Prime Minister Julia Gillard has held a marathon press conference answering allegations about her work as an industrial lawyer in the 1990s.
In a press conference lasting for 73 minutes, Gillard attacked “misogynists and nutjobs” on the internet over the “sexist” allegations in relation to her work at the law firm Slater and Gordon 17 years ago.
The Prime Minister’s remarks came hours after The Australian newspaper published an online apology for saying she had set up a trust fund for her then boyfriend, Bruce Wilson, in the 1990s.
Referring to “false and defamatory material attacking my character”, Gillard said she had decided to deal with the issues. Reporters then questioned her for 54 minutes.
Evening television coverage of the event also centred on a security breach where an intruder made it into the executive wing of Parliament House where the press conference was being held. The man handed Gillard some papers before leaving.
- Listen to Gillard’s press conference (54m)
- Listen to the first section of the press conference on asylum seekers – Gillard & Chris Bowen (19m)
- Watch SBS’s Karen Middleton discuss Gillard’s response:
- Watch Channel 7 report on the security breach:
- Watch Channel 10 report on the press conference:
- Watch ABC News report on the press conference:
Transcript of Julia Gillard’s press conference with Chris Bowen.
GILLARD: I’m here with Minister Bowen to make an announcement arising from Angus Houston’s report into asylum seeker and refugee issues. There are some other issues today which I will deal with but we will deal with this immigration issue fully first. Minister Bowen has a booked telephone call with Papua New Guinea.
We received the report from Angus Houston last week and the Parliament did endorse the legislation necessary to implement what Angus Houston and his team referred to as a circuit breaker – that is, the commencement of processing on Nauru and PNG. But at the time we received the report from Angus Houston and his review team, we said we accepted Mr Houston’s analysis that this was an integrated package, that you couldn’t cherry-pick between the recommendations that you needed to do them all.
Today Minister Bowen and I are announcing we are actioning Mr Houston’s recommendation that the number of humanitarian places be increased to 20,000. This is important because we want to send two messages to asylum seekers. Message No.1, if you get on a boat you are risking your life, you are paying a people smuggler your hard-earned money and you are at risk of being transferred to Nauru or PNG. But Message No.2, if you stay where you are and you have your claim processed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees then there are more resettlement places available in Australia. That is the purpose of announcing the 20,000 places – that is the purpose that Mr Houston identified.
Mr Houston also identified the need for some capacity-building in our region and we are making available as an initial step $10 million for such capacity-building.
I’ll turn now to the Minister for Immigration who will speak about these matters but also give you a general update on the work that is happening on Nauru and PNG.
BOWEN: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Firstly, to deal with the very significant announcement of the increase in Australia’s humanitarian intake. This was accepted by the government in principle, of course, when we received the Houston-L’Estrange-Aristotle report. And of course we’ve been working very quickly on the details and we are announcing today that the 20,000 increase will apply from this financial year, the increase to 20,000 people.
This is very significant. Of course it’s important that we give people the very clear signal that there are better and safer ways available to pursue a better life in Australia, to flee persecution without taking the risky journey to Australia by boat. It’s also very importantly the right thing to do. It builds on our – Australia’s – strong record as one of the key humanitarian settlement nations in the world. It’s in line with what we put to the ALP National Conference last year to work towards the increase in our humanitarian program to 20,000 and we’re very proud that we’re being able to implement that this financial year.
Of course, importantly, the key task of our humanitarian program must be to give as many people as possible the chance to flee persecution, to seek a better life in Australia in as safe and orderly a way as possible. That’s what this recommendation does. This is the biggest increase to our humanitarian program in 30 years. It will mean that Australia becomes the second largest source of resettlement for UNHCR-referred refugees in the world after only the United States.
Of course, it’s important in terms of initial action that we provide that message to people considering whether to take the journey to Australia by boat that there is a better way. Accordingly, as part of that 20,000, 400 immediate places are being set aside for processing on Indonesia, in Indonesia for people who are considering whether to make that journey or not. It’s very important that we work with the UNHCR and the Indonesian Government and this has been communicated to Indonesia over recent days that this was what we were planning to do.
Also, I announced on Budget day that we would be moving towards a program for community and private sponsorship of refugees. This will be an important part of the 20,000 program. The consultation process for that has been completed and we will be working with not-for-profit groups, with community organisations across Australia to ensure that this year, the community sponsorship program is an important part of that 20,000 humanitarian intake.
In terms of the make-up of the 20,000, I know there will be interest where this will be targeted. Of course, key groups that will figure in the 20,000 are Afghans, whether they be in Pakistan, Iran or Indonesia; Iraqi minorities including Assyrians, Chaldeans and Mandaeans in Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. Of course Sri Lankan refugees will continue to figure in our program, as will Burmese in Malaysia, Thailand and India, and a particular focus of course on continuing developments in Syria and Egypt. We’ll continue to work with the UNHCR on key resettlement outcomes for people from the Congo, for Eritreans and Ethiopians and other people in retracted situations in Africa.
At this stage the indications are that increasing the humanitarian program by an additional 6,250 places in 2012-13 will cost around $150 million, with a potential cost impact of $1.3 billion over the forward estimates.
Secondly today we’re announcing the first step – the down-payment and the implementation of Recommendation 3 of the Houston panel which is increasing capacity-building in our region. We have an initial payment, an initial allocation of $10 million which will be developed in consultation with the UNHCR and other non-government organisations with a particular focus on our near neighbours, of course Indonesia and Malaysia, in terms of improving protection outcomes, improving the options for registration, improving the management of asylum seekers throughout our region.
The report makes clear that this capacity needs to be increased very significantly, but it makes clear that this needs to be done incrementally over time and this $10 million down-payment is an important step in that process.
Finally I would like to give you an update on the situation with Nauru and Papua New Guinea and Nauru in particular. As you know, a reconnaissance trip took place earlier this week to both nations. This morning I spoke to Foreign Minister Kekei of Nauru, who confirmed Nauru’s agreement for the deployment of defence assets to begin the work on the temporary facility on Nauru. Initial aircraft can deploy following formal approval by the Australian Government which will occur today within 24 hours.
This initial deployment will consist of 30 ADF personnel. One or two aircraft C-17s or C-130s will deploy every day over the next week. When this is complete, there will be a full team of 120 ADF personnel on Nauru. We envisage that the capacity will be 500 on Nauru by the end of September and of course, that capacity will come on-line before then and we will provide regular updates on progress in building to that capacity of 500 by the end of September.
Of course there continues to be further work with Nauru and Papua New Guinea on the implementation of agreements and assurances that are necessary under the Act to allow the designation of those countries. And I will provide further updates of course next week and over the coming period. Happy to take questions Prime Minister.
