The Australian Greens have agreed to support Julia Gillard and the ALP in the hung parliament.
The Greens today signed an agreement with Julia Gillard. They have have committed to voting with the ALP government to ensure supply and to oppose any motion of no confidence in the government from any non-Greens member.
The agreement sets down a number of goals including a Leaders’ Debate Commission, reforms to public funding of political parties and election campaigns, and a referendum on Indigenous and local government constitutional recognition. A series of reforms to Question Time and parliament debate are also stipulated in the agreement.
The agreement says that “Australia must tackle climate change and reducing carbon pollution by 2020 will require a price on carbon” and proposes a cross-party committee to come up with a specific proposal.
Action on dental care and high speed rail is also stipulated in the agreement as is a full parliamentary debate on the war in Afghanistan.
- Listen to Julia Gillard’s press conference with Wayne Swan (30m)
- Watch Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan press conference:
- Watch ABC TV news report of the agreement:
- Listen to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s response (18m)
Transcript of press conference held by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan.
GILLARD: Thank you. I’m joined today obviously by the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan.
Can we start firstly by saying Australians would have woken up to the news overnight that there has been a plane crash in PNG, and that plane crash has caused the loss of three Australian lives; the loss of the life of one New Zealander; and one New Zealander who is also an Australian resident has been hurt.
On behalf of the Government, can I offer my condolences to the families of the three Australians that would be grieving the loss of a loved one today. Can I also offer our condolences to the New Zealand family that has lost a loved one, and can I wish a speedy recovery and a return to good health to the New Zealand citizen Australian resident who has been injured.
Secondly, can I say today, obviously, a little bit earlier in the day, I and Wayne Swan signed on behalf of the Australian Labor Party an agreement with the Australian Greens. Of course, we have been working in negotiations with the Greens, with the Independents, with Mr Andrew Wilkie, and with Mr Tony Crook to seek to form stable and effective government.
We have reached an agreement with the Greens in writing and that has been signed today and made publically available. I think the fact we were able to reach that agreement shows that we have worked in good faith and held good discussions and that agreement would govern our arrangements with the Greens in the House of Representatives and in the Australian Senate.
I thank Bob Brown for working through with me the terms of that agreement.
Thirdly, yesterday at the National Press Club I talked about the need for certainty and stability and the importance of economic management. As the Treasurer and I stand here, the three Independents are being briefed by Treasury and Finance on Government costings and Opposition policy costings. These are the briefings that they sought last week which are occurring today.
At the end of those briefings, it’s my intention to ask the Independents if the costings of Government policies, prepared at their request by Treasury and Finance, can be released publically. We want to be transparent. We believe those costings should be released publically and we will seek the agreement of the Independents to do that.
I would call on Mr Abbott to do the same, so that for the first time the Australian people can see the costings of his election policies from Treasury and Finance.
And finally, can I say on the question of certainty and stability and economic management, we’ve just received the June National Accounts, which show that the Australian economy is growing strongly.
This is a good result. It’s a very good result when we compare ourselves with economies around the world. It shows how this nation and this government dealt with the global financial crisis and the strength of the Australian economy as we emerge from the global financial crisis, and I’ll turn now to the Treasurer for the details.
SWAN: Thanks very much Prime Minister. Look, these are an outstanding set of figures. An outstanding set of figures that all Australians can be proud of – strong growth and a strong outlook in a confident Australia.
I just want to go through some of the detail because the growth figure in the quarter of 1.2 [per cent] is stronger than many expected and 3.3 [per cent] for the year is a very, very good outcome. It’s a strong outcome when you consider the shaky conditions that exist in countries like the United States and in Europe. And I can say from my G20 involvement that Finance Ministers elsewhere and Prime Ministers elsewhere would kill for a set of outcomes such as these.
They’re very important for Australia because what they show is that the plan the Government put in place when the global recession hit and the global financial crisis came along has worked. That is, we have put in place support for the economy, and as the economy has begun to grow that support has gradually been withdrawn, and of course it is gradually being replaced with private sector investment. That is a very, very good outcome for the country. The most important thing about it is that it provides a very strong foundation as we move forward to continue to grow and particularly to meet the challenges which will arise from mining boom mark II.
