Productivity Commission Report into Disability Care and Support; National Disability Insurance Scheme; live exports; carbon price; the economy
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PM: I’m here with Ministers Macklin and Shorten and with Parliamentary Secretary Senator McLucas and we’re very pleased to be here at Noah’s Ark, and a big thank you to everyone who said hello to us this morning. We’re actually in Jenny Macklin’s electorate, so it’s great to be here, and this is a very exciting day and we’re joined by some very excited people.
Today we are launching this Productivity Commission Report on Disability Care and Support, so it is an exciting day.
I’d like to thank at the start the people who have contributed to this report, most particularly John Walsh, who has worked so hard on the report – thank you very much John – and to the people with disabilities themselves and their families and carers that contributed to this report through their submissions, a very big thank you to them. Around 1,000 submissions were received, so there was a great deal of interest as the Productivity Commission went about its work.
And what the Productivity Commission was asked to do was to look at the area of support and services for people with disability, and we did that for three reasons. First, we were very concerned about the circumstances of people who are getting older themselves, but who are the principle carers of a child with a disability. We meet in the community right around the country so many families in those circumstances, not knowing who will care for their son or their daughter when they become too old to do it themselves.
We’re also concerned about individuals with disabilities who weren’t able to get the services they need, and certainly around the country we’ve met with people who have been in that position.
And third, of course, this report was motivated by our concern about the circumstances of all Australians, because depending on life’s chances any one of us could meet with an accident, have an illness which resulted in a long lasting disability, or any one of us could have a family member, a new child born, a child, a grandchild, a niece, a nephew, someone in our family, someone amongst our friends, who has a lifetime disability. So, this is a report of importance to every Australian.
So, we asked the Productivity Commission to look at what we can do better, and the Productivity Commission came back and found that the current system is unfair, it’s underfunded and it’s fragmented, and they certainly very powerfully make the case that at the moment access to services is a very cruel lottery: it depends where you live; it depends on the kind of disability you have; and it depends how you got that disability – a very cruel lottery with too many Australians missing out on the basic services that they need.
So, the Productivity Commission has recommended that the nation move to a new model of funding disability – a National Disability Insurance Scheme. It’s sort of the same concept as Medicare. Medicare is the way in which as a nation we all come together and insure ourselves and each other against the risk of being unwell, and of course Medicare is a great system to make sure people get the services that they need.
So, looking at that kind of insurance model the Productivity Commission has come back and said we should work towards a National Disability Insurance Scheme and a new way of dealing with people who get catastrophic injuries in circumstances where they cannot get compensation through a worker’s compensation arrangement or a transport accident arrangement.
Today I’m in a position to say the Government shares the vision of the Productivity Commission. We share the vision that our nation needs a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Of course we realise that to get to a stage where the nation has a National Disability Insurance Scheme will be a long journey. First and foremost the Productivity Commission itself has said that implementation would take around seven years.
Then of course everything we do as a Government has to be fiscally sustainable. As a nation we’ve always got to live within our means and as a nation if we start on a new system we’ve got to make sure it can be funded and it can work over time.
And third, the Productivity Commission report does show us that a lot of work needs to be done to set up for any National Disability Insurance Scheme, a lot of fundamentals need to be worked through, a lot of details need to be worked through to get this right.
So, today I’m in a position to announce that we’re going to make a start. We’re going to make a start on doing the things that are necessary to take us towards a future that would have a National Disability Insurance Scheme. So, today I can announce first and foremost that I will go to the next meeting of the Council of Australian Governments that will be held at the end of next week and propose a Select Council where governments come together to work together on this important reform.
We’ve got to remember of course that it’s state governments now that are the primary drivers of services, so primary drivers of services – we make money available but it’s state governments who are there on the ground providing services.
So, this does need to be a shared effort and collaborative work and that’s why I’m proposing a COAG Select Council and will take that to COAG in just over a week’s time.
Second, we will create an Advisory Committee. It will be overseen by Jeff Harmer, who is a distinguished public servant. We will also appoint to that Advisory Committee Rhonda Galbally, who is with us today and is well known for her advocacy and work in the disability area, and we will also appoint to that committee Bruce Bonyhady, who is also very well known for his expertise and work in this area, and then we will work with state governments for the further appointments.