GILLARD: Thank you. So we’ll take questions on immigration now.
JOURNALIST: Will the increase to 20,000 allow to you clear the backlog of people in detention centres and living in the community?
BOWEN: Well, with respect, I think what we’re talking about here is 20,000 places which are both onshore and offshore. So those people who are already being processed in Australia will continue. They will have come out of a pool of 13,750 places. They’ll now come out of a pool of 20,000 places. The other places will be made up of offshore settlement.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister or Minister Bowen, has the money been offset? Have you found savings to offset the expenditure? And can you tell us what they are?
GILLARD: In the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook we’ll do the full accounting.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, something very odd just occurred – what have you been handed there?
GILLARD: Mark, I wish I could help you but I’ve got no idea so I’ll have to get it read. Something a young man wanted me to have but it’s not apparent to me what the topic of it is, even from its title.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how many of the places will be part of this sponsorship arrangement and how many will the government be paying for?
BOWEN: Well, of course, the 20,000 allocation is budgeted for a full government allocation. However, I would hope we could work with community groups over this financial year to achieve up to 500 places being sponsored under the community program and I would like to see it reach 1,000 by next year. There’s a considerable amount of work to do with the not-for-profit sector. This has been working in Canada for a long time but this is new for Australia. There has been a lot of interest and demand in this new proposal that we announced last May from not-for-profit groups, churches, other groups, ethnic-specific groups, a lot of excitement in the community about this. But there is of course a lot of capacity to be built even with our own not-for-profit groups. So I hope to have 500 this year but we’ll work with them on that.
JOURNALIST: Have you been given a cost estimate, updated since the reconnaissance teams hitting Nauru and Manus Island?
BOWEN: That work is well underway and of course my department is calling for various tenders and expressions of interest and working with potential providers on that and I’ll provide further updates, not only next week but in the period beyond that.
JOURNALIST: Sorry Minister, what do you anticipate the capacities to be at Nauru and Manus Island and how long do you think it will take for them to be filled?
BOWEN: Well, when we’re finished, 1,500 on Nauru and 600 on Manus Island, and I’ll provide further updates on the work.
JOURNALIST: They won’t take long to fill, though, will they, 1,500 and 600?
BOWEN: Well capacity is always an issue, Mark, and it always amused me when the Liberal Party said, oh this Malaysia agreement is terrible, there’s only a capacity of 800. Well of course there’s limited capacity whatever you do. But of course we think the suite of measures – the full 22 or 23 recommendations of this report – when they’re all implemented will have a very significant impact on flows. But of course, this takes time to implement and of course there were challenges along the way. But we don’t walk away from that.
GILLARD: If I could just – we’ll get to Lyndal in a second – but if I could just intercede there, I think your question very clearly focuses the mind on the fact that this is an integrated set of recommendations. Mr Houston and his very eminent panel made that very clear. You can’t cherry-pick from amongst them. And the fact we’re here today announcing the next response, this very substantial move, shows that the Government is determined to keep working to deliver the full recommendations of the Houston review.
JOURNALIST: Minister, every time a boat has arrived since last Monday, at the bottom of the press release it says there is a risk those people will be transferred to a regional processing location. Is it your aim to transfer all the arrivals since last Monday to places like Nauru or Manus Island or is there chance some of those who have arrived will be processed on Christmas Island?
BOWEN: The position remains the same, Lyndal, and it’s as referred to in those public announcements. Anybody who arrived from the date of the announcement runs the risk of being transferred –
JOURNALIST: But ‘there’s a risk’ doesn’t mean they will be transferred, does it?
BOWEN: The position is very clear and it’s reflected in those words.
JOURNALIST: Minister, you’re focusing the first 400 in Indonesia. Is it your intention that you will focus more regionally the 6,250 places?
BOWEN: Well, I have outlined some of the groups that will figure very prominently. And really, what you look at is the entire pipeline, the entire pipeline on the journey through to Australia, whether it be from Afghanistan or Iran or Iraq or direct from Sri Lanka, you’d really have to look at the entire pipeline. And of course I referred to those other groups that aren’t reflected in boat arrivals in Australia because they shouldn’t be forgotten either. People who would never dream of having the money to afford a people smuggler to come to Australia, whether they be in a very protracted situation in Africa or living in Syria or Jordan, having fled Iraq 10 years ago and waiting for resettlement, they won’t be forgotten in this as well. Yes there will be a focus on our region, not only Indonesia but Malaysia and up the pipeline. Yes, that will be reflected in the figures but those other groups won’t be forgotten either.
JOURNALIST: When do you envisage the first planeload of asylum seekers going to Nauru?
BOWEN: Well I’ve already said Michael, there is a planeload of ADF personnel going to begin work over the next 24-hour period, and then I will provide further updates from there. We’re providing updates as we go. And I’ve indicated that capacity will be 500, by the end of September, but that there would be capacity becoming available obviously in the interim, gradually, up to that 500 point by the end of September.
JOURNALIST: Minister, do you anticipate Serco taking over the operation of these centres?
BOWEN: We’re in a discussion with a range of groups about the operation of the centres. We’re in discussions of course not only with private sector providers but with international groups and I’ll be providing again further updates about that.
JOURNALIST: Minister, the opposition seems to think you’re dragging the chain on the formal paperwork. Does it need to be in the Parliament today?
BOWEN: I saw of course Mr Morrison’s stunt this morning and it’s quite a little stunt. While he’s been doing stunts we’ve been getting on with the work and implementing the agreement and implementing the agreement and implementing the process. Let’s be very clear – a couple of points Paul. Firstly, there could’ve been a detention or a processing facility up in Nauru well over six months ago if the Opposition had agreed to the Government’s proposal then. Now they’re complaining we haven’t done it yesterday. It could have been done six months ago. Secondly, the Opposition appears to be unaware of the requirements that I need to be satisfied of to declare this as a place of regional processing in the national interest. And in declaring that, I need to take into account assurances given to the Government about [inaudible] and processing. The Opposition is asking me to make that declaration with regard to assurances I’ve received before I’ve received them. I’m acting on legal advice as to how to make this process as legally robust as possible and how to reflect the best intentions of the Parliament. And the declaration of Nauru or PNG will not delay – will not delay – the opening of the centres. I will provide further updates when I’m in a position to say that I have made the declaration. Of course then, there is a clause in the Act which reflects parliamentary approval – which I might say the Opposition asked and received our agreement to – to reflect a number of days it could sit before the Parliament or the Parliament would move to provide a positive affirmation. And I will provide further updates about that as well.
