Television Interview - Weekend Today - Channel 9
- Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
- Minister for Social Inclusion
- Deputy Prime Minister
E&OE TRANSCRIPTTELEVISION INTERVIEW840 AM SUNDAY7 FEBRUARY 2010WEEKEND TODAY LAURIE OAKES INTERVIEW (NINE)
ISSUES: CPRS, My School and National Partnerships, Workplace Relations
LAURIE OAKES:Ms Gillard, welcome to the program.
JULIA GILLARD:Good morning, Laurie.
LAURIE OAKES:Look, the Government seems to be in real political trouble now that the Emissions Trading policy is losing support. Why aren't you trying to reposition?
JULIA GILLARD:Laurie, obviously we are a government that was elected to deal with climate change. We said to the Australian people, in 2007, that we would face this issue, and the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is our way of dealing with the carbon pollution in this country. It caps carbon pollution, it puts the costs on big polluters, and it helps working families with a compensation package. So we are going to continue arguing for that, Laurie.
Obviously we're now faced with Mr Abbott and his climate change con job. We will continue to have the debate with Mr Abbott, including in the Parliament, as our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation comes back into the Parliament, debated through the House of Representatives, and then into the Senate.
LAURIE OAKES:But don't you agree that the scheme has lost support and is losing support?
JULIA GILLARD:I believe Australians want to tackle climate change. I believe Australians understand that dealing with an issue as big as climate change is complicated. We obviously have to continue a conversation with the Australian people about all of the things we're doing on climate change, Laurie. The measures we're taking to support renewable energy, solar power, wind power, geothermal - the measures we're taking to help households adapt so they themselves generate less carbon pollution. And, of course, the specifics of our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
LAURIE OAKES:But you're not answering the question, Support is dwindling, isn't it?
JULIA GILLARD:Look, Laurie, I believe we've got to continue to have the discussion and conversation with the Australian people....
LAURIE OAKES:Yes, yes, I know...
JULIA GILLARD:Well, when I'm out talking to people, Laurie, the reaction I get from people is that they do want to do something about climate change. They do want questions answered about the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. And that's exactly what we're doing.
LAURIE OAKES:President Barack Obama recognises that the scheme that he wants - which is much the same as yours - has lost support. He's cutting and running. Why don't you do the same? Your election's looming very closely.
JULIA GILLARD:I think, Laurie, that's not exactly how I would characterise President Obama's position. President Obama is obviously in a similar position to us in the sense that he's got to deal with a Senate that looks like it won't pass the bill as he would like it. He's dealing with that political reality.
We, too, are dealing with that political reality. And we are going back to the Senate with our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which was the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Tony Abbott agreed with last year, Malcolm Turnbull agreed with last year, and the majority of the Liberal Party agreed with last year...
LAURIE OAKES:But that's all changed. They don't agree anymore. Copenhagen was a fiasco and a joke. And support is dwindling in the polls for this scheme. I mean, surely the Government must adjust to that reality?
JULIA GILLARD:Laurie, we're going to go back to the Senate and make the points that I've just made. We're presenting a bill that, as recently as last year, Mr Abbott agreed with. Then, of course, he flip-flopped and said climate change is absolute crap. And now he's concocted this climate change con job. But we will continue in the Parliament, and beyond, to say this nation has to deal with climate change.
The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the most efficient mechanism for doing that. It caps carbon pollution. It makes big polluters pay. It compensates households. And compared with Tony Abbott's con job - which won't work, costs more and is unfunded - we're prepared to have that argument, Laurie, and we will.
LAURIE OAKES:Well, his policy mightn't work, but I'm sure his scare campaign's got a pretty good chance. It's a re-run of Labor's anti-GST campaign.
JULIA GILLARD:Well, Laurie, you're pointing to the hollowness at the heart of Tony Abbott's statements about climate change. It's not good enough for someone who says he wants to be the prime minister of this country to put forward a scheme that won't work, that's unfunded, and that he, you know, isn't really arguing the details of in his first press conference he wasn't across the details of it - all this adds up to Mr Abbott being a big economic risk to this country a risk on climate change and a risk to the economy. You can't, as the alternate Prime Minister, spit out policies that simply don't add up.
LAURIE OAKES:Well, you can't, as a Government, look as though you're not across your own policy either. In the last week, we've seen ministers, even prime ministers, being tied up in knots about the impact of the ETS on various costs.
Tony Abbott himself has laughed and compared the performance of the Government to poor old John Hewson trying to explain the impact of a GST on a birthday cake. Now, on the basis of that kind of scare campaign and the Government's inept response, you could be in deep trouble if you go to an election with this.
