Transcript by The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Joint Doorstop with Kevin Rudd, Member for Griffith – Brisbane Common Ground Opening

BRENDAN O’CONNOR:  Thank you  very much for coming, this is a very important day today. This is the formal opening of Common Ground in Brisbane, a magnificent facility that will home many, many people. There are 146 separate dwellings – 50 per cent of these dwellings are dedicated directly to people who are homeless or at the risk of being homeless. And this is the result of the efforts by, certainly in the first instance, the Federal Government dedicating almost $50 million under the Social Housing Initiative to build this complex.

This is, I think, a testament to the interest of the Federal Government in cutting the rate of homelessness by half by 2020. And indeed, this is an ambitious goal but one that can be realised if the Federal Government continues to do what it does and indeed state governments come to the party and join us in this very important goal, and also of course working very closely with the not-for-profit sector and the corporate sector. This is indeed the result of a partnership between the Federal Government, the state government, private – the not-for-profit organisations, and I should also add Grocon who have helped build this complex at cost, without any profit at all. So it’s an amazing effort.

So I’m happy to take some questions but, Kevin, you may want to say something first. And Jackie of course is here as the – Jackie Trad, the Member for South Brisbane.

Happy to take questions.

QUESTION:         Minister, part of the funding for this comes from a joint state and Federal Government pool of money designed to specifically tackle homelessness. That’s wrapping up and it looks like it’s not likely to be, you know, started up again next year. That’s a great shame, isn’t it?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR:  Okay, the bulk of this money, I’m happy to say, came from the Federal Government’s Social Housing Initiative. That’s the $46 million that the Federal Government – or $47 million the Federal Government has dedicated to this complex.

There is about $3 million that’s under the National Partnership Agreement with states and territories. That agreement is to expire on 30 June next year. I’m confident that this nation wants to see its citizens sustainably accommodated and I’m confident that people in Queensland want to see people that are sleeping on the streets or at risk of being homeless given a chance of a place they can call home.

So I wouldn’t at this point say that we won’t reach agreement. I expect the Newman Government to join this Government, join the Federal Government in ensuring that we realise the goal we set out when we said we want to cut the rate of homelessness by half by 2020.

So I have some confidence that the governments around the country will realise how important it is for us to do this. It’s a very important thing for people on the margins, people through no fault of their own finding themselves without a home.

Well, I think Australians expect us to help those people along and I’d be very surprised if state and territory governments did not join with us from 1 July next year.

QUESTION:         Mr Rudd, is this opening an appropriate forum for you to raise your concerns about the sale of the caravan park?

KEVIN RUDD:     Absolutely. My job as a local Member of Parliament is to stand up for local people who are going to lose their houses.

The good folk out at the caravan park have until recent times been constituents of mine and are now just outside the electorate. I have been to see them, I have read the letter.

Our job here is not simply to be polite to one another and slap each other’s back when something wrong has been done. The objective here is to put that wrong to rights, hence my appeal to Premier Newman to overturn this decision to effectively turf 150 people in this area out in the streets. It will be just wrong for me to stand up today and say, isn’t it terrific we’ve just built social housing for 150 people, knowing on this side of my head and knowing Mr Flegg is the minister responsible, when turfing 150 people out down the road.

So you can choose to be polite or you can choose to speak the truth. I tried to do both today and make absolutely no apology for it. Sometimes hard things have to be said and I’ve said them.

QUESTION:         Mr Rudd, yesterday you said Tony Abbott is beatable. Who do you think is going to be the one to beat him?

KEVIN RUDD:     Of course I support the Prime Minister. And when I say that Mr Abbott is beatable, that is my view.

QUESTION:         Mr Rudd, on the carbon tax [indistinct] you suggested something similar back earlier this year. Is this a vindication of your position?

KEVIN RUDD:     Politics I don’t think should be about the business of vindicating a position which someone has held in the past or whatever. The key thing is I have always supported a price on carbon. I have always supported a floating price. When you take the decision which has just been taken, which will remove the floor price in 2015, that is a very positive development. Why is it positive? It is action on carbon pollution because climate change hasn’t gone away. Speak to our friends in North America about the hottest July they have had in US history.

Secondly, it’s also doing so in a way, however, when you’ve got a floating price and no floor price, and when you’re linked into the international carbon price, it means that Australia is acting appropriately with the rest of the world because the price is [indistinct].

QUESTION:         National Disability Insurance Scheme here in Queensland…

KEVIN RUDD:     Yeah, I’m all for it. You all for it?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR:  I’m all for it.

KEVIN RUDD:     What about you Jackie?

