Transcript of interview with Linda Mottram, ABC Sydney
THU 26 JULY 2012
Subject(s): Council of Australian Governments; National Disability Insurance Scheme; Caltex Kurnell refinery; Foreign investment; Tony Abbott
E & O E – PROOF ONLY
HOST: Prime Minister thank you so much for you time this morning.
PM: Good morning Linda.
HOST: Now Mr O’Farrell says that he is concerned about a blow out in bureaucracy rather than services out of the $1 billion that you’re putting into the pot for these initial tests of the NDIS. What do you say to that?
PM: I would say that is a cheap piece of politics and an attempt to distract from Barry O’Farrell’s failure here.
What Premier O’Farrell is being asked to do, nothing more, nothing less, what he is being asked to do is for 10,000 people in the Hunter region; he is being asked to put in on average $20,700 for their care. That’s what he’s being asked to do and he won’t do it.
HOST: Well he says that New South Wales under both Labor and the current Coalition Government have increased spending substantially for this stage on disability services up last year by 14 per cent and $800 million extra next year, 12 per cent.
He says New South Wales is pulling its weight and it should be able up to the Federal Government to fund this scheme.
PM: Well once again, a cheap piece of politics. Certainly New South Wales has increased funding for disabilities, as has the Federal Government. Indeed New South Wales is in a position to do that because the Federal Government has already basically doubled the amount of money going in to support people with disabilities.
But we all know even with that extra investment there are people who are not getting the care that they need today, there are people who are not getting enough care. That’s what’s breaking our nation’s heart and that’s why we’re determined to make a difference for people with disabilities right around the nation including in New South Wales.
Now what Premier O’Farrell is being asked to do, is to find around $70 million of new money over his budget period of four years. Now in the size of the New South Wales budget that is not much money.
And if we look at other states that came to Canberra yesterday and said yes, yes we’re prepared to be involved, yes we’re prepared to put money on the table – he is not being asked to do anything more than those states.
So let’s look at South Australia putting $20 million in, given how much bigger New South Wales is than South Australia, for New South Wales that would actually be $90 million of new investment. Premier O’Farrell’s not even been asked to do that, he’s being asked to find $70 million to go directly into care for people in the Hunter region and he won’t do it.
HOST: Prime Minister, everybody agrees that this is just such a vital change in the landscape for disabled people. If this scheme can be introduced, you know the overwhelming sentiment I think you would agree is, just get on with it.
Why don’t you step over the top of that, what you’re describing as his cheap politics and just put the money in and sideline the New South Wales Government?
PM: Well Linda why should the people of New South Wales have a State Government that is prepared to walk out in front of TV cameras and say they support the National Disability Insurance Scheme? Why should people tolerate Premier O’Farrell positioning in front of TV cameras about how much he supports this scheme but when the moment comes from turning words into deeds he does nothing? Why should people tolerate that?
From the Federal Government’s point of view, in a budget where we made $35 billion worth of savings, we found a billion dollars of new money for people with disabilities.
Now budgets are about values, they’re about choices, they’re about what you put your ultimate regard for and in a very difficult budget the Federal Government said, we put an overwhelming priority on getting on with launching the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Other premiers have found a way in their budget to do the same and to make the space necessary. Why can’t Premier O’Farrell do that?
Well the truth is he can, he just won’t.
HOST: The Prime Minister Julia Gillard is our guest this morning as this standoff continues between the States and the Federal Government over how to fund a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
PM: But Linda, let me just pick you up there because this is not a standoff-
HOST: Well that’s what I was going to ask you, what can we expect, in terms of a compromise because clearly if this is to happen, if this is as important as you’re saying it is and the people of Australia are saying it is then how do you, what are going into the meetings today with, how are we going to make sure that this actually does happen?
PM: Well why I was going to pick you up Linda, is yesterday we announced there will be trials of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, they will happen in Tasmania.
Tasmania was willing to partner with the Federal Government. Tasmania is very a small state with some real economic challenges in front of it and even in Tasmania they found a way to put the new money on the table.
HOST: So you don’t feel the need to compromise today?
PM: Well let me just finish my sentence. As did South Australia, once again South Australia is a smaller state with a far smaller economy than New South Wales, as did the ACT. Now this is a question at the end of the day – we’re talking about agreements and dollars and of course that’s appropriate, to get things done we have to talk about agreements and dollars – but at the end of the day this is about values.
It’s whether or not Premier O’Farrell is prepared to say that he puts a high value on starting the National Disability Insurance Scheme; that is he puts a high value on making a real difference for people with disabilities.
Now we have the Council of Australian Governments meeting yesterday. That’s not, you know, just a casual chat, that is a meeting that is prepared for over many, many months by officials, by premiers, by me as Prime Minister.
I had intensive discussions with the Premier of New South Wales yesterday. He had every opportunity yesterday to say, yes, I can get this done. Well I think that there are 10,000 people in the Hunter who would be saying to him today, Premier O’Farrell match your words with your deeds.
HOST: Can the trial be successful just based on those smaller states alone being involved, Prime Minister?
PM: Well it’ll enable us to trail a region, the ACT. It will enable us to trail services to children, in South Australia. It will enable us to trial our services to adolescents at that critical time when many of them are moving from being cared for and nurtured in their family home to looking to a more independent style of living. So it will enable us to do that.
