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Transcript 19184

Transcript of Interview with Geoff Hutchison

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: 27/03/2013

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 19184

ABC Perth

HOST: Prime Minister Julia Gillard, welcome to the program.

PM: Thank you very much, good to be here.

HOST: Nice to have you here. Before we get started today, I wonder if you might be able to put to bed some rumours about superannuation.

A lot of talk this morning that the Government is planning to make adjustments to super in the budget to fund the promises like the NDIS and the school reforms.

PM: Our eyes on superannuation are always about the system working well, working for working people and being sustainable for the long term future.

Superannuation is only in this country because Labor brought it here, otherwise ordinary working people wouldn't have super, only some high-income earners would.

So I can assure people, superannuation is a Labor creature, we will always nurture it well, and any decisions we make will be about the long term interests of the superannuation system.

HOST: But until you provide the detail, Tony Abbott will be able to continue to do what he did today to say that you're planning to raid tax concessions for wealthy Australians.

PM: Well, first and foremost this is the same Tony Abbott who ran around the country making wild and ridiculous claims about carbon pricing, none of which came true, so there's some credibility factors here when Mr Abbott goes back to fear campaigning.

Number two, Mr Abbott actually has a policy that he has verified on more than one occasion to cut superannuation for low-income Australians - that is he would take away the low income superannuation contribution scheme so he would be making low-income people up to $500 worse off when it comes to their super.

So that's the superannuation package that's on the table from the Opposition; cutting to low-income super.

HOST: But you will be aware too that Simon Crean said the other day that to make any such move, to make these adjustments, would tarnish Labor's legacy.

He, like you, says Labor created superannuation. His belief is it should be off limits to revenue raising, will it be off limits to revenue raising?

PM: As I've just said to you, when we think about superannuation we think about what is in the interests of working people. What is in the interests of their decent retirement incomes, and what is in the interests of making the system sustainable; that's what we think about.

HOST: Prime Minister, you have repeatedly said this week that Australians were appalled - and you were appalled - by what went on last week. What personal responsibility do you accept for what happened?

PM: I was appalled by the events of last week, and I think I've shared that view with Australians. For myself, I'm of course responsible for my performance as Prime Minister, and for my leadership of the Labor Government and my leadership of the nation.

We've got a lot of hard work to do. I said that I've got an aim every morning of getting out of bed and doing this job better than I did it the day before. And I want that to be the aim of all of my team.

Everybody's got to, not just step up to a mark, but improve and improve and improve. We owe the Australian people that.

HOST: Okay, but it makes it sound as if you're an onlooker and not the central character, or a central character, in the events of last week.

You ask us to look ahead and not behind. Because if we do, isn't the reality that we might see a series of terrible political car crashes?

PM: Well I'm happy to go through them if you want to put any issue to me about the performance of the Government.

HOST: Perhaps you might be a bit reflective here and consider whether you have made some mistakes?

PM: No one is perfect. You're not the perfect radio host, there's never been a perfect politician in this country - there never will be a perfect politician in this country.

So everybody is human, everybody is capable of making an error. People are capable of improving too.

And I do get out of bed every morning with a sense of energy and always wanting to do better for the Australian nation today than I've done yesterday.

HOST: But you don't want to engage me on this at all?

PM: No, I'm happy to but let's do it around facts. Because what I find when I do interviews - I did one on the 7.30 Report last - not last night but in recent days - what happens is people go through the fashionable list shopped around by the Opposition of issues with the Government.

But when you actually go through it, policy by policy, step by step, then I get the opportunity to explain what we did and why we did it.

So, if there is something about the Government that you want me to talk about, I'm more than happy to, but let's get to the specifics of it.

HOST: Well I'm happy to talk about your policies in a moment. But I guess we're looking at a week where you're facing more disastrous opinion polls - and I do understand your views on opinion polls - you've lost three senior disenchanted Cabinet Ministers to the back bench.

I wonder, do you seriously believe that you can retell all this and all the distracting events of last week as some kind of story of renewal for this week?

PM: What I can say to people absolutely straight is that the events of last week are over and the leadership issues are over.