JOURNALIST: You said yourself that the Houston report says it’s an integrated report, there’s 22 recommendations, needs to be, can’t be cherry-picked. Now, one of them is about turning back the boats. Now, he says it’s possible but you need a whole lot of things like diplomatic support and so on. My understanding is that when Jason Clare and Stephen Smith go to Jakarta in coming weeks, if not days, they will not be raising this with Indonesia. Why is that? Given that you yourself have said that you can’t be cherry-picking?
GILLARD: Well, I will go to Minister Bowen for a comment as well but I’d remind you that Angus Houston and his team say it is not possible in current circumstances to do what Mr Abbott advocates and that the issue of what Indonesia will or won’t accept is only one element of the risks and problems here. Risks and problems include the response of people smugglers and asylum seekers and subsequently the risks for our Defence Force personnel. Minister Bowen.
BOWEN: As the Prime Minister said, Recommendation 19 is clear. The panel notes the condition for necessary – for effective lawful and safe turn back for regular vessels carrying asylum seekers for Australia are not currently met. It then goes on to say this situation could change in future. Our policy is not to turn back boats – that’s the Liberal Party policy, but Mr Abbott failed to raise it in his discussions with the President of Indonesia.
JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen, the Government has said that it’s not surprised that the boats are continuing to come for some time after the announcement. But do you have any indications that the message has got across to the people smugglers and that there will be a slowing in the foreseeable future? And secondly, could you tell us what you’re doing to revive the Malaysian talks at a high level?
BOWEN: Firstly, Michelle, of course we don’t comment on intelligence. We do receive intelligence updates but no Minister will comment on them for obvious reasons. This will take some time of course. We are developing – it’s no secret, I’ve said it – before a communications campaign. Again, that will be a matter for public release in the very near future. And that will emphasise the no-advantage principle and it will emphasise that people should not be taking the dangerous boat journey to Australia. In relation to your question on Malaysia, of course we’ve been in contact with Malaysia. The report makes clear that we need as a matter of urgency to have the centres established on Nauru and PNG but the Malaysia arrangement – agreement – should be further codified and implemented. I’ve obviously been in communication with Malaysia and the UNHCR of course. We’ll continue that work. Of course, if the Parliament is of a mind to approve Malaysia as an offshore processing place, we would put that to the Parliament, of course, in line with our principle that we are the only party, not the Greens Party, not the Liberal Party, committed to implementing this report in whole. We are the only party. The Government is the one moving to implement each of these recommendations. Each of the other parties is moving to cherrypick their own position.
GILLARD: Okay, thank you very much.
BOWEN: Thank you Prime Minister.
GILLARD: Okay, if we can turn to other matters. For a number of months now, there has been a smear campaign circulating on the Internet relating to events 17 years ago. Much of the material in circulation is highly sexist. I’ve taken the view over time that I will not dignify this campaign with a response either. However, this morning something changed on that. The Australian newspaper republished a false and highly defamatory claim about my conduct in relation to these matters 17 years ago. It is a claim about me setting up a trust fund. A claim was first published by News Limited in relation to me and funds during the election campaign in 2007. On that occasion, the claim was retracted and apologised for. The claim was made again by Glenn Milne, a then columnist with the Australian newspaper, such a dim view was taken of his conduct in relation to that matter his employment was terminated. Despite these events, a similar claim has been recirculated by the Australian newspaper today. People may have already seen that the claim has been retracted and apologised for and that retraction and apology appears on the Australian web site and as I understand it on all News Limited web sites. In these circumstances, where I am seeing, recycled again, false and defamatory material attacking my character, I have determined that I will deal with these issues. I’m therefore happy to take questions on these matters. I am going to do that today. Given we have got to a stage where false and defamatory material is now being recycled in the Australian newspaper; I’ll make this an opportunity to ask questions if people have them on their mind. This will be the only occasion on which I deal with this matter. I am not going to dignify it by ongoing answering of questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, could you explain to us the circumstances of your departure from Slater & Gordon? Were you at any time asked to leave? Was it suggested that you resign?
GILLARD: I determined to resign from Slater & Gordon. I did that in circumstances where there had been growing tension and friction amongst the partnership. I think these are matters of public record. Indeed, I believe you’ve commented on them yourself. There was growing tension and friction amongst the partnership. I had also been preselected to stand on the Senate ticket for the Labor Party in 1996. As history records, I was not elected, narrowly missing out. It had long been an aspiration of mine to move to a political career, so I made the determination to resign from Slater & Gordon. That is also verified by Peter Gordon and statements that have been made in recent days, but there was considerable friction and tension in the partnership at that time.
JOURNALIST: There has also been that statements some people at Slater & Gordon were considering terminating your employment. Was that the case?
GILLARD: Well I direct you to the statement made by Peter Gordon which deals with this matter. I think you are referring to a statement from Nick Styant-Browne in relation to his recollections. You would have to raise them with him. My recollections and Peter Gordon’s recollections are as I’ve just outlined them to you.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, one of the issues that’s been raised in recent days is the disparity between the creation of this association and what you said in 1995. The former being that it was the creation of a workplace safety association and then three and a half years later, you said it was a slush fund. Now, going back to the documents that have been released under FOI, with relation to the Officer of the Commissioner of Corporate Affairs, listed the 23 April 1992, is it your contention that in when Ralph Blewitt signed this document with nine pages attached which you, I believe, prepared and it says the objects of the association are, and there is like (a) to (h), and include things like promoting within unions the adoption of the association’s policies, supporting union officials. Is your contention that those objectives of the association are consistent with being a slush fund?
GILLARD: Well, let me answer your question and answer it in some detail because I agree that you’ve gone to a number of matters that have been raised in recent days. First and foremost, the terminology that you used in your question, which was terminology I used in the discussion with Peter Gordon and Jeff Shaw some 17 years ago, is terminology with a particular overtone to it which I don’t think helps with understanding these events. I’m not going to use it again. I will be far more precise than that. I was a solicitor at Slater & Gordon. I assisted with the provision of advice regarding the setting up of an association, the workplace reform association that you refer to. My understanding is that the purpose of the association was to support the re-election of a team of union officials and their pursuit of the policies that they would stand for re-election on. It was my understanding that the association would engage in fundraising activities, including, for example, there being regular payroll deductions from union officials who would be putting their money together to support their re-election campaign and that they may well have other fundraising activities like hosting dinners where it would be transparent to people that the money was going to support their re-election campaign. My role in relation to this was I provided advice as a solicitor. I am not the signatory to the documents that incorporated this association. I was not an office bearer of the association. I had no involvement in the working of the association. I provided advice in relation to its establishment and that was it.
JOURNALIST: Can you say categorically, Prime Minister, that none of the funds in this entity were used to pay for renovations on your house?
GILLARD: I’ve dealt with this allegation a lot in the past and let’s be very clear about it. I paid for the renovations on my home in St Phillip Street in Abbotsford. Like millions of other Australians, I had the unhappy experience that I had a few blues with contractors along the way.
