The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

27 February 2013

Press conference

Joint press conference with
the Hon Julia Gillard MP
Prime Minister of Australia, and
Ms Catherine Tanna
BG Australia Chairman


SUBJECTS: G20; Q20; Peter Harvey; Queensland Health; Western Sydney; Immigration; Disaster relief assistance; Education reform


I'm joined by two very passionate Queenslanders, Wayne Swan and Catherine Tanna. It's good to be here in Brisbane.

I want to talk about the G20 but before I do that I just want to say a few words about Peter Harvey.

Peter Harvey is well-known to Australians around the nation, how could you ever forget that very distinctive voice; Peter Harvey from Canberra telling you the news of the day.

Peter Harvey's voice is one of authority and as a television journalist he has a reputation for authority and truth-telling.

Peter Harvey is gravely ill and we do want to say at this time our thoughts are with him and his family, our thoughts are with Peter and his wife Anne and his children Adam and Claire during what is a very difficult day for the Harvey family.

I did want to say too that Gympie is also facing a difficult day. It's been a really heartbreaking summer for the people of Gympie and flood waters have hit yet again.

We will continue to work with the State Government and the people of Gympie to help them through this difficult time.

During the course of today we are triggering some more flood assistance for the people of Queensland. In particular, assistance for primary producers and small businesses and assistance for those who work for primary producers or small businesses who aren't able to pursue their normal occupation because of the impact of flood waters.

A bit later today people will be able to get on our disaster assist website or be able to ring 180 2266 for information about what has been newly triggered and is newly available.

Today, Wayne and Catherine and I have had a tour here at this great convention facility to talk about how the G20 is going to be hosted right here in Brisbane.

The G20 is the premier economic meeting in our world. It brings together 20 world leaders who between them oversee economies that account for 80 per cent of global trade, who between them lead nations who account for two-thirds of the world's population.

The G20 was formed in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis so leaders could come together, deal with the crisis and try and find a way back to jobs and growth for the global economy.

The G20 is still playing a role dealing with global volatility, and we've seen a new source of volatility in the last few days as a result of the uncertainty of the political outcome in Italy.

Even when volatility isn't present, there's still a lot of work to do to get the global economy back on a path for sustainable growth, which will offer people around the world the benefit of jobs.

Here in Australia we stood strong during the global financial crisis and unlike the rest of the world, have low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates, economic growth and a triple-A credit rating as a result of strong public finances.

But we have work to do with other leaders around the world to help get a path for jobs and growth for the global economy which would be good for Australian jobs and growth too.

I was delighted to be able to secure the G20 hosting for Australia. It's a tribute to our nation that the leaders of the world's biggest economies will gather here in 2014.

And I was also delighted to be able to say that it's Queensland where the G20 will meet, with the leaders meeting here in Brisbane and the finance ministers, the treasurers meeting in Cairns.

This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase Queensland and its economy. And so we have decided to create a body called the Q20, which will be led by Catherine Tanna, a well-known Queenslander, bringing together business identities, local government representatives, community representatives to make sure that not one aspect of this opportunity to showcase Queensland in the eyes of the world is missed.

This is going to be a great time for taking images and perspectives from Queensland around the world.

We have also created nationally a B20 group, business leaders on which Catherine also serves, an L20 group bringing together representatives of working people, and a C20 group, representatives of civil society.

So we will be engaging all parts of Australian society in the work of the G20.

Apart from global leaders you will see, come here to Brisbane, to Queensland, around 4,000 delegates and up to 3,000 of the world's media. It's going to be a huge event, and no better place to have it.

I'll turn now to the Treasurer for some comments.


Thanks very much Prime Minister. I'm really proud as a Queenslander and a long-term resident of Brisbane that we have the opportunity to showcase our state and our city to the world through the G20 meetings.

Finance ministers' meeting in Cairns and also the leaders' meeting here in Brisbane.

