Thursday, 6 September 2012

Transcript of Press Conference

Queen Street Mall, Brisbane

6 September, 2012
KEVIN RUDD: One of the basic responsibilities of government is to provide basic government services in education and in health and in policing and in housing and emergency services. And I think one of the other basic responsibilities of government is to do everything possible to underpin job security. If you don’t have job security frankly everything else starts to fall apart.

The problem we have here in Queensland is on both these fronts we see a full frontal attack now by the liberal national party government here in Queensland. That’s why I’m speaking out today. As a local member of parliament I’ve got a responsibility to stand up for my local community and what I’ve found in the last several months over here on Brisbane’s Southside is it’s very hard to walk up the street these days without someone stopping you and saying I’m worried about my job. It’s very hard to walk the street these days and saying I’ve just heard that another service is under attack and it’s got to the stage where those of us working at different levels of government have now got to stand up, speak out, and do hold also this Liberal National party government to account for what it’s doing.

Let’s just go to a few of the services areas. I mean the list I’ve seen is quite extraordinary. Services concerning mental health, services concerning HIV Aids, community health services, all having been attacked by cutbacks on the part of this Liberal National party government. Then you look at the actual numbers of public servants whose jobs have been threatened or been taken away. Hundreds in primary industries, hundreds in main roads, hundreds in other key government areas as well. I’ve seen cutbacks in TAFE. I’ve seen cutbacks in other areas as well and this goes to the heart of job security in an age when people around the world are deeply worried about the security of their employment everywhere. As I said before if you don’t have security in your job I’m not quite sure how you make the rest of your life work.

What people are saying to me out on the streets is that they are worried about paying off their mortgages, they are worried about their monthly mortgage payments. Banks are starting raise questions about people’s ability to pay off their homes. I’m hearing feedback from small businesses, including in the property industry, saying confidence is being affected because job security is being affected. So it’s time we spoke out with a combined voice on them. That’s why our good friends here representing our public services and public servants, Together, have asked me to appear with them today, to lend my voice to this important cause.

The reason for doing it today is that we are barely one week away from the state budget and this is where the rubber really hits the road. My call today to Mr Newman is – it’s time Mr Newman to change course, it’s time to change course. Mr Newman was elected with the biggest majority in the history of the state of Queensland. You have got to learn something and that is that you have to govern for all Queenslanders not just those that support your particular ideology of slash and burn. That’s what I’m calling for today. It’s not too late to change course. We need you to change course because job security is important for families, for communities and the delivery of those services is as well. That’s what I’m here to support today and I’m proud to stand up with our friends from Together to do exactly the same. Would you like to say a few things yourself?

KATE FLANDERS, TOGETHER QUEENSLAND ASSISTANT SECRETARY : It’s great that such a great Australian and an excellent local member in Kevin Rudd has come out today to support members and workers in the community sector and in the public sectors but that’s where Together and the services union are really appreciative of Kevin’s support and particularly the voters in Kevin’s electorate who have been telling him along with the Australian and Queensland community more broadly that public sector jobs and services are vital. And we’ve got some members here who have come from those impacted services, Jessie and Phil, who would like to talk a little bit about the impacts that those things are having on them particularly and on the services they deliver to the community.

PHIL CARSWELL, PUBLIC HEALTH DELEGATE: G’day my name’s Phil Carswell, I’m a Together delegate from Queensland Health. I’m also a constituent of Kevin’s in South Brisbane and I want to echo exactly what Kevin said. I work every day in a department where people are living in fear. Where people don’t know about whether they are going to get paid next week or not. Whether our work is going to be valued or not. I work in preventative health and as Mr Rudd already mentioned they don’t believe preventative health has value. We know it has value, we know it makes a difference which needs the support to make that work happen.

Kevin was part of a government that set up a National Preventative Health Authority. We want to see that work happen here in Queensland. At the moment our staff don’t know whether we are going to be employed next week, or Christmas, or ever. And prevention like I said does make a difference. Our job was to try and keep people healthy and keep them out of hospitals. So that we don’t have to keep building huge big hospitals and try to keep people, get people better. We want to keep people healthy, we have the evidence to show how it works now we need to make it happen. And unfortunately our minister doesn’t seem to be listening to our evidence - he seems to be listening to ideology.

