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COAG Chief Ministers’ Press Conference

The annual Council of Australian Government’s meeting has taken place in Canberra.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd met with State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers, all Labor Party representatives.

The press conference following the meeting includes comments by Kevin Rudd and Premiers Morris Iemma (NSW), John Brumby (Vic) and Mike Rann (SA), as well as Chief Minister Jon Stanhope (ACT).

  • Listen to the COAG press conference (44m)

Official transcript of the COAG Chief Minister’s press conference.

RUDD: The new Australian Government was elected at the end of last year. We were elected on a platform of ending the blame game between Canberra and the States and Territories. And in the six or seven months since then, in the three meetings of the Council of Australian Governments that have been held since then, we have sort through practical actions to give effect to that.

Prior to our election we undertook to end the blame game. Through the work of COAG, we’ve sort to implement that commitment for the country.

And the reason for it is simple. The overall challenges facing the nation’s economy, the overall challenges facing the nation’s households demand that we as Governments work together.

The Australian people, rightly, are fed up to the back teeth with politicians at different levels blaming each other for problems which actually have practical solutions available to them.

And that’s what we have sought to do through this gathering.

Today we have made practical decisions for the future, when it comes to the economy, when it comes to water, when it comes to health, when it comes to indigenous affairs and when it comes, also, to child protection.

These are challenges which require practical responses, and we’ve sought to do that through this meeting today.

Firstly on the economy.

Out of the 2020 Summit, we have a strong call from the nation’s business community to establish in Australia a seamless national economy, a seamless national market. And there’s much work been underway since then through the relevant COAG working group, chaired by my colleague the Minister for Small Business, Craig Emerson. And I would thank him and the various State and Territory officials who have worked with him on putting together a report for us today.

What we’ve agreed today, as Governments, is to achieve uniform nation systems in 14 areas, including uniform laws in occupational health and safety, a national system of trade licensing, and a new national approach to the registering of business names. These are practical measures. Practical measures which mean a lot to those operating in the business community today.

We’ve had a long, long time – more than a decade – where these things were talked about from time to time but nothing happened. What we now have is an agreement to establish uniform systems in each of these areas.

Occupational health and safety, a huge challenge for business operating in different jurisdictions, similarly for trades licensing, and similarly for the simple process of registering a business name. In my discussions with business, frankly, the very practical question which is often put to us as an upfront compliance cost for operating a business across state boundaries in Australia is why do I have to pay and go through the hassle of multiple registration of business names across state boundaries.

This, and the other two that I’ve mentioned, represent three practical measures of 14 sets of measures which have been agreed on by Heads of Government today. And I thank them for their cooperation.

Secondly, we’ve also made progress in the area of water. Today we’ve signed an intergovernmental agreement on Murray-Darling Basin reform. This takes the historic agreement which we reached in Adelaide at the last COAG meeting to the next stage. And this agreement is what myself and the other Heads of Government have just signed in front of you just now.

This intergovernmental agree creates the vehicle for the long term reform of the much challenged Murray-Darling Basin system.

It represents a lot of work between our Governments given the different demands placed on this system by the peoples of our different states. And I would thank the Premiers of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia for their strong collaborative approach in bringing together what has been a difficult agreement.

Secondly, at the immediate and practical level, the Government, the Federal Government, has committed to projects worth $3.7 billion across the Murray-Darling system. These represent significant water projects for the nation. At a time when so many parts of Australia are water challenged and water scarce, this represents a very practical way forward. It builds on the agreements that we reached in part with the Government of Victoria in Adelaide. And we now have similar commitments made to the other states. And the Premiers will speak separately on those and the Chief Ministers, as they choose.

Therefore, what you have on the water front is an intergovernmental agreement which many people said we’d never reach – we’ve done that.

And secondly, what we now have also is practical action on $3.7 billion worth of water projects. I’ve got to say, that’s also where people want to see practical projects happening on the ground.

