Transcript of interview with Leigh Sales, 7.30
WED 25 JULY 2012
Subject(s): COAG; NDIS; Household assistance; Carbon pricing; Leadership
HOST: Prime Minister, thank you for making time for us.
PM: Thank you Leigh.
HOST: Can you just give me a figure, how many Australians would stand to benefit from a fully functioning National Disability Insurance Scheme, just a ball park figure?
PM: There are probably around 400,000 Australians around the nation. Leigh, I think it's important people understand the essence of this scheme. Maybe it's a confusing title, but the essence of it is this. Currently today, if you end up with a major disability, maybe you were born with it, maybe you have an accident, maybe some debilitating disease means you end up with a disability.
Whether you get care, enough care, indeed sometimes any care, depends on the circumstances in which you got that disability and where you live. So if you're injured at work you will probably get worker's compensation. If you got the same injury at home you won't. If you're in one part of Australia you will get better deals through government services than in another part of Australia.
I want to end that kind of cruel lottery that we're getting people to play. I've met people with disabilities whose needs simply aren't being met; a couple of showers a week for example if all the care that they get. We can change that, we should change that and that’s what the National Disability Insurance Scheme is for.
HOST: That example you give is appalling so how is it that then today at the COAG meeting we’ve seen another example of politicians failing to work together to get a policy through that would help 400,000 people in really desperate need?
PM: Well let’s be clear about who did what at the meeting today.
Budgets are about choices and what you value and if you put your hand on your heart and say, I value having a National Disability Insurance Scheme then you’ve got to make the tough choices in your budget to make it happen.
We did that at the last Federal Budget in a budget where we had $35 billion worth of savings, we put together $1 billion of new money for launch sites around the country. That wasn’t easy to do but that was our way of saying this is so important, we’re going to do the tough things to make it possible.
Other states around the nation have said the same thing. You know, Tasmania, small state and difficulties in its economy but the Premier of Tasmania did some tough stuff to have some new money ready to go so she could have a launch site. So did the Premier of South Australia, so did the Chief Minister of the ACT and they will have launch sites.
Asked to do the same thing, no more, asked to do the same thing, the Premier of New South Wales – a big strong state; the Premier of Victoria – a big strong state, wouldn’t do it.
What Barry O’Farrell was asked for today was $70 million of new money over three years – that’s on the whole New South Wales budget. What Premier Baillieu was asked for was around 40. And whilst they say they value being involved in a National Disability Insurance Scheme and having a launch site they wouldn’t put forward those relatively small amounts of money to get it done for their people in their states.
HOST: But it is your scheme, it’s you initiative. Why should the Federal Government not put up the bulk of the funding for it?
PM: We’ve got a billion on the table.
HOST: Why shouldn’t you pay for more of it?
PM: Leigh, let’s be very, very clear here. I made the tough decisions to put a billion dollars into having launch sites, a billion dollars – new money.
Premier O’Farrell, who’s got a budget a third of the size of mine; so if he was making a comparable effort, he’d be there with $300 million. I’m not asking him for $300 million, I’m not even asking him per capita to do the same that the Premier of South Australia is. He’s putting in $20 million, if Barry was stumping up the same for his bigger state that’d be $90 million – not even asking him to do that. Seventy million dollars and he wouldn’t do it.
HOST: It’s the Labor Governments who’ve come in behind you and the Liberal Governments that are holding out which gives people the impression that it’s just another one of these political rows where people can’t find a way to compromise in the national interest.
PM: Well Leigh, let’s look at this and I think it probably is a bit cofounding for people today. They watched the TV screens and they see that the Leader of the Opposition say he cares about a National Disability Insurance Scheme, he wants to get it done too, the Liberals believe in it as much I do. And yet when it comes to the moment to turn from words to deeds, to actually make a decision which makes something possible and relatively small amounts of money for big states then the Liberal states don’t come forward and do it.
