TRANSCRIPT OF JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE
WITH meMBER FOR LEICHHARDT, JIM TURNOUR
4 AUGUST 2010
E & O E – PROOF ONLY
Subjects: Cairns Economy; Changes to Family Benefit System; Taxation; Campaign
PM: Well, I’m joined today by our Member for LeichHardt, Jim Turnour, and I thank him very much for having me here in this beautiful part of the world. And I will have something to say about local matters here. But I did firstly want to start by saying that the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Prime Minister Key, has released a statement about the death of a New Zealand soldier in Afghanistan. This is the first death of a New Zealander in Afghanistan. On behalf of the Australian nation, as Prime Minister, I want to offer the nation’s condolences to Prime Minister Key and to the New Zealand people. We as a nation know what it feels like to lose soldier in Afghanistan and obviously our friends, New Zealand, are now going to bear that burden. There will be a family in New Zealand grieving today and our condolences go to them.
I am here today in the federal electorate of Leichhardt, represented by Jim Turnour in the federal parliament, who’s doing a fantastic job. And as we’ve moved around the community today, what we’ve been talking about is the importance of the economy to the people of Leichhardt and the people of Cairns. This is a part of Australia that was particularly hit by the global financial crisis, the global recession, with its tourism industry bearing a heavy loss. And what that meant was unemployment here basically doubled. Unemployment has come down to 9.8 per cent but that is of course more than the on average. And what that shows is that this part of the country particularly needed the benefits of economic stimulus. This part of the country needed to see us step up and support jobs. We’ve done that with $400 million worth of economic stimulus. And I’ve been making the point over the past few days and I’ll make it again. When the global financial crisis threatened, we had the better economic plan to support jobs. We’ve done that here. If Mr Abbott had had his way, there’d be hundreds of thousands more Australians that would have been unemployed, including here locally in Cairns.
And for the future, we’ve got the better economic plan. This is a part of the world where small business is such an engine room of growth. Such an engine room. We’ve got a better economic plan which includes cutting company tax for small business and enabling small business to get the benefit of an instant write-off when they buy new equipment for their business. And today, of course, we’ve made some announcements about new sub-acute beds for the Cairns Hospital. We’ve made some announcements about supporting a great local sporting facility here. These are the benefits you can provide when the economy is strong and we’ll have more to say during the course of today about questions here for Cairns and benefits here for the people locally.
But today, whilst I’m here and having just met with some local mothers and their babies, I wanted to make an announcement about some changes we will make if re-elected on the 21st of August to the way in which we support families with family payments. Now families know what it is like to come up against an unexpected problem. The washing machine breaks down, the car breaks down, your son or your daughter gets selected for the tennis team and they need a new racket. Families know what it is like to have these costs come into the family budget unexpectedly. And of course we understand that families are under financial pressure. That’s why today I announce that if re-elected we will change the Family Benefit System so people can get the benefit of accessing some of their payments early if they face an unexpected cost. Those who qualify for the baby bonus, we will enable them to pull forward $500 of the baby bonus to help meet the costs of setting up for a new baby, setting up what you need in the nursery, buying the pram. And for families that receive Family Benefits, we will enable them to bring forward up to 7.5 per cent of their Family Benefit to help meet unexpected costs. Now, for a family with a child, say two children, an average family, we’re talking about being able to pull forward benefits in the vicinity of $625. Now this will help families just to meet the bills of those unexpected costs that may come along and can throw the family budget out. Now this is a measure which is affordable, it’s modest, but I think it will make a real difference for Australians. And in putting forward these measures, we’ve sorted through and we’ve made sure they are affordable, are costed and that of course, we will acquit our obligations to bring the budget back to surplus in 2013 and nothing we do in this campaign will add a cent to the budget bottom line.