Third area is in health. Today, on behalf of the Commonwealth, I reported to the states the progress that we’ve made in the critical area of organ and tissue donation and transplants. This effects thousands of Australians. Right now, we have nearly 2,000 Australians that are formally on transplant waiting lists across Australia. And many more besides who can’t make it to the waiting list.

So as both States and Territories and the Commonwealth we have been working through the Chief Medical Officer, and the Secretary of the Department of Health in recent times to make sure that we could achieve a breakthrough on this question.

Again, the 2020 Summit said to the nation, very simply, will you stop stuffing around on this and do something. We’ve done that. And it’s been, I’ve got to say, a lot of work between our jurisdictions to get it done.

The $136 million worth of new funding commitments from the Commonwealth goes to the provision of $67 million worth of support for additional doctors, medical staff and nursing staff, exclusively tasked with this complex, challenging and sensitive task in our hospitals in order to achieve organ donation.

Another large tranche of money within that towards the establishment for the first time of a national organ transplant authority. And on top of that again, funding for other infrastructure support within hospitals and a public education campaign to ensure that those who currently need organ and tissue donation in order to survive are better served by our national system than is currently the case.

It is a good, practical measure designed to help people currently facing real challenges in this area.

Fourth area, Indigenous early childhood education. Today we agreed to sustained engagement with one another in the critical task of achieving the mission we set for ourselves in closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

In particular, we’ve looked at Indigenous early childhood development. And it is in this area that we’ve now agreed a national partnership between us involving some joint funding of $547 million over six years to address the needs of Indigenous children in their early years.

This includes evidence based child and maternal health services to assist with ante-natal care. And new child and family centres to provide early learning, parenting education, health and family support.

If we are serious about closing the gap on mortality, life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, for children under the age of five as well as lifting literacy, numeracy and wider educational outcomes and wider health outcomes for indigenous Australians, it must begin with little children.

That’s why this program has now been agreed among us, involving significant contributions from the states in order to achieve real progress in this area.

Presenting a national apology to indigenous Australians is one thing. Taking practical steps aimed over time at closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians is what is now required. And we’ve now made progress on that.

Finally, in the important area of child protection, the Council of Australian Government’s has agreed to a new national child protection framework to be completed by December, primarily to improve information sharing between Governments, to better protect children moving between jurisdictions, and to better coordinate prevention and early intervention for families and children most at risk.

Given recent developments, this is particularly important. It has long been important. And I thank States and Territories for working with us on how we can improve inter jurisdictional cooperation in this critical area concerning the protection of the most vulnerable among us.

To conclude, I would thank again the States, the Territories and the Australian Local Government Association for being constructive, positive participants in what I believe to be a new way of governing. Rather than just taking pot shots at each other for the political fun of it, to get on with the hard business of hopping into these big challenges, and very practical challenges, and achieving real progress.

Real progress on economic reform in the microeconomic reform agenda, business deregulation. Real reform when it comes to water, the intergovernmental agreement, as well as the $3.7 billion of water projects I referred to before. Real progress when it comes to practical areas like health, organ donation and transplants. Similarly with Indigenous early childhood development, as well as the critical area for the future child protection.

If I could turn to Morris, who is our host, and then to John, who is the Chairman of the Council of the Australian Federation, to add to my remarks, invite any other colleagues if they wish to, and then throw it open to you. Morris.

IEMMA: Thank you Prime Minister, and I endorse those comments. Constructive and successful meeting. And another meeting in which we’ve made big progress on the big issues that confront the nation.

We’ve reached an agreement on Murray-Darling, the Murray-Darling Basin, an intergovernmental agreement. And that will involve, as the Prime Minister has mentioned, a $3.7 billion investment in infrastructure, in better metering in water savings measures for a sustainable future, for the families in the Murray-Darling Basin.

New South Wales has received its fair share of the funding of the infrastructure that will be flowing as a result of today’s agreement. And, we will now have an independent authority that will determine a Basin wide cap.

The other key issue that New South Wales has wanted addressed has been the transfer of risk, and the management of risk, when it comes to liabilities, and any future change in liabilities as a result of a nation wide cap, and the determination of those levels.

