TV Interview - Sunday Today, Channel 9
- Deputy Prime Minister
- Minister for Education
- Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
E&OE TRANSCRIPTTV INTERVIEW0845AM SUNDAY23 MAY 2010SUNDAY TODAY LAURIE OAKES INTERVIEW
ISSUES: Leadership; Building the Education Revolution; Resource Super Profits Tax; Opposition Education Funding Cuts; Tony Abbott “Gospel Truth”; Child Care Centres
LAURIE OAKES: Ms Gillard, Welcome to the program.
JULIA GILLARD:Good morning, Laurie.
LAURIE OAKES:That line about the Dogs was a bit of a porky, wasn't it?
JULIA GILLARD:In the sense that you don't think I'm a replacement for Barry Hall Laurie, you're probably right, I'm not tall enough.
LAURIE OAKES:No, but it's certainly possible you could replace Kevin Rudd? JULIA GILLARD: Oh, Laurie, I mean, I've canvassed this during the week when asked and the simple point I'm making is I get up every morning enthused to do my job as Deputy Prime Minister, to keep making the changes we're making in education, to keep delivering fairness to our workplaces.
Laurie, whether I get the opportunity to continue to do that depends on what the Australian people decide at the next election but if I get the opportunity to continue as Deputy PM and do this work, well, Laurie, that's enough for me.
LAURIE OAKES:But you could become Prime Minister. You certainly don't deny that. You're in line to become Australia's first female Prime Minister?
JULIA GILLARD: Laurie, we have a Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. I'm Deputy Prime Minister. It's been a very special privilege to be the first woman to serve in that role. And that's what I want to keep doing. Keep being Deputy Prime Minister, working with Kevin Rudd, making this a stronger and fairer country, particularly through the education reforms and workplace relations reforms that I'm responsible for.
LAURIE OAKES:The Prime Minister is in a hole at the moment, he can't dig himself out, I assume you wouldn't - wouldn't say no, because is there any evidence that Labor can't win with Rudd?
JULIA GILLARD:Oh Laurie, these are the hypotheticals I've been presented with all week, leading me to make the Barry Hall analogy. This is all just froth and bubble. We are obviously here governing now, in difficult economic circumstances, providing responsible economic management and a clear direction for the country to continue building on the foundations we've laid, to make us a stronger and fairer nation. That's what it's about. It's not about anything else and I'm not getting distracted by it.
LAURIE OAKES:But, you do hear people saying - quite senior people in the Labor Party, there are two big problems - one is the asylum seeker boats and the other is Kevin Rudd - do you hear that?
JULIA GILLARD:No, I don't, Laurie. I don't hear people say that. What I hear people say in the Labor Party is that we've got work to do. Yes, Laurie, there have been some difficulties for the Government in recent period, there's no denying that. I'm not going to try and deny it. We had to sort out the insulation program which had become a mess.
In my own portfolio of education, with building the education revolution, whilst it's overwhelmingly rolling out to the delight of school communities, there were some problems and we've moved with an implementation task force to address that, so, they're the things we talk about in Government. Now, of course, we talk about bringing the Budget back to surplus three years early. We talk about getting a fair share for the Australian people out of the great mineral wealth of this country. And continuing to deliver in education, in health, in workplace relations. That's what we talk about when we're together.
LAURIE OAKES:I was going to ask you about building the education revolution - that is bagged by talkback commentators day after day, and the Coalition has, quite effectively I think, used that to undermine the economic management credentials? I wonder how much responsibility you take for the hole the Government is in?
JULIA GILLARD:Well, of course, I take responsibility for everything in my portfolio, including building the education revolution. And this has been a huge endeavour. When I meet with school principals, and I do that very frequently, I joke with them that if they feel tired at the end of the working week, that's not only because they're running their school, it's because they've kept the national economy going.
Building the education revolution has been a big part of economic stimulus which has kept this country out of recession and when you're doing something that big - 9,500 schools, 24,000 projects - there are going to be some problems, Laurie and we've moved to address them with our implementation task force headed by a leading Australia business person Brad Orgill.
LAURIE OAKES:The Government's big problem at the moment, or course, is the so-called super profits tax on resource companies. When the Government approved that, did you expect to be involved in the kind of deadly battle that you're in now?
JULIA GILLARD:Laurie, we expected it to be a fast and furious debate. And it is being that. The reality is when you go to people and say, "Would you pay more tax," normally they don't stand up and applaud, normally they have an argument about it. And we've seen an argument just like this in this nation before with the petroleum resource rent tax, some 25 years ago. All sorts of doom and gloom claims then. And under that tax regime, we've got the huge, more than $40 billion Gorgon project coming on stream.