And we will also make $10 million available for the foundation work that needs to be done, the technical work that needs to be done. This builds on the $7.6 billion National Disability Agreement, in which we embedded a reform agenda, but new resources are needed for the technical work to support the things we need to do which would enable us in the future to look towards a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Now, I’m not pretending any of that work is glamorous – it’s not glamorous – but it is the technical work that needs to be done.
Finally, let me conclude by saying why I believe today is an exciting day and this is an important reform.
As a Labor Leader, as a Labor Government, we are informed by our Labor values, and if you were going to summarise them they’re about giving people the opportunity to get ahead, but they’re also about making sure that no-one gets left behind.
So, as we go about reforming important areas – disability, ageing, health, education – we’re always informed by those values of giving people the opportunities they need to get ahead, but making sure people don’t get left behind. And I think it’s an appropriate kind of fairness to say if someone met with a dreadful moment in their life, an accident, an illness, the birth of a child with a disability, that meeting with that moment, that chance in life, shouldn’t cost them the ability to have a decent life. We don’t want people left behind, and that’s why I’m so enthusiastic to see us work towards a better way of looking after Australians with disabilities.
I’ll turn now to Minister Macklin for some comments, and then to Minister Shorten.
MINISTER MACKLIN: Thank you very, very much Prime Minister.
If I can just thank you very much for your leadership today on what will be the transformation of the lives of people with disability and their carers. This is a very, very significant day.
I do want to also, of course, start with thanking Noah’s Ark, all the staff, the parents, and especially the children for having us here today. This is my electorate. I’m so proud of you, so thank you for having us.
It’s also a wonderful opportunity for us to thank the Productivity Commission for what is a landmark report. An enormous amount of work has gone in to this, an enormous amount of intellectual and technical work and like the Prime Minister, I do want to particularly single out John Walsh for his extraordinary intellectual leadership, not just over the last 18 months, but over many, many years developing the ideas around this very, very important reform.
I’d also like to indicate the Government’s thanks to the independent panel, which was established to work with the Productivity Commission, chaired by Bruce Bonyhady – so Bruce, if you would pass on the Government’s thanks to all the members of the independent panel, who so willingly gave of their time.
I do think the biggest thanks go to the people with disabilities, the advocates, probably none stronger than Rhonda Galbally, who have really led the way and who have insisted that this reform needed to be done and we’re so pleased to be able to be here with all of you today to make this very, very significant commitment.
It is a transformational change. It is a day that we’ll look back on and remember that this is the day we started to transform the care and support of people with disability to make a difference to their lives.
I do want to just touch on some of the reforms that we have, as a Commonwealth Government, already put in place to deliver improvements to people with disability and their carers. Of course, in 2009 we delivered very significant increases to the disability support pension and the carer payment – improvements to that income support that people depend on that’s made a real difference to people’s lives.
We’re now updating the impairment tables for the disability support pension to emphasis the things that people can do, not the things that people can’t do – a completely different way of thinking about opportunities for people with disability and making sure that we’re keeping up with current rehabilitation practice.
We’re building new supported accommodation places. We’ve dramatically expanded – in fact doubled – the funding that we’re providing to the states and territories through the National Disability Agreement, and now providing decent indexation of that funding to the states and territories.
So, all of these changes have made a difference, but we know that that’s not enough. That’s why it was our Government that gave the Productivity Commission the task to look at the feasibility of a long-term care and support system for Australia, and they have recommended to us that not only is it feasible, but that it should and must be done, and as the Prime Minister has just indicated, we intend to start now.
There is a lot of technical work that needs to be done and the $10 million that the Prime Minister has announced today will go to making sure that that technical work can be done. There’s also an enormous amount of work to be done with the states and territories that we have already agreed to do through the National Disability Agreement: the development of national assessment tools; the development of quality standards; the development of individualised funding approaches, just to name a few.