So, the two issues that have been outstanding from New South Wales’ perspective have been addressed, I’m very pleased to say, successfully addressed, at today’s meeting and we’re in a position to sign the agreement. An historic agreement for the families in the Murray-Darling Basin for a sustainable and secure future.

In the area of health, more progress in health reform. I’ll come to the issue of indigenous health in a second, but one area in health that we reached agreement and we made progress on today which hasn’t received attention is that the first instalment of the Commonwealth’s 50,000 vocational health training places roll out. And they start rolling out as at the end of this month. And the first instalment is 4,500 places across the nation.

What we will be doing after today is working with the Commonwealth on the distribution of those. But they are in crucial areas of health. In aged care, for example, for trainee enrolled nurses. Nurses to assist the elderly in our hospitals as well as in nursing homes. Also vocational training places in therapy, occupational therapy. And these are key areas of health professionals there is a shortage of. And more training places in the first tranche of those training places funded by the Commonwealth and rolling out immediately will provide real relief to our hospitals, provide better care in our nursing homes.

And obviously also, provide job opportunities for young Australians. So, this is a particularly pleasing part of today’s meeting and the agreement that we have reached.

The six year, $550 million indigenous program of early childhood development. I will just stress one part of this program. It was one that was established in New South Wales just over three years ago. And it is the Aboriginal maternal and infant health strategy.

And this has been a program to target Aboriginal mums who are pregnant, provide them with pre-birth and post-birth support. It has proved very successful in reducing the death rate for Aboriginal babies. And as part of this historic agreement, that kind of program gets rolled out nationally. And in our Budget brought down just over a month ago, we extended it across New South Wales. And the most pleasing part of this early childhood development program is a program nationally targeted towards Aboriginal infant and maternal health.

It saves lives. It’s proved successful in New South Wales in dropping the death rate, in saving babies, and this is a key area of reducing indigenous disadvantage and reducing death rates in Aboriginal communities among young children.

It is a fundamental reform and it is pleasing that the Prime Minister and the Commonwealth have shown leadership in this area and that we have been able to, as part of this key reform, coming from this meeting, now a national six year program, of $550 million.

In the area of business regulation, the Prime Minister has outlined three key areas, but there are ten areas that we have agreed on. There are approximately another nine that will be subject to further work. But the first ten – occupational health and safety, uniform laws on trade registration and for the registration of business names.

This will save business, particularly their national scheme of registration, tens of millions of dollars. I want to stress in the area of occupational health and safety, it is explicit in the agreement, that there is no reduction of safety in the workplace for workers.

RUDD: Thanks very much Morris and if I can ask John as chairman of CAF.

BRUMBY: Thank you Prime Minister. Well I thought today was again an extraordinarily positive COAG meeting in terms of the outcomes that we were able to achieve by working together. And as we’ll recall, we had the first historic COAG meeting in Melbourne last December.

We set in place then a number of arrangements that would cement this relationship of governments working together and I believe there is further powerful evidence of that today.

And all of this is about building a stronger, fairer and more sustainable Australia. I want to particularly comment if I can on the issue of business regulation reform, a seamless national economy. I think we are all aware that if you look around the world, the world economy has some challenges at the moment, it is a more difficult economic environment over the next six months than we have seen in previous years.

And for many businesses it will be a more difficult environment. And so the more that we can do as governments to remove unnecessary regulation to make it a seamless national approach is going to help business and it is going to help them compete in both the national and international economy.

And you know the Prime Minister a few moments ago indicated that it is decades since we have seen this sort of reform and it is decades since we have seen this sort of sweeping reform to business regulation.

It is something that has been very strongly supported by our state. We believe very passionately that if we want to have competitive global businesses, you have got to remove some of the red tape that holds them back. And so today really is an historic agreement in that regard.

Water, we all remember I think the historic agreement that we reached in Adelaide, an historic memorandum of understanding on the Murray Darling Basin and the challenge of course has been to convert that into the intergovernmental agreement.

