Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has confirmed September 7 as the election date and asked the Australian people to make a decision about who to trust with an Australian economy in transition.
The ALP has revealed that its election slogan is “A New Way”.
At his election announcement press conference in Canberra, Rudd asked the electorate to consider whether it preferred a government grappling with an Australian economy in transition from the resources boom, or a negative Opposition and “a tight little ball of negativity”.
Rudd said the key question of the election was: “Who do you trust to manage a profound economic transition?” He reiterated that the China boom was ending and Australia faces a transition in which competitiveness will be the key factor.
Rudd attacked Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s “three word slogans” and negativity. He referred to Queensland LNP Premier Campbell Newman’s cost-cutting program as an indication of what to expect under an Abbott government.
The September 7 election means that the Local Government referendum cannot proceed. Rudd said that the Opposition had withdrawn bipartisan support and that the issue had to be “revisited” in the future.
The Prime Minister also offered himself for debate with Tony Abbott every Sunday during the campaign. He indicated that he was available for a debate tomorrow night on Sky News.
Rudd spoke directly to the Opposition’s charges of “debt and deficit”, asking why the ratings agencies continued to give Australia a triple-A economic rating if there was a debt and deficit crisis.
- Listen to Rudd’s press conference (28m)
- Watch part of Rudd’s press conference (13m)
The ALP’s use of the internet and social media has been apparent in the first hours of the election campaign. Following his press conference, Rudd’s wife, Therese Rein, tweeted this photograph with the notation: “Giving Kevin a hug after a kick-arse press conference announcing the election.”
Transcript of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s election announcement press conference.
RUDD: This afternoon, I visited the Governor-General and her Excellency has accepted my advice an election be held on Saturday, 7 September. The time has come for the Australian people to decide on our nation’s future. They are the ones who we in this parliament are elected to serve. Ours is a truly great country. Nobody should ever talk this country down. Around the world, we are seen as one of the best countries on the planet. Blessed with the strong economy, a hard working, talented and creative people.
A people who never surrender their deep sense of a fair go for all. These are the values which have steered our country through the first century of its federation and, I believe, they are the values which will guide us into the future as well. Australia is too open and positive a nation to retreat into a tight little ball of negativity. This election will be about who the Australian people trust to best lead them through the difficult new economic challenges which now lie ahead. New challenges brought about by the end of the China resources boom.
New challenges also that have to be confronted. The boom of course has fuelled so much of our nation’s wealth. That boom is over. This election will also be about who the Australian people trust to steer our economy through the great economic transition that therefore lies ahead. If as a nation we fail to manage this transition well, it will hurt the jobs and living standards of all Australians. This election will be about who the Australian people best judge to get the balance right.
By keeping our economy strong, while at the same time protecting jobs, ensuring we have fair wages and fair conditions, continuing to invest in health and education, and above all, ensuring there is a fair go for all. Managing the big economic transition that lies ahead will be difficult but it is definitely doable. Charting a course through the choppy economic waters that lie ahead will require a steady hand and a clear cut plan for the future.
The new challenges facing our economy will require new ways The of thinking, new ways of acting, new ways of planning. One thing I know for certain, the old politics of the past just won’t work for the future. Wall to wall negativity doesn’t create a single job. Negative personal politics doesn’t build a single school. The old politics of division doesn’t build a single hospital.
Three-word slogans don’t solve complex problems, they never have and they never will. Australia needs a new way of dealing with the new challenges we face in the future. At this election, the Australian people will decide who they trust best to navigate the way through. So that we can have our absolute best shot at maintaining our living standards, and our prosperity and our security. But also on top of that, unlocking the potential which lies in each individual member of the great Australian family, so that we become the best we possibly can. For me, all that was made possible some 30 or so years ago, when reforms by an earlier Labor Government made it possible for a kid from the Queensland country, neither of whose parents went much beyond primary school, to go off to university and chart his own future and end up as PM of the country.