Now what we see here is a broadening of growth; it is not something that’s just confined to the mining sector. What is particularly important here is that consumption is strong. So what we are seeing is growth of 1.2 per cent in the quarter and 3.3 per cent over the year. But what it is supported by is strong growth in consumption, also building investment and, of course also exports. And of course all of that consumption is supported by strong jobs growth, and I think that says something about the underlying confidence that you see in the Australian economy.
And of course last week we saw the capital expenditure investment figures, the CAPEX as it’s know in the jargon. That said that businesses plan to invest a massive $123 billion in 2010/11. That is up by 24 per cent on a similar figure one year ago. And as I said it’s not just mining; you’re seeing some strength in manufacturing and of course in other industries.
Now, of course we’ve also performed very well in terms of exports. Our export volumes are up 5.6 per cent in the quarter. Our terms of trade rose a further 12.5 per cent in the quarter and are now at their highest level in something like 60 years. And of course we see rising business profitability as well.
Now all of this demonstrates what we must do as we go forward, because Australia now has a unique opportunity to maximise all of the opportunities which will flow from growth particularly in our region. That’s why we do need an economic plan, that’s why we need to boost our national savings. It’s why we need to invest in superfast broadband. It’s why we need to invest in skills, in education and training.
So in these figures today what you see is an endorsement of what the Government has done over recent years to support our economy and a demonstration of why we need an economic plan as we go forward to further support sustainable growth. Thanks.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, could quantify the financial impact of your deal with the Greens and where that money’s coming from?
GILLARD: Well, you will see the arrangement in writing. Obviously, it doesn’t have promises in there that are costed. That’s not the nature of the agreement.
What I said yesterday holds, and our budget discipline holds. Anything that we agree during the course of negotiations with the Independents, with Mr Wilkie, during the course of this time, with anybody, anything we agree with anybody will be properly offset in accordance with our budget rules.
The budget is coming to surplus in 2013.
JOURNALIST: Can you clarify the status of your citizens assembly you promised? Will it still happen if you do form a minority government?
GILLARD: Well, look, the reality here is that no political Party, no major political party, has the numbers in the House of Representatives and the agreement that I’ve entered into today with the Greens, with the Treasurer, recognises that and we’re continuing to work through for stable and effective government.
You would see in that agreement with the Greens that there will be a multi-party, inclusive process to deal with questions of climate change and that multi-party, inclusive process is open, of course, to the Independents. It’s open, indeed, to members of the Liberal Party, members of the National Party, who agree that climate change is real and that in order to reduce carbon pollution by 2020 we need to have a price on carbon.
In that multi-party forum I will obviously be saying that we went to the last election recommending a citizens’ assembly as a way to assist in building community consensus. I expect that the multi-party grouping will work through discussions of the best way of building community consensus.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) you didn’t go to the election recommending a citizen’s assembly. I think you went to the election promising a citizens’ assembly. Won’t people think that your credibility is in question when you’ve dumped this promise so quickly after the election before your even reconfirmed as Prime Minister?
GILLARD: Oh, well, Michelle, very happy to take your question, but number one, the premise of it isn’t right. The promise I made at the election was a promise for a citizens’ assembly, and the purpose of it, as clearly outlined in my climate change speech, was it was to be a mechanism to help with building community consensus – not the only mechanism, but a mechanism.
With the circumstances of the Parliament now, obviously I have agreed with the Greens that we should have this multi-party, inclusive process. I will pursue the idea of a citizens’ assembly in that process and we’ll work it through.
But on the question of the real political circumstances we find ourselves in now, let’s be absolutely clear: there is no major party that can say to the Australian people they’ve got the numbers in the House of Representatives to deliver what they promised without discussions with other players and I note that Mr Abbott made some references to this is in his press conference earlier today.
Well, I would also draw people’s attention to the following, that in the course of negotiating the changes to the caretaker conventions that have enabled the Independents to have the briefings that they’re having today, Mr Abbott’s Chief of Staff wrote the following words on behalf of the Opposition:
‘We reserve the right to request a later process involving costings support by the Treasury and Finance should the Opposition require additional or revised policies based on negotiations with the Independents.’
So, whatever Mr Abbott has said today, in this correspondence he’s recognising that the reality of the circumstances after the election. I’m recognising that reality. That’s why I’m working through for stable and effective government; why, as the first outcome of those negotiations you’ve seen the agreement with the Greens today.
JOURNALIST: Have the Greens demanded you give this up?
