Transcript of doorstop interview, Brisbane
MON 14 MAY 2012
Subject(s): National Disability Insurance Scheme; Budget 2012-13; Schoolkids Bonus; Council of Australian Governments; Afghanistan troop withdrawal; Parliamentary code of conduct; Australian Labor Party
PM: I’m delighted to be here this morning with Graham Perrett in his federal electorate of Moreton, continuing to talk to families here in Queensland about last week’s budget.
Last week we returned the budget to surplus, which was the right thing to do for our economy, to make sure we’ve got a buffer for the future, and also because we want to give the Reserve Bank the maximum room to move on interest rates if it chooses to do so.
And for families in Graham’s electorate, right around Queensland, right around the nation, when interest rate reductions happen they’re very welcome, reducing the cost of the mortgage.
Last week’s budget, as we returned it to surplus, was also one for hardworking Australian families. We know that there are families her in Queensland and right around the nation who work tremendously hard, who get about the hard work too of raising the next generation of Australians, but find it quite difficult to make ends meet, who feel themselves to be under cost-of-living pressure.
And so for those families, we’ve wanted to make a difference, through the Schoolkids Bonus, and also through family payment increases.
As we were talking about with families here, the Schoolkids Bonus provides $410 for primary school students and $820 for high school students. It helps with all of the costs of getting the kids to school.
And we’re also increasing family payments, so for a family with two children on the maximum rate, they will see $600 extra.
And we’ve made special provisions in the budget to help some of the poorest and neediest Australians including those on Newstart allowance.
To give you a sense of how many families will benefit from us making sure that we’re working with Australian families to help them get by, here in Moreton 9000 families will see an increase in family payments. 6800 families will benefit from the Schoolkids Bonus, and 9000 families will benefit from the new allowance for some of our poorest Australians.
Across Queensland, 335,000 families will see the benefits of increased family payments, 280,000 families will see the Schoolkids Bonus, that’s for around half a million schoolkids in Queensland, and 295,000 families will see the allowance for some of the poorest and neediest.
I’m aware that Mr Abbott is in Queensland today. When he speaks in Queensland today, I think he’s got to be very frank with the people of Queensland.
First, that he doesn’t want half a million school kids in Queensland to benefit from the Schoolkids Bonus. And he’s also got to be very clear about what he’s going to do with our new family payments.
These new family payments are us sharing the benefits of the mining boom. They’re funded through the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. They’re our way of saying to Australian families; we understand many of them are not seeing the benefits of the mining boom and here’s a bit of a share for them.
Mr Abbott hasn’t been clear about the future of these family payments, if he’s ever Prime Minister. And I would call on him today to say very clearly that those family payments will stay.
Mr Abbott can’t fudge this. If he’s going to rip money off Australian families, then they’ve got a right to know.
I’m very happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you said yesterday that you supported a code of conduct for politicians. Why has it taken so long?
PM: We talked about a code of conduct when this Parliament started after the last election.
It’s been looked at by a Parliamentary Committee in the House of Representatives, and now a Senate Committee is also looking at it. I’m very open to a code of conduct, and to working with others in the Parliament to get this done.
JOURNALIST: If it was introduced at the moment though it would wipe MPs out (inaudible).
PM: Well, how do you put that? Explain to me how you’ve reasoned your way to that.
JOURNALIST: There’d be quite a few that might qualify.
PM: In – well, I don’t think you can just go as broad-brush as that without saying specific things about specific people.
Parliamentarians are there doing the job to represent their electorates. Of course I want to see parliamentarians doing the right thing. There are many rules that govern Members of Parliament now but I’m very open to looking at a code of conduct for the future.
JOURNALIST: Do you support what the independents are saying, the broadening the rules, and if so do you need a referendum on it?
PM: Look, I’m very open to these discussions, that’s what I indicated yesterday.
