Transcript of press conference, Canberra
MON 11 JUNE 2012
Subject(s): Household Assistance Payments; Libya; Economic Forum; Queen’s birthday honours; Boarder security; Carbon pricing; Marine parks
PM: Good afternoon, I’m here with Andrew Leigh the Member for Fraser and we’re at the ANU talking to students about the benefits they will receive from the clean energy future package.
But before I detail those benefits I do want to say a few words about the circumstances of Melinda Taylor, an Australian who is being detained in Libya.
I am very concerned about the detention of Ms Taylor.
Ms Taylor is one member for a four person legal team under the International Criminal Court who has been in Libya associated with the legal work regarding former members of the Gaddafi regime.
We are advised that Ms Taylor is safe and well and we have been in contact with her family but we are calling on the Libyan Government to expedite the end of Ms Taylor’s detention to get to the end of this matter.
Our Ambassador-Designate will be travelling to Libya as soon as possible and we are also working with other countries to raise our concerns and to say to Libyan authorities that we want to see Ms Taylor’s detention come to an end as quickly as possible.
It’s not going to assist Ms Taylor for me to be speculating about the circumstances that led to this detention but the Government will continue to press on Ms Taylor’s behalf and in doing so we will be working with a number of other Governments particularly Spain, Russia and Lebanon who’s nationals are members of the same legal team and we are also working with France and the EU.
I’ll be happy to take questions on that just a little big later if there are any.
Today, I’ve been here with Andrew at ANU talking to students about our clean energy future package and the benefits that they will be receiving.
Young people work hard and study hard. Many of them can juggle both work and study.
It’s an investment in their own future to be getting the qualifications that they need.
It’s also an investment in our nation’s future to see our young people getting themselves skilled and qualified so that they can take their place in our future economy.
We’ve got a proud track record in working with Australian universities and students to expand opportunities so I’m very proud that we’ve expanded the number of university places by 150,000 and that we’ve also worked to increase the number of young people at university who are getting help through youth allowance.
There’s been a 21 percent increase in the number of young people getting that kind of help and we’ve also made available Start-up and relocation scholarships so now more than 300,000 students get the benefit of such a scholarship.
As we move to carbon pricing the biggest polluters in Australia will start paying a carbon price.
Individuals do not directly pay the carbon price but there will be some flow through impacts at 0.7 percent of CPI – that’s less than a cent in a doll.
To assist young people, to assist students to get Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY from today they will see a lump sum payment of up to $190 going into their bank accounts.
This is to assist them with the average flow through impact of carbon pricing.
Indeed they will come out in front because it’s anticipated that for a student receiving Youth Allowance the average flow through impact with be $117 so they will come out $73 in front.
Many students also work part time to make needs meet and they will benefit from tax cuts flowing from our tripling of the tax free threshold.
So if you were working part time, studying part time and say earning $20,000 a year from the part time work we did, we will see a tax cut of around $600.
To date we have delivered $1 billion in assistance for pensioners and families for the flow through impacts of carbon pricing.
Pensioners have been receiving lump sums with more to come from March next year.
Families have been receiving increases in family payments with more to come too.
Now students will see increases as well and then self-funded retirees, war veterans and war widows will also see increases flowing into their bank accounts.
We are making sure that as carbon pricing comes into effect that we are supporting Australia families and what I’m doing here today with Andrew is talking to students about the way in which they particularly will be supported.
We are also going to be benefiting students like the ones I’ve met today from our sharing the benefits of the boom package.
We are intending from 1 July next year to ensure that families and people getting Youth Allowance and other forms of allowance get their share of the mining boom get some additional benefits funded by the Minerals Resource Rent Tax.
I’m very happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister has there been any Consular contact with Ms Taylor yet?
PM: The circumstances here are we’re working to have full Consular contact with Ms Taylor.
We’re working through obviously our Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Carr who has been in direct contact with a counterpart in the Libyan Government.
We will also be working through our Ambassador-Designate who will travel from Italy to Libya for that purpose.
JOUNALIST: Prime Minister, the ACTU said yesterday that in the lead up to your economic forum in Brisbane they’d like to discuss the issue of greater industry assistance and the extension thereof to some industries.