GILLARD: Look we’ve agreed a process to work through collaboratively, recognising that on climate change there’s no political party in the Parliament that has got the numbers in the House of Representatives or in the Senate to wholly get its way. That requires, of course, new ways of working and this is a new way of working. I will, of course, in that new way of working, be furthering and discussing the idea of the citizen’s assembly, but let’s just be very clear what the citizen’s assembly was about, was about building community consensus, that’s the important thing, building community consensus.
JOURNALIST: Are you arguing you’re going to take to this new committee a proposal for a citizen’s assembly and you’ll put that forward and suggest that 150 people are brought in to that process as well?
GILLARD: Not into the committee Patricia, of course not, that would be absurd. What I’m suggesting is the Labor Party obviously took policies to the last election, one of them was the citizen’s assembly, we will now have this new committee, one of the things that it will want to do is consider the question of generating community consensus.
The citizen’s assembly in my view is a mechanism to do that, it’s not the only mechanism. Am I going to get hung up mechanisms? No I’m not. Am I hung up on the outcome? Yes I am, and the outcome is about developing greater community consensus.
I would refer you to the things I said on the day that I announced the citizen’s assembly, plus a broad suite of policies on climate change. Its purpose, its purpose, was the generation of further community consensus.
JOURNALIST: Does this mean that all your policies are up for negotiation now as you talk about forming a minority government, is that anywhere where you draw the line on what you can negotiate in with policy?
GILLARD: Let’s be a little bit practical here and a little bit serious. The answer to your question, of course not, don’t be absurd, of course not. On a question about a mechanism for generating community consensus, I’ll take the mechanism to this new process which I have agreed with the Greens for consultation and discussion. The outcome here, let’s be really clear, the outcome here is about generating further community consensus, a deep, lasting community consensus on climate change. That of course is the thing that we want to see happen and as I indicated the very first day I spoke about these things, the citizen’s assembly is one way, one way of assisting with generating that consensus.
Can I also say to you, of course our election commitments are out election commitments. In the days since the election I’ve been asked will you change the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, and the answer of course is no. I’m sure you could come up with other examples that you would ask me and our election commitments are firm. But I also have to say to you, and Mr Abbott if he is honest will say to you too, that in terms of the result of the election campaign getting legislation through the Parliament will require co-operation with other political parties, that’s simple mathematics.
JOURNALIST: Will the Committee get a say over any of your other specifically climate change policies, or if you form government will they go ahead and the Committee just decide on the carbon price issue?
PM: Well our other climate change policies require appropriations, obviously the things like the transmission lines, the billion dollars for transmission lines, the greening of our car fleet, they require appropriations. We would be putting that through as part of the Budget, and obviously we have got from the Greens today a preparedness to support Labor Budgets. We are still in discussions, obviously with other Independents, and in the course of those discussions we will seeking certainty on questions of supply.
Why is the citizen’s assembly in a bit of a different status? It’s a mechanism, it’s a mechanism about guaranteeing, or not guaranteeing, that’s not the right word, it’s a mechanism about generating community consensus.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) that you are effectively now in coalition with the Greens, what’s your, is that a fair way to characterise it?
GILLARD: No it’s not. No it’s not it’s completely wrong, completely wrong on the face of the agreement. I’d expect Mr Abbott to say that, I’d expect Mr Abbott to generate fear, you know, that’s the election campaign we’ve just lived through, and Mr Abbott is continuing in the same vein.
If you read the terms of the agreement what is agreed is clearly displayed there, including, very clearly specifying, that Mr Bandt in the House of Representatives and the Greens in the Senate, will make up their mind on propositions before the Parliament, vote in accordance with their party’s policies, their conscience, what Mr Bandt considers to be in the best interests of his electorate, that’s absolutely transparent on the face of the agreement.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) agreement in writing from the Independents similar to what you’ve had with the Greens?
GILLARD: Look I think the aim here is to end up with written agreements so that everyone, including the Australian people, everyone has some certainty about the arrangements, how they’ve been formed and what they mean. I think that that’s, agreements in writing are important to transparency and they’re important to certainty, so it is my intention to seek further agreements in writing, if, of course, we end up being able to reach agreement with the three Independents, with Mr Wilkie or Mr Crook.
JOURNALIST: Senator Brown said this morning, if my memory serves me correct, that it was your idea, the climate change committee. So was it your idea to change the mechanism as you’ve put it, or was it in response to a demand by him that he wouldn’t live with the assembly?
