Transcript of Doorstop Interview, Hobart
THU 04 OCTOBER 2012
Subject(s): National Disability Insurance Scheme; Tasmanian economy; Federal budget; Andrew Wilkie; Australian economy; Carbon pricing; Forestry industry
PM: I’m delighted to be here at Cosmos. Thank you to everybody who’s shown us round and been so friendly, particularly thank you to Catherine for organising today’s event.
I’m here with Jane Austin, the candidate for Denison, and also with Julie Collins, one of my minister and also the Member for Franklin. And we’re here talking about the need for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
We’ve been meeting today people who would be described as having disabilities, but they’re full of abilities too.
We’ve seen their artwork, we’ve heard about their theatre performance; they’re off to New Zealand to perform in a few short weeks’ time, and before they go the people of Hobart will get to have a look on 15 October.
People with remarkable abilities. But for them to realise the full potential of those abilities, we’ve got to be supporting their care. That’s what the National Disability Insurance Scheme is all about.
We are launching here in Tasmania from the middle of next year, and what Tasmania’s going to do is help us learn about how to roll out a National Disability Insurance Scheme for teenagers and young adults.
There will be 1000 people in the launch. They will be in the age range from 15-24. In anybody’s life that is a time of real change.
Any family with a teenager or a young adult could talk about all of the joys, but sometimes the stresses and strains that can go with having a teenager or a young adult in the house.
As they start to move away from being fully controlled by their parents to wanting to live their own lives and make their own decisions, the same is true for young adults and teenagers with disability, and we’re going to learn about how best to meet the options and choices they want at that stage of life through the trial here in Tasmania.
So it’s an exciting time to be here, thank you to everybody who has been so generous with their time, Joseph for showing his artworks, everyone that we’ve met today, and we’re very happy to take your questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how exactly will the scheme help these young people that you’ve been meeting today?
PM: Well at the moment the kind of support you get – whether it’s here in Tasmania or around the country – depends on how you got your disability.
If you got it in a transport accident, that will be different from something that happened at home or if you were born with it. If you got it at work, that would be different again.
We want to make sure that however someone has a disability, whether they were born with it, whether it’s an accident, whether it’s a result of one of the debilitating diseases people can get, that they get a package of care and support.
It would be driven by the person rather than by the system.
At the moment what you get depends on what the system can provide to you, so people get a bit of care here and a bit of care there, but there’s a gap in the middle.
We would empower the person to make a set of choices about how they put their package of care together.
It would work a lot like some of our best transport accident schemes, where people get to be the decision-maker about how they get their care.
JOURNALIST: And with you meeting with Jane Austin today, how confident are you that Labor will be able to win back Denison at the next federal election?
PM: Well Jane’s a great candidate. We’ve been talking today about the needs of Denison, about the needs of all parts of the electorate.
Jane’s been talking to me about how people at the street stalls and as she doorknocks are talking to her about jobs and the future of the Tasmanian economy, making sure that Tassie gets a fair share of the GST, as well as the big government reforms like the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
These are only the things you can do as a government, and Jane is seeking to be a member of the Labor Government, to represent Denison in a government and have her voice directly heard.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) in the next campaign Andrew Wilkie will talk up all the things he’s been able to guarantee for Denison. How many of those things are fair and how many are things that you provided?
PM: We always want to benefit the people of Denison, and we’ve worked with the current member to do that.
And of course we would do that, I mean these are people who have got needs and concerns, and we want to be working with the people of Denison and right across Tasmania with the people of this great state.
But at the end of the day, government is about having a long-term plan for the future of the economy, for the future of health, for the future of education, for big Labor reforms like the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
That’s the work of government and it takes a member of government to best do it.
JOURNALIST: Does Andrew Wilkie’s high profile make that battle even harder?
PM: Look, people in Denison will be making their choices come the next election. I think they’ve got a great option with Jane Austin standing to be the Labor member for Denison.
JOURNALIST: What’s the key issue that will win it for Labor?
PM: Look, I think the issues here in Tasmania and in Denison as well are the future of the economy; people want to see the Tasmanian economy grow, they want to see people have the benefits of jobs today, and know that there’s a strong long-term future for Tassie.
I’m actually a huge optimist about the future of Tasmania. We live in an incredibly growing region of the world.
This is going to be the Asian century. We will live in the region of the world with more middle class consumers than anywhere else on the planet.
And they will want to buy the things Tassie's got to sell - great food, great wine, great tourism experiences, the things you are doing through manufacturing, the new industries that you can harness through the National Broadband Network, the new industries you can harness through a clean energy future.
That's why I'm an optimist about this economy. There are some is stresses and strains now and we are obviously working directly with the community through those moments of strain.
JOURNALIST: How embarrassing is it to have the former ALP President Michael Williamson arrested over corruption?
PM: I'm not going to comment on a police matter. Obviously there have been charges laid today, so I don't want to be speaking about a matter which will ultimately be dealt with by the courts.