Can I say, this is a very sharp contrast to the chaos and confusion that Mr Abbott is causing with his paid parental leave scheme, and the real anxiety it is causing for Australian businesses and Australian families. Mr Abbott’s scheme is about putting company tax up. If company tax goes up, that puts pressure on prices go up. This is a grocery tax on Australian families. And today Australian business has come out and made it very clear what it thinks of Mr Abbott’s tax arrangements. If I can quote the chief executive of Myer, he says: “It’s a 1.5 per cent that can’t be spent creating employment.” And if I can quote the BCA: “This is policy on the run and it shows.” If I can quote the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “If it looks like a tax and walks like a tax, then it is a tax.” Well, those words are right. It is a tax. It’s a tax on everything that families would buy (inaudible), everything that family’s rely on (inaudible). It’s becoming even clearer that with the economy at the centre of this campaign, with these things being said about Mr Abbott’s plan for company tax, its effect on employment, its effect on prices, Mr Abbott should step up to a debate on the economy. And Mr Abbott has said he can’t make Sunday night. Well, I say to Mr Abbott, what about Monday night for a debate on the economy? Our plans for jobs, our better economic plan for the future. How about justifying his tax on groceries. I am happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, yesterday you said (inaudible). Both of those changes were promised by Labor at the last election. Can you (inaudible).
PM: Well, we’ve got some big economic reform agendas the Government’s been working on and we’ll deliver. We will deliver a reduction in company tax. And the contrast there, the contrast particularly today, is between our reduction in company tax coming in early for small business, versus Mr Abbott’s plans to put a tax on groceries around the country that have got the kind of hard hitting reaction from business that we have seen today. Our plan to increase superannuation, build national savings. Our plans to invest in infrastructure, including the infrastructure of the future. Our plans, of course, to invest in skills and training for young Australians, versus Mr Abbott’s cuts. And our plans to support small businesses – very important to an economy of a region like this. And I want to give them lower company tax. I want to give them tax write-offs for the equipment that they buy. Mr Abbott would increase company tax and he doesn’t want to see small business getting those benefits.
PM: Well, we have been assured by Medibank Private this dividend can be paid and Medibank Private can continue with all of its current settings. They do not need to change its current settings because of paying this dividend.
PM: Oh look I’m obviously happy to be in Sydney with Premier Keneally and see that some point in the campaign I had hoped that Premier Keneally may have been able to, when I made the very important announcement in Maroubra about the Malabar headland, she had a long standing personal commitment. It was in fact her wedding anniversary, so she went with her family to celebrate that.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister (inaudible)
PM: Well, can I say, across this campaign I have been talking about what I believe in and the things I will do as Prime Minister. There’s nothing more important than people having a job. The benefits of work and my determination that we keep the economy strong. Nothing more important than building on our education reforms and giving kids a future. This week we announced some major changes, big changes, to how we run schools. Empowering local principals. These things are about delivering high quality education for the future. They are the things that I have brought my personal passion to, they are the things that will define the Government I lead, a strong economy, a focus on education making sure that kids get decent opportunities for jobs.
JOURNALIST: I noticed that the Opposition has announced his economic line-up (inaudible)
PM: Well, I would say one of the problems for Mr Abbott is the (inaudible) turn up for the future
PM: Well Wayne Swan of course will be the Treasurer as Deputy Prime Minister, for Mr Abbott, what I would say with his economic line-up, I’m not sure where Joe Hockey’s been during this campaign, I’m not sure where Andrew Robb has been either, given that on radio in other interviews, he has been confused about basic economic matters, and as for what Andrew Rob has been doing, given less than 10 per cent of the promises made by the Opposition have been put in for proper costing and I must admit I don’t know what Mr Abbott is going to do with Mr Turnbull if he is elected as Prime Minister either.
JOURNALIST: Well what about your Prime Ministership?
PM: Well what you are seeing from me is me as Prime Minister obviously with the Deputy Prime Minister, Wayne Swan clearly outlining our economic plan for the future, people know if they re-elect my Government, what we will do for the economy. What they know with Mr Abbott is he is a big risk, just look at the words of business today and that big risk is in no way changed by the people around him, in fact I think it makes no difference.
PM: It was the right thing to change the baby bonus to periodic payments. We were concerned, as many social welfare agencies and charities around the country became concerned. About the impacts of the one-off payment, particularly on young people so it was the right thing to do. To support people, as they’re experiencing the cost of having a new born baby. But yes there are some costs that you need to meet up front, that’s why we think it is appropriate to be able to bring forth $500.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you are half way through your campaign today, I wonder if you want to (inaudible)
PM: Well the central challenge here for me and for the nation is to make a decision about who is best in position to guide this nation for the future and keep our economy strong. It’s the centre of this campaign, it’s the centre of the choice on the 21st of August. I am talking about the economy, I have a plan for the economy, I’m prepared to debate the economy with Tony Abbott on Monday night, if that’s what suits him. He has said Sunday is no good, well what about Monday. In this campaign, Mr Abbott’s uncosted policies, can’t save when the Budget is coming back to surplus. Getting an adverse reaction from business to his new tax which will flow through to the prices which people pay. No plans for infrastructure, no plan for skills and planning. Everything on that side of the ledger associated with cut-backs, let’s have that debate, I’m happy to do it.