These areas must be delivered to make sure that the disability support system is what we might call ‘NDIS ready’ and I’ve spoken to all of my state and territory colleagues today to make sure that we have a renewed commitment to get that work done and to get it done very quickly.
As the Prime Minister has indicated she intends to recommend to the Council of Australian Governments that we set up a special select council on disability reform. This does need to be a shared effort between the Commonwealth, the states and territories. The recommendation will be that the Commonwealth Treasurer and I will chair that select council and will have state and territory treasurers and disability ministers on that select council.
We will also establish an advisory committee and the Prime Minister’s gone through the membership that we were announcing today, but we do want other members recommended to us from elsewhere.
We know how important it is that people from the disability and carer sector are able to continue to provide the advocacy and leadership that they have so far and the advisory committee will enable to do exactly that.
So this is a very, very exciting day, an exciting day that so many people have worked so hard for, for many, many years. This is your day, a day for you to celebrate the time when Australia finally recognises that we can do what needs to be done to deliver for people with a disability and their carers. Thank you so much for your contribution, your advocacy. It’s now for all of us to get on and deliver.
I’ll now pass over to Bill Shorten.
MINISTER SHORTEN: Good morning everyone, it’s a pleasure to be here.
As part of the Productivity Commission report they’ve looked at a National Disability Insurance Scheme, but they’ve also identified that 1000 Australians every year suffer catastrophic injury but only about half of them are covered by some form of no-fault insurance scheme in either worker’s comp or traffic accident injuries in some states.
So, we have a system in Australia where you can suffer a severe brain injury or a spinal cord severing of the C5, C6, and depending on which state you suffer the injury and the manner in which you suffer the injury, it will determine the care you get. This is a crazy lottery which has existed for too long.
The Government, in response to the Productivity Commission’s discussions about federating a national catastrophic injury scheme involves me leading a discussion with the states to ensure that the schemes that are working well and workers comp and traffic accident, of course, are supported and maintained, but a discussion with the states – how do we extend catastrophic insurance to that one in every two people, or 500 people a year, who may suffer a catastrophic injury through being a victim of violence, through sporting injuries, through areas not covered by the motor vehicle or traffic accident laws in some jurisdictions.
Impairment is a fact of life. It’s what you do with the impairment which is what determines whether or not Australians have a second-class existence. We want to end the midnight anxiety of ageing carers who wonder who will look after their adult children when they no longer can. We want to end the second-class exile which too many Australians exist in.
We look forward to working with the states to ensure that the people who suffer catastrophic injury are supported regardless of the manner in which they are injured or where they are injured, and indeed of this 1,000 people a year, 60% of them are men under 30 who have long life expectancies despite their injury and are in many cases the most deplorable of circumstances.
We look forward to working with the states to improving the deal which these people, who have impairment, get from Australian society on the basis that it could happen to any of us. This is a reform not just for those who are catastrophically injured, but in fact for every Australian to have peace of mind.
PM: Thank you very much and we’re happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Is this a commitment to implement all of the recommendations in this report?
PM: This is a commitment to start the work that is needed to make the system, as Jenny Macklin has just said, National Disability Insurance Scheme-ready. The Productivity Commission has made a range of very in-detailed recommendations and of course as a Government we will work through, we will review, we will analyse, we will respond to those recommendations over time, but we did want to get started, so today we are announcing how we’re going to get started and that is by the work with our state colleagues, but also through getting the foundation stones right that are needed for any National Disability Insurance Scheme.
JOURNALIST: The Commission proposes or suggests that it would cost $6.5 billion a year in additional funding to create a NDIS. Can you see a Federal Government grant or do you support that amount of money coming from general revenue as the Commission suggests or recommends?
PM: We’ve got to get this in the right order and we’ve got to do it a piece at a time. Certainly what the Productivity Commission has said is that there are things that need to be worked on now for any later introduction of a National Disability Insurance Scheme. They are things like a common assessment tool so that we can have a common understanding of what disability is for an individual. We don’t even have that at the moment so there’s no ability to get really good information about what is happening for people in comparable circumstances and to make that transparent, and obviously I am a big believer in transparency and understanding and unveiling the facts.