JOURNALIST: Are you satisfied, was your conduct as a lawyer throughout this matter ethical?
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you think that, you say that you weren’t a signatory to that initial document.
GILLARD: No, I was not.
JOURNALIST: Did you help to draft the document that you knew was false because the purpose of the association was fundraising for a union election, not workplace safety, as stated in that document?
GILLARD: I’ve just responded to Andrew’s question, and let me re-state it. My understanding of the purpose of this association was to support the re-election of union officials who would run a campaign saying that they wanted re-election because they were committed to reforming workplaces in a certain way, to increasing occupational health and safety, to improving the conditions of the members of the union. That was my understanding of the purpose of the association, and so I provided legal advice for the association. The document you refer to is not signed by me. The section of the document you refer to was not written by me.
JOURNALIST: The purposes of this, it talks about it being a workplace reform association which people would take to be for the benefit of workers. Nowhere in that does it say it was for the purposes of re-election of officials?
GILLARD: Well, I’m being clear with you about this. I understood then the purpose of the association was to support trade union officials who would stand on a platform about reform and improvements in workplaces.
JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard, the Melbourne house that was later bought with funds from this association. Can you tell us about how much you knew about that house, your involvement in that house and whether you knew it was paid for by the association and how that relates to workplace safety?
GILLARD: Well, I dealt with this matter in the interview with Peter Gordon and Jeff Shaw of which you now have the transcript. My understanding about that house was that it was being purchased by Mr Blewitt. It was being purchased as an investment property. It was purchased on the understanding that Mr Wilson would be the tenant of the property and that Mr Blewitt was in a position with a mortgage like an ordinary person to purchase the property. I did not, at the time, understand that any funds from any other source would be used to support the purchase, that is funds from the association or any other accounts related to the union.
JOURNALIST: Can you tell us just quickly why didn’t you open a file on this matter, as would have been common practice?
GILLARD: I’m glad you’ve asked me that question because it gives me the opportunity to clarify this. Working at Slater & Gordon in the industrial section as I did for a number of years, it was par for the course to routinely provide free advice to union officials and trade unions. We worked closely with officials. We worked closely with trade unions. We would provide limited free advice to them. Of course at a particular point when a job became big or it was occasioning disbursements for the firm like court filing fees or barrister’s fees, a file would be opened. But I would routinely sit with officials of a clothing trades union and provide them with free advice about pursuing a claim for an out-worker, and keep those documents either on a file labelled JEG General, my initials, Julia Eileen Gillard, or a file labelled CTU General, Clothing Trades Union, or sometimes on a file that you would create for the holding of those documents but you would not go to the stage of formally opening it up on the system because you didn’t expect the matter to go further. I’ll keep answering the questions so there’s no need to interrupt. I took the same approach in relation to this file for the Australian Workers Union association. With the benefit of hindsight, of course it would have been better that I had opened the file on the system, but at the time it did not strike me as a matter of particular significance.
JOURNALIST: You said that this has come from a smear campaign, but there’s been MPs within your own party that have made statements to Parliament about this and the Fair Work Commissioner, Ian Cambridge, has called for a royal commission. Do you think there needs to be some sort of formal investigation so the process, we can move on from this and you can be cleared?
GILLARD: Well you are conflating a number of things that is prejudicial to me. Mr Cambridge has never called for an inquiry into my conduct and you ought not to assert that. Mr McClelland made a statement to the Parliament which he has said subsequently did not relate to my conduct either.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, with the benefit of hindsight and leaving aside choice of renovators and stuff is there anything you would do differently apart from files?
GILLARD: If you got to relive your life again, there would be a number of things that I would do differently. Life doesn’t afford you that opportunity.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can I just clarify because I think the most serious of these imputations is the one with regards to what your knowledge was then and later, and so I want to go back to this – you don’t dispute that you created this 9-page document which was attached to Blewitt’s–
GILLARD: I don’t have that document in front of me, but, let’s just be clear, so it’s clear for everyone. I assisted with the provision of legal advice to incorporate this association. I’m happy to answer questions about the document you have in front of you.
JOURNALIST: Very few of us are actually with legalese but, and there’s a bit of it here, and it talks about, you’ve talked about re-election, you know, of officials and so on. Is promoting within unions, the adoption of the aims of the association, things like supporting and assisting union officials and union members who contributed to the adoption of the association, is that consistent with re-election?
GILLARD: Yes, it is consistent with what I’ve just said to you, which I understood the purpose of the association to be, to support the re-election of a team of union officials who would stand on a platform, a platform for change, the kind of change in the kind of areas outlined in the document you have in front of you.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you said that you didn’t write a section of the document and you didn’t sign it, but you obviously read it thoroughly at the time, I presume. Were you happy that that document accurately reflected what an association of that sort should be doing in all respects? And did you know that the association was going to seek money from big companies?
GILLARD: The purpose of the association and the documents etcetera, I’ve just answered Andrew’s question; my understanding was, as I have just outlined it to you. So obviously any advice I provided was consistent with that understanding. I did not know anything further about the workings of the association until these matters commenced to be dealt with publicly in 1995. That is, I provided advice to assist with the incorporation of the association and then knew nothing further about its workings until allegations about these matters were raised in 1995.
JOURNALIST: Can you be specific about exactly when and how you were informed that it might have been put to questionable use?
GILLARD: These matters started to come to attention in 1995 when they became the subject of controversy within the AWU itself. That is the first time that they came to my attention.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, will you be making a formal statement to the Parliament and I ask this in the context of a statement to Parliament of course as a high duty of truthfulness?
GILLARD: Well, I’m acquitting a high duty of truthfulness here. I won’t be making a statement to Parliament. There’s no need. I do note that I’ve been to three Question Times this week, I’ve taken a large number of questions and not one has been directed at me. I also do note that the Leader of the Opposition has been asked on more than one occasion to articulate what it is that he would ask me, what any allegation it is that he says I should deal with, and he has been unable to do so.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, why didn’t you tell other members of the firm that you were conducting this work? And also, why wasn’t the AWU National Executive, for example, informed of the creation of an entity within its boundaries? And also, can I just clarify the terms of the apology today – if we had called the ‘trust fund’ a ‘slush fund’, the story would have been correct, wouldn’t it?
JOURNALIST: And my advice is that the newspaper stands by every other word of its coverage.
GILLARD: Well, good defence for a newspaper that’s apologised today for a clear error that it published first in 2007 and had to rush to change its second editions because it recognised it was defamatory and wrong and that it subsequently sacked a senior commentator over. Good defence, Sid, but it’s very, very hard to explain why, three times, these defamatory allegations would come around when on every occasion News Limited has ended up apologising for them and retracting them. That’s a matter for News Limited and for its internal processes to work through. On the other issues you’ve raised with me, obviously I acted as a lawyer on instructions from the people giving me those instructions. You do not, as a lawyer, take instructions from a client and then take it into your head to work out who you should be conveying those instructions to. That’s the way that lawyers work.
