Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Joint Doorstop Interview with Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister – Carbon pricing; Household assistance payments; Tax-free threshold; Latrobe Valley power stations; East West Link tunnel; National Broadband Network; Asylum seekers; Aluminium industry


PM: It’s great to be here this morning with the Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin and with Laura Smyth, our local member here in La Trobe, and we’ve had the opportunity to meet with some local residents and talk to them about the start of carbon pricing tomorrow.

We have, as a nation, been debating putting a price on carbon for well over five years now. In the past twelve months the debate has been particularly intense.

From tomorrow, Australians will be able to judge carbon pricing for themselves. Australians are a practical people and they will be able to see carbon pricing at work and make their own judgment.

For example, they’ll be able to judge ‘has the Sunday roast gone up by $100 as has been claimed?’ The answer to that will be no.

They’ll be able to judge ‘has my grocery shop gone up by twenty per cent?’ That’s been claimed too, and the answer to that will be no.

They’ll be able to judge ‘has the coal industry completely shut down around the country?’, and the answer to that will certainly be no. That claim’s been made, and that claim will be shown to be wrong.

But there is a question that the answer will be yes, and that is ‘have I received an increase in family payments; in the pension; am I seeing a tax cut?’

We’ve talked today to people who’ve received the first pension increase, and that increase will go on.

We’ve talked today to people who’ve received family payments increases, and that will go on to keep assisting them with the cost of the kids.

From tomorrow, 1 July, people earning less than $80,000 a year will see a tax cut. So my message to Australians is make sure you have a good look at your next pay, and have a good look at what’s happened with your tax.

If you earn less than $80,000 a year you’ll see a tax cut. Many people will see a tax cut of $300. But in particular, people who work part-time, people who earn less than $18,200 a year should have a good look at their next pay packet.

We are tripling the tax-free threshold, and what that means is that a million Australians won’t pay tax. They won’t have to lodge a tax return. They won’t pay tax.

There will be more than 600,000 Australians who, for the first time, will look at their next pay packet and see that they’ve gone from paying tax to paying no tax at all. That is, they’ll get to keep every dollar they earn.

So, for Australians who work part-time, or for self-funded retirees who make ends meet by relying on a bit of investment income, they will see those big tax cuts, some in the order of $600 or $500 because of the tripling of the tax-free threshold. So for many Australians around the country, they’ll see a tax cut from 1 July.

Ultimately when the dust settles following the furious debate we’ve had about carbon pricing, I think Australians will come to see that this has been an important reform at the right time.

An important reform whilst our economy is strong, to protect our economy for the future. An important reform to make sure that we seize the benefits of a clean energy future and all of the prosperity that will give our nation, and a reform that has ensured we are cutting carbon pollution and doing the right thing by our environment.

And we’re in a very precious part of the country, where people care about their local environment. Right around the nation so many Australians are worried about climate change, and this reform will see us tackle climate change.

I’ll go to Jenny Macklin now for a few comments, then we’ll be happy to take questions.

MINISTER MACKLIN: Thanks very much Prime Minister and it’s very good to be out here again with Laura Smyth in this beautiful part of Melbourne.

So thank you very much Laura for having the Prime Minister and I here, and great to meet some pensioners, students, parents, who of course do understand first of all why it is so important that we have a price on carbon.

That we do everything we can for our children and our grandchildren to protect our beautiful country.

But what we’ve also done is made sure we provide assistance to those individuals and families, to pensioners and self-funded retirees who really need some extra assistance.

From tomorrow, there’ll be a major change to the tax system, and around 7 million hardworking Australians will start to see a tax cut in their regular pay packet. That’s a big change, especially for those hardworking Australians who earn under $80,000 a year.

We’ve already delivered 6.5 million payments to pensioners, so pensioners like the people we’ve met with today. Pensioner couples have received $380. If you’re a family, people have received up to $110 per child, and we certainly have heard from parents today about how important that has been for them.

For students, there’ve been thousands of students who’ve received extra support to make sure that they can get the help that they need.

And of course for each of these groups – for pensioners, for low-income families, for students, for self-funded retirees who’ve been receiving their payments this week, we’ve provided extra support so that they have that buffer against the small but nevertheless expected price rises that will flow from the carbon price.