JULIA GILLARD:Laurie, I believe the Government is explaining the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. I think we are seeing a cycle this week in politics where it's "Catch the politician out on one figure" day. We'll see those cycles come and go. Laurie, the reality is, if you said to Mr Abbott right now, "You were Health Minister for four years. What's the Medicare rebate if you go to an orthopaedic surgeon and you're seeking a consultation about getting your knee reconstructed - what, precisely, in dollars and cents is that figure?" I suspect Mr Abbott couldn't answer that question for you...
LAURIE OAKES: It's not quite the same as the Government defending itself against charges that it's going to impose a big new tax on everything.
JULIA GILLARD:Well, we've seen that kind of game, Laurie, played this week.
JULIA GILLARD:It works, doesn't it?
JULIA GILLARD: Putting individual case scenarios. The fundamentals of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme are clear - it caps carbon pollution - that's what we've got to do for our environment. It makes big polluters pay. It compensates households - 92% of households will get compensation. Who misses out? Well, Laurie, people like you and me, because we're higher-income earners. The adjustment in terms of costs for families is 1.1%, and obviously families are overwhelmingly - 92% are being compensated.
LAURIE OAKES:Kevin Rudd's trademark is verbal sludge. He's got a black belt in boredom. Why do you think successfully fight off a Tony Abbott scare campaign?
JULIA GILLARD:(LAUGHS) Laurie, you're full of interesting questions this morning, but I'm not going to agree with the premise of that one either! The Prime Minister, obviously, is in a dialogue with the Australian people about the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, of course. But also about the things that matter, as we build a strong economy for working families in this country. Working families want the Prime Minister acting on education. We're doing that with our education revolution. Acting on health - and the Prime Minister's working hard on a health reform package for hospitals and primary care in this country. They want us supporting jobs - we've done that during the biggest global economic meltdown since the Great Depression. And, of course, we're acting on climate change as well.
LAURIE OAKES:But this is Rudd versus Abbott. And Tony Abbott's not all Speedos and lycra. He's pretty good at punching through a simple message. I mean, you've got to be a bit concerned about the election, haven't you?
JULIA GILLARD:The thing I'm concerned about, Laurie, is the risk that Mr Abbott poses to the Australian economy and, consequently, to working families. This is a man that Peter Costello, a long-term treasurer of this country, said that he wouldn't have had Tony Abbott as his deputy, because Mr Abbott knew nothing about economics. And now the Liberal Party is presenting Mr Abbott as a leader, even though he says he's bored by economics. And then Mr Abbott makes the fundamental misjudgement of appointing Barnaby Joyce as his Finance spokesperson.
This adds up to a huge risk for the Australian economy. We, by contrast, are building a stronger economy for working families. Laurie, the election year's going to play out day by day, week by week. But at its heart - at the heart of the election campaign this year - at the heart of what matters for working families - is can the Government manage the with economy? Mr Abbott, Senator Joyce, have got risk written all over them.
LAURIE OAKES:All right. I'll get you to put on your Education Minister hat. There are big headlines today saying you'll pour hundreds of millions of dollars into disadvantaged schools that have been identified by the My Schools website. Tell us about that.
JULIA GILLARD:Laurie, this is an exciting new initiative. I'm very excited to say we're in a position to deliver more than $2 billion to schools that need a helping hand. Now, we started working with states and territories last year to identify those schools. On the best information then available to us. But because we've now got the My School website, we've got more information than we've ever had before about how Australian schools are going.
So the lists of schools that we talked about last year - we are going to add to as a result of the My School website. And today, I'm in a position to announce we're going to devote up to 11 million dollars to 110 schools that, on the My Schools website, have come up as below the national average on reading and writing and maths at every year level, and below the average of similar schools....
LAURIE OAKES:These are in addition to the ones that have already been identified - that $2.5 million allocated before?
JULIA GILLARD:That's right. These schools are in addition, and we're announcing up to $11 million more. And this is showing for us the power of the My School website, because these are the kinds of schools that would have missed out if we hadn't had this new, rich resource of information. When I launched My School, I said that it was going to be a great benefit to parents who are hungry for information about their child's school, their child's education.
And parents have voted with their fingertips ever since and jumped on My School. But this is more information than the Government's ever had before, and it's going to enable us to better target these new resources - 110 additional schools are going to directly benefit because of the new information we've got through My School.
LAURIE OAKES:All right. Well, change hats - we'll make you Workplace Relations Minister for a minute.
JULIA GILLARD:(LAUGHS) Thanks, Laurie!
LAURIE OAKES:There's been a whole string of headlines recently about workers who are worse off under workplace relations laws. I mean, kids losing part time after school work, fast-food workers having their Sunday penalties cut, retail staff losing up to $300 a week. The list goes on. Now, why did the Government guarantee no-one would be worse off when they are?