And what has been a big problem for the Government and people's perceptions of the Government, I don't think people have doubted that we've had a sense of purpose and I had a sense of purpose as Prime Minister and I've been very determined about jobs, about improving schools, about creating the National Disability Insurance Scheme, about doing all the big things we need to do to get ready for this future century of change in our region.

I think we've had a clear sense of purpose. What we haven't had on display is any sense of unity.

HOST: What does that reflect?

PM: I think it reflects - and there's no mystery about this - there's been an ongoing leadership issue within Labor between me and Mr Rudd and it is now finished.

HOST: I'd like to go to some calls. You're listening to Glenn, good morning Glenn.

CALLER: Yeah g'day. I'm just wondering if the Prime Minister has heard about the price of refrigeration gas since the carbon tax. It's gone from $100 a bottle for your average size barbie bottle, to $1,000 a bottle. We want to know why our industry is getting absolutely slammed and there's not a thing we can do about it. Thank you.

PM: Well I've dealt with this before. Refrigeration gases - because they are so polluting - have actually been the subject of special arrangements over a long period of time; special imposts.

Indeed, that dates back to the Howard Government and to some international agreements about the treatment of these gases because they are such powerful greenhouse gases.

So Glenn, any impost - there's been one there for a long time - yes, it was increased by carbon pricing, no doubt about that. And that was all factored in to the 0.7 per cent increase in the cost of living if that increase in cost was passed through to consumers.

And as we know now, we're not just guessing, as we know now, cost of living has not increased by more than we predicted and people have received tax cuts and family payment increases and pension increases which help them with that flow through of 0.7 per cent in the cost of living.

HOST: Glenn, thanks for your question. Good morning Lachie.

CALLER: Good morning Prime Minister Gillard and Geoff, how are you going?

PM: Good thank you.

CALLER: Good. I'm a 17 year old doing political science and ag science at UWA and I'd like to raise a concern with the Prime Minister that what her view is on the live export trade.

Now my father is a farmer, a livestock producer in Bruce Rock, and to be honest Prime Minister, I think it's quite appalling that your Government can put in place a ban on live exports.

Now these people, I know the Labor Party is for the working Australia, how do you feel as the Prime Minister to take away the livelihoods of so many great Australians?

PM: I'm happy to answer that. There's no ban on live exports now.

What happened with this - and I had to act and take a tough decision in the long term interests of the industry - what happened was we export live animals, we'll continue to export live animals, there was a great deal of concern raised in the Australian community about animal welfare standards and treatment of animals who were exported.

I myself met with people who work in the live animal export industry who raised these animals and they too were just upset, tearful, they don't want to see their animals treated like that, it really hurt them.

And so we faced a situation where if we did nothing and images of this kind of cruelty just came back to Australia time after time after time, then community anxiety would have got to a stage where people were saying ban this industry and ban it for all time.

What I chose to do instead was to put in place a ban so we could move to increase animal welfare standards. We've done that. And what that means is we've put the industry on a strong and stable footing for the future.

So people will still be able to be engaged in this industry rather than losing their livelihoods for all time.

HOST: Lachie, a final observation from you?

CALLER: Yeah, yeah I understand the view on that but I still don't - I struggle to understand that people, Joe Ludwig and his comments on that issue. Now-

PM: Well, Joe was very supportive of farmers and industry during that debate, very supportive about working through it.

CALLER: I understand that he was supportive Ms Gillard, but how can those livestock producers up north, they can't just grow a crop to compensate for the income that they lost during the ban.

PM: Lachie, you are creating the impression now that people up north somehow today are banned from exporting their animals, that's not true.

CALLER: No, I'm not.

PM: We've got a new system with tracking and tracing of animal welfare standards so people can export, and export knowing that because animal welfare standards are being dealt with they are not at risk of a sudden outpouring of community sentiment which closes their business down for all time.

HOST: Lachie, thank you for your call. This is Garry, good morning.

CALLER: Good morning, how are you?

HOST: We're well Garry, what's your question?

CALLER: Julia, I'd just like to say as far as people working in the trades, it's a good decision to see that someone at long last has had a look at the 457 situation. The business sector is the only people that are really anti about this.