So on behalf of all the members I represent in preventative health, I want to say let’s stand up for good health in this state. Let’s stand up for job security.

JESSIE WESTAWAY, INDUSTRIAL OFFICER: Hello I’m Jesse speaking on behalf of community sector workers from the Services Union. I work as an industrial officer with the Queensland Working Women’s Service - we’ve been subjected to huge funding cuts – all our State funding has been cut from our service after 10 years of receiving that funding through the State Government.

The way that’s affected our organisation and me personally means a huge financial loss if you’ve still got your job. We’ve had huge redundancies paid out, or I should say low redundancies paid out to our workers who have been made redundant from their position after four, five, six years of service with our organisation. Our service has actually literally been cut in half with staff numbers - six of our staff being made redundant and the rest of us who are left who are still fortunate enough to be employed by the Queensland Working Women’s Service have had our hours dramatically reduced. So from full time to part time now working on 21 hours a week which is now a two and a half – three day week and it’s been a huge, huge break for us and getting through that as staff has also been quite a challenge in assisting our clients who we fight for their rights at work – having to shut down our phones twice a week and not being able to do our reach-outs in schools, our education sessions on basic rights at work for young people who are just about to enter the work force. Unfortunately that’s been completely cut – both urban and regional areas – we can’t provide those sessions anymore.

So it’s been a huge loss and it’s great to see that there is people out there who have been so supportive of our organisation and also community workers as a whole – so we’d like to thank you.

KEVIN RUDD: Before I take your questions – two or three concluding points. One is that if we see the Liberal National Party here withdrawing funding from critical services in health and in education and in other areas, including today I see a review of community policing in terms of police beats for goodness sake. We at the Federal Government level start to get pretty worried about that because the Australian Government is delivering record investments in education and in health and in housing. And at the same time we start to see the erosion of those services here. This is not fair.

I think the other thing I’d say is that of course Mr Newman and the Liberal National Party Government says Queensland is like Spain and therefore we’ve got to do all these things. Well can I say that is the biggest over blown piece of baloney that I have ever heard. Anyone who has familiarity with the Spanish economy and what’s going on in Europe compared with what’s going on in Australia Queensland. This is chalk and cheese. They’re deliberately overstating the nature of the economic challenge which all Australian State Governments have gone through because of the impact of the Global Financial Crisis, here in Queensland also with cyclone Yasi and the Queensland floods as well, in order to justify ideologically driven cuts to those services and public servants who they believe are not their supporters.

An a final footnote – I heard recently on the radio someone said they’re not doing anymore than Kevin Rudd and Wayne Goss did back in the early nighties and late eighties – well go to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, look up the numbers and what you’ll find is the period of the Goss Government between 1989 and 1995 – public service increased here in Queensland by about 13,000 members – by about 1.5% each year – that is a reasonable rate of increase – about half the trend rate of economic growth to cope with expanding services and expanding population.

Then I heard someone the other day say but what about Federal Government when it was elected back in 2007 when I was Prime Minister – well look at the Australian Bureau of Statistics again it will tell you that Australian public service numbers over that period didn’t increase hugely but it was increasing by about 1.5% a year and over the first several years of the Government by about six or seven thousand public servants. Again growing population greater service needs.

Let’s put this into context – this Liberal National Party Government has deliberately overstated the case by comparing Queensland to Spain in order to launch an ideological attack against public servants and the provision of public services – it’s wrong and it’s time Campbell Newman with his record majority began governing for all of Queensland not in pursuit of his own particular narrow ideology.

I’m happy to take your questions. Thanks folks

QUESTION: Have you talked to the Premier – have you talked to the Treasurer – have you lobbied?

KEVIN RUDD: I’ve had one conversation briefly with Mr Newman and that was about an aspect of homelessness services. I won’t go to the detail of that – and apart from what I said last week publicly about the cut backs to social housing through the sale of caravan park land. I’ve really not entered the public debate much about this over the last six months.

