Julia Gillard’s leadership is under persistent media questioning, just three months after her crushing defeat of Kevin Rudd in a caucus ballot.
Appearing in Canberra today to promote carbon pricing compensation and assistance for pensioners, Gillard faced media questions about her leadership in the light of reports that the government Whip, Joel Fitzgibbon, is promoting a leadership change to Kevin Rudd.
She was also questioned about Cabinet divisions over immigrant workers for the mining industry. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has announced a scheme of Enterprise Migration Agreements for a Gina Hancock mining project. The scheme has been attacked by union officials such as Paul Howes who has been dealing with retrenchments in the aluminium and manufacturing industries.
The leadership questions came at the end of a week dominated by Craig Thomson’s statement to the House of Representatives on Monday and his plea to the media that “enough is enough” on Thursday.
Parliament meets again this week in an atmosphere of despair for the Labor caucus.
- Listen to Gillard and Macklin:
Transcript of Julia Gillard and Jenny Macklin media conference in Canberra.
Gillard: A big, big thank you to Gesima for having us here today. I’m joined by Jenny Macklin and also by Andrew Leigh, the Member for Fraser, and we have been able to talk this morning over a cup of tea about how difficult it can be for pensioners to make ends meet.
We are here today talking to people about how they can make ends meet and some new assistance that’s coming to help Australian pensioners. From tomorrow, pensioners will see more money in their bank accounts. 3.2 million pensioners will see more money arrive in their bank accounts over coming weeks.
This is part of our clean energy assistance. What it means for a single pensioner, is that they will see $250 extra turn up in their bank account. For a pensioner couple, they will see $380 extra turn up in their bank account.
And this assistance will be ongoing, they’ll see more assistance next March and it will start to be paid fortnightly. This assistance is there to help people with the flow through impact of putting a price on carbon.
Of course, the carbon price isn’t paid by individuals; it isn’t paid by pensioners or by any other individuals, it’s paid by big companies that generate a lot of carbon pollution. But it does mean that there will be some cost impacts that flow through and the money is there to give people a helping hand.
And because we know that pensioners find it hard to make ends meet and we know that limited budgets can be really tight, we have calculated this assistance so millions of pensioners will come out better off.
We want to make sure that pensioners aren’t only assisted for the impact of carbon pricing, but that millions of pensioners will come out better off. So to Australia’s 3.2 million pensioners, when you see some more money arrive in your bank account in the next few weeks, it’s there to provide you with a helping hand and millions of pensioners will be better off.
I will hand over to Jenny Macklin for a few comments and then we’ll be happy to take questions.
Macklin: Thanks very much Prime Minister. I’m very pleased to be here with the PM and with Andrew Leigh, the Member for Fraser, and with some local pensioners who are going to be receiving additional money in their bank accounts over the next fortnight.
So starting tomorrow, over the next fortnight, all Australian pensioners, aged pensioners, disability support pensioners, those on the carer payment, will receive extra money straight into their bank accounts.
You won’t have to apply; the money will go straight into your account. It will go into your account whether you are a maximum rate pensioner or a part pensioner and it will make sure that you get this extra help before the carbon price starts on 1 July this year.
It has been estimated by the Treasury that the expected price impact of the carbon price, on average, for a single maximum rate pensioner is $3.90 a week and we will be providing $6.50 a week in assistance to those single pensioners.
This does demonstrate our determination to make sure that all pensioners are adequately compensated, adequately helped for the increases in prices that will come as a result of the carbon price.
We are providing extra to pensioners. We do understand that for people who live on a fixed income it is more difficult and that’s why we are providing this additional assistance to pensioners at this time.
Gillard: Thanks Jenny. Thank you, we are happy to take questions.
Journalist: Prime Minister, have you spoken to Joel Fitzgibbon this morning? Are you confident of his loyalty and will he remain as the Government’s Whip in the House of Representatives?
Gillard: Joel Fitzgibbon’s had something to say about this matter this morning and I think his words speak for themselves.
Journalist: Do you feel comfortable in your position, Prime Minister? Do you think you’ll remain Prime Minister for long, you’re not living on borrowed time like Tony Abbott suggests?