What’s your general view of that, how far, where do you draw the line, where do you move beyond just helping people who want help and actually getting a benefit for the economy?
PM: We can shape change to our purposes. We can shape change, we can’t stop change.
We economy is undergoing a major structural adjustment.
That’s because of the high dollar; it’s also because of the strength of the resources sector so it is attracting labour and capital to that sector.
But I do want to come out of this period of economic change with a strong and diverse economy and that means we have some work to do and we have been doing that work with manufacturing.
It’s not about Government assistance endlessly flowing into industries that ultimately won’t be able to compete but it is working with industries in these days of transition.
It’s also about making sure that we hold skills and innovation here in this country because if you lose a vital component of manufacturing, say for example car making then it can be much much more difficult to keep the skills and the innovation you need to keep producing jobs.
JOUNALIST: Prime Minister, just getting back to the payments.
Now it’s a big payment so what sort of checks and balances are there to be sure that the payments aren’t going to dead people or people who’ve dropped out of university, what sort of checks and balances are there?
PM: Well these payments are being flowed through the general student income support scheme so we haven’t purpose built a new system.
We’re using the bank account details and identity details that we have for our normal assistance payments.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what concrete reforms would you like to see come out of the business forum commencing tomorrow.
You talked about the economy-wide challenges we’re facing what will we see do you think out of that session especially to ensure it’s not a talkfest?
PM: I’m looking forward to the opportunity to meet with some of Australia’s business leaders, members of trade unions, civil society representatives, Premiers from State Governments in Brisbane during the course of this week to talk about our economy now.
Our economy is strong and we’ve seen that reinforced by the economic data we got last week.
The doomsayers have been proved absolutely wrong but this is a time of change in our economy due to the strength of the Australian dollar.
It’s a time of some uncertainty continuing in the global economy, particularly what’s happening in Europe and it’s a time of tremendous opportunity as our region becomes the growth region of the world.
So I’ll want to be working through with the attendees at the forum all of the implications of those issues but certainly all of the opportunities that line in front of us as a country.
There’s every reason for Australians to be very confident about our nation’s future.
The economic data last week showed how strong our economy is and we come into this time of change with amazing strengths and with the real possibility of seizing new opportunities for the future.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, given that the Liberal Premiers aren’t coming, is this a political boycott? Are they undermining your form?
PM: Well Premier Baillieu for example if attending and will be speaking at one of the sessions.
I understand of course Premier O’Farrell is delivering his budget, it’s his budget week.
We’d still urge Premier Newman to be attending an important economic forum within his own state and we’d also be urging Premier Barnett to consider attending too.
We are talking at that forum as we’ve just canvassed a lot about the patchwork nature of our economy and Premier Barnett for example in Western Australia presides over a state where you can see and feel that patchwork nature of the economy very quickly.
The journey from Kwinana to some of the big mine sites in the North West, it’s a long journey over land but it’s also a long journey in terms of prosperity and opportunity.
That’s the patchwork nature of the economy showing, which is why I think it would be great if the Western Australian Premier were at the forum.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Campbell Newman’s office says he asked if he could send some Assistant Ministers because he’s too busy with Cabinet meetings and Government issues but he says that your office or the department told him that RSVPs had closed.
Is this sort of a tit-for-tat stunt?
PM: Well there’s a spot there for Premier Newman if he would like it.
JOURNALIST: On carbon pricing the New South Wales Treasury figures out today show that Government agencies like hospitals and schools will be slugged with enormous increases in electricity bills.
How can you say that only the biggest polluters will pay when NSW Treasury says opposite?
PM: Well let’s go through the facts of this because I think the facts of it actually tell an important story.
The carbon price is paid by big polluters; they’re the ones who pay the carbon price.
Schools and hospitals do not directly pay a carbon price – that is simply wrong.
What we have said to people consistently is because big polluters will be paying a carbon price there will be flow through impacts on things like electricity prices and that’s why I’m here today talking about assistance to these students, why we’ve already paid $1 billion worth of assistance and why assistance will be ongoing to Australian families.
But when we look at the New South Wales Budget, so these are 2011-12 figures, the New South Wales Budget is at around $60 billion.
Around 40 percent of this was funded by payments from the Federal Government.