Laurie, what we were working towards and what this tax is about is getting a fair share for the nation. If we look at company tax now for our domestic mining companies, paying around 17% for the overseas companies, the multinationals, around 13%. Now this is not a fair share and that's why we're moving to introduce the resources super profits tax. And the next time the Australian people hear a fear campaign coming at them from the mining sector, they might want to consider those figures. 17% company tax for domestic miners, 13% for multinational companies, and think to themselves is that a fair share? I think the answer is no. That's why we need the resources super profits tax.
LAURIE OAKES:The Government using those figures this weekend seems to suggest that you're taking off the gloves, that you're going to fight back?
JULIA GILLARD:It's really about the facts, Laurie. That's all we want the Australian people to have - the facts. And these are the cold, hard facts, the truth. So when we're hearing claims by mining companies and others and the Opposition, that has been out there banging the fear campaign as hard as it can, we want Australians to have those facts in their possession. We want a system,
Laurie, where mining companies continue to earn good profits, workers in mines continue to earn good wages, but there is a fair share for the nation as well, to invest in things that matter to our long-term wealth and prosperity. Superannuation, cutting company tax and giving small businesses a hand-up and a break.
LAURIE OAKES:Well, Company tax I think is 30%, so how does BHP only pay 13%?
JULIA GILLARD:Well, there are a range of tax concessions that apply to mining companies, which enable them to reduce their burden of company tax and that's why we come out with these figures of effective company tax rates of 17% for domestic companies and 13% for multinational companies. That means, Laurie, that there's room for mining companies to pay a fair share of taxation and still make very good profits.
LAURIE OAKES:Part of the problem seems to be you haven't sold this very well. The Government seems to have a problem selling anything at all. Are you going to try and step up the sales effort?
JULIA GILLARD:Laurie, I'm sure you and others will be judging us with scores out of 10 for the sales effort.
LAURIE OAKES:We are, yeah.
JULIA GILLARD:You are, that's right. The best thing we can do is just have a frank, honest upfront conversation with the Australian people. There's a lot of fear around, generated by the Opposition. A lot of claims being made, a lot of dire warnings. Let's just get to the facts. We've had a debate like this before, 25 years ago. Petroleum resources rent tax. And we're seeing spectacular huge investments like Gorgon, even though the nation was told it would ruin the petroleum industry, let's not succumb to the fear campaign now.
LAURIE OAKES:The Government has been saying that all along and yet it now emerges that that petroleum tax is quite different from the tax that is now being proposed. That's a problem with your sales pitch isn't it. People can't believe that kind of thing, are they going to believe the rest?
JULIA GILLARD:It's got different design features but the point remains the same. The point remains the same, Laurie. When that tax was introduced 25 years ago, the petroleum industry didn't jump up and down and go, "Yippee, fantastic, let's pay this resources rent tax", no, they went out and they said to the Australian people this will kill the industry and the reverse has happened. We've got more than $40 billion of investment in the Gorgon Project under that tax regime.
So the parallel point is not that the taxes are designed the same way but we are seeing the same kind of reaction from the mining industry now. This will kill the industry. Well, I think the lesson of history is people should be pretty sceptical about that fear campaign.
LAURIE OAKES:I suppose the real question for you is whether it will kill the Government? You've got the minerals industry now setting out on a multimillion-dollar anti-Labor advertising campaign; you've got the big mining companies threatening to cancel projects. If this is still going at the time of the election, won't it cripple your campaign?
JULIA GILLARD:Well we'll keep having the debate Laurie, we're determined to get this done. This is the right thing for the nation's future.
LAURIE OAKES:But, don't you need to end the debate somehow before the election is upon you?
JULIA GILLARD:Well, there is a consultation process in train right now and if I had one simple message for the mining community, and mining companies, it would be, "Get in the process, we don't need the fear campaign. We do need the consultation to work the implementation details of these taxation arrangements through." That's the right process to get to a conclusion. If we're still facing this kind of fear campaign at the election, Laurie, then we will have the argument about what is the right thing for the Australian people and the Australian nation over the long term? I am more than prepared, as is the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Government overall to keep mounting the case.
The right thing is for there to be fair tax arrangements for this industry as we dig up our mineral wealth and sell it once because we can only do it once and we should feed that fair share of taxation in to reduced company tax, better arrangements for small business and more superannuation for Australian working people.