So, we need to do that kind of work and we need to respond in detail to the recommendations of the Productivity Commission, but we did want to make a start through the announcements that I’ve made today.
Yes, we need to manage the money here. Our nation has to live within our means. We’ve got to make sure that any reform can last and endure and it can be funded not only in the immediate future but for the long, long, long, long term. That’s why we’ll take the time and do the work necessary to get this right and the Productivity Commission understood that this was no overnight journey. The Productivity Commission, on its own recommendations, is talking about a 7-year period, but you have to start with the work that we will fund through the $10 million that we are announcing today.
JOURNALIST: You said the scheme’s going to take seven years. What’s the point in having (inaudible) need help now?
PM: The Productivity Commission’s recommendation and estimate is that it would take seven years.
Of course we’re very concerned about the circumstances of people today, which is why we have continued to work to improve those circumstances. The $7.6 billion in the National Disability Agreement is a huge jump forward from the kind of resources that have been made available in the past. When we came to Government, in fact, in real terms, in real money, you were seeing the Federal resources through the Disability Agreement go backwards, so we’ve moved to increase resources, we’ve moved to increase resources in schools, we made a commitment in the election campaign to provide $200 million extra and we’ve done that.
We’ve also made a commitment in the election campaign which has been delivered to better fund early intervention services for children with disabilities because we know that if you can intervene early you can make a difference for someone’s lifetime so work will continue across all of those ranges as we work through on the Productivity Commission report’s recommendations and the report we need to start on now.
JOURNALIST: Seven years (inaudible) two Federal elections (inaudible), are you at all confident that you will gain bipartisan agreement for this both at the federal level and at state levels?
PM: I can’t speak for other people so you’ll need to ask them, but what I would say is our political party, the Labor Party, has a good track record of fighting long and hard for big reforms.
I used the analogy when I described insurance of Medicare. Well, Medicare was fought for over a very long period of time. Medibank introduced, Medibank taken away, then Medicare introduced by Labor again, so we understand what it’s like to battle for big reforms over time. That’s part of our heritage. As a Labor Party and who we are, we believe you’ve got to get the big things done, you’ve got to take the right amount of time to do them and you’ve got to get the money right and that’s the perspective we’ll bring to the this reform agenda.
As for the responses of other political parties, you will need to ask them.
JOURNALIST: Do you expect there’d be bipartisan commitment on such an issue-
PM: -You need to direct those questions to them. I think every member of Parliament is concerned about the circumstances of people with disabilities. Clearly we as Government, since we were elected in 2007, have been the ones that put the foot on the accelerator to deal with a change agenda. We’ve already done that through the measures I outlined before, so I think all members of Parliament are concerned, but it takes a will and it takes determination to get things done and we’ve been showing that as a Government during the days we’ve governed and we’re showing it now with a commitment to a transformational reform agenda.
JOURNALIST: Will the Commonwealth proceed with the scheme if all states don’t sign up?
PM: We’re well away from being there. What I would hope is that our state colleagues would see the merits of doing better for people with disabilities. Our state colleagues have signed up to a National Disability Agreement with a lot more money in it from the Federal Government but also with a reform agenda embedded in it so they knew that we were looking for reform in disability services.
JOURNALIST: Do you unequivocally endorse a National Disability Insurance Scheme for Australia?
PM: I certainly want to see a Disability Insurance Scheme, a National Disability Insurance Scheme. I share the vision of a National Disability Insurance Scheme as the right way forward for our country.
We’ve got to get it right, we’ve got to get every detail right and that will take some time and we’ve got to get the money right and that will take some time and some decision making. So of course we’re going to take the in detailed recommendations of the Productivity Commission, work through them, hold them up to the light, look at them from every angle, make the right decisions as we work through, but we didn’t want to not start on the foundation reforms necessary and we didn’t want to do that without involving our state colleagues given they are primarily the service providers for people with disabilities.
JOURNALIST: It has broader implications too for the skills shortages, maybe freeing carers from full-time caring responsibilities to take on paid work. Do you see, I mean we talk about the $6.5 billion being the economic cost, but do you see there being some economic benefit in a NDIS?