Now my door is still open to those states to get this done but I think that they’ve got to explain tonight; there is 10,000 people in Newcastle who would have benefited from a launch in New South Wales. Barry O’Farrell’s got to say to them why they’re not worth $70 million more over three years. Premier Baillieu, 5,000 people in the Barwon region, he couldn’t find 40 million to look after them.
Now that’s a lot of numbers and a lot of stuff about agreements but it speaks to values, what you care about, what you’re prepared to do and when they were asked, Premier O’Farrell and Premier Baillieu, they weren’t prepared to act.
HOST: On the inflation figure that was out today, it was low as we know. But when we look over the past few years at the costs of goods and services that Australians cannot live without – I’m talking about things like electricity, gas and water – they have risen enormously.
Why hasn’t Labor eased cost of living pressures on Australians since it came to office, as it promised to do?
PM: We have certainly supported family budgets and we’ll continue to do so.
Tax cuts, School Kids Bonus, increased family payments, stepping up to more of the costs of child care, historic increase in the pension, a tax cut from 1 July meaning that you can keep, you know, $18,200 you earn and the tax man doesn’t take a cent – these are all things that support families.
HOST: I think people would still say that that isn’t making up the different when you’ve got things like a 60 per cent increase in your electricity bill, a 50 per cent increase in your water bill, a 40 per cent increase in your gas bill. It does seem like it’s harder to make ends meet.
PM: I certainly understand that there are people who are under cost of living pressure and who are finding it harder to make ends meet which is why in the recent budget, even in a budget where it was difficult to find dollars as I’ve just described, we did things like decided to give people the School Kids Bonus to help them with the costs of getting the kids back to school; why I wanted to see them get a tax cut; why we’ve increased family payments out of the proceeds of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, because Australians around the country are entitled to their fair share of the resources boom too.
But I do get that those big utilities bills really put pressure on people and interestingly today at COAG there was discussion about electricity where the Premier of Queensland clearly said the big cost driver here is the polls and the wires. The big cost driver is in the things that states predominately control and we’ve got to make a change to that big cost driver.
I agree with that, states do have to step up here to better manage what is happening in their electricity systems because that’s where the big costs are coming from.
HOST: It’s almost a month since the carbon price came in and the world hasn’t ended as you and you’re Ministers have repeatedly pointed out so we don’t need to go over that ground again but people get their bills as I’ve talked about, they have a trip to their rubbish dump to drop off a load and what was $40 visit is now a $55 visit.
Isn’t your problem that all these little things just keep adding up and every time people think, bloody government?
PM: I think Australians are pretty commonsense and pretty smart and when they get an electricity bill as people in many states will do and see an insert which explains that the impact of the carbon price is 10 per cent – we knew it would be that and so we factored all of the household assistance on the basis it would be 10 per cent-
HOST: Do reckon people do do that though? Would they just get their bill and sigh?
PM: Well I think they probably do look at it and go, that’s going to be hard to pay. I think they do look at it and then I think they want to understand what’s going on and, you know, I didn’t raise it at the COAG table today, the Premier of Queensland raised the fact that the big cost driver isn’t not carbon, it’s the polls and the wires – he raised that.
Now people are entitled to that information, I’ve been trying to ensure they get that information. There have certainly been some states, some Liberal states, that want to play a bit of a trick here and pretend that all of the cost of electricity increases is about carbon pricing, it’s not true and no one should work on the basis it is true.
But 10 per cent, yes that’s about carbon pricing and that’s why there are tax cuts, family payment increases, and pension increases and people should look at their state governments and say, how are you helping me while I’m paying 40-50 per cent more because of what the state governments have done?
HOST: Prime Minister, how does the real Julia feel about these constant leadership mutterings that would drive anyone up the wall?
PM: Look, I’m governing, that’s what I do, making the changes that will shape our nation’s future and, you know, there are times when you’ve got to make tough decisions and they’re not easy but we’ve made, and I’m going to continue to make, the big decisions that will shape our nation’s future.