JOURNALIST: Could you explain the protocol for working with the AWU? Who were you authorised to take instructions from? How did that work?
GILLARD: You misunderstand the way law firms work. Law firms work on the basis that people who are clients come in and give instructions to solicitors. I was a solicitor.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, putting the issues of renovations to one side, when these allegations were first made in Victorian Parliament many years ago, as you know, there were allegations made around other companies, I think the Town Mode fashion, was raised in one instance. Is there any way of you knowing whether you may have unwittingly benefitted from money from these accounts, for example, via gifts and so on and what’s your understanding of the allegations that were raised in the past about the Town Mode?
GILLARD: Well, because this matter has been dealt with on the public record for 17 years, yes, at some point in those 17 years an allegation was made that I had received clothing from a business known as Town Mode. That allegation is untrue.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, as I understand it, when these issues were first questioned within the AWU, the matter was looked at, at Slater & Gordon by Bernard Murphy. Now, I presume he then informed you of these issues. What was your reaction at that time? This is specifically the activities of Mr Blewitt and Mr Wilson?
GILLARD: Well, I’m not in a position, for all the obvious reasons about legal professional privilege, to canvas the contents of files operated by solicitors at Slater & Gordon. What I can say to you, Dennis, and what I think your question is trying to drive at is once I became aware that I had been deceived about a series of matters, I ended my relationship with Mr Wilson.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, at any point were you aware that this workplace reform association was to receive lumps of money from companies like THEISS and John Holland?
GILLARD: I was not aware of the receipt of these funds. I had no knowledge about the operation of the association. I provided advice, as the association was established, I then knew absolutely nothing about its workings until allegations about its workings became the subject of discussion within the AWU and then more broadly.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned this was first disseminated, this situation, during the election campaign in 2007.
GILLARD: No, not first disseminated, no. These matters have been canvassed on the public record for the best part of 17 years.
JOURNALIST: My apologies. They were again disseminated again in 2007 and that you believed that the timing of that was significant. Do you believe the timing of the dissemination of this now is significant? If so, what is the significance? And do you believe any of your Parliamentary colleagues have been involved in disseminating this information now?
GILLARD: No, I don’t. I believe the people who have been involved in disseminating this information are people like Larry Pickering who is operating a veil and sexist website and then of course you would be aware that the Australian and a number of journalists there have been reporting on it in recent days.
JOURNALIST: Do you think there is any larger political motivation behind this?
GILLARD: I’m not asserting that, no.
JOURNALIST: In terms of the discussion around why you left Slater & Gordon it’s been suggested that you felt you had been shabbily treated in some way. Can you explain to us whether that’s accurate, whether you were of that view and why, and did your departure have to do with other issues? Did it have to do for example with the Ian Smith matter? Did it have to do with the general discussion in the legal firm about moving from industrial practice to a client action base? Can you give us an honest answer about why you actually left?
GILLARD: Well everything I’m saying to you today is accurate and honest. Slater & Gordon, there were increasing tensions in the partnership, there were some underlying tensions about the direction of the firm. Slater & Gordon is an old firm, a historic firm, a firm that’s proudly operated for working people. It commenced around this period of time to move increasingly into the class action area. There was the class action on Wittenoom, asbestos; there was the breast implant litigation. There was the Ok Tedi litigation for people who had been prejudiced by the action of a mining company and so on. So yes, there were discussions about the direction of the firm and you would expect people to have different views about that and they did. That underlying discussion was happening, causing some friction. Friction was exacerbated around a very controversial case involving a woman called Ms Sheryl Harris; you’ve just referred to it. It also involved a matter called Mr Smith. And then it is also true to say that these matters, these AWU matters also added to tensions in the firm.
JOURNALIST: What was your involvement with the Ian Smith matter, were you directly involved in it?
GILLARD: No, I was not.
JOURNALIST: Did you feel shabbily treated and did it affect your relationship with Mr Gordon for some years thereafter?
GILLARD: There were tensions in the partnership. Obviously I resigned from Slater & Gordon as history records. Mr Murphy went to be a partner at Maurice Blackburn. So yes, there was some sense of, you know, some personal emotional engagement in these issues. I think you would expect that – real world, real human beings. From my point of view now, it’s all history. I have a very good relationship with Slater & Gordon. I’m very chuffed that a room there is being named in my honour. I’m a woman with very limited time, but from time to time I do say hello to staff in the firm. I recently gave a lecture in a lecture theatre in the same premises as Slater & Gordon in Sydney and took the opportunity to shake hands and have a photo with all of the staff who work there. I regularly see Mr Gordon, most particularly in the context of consoling each other about Bulldogs’ losses.
JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard, if you weren’t aware until later on of the alleged corrupt uses for the workplace reform association that you set up at Slater & Gordon, how was that part of the conflict and the tension between the partnership that led to your departure?
GILLARD: You’ve got the time sequence wrong. There was a debate in the partnership about the direction of the firm. There was the Sheryl Harris matter and sometime after the Sheryl Harris matter, there were these public exposure of the matters involving the AWU and Mr Wilson.
JOURNALIST: What about Mr Styant-Browne, where did he sit in the partnership frictions and the personal and emotional engagements?
GILLARD: Well you’ll need to put that to him. As history records, Mr Styant-Browne left the firm himself.
JOURNALIST: Are you worried about any of the people giving releasing client-privilege – the AWU, Ralph Blewitt?
GILLARD: That’s a matter for the clients involved, not for me?
JOURNALIST: It doesn’t worry you?
GILLARD: Look, I’m not going to give advice to people about what they should do about their legal professional privilege. It’s a matter for them. I’m answering your questions now. If you’ve got questions, put them.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, should the AWU pay back money to companies that sunk money into this reform association?
GILLARD: All of these are questions you’re going to have to deal with elsewhere. We’re talking about events 17 years ago. A series of allegations made, there were some police investigations at the time. No charges have been laid, so there’ve been processes engaged in. They are not processes that I oversaw. They were processes that were overseen by the union.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if the Opposition were to use Question Time to ask you about these issues and you answered them, would that in your view satisfy any calls for a full statement to Parliament?
GILLARD: Well, I think I should be, I’m in the process of satisfying calls for the provision of further information. I remind you that there is not one direct question that has been put to me either in Parliament or through their regular media interviews by the Opposition that they say I have to answer. In those circumstances where they are unable to articulate a question and I am sitting here in front of, what, 20, 30, people, answering any question they choose to ask me, I think that that is satisfactory to deal with the matter.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you have a view about the fact that no charges have ever been laid over these allegations about the misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of dollars of union members’ funds?
