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Gillard: I Don’t Comment On Polls

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has doggedly refused to comment on poor opinion poll figures published today.

The Nielsen poll in Fairfax newspapers The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald shows the ALP primary vote on 30% and the Coalition leading the ALP by 56% to 44% on the two-party-preferred vote.

The Coalition’s primary vote in the Nielsen poll is 47%. Tony Abbott’s approval rating is 42%, compared to Julia Gillard’s 40%.

PM Julia Gillard at her Primo Smallgoods press conference in Brisbane

The Essential poll published today has the Coalition leading the ALP by 54% to 46%. It has the ALP’s primary vote at 35%.

On the weekend, News Limited Sunday papers published a Galaxy poll of women voters showing the Coalition leading the ALP 53% to 47%.

The polls coincide with renewed speculation about Gillard’s leadership and a possible return of Kevin Rudd. The speculation also centres on the future of Treasurer Wayne Swan who is now increasingly seen as a weak link.

Speaking at Primo Smallgoods in Brisbane today, Gillard said she wanted to focus on jobs and yesterday’s Industry and Innovation statement.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey also commented on the poll figures at a media conference in the ALP’s marginal NSW seat of Dobell. Hockey’s comments are interesting for the way in which he positions his attacks against Kevin Rudd as well as the government in general.

In an amusing aside, the Secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes, also renounced his previous preoccupation with opinion polls. June 2010 seems so long ago.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey speaks in Dobell

Listen to Gillard’s media conference (14m) – transcript below:

Listen to Joe Hockey’s media conference (9m):

Watch Joe Hockey (9m):

Watch Paul Howes (46s):

Transcript of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s media conference.

GILLARD: I’m here at Primo Smallgoods because yesterday I announced a billion dollar plan for Australian jobs.

It’s a plan for blue collar jobs. A plan for blue collar jobs today and tomorrow.

And as I made the point inside talking to the workers here, many people when they visualise a blue collar job in manufacturing would think of someone working on an assembly line in a car plant.

And certainly there are Australians who do those jobs, and they’re very valued jobs. High paid, high skill jobs.

But manufacturing extends so much broader than that. What happens here at Primo is manufacturing too. Taking great Australian produce – meat – and adding value and then exporting it to the world.

Primo not only sells to Australians; they export to 40 countries around the world. And they’ve achieved that because of their reputation for quality and innovation; always coming up with new products; always coming up with ways of doing the job better.

This industry, food processing, is a huge opportunity for Australia as we move into this Asian century of growth and change.

Yesterday when I announced the billion dollar plan for Australian jobs I made the point that many of the more developed, richer countries in the world like the US and Europe are battling with sluggish economies.

The growth region of the world is here in Asia, growing so that we will see more three billion middle class consumers by 2030.

And those middle class consumers will want great Australian food products including what is made here.

The challenge is not for us to just be a great agricultural exporting nation, though of course we are that, but to capture the jobs which come with food processing, with adding the value to food before we export it. And that is what is happening right here.

So the plan that I announced yesterday will benefit businesses like this one. It’s a plan with three elements.

To make sure that we maximise work here in Australia by capturing for Australian firms the benefit of work on big projects worth more than $500 million. That Aussie firms get a fair go at that work.

Number two, helping businesses become the best they can be so that they can seize export markets. I said yesterday that we would create up to ten industry precincts.

One of them will be in the food industry. It will bring together researchers and industry so that they can collaborate and so that they can come up with the next wave of innovation that will drive jobs and opportunity in that industry.

And third, yesterday I said we would be helping small businesses to grow.

This is a comprehensive plan for our future. We have found savings so this plan doesn’t add a cent to the budget bottom line. And it is a plan that will help Australian manufacturing, including manufacturing like this.

At the same time as we implement our plan for Aussie jobs, we are doing the other things necessary to get our economy ready to seize the benefits of the future.

That’s what rolling out the National Broadband Network is about; what rolling out traditional infrastructure in roads and rail and ports is all about.

It’s what investing in skills is about, whether it’s in schools or in vocational education and training or universities.

And I’m proud we’ve got more apprenticeships and traineeships than ever before.

But it’s also about seizing a clean energy future.

So I’m glad that here today I’m able to announce the Government, through our carbon pricing arrangements, will make available a $1.2 million grant to Primo Smallgoods that will enable it to have more energy-efficient technology, lighting, refrigeration, different ways of heating water.

That will save them $1.4 million a year on the power bill.

That’s good for this business, good for our environment, cuts carbon pollution and shows the way in which our carbon pricing scheme can work with manufacturing and for manufacturing for the future.

I will turn now to Bernie for some comments, then we will take your questions.

BERNIE RIPOLL: Thank you Prime Minister and thank you everyone here and a huge thank you to Primo Smallgoods.

I’m really proud that a Labor government can be here in the Brisbane western corridor supporting jobs, supporting great manufacturers like in food manufacturing, and training the jobs of the future.

And it’s really pleasing to see it right here in the heart of the western corridor.

There are new jobs being created where there are fantastic skills, fantastic transport corridors and all the opportunities and things that we have in the 21st century.

So as the local member I’m really proud that it’s our government that is supporting these jobs, supporting the innovation that goes on here.

GILLARD: Thanks very much, we’re happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

GILLARD: I haven’t had a direct discussion with President Obama but his words are clear from his State of the Union speech.

He has challenged his Congress to develop a market-based solution, and he specifically references the McCain-Lieberman Bill.

Now that was a proposition from a few years ago and it was a proposition about an emissions trading scheme.

