TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH LYNDAL CURTIS
5 AUGUST 2010
E & O E – PROOF ONLY
Subjects: Kevin Rudd; Health and hospitals; Fast rail; Economy
CURTIS: We’ve been joined from our Townsville studio by the Prime Minister who’s campaigning in Townsville today. Julia Gillard, welcome to AM.
PM: Good morning Lyndal.
CURTIS: Kevin Rudd says he’s campaigning for the re-election of the Government. Would you like to campaign together or might that be the distraction he fears he might be?
PM: Well certainly Kevin and I will have a chat in coming days and I would welcome him on the campaign trail. What he was saying last night is what, I think, he and I share as a set of beliefs. We share deep beliefs about the future of this country and we know what happens on the 21st of August will determine so much of that future. So Kevin, obviously still recovering and he talked last night about how keyhole surgery might be more than it seems. The word keyhole tends to imply that it’s not all that much but actually it is a big thing to recover from, but clearly he will be campaigning for the re-election of the Government. I welcome that and I know that it is fuelled by the beliefs that we share in this country’s future and how we best build for that future.
CURTIS: He said last night he was relaxed about the job he got after, if you are re-elected. He was asked specifically about the question of the Foreign Ministry but he also talked about passions in Indigenous Affairs and climate change – getting a global agreement there. Will it be important to find him a job that he’s passionate about?
PM: Kevin Rudd is a man of enormous capabilities and obviously he is a man with public policy passions in many areas. Of course, he’s spent a lifetime in Foreign Affairs, what first got him really active and interested in politics was this fascination with China and our place in the world and he went on as a Member of Parliament and then as Prime Minister to exhibit other passions. I mean, he wrote an amazing page in this nation’s history when he delivered the apology to the Stolen Generations.
So Kevin – enormous capabilities. He’s going to be a senior member of the team if we’re re-elected and obviously there are a wide variety of roles that he could serve in. I’ll talk to him about that if we’re re-elected, but I think what Kevin’s saying, what I’m saying is our focus is on that all important choice on election day. For the day after, I’d want to see Kevin serving as a senior member of the team if we’re re-elected in an area where he’s got enthusiasm and passion.
CURTIS: He says he doesn’t want to stand idly by at the prospect of Tony Abbott sliding into Government by default. What does that say about Labor’s chances at this election?
PM: Well I think once again Kevin would be seeing the election campaign and he would be saying to the Australian people what I’ve been saying which is that this is a tough, close contest. A photo finish. The outcome is in the balance and consequently Kevin, even though he is still recovering from surgery, is enthusiastic for campaigning for the re-election of the government because he knows the things that he cares deeply about turn on this election outcome. The common beliefs that he and I share about keeping the economy strong and the importance of work. The common beliefs he and I share about education, getting every kid a chance, of course he’s a kid from a State school who went on to great things. His life was transformed by education. He’s got that passion to see every Australian child get a great education and, of course, he’s a man with a great deal of fluency and competency in our nation’s role in the world and a man with real passion for closing the gap for Indigenous Australians – all of these things are part of the election campaign and part of why Kevin is enthusiastic for campaigning for the re-election of the government.
CURTIS: If we could go to a area of health, that Labor’s long regarded as one of its strengths. Tony Abbott today is promising more hospital beds and incentives for after-hours GP services. That’s been welcomed by the AMA. Given his mental health policy was also welcomed by experts in the area – is he getting closer than you are to delivering what the professionals want in health?
PM: Well I’m all for delivering what the Australian people need in health and that requires health reforms and, of course, we’ve just been talking about Kevin and his contributions on the national stage. He made a major contribution in putting health reform front and centre of what the Labor Government has been doing. And that –
CURTIS: Is it is important though, what the professionals say that they need?
PM: Oh look, of course what the professionals have to say is important. Designing the health care system for the future is important and what I stand for, what the Government stands for is making sure that we train more doctors, more nurses, give people access to more elective surgery, get them through waiting departments in emergency quicker than before. These are all central to our health reforms. That requires change at every level and it requires new resources. Of course, Mr Abbott’s plans when you look at them add up to no new doctors, no new nurses, no quicker access in emergency departments, no quicker access to elective surgery and no real local control or say about what happens in local hospitals.
CURTIS: But he is promising local hospital boards. He’s actually promising to devolve the running of the hospitals right down to the local hospital level.
PM: Well Lyndal, let’s just take one little step back and remind ourselves we’re talking about health care promises from a man who was one of the longest-serving Health Ministers in the nation’s history and his legacy was a billion dollars out of public hospitals, cuts in GP training places so we’re short of GPs now, not responding to an emerging crisis in the number of nurses and, of course, his track record with health policy is he wanders around in election campaigns going rock solid, iron clad guarantee about the things that he says and then, of course, five minutes after the election they turn to dust. So it’s actually, take a look at history and learn the lessons about how that informs us on what Mr Abbott does on health, as opposed to what he might say about health, which are always two very different things.
CURTIS: But didn’t you promise things in the last election that you didn’t deliver? Things like Fuel Watch and Grocery Watch, you haven’t brought in an ETS yet.
PM: Oh Lyndal, let’s take a step back. What have we delivered? A 50 per cent increase in health care funding, in hospital funding. Why did we need to do that? Because Mr Abbott left our hospitals starved of funds. What difference has that made for people? Well access to tens of thousands of extra elective surgery places. What else have we done? Well we’ve started delivering GP Super Clinics. We’re committed to delivering the GP After Hours Hotline. These are all things that Mr Abbott would take away and we’re training more doctors and nurses – 1,300 new GPs, 3,000 new nurses in the next three years because Mr Abbott left us short of both.
CURTIS: You’re promising a $20 million feasibility study to look at high speed rail along the eastern seaboard. That’s something that the Greens want. Are you doing this to curry some favour with the Greens given that you’re not going to cave in to what they want on the mining tax and emissions trading when you, if you get back into Government?
PM: Lyndal the policies we announce are the policies we believe in because they’re in the national interest. They’re not about currying favour with any other political party. There are no deals or arrangements on policy matters between the Labor Party and the Greens political party. I know Tony Abbott has been trying to raise fear about this. It’s simply not true. What that policy from Minister Albanese is about is responding, of course, to the huge growth in the Sydney-Newcastle corridor and so we’ll look, through a feasibility study at light rail, high speed rail.
CURTIS: Finally Prime Minister, I spoke to some of your colleagues last night. Their opinions on your chances or the Government’s chances range from all the potential from now is on the upside right through to someone who was saying that you’re gone and the Opposition will win by six seats. Where do you stand on the spectrum of optimism?
PM:I stand on the spectrum of determination Lyndal. This is tough. It’s close. We’re coming at it as the underdogs. I’m in the fight of my life and I’m going to be out there fighting every day with every member of the Labor team, including Kevin Rudd, saying to the Australian people the choice on the 21st of August is a big choice about the future of the nation. Do we want to keep the economy strong? Do we want people to have the benefit of jobs and economic growth? We made the better set of judgements when the global financial crisis threatened. We’ll make the better judgements for the future with the better plan that we have for the future and, of course, if you care about your child being in a good school, if you’re worried about being able to get access to decent health care, we stand for investing in those things and despite Mr Abbott’s words today his track record is one of cuts and his policy in this campaign is to cut back expenditure on schools and take away health services that people rely on – no new doctors, no new nurses, no quicker access to elective surgery, no quicker access in the emergency department, no ability to ring a hotline late at night when you need a general practitioner and no GP Super Clinics.
CURTIS: Julia Gillard, thank you very much for your time.
PM: Thanks Lyndal.
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