PM: I think that’s a very perceptive question, and often people come to the Government decisions and they’ve got two baskets in their mind: they say there’s economic policy and there’s social policy there. What I think that doesn’t recognise is that so much of what we think of as social policy really is an economic policy too.
I’ve talked in recent days about ageing, about keeping people healthier for longer, active for longer, productive for longer, in their own homes for longer – that’s got an economic benefit for our nation.
We’ve talked of course about education reforms. Education is profoundly about giving people an opportunity in life, but of course it’s an economic reform agenda, too. The wealth of our country in the future is largely being determined today by what’s happening in Australian schools and the skills and capacities of those young Australians when they become the workers of tomorrow.
If we look at health, health too is a productivity participation agenda. If we can get people the services they need, if we can keep them healthy, if we can keep them productive, it’s wonderful for them, it’s great for the economy and it is true about disability as well, that’s why our focus is on what people can do not what they can’t do. Our focus is on giving them the keys that they need to be full participants in the life of our nation, including in work, and of course if we can do better in services, that does make a difference for carers who now are out of the workforce entirely, where if we could do services differently many of them may be able to combine some work with caring or indeed return to full-time work. So we’re not going to- everybody’s in a different position, every circumstance is different, and embedded in these reforms, actually central to these reforms is giving people with disabilities and their families more choice and control than they’ve had before over their individual circumstances.
JOURNALIST: Just a question for Bill Shorten if I could, you were key in getting this scheme off the ground. Is this the sort of scheme that you envisaged?
SHORTEN: Well let’s be clear: people with disabilities and their carers have been calling out for this for 30 years. It’s taken a Labor Government to get this debate on the agenda. It’s taken Minister Macklin and the Prime Minister to have the discussions which have led to today’s announcement.
I think it’s fair to say that we’re building the foundations. We share the vision of the Productivity Commission. We want to make sure that the States are participants in whatever is worked out. We want to make sure that whatever is worked out is sustainable. The worst thing you could do for people with disabilities and carers is come up with ideas which aren’t sustainable.
But having said that it’s been the Labor Government, the Gillard Government, that’s recognised that the status quo is irretrievably broken and that the future has to be very different to the past and it’s going to take a lot of work from people with disabilities and their carers to continue to get the best scheme possible. We believe that there’s a lot of interesting ideas in the Productivity Commission about governance, about engagement, about giving people with disabilities employment opportunities and there’s a range of other measures beyond the PC report which the Government’s initiated and will continue to do, right down to the issue of legal rights and the ratification of the United Nations protocols and conventions of rights of people with disability.
Disability is a daily journey. Very hard to say that one particular day is a particular turning point, but I do believe that when you look in the rear vision mirror about where people with disability and carers have come from and where they’re going, that this is a milestone.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you’re Assistant Treasurer. Is $6.5 billion a year, which is the Productivity Commission’s estimate of the extra costs for the scheme, good value for money? Is what it provides enough reassurance for people with disabilities and how can we afford it?
SHORTEN: I’d like to echo the Prime Minister’s wisdom in terms of the debate about the costs.
The Productivity Commission has spelled out a range of options and range of ideas. What the Government’s announcing today is the first step as spelled out by the Productivity Commission. You’ve got to walk before you run. You’ve got to fire up the boilers of the old steam train before it can leave the station.
In terms of all of the costs and all of the issues going forward, I think it would be premature and probably unhelpful for people with disabilities to start putting a final number and saying x is the number. What I do know, though, is that the Productivity Commission report looks as the fiscal costs but it also looks in one of its chapters at the economic benefits. It cannot be in the interests of a small country of 23 million people, which Australia is, to have literally hundreds of thousands of people with disability and their carers locked away out of sight doing it hard from birth to death and everywhere in between.
The Productivity Commission clearly, and I would encourage people to read their chapters carefully on this, clearly draws the conclusion that the economic benefits of giving proper citizenship to people with disabilities and their carers will deliver dividends into the future which are well worth weighing up in the equation of final fiscal costs.
