Transcript of Doorstop Interview
WED 05 SEPTEMBER 2012
PM: This is an important step forward for this university, more than $13 million of federal funds invested in refurbishing this building and in creating this precinct.
Great work happens here in training the health professionals of the future.
I've met with some pharmacists in training to take one example, and great research work happens here today too.
I've been talking today to people who are working on liver cancer, who are working on diabetes.
It's truly impressive work and I'm very glad we've been able to ensure that there's a truly impressive precinct to do it in.
I'm no stranger to this university, I’ve visited here frequently. I opened the engineering pavilion here.
This is a university that is playing to the strengths of Western Australia, both now and into the future.
It's part of our vision for tertiary education in the future, making sure that our great universities are working to generate the hardworking, thinking graduates we will need in the future and to do research which plays to our economic strengths and to our social needs.
I'm proud we've been able to invest $4.5 billion in new buildings and equipment in Australian universities of which this is part, and I'm proud we've put universities on a path for growth with 150,000 more students able to access university because of our policies and plans.
I've been since Monday talking a great deal about education, about making sure that every child in every school in our country gets a great education, that we don't fall behind the standards of the world, that we can only win the economic race if we win the education race.
That starts in those early learning years before school. It continues through school where I want every child to succeed, and then it goes into what happens after school – that people get choices and options, whether it's an apprenticeship or whether it's aiming to be a PhD student.
I want Australians to have those options and possibilities and we are working through vocational education and training and through our universities to make sure that Australia's young people and adults who want to return to study have those options.
So with those words, I'm very happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what's your reaction to the breakdown in negotiations over the power stations in Victoria and does that represent a very significant factor for your factor for your Government to walk away from that?
PM: Minister Ferguson has dealt with this announcement already today.
The Government worked on what we called the contract for closure process, looking to retire some power generation that is very carbon pollution intensive.
We always said we would strive for value for money. We haven't received a value for money proposal.
JOURNALIST: It comes on the back of the decision on the carbon price last week. Is your reduction strategy starting to unravel?
PM: The reduction strategy is right on target and we will reduce carbon pollution by minus 5 per cent by 2020.
That means that we will reduce the carbon pollution in our atmosphere by 160 million tons.
That's the equivalent of taking 45 million cars off the road.
JOURNALIST: The discussions with the power stations was a major plank in that strategy?
PM: Unfortunately you’ve got that factually wrong. The work to reduce 160 million tons is being done by the carbon price. Carbon pricing started on 1 July.
JOURNALIST: Are you saying the negotiations, or the breakdown, has no consequence?
PM: I’m saying we weren't prepared to do something that wasn't value for money.
JOURNALIST: It was certainly part of how you were going to reach your target, so-
PM: The minus 5 per cent target is being reached by the work of the carbon price. We were also looking to retire some energy generation that is carbon pollution intensive.
We always said we would aim for value for money. We didn’t get a value for money proposal.
JOURNALIST: Christine Milne says it's a breach of faith and that Minister Ferguson didn't try hard enough?
PM: Minister Ferguson went about his duties diligently, but Minister Ferguson and this Government was not going to accept a proposal that wasn't value for money for Australian taxpayers.
JOURNALIST: So those stations, as I understand it, will no longer get their carbon credits, is that right?
PM: No, that’s a completely different system.
JOURNALIST: Is there going to be any effect on the power price at all?
PM: You’re confusing two things, so let me be clear about it. The carbon pricing scheme requires big polluters to pay the price of putting carbon pollution in the atmosphere.
That scheme is in operation now and applies to power stations in our country that generate a lot of carbon pollution, as we always said it would.
That flows through to the bills that people pay, a 10 per cent increase. Here in Western Australia it's actually slightly less, it's a 9 per cent increase and that's why we've given people family payment increases, tax cuts, pension increases.
This contract for closure process was separate to that.
JOURNALIST: So what happens now though, if it's not going ahead, what's your back-up plan?
PM: The carbon price will be doing its work to reduce carbon pollution.
