Television Interview 840AM
- Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
- Minister for Social Inclusion
- Deputy Prime Minister
TODAY ON SUNDAY
14 JUNE 2009
ISSUES: Interest rates; Economic Stimulus Strategy; Whole of Government strategy to support Australian Jobs; Labour Force figures; Australian Building and Construction Commission; Visits to the US and Israel
LAURIE OAKES:Ms Gillard, welcome to the program.
JULIA GILLARD:Good morning, Laurie.
LAURIE OAKES: Are the days of falling interest rates behind us - is that what the Commonwealth Bank's rate rise means?
JULIA GILLARD:Well I think what the Commonwealth Bank’s rate rise means is that the Commonwealth Bank is acting in a selfish way. This is a time in which we want all Australians and all Australian businesses working together. The Government’s been acting to stimulate the economy to support Australian jobs. The Reserve Bank has been decreasing interest rates once, again to spur economic activity and to support Australian jobs, and here we have the Commonwealth Bank acting in completely the reverse direction. This is a decision the Government is rightly furious about and one we are describing as selfish because that's precisely the right word.
LAURIE OAKES:I'm shocked that you think banks might act in a selfish way. Do you think the other banks will follow the Commonwealth or will you bluff them out of it?
JULIA GILLARD: Well I think the other banks would be taking on board the Government’s words about this action. At the end of the day, how Australian banks go depends very much on how the Australian economy goes. We've been acting to support jobs and support the economy through economic stimulus. The Reserve Bank has been acting by decreasing official interest rates. We're expecting our big banks to play their part in these difficult days of the global recession.
LAURIE OAKES: Isn't this inevitable though, the result of those better than expected growth figures, better than expected jobs figures?
JULIA GILLARD:The Government’s made it clear that we're not out of the woods yet, Laurie.
LAURIE OAKES:I've heard that somewhere before.
JULIA GILLARD:You have heard it somewhere before and it’s the right expression for where we are. This is a global recession, Laurie. It's the biggest synchronised downturn in economic growth around the planet we've seen since the Great Depression. That is affecting out terms of trade; it is affecting Australian jobs and there is more of this to live through and more of it to work through. The Government’s acted decisively to support Australian jobs. We're on our way to having 35,000 construction sites around the country, building the infrastructure we need for tomorrow and supporting jobs today. That is happening and it is showing in the figures, in consumer confidence, in residential construction and in the recent growth figure. But we’ve got to take this a piece at a time, we’re got to continue to act to support the economy and we want our banks working alongside us.
LAURIE OAKES:Well Australian jobs are specifically your responsibility as Employment Minister but in the ministry reshuffle you've got two new offsiders to help you. You've got Mark Arbib as Employment Participation Minister and Jason Clare as Parliamentary Secretary for Employment. How are you going to use those two blokes?
JULIA GILLARD: Well it's my great pleasure to be leading such a quality team with Mark Arbib and Jason Clare. Laurie, I am going to task today Mark Arbib and Jason Clare to provide a report to me about whole of government actions to support Australian jobs. We have our economic stimulus hitting the ground now, building schools, building local facilities, supporting jobs. We've got the National Broadband Network rollout. That will support jobs. The Government itself is an employer - Defence Force recruitment and the like can give Australians jobs. We've got Job Services Australia, our new national employment agency and body working to provide jobseekers with support, through the tender process that has been completed, and of course we want to be reading for the new economy with green jobs. I'm going to ask Mark Arbib and Jason Clare today to provide a whole of government report across all of these efforts, how we can best link them together - training, job services, economic stimulus and the green jobs of the future.
LAURIE OAKES: So they're going to be going into other portfolios to see what can be done in those areas to create new jobs or to coordinate. Even John Faulkner in Defence, you’re saying they’ll interfere in his portfolio with recruitment?
JULIA GILLARD:This is a coordination job and both Mark Arbib and Jason Clare do have coordination roles. Mark Arbib is of course the coordination point between our economic stimulus activities and our jobs efforts. Jason Clare is looking a the local employment perspective - what can be done in those communities most at risk to tie together training efforts, government recruitment, the economic stimulus work to maximise Australian jobs - I am asking them to produce a whole of government report. Yes, they will be working with John Faulkner; they will be working with Stephen Conroy in the broadband area to tie this together as a whole of government effort about Australian jobs and keeping Australians working.
LAURIE OAKES:Now there's been some surprise that unemployment figures are not rising as had been expected. If unemployment is kept below the 8.5 per cent forecast in the Budget, will you regard that as a victory?
JUULIA GILLARD: Well, Laurie what I regard as a victory is being out there supporting Australian jobs. What we do know is it would be worse if we hadn’t acted to stimulate the economy.
Laurie, obviously when any Australian loses their job, that's a huge impact on that individual and their family. We know that without proper support, that can be a devastating impact so we want to be there, shoulder to shoulder with Australians who lose their jobs as a result of the global recession, providing the supports and services that they need.
What we're seeing in the jobs figures, Laurie, I think is the resilience of the Australian economy; the impact of economic stimulus. We're also seeing substitution of full-time jobs with part-time jobs which I suspect shows many employers in this economic downturn doing everything that they can to hold onto their staff and perhaps requesting in the difficult days of the global recession short time working arrangements, and we're seeing that reflected in the figures.
But what it reinforces in me is that we've got to keep the economic stimulus efforts flowing. We've got to roll out these 35,000 construction sites. That’s not just about construction jobs, it's about all of the flow through - the money that goes to the local shops because people have got a job at that construction site.
LAURIE OAKES:Speaking of construction sites, you’re coming under strong attack from the unions over your insistence that there's got to be a separate policing body to deal with the construction industry. Will we see your legislation this week and how much will the unions win?