LAURIE OAKES:You're Education Minister, in the budget battle to see which side can be more frugal, which side can, I suppose, fix the Budget bottom line most quickly, the Coalition has targeted various programs in your portfolio. Quite a number of them. Big slash and burn campaign there. Do you accept that that proves the Coalition is genuine about cutting spending?
JULIA GILLARD:No. I don't, Laurie. What I believe it means is that the Coalition is incredibly short-sighted. They neglected education for the more than decade they were in office. Now, you know, Tony Abbott has delegated to Mr Hockey, who's delegated to Mr Robb, to tell us what the cutbacks would be. They haven't nominated that they would bring the budget back to surplus any earlier, but they are going to make some savage education cuts. 120,000 students missing out on computers, more than - up to 900 schools missing out on trades training centres, a pathway in to real apprenticeships and real jobs and cutting teacher quality initiatives like Teach for Australia, bringing the best and brightest graduates into teaching, and, also initiatives like the one in Western Australia, where public school principals are being allowed to run their school more like an independent school with more say and more empowerment.
Now, each and every day the Shadow Education Minister talks about that kind of thing but just like their track record in Government, all talk, no action. We're getting it done and now they are threatening it with this cutback.
LAURIE OAKES:Thanks to Tony Abbott, truth has become an issue in the run-up to the election. He's been attacked, up hill and down dale, by the Government since he admitted on the 7.30 Report, that you can't always believe what he says. I'm wondering how a Government that's gone through this series of backflips and broken promises and policy changes has the hide to criticise somebody else for misleading statements?
JULIA GILLARD:Well, Mr Abbott's revelation on the 7.30 Report, was an important one Laurie. It was important because it was made under pressure. And what he effectively said is when he's under pressure, he will say or do anything. He's got no belief in the truthfulness of what he's saying. Under pressure, he can't take it. Well, that's a very bad admission for someone who wants to be Prime Minister. There's plenty of pressure in being Prime Minister, dealing with the global financial crisis, that was pressure. Meeting with international leaders and dealing with some hard questions, that can be pressure. And Mr Abbott has revealed to all the world that he just can't take pressure. That to get out of a pressure situation, he will literally say anything with no regard to whether or not it's the truth.
LAURIE OAKES:So you don't see this as a question of lying to interviewers or misleading the electorate, you think it's broader than that?
JULIA GILLARD: Look, I think it's broader than that. I think it is showing a fragility under pressure which Mr Abbott now admits about himself. It is also showing, I'd say, a very dismissive attitude to the need to tell the truth. I mean, what he's saying, Laurie, is if he's in a tight corner, he will say anything to get out of it. Whether or not it's true is completely irrelevant to him. Well, that means for the Australian people, a big question mark, what sort of risk is Mr Abbott as Prime Minister if he can't take pressure? And another big question mark is today the day he's telling you the truth or is he under a bit of pressure today and he is just being "phony Tony" and making it up as he goes along?
LAURIE OAKES:As recently as February only, you were on record as saying that the Government would go ahead with its child-care centres, which have now been dumped. I mean, can you talk about other people telling the truth?
JULIA GILLARD:In February this year, I was making the simple point, Laurie, we had committed to 260 child-care centres in the 2007 campaign. We are delivering 38 of them.
LAURIE OAKES:Out of 260?
JULIA GILLARD: We then hit - out of 260? Absolutely. We hit an unexpected and completely game-changing event in the child care industry. The collapse of ABC Learning, the biggest child-care centre in the private sector, in this nation. More than 1,000 child-care centres were literally going to slam their doors shut with the kids and the parents locked out the other side. Now, in 2007 when we gave our commitment, we didn't know ABC Learning was going to collapse. Maybe the Liberal Party had some inside knowledge given the number of Liberal Party members serving on the board. But we didn't have that inside knowledge....
LAURIE OAKES:But you knew that by February this year?
JULIA GILLARD: And in February this year, Laurie, in my various statements, including one for example, at the Press Club, I said that we were dealing with this event and we would be obviously assessing what it meant for the child care market. I was asked that question at the Press Club, I recall, by Matthew Franklin. We did assess what it meant for the child care market and having made that assessment, we decided that it would not be prudent to go ahead with delivering new centres in a market that had faced this kind of market shock and was still settling down.
LAURIE OAKES:Ms Gillard, we're out of time. We thank you.
JULIA GILLARD:Thanks, Laurie.