Transcript of doorstop interview, Townsville
SAT 19 MAY 2012
Subject(s): Afghanistan; NATO-ISAF Summit; Schoolkids Bonus; Parliamentary entitlements; State of Origin
PM: I’m here in Townsville with Minister Smith. We’ve had a very special opportunity to talk to troops who are deploying to Afghanistan.
They will be going over the coming few weeks, and we've had the opportunity to say to them thank you very much for everything they've already done for the nation, and thank you in advance for the things that they will do in Afghanistan.
We've met some very brave men and women, and they’re going to Afghanistan at a critical time as we move into transition in Uruzgan province, the province in which we work.
Transition isn’t a moment in time, it’s a process, and through that process local Afghan forces end up with security leadership in Uruzgan province and with security leadership for their nation.
From here, Minister Smith and I will go to Chicago for the NATO-ISAF summit on Afghanistan. This is an important meeting to define the strategy for Afghanistan beyond the days of transition; to consider issues like the sustainment of the Afghan National Security Forces.
So we will be meeting with leaders from nations that have troops in Afghanistan, working alongside our own, to talk about the next part of what will happen in Afghanistan.
But to go there from here, to be able to leave, having talked to some of our very brave troops, is a very special privilege and it’s been great to be here. So we’re happy to take some questions.
JOURNALIST: France says it will have all troops out of Afghanistan within a year. Does that change your stance?
PM: No it does not, and the incoming President of France will be attending this summit meeting.
For Australia we have said consistently that we are working through the strategy that was defined at the last NATO-ISAF summit in Lisbon, which both Minister Smith and I attended.
At that summit we agreed that we would move through transition to Afghan security leadership by the end of 2014.
Our province, Uruzgan province where we work, is now marked for transition in Tranche 3, so it will go into transition in the coming months. And we will work through that transition process.
As we’ve said consistently, the bulk of our forces will be able to come home at the end of transition in Uruzgan province, but we’ve also made it clear that we will continue to be engaged in training support in Afghanistan and we’ve made it clear too we will (inaudible) continuing role with special forces with the right mission under the right mandate.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what are your commitments for Afghanistan that Australia’s going to be putting forward once the NATO and ISAF troops do draw down?
PM: We have pledged that Australia would provide $100 million each year for three years to sustain Afghan local forces. We've been in Afghanistan a long time; it’s cost us a lot as a nation. There have been some days of incredible sorrow.
So having worked through all of that to see the progress that has been made, we don’t want that progress lost, which is why it’s vital that the world community appropriately sustains the Afghan forces beyond the days of transition and we've certainly pledged to do our part.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the – just on another subject – the Courier Mail has published a poll today which is quite damning for Labor. What do you make of that poll?
PM: We’ve got a lot of hard work to do, including a lot of hard work here in Queensland.
This is the second time I’ve been here in just over a week, and I will be here in Queensland frequently talking to the people of Queensland about some of the difficult major reforms we’re engaged in, but ones which are right for our nation’s future, including putting a price on carbon.
And I know that many families are very worried about what carbon pricing will mean for them, but assistance for families is there including increased family payments, increased pension payments, and for people earning less than $80,000 a year, they’ll see a tax cut on 1 July.
And we understand that people are generally under cost of living pressure, which is why in the recent budget, as well as bringing the budget to surplus, we’ve brought new relief for families through the Schoolkids Bonus and increased family payments.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister just on another issue, do you think a $7 million petrol bill for MPs is too (inaudible)?
PM: This is a - the standard entitlements for MPs have been there for years and years and years, absolutely nothing’s changed on that, so MPs are able to use cars to move around, get about their work and there’s been no change to the system.
JOURNALIST: Are you wearing a Maroons jersey this Wednesday to try and win back some support in Queensland?
PM: Well I will be back. We arrive back very early on Wednesday morning, so we’ll hopefully be able to be here and watching all of the action.
I won’t be disclosing at this point what I’ll be wearing at the time; you might have to wait until Wednesday night to see that. Thanks very much.
JOURNALIST: Are you going to the Melbourne game at all?
PM: We’re, this week we’re in Parliament and unfortunately my itinerary does not enable me to go to as many sporting events as I would like, but-
JOURNALIST: I just asked because obviously there’s a lot of controversy about the game being played in Victoria.
PM: I understand that. I do understand the view of people up here about the game being played in Victoria, but obviously part of the approach of taking the game round the country, trying to build fans right around the nation.
Thanks very much.