JOURNALIST: The net effect of this could simply be that these polluters pay more?
PM: These polluters are still in the carbon pricing scheme in exactly the same way. This was a separate process.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe Northern Australia should be its own economic zone?
PM: No, I most certainly don't. And you're obviously raising with me today comments from Ms Gina Rinehart.
It's not the Australian way to toss people two dollars – to toss them a two dollar gold coin and ask them to work for a day.
We support proper Australian wages and decent working conditions for Australian people.
JOURNALIST: She seems fairly committed to this, because last week she was suggesting that a reduction in the minimum wage was a good idea and that Africa is a very attractive proposition to invest in, as opposed to Australia.
PM: Let me make my view very clear. We stand for decent working conditions for Australians.
That's why we swept away the hated WorkChoices and why we will always campaign to keep it from coming back.
Ms Rinehart has said that workers' wages and conditions should be cut. That's all of a piece with the Leader of the Opposition's plans for Australia's future.
Well, the other side of the politics might stand for cutting wages and ripping off penalty rates. We never have and never will.
We have always stood for decent working conditions for Australians and that's not getting tossed a two dollar coin for a day's work.
JOURNALIST: Do you think they were unwise comments given that last week or the week before they shot dead protesting mine workers in South Africa?
PM: I think Ms Rinehart’s made her comments, not about that matter which you're raising with me, but about her view about appropriate wage rates and issues associated with mining.
JOURNALIST: But she sees Africa as-
PM: You’ll have to put that question to her.
JOURNALIST: Is Australia still competitive then? She claims it’s uncompetitive.
PM: Let’s look at the economy here and get some facts on the table. We've got an investment pipeline in resources of $500 billion, more than $200 billion of that at an advanced stage.
Ms Rinehart is a long-term opponent of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and carbon pricing.
On both of those I fundamentally disagree. We should be sharing the mineral wealth that's in our grounds and that's what the Minerals Resource Rent Tax is about and we should be tackling climate change in the cheapest possible way, and that's what putting a price on carbon is about.
I do note that since we announced the Minerals Resource Rent Tax we've continued to see new investments in our resources industry.
Since we announced the carbon price, we saw business investment go up by 20 per cent. We have an economy that is the envy of the world.
It's a world beater and this week I've been so focussed on school education, because we will only be a world beater in the future if we win the education race.
JOURNALIST: Does she have a point at all about the urgency to improve productivity, to reduce approval delays and the cost of delays – does she have a point at all about those matters?
PM: We've always got to strive to increase productivity, but that's not about cutting workers' pay and conditions.
That's about working smarter; it’s about working people and management working together.
It's about investments in infrastructure, which we are doing in record amounts. It's about bringing the technology of the future to drive productivity gains, that's the National Broadband Network
And more than anything else it's about driving up skills.
The Minister and I will go from here to a jobs and skills expo which is all about helping people in Western Australia get the opportunities that they want so they get a share of the resources boom and the skills they need to enable them to get that opportunity.
JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard, there’s a lot of reaction to the fact that you talked to the miners yesterday about education. Do you think that was an appropriate thing to discuss with them and why?
PM: I most certainly do, because there's nothing more important to the long-term future of the mining industry in this country than the quality of Australian schooling.
There's nothing more important to our long-term economic future than what's happening in schools today.
The business community should be a strong and vocal advocate for lifting education standards.
If we don't, those countries in our region which have better schooling systems than we do, will be able to claim the high-skill, high-wage jobs of the future rather than us.
That's why it's core business for people in mining. It's core business for everyone in this country and that's why I spoke about it yesterday.
JOURNALIST: Marriage equality protesters were out the front this morning. Will your Government have a re-look at that?
PM: Our policies here are absolutely clear. There's a conscience vote and there’s a bill both before the House and the Senate.
JOURNALIST: Just with asylum seekers, there are reports that the Indonesians aren’t happy about the high seas transfer of those rescued asylum seekers onto Indonesian boats to be taken back to Indonesia.
PM: This was an operational decision taken by Indonesia.
Thanks very much.