GILLARD: I’m not in a position to give you an insight into the thinking of the police on the matter. I’m just simply not.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ve said The Australian’s published allegations, in your words, that are false and defamatory-
GILLARD: And they’ve been retracted and apologised for.
JOURNALIST: Are you considering any legal action?
GILLARD: No, I’m not.
JOURNALIST: And secondly, you’ve had your reputation and your integrity put under a lot of scrutiny. How are you handling it personally?
GILLARD: Well I’m fine. I do – when I see claims that have been dealt with in the past, let me just put that a little bit more precisely. I have decided to come to this press conference today because this matter had got to the stage where we were starting to see recycled, false and defamatory allegations which I have dealt with in the past. And every time I’ve dealt with them, retractions have been put onto websites, second editions have been pulled of newspapers because these are defamatory allegations and they are wrong. When it was getting to a stage that these allegations were being recycled about my character, and they are so clearly wrong, I thought it was appropriate for me to come and deal with the matter. Apart from that, for many, many months now I’ve been the subject of a very sexist smear campaign from people for whom I have no respect, and I am not going to spend my time answering the ravings of Larry Pickering and the like.
JOURNALIST: Was there any bad blood or animus between you and Mr Styant-Browne? Were you surprised to see that he was the source of these renewed allegations?
GILLARD: Look, I knew Mr Styant-Browne back in the days that I was at Slater & Gordon. Those days are some 17 years ago. To the best of my knowledge, I have not seen Mr Styant-Browne since those days. Mr Styant-Browne subsequently left the firm. You know, what is motivating Mr Styant Browne is an issue you would have to raise with him.
JOURNALIST: Was there anything in your working relationship with him at the firm that may explain why he has spoken out the way he has?
GILLARD: I’m not able to give you an insight into his thinking and I’m not able to explain it for you.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, it seems that part of the justification for the reporting in the last few days is that it goes to your character, it goes to your judgment as the Prime Minister, as the leader of the country, and that on face value you were at least naive and perhaps conned. Do you accept that?
GILLARD: Well, what I would say, Mark, and this perhaps goes to issues about why these allegations are being re-circulated, it is my understanding of the media that the biggest selling newspapers in our country circulate on Sundays. In 2007, on the Sunday before the election campaign, it is my recollection that those biggest selling newspapers ran with a banner headline, ‘Conman broke my heart’. So I don’t think anybody in this place or indeed any Australian who in their hundreds and hundreds of thousands would have bought and read those newspapers would be in any way surprised by this material. It’s been on the public record before people were required to go and vote for the election in 2007. So if Australian voters had a judgment about it, then they had the ability to record that judgment in 2007. If Australians had a judgment about it, they had the ability to record that judgment in 2010. None of this is new. I am standing in front of you now as a 50-year-old woman. Have I learned a few things across my lifetime? Yes, I have.
JOURNALIST: One of your friends, Bill Ludwig, was at the AWU when this happened and is still the National President. Have you spoken to him about this since or in recent weeks?
JOURNALIST: Did you confront Bruce Wilson personally after certain matters were raised with you? What was the atmosphere of that meeting and what are your feelings towards him now?
GILLARD: I ended our relationship and I know that there’s some material in today’s Australian which would lead people to believe that our national newspapers are for Mills & Boon style recounts of words spoken between people who were formerly in a close relationship. It’s not my intention to canvas those matters. And it’s not my intention to canvas them because by definition there can be no public interest in them. I ended the relationship. That is the significant fact.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, when the scandal erupted and it became known that this money had been stolen by two shysters, who told you? Was it someone at the AWU or was it Bernard Murphy who’d been told by someone else?
GILLARD: Well, I can’t go to matters of privilege, but first and foremost, allegations were being raised and dealt with within the AWU. Those allegations came to my attention. I formed a view that I had not been dealt with honestly and based on that view I ended a relationship I had back then, 17 years ago.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, these events, particularly the ones over the last few days, are they having any impact on your thinking about what to do about media regulation?
GILLARD: My thinking about media regulation will not be defined by these events. I’ve well and truly got my eyes on the public policy questions and the future. So the test I will use in dealing with any issues about media regulation is not what difference it makes today, but what will be the circumstance for the ability of Australians to get quality, diverse information in five, 10, 15, 20 years’ time.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if I could ask you one question on another topic.
GILLARD: Let’s just exhaust this topic and then I will take others briefly.
JOURNALIST: Do you regret calling it a slush fund in that transcript and does the fact that you called it a slush fund in that transcript indicate that you knew when it was set up that it wasn’t set up for the purposes stated?
GILLARD: I’d refer you to the whole sentence. Read the whole sentence and you will see the sentence is about the purposes I’ve articulated to you today. It wasn’t the best choice of words. We’re talking about a transcript of an interview 17 years ago where I think you can tell from the way in which I deal with a series of issues, I’m talking to two people I know well. Some of the discussions we are having are of a casual, even jovial nature, and some of the commentary today has remarked on some of the funnier things in that transcript. So it wasn’t the best form of words, but I’d ask people to assess the form of words in the context in which it was being used in a sentence where the description of the purpose of the association, as I understood it, is exactly the same as the description I’ve given you here today.
JOURNALIST: Given your difference with Sid over the correction, could you just precisely tell us where it was wrong, your version of where it was wrong?
GILLARD: I can certainly tell you where it was wrong. The Australian newspaper today asserted that I created a trust fund. That is wholly untrue and seriously defamatory. The Australian, in the past, has asserted that I created bank accounts. News Limited has known that that allegation is wholly untrue and defamatory since the Sunday before the 2007 election campaign. Indeed, so concerned about it were they, that they changed the second edition of the Sunday newspapers and put a retraction and apology on News Limited websites. The Australian has certainly known that that allegation is defamatory and untrue since Mr Milne reproduced it, and the determination was made that the appropriate course of action was to terminate Mr Milne’s employment. That is why I am so amazed, I think is the right word, to see it reproduced today.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, that’s the only contention with the last week’s reporting, isn’t it?
GILLARD: I’ve got other contentions with the last week’s reporting, but I want to be clear with you, Sid, about what’s motivated me today. I did not want to dignify what is, I believe, a very sexist smear campaign on the Internet. The Australian newspaper commenced to report on a number of matters that I thought had been dealt with publicly before and which no wrongdoing by me was alleged. Today, a move has been made from those matters to a specific contention which is highly wrong and defamatory, and I believe it is appropriate for me to deal with it. I am taking the opportunity to deal with related matters. I am answering all of your questions and today is an end of it.