JULIA GILLARD:Well when we went to the last election we gave a very clear commitment that we would abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission and replace it on the 1st of February next year with a new tough cop on the beat in building and construction. We've had His Honour Murray Wilcox give us a comprehensive report with safeguards for the controversial coercive powers that the current building industry watchdog has.
Laurie, it is my intention to bring to the Parliament this week legislation. It will be dealt with by Labor Caucus on Tuesday. It will honour our promise to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission. It will respond to the recommendations of what I thought was a very good report by His Honour Murray Wilcox and of course it will require substantial change to current Commonwealth legislation, particularly the Building Construction Industry Improvement Act.
LAURIE OAKES:Will it stop the unions squealing or do you expect a further stoush?
JULIA GILLARD:Well the union movement's made it quite clear that it doesn't agree with the promise that the Government gave in 2007. The union movement obviously thought - well particularly the reconstruction unions - that we should've moved immediately to get rid of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and obviously they debate whether there is a need for a specialist inspectorate here. Laurie, from the Government’s point of view, that debate has been had and it's over. We gave the Australian people a promise and we'll be honoring that promise.
LAURIE OAKES:Well you say the debate's over but the union’s seem determined to push this at Labor's National Conference next month. If the Conference backs them, will the Government be influenced by that decision?
JULIA GILLARD:There will be a clear Government position arising from our discussions in Labor Caucus this week. We're obviously, each of my Labor colleagues, will get to consider the proposition I'm going to put to them and the kind of legislation that should come before the Parliament. That will be the Government’s way of honouring our election commitment and our response to the very good report of Murray Wilcox.
LAURIE OAKES:But aren't Labor MPs bound by Conference decisions? If the Conference comes out on the union side, wont' you have to give in?
JULIA GILLARD:Well the Government position will be clear this week, Laurie, and that will be the position that the Government seeks to move through the Parliament. As you would be aware, we don't have the numbers in the Senate.
LAURIE OAKES:So you would ignore the National Conference of the Party?
JULIA GILLARD:Well what we do is we make the Government’s position clear, Laurie. We were elected to govern; we were elected with a set of promises. This is a Government that's prided itself, does pride itself on delivering what it promised to the Australian people. We've done that around a range of areas, in my own portfolios of education with the Education Revolution. We’ve been delivering what we’ve promised.
LAURIE OAKES: But you're dodging the question - I hate to accuse you of doing that but I asked you whether you would bow to any decision by the National Conference or whether what you put through Parliament is final.
JULIA GILLARD:Laurie, we will go to National Conference and we will be making clear at National Conference what the position of the Government is. That position will be clear this week.
LAURIE OAKES:And the Conference can go jump if it doesn’t like it?
JULIA GILLARD:Well the Government's position will be clear, Laurie.
LAURIE OAKES:OK, you're heading overseas on Wednesday, for a change it's you going overseas, no the Prime Minister. You're leading a Parliamentary delegation to Israel after visiting New York and Washington. What do you want to achieve in America and who will you be seeing there?
JULIA GILLARD: Laurie, I'm going to America to have discussions with some senior members of the Obama Administration. It's the first time I've been to the Untied States since the election of President Obama.
Whilst there I will be having discussions with Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton; I will be having discussions with my counterparts in a portfolio sense, with the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and also with the Secretary of Labor. I'm looking forward to those discussions.
Obviously in these days of the global recession, governments around the world, including the Obama Administration, are engaged in economic stimulus. They're thinking about training and support for people who become unemployed. They're thinking about the best way of managing labour rights in the circumstances of the global recession. We were elected with promises in each of these areas that we are implementing - getting rid of Work Choices, the Education Revolution - it will be interesting to have those discussions about how the US is responding in these circumstances.
LAURIE OAKES:Well Hilary Clinton, like President Obama, is taking a very strong line on Israel, demanding that Israel commit to the creation of a Palestinian state and to hold all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. Will you be discussing that with Hilary Clinton and will you take that some tough message on Australia's behalf with you to Tel Aviv?
JULIA GILLARD:I spoke last week on these questions and the Government's position about the future for Israel and the Middle East is clear. We do believe in a two state solution; we believe that that has to be with secure borders. I will obviously be saying that as I attend the first ever Australia Israel leadership dialogue.
I think this is an important new initiative. It's been driven particularly by a Melbourne businessperson, Albert Dadon, who's put in a lot of efforts into developing this new dialogue which will be across politics, across contemporary challenges - climate change, water and the like as well as across cultural issues involving cultural performances by Australians and by Israelis. I'm proud that I'm able to lead a delegation that includes some big names in Australian politics, including Peter Costello.
LAURIE OAKES:Well Peter Costello's going to be your deputy on this trip. I guess he's used to being a deputy but have you learned anything from him, watching him over the years, for example will you be a shrinking violet like Peter Costello or will you move to grab the leadership when you think it's your turn?
JULIA GILLARD:Laurie, that's a well phrased question. Firstly, I've never really thought of Peter Costello as my deputy. But I'm sure we will do some work together in this Australia Israel dialogue. If I were to style him as my deputy, I'd certainly want to be a lot nicer to him that I believe John Howard may have been during the days he was John Howard's deputy.
On the rest of your question, Laurie, I'm loving being Deputy Prime Minister of this country with my portfolio responsibilities. I made a decision back in 2006 that I desperately wanted to see Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister of this nation and work with him as his deputy. The Australian people were good enough to invest trust in us in the 2007 election and the only thing I hope for is that we are living up to that trust.
LAURIE OAKES:Sounds very like what Peter Costello used to say in the early days, but we're out of time. We thank you.
JULIA GILLARD:I think, Laurie, it's a lot clearer than anything Peter Costello every said.
LAURIE OAKES:Thank you very much.