JULIA GILLARD:Laurie, what I can guarantee today is working people have got better rights and better protections because we got rid of WorkChoices. The only risk to that is Mr Abbott bringing it back. We've modernised awards, which are simpler now for employers - used to be more than 4,000 old awards. Now there are 122 simple, modern awards. And we're making ....
LAURIE OAKES:But. didn't you guarantee that no Australian worker, no working families, would be worse off?
JULIA GILLARD:And Laurie, just let me finish the sentence - modernised awards, better for employers, and for employees, they have a take-home pay guarantee. So we've modernised awards, and if anybody thinks that there is something that is a disadvantage for them, they can get a take-home pay order. That is guaranteed - guaranteed by our legislation.
LAURIE OAKES:So, do you deny that aged-care workers in NSW are down $300 a week, as has been claimed?
JULIA GILLARD:Any aged-care worker in NSW who believes that they might suffer a loss can get a take-home pay order guaranteed by legislation, Laurie. That's the law. And Laurie, let's do the fair comparison - the fair comparison is between the new Fair Work system and WorkChoices.
LAURIE OAKES:That was the last election campaign. We've got a new election coming up. Now, you're saying today..
JULIA GILLARD:Laurie, it's going to be the next election campaign...
JULIA GILLARD:because Mr Abbott's been very clear that he is a believer in WorkChoices, and if he had his way, we'd…
JULIA GILLARD:the Fair Work system - modern, simple safety net, guaranteed, take-home pay orders, guaranteed.
LAURIE OAKES:OK. Good filibuster but...
LAURIE OAKES:are you saying you do guarantee that no working families will be worse off as a result of your new laws?
JULIA GILLARD:I'm guaranteeing WorkChoices is gonem, I'm guaranteeing better rights ....
LAURIE OAKES:That's not the question, the question is - .
JULIA GILLARD:I'm guaranteeing a simpler, modern award system, and I'm guaranteeing take-home pay orders which keep people's take-home pay.
LAURIE OAKES:But Ms Gillard, the issue is whether politicians lie, whether politicians break promises. Now, Kevin Rudd said that... Where are we? You said in September, 2008, "We've taken a belt-and-braces approach to ensuring that employees are not in any way disadvantaged by this process." You said in March 2008, "I am able to guarantee that workers will not be disadvantaged by Labor's new laws." Kevin Rudd said much the same thing and now you won't say it.. And on Friday Kevin Rudd says that he never provided that guarantee and he doesn't. Broken promises, fibs. How do you justify that?
LAURIE OAKES:Oh, Laurie, I can justify that very simply - I made that statement - that people wouldn't be disadvantaged - because...
LAURIE OAKES:Why won't you make it now?
JULIA GILLARD:Well I will make it now, Laurie.
LAURIE OAKES: It's been like drawing teeth!
JULIA GILLARD:Laurie, people won't be disadvantaged because of our take-home pay orders. I'm saying that. And you know who else said that? The Liberal Party spokesperson for workplace relations when we legislated these take-home pay orders. He acknowledged in the Parliament that the Government had made good on its promise to ensure no worker was disadvantaged. Laurie, not my words - the words of the Liberal Party - you might have had to have drawn that out of them by pulling teeth, but the Liberal Party actually acknowledged in Parliament we'd made good on our promise that no worker would be disadvantaged.
LAURIE OAKES:All right. Could you now tell the Prime Minister that it is possible to make that guarantee - you've done it, and maybe he should as well?
JULIA GILLARD:Look, the Prime Minister, on radio last week, was making a very simple point, Laurie, which is –
LAURIE OAKES:That he couldn't make the guarantee!
JULIA GILLARD:No, he was talking broadly, Laurie, about changes in workplaces. Laurie, if you decided tomorrow to pack in being a television journalist and decided, instead, to go and be a childcare worker, guess what? You'd earn less.
LAURIE OAKES:Terrible for the children!...
JULIA GILLARD:and that would be a change in that.... Well, Laurie, I'm not going to speculate on that, but people change jobs all the time - sometimes they earn more, sometimes they earn less. People change shifts at work - that might mean they earn more or earn less. The Prime Minister was talking about those kinds of things. What we're talking about now is very specifically the operations of the Fair Work system, and in the Fair Work system, your take-home pay is guaranteed, and you've got better rights and protections and, compared with the old days of WorkChoices, where penalty rates and public holidays could be stripped away from you without a cent of compensation, people are better off. The only person who wants to make them worse off is Mr Abbott.
LAURIE OAKES:Deputy Prime Minister, we thank you.
JULIA GILLARD:Thanks, Laurie. ENDS