JOURNALIST: The story today about Ralph Blewitt leaving Indonesia in 2009 with the police after him and left owing a lot of money. When you dealt with him, did you find him a shonky character then?
GILLARD: Phil, that’s a question really that no-one could answer. Did I have any reason to believe that Mr Blewitt was involved in the kind of conduct that has subsequently come to light? No, I did not.
JOURNALIST: Mr Blewitt is claiming that if he’s given indemnity, that is the police promise not to arrest him and throw him jail, that he’ll tell the whole story. Is there more to this story?
GILLARD: I can’t, Paul, work out for you what is in the mind of Mr Blewitt, but the only way of diagnosing that statement is that Mr Blewitt appears to believe he has done some criminal act for which he is seeking indemnity.
JOURNALIST: Can I assume you’ve had no contact with Bruce Wilson since 1995?
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you have any information which you are prevented from giving by lawyer-client privilege that could assist the authorities in relation to the funds, you know, that Mr Wilson-
JOURNALIST: And also, whose decision was it to tape the interview, between you and the partners?
GILLARD: I don’t recall.
JOURNALIST: Why was the interview taped?
GILLARD: Sid, I don’t recall and there is no significance in it. I simply don’t recall. It was a discussion; obviously people thought it was best to have it on the record. Let’s remember – and for the younger ones in the audience, they might now faint from shock – the usual way of dealing with instructions at Slater & Gordon back then was for lawyers to interview clients and then quickly dictate matters into a Dictaphone which was then sent to a centralised word processing pool we referred to as WANG because that was the word processing system that was operated by lawyers back then. Then it would come back, then you would correct the typos in it, then it would go back to WANG. And so life went on. So, you know, lawyers having tapes, Dictaphones handy was, you know, nothing unusual in Slater & Gordon or any law firm at the time; that’s how we did our work. Of course, life is now different and there are no centralised word processing pools to the best of my knowledge.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you believe workplace reform associations are legitimate bodies these days or should they be outlawed?
GILLARD: Look, I think people who contest union elections will spend money on those elections if money is gathered transparently and it is clear to people what the purposes are, then there is nothing wrong with that. I would say the same about participating in a local council election and the like.
JOURNALIST: But the experience of companies like Thiess which, I mean, they put $380,000 of taxpayers’ money into this association or the funds. Its experience was that the coffers –
GILLARD: I’m not sure I understand your contention: taxpayers’ money.
JOURNALIST: Well, the money they put in was actually from taxpayers, from the State Government. But with regards to the work of this association, Thiess refused to be a complainant because it thought it had got its service. Now, that service presumably was industrial peace. If these are still instruments that can maintain industrial peace, then it’s a waste of money, isn’t it?
GILLARD: Well, first and foremost, I think you’re putting a set of assertions to me I’m not in a position to deal with. I had no knowledge of the workings of this association from the time of assisting with legal advice when it was being incorporated to the time that allegations about it were being raised in 1995; no knowledge of the operation in the meantime. In terms of the motivations of anyone who was associated with it in the time period in between, I cannot assist you with their motivations. I had no knowledge of it. I think we need to be clear here about the difference between entities and conduct. Is it wrong for anyone to deal with industrial disputes in any way other than for the best interests of the people that they’re representing? It’s wrong. Unions should be dealing with industrial disputes in the best interests of their members. Employers should be dealing with industrial disputes in the best interests of the employing firm. So it’s wrong for that conduct between unions and employers to be distorted by any other factor except the best interests of the parties who are working on that industrial dispute.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you still stand by your appointment of Bernard Murphy to Federal Court judge last year?
GILLARD: Well, let’s be very clear about this, too: I am proud that this Government introduced reforms to the way in which we appoint people to the judiciary. There is now a system which engages independent and eminent people to provide recommendations on who should be appointed. Mr Murphy was recommended by those independent and eminent people.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just getting back to the interview, how was it characterised to you when you were asked to do the interview and did you feel your future was on the line at Slater & Gordon?
GILLARD: Sid, it’s 17 years ago. I don’t have a clear recollection about those matters. I can’t tell you whether we drank coffee or whether we drank water. You know, it’s 17 years ago. It is there in terms of the contents of the interview for people to read. And with respect, Sid, there is nothing about this line of questioning that is going to end up justifying the claim that has been apologised for today.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, sorry, just going back to the incident earlier in the press conference when the gentleman came in and handed you that piece of paper. Were you concerned that he came through the public entrance and got into a restricted area and was able to get to you?
GILLARD: Look, I don’t know who the gentleman was and obviously I’ve been standing here since. I have not been able to engage in any inquiry of the circumstances. I didn’t feel, you know, threatened in any way but in terms of the pass system and who has got where in the building, I will have to deal with that later. I’ve got no information. I just saw him hand it to me and I took it.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you have said in the past that you were young and naïve when you got involved with Mr Wilson. But, I mean, you were 30 at the time. You were establishing your legal career. It might seem a bit odd to people on that defence; it wasn’t like you were off the first train from Adelaide, for instance.
GILLARD: Well, how old are you? How old are you?
GILLARD: Right. Let me assure you, you will know a lot more by the time you’re 50 than you do now.
JOURNALIST: On another matter, your Resources Minister this morning suggested the mining boom was over.
GILLARD: I’m happy to take your question, but can we just deal with any other further questions about this matter?
JOURNALIST: On the builder, do you think that this will always be a cloud over you because you simply can’t rule out the fact that there might have been some money from this association or this entity that ended up helping to renovate your house?
GILLARD: I’ve just said to you I paid for my renovations.
JOURNALIST: Will you rule out –
GILLARD: I paid for my renovations. And, well, in terms of people who continue to circulate these claims, will the misogynists and the nut jobs on the Internet continue to circulate them? Yes, they will, and it wouldn’t matter what I said and it wouldn’t matter what documents were produced and it wouldn’t matter what anybody else said; they will pursue this claim for motivations of their own which are malicious and not in any way associated with the facts. In terms of the conduct of more mainstream media, well, you are in a better position to answer that than me, but I’ve been on my feet now for, what, I can’t quite recall, 50 minutes, something like that, taking every question that the journalist elite of this country have got for me. If that doesn’t end the matter, then with respect I don’t know what would.
JOURNALIST: Have you considered legal action against the people circulating the stuff on the Internet?