New Government, big mandate, they’ve obviously got the approval of the Queensland people to go out and implement their pre-election commitments. I don’t remember sacking 20,000 public servants was part of those commitments.
So therefore, I’ve been very careful in not entering this debate up until now, but frankly with the State budget looming and job security being raised with me every time I go down to the local shops, just over the river here in my electorate and the cutbacks to local services now being raised with me by people all over the place. It’s time for us all to stand up and speak out.
Mr Newman – it’s not too late to change course. You must govern for all Queenslanders, not just pursue a pretty narrow ideology.
QUESTION: This matter that Mr Newman raised, he said that you’ve got amnesia, you were a key adviser in the Goss Government and sacked around 12,000 public servants. You point to the record of growth between 1989 and 1995. Newman himself says that after we get these cuts out of the way he will in fact grow the public service. What do you make of that?
KEVIN RUDD: Well it may be a piece of logic which works in Campbell Newman’s mind, but doesn’t quite work in mine. What Mr Newman is saying is I’m going to cut the public service in order to grow the public service. Can someone explain to me what that actually means as a point of logic? I don’t get it. I really don’t get it
QUESTION: Did you in fact not do the same?
KEVIN RUDD: If you look at the annual increases in the public service numbers across that period, go to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and you will find that year on year the number of Queensland public servants increased and the average per year was about 1.5% and across that 5-6 year period it was an increase by of about 12,000-13,000 public servants. So ,what Mr Newman is doing is trying to scramble around, find any excuse, either in history or in geography by lurching over to Spain, to say that what he is doing is perfectly normal.
You know something, good people of Queensland – it’s not normal and therefore, I call again on Mr Newman to change course. Being Premier of the great state of Queensland means you’ve got to govern for all of Queensland, including those folks who you mightn’t think voted for you and that’s why it’s important he honours his pre election commitments which contain none of this, in what he put to the Queensland people, only back in February/March.
QUESTION: [inaudible] after the Turnbull speeches last night, do you think there is an issue with leadership in Australia across the political spectrum?
KEVIN RUDD: I don’t even know what Mr Turnbull had to say last night, I’m sorry.
QUESTION: He said that there were issues with leadership from both parties, the Labor party and the Liberal party...
KEVIN RUDD: You know something, I’m sure Malcolm makes very fine speeches but I haven’t read that one and you draw my attention to reading it this evening and I will do so. I’m concerned here about job security in Queensland where the Australian Government is providing strong leadership on the economy, unemployment today down to 5.1% nationally. We have just gone through 21 years of consecutive national economic growth, under both Labor and conservative governments in Canberra.
What we have here is the swinging of a wrecking ball in the state of Queensland. I don’t think that’s right and I think it’s time for people of good conscience to stand up and to take a stand.
QUESTION: Julia Gillard’s pulled out of speaking at the Australian Christian Lobby conference because of comments she says from Jim Wallace that were offensive. Has she made the right decision and were those comments offensive?
KEVIN RUDD: I’d support the Prime Minister’s decision. I haven’t seen the text of what Mr Wallace has said but if it’s reported accurately, they strike me as homophobic.
QUESTION: Do you want to be Prime Minister again?
KEVIN RUDD: Very happy being Member for Griffith, thank you very much for the question. It’s also pretty close to being downtown here, great coffee in the middle of Brisbane and I’m able to get to it much quicker than I can from walking from the Lodge in Canberra.
QUESTION: [inaudible] some Australian’s are doing it tough; they are standing on street corners, more or less begging for the Heart Foundation, for this and that. Now Julia Gillard is going to give $2,000 million dollars to Afghanistan over the next three years. Surely she can cut back a bit on that $2,000 million dollars, which is $2 billion dollars for us Australians?
KEVIN RUDD: I think that you’ll see is that the Government in the delivery of basic social services, this is the Australian Government, has been year on year, increasing what it’s doing. I can talk very confidently about the health portfolio because we’ve done a lot of work in that area. Our investments in the public hospital system here in Queensland are the largest national investments, for example, this State has ever seen. Our investment in the state and Catholic education systems here in Queensland are the largest investments that have ever been seen.
And then I was going to go on to our other responsibilities around the world. What we have done in terms of foreign aid, for example, is move from a situation where we were contributing 0.25% of Gross National Income each year to foreign aid to 0.35%, moving ultimately to 0.5%. That’s a small amount of money in the relative scheme of things to support people who have absolutely nothing.
Our job as a Government is to provide proper balance.
QUESTION: Is Campbell Newman right when he says that the Federal Government is governing via the media? Springing announcements like its response to Gonski and in terms of the NDIS on the states. Is that right? Is the Government trying to use the media to blame the states for failings in these areas?
KEVIN RUDD: No, I just go back to what I said before about the Newman Government here. This is the second occasion ever that I have stood up and sought to hold this state government to account.  My general view is state governments should be allowed to get on and do what they’re doing they have been elected for a particular purpose.
 What this government has done is take such a broad axe to the delivery of basic services to the Queensland community and to basic job security that we must speak out.  I notice Mr Newman will constantly seek to divert the topic of conversation away from that.  If he has a particular view on Gonski, if he has a particular view on other reform directions for the nation, he has all the forums available to him and a direct line to the Prime Minister to put his view. 
What we are concerned about here today is the community of Queenslanders is, the fact that job security is under threat here in Queensland.  The fact that basic services like the ones we talked about this morning, are under threat here in Queensland, and when I read in today’s Courier Mail on page two, for goodness sake, a review now of the usefulness of 90 police beats across the State of Queensland, what on earth is happening here.

