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Transcript 17959

Transcript of interview with David Speers, Sky News

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: 07/07/2011

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 17959

HOST: Prime Minister welcome, I want to start with the live cattle trade, it's now been reopened to Indonesia, are you able to say now that no Australian cattle will be subject to the sort of brutal slaughter that we saw in the Four Corners program?

PM: Well we're certainly able to say that we've worked hard on animal welfare standards and there will be auditing and tracing of where animals go and the abattoirs they go to will be independently audited, so people should expect to see full information about where cattle are being handled from when they leave the farm, through transport to the ship, on the ship, into the feedlot, into the abattoir - all traced, all tracked, all transparent and with welfare standards at every point.

HOST: It doesn't guarantee that we won't see a repeat of these shocking conditions though does it?

PM: Well it does mean that we've got abattoirs that are audited and we're able to trace what happens to each animal, so it will be transparent if there's a problem. We've never been in this position before, we haven't been able to say what's happened to Australian cattle when they've got to Indonesia, and we saw that shocking footage on Four Corners as a result, now we've got these systems that will attached to export permits to give people reassurance that the trade is meeting animal welfare standards not just in the coming weeks after all of this media scrutiny, but it all of the years to come.

HOST: Have any Australian officials though actually been in to have a look at any Indonesian abattoirs?

PM: The abattoirs will be independently audited, so they won't be Australian officials, there are international companies that do this work and can independently audit. So an exporter, and Elders and a number of others say that they are very close to being in this position, will be able to seek an export permit saying ‘yes I can track my cattle all the way through the chain, I can make that transparent to the Australian public and I can say that the abattoir that they're going to is being independently audited.'

HOST: But wouldn't you prefer to have an Australian Government official have a look?

PM: Well I think the main thing is to have a credible figure have a look and an independent auditor is a credible figure.

HOST: Now as you know there's been a great deal of angst on your own backbench about this issue and still is, a number of Labor MPs wanted to see stunning made mandatory in Indonesian abattoirs before slaughter, why haven't you gone that far?

PM: Well we've been clear all along that we were aiming for the international standards, stunning is not mandatory in Australia and we've said all along we're aiming for the international standards, we want to encourage stunning and we will and our policies have been about that but we've said that Indonesia needs, we want abattoirs treating Australian animals to be at the international standard and that's what the export permits will be about.

HOST: Was there consultation with the backbench before you announced, or before the Minister announced the reopening of the trade?

PM: This issue's been the subject of discussion at a number of Caucus meetings and in smaller committees and groups in the Caucus.

HOST: But why wasn't there a meeting or some sort of consultations, a working group in Caucus that was set up to deal with this, why weren't they consulted before this announcement?

PM: Well David our internal processes are a matter for us and we do work in a consultative way with Labor Members. Yesterday we found ourselves in a position where the three things that needed to come together to enable the trade to be resumed had come together, that is Minister Ludwig had led a process where he had agreed standards with industry, he was able therefore to have the new regulatory framework with the export licenses. A number of Australian producers like Elders said to us that they either could or very shortly would be able to meet those new standards and Indonesia had said that it was prepared to issue import permits for our exports - when those three things came together, they were the three things we needed to come together to resume the trade. As soon as they came together Minister Ludwig announced that the trade could be resumed under these conditions. We obviously wanted to give that message to industry as quickly as possible because people have been understandably very, very anxious.

HOST: Can I turn to the carbon tax which you'll unveil in a few days time, you've been saying for months that it will apply to up to 1000 companies, the biggest polluting companies, it's now going to hit only 500. Why?

PM: Look we've made coverage decisions, all of which will become apparent on Sunday when you and many of your media colleagues are required to work so hard to report the new arrangements to the Australian people. We've made decisions about coverage arrangements; some of those have been under discussion this week. For example our decision to exclude the petrol that Australian families buy and that tradies buy and people with light commercial vehicles, but I think this figure of 500 strongly reinforces the point that this is a price being paid by big businesses, a limited number of big businesses, it is not being paid by Australian families.

HOST: Well they pass on the costs though to Australian families?

PM: Yes and we've always been upfront about that but I think there's been some confusion as to who actually pays the direct price for carbon pollution, who needs to pay the price per tonne and this figure of 500 makes it very clear the people paying the price per tonne are big polluters and a very limited number of companies.

And I just think David we've got to be clear about this because there is some anxiety around, there are a lot of small businesses who are thinking to themselves gee maybe it's a bit like the GST and I'll have this new business activity statement and heavens knows when the GST came along that almost drove me nuts because a lot of small businesses really struggled with the business activity statements. What this confirms to them today is there's nothing new they need to do as a small business, there's no new form, no new paper work, no more red tape, they don't have to do anything except keep operating their small business-

HOST: -Just a higher costs for electricity and their other inputs.

PM: I'll come to the cost but on the who's in the system filling out the forms and paying the price, it's the 500 big polluters, they're big businesses so they're well places to deal with the new system. Yes, costs will be passed through, I'm absolutely transparent and upfront about that, and that's why we are providing tax cuts and pension increases and family payments increases to 9 out of 10 households.