This is going to be the biggest thing that's happening in Queensland next year. It's a very big event for Australia, a unique opportunity to showcase our wares to the world, and in particular Brisbane will be up in lights during the leaders' meeting.

It's great to be here also with Cath Tanna, for her to chair the Q20. It's a really great opportunity for us in Queensland to maximise all of the opportunities that will come from having a G20 leaders' meeting and I'm really looking forward to that meeting next year.


So if I could invite Catherine to say a few words too, thank you very much.


Thank you very much Prime Minister. Good afternoon everyone. I'd like to say that it's a real honour to be asked to chair the Queensland 20 and I look forward to working with the Government to ensure that we do our upmost to showcase Queensland as a great place to visit, to learn in and to invest in.

And so my objectives include concentrating on education, on tourism, on resources, on agriculture, and on construction.

And what we must do is ensure that hosting this amazing event leads to lasting benefits for Queensland – not just Brisbane – but all of Queensland.

So I'm really looking forward to working with the Government and also working with Richard Goyder on the B20 to ensure we maximise the opportunities for Queensland when it hosts G20 next year. Thank you.


We'll take questions now just on the G20 and the Q20 and subsequent to that we will take questions of the day. So are there questions on the G20 and Q20?


Prime Minister, it's November of next year. How does that sit, though, with the very strong possibility you're not going to be here?


Well I'm not sure that is a question on the G20 or the Q20. Has anybody got a question on the G20 or Q20? No. Okay, well we'll ask Catherine to step to one side.

The Treasurer will just say a few words about Queensland Health and then we will take questions.


I think this is a very sad day for the Queensland health system.

Over the past year there has been something like 4,000 workers sacked from Queensland Health which has put the quality of Queensland Health under question by those actions from the Newman Government.

So they've taken a sledgehammer, if you like, to Queensland Health and to its employees. But today we now hear that the Newman Government is going to outsource or privatise wholesale functions within Queensland Health.

This really puts a fundamental question about the commitment of the Liberal-National parties to this fundamental concept of Medicare, that people have access to quality health care in a free public hospital system.

That is now clearly under threat from the LNP in Queensland.

And I note today they've had a fundraising lunch which is raising funds to promote this destruction of Medicare, this agenda to privatise public hospitals, and they're using those funds to campaign for Tony Abbott's privatisation agenda; his agenda to slash expenditure when it comes to health care and when it comes to education.

So I think we've seen here in Queensland over the past 12 months the Liberal Party take a sledgehammer to the Queensland public hospital system and now they're going to privatise or sell some other bits of it.

This is a real threat to Medicare and it goes to the very core of what our country should be doing to provide quality health care for all Australians, but particularly Queenslanders.


Are these changes likely to impact on funding, federal funding?


Well, federal funding for Queensland is increasing quite significantly.

But you see Mr Newman has cut $3 billion from expenditure in Queensland Health and has sacked over 4,000 workers, and as I understand what they're saying today, is they may outsource the jobs of many more, as well as privatise entirely some public hospitals.

The essence of Medicare is a commitment to quality health care through free public hospitals. I believe that is now directly under threat here in Queensland where the Newman Government has ripped out $3 billion from expenditure in health and now is threatening the quality of care.

You've only got to walk down the street in Brisbane and you run into someone who has lost a job in Queensland Health, or you run into people who have had relatives in nursing homes such as Eventide or other facilities across the city or across the state.

This is a savage assault on the very concept of Medicare and it's coming from the LNP both state and federal.


Is there anything the Federal Government can do to stop this?


Well, everything we possibly can. We have a fundamental commitment to Medicare and to providing adequate funding for our public hospitals system.

The Prime Minister here last year signed an agreement with all of the state premiers to substantially increase funding for public hospital care, and that has now been directly threatened by the actions not only of the Newman Government but also of the Victorian Liberal Government as well.


Is there anything concrete that the Federal Government is going to do now in response to-


Well, highlight all of these issues. We will do everything we can within the legal framework that we have signed with these governments to stop these things from happening.