But the second thing is, I was listening to a talkback program last week saying that there's something like 600,000 New Zealand people residing in Australia now. And also that people can go through New Zealand, get a passport there from other countries, and come into Australia. Will this be looked at in the future?

PM: We've got a broad set of arrangements with New Zealand which integrate our countries. Obviously the relationship between the two of us is a very special and close one; ANZAC, our history, their history intertwined.

New Zealanders are like family to us and so there are special arrangements for New Zealanders to come to Australia and work here and for Australians to go there. We're not intending to change any of that.

My focus has been on 457s because this is the area where we've seen some real concerns for good reasons that temporary overseas workers are being brought in and taking jobs where there were Australians ready, willing and able to do it.

When I talk about these things peoples' minds always go to the mining industry but actually the number of applications for mining has gone down.

The big growth has been in things like IT and retail and hospitality where there are Australians who have the skills or could get the skills in order to get a good opportunity in those industries.

HOST: Do you have the strong evidence to support that rorting?

PM: Absolutely. Look at the statistics which we've made available. Look at the individual examples that we've pointed to where people have been brought in for jobs that are described as high-skill jobs only to find they're working as security guards or only to find that their employment has been transferred to another employer and they're in a very mainstream job where there would have been Australians available to do that work.

HOST: Let's go to Greg, who wants you to impress him over the course of the next few months, hi Greg.

CALLER: Hi Geoff, hi Julia. Thanks for coming to WA.

PM: Thank you.

CALLER: My background is, my family origins are the Hill End Goldfields in New South Wales, I've lived in WA for four years, came here for work. I've been a Labor voter for 47 years.

I believe that every time you're asked a question you respond by talking about Mr Abbott. I'm quite frankly sick and tired of him driving the agenda. I want to hear from you. I don't want you hear his name out of you or team's lips. I want to hear from you, what you've done and why you've done it.

I want you to drive the agenda and you've got five months to convince me not to vote against Labor for the first time in my life.

PM: Well that's fine and I can assure you I drive the agenda and I talk constantly about the Government's policies and plans.

I think it is appropriate from time-to-time to remind people what the alternative is, and so I will do that too.

But just sitting here on this show now I've taken questions about live animal exports, I've taken questions about a range of issues where I've talked to people about what the Government is planning.

But I do think there are times where people do want to know what the other side of politics is doing so if we're talking about superannuation I think for example low income earners are entitled to know that there is a plan on the other side of politics to cut back their superannuation benefits.

That's not trying to engage in some cheap argy-bargy, it's just giving people the facts.

HOST: Let me go back to Greg. Greg, what is it that you want to hear from the Prime Minister in the next five months?

CALLER: I want to hear questions answered directly, Geoff. You asked her several times to put off the table she was going to interfere in anyway with superannuation. She refused to answer it.

I want to hear direct responses from her.

PM: Why don't you ask me a question and I'll give you a very direct response? I'm really happy to do so.

CALLER: Okay, I've got one for you. We're trying to recruit sports coaches from overseas because there is nobody available in Australia of the quality we want.

You've taken away LAFHA which has made it much more difficult for people to come here to WA because of the cost of living.

We've had four people on the books ready to come over. But when they look at the cost of living and they no longer have access to LAFHA they have rejected the position.

Now I want to know why that's happened and would there be special circumstances where you might consider that?

PM: Well I think we should just explain for people who aren't familiar with the term. LAFHA was a set of particular tax benefits and arrangements for people coming from overseas, and we did clamp down on those and straight answer - it was absolutely the right thing to do because Government dollars are precious, taxpayers' dollars are precious.

I've got to make choices about whether I do that - those kinds of tax breaks - or whether I put that money into schools and hospitals and I've decided schools and hospitals and all the other important things that Government does is a higher priority. So no, we won't be bringing those breaks back.

CALLER: Straight answer, thank you Prime Minister.

PM: Very straight.

HOST: Thank you very much for the question. Prime Minister, you do have a story to tell and it's a story about low unemployment and growth and education reforms and the NBN, which all require funding, so too the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

But if the story is so compelling why is there an impression that people are not listening?