GILLARD: Senator Brown and I have not had extensive discussions about the citizen’s assembly. Senator Brown and I had discussions about, in a Parliament with the result that appears to be the result from the election, bearing in mind some counting is still continuing, but in a Parliament with this result, where it appears that in the Lower House the major political parties have 72 votes each. In the Upper House, certainly from the 1st of July next year, no one will be able to get legislation through without the co-operation with the other side of politics or with the Greens, that in a Parliament like this, to seek progress on a question like climate change requires the involvement of as many players as possible working through to reach consensus.
And that’s about in here, it’s also about outside experts. It’s about the Greens, it’s about the Independents, it’s about those members of the Coalition who do believe that we need to price carbon in order to reduce carbon pollution by 2020. So it’s a different way of working. Can the citizen’s assembly fit in with it? Yes it can. Is the citizen’s assembly the only way of assisting with furthering community consensus? No it’s not. What role did the citizen’s assembly play? Well I’ve referred people back to my very first speech on this question, in the first week of the campaign, I know there was some misreporting after that, but the citizen’s assembly was always a mechanism about community debate and community consensus building. It was never going to be a determining factor or way of determining the Government’s policy, all of the reporting to that effect was simply wrong.
JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard by first entering into an agreement with the Greens, a party left of Labor, haven’t you made it more difficult for the Independents to justify backing a Labor into power in Canberra given that they have right leaning conservative constituencies?
GILLARD: Well each of the Independents has made it clear that they are going to weigh broad factors of the national interest as well as the interests of their electorate in the ultimate decision they make. I mean, they’re sitting here today getting briefings from Treasury and Finance in pursuit of that, seeking transparency about costings, of course they’ve got that transparency from us, they’re seeking to get that transparency from Mr Abbott.
Clearly as I’ve spoken to the Independents I have indicated to them that I’m also in discussions with Senator Brown, that I’m also in discussions with Mr Andrew Wilkie, and that I have had a discussion with Mr Tony Crook and I am sending him some information. I have seen the Independents today, I have supplied them with a copy of the agreement with the Greens, all of that’s been completely transparent, open, upfront, honest.
At no point have any of them said to me that this is bearing in their calculation They understand that anybody seeking stable and effective government in these circumstances is going to be talking to a range of people.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) proposal is for a citizen’s assembly informed by an expert panel. Does that expert panel still factor into the mechanism or is the plan now for a Parliamentary committee to inform an experts’ panel that informs a citizen’s assembly?
GILLARD: Once again, and your question actually demonstrates why of course the appropriate course here, having entered this agreement with the Greens, is to have the multi-party committee sit and work through some of these questions.
The aspiration here to have experts actually directly involved with the committee. That’s very clear on the face of the agreement and I would refer you to it. So can that substitute for what would have been done by the climate commission that we had in our election policy? Well we’d have to work that through. Once again what was the purpose of the climate commission? The purpose was to make sure Australians could get objective, contemporary information about climate change science and the state of international negotiations and agreements on climate change. I think that purpose is still very important.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister in the terms of the agreement there’s no mention of asylum seekers, the mining tax or same sex marriage. Are we to assume they were discussed and knocked on the head, or that they weren’t discussed at all? And secondly if I could ask on GDP, wouldn’t a brave and bold government, with the figures that we have today, decide to stop the schools program and wear the political cost?
GILLARD: Well I’ll have Wayne Swan talk to that on the question of support for jobs in non-residential construction and how that relates to the National Accounts. On, sorry your first question was?
GILLARD: On your first question I’m not going to go through everything that was raised during the course of discussions between the Greens and the Government. What you see in the agreement was what was agreed.
SWAN: To put and end to the BER would be folly. It would put many people out of business, many small businesses would hit the wall and many more people would be out of work. As you’re aware the stimulus has been gradually withdrawn. It detracts from growth by 1 per cent this year. 97 per cent, I think, of the BER is currently under construction or very close to completion. So the fact is you would be stopping projects which are currently employing people, keeping the doors of small businesses open and providing a pipeline of investment.
If you look at these figures in detail today, you will see that when it comes to non-residential construction that is a sector which is still very weak. And if it hadn’t been for the BER then we would have seen many more businesses hit the wall in that area and many more people would have been unemployed. So the BER has performed a very important role in that area, but what you can also see – and this is a very good thing about the figures today – is that you can begin to see the return of private investment which will take the place of the public investment that has been put in place through the BER.
