to 774 this morning.

PM: Thanks for the opportunity, Jon.

Transcript 17937