PM: I think there's been a lot of white noise and a lot of distractions, but come election day I think the choice will fine down and it'll be a very specific one as I've outlined to you.

I think we've got to be fairly understanding about the age in which we live. This is an age where, with all of the changes in media technology, the drive has been for quicker, faster, more, more, less depth, more.

And then people say well it's harder to have the public policy discussions that we used to in the past. I think it is harder. I think it's harder in Australia. I think it's harder in America. I think it's harder in the UK. I think it's harder around the world because of the changing nature of media arrangements.

Now that's not a criticism of the media, it's just an observation. You as a radio person a few years back probably could spend more time thinking directly about this exchange and less worried about tweeting and doing an interview on camera and perhaps appearing on someone else's show because presenters become brands now and they need to engage in all of this.

You talk to any of the journos in the press gallery in Canberra. They'll talk to you about the tempo, about how quickly they've got to write, they get a call in the morning, get 800 words of analysis up by 8.30 in the morning.

I just think that there's a changing tempo here. In that changing tempo all of us - me, the nation - has to find the space for the deep conversations that really matter, and none of them are more important than what we're doing to get ready for this century of change in our region. And what we're doing what example in schools.

HOST: Do you believe that sections of the media, particularly the Murdoch media, is out to sabotage your re-election prospects?

PM: Look, I'm not engaging in some conspiracy theorist politics. The observations I just made were observations I could have made sitting in the United States talking about President Obama's re-election campaign.

From time-to-time I think that there have been things in newspapers which have been unfair criticism which haven't in anyway enriched the public debate, haven't got people the facts, have in fact got them false impressions. And when we see that of course we call it.

HOST: One more question from Adam. Adam, good morning.

CALLER: Good morning, how are you Geoff?

HOST: Good thanks Adam. What's your question, mate?

CALLER: Julia, I've got a two-pronged question. Initially I'll give you a little bit of my background. I'm just about to get discharged from Defence for post-traumatic stress from my last tour of duty up in Afghanistan, and being in Western Australia you could probably work out what little group I work with.

I'm aware of a large amount of people coming home as is the media - two are coming home in the next 12 to 18 months. My experiences with DVA, the Department of Veteran Affairs, is a very jagged field and nobody can give you direct answers of where you're going to be and where you're going to end up which adds to the stresses and the, what else to say-

HOST: That's okay, we understand Adam.

CALLER: Just the stresses of the discharge process. Now what is your plan, this is the first half of the question, for the return guys that are coming with those problems because they are going to come back and things are going to be different for them.

And the second half of that, you come into the asylum seeker process, how can we have this asylum seeker coming into an Australian port when there's a safe UN border to get here?

So an asylum seeker coming from Afghanistan, Iraq or Sri Lanka cannot come to Australia as an asylum seeker once they've passed a safe border being Indonesia. Why haven't you jumped on the Indonesian Government and stopped the boats at the Indonesian lines like the Sri Lankans are trying to do?

HOST: Adam, thank you very much. Let's focus on the first part of the question because John Cantwell was on 7.30 last night saying that there are going to be thousands and thousands of soldiers coming back to this country, a tidal wave of post-traumatic stress disorder. What help will Adam receive?

PM: Well Adam, for your individual matter I'm more than happy through the producer here to take your details and to follow that up, your individual circumstances.

More generally, we are doing a lot of working and a lot of thinking about this. I went, for example, and met with some of the people who have served as commandos in Afghanistan and have come back with physical injuries and mental injuries, trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and the like.

And one of the reasons I did that was to hear firsthand from people how they've found the supports and services and to work out how we can best provide those supports and services as people return. So we are working on that with Defence, with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

To be frank, I get different kinds of feedback about the Department of Veterans Affairs. I've met numbers of people who have returned from Afghanistan, who have been absolutely full of praise for the work that they've done and the support that they've had.

Obviously, you've had a different experience and I want to take that on board and deal with it very seriously which is why we'll follow it up for you.

HOST: Adam, look we've passed on your details to Annie and the Prime Minister's folks will be having a yarn with you.

Prime Minister, I know you have to go. Thank you very much for coming in this morning.

PM: Thank you very much. Good to be here.

Transcript 19184