And we did that today, we have done that with every party on board and I think what we have achieved is a very positive and very sensible outcome. It is an outcome which I think will be good for our state of Victoria, good for irrigators, good for the Murray Darling Basin community. But in the longer term it will also be a very good outcome in terms of the big environmental issues and challenges that we face.

For our part, I am delighted that we have achieved a significant additional funding again, $103 million for irrigation projects in the Sunraysia area. Overall as the PM mentioned, $3.7 billion worth of projects and all of this is about new investment in water saving infrastructure.

And what you can guarantee from these investments is there will be water saving. Those savings are available to irrigator communities, they are also available for the environment and so this today was really and agreement which is good for irrigators, good for rural communities but also in the longer term, a very good outcome I believe for the environment.

And finally can I say on the issue of health and governments working together. Again, I really reiterate what the PM has said about ending the blame game and just a bit of evidence about how successfully our governments are working together.

The first COAG meeting we had in Melbourne, the Prime Minister announced additional funding to tackle elective surgery waiting lists around Australia. I am pleased to report and reported to the COAG meeting today that in our state of Victoria, we have been able to treat this year, already close to an additional 3,500 elective surgery patients.

It is the biggest backlog, if you like, that we have tackled in elective surgery since we have been in government and we have been able to do it because of the partnership approach that we have got with the Federal Government.

And I think it is a great example of Governments working together to make a practical difference to the lives of Australians. So I though today built on that, I thought it was again a very, very positive and historic COAG and the test of it of course is that it will build a stronger, a fairer and more sustainable Australia.

RUDD: Before turning to questions, do any of the other colleagues wish to speak? Everyone ok, over to you folks.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

RUDD: Well one of the things that you can’t do as Prime Minister is make it rain. That is the first thing. And let’s just be realistic about the challenges we face. This is a massively stressed system. A massively stressed inland river system in Australia which has been under challenge now for, you know, more than a decade.

What we have tried to do through this agreement is have a mechanism through the Murray Darling Basin Authority which is capable of independently developing a Basin plan. That’s the first thing. And that Basin plan is critical to long term use of the water resources within the system.

Secondly, what you can also do to assist with one of the demand pressures on the system, is to have a consistent set of rules across all state jurisdictions about trading in water.

And that’s what this does as well. Thirdly, in terms of specific projects to assist with water efficiency, quite apart from the ones that we referred to last time around in Adelaide, which related to Victoria, these other projects are designed – the $3.7 billion worth of projects – are in part designed towards enhancing the existing level of water efficiency.

These are all practical steps aimed at taking it further. Helping on the demand side through greater efficiency. And that is where so much of this investment goes. Helping also in the critical area of water trading, water rights by having interstate regulatory arrangements rather than conflicting arrangements.

But critically overall, for the first time in the nation’s history, now, through a Murray Darling Basin authority, a capacity to develop a whole of Basin plan. And that is absolutely essential.

None of the represents a single solution to the problem, but let me tell you, we are in a far better position than we were before.

RANN: Can I just make a comment on the River Murray on relation to, there was a question about South Australia. For generations, people have said we need to run this as one river. And for generations, leaders have failed that test. If ever there was a test of federation, if ever there was a test of federalism, if ever there was a test of Australian leadership, it is about the River Murray. And that decision has been made today.

People have been talking to us about making decisions for the long term health of the river Murray and that meant an independent commission running the River Murray as well as of course in my state, more than $600 million being committed by the Prime Minister for the complete reengineering of the lower lakes for massive extra funding to reinvigorate the land.

And also of course to save Currency Creek and Langhorne Creek. So if ever there was a test of cooperative federalism that test was today on the River Murray. About running the River Murray as one river, rather than pretending that somehow it was divvied up, divided up along state lines.

And I think that is a critical outcome. For years people have talked about a long term solution to the river Murray and why no one has had the guts to make those decisions, those decisions have been made today and have now been signed.

IEMMA: Just to add to that George: Piping, diverters, metering and a Basin wide plan.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

RUDD: That’s absolutely new, $3.7 billion worth of projects. And for the first time, machinery to develop the Basin plan. Last time we had a memorandum of understanding which is based on principles. We now have an intergovernmental agreement which we have just signed in front of you.

