Transcript of interview with Tom Ballard and Alex Dyson, Triple J
WED 09 MAY 2012
Subject(s): Budget 2012-13; Newstart Allowance; Schoolkids Bonus; Foreign aid; Indigenous Australians
HOST: It is budget wash-up day and on Triple J this morning we’re very glad to have a special guest in the studio, who better to talk about Australia’s finances than the person in the top job. Please welcome a good friend to the show now, been on a couple of times, Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
HOST: Good morning Prime Minister, thanks for being on the show.
PM: Good morning, a great pleasure.
HOST: Joining us from our Canberra studios, the ABC Canberra studios at Parliament House at the moment. Thanks for joining us.
OK, well first of all I think we have a question right off the back, the big story that came out of the budget – Alex Dyson.
HOST: The pig slaughter levy, Prime Minister. Jumping from $1.35 per head of pig to $2.25, a 60 per cent jump. Are you trying to get the swine vote?
PM: Let me explain this to you, I know it was the subject of grand fascination on Twitter last night. It is a levy that the industry asked for and it is not going to be passed through to consumers, so don’t worry that the price of bacon, or your favourite pork chop is going up, because it’s not.
HOST: OK, alright, well, we’ll see. We’ll just see Prime Minister.
HOST: Sam Kekovich could have something to say about it, I don’t know.
HOST: We’ll see what happens. OK, obviously we’re a youth station so we’re really interested in how this new budget, the 2012 budget affects young people, particularly students. This Newstart Allowance has just been announced, a lot of people hoping for major increases for students and young people who are going to uni and some reportedly living below the poverty line. Do you really think 60 cents a day, or the $210 a year Newstart Allowance is going to help students and unemployed people?
PM: Well, I think it will make a difference and let’s look at the full sweep of what the budget is doing for students and for young people. First and foremost, we are continuing to lift our investments in education, universities, more than $5 billion more than they would have received if we hadn’t moved to the new system of demand driven funding, so that they can expand places. That means around 150,000 more people are getting to go to university, many of them young people and many of them from poorer homes.
And we’ve changed the system of student income support, so that it better supports students, particularly regional and rural students and meets their needs.
At the same time, from 1 July we are tripling the tax-free threshold. That means that for a lot of young people who are in part time work, low paid work, they will no longer be in the tax system. They will be able to earn $18,200 and not pay any tax.
And in addition to that we’ve made a modest move to make a difference for people who are on Newstart.
HOST: A few of those students though, say maths and science students will be paying more to go to university, about double.
PM: We have made a change in an incentive scheme we had to studying maths and science. We found on the evidence that it’s only made the most marginal difference to the number of people who are studying maths and science. Students who have been in that system will face a change for the forthcoming academic year, but they’ve had the benefits of that system for their earlier years of study.
And we are putting some resources in this budget to what we think will be better ways to encourage more people into studying maths and science, because we need all of those maths and science skills in so many jobs in our nation’s future, but we also need people to get those skills at uni so that they can go maths and science teaching into our primary schools and high schools.
HOST: What about education at the primary and high school level, you’ve announced the Schoolkids Bonus, which is $120 per child at a high school and $410. That money goes directly to parents, not to schools, isn’t that sort of initiative just to sort of buy votes from families and that kind of thing, isn’t it?
PM: Well we’ve almost doubled the amount of money going into school education. So, whichever way you want to look school education, whether you want to look at school buildings, whether you want to look at school computers, whether you want to look at money to improve teacher quality, whether you want to look at more money going into-
HOST: -That’s not what the Schoolkids Bonus does, that goes directly to parents-
PM:-No, but your point was shouldn’t this be going to education and I’m explaining that in relation to that point we’ve almost doubled the amount of money going into education and, as we continue to invest so strongly in education right around the country, including into some of the most disadvantaged schools in our nation. Whilst we do all of that, we are also going to provide this Schoolkids Bonus. It’s $410 for primary school students, $820 for secondary school students and it’s to help with the costs of getting the kids to school, school uniforms, school shoes, school bags, pens, paper, excursions, all the rest of it. People with kids in schools-
HOST: -How do you know the money’s going to be spent on those things though?
PM: Well, look, we’ve got Australian families who are out there every day paying the amount of money to get their kids to school and we want to give them a helping hand with it. This is replacing an Education Tax Refund system, which meant people had to keep their receipts and what we learned from that system is out of the 1.3 million families eligible for it, one million of them either weren’t getting their entitlement at all, or they weren’t getting it in full.
So it wasn’t getting the money through to where it was needed, that’s why we’re moving to the new system.
HOST: Right, well a few people on our text line, Prime Minister, are worried about foreign aid, Wayne Swan referred to this as the battler’s budget, but surely there are no bigger battlers than the recipients of Australia’s foreign aid, which has been pushed back, despite election promises to the contrary.
Why do you think achieving a $1.5 billion surplus is worth, not only depriving these battlers, but also breaking that promise?
PM: Well we have made a change on foreign aid and I want to see us be a generous country around the world and we are. The change we’ve made is to do-
HOST: -We’re one of the lowest contributors in the OECD.
PM: That is not the case. We are number ten in the OECD, on our way to number six in the OECD. That’s the actual figures and we have already doubled the foreign aid budget and we are in the process of doubling it again, to more than $8 billion a year.
In these economic times, where our economy is strong in its fundamentals, but there are certainly pressures on and the government is not getting the same amount of revenue as it has in the past. We have made an adjustment of one year, so it will be one year longer before we reach our Millennium Development Goals.
But if you get out the Budget papers, each and every year you will see foreign aid increasing.
HOST: Britain is in recession at the moment and they’re pushing bipartisanly for 0.7 per cent of GDP, our target of 0.5 has been pushed back that year. Do you think that that’s enough?
PM: Well, we’ve made a decision in this budget to do the push back by one year, but of course I want to see foreign aid increasing and in this budget each and every year it increases compared with the last year.
So foreign aid is still continuing to increase.
HOST: On Triple J this morning, we’re chatting to Prime Minister Julia Gillard about the budget at the moment. Finally Prime Minister, we’ve got Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott calling in really soon, what about Indigenous Australians, if the Labor Government is so keen to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in terms of life expectancy and education standards, why is Abstudy been cut down a bit in this budget and the Indigenous literacy and numeracy program worth $56 million been scrapped?
PM: What has happened there is that we’ve made some changes of program. Overall our investment into assisting Indigenous Australians, meeting our Closing the Gap targets, life expectancy, health, education, this Government has continued to invest in record amounts into assisting Indigenous Australians.
So, a program change, you don’t want to let disguise from you the overall in the budget. We are investing in our Stronger Futures legislation; we are investing across the board in our Closing the Gap targets.
And we are doing more of that than any government in Australia’s history.
HOST: Well Prime Minister Gillard, it’s a very busy morning for you, so we appreciate you coming on Triple J very much. Thank you very much for dropping by.
Sorry we didn’t get you to give away any prizes this morning, but you’d better get on to talk about the budget with many other people, so thanks so much for chatting to Tripe J, I know our listeners really appreciate it.
PM: Thank you very much and another time I’ll come on and do the prizes.
HOST: OK, we’ll get that next time. We’ll lock it in.
HOST: Thanks Prime Minister.
PM: Thank you.