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Transcript 19148

Transcript of Interview with Adam Spencer, ABC Sydney

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: 08/03/2013

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 19148

HOST: The Prime Minister is our guest, Julia Gillard, thank you so much for your time this morning.

PM: Good morning Adam.

HOST: What do you think you've achieved in the last week focussing on western Sydney?

PM: Adam, I've been to western Sydney before on many, many occasions and I'll go again in the future.

I had the opportunity to spend a bit of dedicated time there so I took it.

It gave me time to talk to a wide range of community members about a lot of different issues and we made some announcements on things that are really top of people's minds - community safety being one of them, with a better approach, federal police working with state police and a better use of national laws to crack down on gang crime.

And we took the opportunity too, to make an announcement about the preparedness of the Federal Government to put funding on the table for a road project that really works to get people into the city and freight to the port.

And yesterday I had the delight of participating in a jobs expo, and I want to make sure that western Sydney benefits from our plan for Australian jobs and our plan for innovation precincts, so we talked about making sure we've got people on the ground facilitating that.

HOST: But in terms of meeting people, Prime Minister, some people have suggested you haven't mixed with just the real regular voters of western Sydney; to a large extent this has been a stage-managed event.

There's been criticism that you bussed in some mummy bloggers from the eastern suburbs who you've met before when you could have just been out doing a traditional street walk.

I mean, has that aspect of interaction with just the general, randomly selected public been lacking?

PM: No, not at all. This became just one of those little silly media games that cycle in on itself-

HOST: But even the jobs expo was a Labor Party organised event-

PM: That is completely untrue, Adam. Completely untrue.

Jobs expos are events that the Government organises around the country.

We've done more than 70 of them, they are completely open access to the public, anyone can come.

Of course, the people who come tend to be the people who are looking for work and the employers who are putting up their hoardings and saying they've got jobs.

But it is a public access open event and we've done more than 70 of them, and so the little media game goes on but the truth of my week in western Sydney is there were countless, countless times where I was talking to people, they were able to say whatever they wanted to say on the real issues on their mind.

And let me tell you not one of them ever raised the way in which my itinerary was organised.

They were too busy talking about jobs and their kids' school and their family member with a disability.

HOST: When it comes to some of the promises that have been made, specifically with WestConnex, one of the ideas you want there is to get people all the way connected through to the city.

But a slew of experts have come out and said that's out-dated 1970s road planning, they're giving up on that sort of stuff in the United States.

Countries around the world where freeways dump people in the middle of the city are being turned back on now. Is this an old way of thinking?

PM: I don't think it is at all. I mean, the main point here is there is not much point extending a motorway - the M4 - so that it gets you closer to town but still dumps you out where you then have to find a way through.

I mean we all know that the worst gridlock happens when a big road, a motorway, comes to a shuddering halt and then you're left on ordinary-sized roads and streets trying to find your way through.

Now what Premier O'Farrell unfortunately is proposing would cost between $10 billion and $13 billion, and yet it would fail to get people through to the city, fail to get freight to the port and people would get tolled for travelling on roads that they currently travel on for free.

Well I don't think that's good enough, I think we need to see a better plan.

HOST: It's at least $1 billion for the WestConnex, you've recently promised a $1.2 billion salary increase for aged care workers, Gonski is still to come online, the NDIS, the dental scheme, against the backdrop of an economy that won't quite make surplus, a mining tax that's going well short of predicted revenue.

Many people are asking where will this money come from, is the Government writing cheques that it just can't cash?

PM: Well let's get the facts on the table, and I'm sure that people will find the facts reassuring.

Fact number one, any contribution to what you're calling the WestConnex project, the M4, the M5, any contribution to that project would come out of currently budgeted funds in our Nation Building 2 program.

They're already in the budget, already in the bottom line.

The aged care - money for people who work in aged care and to expand that workforce because we'll need to as an ageing society - is already in the budget, already in the bottom line.

The money for dental funding, already in the budget, already in the bottom line.

HOST: Gonski?

PM: Yes, we've got two big programs to finance.

One is the school funding reforms, school improvement program following the work of David Gonski and his review team, and one is the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

And I've been crystal clear with people Adam, and let me be very clear again, there will be some tough budget choices made to find the money for these two big priorities.

People will see those budget choices in the May budget, and they can judge them.