So whether it’s the NBN, whether it’s carbon pricing, whether it’s what I’ve already done in schools, whether it’s the new health care agreement, whether it’s the National Disability Insurance Scheme, what motives me and why I’m determined to keep governing and keep getting the job done is I want to lock these reforms in and then I want to build on them.
I’ve got more to do, I’ve got more to do in schools, I’ve got more to do to make sure we move from the launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme to the full arrangement and I’ve got more to do to make sure that our economy isn’t just ahead of the pack today but it’s ahead of the pack in five years time, 10 years time, 15 years time, 20 years time, when you’re new baby is out there looking for a job I still want Australia to be the place that people look at and say, gee that economy’s the envy of the world.
If we’re going to achieve that, we’ve got to set that up now. It’s not easy – big decisions, tough ones, but you do this job to make them.
HOST: Is that the answer you’d give to that question if it was mate over a beer?
PM: Yes it is. Because, look I’d probably take a few sips of the drink in between answering but the people who know me will know that I chose to do this because I was fired up about making change.
Leigh, there’s easier ways to live, there’s easier jobs to do, I’m someone who had alternate career pathways, I came out of the law, I made a decision to do this. I made a decision to do it first and foremost because I was incensed as a young person that there were kids who weren’t getting a decent education.
I was a lucky one, you know, ordinary family, migrant family, went to the local state school, we were zoned to go there and it was a great school. I was the lucky one, I was conscious even as a young person; there were lots of people just like me who didn’t have that kind of luck. The school they went to was not a good school and they haven’t had the opportunity to live the life I have as a result. That’s what propelled me into politics; it’s propelling me on today as we go work like the future of school funding.
HOST: All these things you care about though, I know you say you don’t look at the polls, I know it’s not a popularity contest but you will not be able to follow these things through unless you keep your own team on side and unless you lift that primary vote of 28 per cent.
You know, what are you going to do about that?
PM: Well I’ll be here going this job, governing, getting the big things locked in and the new things done. Like better school funding, like building the next stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, like focusing on the jobs of the future-
HOST: But you won’t get to do those things if you don’t put these leadership rumblings to bed.
PM: I’ll be doing them and continuing to do them until the 2013 election. Then it’ll be over to the Australian people to decide as it should be.
Won’t that be a stark choice – a stark choice between a Labor Government that can point to big achievements and a clear plan to keep us strengthening for the future, and a Liberal team that’s hoping in a complacent and lazy way to coast in, just saying no without a policy agenda. That’ll be the choice in 2013.
HOST: On 2013, I want to ask you about your source of confidence that you’ll be leading Labor then because in the past week we’ve seen the Chief Government Whip effectively put you on notice. We’ve seen a by-election in one of Labor’s safest seats where you’ve barely held on. We’ve seen union leaders talk about your possible departure and we’ve seen this Newspoll that I mentioned earlier.
Why are you confident, what is the source of your confidence?
PM: The source of my confidence is how I know I do this job and how the team works with me to do it.
HOST: So what do you say to the people in your team who are feeling nervous and antsy and gee, should we change leaders?
PM: Well what I would say to anybody, whether it was someone in my Labor team or someone in the local community, I would say, well you know, there are times in politics that are tough and that’s probably telling you you’re getting the big things done.
Where would this country have been if when you floated the dollar of when you did universal superannuation or you did Medicare people were out there going gee, losing a bit of skin, feeling a bit bruised, too hard, let’s pack it in? Well that’s not me and it’s not Labor and that is the source of my confidence.
That whilst there’s pressure around and I do understand that people sometimes say a few things responding to that pressure, the pressure is there because we’re doing the big things, we’re doing the Labor things, we’re shaping this nation’s future and my confidence is we’ve got so much more to do and I’m the person to drive it and drive the team as we get there.
HOST: Prime Minister, thank you very much.
PM: Thank you.