That means even using their figures the bottom line impact that’s now being projected from carbon pricing represents less than 0.4 percent of the state’s budget and with the projected impact on both health and education being less than 0.2 percent and then let’s remember we’re the Government that’s almost doubled the funding going into schooling.
We’re the Government that’s put our hospitals on a path for growth in funding, stepping up to our responsibilities for being a 50-50 partner in growth and those payments are indexed and those indexation arrangements are affected by carbon pricing in the changing in the CPI.
So what you didn’t read about today was those figures, schools and hospitals less than 0.2 percent and you didn’t read about the record investments of the Federal Government in schools and hospitals around the nation including in New South Wales and you didn’t read about the way indexation works to support those schools and hospitals.
JOURNALIST: I’ve got a Queen’s birthday honours question for you from The Project.
They’re wondering if it’s fair enough for politicians to get the highest honours merely for doing their job.
PM: Well thank you for that question from The Project, Paul.
I think that for people who have given exemplary service, a lifetime of service then it is appropriate that they be honoured whatever walk of life they’re in.
I think we see some people honoured for doing things that are very different to their day jobs – working in charities and for churches.
We also see people honoured for going above and beyond in their day jobs and for those special people who go above and beyond, it’s tremendous to see that they get honoured. Including I should note the VC of this University.
JOURNALIST: Back on Melinda Taylor, who precisely is holding her?
Where is she being held? What are the circumstances? Is she in a house? Is she in a police lock up? How long will she be held for? Has she been charged with anything and is she likely to be?
PM: Well Karen there is a limit to what I can canvass here and it’s not in Ms Taylor’s interests for a great deal of the circumstances to be canvassed.
But on the advice that we have, as I’ve indicated, she is safe and well.
We have been provided with that assurance that she is safe and well and we are working as strongly as possible to expedite this matter and Ms Taylor’s release.
JOURNALIST: Surely you can say who you believe is holding her? Is it some kind of Government authority – is it judicial authority, police?
PM: Well as we understand the circumstances, and I just want to be very careful here, as we understand it she is being held in a form of detention not in a jail and we have been assured that she is safe and well.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, late on Saturday 32 asylum seekers were rescued from a remote island, the locals involved in the rescue said they were extremely lucky to have survived.
How concerning is that and why did the Government say that they had been intercepted on the boat when clearly that isn’t the case?
PM: Well on my advice relevant authorities are still working to determine the full facts of this matter so you know when we’re in a position to give you more information we will.
JOURNALIST: What do you think about the reports from the locals?
PM: I’ll wait until we’ve got the full advice from relevant authorities.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the marine parks the Commonwealth Fisheries Authority raised some concerns about this map that has emerged today and suggestions that this process is unfair, that they’re not being adequately consulted on how extensive the marine park’s going to be.
What do you say in response to that?
PM: Well there are draft maps out for consultation. Those consultations have been ongoing for some period now and a decision has not been taken on final boundaries.
JOURNALIST: Are you tying up too much of the ocean?
PM: Well we have got this out for consultation so if people have got a view then they should express it.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the weekend three Labor Senators said they feared for their seats under your leadership, that they were being sacrificed for not potent reason.
Two questions: firstly have you spoken to those three Senators and secondly what is your message to caucus members who actually do doubt your leadership or your ability to win at the next election?
PM: Well as I’ve said consistently I’ll be leading Labor to the next election and I’m looking for to fighting it on who’s got the best ability and best vision for this nation’s future, the best ability to deliver it, best ability to seize a vision of a stronger and fairer future.
We have been in a difficult political period, there’s no doubt about that, I’ve said that publically before too, as we build for some tremendously significant reforms including sharing the benefits of the resources boom through the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and seizing a clean energy future both of which will start on 1 July.
JOURNALIST: Tony Sheldon said that he believed that you were, the sort of policies you’d been pursuing this year were starting to energise the members of his union.
Is that the feedback that you are getting?
PM: Well we’ll always as a Labor Government be there managing the economy in the interest of working people including the members of Mr Sheldon’s union.
Many of whom work extraordinarily hard under very difficult circumstances, driving big trucks around our roads and we’ve been so concerned about their safety that we’ve legislated for safe roads.