HOST: But what do the small and medium businesses get to help them, I understand in the original CPRS package that Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull were negotiating there was a package of assistance worth $1.25 billion for small and medium business to help them with the transition. What do they get this time?

PM: Well obviously all details of the package will be available on Sunday.

HOST: So they will get something?

PM: Well, I'm not going to pre-announce Sunday for you, we're going to make you work on Sunday as the package is unveiled, but what I can say about small business is there's no new red tape or forms for them-

HOST: -There is a cost.

PM: And costs will be passed through, can be passed through to Australian households and that's why there is tax cuts and family payment increases and pension increases for 9 out of 10 households.

HOST: By limiting, by taking petrol and agriculture out of this scheme and limiting the impost to just those 500 companies, it doesn't sound like the sort of broad based scheme that Ross Garnaut and other economists have been arguing for.

PM: Well I don't agree with that, this is a scheme where we've made coverage choices but it's focussed on our biggest polluters, the companies causing the biggest pollution for our nation and in our economy and in driving change and innovation in those businesses.

HOST: There's also reports this morning that the carbon price will start at $23 a tonne, are you able to confirm that?

PM: David, I'm inevitably going to disappoint you and say that you will need to wait until Sunday.

HOST: Can you tell me this, is there anywhere in the world that has a carbon price that high, $23 a tonne?

PM: Well David I'm not going to play any games about the carbon price, you will need to see the full details of the scheme.

HOST: But even if it's more than $20, is that higher than elsewhere?

PM: Well you're not going to get me to speculate on the carbon price-

HOST: It's not about this package; it's about what other countries are doing, like New Zealand.

PM: David you would be aware in the media environment we're in at the moment that if I start speculating about pricing any way, that will be read as me confirming an individual price, I'm not going to do that, you will need to wait until Sunday to see the full details of the scheme.

In terms of what price has been selected, I can certainly confirm to you that we have thought long and hard about the right price to ensure that we reduce carbon pollution, but also the right price to ensure that we can continue to enjoy an economy that is an envy of the world and as we put the scheme together we've also understood, even as our economy is strong and we've come out of the Global Financial Crisis as the envy of the world, there are many Australian families struggling with cost of living pressures and that's why 9 out of 10 households will get tax cuts, payment increases, or a combination of both.

HOST: You're going to brief your Caucus colleagues on Sunday morning about this as well, before the announcement. We hear this morning that the Greens MPs will get their briefing on Saturday. Can you understand some of your backbenchers being a little bit miffed about that?

PM: Well once again Labor Party arrangements are for me and the Labor Party to decide. Our Caucus colleagues will be out there from Monday on putting the case for a price on carbon up and down the streets and town halls of this country-

HOST: -But do they deserve the detail before the Greens?

PM: My Labor colleagues get from me the upmost respect, they are people who believe in changing this nation, they're people who believe that Australian families deserve to have a strong economy with the opportunities that should come for all from that strong economy. They're people who believe that we can tackle these big challenges of the future.

We've worked with our Labor caucus, we'll make all of the necessary arrangements so they will be out there explaining carbon pricing from Monday on, right around this great nation of ours.

HOST: As part of that sales pitch, when will the tax payer funded ads start?

PM: Well there will be advertisements that will start sometime after the announcement on Sunday-

HOST: -Before the legislation is introduced?

PM: Ah, yes it will be before the legislation is introduced-

HOST: -Why?

PM: In order to enable people to prepare for carbon pricing. I want Australian families to understand all the details of this. I want them to understand what they're getting in tax cuts and payment increases. I also want them to understand the small changes they can make that actually cut carbon pollution in their own lives.

HOST: But if it doesn't start for another 12 months, why do you need to advertise now?

PM: Because I believe people are entitled, when a big change is happening in our national economy and for our environment for the future, to understand that change. And there will be people, I think, who jump on websites, think about it, get information about how they can cut carbon pollution in their household while still enjoying the same creature comforts we all rely on and they'll start making some changes to light bulbs and those kind of things that mean when carbon pricing comes into effect, they will have cut carbon pollution in their own lives already.

HOST: As you're often reminded, you said to voters before the election that there would be no carbon tax, your explanation for that is that you didn't realise the hung Parliament situation you'd be faced with. But surely you knew you'd need the Greens in the Senate, you didn't think Labor was going to have control of both Houses?

PM: Well, political parties in this country campaign on the basis of what they want to do if they're elected to government. I've never known anybody to campaign on the basis of what they thought they could do faced with the Senate that they might be faced with after the election. I don't recall for example John Howard campaigning for the GST on the basis that he'd have the GST Meg Lees would let him have. So you put forward your policies and plans as someone who is contending to lead the nation.

HOST: But you gave an emphatic guarantee there'd be no carbon tax, wouldn't it have been more honest to say ‘My preference is for an emissions trading scheme but if we have to deal with the Greens then we will consider a fixed price'?