Would I like to see the people of the Hunter benefiting from a trial of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a launch site, yes of course I would.
HOST: Politically it’s tough for you though, isn’t it? Because if you don’t, if you don’t get, you know, the scheme up and running across the country the trials up and running across the country, you’re heading for an election, it’s a difficult election environment for you. It just looks like you’ve failed.
PM: This is absolutely nothing to do with, you know, that kind of politics from my point of view. This is about making a difference to the lives of people with disabilities.
As Prime Minister I said I want us to do better for people with disabilities. I asked the Productivity Commission to look at the area for us. We’ve been working since to make the tough choices in the budget, to get launches happening and I am determined to see that through.
This is about, you know, a child with cerebral palsy who can’t get the support they need. This is about someone who’s had a tragic accident, now bound to a wheel chair with a profound disability and can’t get the kind of assistance which would enable them to, you know, shower everyday and just do the things you and I don’t even think twice about because they come easy in our lives. That’s what this is about.
HOST: And certainly we’ve been hearing those stories from people as well so, you know, we wait to see, are you optimistic? I mean what do you think the prospects are for more talks today?
PM: Well my door is open. My door has been open for months. My door was open yesterday at the COAG meeting.
HOST: But there’s no negotiating point from your side. The Premier has to come up with that $70 million?
PM: Well Linda, let’s get a sense of context here about $70 million. For an individual, $70 million is obviously a mind blowing amount of money but we are talking about, let’s be clear, the New South Wales budget is a third of the size of the Federal Budget.
If Premier O’Farrell was keeping pace, he’d be putting in $300 million of new money. He’s only being asked for 70. Now I think Premier O’Farrell’s got obligations here, as do I. As Prime Minister I am more than happy to equip those obligations. I want to get this done.
I’m just asking Premier O’Farrell to do the same thing that Premier Wetherill in South Australia has been able to do, that Premier Giddings in Tasmania has found herself able to do. For the people of New South Wales, for their Premier that is not a very big ask.
HOST: What about beyond the trial, Prime Minister? How should this unfold, assuming you can get through this current stuff?
PM: We’ll be trailing the National Disability Insurance Scheme so that’ll be happening. What we’re talking about now, Linda is whether or not New South Wales participates or just sits on the sidelines.
So we’ll be trialling the National Disability Insurance Scheme and we will be working based on what we learned from those trials to build the scheme around the nation.
HOST: You’ll be expecting this, while I’ve still got you Prime Minister, as we all love to say.
Caltex has just announced that its main refinery at Kurnell in Southern Sydney is going to close. The 400-plus employees plus 300 contractors as we understand it are affected, that’s in Sydney alone.
What’s the information you have in terms of the economic impact and the employment impact of that?
PM: Look I am aware of this news and it is very concerning. It does mean around 700 people are getting some bad news about their jobs and their future.
This is a refinery that finds itself in a very difficult economic position. It has quite aged capital, it is quite a small size given the size of oil refineries in the world today and combined of course with things like the high Australian dollar – that has meant that Caltex has had to take a very tough decision.
I’m obviously very concerned about the working people here who will be distressed with this news. The closure process is going to happen over a couple of years. We as a Federal Government will be working with Caltex to provide appropriate employment services to people who will be looking for a new job.
Caltex is in a position to make sure that people get all of their entitlements and to provide assistance with redeployment and assistance with looking for new jobs and we’ll certainly be playing our role in it.
HOST: And what do you make of your Foreign Minister’s suggestion last night with Tony Jones that there should be a ban on media leadership speculation six months out from an election?
PM: Well you know, obviously Bob Carr, like I am, is very focused on making a difference for the Australian nation-
HOST: By suggesting a ban on news before the election?
PM: I think the point that’s being made and, you know, for me I focus on this every day, you’re Prime Minister because you want to do the big things to make this nation a better place for the future.
You know, as Prime Minister I’ve made some incredibly tough decisions but they have all been about setting us up for the future so that we stay ahead in the future. We’ve got a strong economy now, we’ve got the benefits of prosperity now, we’ve got to make the decisions today that give us the opportunity for Australia still to be ahead of the pack in the future-
HOST: Well putting a ban on leadership speculation doesn’t seem to kind of fit in that scenario.
PM: Linda, for the long term future of this country, what’s the most important thing we can be talking about today? Well it’s the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
HOST: Indeed and just one more if I may, Prime Minister. The Chinese investment comments made by Tony Abbott in China during his visit in recent days – would seem to be a fairly measured and sensible approach, wouldn’t you agree that there should be a pretty close look at investment by state-owned corporations wanting to take over companies in Australia?
PM: Linda, I think we’ve called that one wrong. We’ve got the Leader of the Opposition who is known for his negativity, travelling overseas and what does he do in the United States? He criticises our nation’s national security credentials. He’s negative about our nation’s national security and then he goes to China and he’s negative about our nation’s economic security.
It was very interesting yesterday to watch the Liberal premiers scuttle to one side so that they were not caught up in Tony Abbott’s negativity because they know that kind of reckless talk costs our economy and ultimately costs Australian jobs.
HOST: Prime Minister, very good of you to join us this morning. Thank you so much.
PM: Thank you.