PM: Well look, I’ll leave the political commentary to the political commentators in the room. I’m going to be out there as I am today with our great local Members and Jim Turnour has been a fantastic advocate of the needs of this community, and that is why we are making announcements today like more support for the Cairns based hospital. And more support for local sporting facilities because of his advocacy. I am going to be out with our local candidates and members, traipsing about describing our better economy plans for our nation’s future and talking about what it would have been like, here in Cairns if we had taken Mr Abbott’s advise, gone into recession, hundreds of thousands of people out of work in a hard hit region like this one. Imagine what it would have looked like, with economic stimulus (inaudible). Yes we would have still seen people unemployed, there is an unemployment related 9.8 per cent here, obviously we would keep working to get that down imagine what the unemployment rate would have been here, if Mr Abbott had been Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, now two weeks ago Wayne Swan (inaudible) yesterday he promised $2m in the marginal seat of Dobell for a sporting contract which hadn’t been built yet and today (inaudible) $2.5m for a junior rugby club, how desperate is this Government in this election (inaudible)
PM: I believe that local communities want to see the benefits of the strong economy in their local community and with a strong economy we can provide benefits and bring the Budget to surplus in 2013. The problem for Mr Abbott is he can’t name when the Budget is going back to surplus. I can define when the Budget is going back to surplus and provide benefits like these. And on the benefits we provided today, it is important to have some acute beds to take pressure off acute beds in public hospitals and to provide rehabilitation. It’s important to provide good quality local sporting facilities. The kids we have met today, many of them young Indigenous kids are part of them keeping them motivated and enthused about education with them being able to play sport, be engaged in sport, that is part of keeping them in the system, getting the skills they need for life and work. That’s why we provided the extra assistance to Jones Park today, some great work is happening there
JOURNALIST: Would you consider debating Bob Brown if you wanted to entice Tony Abbott into (inaudible)
PM: Look the economy is at the centre of this campaign, I’m sure Bob Brown is full of aspirations, but there is only two people who can end up Prime Minister and leading the national economy. That’s me and Mr Abbott, that’s why I am saying to Mr Abbott the economy is the centre of this campaign, we need to test his economic plans. We see today that his plans for a company tax is coming under fire from business, let’s test his economic plan versus my economic plan through a debate, I’m happy to have it Monday night.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you sure that your cash for (inaudible) policy won’t end up the same insulation program did?
PM: Yes I am sure. We have designed the policy you referred to enable us to get some our older cars that spew out a lot of pollution off the road carefully. What you need to do, is you need to go and buy a new car, you need to have a registered motor vehicle, you need to have seen the person it was registered to and then you need to go and get yourself a greener car.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, In principle (inaudible)
PM: Well, I have deliberately changed the style of the campaign. I have said I was going to do that, I said I wanted to be more out talking to Australian’s. I’ve said that I wanted to be more out carrying Labor’s message, putting forward the policies and plans to make a real difference to the nation’s future, making myself available to do that, I’ve been doing that and once again in this opportunity and in other opportunities you talk to people here, you talk to some of the people I have met this morning who know what it’s like. Who know what it’s like to have worked who have (inaudible) months of unemployment who have got a new start. There is nothing more important, nothing more important than people having jobs. Yes.
JOURNALIST: On the (inaudible) the government (inaudible)
PM: Well this is a $500 cash advance so obviously there is a limit on it. It is there to help people with the set up cost that people have. Getting the pram, getting the clothes, getting ready for a new baby, I believe that the periodic payment is the right way to deal with it, but to help people prepare the $500 will be available if they want it and then for family benefits, and of course this is about more than the baby bonus, there are people who strike unexpected costs. Something happens to the car, something happens to the washing machines, something happens at home which means there is a bigger cost than what is already in the fortnightly budget, it will enable people to bring some of their family benefits forward for that cost.