PM: Well I think David, with respect, you're making a series of assumptions. There's no leader in this nation's history who's campaigned on the basis of what they think the Senate may or may not do. So I don't know why that test should be peculiarly applied to me and not to anybody else. Number two, you're making some very big assumptions about what the position of the Liberal Party might be from moment to moment, a Liberal Party that's been-

HOST: -It was pretty clear from the point Tony Abbott took over wasn't it?

PM: Well, and it was very clear from the day before he took over that they were in favour of an emissions trading scheme and Prime Minister Howard couldn't have been clearer, Tony Abbott sitting alongside him in Cabinet, they were all in favour of an emissions trading scheme.

So I don't have a good enough crystal ball to work out the twists and turns of Liberal Party politics. I went to the last election saying to people climate change is real, we do need to price carbon, that's the most efficient way to do it, I want an emissions trading scheme.

David, we will get to that emissions trading scheme. Yes, we're getting there in a different way than I predicted, there will be a temporary carbon tax and the emissions trading scheme I wanted and which the nation needs to have to have a clean energy future will be permanent.

HOST: Couple of other issues just finally, the Private Health Insurance Rebate, the Government's again trying today introducing legislation to means test the Private Health Insurance Rebate. At the moment it looks like you're going to struggle though in the Lower House, Tony Windsor has suggested he's not going to back this. If it doesn't get through does that leave a hole in the budget of around $2.8 billion?

PM: Well we will keep pressing to get this through and remember we're in this position because of the complete fiscal irresponsibility of the Liberal Party. This is the fastest growing area of health expenditure and it's skewed towards upper income earners. That means that there are people who work in factories in this country who are subsidising through their taxes the private health insurance of the CEO of their business.

HOST: But you can't convince your minority Government partners on this, clearly there's a problem.

PM: Well, I simply don't think that's right, it's not the right thing to do to require lower income Australians to subsidise the private health insurance of high income Australians and under this scheme we're talking about people being able to claim some part of the rebate until their family income is a quarter of a million dollars. And we're talking about the fastest growing area of health expenditure, we need that money for other areas in health and we will keep putting that pace

HOST: Alright, but if you don't get it through will the budget still get back into surplus, on track?

PM: The budget will be back in surplus in 2013 as promised, even if we continue to face these wrecking games from the Liberal Party that tries to promise all things to all people on the budget, that they can have bigger surpluses, bigger tax cuts, knock back every saving, shovel money out the door for their latest fad programs and still make it all add up, it doesn't add up. To get a budget in surplus you've got to take tough decisions, we'll keep taking them.

HOST: And a final one, gay marriage. The New South Wales Labor Conference is on this weekend, it's expected a motion to support gay marriage will be passed, it's been passed by a few other state conferences in recent months. Are you listening to the Party on this or is your position unchanged?

PM: My position's unchanged but I do think that it's a good thing that Labor people come together and talk about ideas. They do that at state conferences, they do that at branch meetings, they increasingly do it online, they do it in policy interest groups and they'll throw out ideas and work their way through them, that's a good thing. So I think having state conferences that have big debates is actually showing a vibrancy in the democratic culture within the Labor Party. For me, I've got my own view.

HOST: At the National Conference at the end of the year, if it's passed then does that change anything or is it still a matter for you and your Caucus colleagues. Can the conference actually change the government's position on this?

PM: The National Conference doesn't ever set government positions. What National Conference does is it sets the platform, the aspirations for our political party but always government, Labor Caucus in government makes decisions on government policy.

HOST: And this won't be changed regardless of the Conference?

PM: Well let's have National Conference at the end of the year. I'm not as Prime Minister going to sit here and dictate who can come to National Conference and say what. That wouldn't be in accord with my general view that we're a party of government and a party of ideas and it's a good thing that passionate Labor people come and debate ideas. I've made my personal views clear.

HOST: And you'll ignore the National Conference if it decides in favour of gay marriage?

PM: Well David, I've made my personal views clear and they'll continue to be my views.

HOST: Alright, just a very final one. You are in a difficult political position at the moment, no doubt about that. How important will the next few weeks be for you?

PM: The thing that matters to me is this nation's future and fighting for what's right for that future. Now I understand people will do the political commentary and political analysis but I feel energised and determined to fight for a change that is in this nation's interest. I want us to be a nation that has the benefits of a strong economy and is doing the right thing by the environment. We can achieve that through carbon pricing, protecting jobs now, getting the clean energy jobs of the future, cutting our carbon pollution and helping Australian households with cost of living pressures on the way through.

I know we've had a big political debate to get here and there have been some harsh words spoken on all sides, now is the time to get on with this job. We are a confident, creative nation, we're a people that's been up to big change and big challenges in the past, we can get this done and I'll be out there explaining to people what it means and leading the nation through this change.

HOST: Prime Minister, thank you.

PM: Thank you.

Transcript 17959