But I will be asking the nation to make some choices because these things should be our highest priority, getting our kids a world-leading education and giving people with disabilities a better deal.

HOST: Prime Minister, you've focussed on the issue of 457 visas this week. There's been a degree of emotional response from some people. Can you clarify, what's the point you're making about 457 visas and the current regime?

PM: The point I'm making is a very simple one. There are times when businesses have a legitimate need to get in someone from overseas on a temporary basis because there is an acute skill shortage and that's the only way they can get the job done.

But 457 visas, when we came to government, the program was out of control.

We've cracked down on it and I think we've got more work to do to make sure that's all it is being used for - those genuine skill shortages by businesses - and it is not being used to substitute people from overseas coming into work on a temporary basis for Australian workers, for people who are already here, indeed including people who have migrated to our country who are here looking for work and are ready, willing and able to do the job.

HOST: What are the sort of jobs that are being taken in front of Australian workers. You mean the feedback that's been gathered is from engineers and mining people that say you just can't get people with specific skills to go and work on mines a distance away.

As much as we hear of carpenters heading over to the west and making hundreds of thousands of dollars, these are places where 457 visas are playing a crucial role.

What are the sort of things you've been clamping down on, what are the sort of things that are happening that shouldn't have been?

PM: Well, of the various things that concern me, I've certainly heard about people brought in to do tiling work in city construction projects when there are people with those skills available who haven't got the work opportunity.

I've heard about businesses making jobs look like they are really high skilled jobs in order to get the visa but in truth people who come here end up working as security guards and that work obviously could have been made available to someone in Australia.

I've heard about businesses bringing someone on only to then effectively transfer the worker to another business in circumstances that doesn't meet why they said they were bringing the worker in in the first place.

They concern me and they concern me because work opportunities in our nation should first and foremost be for Australians, be for the people in our country.

HOST: This is a scheme that affect tens of thousands of people, as well as it's administered there's always going to be, I presume, a couple of instances that people might not be happy with.

But you've been accused on a deeper level of playing almost a race card. When the first person that comes out and endorses your position is Pauline Hanson, are you worried about the spin that's been put on this?

Are you worried about - some people fear that this is the beginning of what's going to be a very ugly election campaign?

PM: Well I think there will be ugliness in the election campaign, Adam.

I mean, we saw ugliness in the 2010 campaign from the Opposition about asylum seekers and refugees. We've seen ugliness every day since.

We see continued ugliness from Scott Morrison on these questions and so that will feature in the 2013 campaign unfortunately.

For me, I can't control what other people say. What I can control is what I say and I am putting the very simple proposition that Australian workers should come first.

And clearly Australian workers are people who are in Australia, born here, migrated here, made this country their home, our nation and work opportunities in our economy should be for Australians first.

HOST: Prime Minister, you say you've met a lot of people in your time in western Sydney.

Some commentators talk about a visceral hatred of Labor in the west. Some people say that people are lining up metaphorically with baseball bats waiting to attack the Government at the polls.

In your visit, have you encountered - we've spoken with ABC reporters who said they polled 30 people, 28 of whom want to vote Liberal at the moment. Are you sensing a degree of real animosity towards where the Government's at, at the moment, this far out from the election?

PM: I interact with people as I find them, of course. Some are full of praise, full of warmth, want to get a photo, you get a really fabulous reception.

Some people have got issues and concerns and complaints they want to raise with you, such is the nature of our wonderful democracy.

HOST: But especially on issues of trust is where a lot of the feedback we get is where some of the ill sentiment lies.

PM: Well, look when I've had discussions with people in western Sydney across the week, what they've really been wanting to tell me about is their lives, their perceptive, their issues.

So a lot of things that get very intensive coverage in the media they are not interested in at all, very personal, very much about their son's school, their daughter with a disability, their job, their future, their house, their drive to work, their concern about community safety.

The real essence of what it means to live and work in greater western Sydney.

HOST: Prime Minister, I know you're off to the United Nations International Women's Day breakfast today so happy International Women's Day.

Thanks for your time this morning.

PM: To you too Adam, happy International Women's Day and I'm looking forward to sharing it now with 1,700 women, I suppose a few blokes will sneak in, but 1,700 women.

HOST: Okay, thank you very much Prime Minister.

PM: Thank you.

Transcript 19148