But at the end of the day these governments are pursuing an agenda which is opposed to the fundamental principles of Medicare, and I believe the Australian people have a very strong view in support of Medicare, quality hospital care from free public hospitals, the capacity to go to a doctor and get access to medical services when you need them.

Well on the hospital front they're threatening that, but over and above that they're also threatening care out there in community health as well with community nurses now under threat across the state.

These are all approaches from a government or state governments which are pretty hostile to the very concept of Medicare.


Prime Minister, do agree the Labor Party needs to inject [inaudible] spirit to engage MPs to fight the next election?


I think you're referring to a story in The Australian newspaper today. Ministers from the Government go and speak at all sorts of forums and put the Government's view.


Prime Minister, on the subject of ministers. Mark Butler on radio in Adelaide this morning has said that he doesn't think he could check into the Rooty Hill RSL with a straight face and make jokes, comparing it to the Carry On movies. Does that help your cause to connect better with the people with western Sydney?


Well I will be out there in Rooty Hill, I've been there before, I've enjoyed visiting in the past and I will enjoy visiting again.


But does it help when Mark Butler makes remarks like that, are they appropriate remarks for a minister of yours to make?


I will enjoy being there.


Is it an act of desperation?


It's about governing. Here we are today governing, here for the people of Queensland, talking about having secured the biggest international meeting Australia has ever hosted and it's going to happen right here in 2014.

Around the country what I do is, as Prime Minister is as we govern, you travel to communities and you talk to them about what's on their mind, what are the big issues for them, you get the opportunity to explain some of the things that the Government is doing, and you get the opportunity having listened to chart the future for our country and for the communities within it.

That's what I will be doing in western Sydney.


Is it a concession that Labor is in peril in that area?


Look, I travel right around the nation. Of course I've been very routinely to western Sydney before.

I travel as routinely as I can to places around the country, whether it's Hobart or Darwin, right around the country, getting through, talking to people and I'll be doing that in Sydney's west.


That distinction you made at the beginning of the year when you announced the election date, next week is governing not campaigning? Is that correct?


Absolutely and that's we're doing here now, and that's what we'll be doing next week.


Will you be doing a similar thing in Queensland?


I'm very frequently here in Queensland too. Indeed I'm right here today.


How are the Australian people meant to know when you're in governing mode and when you're in campaign mode?


Because I will have been to the Governor-General's and had the election formally called when we are campaigning.


We're in Kevin Rudd's electorate at the moment. Any reason why he wasn't available today?


This is obviously an announcement by me and the Treasurer and Catherine Tanna about the Q20.


Prime Minister, the Coalition says that there needs to be freeze on bridging visas following the assault on a woman by an asylum seeker on one of these visas. What does Government think?


I'm glad you've raised the issue of immigration because I'd have to say I'm concerned as Prime Minister about the circumstances with 457 visas.

We always want to put Australian jobs first and that's why the Minister for Immigration Brendan O'Connor, on the weekend announced a further crackdown on the use of 457 visas.

Australians getting jobs first is always going to be the Labor plan. I'm very disturbed that the Coalition has said, indeed the Leader of the Opposition himself has said that 457 visas –temporary foreign labour – is going to be a mainstay of their immigration policy if they are ever in Government. I think that's something to be deeply concerned about.

On the issue of any act of violence, anybody, irrespective of their immigration status who has engaged in an act of violence against another person should feel the full force of the law.

And of course if you commit an offence it can affect your immigration status if you're here in our nation.


Treasurer, Andrew Robb says you should be in Canberra preparing for Budget rather than out campaigning.


Well, I'm out governing and I have been in Canberra working on a range of matters, including the Budget. That work always starts early.

I get up pretty early in the morning and go to bed pretty late at night and I do a lot of work in between and being here today is part and parcel of that.


Can I just say, I do think standing here anybody who is truly interested in Australian jobs would be interested in having the G20 in Australia. We're talking about the body that was formed after the biggest economic crisis the world has known since the Great Depression.