JACKIE TRAD:     So are most Queenslanders.

KEVIN RUDD:     Yes, the three of us are all for it.

JACKIE TRAD:     So are most Queenslanders.

BRENDAN O’CONNOR:  We just want the Queensland Government to be all for it.

JACKIE TRADE:   That’s right.

QUESTION:         Do you think that the state can afford it?

KEVIN RUDD:     Well, can I just say I think Premier Newman is in the business of making extravagant statements about Spain and Queensland, which are just not faintly true, to justify a whole series of ideological positions which he has taken on social housing, disadvantaged people. And for the future, when I think the whole country says, for godsakes, let’s put this one beyond politics and just get it right, a national disability insurance scheme for everybody – as Minister O’Connor said before, it would be terrific if we could have a good, strong working relationship with the Government of Queensland. It’s been elected by the Australian people – the Queensland people with a thumping majority; would like to work with them. Brendan is hopeful that he can do so in the area of housing. But let me tell you when they do things that are wrong we have a public responsibility, as I said before, not to be polite, not to be silent but to speak up.

QUESTION:         But are you trying to capitalise on some of the growing displeasure with some of the moves that the Government is making…

KEVIN RUDD:     What I’m trying to do is change a decision…

QUESTION:         …to shore up your own seat ahead of the next election?

KEVIN RUDD:     …to change a decision by the Newman Government…

QUESTION:         But are you trying to shore up your own seat by capitalising on that?

BRENDAN O’CONNOR:  They’re not in his seat anymore.

QUESTION:         By capitalising…

KEVIN RUDD:     The bottom line is…

QUESTION:         …on some of the unpopularity happening…

KEVIN RUDD:     The bottom line is…

QUESTION:         …against the Newman Government,

KEVIN RUDD:     What I’m interested in is changing…

QUESTION:         …are you trying to shore up your own seat?

KEVIN RUDD:     …a decision on the part of the Newman Government which is wrong.

I would suggest you go out and have a talk to 150 people who live in that caravan park, as I have done, to their committee of organisers and ask them whether they think it’s a fair thing that they have been tossed out.

QUESTION:         But just speaking more broadly, like some of the issues that you’ve mentioned like the NDIS, are you trying to capitalise on unpopularity to shore up your own seat?

KEVIN RUDD:     [Indistinct] one of your colleagues [indistinct] a question of the NDIS [indistinct].

QUESTION:         Minister O’Connor, just very briefly…


QUESTION:         Look, you said that you’re keen to have another – you know, more partnership with the states to – more homelessness initiatives, but the Federal Government is not renewing their $1.1 billion contribution to that funding pool either.

BRENDAN O’CONNOR:  Firstly, it’s a $1.1 billion partnership in services of which we pay half and the states and territories pay half over the four years. It’s expiring on 30 June. On Friday I meet with my counterpart ministers at state and territory level in Perth at the Housing and Homelessness Ministerial Council where we will discuss this issue. And I’ll be saying to them the Federal Government is fully committed to realising the goals we’ve set ourselves in relation to homelessness and housing affordability because they’re crucial.

And I hope that the state and territory governments follow our lead and respond in kind and say, this issue is too important to leave behind, and the people that it affects are too important to leave behind.

QUESTION:         Is this model a future for tackling homelessness in Australia?


QUESTION:         Is the Common Ground model the…

BRENDAN O’CONNOR:  I think the Common Ground model and Housing First, and a number of models are very, very good examples of preventing the cycle of homelessness and intervening early to prevent it from happening.

So of course I embrace the Common Ground model. It’s a fantastic approach to bringing about – reducing homelessness and giving people a home.

QUESTION:         Mr Rudd, Tony Abbott thinks that Julia Gillard is [indistinct] that you’re running out of time. Do you think this is the case?

KEVIN RUDD:     You know something, Mr Abbott needs to tell Australians how he would change the country if he was the prime minister. The previous prime minister, John Howard, [indistinct] the other day on the reintroduction of WorkChoices, something similar to it. Australians are pretty smart about all this. And even though Mr Abbott doesn’t want to talk about it, when he talks about, quote, restoring the balance on industrial relations, what he means is WorkChoices by another name.

Now, Mr Abbott can bleat about election timing as much as he likes. I think the Australian people want to know what he would do to change the country if he became prime minister. And, secondly, what he would specifically do for the laws governing their workplaces, on penalty rates, on overtime, and the very basic things which every working family in Australia can tell you – every working family in Queensland now concerned about job security is now… are now engaged with.

QUESTION: Are you going to have another tilt?

KEVIN RUDD: I made a statement in February on that.