Gillard: Just settle down and I’ll be happily leading Labor to the next election.
Journalist: But have you spoken to Mr Fitzgibbon?
Gillard: Look, Mr Fitzgibbon’s made a statement this morning and I think his words speak for themselves.
Journalist: Will you be discussing discipline in the next caucus meeting?
Gillard: Look, in caucus we’ll be talking about issues important to the Australian nation, that’s what caucus is for.
Journalist: When did you first find out about the decision to approve that Enterprise Migration Agreement with (inaudible)
Gillard: Look, I’m not going to talk about internal Government processes. As a rule, I don’t.
On these issues, we’ll always put Australian jobs first and giving Australians opportunities. We are going to see amazing growth in our resources sector – $500 billion of investments are in the pipeline.
That means that there will be tens and tens of thousands of job opportunities for Australians and I want to make sure Australians get the skills and get the jobs. There will be some need for some foreign labour because of the sheer size and scale but we will always put Australian jobs first.
Journalist: Was your office consulted in the usual way?
Gillard: Look, I’m not going to talk about internal Government processes no matter how the question is phrased.
Journalist: Does it annoy you when you constantly see these stories about your leadership in the newspapers?
Gillard: I’ve answered your question.
Journalist: Will you be seeking to speak to Joel Fitzgibbon later today?
Gillard: Look, Joel’s made a statement on this, his words speak for themselves.
Journalist: Prime Minister, do you lead a divided and dysfunctional Government?
Gillard: We lead a Government that is getting on with the job, most importantly, keeping the economy strong.
When we were talking over there with some of the pensioners who are here this morning, a few of them, like my parents, came from the United Kingdom.
In the United Kingdom, we see an economy that’s just gone back in recession. Across Europe we see literally millions of people unemployed.
So the focus of our Government is on keeping the economy strong, giving people the benefits of work and opportunity, helping people with their cost of living pressures, while getting the really big reforms done and no bigger reform than making sure we seize a clean energy future, which is what we have been talking about today and we can seize that clean energy future whilst ensuring that millions of pensioners are better off.
Journalist: Were you, as it was reported on Saturday, furious about Chris Bowen’s decision to approve that Enterprise Migration Agreement?
Gillard: Look, I dealt with this extensively yesterday. I am very passionate about Australian jobs.
Journalist: Prime Minister, going forward, how many EMAs are in the pipeline and when can we expect announcements on new ones?
Gillard: Look, Enterprise Migration Agreements can be applied for by big project proponents. They’ll be worked through extensively. There will be increased scrutiny and I will be making sure, too, that there is connection to a Jobs Board we are developing.
So a Jobs Board that can give people an idea of all of the opportunities in resources. But we will be making it contingent that companies look to the Jobs Board and if there is an Australian able and willing to do the work, then that Australian gets the work.
Journalist: What sort of scrutiny? Will you be sending officials out to visit projects and finding out how many jobs are there and how many are being filled by overseas workers?
Gillard: There are monitoring processes in Enterprise Migration Agreements, absolutely.
Journalist: Will you be asking Joel Fitzgibbon to explain himself, or are you satisfied with a tweet?
Gillard: He has dealt with this issue and I think his words are clear.
Journalist: A tweet is sufficient and there’s no further questions he needs to answer? A tweet is sufficient?
Gillard: Look, I think his words are clear, so it’s not the vehicle as to how they have been disseminated but what they say.
Journalist: Prime Minister, is the best thing for the Labor Party for you to remain as Prime Minister, or would it be best if you were to resign?
Gillard: No, it’s certainly best that I’m here leading the team to the 2013 election.
I’m looking forward to leading the team into the 2013 election, talking about this Government’s achievements, but also all the things we have got to do for the future of this nation.
Journalist: Prime Minister, do you expect Mr Thomson to be in Parliament next week?
Gillard: Look, I’m not aware of any arrangements about Mr Thomson and leave. I don’t deal with that, that’s dealt with at the level of the Whips.
Thank you very much.