Elections are about judgements of our record, just as they are about our plans for the future. In the years been in office we have helped keep our economy strong, while economies around the world have lost tens of millions of jobs, businesses in Australia have added just under one million jobs over the last five and a half years. While economies around the world have tumbled into recession, we in this country Australia, acting with business, have kept the economy out of recession, almost uniquely across the developed countries of the world, and while others continue to make false claims that somehow this country is in a debt and deficit crisis, they can never answer this simple question – if that is the case, why does Australia, among only eight countries in the world, continue to have a triple A credit rating and a stable outlook?
Nor can they answer why the Australian Government debt per head of population is one of the lowest across all the developed countries in the world. It just doesn’t add up. It is a false claim and should be named and nailed as such through this campaign. Of course, the business of Government is more than managing the economy, although that, for me, is fundamental. The economy must be strong in order to do everything else. We have also kept our economy strong through a series of carefully costed policies. During the most difficult of global economic circumstances. This has required hard decisions, like the ones you saw announced last week and the Government’s economic statement released by the Treasurer and the finance minister.
I believe it is far better we level with the Australian people about the tough choices we have made, rather than pretend you can somehow wave a magic wand and create $70 billion out of nowhere. I have already said we have made our mistakes in the past, that is true. All governments do. Even though most tend not to admit it however. The key is to learn from the experience. I said before that elections are both about our record and about our plans for the future.
On the economy, with the end of the China resources boom, we can no longer afford to have all our eggs just in one basket. For the future we must broaden the economic base, diversify theeconomy. This will be critical, for businesses and jobs and for managing cost of living pressures for families as well. That is why the Government has embraced a new national competitiveness agenda for the future and a new way of bringing business, unions and government around one table to deal with our common national interest, which should be much greater and more important than the individual interests of any of us. That is why we also need to invigorate our manufacturing which I believe to be an industry of the future, not as some believe an industry just of the past. That is why we need fresh investment in agribusiness, because there are rich opportunities for Australia in satisfying the new food demands of Asia. That is why we also need the great new economic enabling power of the National Broadband Network to help lift our national competitiveness even further.
This is the way to build new industries of the future, right across our vital new service industries as well which provide so many jobs for Australians. And doing so by responsibly returning the budget to surplus over the economic cycle. Supported by moderate budget savings which don’t hit jobs, health or education. That is our economic plan for the future. Mr Abbott’s plan, by contrast, is a $70 billion slash and burn austerity drive which will cut jobs and cut deeply into basic services and health and education. If you don’t believe me on this, just look at what Mr Newman’s Liberal National Party Government has done in Queensland. They said nothing about it up-front, they said they would have a commission of audit and then lo and behold,4,000 health workers were then sacked in one State alone. In my community in Brisbane, I have met so many of these folks working in the health sector who have just lost their jobs, good, decent people and I have met them right across Queensland. On education, we have launched a Better Schools plan, a massive $15 billion investment in government Catholic and independent schools starting next year, so that principals will now have the funds to provide more individual attention for our kids when they need it.
And the teachers in my local schools in Brissy tell me it is a fantastic plan. Unfortunately, fantastic plan. Unfortunately, fantastic Mr Abbott has said our Better Schools plan is nothing more than a con. Without putting forward a positive alternative. On health and hospitals, we intend to complete the massive health and hospitals reform plan that we have agreed to with the Commonwealth and States, massively investing into the hospitals of our country into the future, delivering new services through the National Broadband Network such as Telemedicine and providing local health services through our local Medicare local network. Unfortunately, Mr Abbott has form on hospitals, when previously he ripped $1 billion out of the nation’s health system as Health Minister and now he says he will abolish Medicare local. We will also roll-out Disability Care Australia, our first National Disability Insurance Scheme and on climate change, our plans are clear, while Mr Abbott, a climb change denier from way back, has an approach he has never properly explained and it doesn’t work.