You may remember back in the early 1990’s, I think the period Spencer you and I were talking about, I think some of us are veterans from that period – I’m looking at other journalists who are here present. That’s right, we from the megalithic period of Queensland’s history.  Police beats I seem to remember were first done at scale under the Goss Government in the early 90’s we started rolling these things out – the first one appearing here in the Queen Street mall and then rolling them out elsewhere in the State, they may have started just before then I can’t quite remember.  There’s been a big expansion, and the response from people across Queensland is thank god we’ve got coppers in places where people come to shop and to gather because it makes us feel more secure.  It’s a very basic thing and I find it unbelievable if that report in the Courier is accurate today, that this is now under review as well.

QUESTION:  Do you think Mr Newman could be the best thing to happen to the Federal Labor Party?

KEVIN RUDD: I’m worried about the great State of Queensland, I’m a Queenslander, I’m a passionate Queenslander, grew up here, educated here, and when I start to see people taking a scalpel to the heart of our State, I get a bit worried, and that’s why I am speaking out.  In terms of whatever its broader political implications might be for the country, that remains to be seen, what I am concerned about is what happening in the here and now.  For goodness sake, this guy got two and a half years to govern – if you can do this in six months, what can you do in two and a half years, that is why we have to put our hand up now.

QUESTION:  Do you think it will make voters more wary of electing Tony Abbott?

KEVIN RUDD: Well can I just say this, on the question of Campbell Newman.  If Mr Newman doesn’t change course, not only will Queenslanders pay a heavy price in terms of job security, and pay a heavy price in terms of the delivery of basic services, if I’m making a political prediction it’s this, within the coalition at the State level itself, they will move to remove him as Premier and as Leader, because they know that this is going down like a lead balloon around the place.

QUESTION:  Last week a bit of a war of words played out on Twitter you say this is only the second time you have spoken out about the Queensland Government – do you think it’s appropriate to be having these discussions on social media rather than direct with the media.

KEVIN RUDD: You mean I should have all my communications through you, not that we have nailed that in one.  I said exactly what I meant last week and what I said last week was that my engagement with I think with Bruce Flegg over the decision to sell off a caravan park and effectively to evict 150 or so people from Cannon Hill is just not right in itself, these are very vulnerable people, and on top of that it makes no sense.  Do you know why it doesn’t make any sense?  Because if you are in the business of providing social housing, then we’ve got to provide accommodation for people who then have no place to call home, so I said that Mr Newman responded, and I responded equally directly and I will use whatever means of communication with the Premier, direct, face to face, here with you guys in the mainstream media, social media whatever to get one message across, and that is what I have been saying time and time again today, Mr Newman, It’s not late to change course, please change course now for the good of Queensland, having said that folks I am about to go.


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