Through the agency of that, creates the mechanism through which the Basin plan is developed. And mate, there is a limit to what you can do in six months in this show and I think we have cracked the whip as fast as we can. The other mob had a decade plus and got virtually nowhere.

JOURNALIST: When will the new Basin plan be operating (inaudible)

RUDD: Hands across the borders on the River. Both of these – are you speaking as a South Australian – both of these are high priorities for us. To get the authority up and running to get the Basin plan done. But I don’t want to pretend it is going to be rapid-fire and quick in terms of the latter. It has got to be thorough, it has got to be integrated, it has got to be comprehensive and done, most critically, independently.

People ask where else lies the reform, as Premier Rann just said before, for 100 years or the entire settled history of this continent, this has been effectively Balkanised.

It can’t be any longer, this system is too stressed. So, you have an independent authority to do it, we have now agreed that through an intergovernmental agreement which is binding, people to develop the Basin plan. I can’t give you a completion date as to when it will be done by but it is a high priority. I don’t want to speculate on that because I just don’t want to mislead people.

It is tough. This is an area which covers one seventh of the continent and supports three million Australians, represents some nine billion worth of rural exports and it’s something you don’t just sort of fool around with. It is complex work.

But we now have the machinery to do it. And I think in terms of an achievement within our first six months here, that is real. But secondly, to go also to the specificity of Matthew’s question, this $3.7 billion worth of projects is real as well, when added to the $1 billion we announced earlier on in Victoria.

You have nearly $5 billion worth of investment in these water projects, highly significant to the system. Yes, Daniel. Daniel and then David.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

RUDD: What we have agreed to as governments is that we have stated our ambition to increase that cap from four till six by the end of 2009. Further increases to the cap will be subject to consultation among stakeholders.

So we have been mindful of the expert advice that we have received, we think this is the right reform direction to go. Consultation will be necessary on the way through. And as I said before in answer to your earlier question, trading in water rights is one part of the equation. Ensuring the efficiency with which the water is used is a very important part of the equation. Underpinning that, you don’t have rhetoric, you have, as I said, $4 billion plus worth of investment.

This is a big reform. Sorry, David, and then over here.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

RUDD: Oh there’s the Fin Review, always impatient. Now how many were there under the last Government David?

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

RUDD: And what happened with those ten hot spots David?

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

RUDD: What we have today as I said before, is, in the previous COAG, we agreed on four, today we have an agreement of fourteen. I listed three in the headline, I can give you the others: occupational health and safety, national trades licensing, national regulation of trustee companies, national regulation of mortgage broking, national regulation of margin lending, national regulation of non deposit taking lending institutions, a national system for remaining areas of consumer credit, business name registrations, standard business reporting, electronic conveyancing, personal property securities, product safety, environmental assessments and approvals, and most critically, chemicals and plastics.

RANN: Excellent

RUDD: Which various jurisdictions have been concerned about, lead by South Australia.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

RUDD: No I was about to say, geez you are a tough task master mate. Then on top of that, there are nine areas where accelerated progress has been agreed at July COAG which add up to the rest of them. Fourteen agreed today, four before plus nine to come. The nine to come are, consumer policy framework, national construction code, development assessment, directors liabilities, food regulation, national mine safety framework, oil and gas regulation, maritime safety regulation, wine labelling.

That forms the program of work for the second half of the year. Achieving an agreement that we shall have a national uniform system in those fourteen areas, building on the four we have done before, ain’t bad.

It actually is the most significant regulatory reform that we have achieved as a nation in more than a decade and some would argue, since the beginning of the federation. That is, brining national uniformity in these critical areas. For many people out there in, writing commentary on this, they may not seem to be, terribly sort of headline grabbing.

If you are a business, let me tell you, on business registration stuff that I referred to before, Oc. Health and Safety. These cause people to pull their hair out and scream blue murder. And so, on these fourteen, we have agreed that we will have a system, we now have timelines attached to each of them in terms of their delivery points. And there is still a lot of hard work to be done, with each of them.