We want to make sure that low- and middle-income individuals, families, pensioners, self-funded retirees get the help that they need, but most importantly the message for anyone today who’s a taxpayer earning less than $80,000 the tax changes start tomorrow, 1 July, and it will mean for around 7 million hardworking Australians there will be a tax cut for you.

PM: Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what can you tell us about the power station contract for closure talks that are underway at the moment in the Latrobe Valley?

PM: We have a contract for closure process. That’s a tender process and it’s working around the nation, it’s not a specific program for one part of the nation.

We’ve slightly extended the deadline for the end of tendering there because we want to take the time to get this right.

JOURNALIST: It’s been said we’re on the eve of destruction.

MINISTER MACKLIN: Especially if you’re a tennis player!

PM: Well, I think really, the question just goes to show how absurd so much of this fear campaigning has been.

People will wake up tomorrow around the country and they will go about their normal Sunday. Doing what they do, catching up with family and friends, watching a bit of sport on TV, many people having to go to work, you know, doctors, nurses, our police, people who work on the weekends, our people in the hospitality industry like this cafe.

But people will go about their ordinary everyday business, but they will be in a position from tomorrow to judge for themselves the claims that have been made to see what carbon pricing really does mean, to see the change it means for a clean energy future and also to see for their household budgets what tax cuts mean, what increased family payments mean and what pension increases mean.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has today pledged $100 million for the East West tunnel. Will you match it?

PM: I’ve seen that report today. First, you can’t build a $5 billion project with $1.5 billion. Tony Abbott can’t tell you where the $1.5 billion is coming from. He certainly can’t tell you where the rest of the money is coming from. People can’t drive on an empty promise, they can only drive on a fully funded, fully costed road.

JOURNALIST: What will you commit to the tunnel, Prime Minister?

PM: We have a proper process here, unlike Mr Abbott, who goes around making promises he can’t fund. And he’s already in a situation where he’s going to need to cut back health and education and pensions and defence. $70 billion because he’s made-

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: I’ll come to that. Just let me say, he has already got $70 billion of cutbacks planned because of making promises he can’t fund. What we do with big infrastructure is a proper process. For a major project like this you have got to work with the State Government, the Victorian Government.

And they’ve got to get their paperwork in and get it right and that hasn’t been done yet.

JOURNALIST: The State Government’s pretty happy with the $1.5 billion promised by Tony Abbott. Is there no way you can come to the party with something?

PM: Well really, let’s weigh this. Where is the 1.5 billion coming from? Did you get a fully costed sheet when Mr Abbott announced it? The answer to that is no.

So this is just a little mythical promise, $1.5 billion for a $5 billion project, and he can’t tell you where one cent is coming from.

JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on the Coalition backflip on the NBN, they’re going to keep it now.

PM: The only government that will build the National Broadband Network is this Labor Government.

JOURNALIST: It’s been reported today that asylum seekers are rushing to Australia because they fear a change of government and they fear that Mr Abbott might stop the boats. What’s your take on that?

PM: Mr Abbott and the Coalition in Parliament during the last week voted against stopping the boats. They walked into Parliament and voted against any effective action to deter asylum seekers from risking their lives at sea.

I want to see effective action. I’ve been prepared to compromise. I am certainly prepared to work with anyone who wants to put the national interest first and get this done.

JOURNALIST: The expert panel, I think Mr Abbott has described it as futile that he won’t change his stance?

PM: We are bringing together three very eminent Australians to advise the nation on the best way of breaking this deadlock and having an effective deterrent to stop people getting on boats and risking their lives.

Those eminent Australians will do their work in coming weeks.

Mr Abbott, I think, needs to look at the outcome from those eminent Australians. Mr Abbott on the one hand can’t say he respects these people, and then say that their views are of no worth.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: If the Opposition was ever in government and took that money away then it would destroy the jobs of those workers.

That money has been provided because of the current circumstance with the aluminium industry. It’s about low global prices for aluminium and our high Australian dollar.

The company itself has said that it’s not about carbon pricing. So you’ve got to make a very simple decision, are you pro those workers having their jobs or do you want to see them sacked? Clearly Mr Abbott is saying he wants to see them sacked.

Okay, thank you very much.