Transcript of interview with Karl Stefanovic on the Today Show
FRI 28 JANUARY 2011
Subject(s): Gillard Labor Government’s response to the national flood disaster
HOST: Prime Minister Julia Gillard joins me now from Canberra. Good morning, PM.
PM: Good morning, Karl.
HOST: Good to have your company this morning. I just wonder, in light of that and in light of the fact that this crisis continues, is 6 billion conservative?
PM: Karl, as I said yesterday we’re working off the best preliminary estimates we can get. Yes, there is some risk that the damage bill is more and if it is more then we will make budget cuts to pay for the extra. The levy is there. It will be there for 12 months.
I’m asking Australians around the nation to make a contribution, those that can afford it, and I think Australians do want to contribute to the rebuilding of the nation. The Government’s also made substantial budget cuts already, so if we’re looking at the proportion between budget cuts and the levy, it’s $2 in Budget cuts for every $1 I'm asking Australians to pay for in the levy.
HOST: It’s highly likely that it will cost more. Conservatively, some are looking at $15 billion. We know that $8 billion has already been lost in mining stoppages, so it is going to go higher. How are you going to pay for it, and if you’re talking about budget cuts, why not make the cuts now?
PM: Well, Karl, I think we’ve got to be clear about damage estimates. What this money is for is it’s to rebuild the roads, the rail, the ports, the bridges that have been hit by floodwaters; it’s to rebuild that essential public infrastructure so we can get coal exports onto ships and out to the world and make money on them, we can get farm produce to market. So, that is our damages estimate. That’s where it’s been drawn from.
We are facing a disaster of unprecedented proportions in economic terms. I mean, 75 per cent of Queensland natural disaster declared; floodwaters New South Wales, Victoria and beyond. Given the unprecedented scale of this, then we do need a package of measures including the one-off levy, and, Karl, I would be making the point 60 per cent of taxpayers will be paying less than $1 a week in this levy. It’s been struck so that it is fair in design and we’ve also made substantial budget cuts.
HOST: But why not make the cuts, back to the original question, why not make the cuts now? We know that it’s going to cost more? Why don’t we just get on top of it early?
PM: Well we’re getting on top of it with this package, making $2 billion available to Queensland now-
HOST: -With respect, PM, it’s not going to be enough. We know that it’s not going to be enough, so why not make the cuts now rather than producing the levy?
PM: Well, Karl, the risk is, you’re right, that the damages bill is greater. That’s why I’ve got to make sure I’ve still got capacity in the budget to do some more if I need to do some more. That’s why I’ve got to get the mix right now, including the levy, so if, unfortunately, the damages bill is more, we’ve got ways of meeting that additional damages bill.
HOST: And the levy will not go more than a year?
HOST: That’s a guarantee?
HOST: Because they have gone longer in the past. In fact some of those levies, some introduced by the previous Government, are still going.
PM: Well, Karl, we’ll legislate this. It will be a levy for a year, 12-month levy starting on the first of July. It’s a highly progressive system, in the sense that the people who earn more, pay more - 60 per cent of taxpayers will pay less than a dollar a week, people who earn more money will be asked through the levy, obviously, to pay more.
And, Karl, I’m glad you’ve made the point about levies from the previous Government, because of course Mr Abbott is out there saying today that he’s going to oppose this levy - you know, doing what he does, opposing what the Government does. Well, I think, he really needs to answer the question why is it that he was prepared to support levies when he was in government, but he’s not prepared to support this levy to rebuild Queensland and rebuild the nation?
Indeed his election promises were all about having a levy to pay for his election promises, so it was somehow good enough to have a levy to pay for election promises but he’s trying to say it’s not good enough now when we need to deal with this huge natural disaster. I think that’s a pretty important question for him to answer.
HOST: Alright, so we have a guarantee there for those, because a lot of people are concerned at home that this is going to continue, we have a guarantee from the Prime Minister today that that is not going to go any longer and there will be budget cuts if the damage bill from these floods, which is probably inevitable, will rise.
PM, thank you very much for those guarantees, at least, today. Thank you.
PM: Thanks, Karl.