GILLARD: Look, you know, it’s dignifying them with a status that they don’t deserve and as I understand it, a number of them, well, certainly Mr Pickering is bankrupt or something, so you would end up on a never ending trail; for what purpose? Because he could lose a dozen defamation actions and he would still pursue this. He would still be propagandising sexist and vicious stuff about me until the end of time. So this is not reason, it’s not facts, it’s not anything to do with any of those things. It’s to do with this, you know, sort of Americanisation of our politics, this eccentric lunar right Tea Party-style interventions that we are seeing in our politics and there is nothing that a person of reason can do to deal with it. The best thing I think you can do is just ignore it because I suspect giving it any attention gives them some satisfaction.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, given that is the reality now of political life, this is the sort of stuff that you have to face every day, do you worry that people will not come into politics now because this genuinely is the sort of stuff that people have to deal with?
GILLARD: I think the best way I can answer that is probably not about myself because if you answer it about yourself, you know, obviously people are going to try and analyse what it means for your own political position. But speaking generally, look, it does worry me that we live in an age where a number of years later people in America can be wandering around saying, ‘President Obama wasn’t born in America and did you know he is a Muslim?’ Yes, it does worry me that that’s where politics has got to, that things that are demonstrably untrue, indeed absurd, are circulated and recirculated and recirculated and somehow, at least in some section of the population, manage to worm their way in to become the orthodoxy. What do I think is going to be the long-term future of all of this? Well, I can’t quite tell you, but I do think we will see a couple of trends. I think the ability of voters to digest and process information will become more and more selective over time. We live in an age where information is just at you all day, every day, en masse, and so I think people will become far more discerning on the bits of information and what’s truthful and what’s not. And despite the changing economics of the media industry – and we’ve had some news on that today from Fairfax – despite the changing economics of the media industry, I think highly professional, ethical journalism will become more valued, not less valued, because people will have this sea of stuff, much of which is just, you know, absurd – President Obama is, you know, not born in America – and they will look within that sea of stuff for the things that they believe they can trust, which puts all of you in an interesting position, as we go through this time of change, but doesn’t, in the time of change, get rid of some of the pressing economic concerns that are there on media companies and are leading to redundancies and the reshaping of the way content is provided, and I know as individuals each of you live with those pressures.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there was one other aspect of the not filing, not opening a file: it has been suggested by various people that you did that because you were doing a freebie for your boyfriend and didn’t want the firm to know?
GILLARD: Look, I’ve described to you it was routine at Slater & Gordon to do relatively small jobs which didn’t occasion actual outgoings for the firm like disbursements, you know, as free legal advice. We are talking about a firm that was the first firm ever to advertise in this country and when it went out with its advertising in this country, its market advantage was first consultation free. You know, we worked in the industrial unit, providing legal advice. I don’t see any of you here asking me, ‘Do you think it was the wrong thing to do to not open up a file every time you assisted the Clothing Trades Union with something associated with an out-worker?’ And, Paul, I would also put the following to you: do you really think if I’d opened up a file that we wouldn’t be here today anyway? Karen.
JOURNALIST: What do you think motivates Slater & Gordon to donate money to the Labor Party?
GILLARD: That the ethos of the firm since its inception has been that it is a pro-worker, plaintiff personal injury firm. And so it takes a judgement about which political party can best support the interests of workers and that’s the Labor Party.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Tony Abbott over the course of the week has given this story unnecessary oxygen, given that he throughout the course of the week has said that the media has legitimate questions to ask in this case?
GILLARD: As I understand Mr Abbott’s intervention in this debate, he has been saying I should make a statement to Parliament, but he has been unable to articulate what it is that he specifically is concerned about that that statement should be about. He has had plenty of opportunity to ask me if he was truly concerned and he has declined all of those opportunities.
JOURNALIST: This morning your Resources Minister said that the mining boom was over. He said we had done very well out of it but it’s over. Your Finance Minister said it’s not over. Is the mining boom over or isn’t it?
GILLARD: Minister Ferguson was making a point about commodity prices and we have seen commodity prices come off a little. We are still seeing strong investment in mining. That strong investment is being delivered now and there is further investment in the pipeline. Our nation will continue to see that growth in resources for a long period of time to come and it will be part of a world-beating economy, a strong economy which we have managed in the interests of working people and creating jobs.
JOURNALIST: Even if it’s just the commodity price boom that’s over, doesn’t that have implications for the revenue you’re seeking to raise from your mining tax and your ability to spread the benefits [inaudible]?
GILLARD: We’ve got to get the time sequence right here. Minister Ferguson was talking about commodity prices; he was talking about future investment decisions. Obviously, the Minerals Resource Rent Tax revenue is figured off those businesses that are in production now, getting ore out of the ground, selling it, making super profits and those super profits being taxed in a more efficient way than in the past.
JOURNALIST: Does the Olympic Dam decision mean it’s time to recalibrate the economic levers in this country? Is this a game changer? Do you need a new economic strategy?
GILLARD: Well, let’s be clear about what’s motivated the Olympic Dam decision. I think anybody who wants to understand this decision should read the statement from BHP which makes it clear. What I am amazed about is that Mr Abbott could be so reckless and so negative that he presented for a national TV interview last night, made a set of false assertions about what had happened here, and hadn’t even bothered to read the statement from BHP about the motivations for its decision.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you concerned about the Qantas result today? And if I could just follow up from what Sid said, is it getting to any sort of point where the Government thinks it needs to put some sort of stimulus into the economy?
GILLARD: We’ve got an economy that is growing, you know, at or above trend. Let’s deal with the economic facts. I know every day we’re confronted with economic negativity and vandalism from the Opposition, but let’s remember the economic facts. Our economy is growing. It is creating jobs. We have low inflation. We have low unemployment. We have strong public finances. We have a triple-A rating from the three credit agencies for the first time in our nation’s history. It is also an economy that is seeing various transitions: transitions because of the high dollar, transitions because of the changing nature of the markets in which people work. Our transport market is changing with the advent of lowcost carriers with greater penetration into the market. Our media market is changing because of the advent of new technologies that even as, you know, two or three years ago couldn’t have quite been imagined in their current form today. So, yes, there are economic transitions and those transitions can be very concerning for the people who are at the centre of those transitions, which is why we work with communities and with industries as they adjust. But even as we do that, we cannot forget and we should never at any point forget the overall strength of our economy. It’s something we should be proud of as a nation. We built it together.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the last question: Martin Parkinson, Ken Henry and Heather Ridout, to name three people, have warned about a revenue base that is permanently shrinking at the same time as the Federal Government is making promises on the NDIS, there’s Gonski to come, there’s a blowout in the cost of processing asylum seekers. How will your Government make up those revenue shortfalls?
GILLARD: You will see us make prudent decisions on the Federal Budget, as we always do. We are a government that has shown strong ability to find savings, more than $100 billion of them in order to fund the Government’s priorities and we will continue with that work.
JOURNALIST: So there is under no circumstances –
GILLARD: I dealt with that in the question from Joe Hockey yesterday. Okay, thank you.
JOURNALIST: Thank you, Prime Minister.