JOURNALIST: What will it mean for the disability support pension at the moment, for those receiving that?
SHORTEN: Minister Macklin’s in charge of the disability support pension.
MACKLIN: As I indicated before we have put in place a number of reforms already to the disability support pension – first and foremost, giving a very significant increase to make sure that people have a more reasonable standard of living. We’re introducing new impairment tables that will start on 1 January that do go to the whole question of what people can do rather than what they can’t do, and I think the overarching issue is really as Minister Shorten has just set out that’s in the Productivity Commission report, the economic benefit that comes from seeing more people with disability and their carers getting the chance to work because the service system is more efficient.
JOURNALIST: Will the system be means tested?
MACKLIN: Well, certainly the recommendations of the report are that it wouldn’t be.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you support the Productivity Commission’s recommendation that the Commonwealth fund 100 per cent, because it does give some other options (inaudible)
PM: And let’s be clear here: the Productivity Commission has done some great work, very in-detail recommendations and we will review and analyse them and we will respond to those recommendations.
What we’re saying here today is we do share the vision of having a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Now, in terms of putting together that big, big reform a lot of work has to be done, has to be done by us, it has to be done by state governments, it has to be done working with people with disabilities, which is why we formed the advisory committee and made some announcements about who will be on that committee today, but we know that there’s also work that needs to be done that you can’t even really envisage how this can all happen without this foundation work happening, the foundation work to get the whole system ready and that’s what we are funding today, that’s the reform agenda we embedded in the national disability agreement.
So, things like, you know, the common assessment tool – yes, it’s not glamorous and it’s going to take a lot of technical work and lot of people with expertise, but unless you’ve got that then you can’t really talk about a National Disability Insurance Scheme being part of the nation’s future.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) I mean one of the, what lessons do you take from the health reform experience given that it did seem to trip up on these precise funding questions, so won’t the states be keenly interested up front on that funding question?
PM: Look, I don’t agree with that analysis at all. I mean we took our reform tools to health reform. They’re comparable to the reform tools we took to education to make a difference and they’re a big focus on transparency, a big focus on quality, a big focus on enabling people to have the information they need to make the choices they want to. So in health, a big focus on efficient price. and of course these reforms too look at transparency, quality and choice and control and efficiency in pricing, all of those reform tools are here too.
So, if you like, I think the experience of health reform and the fact that we got there as a nation for a very big reform agenda should give us confidence for other reform agendas that are big including this one.
We’ve delivered big changes in education people didn’t think were possible like the transparency and accountability of My School. People said no you’ll never get that done – we’ve got that done together with other profound education reforms.
I was told that there’s no way in the world that we’ll be able to negotiate a national health reform agreement, particularly with the political composition of a number of states and territories now. Well, we’ve got a national health reform agreement that will drive major change in the system, that people will experience as less waiting time in emergency department and less waiting time on elective surgery lists. We’ll bring that reform drive to this, and also having got some of those big reforms, confidence that we can work with the states to do this too.
JOURNALIST: Do you see a trial of the NDIS starting as early as 2014 as the Productivity recommends, or is that up to Mr Harmer?
PM: Well certainly the Productivity Commission recommends a number of launch sites is the terminology they use so that we can get experience of such a big change in the system. We’re going to need to work through in detail on these recommendations in the way that I’ve described.
JOURNALIST: Just on another matter if I could, in the past hour or so a Senate hearing in Canberra has heard allegations from a Liberal Senator in regards to the cattle exports and in regards to that footage we all saw on Four Corners. The suggestions been made that an Indonesian taxi driver has paid, or paid an abattoir worker to falsify the footage, to make the footage happen in the abattoir. Have you heard anything about this and do you think that has anything, these allegations have anything to do with your decision to suspend?
PM: I think you’re going to be very unsurprised to hear me say that I heard the very briefest summary of these media reports before I came to present this Productivity Commission report, so I haven’t had the opportunity to study the comments made by the Senator and I’ve clearly had no opportunity to assess the merits of what’s been said, so I can’t make any further comment.