The Australian people therefore face a real choice for this election. A real choice. A choice between a new way for the future, with positive plans for managing the new economic challenges we face as opposed to the old negative politics and three-word slogans of the past. A choice between a positive plan to invest in new industries, new jobs, health and education, rather than a $70 billion slash and burn exercise which cuts to the bone. A positive plan to connect all businesses and families right across Australia, to the National $70Broadband Network rather than one that effectively destroys the NBN and charges households thousands of dollars each to be connected, potentially. A choice also between bringing the nation together, behind a positive plan that most of us would readily agree to as opposed to an approach which tends, instead, to rip the country apart and to polarise it.
That is not my way or my approach and I also don’t believe it is the Australian way. Australians, by their nature, are a positive practical people who believe innation building and that approach is part and parcel of the values, ideas and policies we bring to bear for Australia’s future. You, the Australian people over the years have seen me at my highest, highs and some of my lowest lows. You have witnessed some of those moments right here in the place we are standing now in Parliament House in Canberra. Moments that I will never forget, because whether they were good or bad, they have certainly made me a much stronger person. I think, as a result, you the Australian people know me pretty well, warts and all. I would be deeply honoured to serve you, the Australian people and our country into the future. I know I enter this election as the underdog. In fact, my political advisors tell me if we had an election yesterday, Mr Abbott would be PM as of today. In the month or so ahead, the people of Australia are going to be subjected to an absolute barrage of negative political advertising. Such as they have never seen before, full of daily personal political attacks. Mr Abbott’s advertising campaign will be massive, funded by the massive war chest he has amassed from a whole range of vested … in industry, not least the tobacco companies. So the next month or so will be a pretty rough one, I think.
That is why I am asking you the Australian people, those of you who support a new way of handling the challenges we face in the future, to come on board. We need each and every one of you to volunteer your time, your effort, your enthusiasm and maybe even send us a $10 donation. Young people, old people, women and men, eighth generation Australians or migrants who only arrived in this country in the last year or so, because it is only through the power of you the people that we will prevail in this election. I have enormous confidence in the sound judgement of the Australian people. I deeply respect our democratic processes and it is now time for the Australian people to decide.
JOURNALIST: You said when you retook the leadership, you placed great importance in going to the G20,obviously that won’t happen now. Can you explain your change of thinking on that and why the date on the 7th?
RUDD: There has been a number of difficult considerations deciding upon a date for this election. The first is we had to complete unfinished policy business and make some changes. I think you have seen that. We have done that in relation to our new policy on asylum seekers, which is clear and hard-line. We have done that in relation to the position on the carbon price and the floating of the price through an emissions trading scheme. We have also done that in further negotiating the position Better Schools plan with Victoria coming on board today. And we have done that also with bringing WA on board with its own participation in the Disability Care Australia scheme. That has been a large slice of work together with the economic statement which we released at the end of last week. It contains some tough decisions. Then, what I have also heard, loud and clear around the country, is that people believe it is time for an election. I think it is important also for the business community, for business confidence and the rest that we get with the business because when I look at the things I have had to do, frankly, the unfinished business, we have basically got through. Then, there was a couple of other considerations. One of course is the local Government referendum. I looked with some sadness at the fact that the Opposition has withdrawn, effectively bipartisan support for that referendum, and therefore, regrettably, it can’t proceed because it cannot be held earlier than the 14th. I have been a long term supporter of constitutional recognition for local supporter Government but I think we will have to look at that in the next term. Then, there is the question that you have just raised Phil in connection with the G20. As you know I am deeply connected to this institution. I was part of its formation back in 2008. Our plan, my plan is that Australia would be represented by foreign Minister Carr but we will keep that under review subject to international developments in the meantime and further conversations with international leaders. Putting all that together, together with Yom Kippur for the Jewish community which is really important for 14 September, and not wanting to get too much into the hair of people when you get to the semi finals season of football, once you get to late September and into October, frankly this was the best date available.