JOURNALIST: On the NDIS, what about those outside of the age bracket that you’re looking at through the scheme, what will be done for them?
PM: This is a launch for that cohort. In other parts of the country, we have got a launch site for younger children; we have got launches for a geographic area. So the launches are about learning how to roll out the full scheme.
We are using the word "launch" deliberately because this is the start of something we are definitely committed to doing, rather than a pilot where we’ll work out where we do the rest of it. So yes, it is going to take some time to roll it out right around Australia.
This is as big a change as Medicare was for our health system when Medicare was first designed. And I think in years to come, it will be viewed like Medicare, can you believe the nation was ever without it?
But to get it right and to roll it out around the nation, we do have to launch first and learn and then build.
JOURNALIST: Backbencher Michael Danby is quoted today saying there is genuine concern about defence cuts. Has it been raised with you?
PM: No I haven't had a Labor member come to see me directly about that. But of course people understand we are in a time where we are working on building the budget into surplus.
We, as a government, have worked hard to bring our economy strongly through the have global financial crisis.
No recession, saved 200,000 jobs; now we are working to deliver a budget surplus. That has required us to make some tough choices across the government's budget, including in defence.
But all of the core capabilities we identified in the last defence white paper will be delivered.
JOURNALIST: How do you respond to David Murray raising concerns about the Australian economy and comparing it to Greece?
PM: Today I've seen that the Leader of the Opposition and his Shadow Finance Minister have once again taken the opportunity to talk Australia's economy down.
It is absurd to be saying that our economy is in the same circumstances as the economies of Europe or Greece.
From the Leader of the Opposition, that is a grossly irresponsible thing to say. I mean, markets listen to what political leaders say. This can have repercussions in the real world that matter for the Australian economy.
Our economy is growing. It's going to grow at around 3 per cent this year. We have got unemployment just over 5 per cent.
We have got low inflation, low interest rates, strong public finances, AAA rated by every major credit agency for the first time in our nation's history.
To compare our circumstances, as the Leader of the Opposition has done today, to Greece, is grossly irresponsible and wrong.
JOURNALIST: Just on this story in The Australian, what do you make of it about the carbon tax at The Lodge and do you think taxpayers would like to foot the bill?
PM: I did see that story, and The Lodge is my residence but it’s also a place where we have a large number of public functions. It functions differently to any family home.
I think people would understand from a common sense perspective for example, there are security requirements that mean the electricity has to be used 24/7, 365 days a year. So you know, it’s just one of those stories you see in the papers from time to time.
JOURNALIST: The Premier hasn’t ruled out further budget cuts as a result of the State’s credit rating being downgraded. Are you worried that your federal health bailout for the states could be undermined if she starts targeting the health system again?
PM: We will be working to make sure that the additional resources we’re putting into health hit the ground and make a difference for people.
So I do understand that like governments around the country, the Tasmanian Government faces some tough choices, but we want to see people in Tasmania with good quality healthcare.
That is why we were already making record investments and on top of that we have now authorised a new $325 million package.
There are some things that are special about Tasmania as it meets people’s health needs. You’re an island; that means that some of the options and choices that are there for bigger states just aren’t here in Tasmania and we’ve recognised that with this $325 million package.
JOURNALIST: Is the Federal Government in crisis talks with the Forest Industries Association today to try and get them back to the negotiating table at all?
PM: We remain committed to working with the people of Tasmania so we can sort out the future of forestry. I would remind, and I think perhaps this has been a little bit lost in the public discussion; we did not sit in Canberra and seek to design a forestry plan.
We did not sit in Canberra and say we wanted to get involved in forestry here in Tasmania.
What happened here in Tasmania was the economics of the industry started to change, the markets were changing; that meant that there were going to be job losses, there were going to be people who wanted to exit the industry, and industry came to us and said in those circumstances would you support that changes, provide a backdrop of support as these changes happen?
Now we’ve consistently said we are prepared to support but what needs to occur is the environmental movement, the forestry industry, the people of Tasmania have to come to an accord about a long-term plan.
What we’ve done so far: $20 million invested in this economy and diversifying it, which is leveraging around 4000 jobs. We’ve supported the employees who have lost their jobs, and we are now supporting contractors who want to exit the industry.
JOURNALIST: But what happens if the forest industry doesn’t return to the talks and they fall over?
PM: That’s a question you need to put to the forest industry, and change will still occur in forestry, it will just be change that isn’t managed with a long-term vision. That’s the worst of all possible worlds for everyone.
JOURNALIST: There’s a report in the Courier Mail today that cites Labor sources close to you suggesting that Kevin Rudd might have to have his ambitions crushed one more time before the election. Is that coming from you or your supporters?
PM: I’m not aware of that story, I’m not aware of those statements, so there you go.
You don’t want to believe everything you read in the paper. With all due apologies to the newspaper journalists in the room.
Thank you very much.