JOURNALIST: What sort of (inaudible) are you looking at for (inaudible)
PM: Well, look, the discussions are still to come. There’s been a House of Representatives Committee that’s had a look; a Senate Committee’s having a look. As I indicated yesterday I’m very open to working with others in the Parliament on a code of conduct.
JOURNALIST: Yes or no on the referendum?
PM: Well, it’s not as simple as that. The discussions about this are yet to come.
JOURNALIST: On the NDIS, can you rule out (inaudible)
PM: Well, we’ve got to be very clear about the process here, with the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We want to do better by Australians with disabilities and I’m particularly concerned that there are so many Australians who miss out on decent care.
Whether or not you get a good package of care can often depend how you got your disability, so someone injured at work will be in a different position than someone who gets Parkinson’s Disease, to take just one example, or a child who’s born with cerebral palsy.
I want to have a situation in our nation where however you get your disability; you get decent care and support. We asked the Productivity Commission to recommend how we could best do that, it’s a really big thing to do.
They said first thing, have launch sites, get out there, work with launch sites to see how you can make this system work. And we’ve made provision in the budget to do that, $1 billion, and we’re determined to do that a year early.
We’ll take the lessons from the launch sites to roll out a national scheme. Of course it’s got to be appropriately funded, and we’ll make the budget decisions necessary as we work our way through. But we've got to do this in a sensible, methodical way, the first thing is to get the launch sites agreed with States and Territories, and get them started on 1 July next year.
JOURNALIST: So if the States want to come on board (inaudible) you’ll allow an additional (inaudible)
PM: Well it’s not a question of that. No, we’ve got a billion dollars on the table.
For the launch sites we are prepared to pay the lion’s share. Of course we are asking States and Territories to show their concern about people with disabilities too.
Here in Queensland, there is the lowest expenditure per head on people with disabilities. So if you've got a disability here in Queensland, you’ll get less than if you had that disability in New South Wales, or Victoria, or Tasmania, or South Australia or Western Australia, and the list goes on.
Well, I think that’s pretty concerning for the people of Queensland. Someone with a disability here doesn’t deserve less than someone in another part of the nation.
Very open to working with Premier Newman about a launch site here in Queensland to show how we can do better for people with disabilities. On how we’ll make provision for all of this, well I think people should judge us on our track record.
We've doubled funding for people with disabilities, we've doubled disability support as a government since we were first elected, and we’ve made a provision of a billion dollars for the launch sites all at the time of returning the budget to surplus and taking, as a share of our total economy, less of a share in tax than the Howard Government used to.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) Afghanistan, is that likely to bring forward the time that we will get out of (inaudible)
PM: Well thanks for that question because it’s an important one.
Overnight, President Karzai has announced the next tranche of places in Afghanistan that will move into transition. Transition means that security leadership moves from forces from NATO and ISAF to Afghan local forces.
The province in which we work, Uruzgan Province, has been named in this tranche for transition. We anticipated that, and when I last gave a major address on Afghanistan to the Australian people, I explained that it was quite likely that Uruzgan Province would be in this tranche for transition.
What that means is the transition strategy is on track in the province in which we work. We will move into transition in the coming few months, and Afghan security forces will start to take the lead.
I, at the end of this week, will go to Chicago for the next summit of NATO and ISAF countries – the countries working in Afghanistan – for further definition of the strategy in Afghanistan.
But the message people should get from the announcement by President Karzai overnight, is that the transition strategy agreed at the last summit in Lisbon is on track.
JOURNALIST: Does that mean (inaudible)
PM: As I explained when I gave this major speech on Afghanistan, transition is a process, it can take 12-18 months, and it is at the end of transition in our province – Uruzgan Province – that we would see the bulk of Australian forces come home.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) how will you decide which States and Territories will get those launch sites and does it mean that if a State like Queensland agrees to the NDIS (inaudible) New South Wales and Victoria, that we will get one of the launch sites? Or is this like a giving the States a (inaudible)
PM: It’s opening the door, and we want to have discussions with States to then get them to work with us on hosting a launch site. So for Queensland, Queensland would need to, through discussions with us, put the hand up and say we want to have a launch site.
