Prime Minister - Transcriot of Interview (ABC Illawarra)


HOST: Julia Gillard joins us now, good morning.

PM: Good morning.

HOST: Can you confirm that the NBN is coming to the Illawarra and we’re going to be the first major metropolitan area to be wired with fibre optic cable?

PM: Yes, I can confirm that I’m here today to make an announcement about the NBN and that the NBN will be coming to you, to Dapto and the Wollongong areas. This is great news for the region. The NBN is about transforming our economy because it literally bring the world to your door, as well as about transforming the way we provide health and education services.

So, this is good news for the long-term economic future here. It’s also good news because people will be employed in the construction, and around 500 jobs will be created at the peak of the construction of the NBN in the Illawarra.

HOST: And are there local jobs in the construction phase, or is it more about the long-term plans?

PM: There’s both - there’s the 500 jobs at the peak of the construction and then there’s the support for jobs in the long-term by transforming the economy so that it is connected to the world.

HOST: Now you’re also coming to Port Kembla Port Corporation at one end of what would be the Maldon-Dombarton line. Can you also confirm that there will be more money to get that line built?

PM: Yes I can. I can confirm, I’m confirming a lot of things for you this morning, Nick. I can confirm that we are going to take the next step.  This is a project that was basically put to one side by the Greiner Liberal Government more than 20 years ago, so for more than 20 years it’s been there waiting for someone to come along and say we need to do something on this rail link and to make a difference for the port.

So we have already had a feasibility study, and now we are going to take the next step, which is to invest $25.5 million in all of the detailed design and preconstruction work that needs to be done so that it’s shovel ready.

HOST: OK, is this yet another study, or is this the next logical step towards completing the line?

PM: This is the next logical step. You can’t get the line done without doing this work.

HOST: The main campaigner for the line’s quite sceptical. He doesn’t want another report that goes nowhere that doesn’t finish the project. Can you guarantee that this is going to lead to construction and the start of construction within your term of government?

PM: Look, what we do is we engage in very proper processes for the expenditure of large amounts of money, so we’ve done the feasibility study - that was important. We’re talking about a project that the former State Liberal Government knocked to one side for the best part of 20 years, so we’ve done that.

I’ve received the very loud advocacy of your local members, of Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones, about the ability of this rail link to make a real difference to the local economy. So what this money will fund, $25 million, is the preconstruction work. That includes all of the detailed design work, the work for the civil and structural work, the track work, all of the detailed design that would be necessary for the construction of the project, and it will finalise a construction timetable and a cost estimate for the project.  So, you can’t take the next step without getting that work done.

HOST: Both the NBN and the Maldon-Dombarton Line, are they going to be jobs which come from outside the area, particularly the NBN, or are they going to be real jobs that benefit workers within our region?

PM: Well, the leader of NBN Co will be with me today and he, I’m sure, will be asked that question too, and he will indicate that what NBN seeks to do is to source people to work locally. We’re talking about people who need all of the right skills - obviously you’re working near power poles and electricity lines, all of that kind of thing - but NBN Co does look to source people locally, and in other parts of the country where the NBN has rolled out, for example Tasmania has been the first roll out site, because we wanted to trial it there in Tasmania. I’ve met with local people who have been rolling out the NBN.

HOST: On the carbon tax, it was only a week or so ago we saw the victorious applause in Parliament as the carbon tax was passed in the lower house. At the same time you can’t ignore your own polls going down and down. Does this lead to the conclusion that Australians are not going to sacrifice their own lifestyles for the greater good of the world?

PM: Look, I’ll leave commentary on polls to the people who get paid to do it.  For me, putting a price on carbon is about creating the clean energy jobs of the future - making sure that we’ve got those jobs here, rather than overseas. And what it will also mean, of course, is that we will be in a position to cut taxes and to increase pensions.

Now, I know this has been very controversial. It’s been the subject of debate in our nation for more than a decade now, but with the passage of the legislation through the House of Representatives and the its passage in a few weeks’ time through the Senate, we will be on track to start carbon pricing on 1 July next year. And whilst we see a lot of huffing and puffing from the Opposition, the truth is the Opposition will not repeal carbon pricing. For all of the vigour in his campaign, Tony Abbott is on the record as being in support of putting a price on carbon, and I did note yesterday that his climate change spokesperson is now saying if they were ever elected to government in this country, they’d have a White Paper. That is, they’d have an expert study, and that is code for they’d have an expert study to help them climb down from all the false promises they’re now making about repeal to the Australian community.

HOST: So regardless of the promise in blood, the carbon tax and legislation is set in stone and it’s going to be with us forever?

PM: Look I’ve heard Tony Abbott in the past give the Australian community a rock-solid, iron-clad, guarantee before an election and then march away from it afterward, so I’m not someone who’s going to succumb to puffed up words from Tony Abbott.  Let’s just look at what’s happening today: his spokesperson Joe Hockey, is basically sending a message today that he wants to destroy clean energy jobs. He’s sending a message today that he wants to see power prices go up. They are in the business of creating as much uncertainty at the moment as they can, because they think that that’s in their political interests.  But if we step back from that 24 hours in the media and the Opposition huffing and puffing, every Liberal leader in this country, every living Liberal leader in this nation, has been in favour of putting price on carbon, and so has Tony Abbott in the past.

HOST: We’ve seen, just quickly, in the Financial Review today, that the electricity industry is severely concerned about the Coalition carrying out its threat, quote, ‘to abolish the carbon tax’ because they want certainty. So are we entering a period where businesses don’t know what to do with the future?

PM: Well, Tony Abbott is continuing to play a wrecking game. That’s his style of politics: no policies, just say no. But for businesses we, as a Government, are providing the certainty that businesses need. The legislation will be the law of this country from 1 July next year.

HOST: Alright Julia Gillard, thank you very much for joining us this morning on the morning show.

PM: Thanks very much, Nick.