Ask the more than 20 million people around the globe who lost their jobs because of the global financial crisis what it has meant to them, ask people in the banking sector what it meant to have the G20 come together quickly and effectively to try and stem the crisis, what it meant to banking, financial security and jobs and growth.

It's obviously very important, having lived through those global economic shocks for us to be the nation that gets to host the G20 in 2014.

It means that we've moved on to the troika, the set of three chairs that guide the work of the G20. We get to do that for three years – in the run-in, in the year of our hosting, and in the year afterwards.

This is substantial work about the global economy and stripped right down to its essence, it's about whether people here in Queensland and around our nation get the sorts of jobs and prosperity they want in the future.

Anybody who is diminishing that is diminishing Australian jobs.


I just wanted to add to that as well because it was only the weekend before last that I attended a G20 finance ministers meeting in Moscow, and there was a lot of anticipation there amongst finance ministers about them coming to Australia next year.

So they are very much looking forward to it. But the problem we've got with our Federal Opposition is they don't understand either the importance of the G20 or the policies that were put in place to avoid recession in this country during the global financial crisis because they opposed that policy response, a policy response that received a strong endorsement and support not only of the G20, but of the IMF.

So in making these comments I think he is just demonstrating yet again how unqualified he is to comment on or run a $1.5 trillion economy.


Prime Minister was it your idea to go out to Rooty Hill or were you asked by western Sydney MPs?


I get right around the country and I stay where I can so that I'm available as early as possible in the morning and as late at night as possible.


Was it your idea?


I get right around the country and I will do that in western Sydney next week.


Why is it going to be such a long stay?


Because obviously in western Sydney we are talking about a region that is one of our biggest regional economies.

If you look at the economic powerhouse that is western Sydney, one of our biggest regional economies, one of our most populated places in the whole of Australia, I want to get around and talk to people.

So in order to do that it obviously makes sense to stay locally so that you're not losing time in the transit time; you're there as intensively as possible.

I've been out to western Sydney before. I will be out to western Sydney again in the future. It is a good opportunity for me to be there over a number of days, maximising the time I've got with local communities.


Who's going to be paying the hotel bill for your stay?


I'll be paying mine.


In terms of the extra disaster relief assistance, is some of that going to go to primary producers on the Sunshine Coast?


You look at the announcement we've triggered it in a large number of local government areas. So I think the best way of people getting all the information is to go to the disaster assist website or to ring the telephone line.

There is now quite an extensive range of assistance over Queensland, different places obviously with different levels of assistance depending on the flood events they have faced. So I think it's best if everybody who is in these circumstances makes sure that they get the right information for them.


Prime Minister, why is it necessary to stay in a hotel in Rooty Hill when you could commute from your place in Sydney?


Well, my place is actually a house in Altona, that's the home I own so it would be pretty hard to commute from there.

In terms of commuting from the Prime Minister's residence in Sydney, that would involve transit time and it's just going to maximise my time on the ground if I take that out of the day.


Have there been any further discussions on implementing Gonski given that Queensland now are threatening to go with the other states?


Those discussions are continuing. Basically there is work happening every day. There has been the need to get available data that has flown out of the census that has only become available in the last few weeks.

So there is just a timetable here that is as a result of the availability of data, not what the Government has decided, but just census gets taken, data gets crunched and it gets crunched and it gets crunched and then the ABS make it available.

So data that is necessary for these discussions only became available in the last few weeks.

Against that backdrop there have been continuing discussions between state and federal officials, between federal officials and independent and Catholic schools.

What I can certainly say is I am very determined that we make sure that every child in every school gets a great education, whether that's here in Queensland or any other part of the nation.

Now our children are slipping behind the standards of the world and I don't think that there is going to be a parent who would thank the Queensland Government if it tries to stand in the way of making sure every Queensland child gets a great education.

We're not only talking about the moral need to make sure every child is invested in, we're talking about the economic need to make sure we are a high-skill, high-wage economy in the future, and we cannot do that unless we win the education race.

Thanks very much.