JOURNALIST: Should the allegations be investigated though?
PM: Look, I would prefer to have a good look at what’s been said and to make some considered remarks. The only opportunity I’ve had today is to be informed that this story was breaking into the media cycle, so I’m not going to make detailed comments on that basis.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) in terms of the footage that’s been released from Turkey, what are your thoughts on that (inaudible)
PM: We’ve got the Farmer review led by Bill Farmer working on live animal export issues across all nations that we send live animals to, so this material obviously will be looked at, will be studied, but we understood at the time that we responded to circumstances in Indonesia that we did have to look at the animal export trade more broadly, and that’s why we put Bill Farmer’s review in place.
JOURNALIST: Are you worried about (inaudible)
PM: Well we have Mr Farmer there doing the work I think needs to be done.
JOURNALIST: With the trade resuming today, are you confident that the action you’ve taken over the last couple of months has actually made a real difference?
PM: Look I’m very confident that what we’ve done is imposed a new set of conditions, and it hasn’t been easy, but imposed a new set of conditions that will ensure there’s accountability and transparency across the supply chain so we will know what standards are being adhered to and the standards that should be adhered to are now described, so people are only given export licenses by the Australian Government if they’re in a position that they can meet those standards and can meet those requirements for tracking and tracing which enables to see that those standards are being adhered to for every animal that leaves Australia’s shores to go to Indonesia.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Premier of the state, Ted Baillieu, finally came out today and made a comment about the carbon tax saying that he believes these are uncertain economic times is not the time to be introducing a carbon tax. Do you have a response to that and are you concerned that the global economic circumstances may actually have an impact on your plans?
PM: Well I think Premier Baillieu got it right the first few times he spoke about this matter, where he was an advocate for putting a price on carbon. I think he got it right then, so he might want to adhere to his original view and the view that he spoke to the Victorian people about when he was leader of the opposition. So, he has on the record very clearly in favour of putting a price on carbon.
On the global economic circumstances, can I say this: I’m not commenting in detail on share market movements but I do understand the kind of share market movements we’ve seen affect Australians, it affects many, many Australians directly particularly self-funded retirees, but when we see the sort of share market movements that we saw yesterday, down then up, big changes, big volatility, I think what that reinforces in us is that there is that volatility we’re seeing on the stock market, but the fundamentals of our economy are strong.
So, we’re seeing that volatility but that is not a commentary on the fundamentals of our economy. The fundamentals of our economy are that Australia is the envy of the world. We came out of the global financial crisis as the envy of the world. We’ve got low unemployment, people have got the benefit of jobs, we’ve got low debt, strong public finances and of course we’ve got a huge pipeline of investment flowing and what that means is more projects, more jobs, more economic growth for this country.
Now I think Australians are rightly proud of what we’ve achieved together with the strength of our economy and I think Australians can be confident that together we can build on that strength and build on our nation’s abundant endowment of economic resources and wealth.
JOURNALIST: Is that volatility going to have any impact on (inaudible) to return the budget to surplus in 2012-13?
PM: Well, Treasurer Wayne Swan has been dealing with this question, of course we are working to return the budget to surplus in 2012-13 and it is our expectation we will return the budget in 2012-13. The circumstances we’ve seen in Europe and in the US of course mean that there’s an impact from those circumstances on global growth and that makes the challenge more difficult, but we are working to return the budget to surplus and we expect to do so.
JOURNALIST: Warren Truss said yesterday that the Government was never going to return the budget to surplus and you were looking for an excuse and this is the excuse. What would you say to that?
PM: It never ceases to amaze me the reckless indifference of Opposition spokespeople to the truth about what is happening in the global economy. We’ve seen incredibly reckless remarks made by both Warren Truss and Joe Hockey on circumstances in the global economy. They really shouldn’t be talking Australia down. Our economic fundamentals are strong. They know that we’ve got low unemployment. They know that we’ve got low debt. They know that we’ve got strong economic growth and a pipeline of investments flowing through to our nation and they should simply tell Australians that they are the facts, rather than trying to make comments all about the politics, like the one you refer to.