But can I say, getting to the point where we said we are going to have national systems in these areas, is I think, a major, major advance. Now over here.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, recent scientific reports that the lower lakes are dying and that they face a critical state right now (inaudible)

RUDD: Well, firstly, the lower lakes are highly stressed as you have said before. And that stands for all to see. Second is, and in answer to the earlier question, what we have done is create, as it were, the framework for action through the intergovernmental agreement and the authority and which includes within it of course the possibility for a greater trade in water rights. And thirdly, the water efficiency measures across the system which actually effect the totality therefore of the waterflow of the system.

And that’s why an investment of $3.7 billion today, add $1 billion from three months ago, something approaching $5 billion worth of investment, is not a bad way forward. But on the specifics of the lower lakes and what happens, I cannot solve that overnight. I accept that. But you can act in an integrated system wide fashion in a responsible way such as we have done in our first six months of office.

I might ask the Premier of South Australia to add to that.

RANN: Just on, if you look at the detail, that huge commitment to the reengineering of the lower lakes, and in places (inaudible) down on the peninsular, Langhorne Creek, Currency Creek. And there is going to be, you know, obviously there is a huge amount of engineering works.

What we are saying is basically, that those communities, those irrigators, those farmers, will no longer need to take water out of those deteriorating lakes. It is about basically building a pipeline from Callem Bend to get them much higher quality water. And this is a complete reengineering of the lower lakes. Plus a major commitment to reinvigorating the Riverland and providing funding there as well. So we are very pleased with this outcome.

RUDD: For example, $120 million of this $220 is for an integrated network of pipelines to service townships, communities and irrigators currently reliant on the lower lakes for their water supplies. So this is very practical and very detailed. John, sorry I interrupted.

STANHOPE: I just wanted to make the point, in relation to the agreements today around the Murray Darling Basin, (inaudible)

The ACT is entirely within the Basin, the only jurisdiction is exclusively within the Basin, Canberra is of course the largest city. But in addition to the issues around governance and efficiency and the purchasing of water that has been mentioned by you Prime Minister and the Premiers, there is also significant recognition of the need to improve the quality of the water within the basin.

And to that extent, today I am particularly pleased that the Commonwealth has agreed to provide $85 million to Australian Capital Territory for the purpose of improving water quality. In other words, through the removal of salt from out water treatment or our sewage facility.

We as a significant city within the basin, produce through our sewage works, somewhere in the order of 40 tonnes of salt a day., which is (inaudible) leached straight into the system and the Commonwealth today has recognised that issues around quality are as important as the significant issues related to the, getting the government structures right.

And I acknowledge the approach that the Prime Minister and the Commonwealth have taken in an integrated broad ranging approach to deal, not just with the need for us to work together, but to recognise all the separate and distinct parts of improving and seeking to restore the Murray Darling Basin.

So I acknowledge today $85 million of direct assistance to remove salt, in the upper reaches of the Murray Darling Basin and through that to enhance the quality of the system as well.

JOURNALIST: States can be sensitive about the operation of their child protection units. Does the commonwealth have a role other than improving interagency communications?

RUDD: What we have a particular role in, and that’s reflected in the communiqué, is this: so many problems in child protection occur across state boundaries. The question which we face at an operational level is, is there a rapid and effective information transfer between jurisdictions, which makes it possible for the child protection authorities in other states to do their job.

Secondly, at the level of the Commonwealth, are we properly integrating for example, the information which may be available through our own commonwealth, own systems like the Centrelink system, and is that being properly integrated with the information base available to the state child protection agencies and other related law enforcement agencies.

Our advice is that we can do better on this. And that actually is designed to assist child protection workers in the field. This therefore will be an accelerated program of work for us over the next six months and the intention is to come to an agreement on how this will be done better in the future, come the December COAG.

If I could say this as well: I have said this in relation to recent tragic events. Australia can do better, must do better, and one practical way we can do better, and must do better in this area is to make sure there are no impediments between jurisdictions, between States and Territories.