So President Obama has effectively said to his congress, I want you to get on with the job, a market-based solution, he’s referred to an emissions trading scheme. And then if they let him down he has said he will act.

What this just goes to show is that in pricing carbon, we are moving in the direction the world is moving.

Carbon pricing is in many nations around the world and President Obama has firmly laid down a challenge for his own nation.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

GILLARD: I don’t do commentary on opinion polls and I’m focused here today on my plan for Australian jobs.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

GILLARD: What you will continue to see from this Government is a focus on the economy, making sure that it’s strong and it’s giving people the benefits of work.

We did that during the global financial crisis. I’m here doing that today.

Without a strong economy, without work, we can’t be a strong and fair society. And at the same time, we will be talking to people about modernising for the future.

You can’t just let yourself drift into the future. You’ve got to shape it; you’ve got to determine what your future is going to be.

That’s why we laid out the Asian Century White Paper and why we’re focused on modernising our economy.

And as a traditional Labor government we will be talking about opportunities for kids in every Australian school and making sure people with disabilities get a better deal in life.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you say you don’t comment on polls, but the current figures (inaudible) surely that must be a concern?

GILLARD: I don’t comment on opinion polls. I’m very focused on the billion dollar plan for Australian jobs that I laid out yesterday.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you believe that Tony Abbott will actually scrap the carbon tax and the mining tax if he wins office?

GILLARD: I’ve said in the past that I do not believe that Mr Abbott would scrap the carbon tax. I think what all of this would come to, if he were ever elected, is a bit of a fiddle and a bit of a name change.

At the end of the day, Mr Abbott and his colleagues have stood in the past for an emissions trading scheme. Our country will have an emissions trading scheme in two years’ time.

JOURNALIST: Is there any room to move in terms of going to an ETS and carbon price so that business and industry don’t have this jolt, they can adjust to a much slower (inaudible)

GILLARD: We’ve laid out the settings. They are there, they are law, they’re legislated, a fixed price for the first three years, a carbon tax and then an emissions trading scheme.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

GILLARD: What’s there is the law. Business knows that’s it, that’s the scheme, and we’re working through the fixed-price period, the carbon tax period, to an emissions trading scheme.

And I would remind that it was the Howard Government that in 2007 stood on a platform of an emissions trading scheme, which is why in answer to your question I said where I think this would ultimately end up if Mr Abbott ever became Prime Minister is a bit of a fiddle and a bit of a name change.

JOURNALIST: Perhaps without commenting why, are you surprised that Tony Abbott is personally more popular than you?

GILLARD: I don’t comment on opinion polls.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) how do you quell the nerves within your own party? Obviously a lot of your fellow MPs are very nervous at this stage.

GILLARD: My MPs – I’m standing here with Bernie Ripoll. There are things that drove people to choose joining Labor and then to devote their life to becoming a member of parliament. Labor beliefs about jobs and opportunity; Labor believes about fairness.

It’s those beliefs that drive me and this government and every policy we choose, including the plan for Australian jobs we announced yesterday.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you think that (inaudible) you are not the preferred Prime Minister in the polling. Do you think your leadership is still secure?

GILLARD: Look, I don’t comment on opinion polls and any of those questions were resolved last February.

JOURNALIST: Are you relieved Paul Howes said today that you had 110 per cent (inaudible)

GILLARD: Look, I don’t comment on opinion polls and as I said in answer to this question, all of those issues were resolved last February.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Julian Assange has commented that he is going to seek a seat in the Senate, and he says it might be his ticket out of the embassy in London. What do you think of that?

GILLARD: They are all matters for Mr Assange.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

GILLARD: Not at this time, but we will be continuing to pursue some further details with Malaysia.

JOURNALIST: Do you think business will be comfortable on the plan announced yesterday, is it more red tape, having this prior notice required for businesses?

GILLARD: Let’s be very clear about what we announced yesterday and I do want to particularly address one point that has been raised today.

What we said yesterday is if you have a big project, more than $500 million, then instead of just looking to your global supply chain and saying, “Well, if we were doing this in a dozen other countries around the world, we would use the following suppliers because we always do,” having an obligation to look and see if an Australian business can do that work for you.

Now I think that’s fair enough, that work that is being done in this country, not that Australian businesses should get some artificial advantage, but that they should get a truly fair go and that businesses need to look and see if they can deal with Australians here to give them the work and the benefits.

I’ve seen it claimed today by Mr Hockey that our plan is about putting public servants into businesses.

That is completely untrue, and it is the kind of negativity we always see from the Opposition, and it is the kind of negativity you can only see when people don’t bother to inform themselves of the details.

Anybody who had read our policy yesterday, and clearly Mr Hockey must not have, anybody who had read our policy would see what we’re talking about is for the biggest projects – more than $2 billion – that that business would have to employ someone whose job it is to look how they can use other Australian businesses.

Well surely that’s fair enough that mega projects have a dedicated team looking to see how they can benefit fellow Australians.

JOURNALIST: After what happened with the reaction to this today and also the mining tax, is it time to more closely consult with big business while making policies rather than make announcements (inaudible)?

GILLARD: We consult very, very closely with businesses and the policy I announced yesterday builds on a report I was given by the Prime Minister’s Manufacturing Taskforce, a purpose-specific group that I brought together, including representatives of business.

JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott is trying a bit of a low-target strategy. How do you flush him out so that the public can see what you want them to see?

GILLARD: Look, at the end of the day when people vote next September – in September – they will make a choice, and I think they will make a choice between who has got the better plan for the nation.

I’m out here talking about the policies and plans that matter for jobs, for families, for the future.

Okay, thanks very much.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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