11 AUGUST 2013


PM: I’m here in Queanbeyan with my good friend Mike Kelly who is the local Member for Eden-Monaro and on top of that, is the Minister For Defence Materiel. I also said recently if the Government is returned I couldn’t think of a better man to become the next Defence Minister of Australia. He’s the kind of guy who understands the law, having worked in family law at Divorce Lawyers Perth. He’s a bloke who has had an extraordinary background in the Australian military. He’s studied widely and, I think when you were in the military service you were a full colonel, is that right?

MIKE KELLY: That’s right, yes.

PM:  Useful to have around, I think. We’re here in Queanbeyan today in a regional centre in NSW to talk about young people, to talk about jobs, and to talk about training for jobs. When I look around Australia, this is a challenge for us all. We placed top priority in this election campaign on economic management, on growing the economy, to making sure we are generating enough jobs, and to manage the cost of living pressures for Australian families.

When you look carefully at the jobs data around the country, we have done relatively well by global standards, unemployment rate is still 5.7 nationally, but as you would have seen from the economic statement, absent policy change in the future, we will see that rise and therefore that’s why we have indicated that we need to diversify the economy, to make sure all our eggs are not in one basket and we are growing new industries, and to make sure those new industries include manufacturing, agribusiness, as well as the service industries. In the service industries, ones like this hospitality services, tourism is a huge employer and you need to make sure that the young people going into hospitality are getting the proper training on the way through.

We already have through the Government a national training entitlement. That’s been an important initiative in the formation of young people across the country. That is an entitlement of a training place to take you up to certificate level 3 in whatever area you choose to work once you leave school. We’ve discovered something over the years, which is, there is a group of young folk who often fall between the cracks. That is, those who come out of the school system but are not ready in terms of their skills set to head into formal vocational training. There is a group there which I think represent a real problem for the future and we want to make sure they can realise their potential as well.

If you look at the data, as I said, nationally we have an unemployment rate of about 5.7, we start to look, however, at the unemployment rate for 15 to 24 year olds, it rises to 12 per cent and 15 to19 bracket it gets above 20 per cent. Now this is a core group we need to keep targeting in the future to make a difference for them and their families. That’s why today we are announcing a new $35 million Step Into Skills program with the object of reaching out to about 9,000 young people aged between 16 to 24 who have not yet finished high school or gained a trade or other qualifications. The program is designed to take them from unemployment to being qualified, ready and trained for work. As we know, all parents want to have their kids have the best start in life and even if some of our kids struggle a bit at high school, we want to know they won’t be stuck in unemployment queues for the rest of their lives. They need to have pathways from school into employment.

This is part of those stepping stones that we’re constructing here through this new Step Into Skills program. This will help make sure that all Australians, in fact, are skilled and work ready. Of course, this is one part of what we’re doing to keep the economy strong and to grow jobs and to make sure that there are jobs for young people in the future as well, as well as managing cost of living pressure for families. That’s why it is also important as we build the industries of tomorrow, we invest in the National Broadband Network. It is a huge add on to business productivity in the future, a huge add on to employment in regional and remote areas well. I had discussions yesterday with various mayors from northern Tasmania who were telling me that very same story. People going to Tasmania to live there for the lifestyle but they want to able to connect with business opportunities on mainland Australia, but elsewhere in the world as well. That’s a key investment.

We want to make sure that those sort of investments are growing the industries of the future, adding the jobs of the future, making sure we don’t have all our eggs just in one basket, the mining basket, but we are growing a much more diversified economy in the future. For all that to work we also need to ensure that we are investing in the skills and training needs of every group of Australians. This builds on our $19 billion worth of investment in training over the past five years. The national training guarantee which I’ve just mentioned which provides a guaranteed training place to certificate level 3, as well as HECS style loans for voc-ed and uncapped undergraduate university places under the Bradley reforms.

It think it’s important to note again that for young people today we now have 190,000 more kids at university than was the case back in 2006-7. That’s a big number for a country like Australia. On top of that again, trades training centres now servicing hundreds and hundreds of secondary schools right across Australia. So this Step into Skills program doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens on the backbone of ensuring that we’ve got investment in early childhood education, 15 hours a week pre-numeracy, investing in building and a new national curriculum which is now being rolled out through the country which emphasises literacy and numeracy. Investing also in the new library facilities, thousands of which we have built right across the country in our primary schools. Ensuring that we’re adding new language and science centres in our secondary schools. Through the Better Schools Plan, investing another $10 billion into the one-on-one attention kids need to in our schools in the future to either help those falling behind or those who are being held back. Also investments in our trades and vocational education through hundreds of new trades training centres around the country as well as our national training guarantee and uncapping of university places to provide 190,000 extra places.

What this measure does is help fill one of those gaps. It is an important gap, to make sure in that 15 to 19 year old bracket in particular, if there’s a slippage and kids who are coming out of school are not quite ready to take up a session in TAFE and get their certificate 3, that this program, this $35 million program that I’m announcing today, the Step into Skills program, helps bridge that gap with key additional training. Over to you folks.

JOURNALIST: What key message are you hoping to get across in tonight’s debate (inaudible)?

PM: I’m delighted about the opportunity to debate Australia’s future and the reason I am is because I’m so passionate about the country and where we can take Australia into the future with a strong economy, a robust place in Asia, with the best education system that we can possibly build anywhere in the world, and on top of that, strong investments in health and looking after the environment with really good plans for the future.