And in terms of the Commonwealth’s own information systems, to give all information necessary to child protection officers to do their job.

JOURNALIST: What about the area of national standards for child protections and perhaps a national uniformity (inaudible)

RUDD: What I know is that when this working group reports back to us in December, they will have a remit and I would not rule out any range of recommendations coming forward in terms of how we make this system better.

An additional area, apart from information flow, across jurisdictional boundaries, is how can we better coordinate early intervention and protection. It’s a really complex legal domain. But I think this group will have its work cut out for it in coming forward with practical recommendations in that area as well.

The one that I’ve identified up front is one which smacks us in the eyes as being a real problem, which is, I want to make sure that there is no problem with the data getting through so that action can be taken immediately, that it is warranted. But, let’s see what the working group reports on.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

RUDD: My advice is that, and having been dealing with 14 of these today including chemicals and plastics, but on Oc. Health and Safety, that our proposed landing date for that is 2011. I’m looking for Craig Emerson who is with us at the moment somewhere. And, therefore, we have a time frame to work this through.

This will be complex, difficult and hard. Because the states, frankly, have different systems. And there are different concerns expressed by a number of them. But what I’m pleased about in terms of all my State and Territory colleagues is a common national resolve to say, let’s not just push this to one side. Let’s have a common resolve to achieve a uniform system.

But, there’s still a lot of hard work to be gone through.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, it was recently reported that the Government is considering a revamp of the Foreign Investment Review Board process. Could you comment on any activity in that area? (Inaudible)

RUDD: Well, on the question of foreign investment, our regime is fairly clear. You would have noticed that earlier this year, in particularly, we enunciated new principles for foreign investment, particularly from state related entities.

These have been a further effort on our part to make completely transparent those criteria which will assist Governments in framing responses to the national interest test which is the core part of the foreign investment regime.

On the second question you raise in terms of the trade performance, I haven’t seen the numbers, I’ve been in this conference all day. But can I just say this, we’ve had a real problem in the past with not boosting our volumes. And I haven’t seen the volume numbers today. And we’ve been relying in the past in our trade performance in terms of price. Part of the challenge for us long term lies in not just depending on movements in price, but movements in volume, which is why this Government, through the Building Australia Fund, is absolutely committed to acting on infrastructure constraints which have stared us in the face for so long in terms of getting greater volume out to export.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) ALP admin committee meeting (inaudible)

RUDD: I always avoid them if I can.

IEMMA: The invitation came, and actually, Friday is regional visit for me. So, I’m making alternative arrangements.

RUDD: It wasn’t a politically correct answer. I always go to them whenever I can.

IEMMA: The wording on occupational health and safety is that ‘COAG recognises the legitimate concerns about workplace safety and reaffirms its requitement that there be no reduction in workplace safety.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) World Youth Day rail strike (inaudible)

IEMMA: Well, the rail unions have been offered four per cent over two years and I understand there are discussions going tomorrow. But there is no grounds for them to disrupt World Youth Day. There are no grounds for them to disrupt commuters, whether they’re daily commuters or interstate and international visitors. None what so ever.

There have been negotiations, there is an independent umpire. An offer has been made which is above the two and a half per cent funded wages policy. And I’ll make the point to the rail unions that there’s now 14 wage settlements that have been approved and they’re above the two and a half per cent.

JOURNALIST: At the time the gentleman on your left assume the leadership of the Parliamentary Labor Party, you had the broad support of ALP head office in New South Wales and the unions here, John Robertson. It now appears you don’t have that support for your leadership. Mr Robertson said today when asked if he supported you in the job, he said, ‘that’s a matter for his parliamentary colleagues’. How does that feel?

IEMMA: Well he’s right. He doesn’t get a vote. My colleagues do. Just like he didn’t get a vote when Bob Carr retired.

RUDD: And on that happy and fortuitous point, I thank the colleagues, Premiers and Chief Ministers for what I think has been a very practical and positive outcome for households, for business and for the federation.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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