JOURNALIST: First in, first served?
PM: Well, it’s a mixture. We want to work with States and Territories around the country. So of course first in is always a good place to be. First in is always a good place to be, and willing to work cooperatively is the main thing.
JOURNALIST: And could there be a situation where States are having to put in money to help these launch sites and not actually host it? Or the $1 billion is fully federally funded?
PM: No, that’s right. We put a billion dollars in the budget for the launch sites for the NDIS, for States that host a launch site we would also be looking at them to work with us and to make a contribution, but I stress we are putting in the lion’s share.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe Craig Thomson’s version of events?
PM: Look, it’s not for me to be judge and jury on this. These matters are very likely to end up before a court and it’s the court that should decide.
JOURNALIST: Is there a timeline for when those trial sites will be announced?
PM: We made the provision in the budget; we are commencing discussions with States and Territories. This comes against a backdrop where at the last Council of Australian Governments meeting we agreed principles for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, so States and Territories have already had an opportunity to get in and have a say and to indicate that they want to work with us.
Now we’ve allocated the billion dollars in the budget, the in-detail discussions will start about which State or Territory will host a launch site. So those discussions will happen over the coming few months.
JOURNALIST: So would you say Queensland should be a prime target for this launch site because we’re so underfunded when it comes to disabilities, that we should be guaranteed it?
PERRETT: I’d say that.
PM: Well, that’s really a question for Premier Newman. But, given in Queensland today there’s less money spent per head on people with disabilities than other parts of the country, I would have thought that it would come up in Premier Newman’s to-do list as an important area for work and reform.
JOURNALIST: You’ve been here over the weekend and Mr Abbott’s here as well, (inaudible) is this an indication that Queensland is battleground state (inaudible)
PM: Well I always love coming to Queensland and I particularly love it when I ring back to Canberra this morning to find out that it was -5 in Canberra overnight, we’ve been joking about that this morning.
We've got a lot of hard work to do here in Queensland, and I’ll be here to do it.
JOURNALIST: So will you be buying that proverbial house?
PM: Look, I have a house in Altona in Melbourne’s west, so that’s enough for me. The house in Altona and obviously I end up spending a lot of time in Canberra too, so I’m intending to be out and about in Queensland talking about the real benefits for Queensland from the Government’s policies.
And we've talked this morning about how important it is for the families in Queensland that we got our Schoolkids Bonus through the Parliament last week, even though Mr Abbott voted against it, and that we deliver these family payments.
And once again I’d ask Mr Abbott to take this opportunity today in Queensland to guarantee he won’t be ripping those family payments away from hardworking Queensland families.
JOURNALIST: Have you got any words of advice for Queensland’s new Opposition Leader?
PM: No, look, I've spoken to her by telephone, I regret that I’m not able to spend some time with her during this visit but other commitments don’t make that possible, but I look forward to sitting down and catching up in the near future.
JOURNALIST: Can you pronounce her name?
PM: I’m not going to play any games with you.
PERRETT: I can’t spell Palaszczuk.
JOURNALIST: Sam Dastyari, says that he’s looking at the possibility of an election this year or-
JOURNALIST: Sam Dastyari, from New South Wales Labor, says that he’s looking at the possibility of an election this year or next, what does that say about Federal Labor?
PM: Well, the election will be next year on the ordinary timeframe.
Thank you very much.
PM: I haven’t studied the specific report that’s in today’s papers. Generally on climate change I say we do have to listen to the scientists.
I mean we do that in other areas of life when it comes to, you know, medical advances, medical health, we listen to the scientists. Scientists tell us that smoking causes lung cancer, we listen to them, scientists tell us that you can get skin cancer from too much sun exposure, we listen them. When they tell us our climate is changing we should listen to them too.
Thanks very much.