Before, I made the point that what is playing out here is exactly what the government planned when we responded to the global financial crisis and the global recession. Private demand fell off a cliff. We had to replace that private demand with public demand, with public investment, and that is what we’ve done. And what we put in place when we put in place the stimulus packages was we said we would gradually withdraw public investment. That is what is happening now. That is why the stimulus is being withdrawn and detracts from growth by 1 per cent across this year. The really good thing about these figures is that Australians can now see a return of private investment which will take up the gap which is left when projects like the BER are completed.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister do you argue that this deal with the Greens give you greater power to argue that Labor, as distinct from the Coalition, can provide durable, long-term stability, given that you can expect to have support from the Greens for your program?
GILLARD: The three Independents and Mr Andrew Wilkie, Mr Tony Crook, will make the decisions about who they support to be the Government based on the factors they think are important to them. I’m not going to try and put words in their mouths or guess how they will weigh this in the calculations, that’s a matter for them. But obviously, what this does mean is over many days now, as newspapers have done their counts of the situation in the House of Representatives – we’re all going to get blown away in a second aren’t we – as they’ve done their counts with the situation in the House of Representatives, you would know as well as I that they have counted the major political parties, Labor 72, what passes in the modern age for the Coalition, 72, Mr Crook likely to come to an arrangement with the Coaltion but an arrangement not yet entered into and Labor to come to an arrangement with the Greens. Obviously from today, everyone can see the terms of that arrangement between the Labor Party, Mr Bandt, Mr Brown and the team he leads.
JOURNALIST: On that arrangement Mr Swan, you’ve agreed to have regular discussions with the Greens on strategy and Budget preparation. Given that the Greens will hold the numbers in the Senate, does that give them a veto over your Budget?
JOURNALIST: And you’ve agreed to a Parliamentary Budget Office, does that signal that there is something wrong with Treasury doing costings?
GILLARD: No, let’s just be a little bit careful here. I was at the National Press Club yesterday and Mr Phil Hudson was claiming to be the custodian of a dusty document from the archives which was a submission I put in about Parliamentary procedures when I was then Manager of Opposition Business.
In that document I went to having a Parliament Budget Office, the aim here is to enable non-Executive Parliamentarians to get things costed. So at the moment, of course, as a Government we rely on Treasury and Finance, we’re transparent about that, Mr Abbott is not.
But if you are a backbencher and you believe in the interests of your constituency, that if there was some renovations done to the local port, you want to go an advocate that to a Government Minister, you don’t know what it’s going to cost, you’re obviously at a disadvantage. A Parliamentary Budget Office would enable that backbencher to get an understanding about what the cost might be. It would also, it will also enable an Opposition to get more assistance with costings than they do at the moment. The Parliamentary Library does a fantastic job, they’re a great research tool for all Members of Parliament, but they don’t do costings in that sense. So no, Treasury and Finance will support Government, the Parliamentary Budget Office is about supporting Parliamentarians.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) will you be prepared to offer him more, and how important is it to get him onside when you’re building these numbers as you’ve just outlined?
GILLARD: Look all discussion with the Independents, with Mr Wilkie and with Mr Crook are important and I’ll continue to have those discussions in good faith.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister isn’t it true that Kevin Rudd-
GILLARD: I think Katherine, alright Bonge-
JOURNALIST: Is it true that Kevin Rudd asked for the job of Treasurer?
JOURNALIST: You haven’t yet released the paper that you’ve given to the Independents in terms of your Parliamentary reforms and so forth. Do we take it that the decisions outlined in your document with the Greens today in terms of Parliamentary process, political donations et cetera represent the position you’ve put to them or is there a different position?
GILLARD: Obviously in having these discussions I am making sure, we are making sure, that we’re talking consistently with people, we’re talking about the same things. You should expect to see it being all the same. What I can say on the paper we gave the Independents is, just as a simple matter of courtesy and respect and politeness to use some old fashioned terminology, we prepared that paper for the Independents at their request and supplied it to them. We didn’t in that process, indicate to them that it was our intention to release it publically, and so in those circumstances I think it’s really a question for them whether they want to see it released publically and I’m happy for it to be but we did give it to them for their own uses and own purposes.