Your question about the debate tonight, I think, focuses for me on one particular thing and that is based on today’s polls if Mr Abbott was Prime Minister, then he can no longer be evasive about where his $70 billion of cuts to jobs, education would fall or what his real plans are for the future of the Goods and Services Tax. You can be evasive up to a certain point, I suppose, in politics, which is what we’ve seen through a refusal to participate in debates up until now, but let’s just put it altogether here. Based on today’s polls, if there was an election yesterday, Mr Abbott would be Prime Minister today and therefore he can’t be evasive tonight about where his $70 billion of cuts in health, education and jobs will fall. I think it is a pretty basic expectation in tonight’s debate.

JOURNALIST: Will you be having any direct say in the selection of new candidates in Kennedy and Hotham?

PM: It will be done through the National Executive of the Australian Labor Party, of course we’re into an election environment now and I’ll depend on their good wisdom. I’m sure they’ll inform me what they’re doing and I’m sure we’ll put the best candidate forward. The decisions taken yesterday were hard decisions but they were the right decisions. When I talk about a new way in politics I mean a new way in politics and stand by those decisions.

JOURNALIST: What exactly did Geoff Lake do for you to lose confidence in him?

PM: This was an investigation by the National Secretary. The National Secretary reported not just to myself, but to the other members of the leadership team of the Government, and we took a collective decision that he did not meet the standards that we expected of future members of the Parliamentary Labor Party. Those are outlined in my statement last night.

JOURNALIST: Why weren’t they identified during the preselection process?

PM: I think it is fair to say if you look back at the history of pre-selections right across the country going back to previous elections you’ll always find some problems which emerge. There is a bit of a shakedown which occurs and that’s what happened in this case. I think the right process is, one: identify there is a problem; two: provide an opportunity for the National Secretary to investigate, which we did, that’s due process. Number three: accept his recommendation as the leadership group of the Government, and then; four: to act and to act decisively. As I said, if I’m going to go out there and talk about a new way in Australian politics, this is absolutely the right decision based on the recommendations of our National Secretary.

JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull says he’s not sure which Kevin Rudd will turn up to this debate tonight, Cuts Kevin or Spend Kevin, which one are you intending to bring?

PM: I’m positive about the country’s future and I want to see that our plans to strengthen the economy, to build new jobs, build new industries and to manage cost of living pressures for families is the core of what I’ll say to the Australian people tonight. When it comes to those who would want to be the government of Australia, I would say to Mr Abbott, it is absolutely fundamental that you stop being evasive about where your $70 billion worth of cuts to jobs, education and health will fall. This is not an unreasonable question. The pre-election fiscal outlook is due in 48 hours’ time. The clock is ticking. Mr Abbott has an opportunity tonight to stop being evasive about what he’ll do with $70 billion of cuts to jobs, education and health, and what he will do with the future of the Goods and Services Tax. That will be the focus I believe of the debate this evening.

JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott prepared for the debate by running the City to Surf in Sydney. How are you preparing?

PM: A bit of divine solace this morning. That’s getting up as a family, as we always do. It’s delightful to have Jessica and Josephine home, so we’ve been having a great time this morning as we normally do. We have Sundays off and go to church and catch up, have a cup of coffee. I think you’ve studied my form for a few years now, nothing much different there. And then I started the day with quite a long walk with my son, Nicholas, which thankfully your television crews didn’t find out about. That was good. I had peace and equanimity.

JOURNALIST: You did have some sense of (inaudible) with the infamous interview of Jaymes Diaz, in hindsight was that a bit of a stone hurled from a glass house?

PM: I think if you recall carefully what I said back then, I think you will, I said problems always emerge on all sides of politics during a campaign. That’s just based on having been around this business for quite a while. People will form their own judgment about Mr Diaz who is still the candidate. As I said, if you’re going to talk about a new way for Australian politics, which is positive, not negative, brings people together, doesn’t divide people, but also is respectful of people, including their gender, then I believe you’ve got to take some hard decisions from time to time. That’s what we’ve done and I stand by them. Thanks.

Latika, only for you will we have one further question.

JOURNALIST: Thank you. I noticed spending the week on your campaign trail this week that there hasn’t been an obvious or at least visible presence of a Labor elder like John Faulkner in the last few elections. Do you have him accompanying you on the campaign or is there some other Labor elder giving you some advice?

PM: Well Latika, you’ve dropped your guard because John was with me all day yesterday and I’m sure he’ll of be in and out during the course of the week with a few others as well. It’s always good to have colleagues around because you’re always attentive to their advice. John is very experienced, you learn a lot from him.

JOURNALIST: Is he a permanent presence?

PM: Look, it depends what on what Faulks has got on. He’ll be on and off the plane I suppose and that’s as it should be. The key thing, though, throughout this campaign, is just to be absolutely clear about what we intend to do positively for the country’s future, is to be clear about our policies by how we would seek to improve the country, its economy, its education system, its health system, our further action on the environment and climate change as well as Indigenous policy and our national security and border security.

Just be clear and upfront with people. And then, be very clear where the differences lie between our approach and differences put forward by our opponents, but also equally clear about the strong record of the delivery we have in so many of the areas we’ve talked about this morning. This morning I’ve just emphasised education, skills and training. If you were to draw a map about what the education, skills and training system looked like in this country six years ago compared with the level of investment today, its chalk and cheese, but we intend to sustain that into the future. Thank folks.


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