PM: Well, firstly, I of course want to see people in jobs and that’s why when the global financial crisis threatened, we stepped up and we supported jobs, and that was particularly important for older workers because we know from past economic downturns if older workers lost their jobs, some of them never worked again. It shattered their ability to ever get paid employment again. Now when we were there, stepping up providing support for jobs, including here in the Federal electorate of Leichhardt (inaudible) this hard hit local economy. What was Mr Abbott saying? He was saying, no economic stimulus, let’s be like New Zealand, let’s have a recession, let’s have hundreds of thousands of people out of work, there would have been older people in those figures that would never have worked again. And on the policy he has announced today, where are the costings, why can’t Mr Abbott tell the Australian people when the Budget will be back to surplus, why can’t Mr Abbott put his policies through and appropriate costing process, what has he got to hide?
JOURNALIST:(inaudible) critical of the idea to pay employers more than $3,000 to employ (inaudible)
PM : We have provided economic stimulus we’ve provided a better way of getting job services to people who are unemployed to meet their needs, they have been working for, workers across our economy, I understand that older workers, if they lose their job can face particular difficulties , that’s why we took the step we took to keep people in work. It’s one of the reasons that’s precious, it’s one of the reasons its needed and Mr Abbott, just wanted to sit there twiddling his thumbs, watching people, including older workers, join the dole queue.
PM: Well I’ve dealt with the question about the Greens before. They are no policy arrangements between the Labor Party and the Greens full stop. On the question of plain packaging for cigarette packets, I’m glad you’ve raised that with me because when I heard all of this it did ring a bell with me and, of course, people would be familiar that I’ve spent a fair bit of time debating Mr Abbott on the Today Show. On the 30th of April we had a debate about plain paper packaging where I was advocating it. To which I said, during the debate, me speaking, the plain paper packaging, yes or no? Are you going to keep taking tobacco donations? Mr Abbott: Fine, fine, fine, if it shuts you up for a second, yes Julia. Mr Abbott well and truly, in the debate with me, then supported plain paper packaging. Now, of course, equivocal on the concept. So why is that? I think we’re entitled to an explanation.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, I just want to ask, as (inaudible) with two and a half weeks to go are you going to be concentrating your efforts on Queensland and New South Wales or are you going to be concentrating your efforts on maybe Melbourne and Victoria, South Australia where you seem to be doing better? Why are older voters seemingly going to Labor? (inaudible)
PM: You’ve seen me campaigning around the country, you’ve seen me campaigning every day and I am going to be out there fighting with everything I’ve got everyday because it’s too important to this nation’s future to risk with Mr Abbott with Australians waking up on the 22nd of August with Mr Abbott as Prime Minister – no economic plan, no understanding of the economy. Don’t ask me, ask his Liberal colleagues, they say that themselves. I don’t want to see Australians risking our strong economy, risking bringing the Budget back to surplus, risking Australians being in work, risking getting our fair share for jobs of the future, risking national savings, not building the National Broadband Network. That’s what would happen if Mr Abbott was Prime Minister of this country on the 22nd of August – it’s a pretty frightening vision of the future. I’m going to be out there each and every day arguing for my better economic plan and we have people in jobs under Labor you’ll get a fair work system, under Mr Abbott it will back to the, back to WorkChoices.
TURNOUR: I’m focussed today, every day between now and the election, about what we can do to support jobs in this local community. The Prime Minister has been here today, made commitments, (inaudible) important local commitments and proved that (inaudible) is certainly going to provide construction. If you’re talking about what’s the critical issue in this election here, it’s about which government has the best economic plan to support jobs here in Cairns across this region and that’s what we’re here today talking about. That’s what I’m arguing for. Every day between now and the election I’ll be out there, meeting people and talking to them on the phone, going to businesses in the local community and I’ll be talking about what we’ve done to support jobs through some very, very difficult economic times. This region has been smashed by the global economic crisis and we have (inaudible) supported jobs in the construction industry, supported jobs in tourism industry. We’ve got some great plans to diversify this local economy and that’s what people are interested in and that’s what we’re here today talking to.
TURNOUR: I think I’ve answered your question today. What people are interested in is which leader is best placed to manage this local economy. Which leader is best placed to manage the nation’s economy. We’ve got the Prime Minister here supporting jobs. We had Mr Abbott here a couple of days ago – did nothing to support jobs. We know throughout his time in the Opposition, they have opposed economic stimulus. Economic stimulus has been critical for supporting jobs in this local community. We’ve also put in place funds to support the tourism industry, getting new flights back to Cairns, bringing charters in. Those have been very, very important commitments here. Very, very important to support local jobs and that’s what I’m focussing on every day, every minute between now and the next election. Thanks very much.
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