JOURNALIST: In your opening comments you used the word “Trust” quite a lot and it harked back to John Howard who used almost the exact same phrase. Why have you chosen to phrase. Why have you chosen to phrase the election pitch that way about asking who do you trust?
RUDD: Because we have new economic challenges, this is basic for how we approach the next three years of the Australian Government. We have had a decade long mining boom, now the economic circumstances have changed and are changing radically. It is a fair question to ask who do you best trust to manage a very profound economic transition? We have had and I have experience at managing the last one through the global financial crisis and as you know a lot of our approaches then were violently opposed, violently opposed by Mr Abbott. Therefore, Mr Abbott. Therefore, it is a fair way of putting the question. You don’t deal with a major transition in the Australian economy, brought about by big international changes like the end of the China resources boom through a three-word slogan. It requires a lot of careful thought, and that is underpinned the new national competitiveness agenda that I outlined to the that I outlined to the that ‘National Press Club’ recently.
JOURNALIST: You predicted probably accurately that debt and deficit would be one of the themes that we hear about in themes that we hear about in the next five weeks. I want to ask about your budget surplus for 16/17. Is it a promise, pledge or guarantee or is it simply a treasury prediction that might or might not happen?
RUDD: You know something, our clear plan as outlined in the economic statement which was put forward last week by the Treasurer and the finance minister, it is there in black and white, we have outlined the assumptions underpinning it and the truth is, as they outlined the revenue assumptions of the Government, and frankly many governments around the world, have generally been heading south for a long time. That is our plan, it is there in black and white, we have put it out there. Can I just say, Mr Probyn, I assume you will exercise parallel rigour in asking what about the $70 billion that Mr Abbott must either find by way of savings or run himself a deficit of that order of magnitude? It is a very simple choice. I notice up until now, app Opposition running a million miles away from their $70 billion challenge. One deadline, they said they would have it out to us all by the time of the budget, then it was by some other date and now some other date. It is time for accountability here. It is basic, economic management will be a core determinant of this election.
JOURNALIST:You have moved to distance yourself from the legacy of the Gillard Government. What parts of the Gillard Government’s legacy do you actually embrace?
RUDD: I actually am strongly of the view that our Labor Government is the product of many initiatives from many ministers, including my predecessor. In so many areas of policy. Let me give you an example. One of the great things that have been achieved in education is the system of national testing of the performance of our schools, both primary and secondary schools. It was Julia’s work and I fully embrace it, it was one of the best reforms on education we have seen. Julia was strongly engaged as a former Education Minister in the Better Schools plan and I endorse that and I have been working hard on the negotiations, as has Bill Shorten, with various governments since then. Disability Care Australia, big reform, kicked off in the 20/20 summit here which many of you lampooned. Went off to the summit here Productivity Commission, came back just after a last addressed you at this particular place and then was really worked on by ministers Macklin and Shorten and by Julia. These are strong achievements by a reforming Government.
JOURNALIST: You ever had a lot to say about negative campaigning and negative politics not having a role in this election. What is your commitment on negative advertising, will you instruct the Labor Party not to embark on any negative advertising against your opponents?
RUDD: Anything that we have to say about the future will be policy-based. Just policy-based. I am proud of the policy record we have. I am proud of the policy plans we are putting forward. But I go back to the simple proposition of why Mr Abbott, up until now, and I have been in this job for five weeks now, has refused time after time to engage in a public debate with me. I can’t remember a time in Australian history when the sitting PM says to the Leader of the history Opposition will you come into the ring and have a debate? Most of us who have been leaders of the Opposition wait for the day that a sitting PM would say “Let’s have a debate”. But he hasn’t and there is a reason for it, that is because Mr Abbott is uncomfortable with policy and as Peter Costello said, he is very uncomfortable with economic policy. I believe there is a huge challenge ahead, both in the advertising space in this campaign but the public debates as well. Can I just say this on public debates just say this on public debates – I have received a letter from Sky for a campaign debate moderated by David Spears tomorrow night, first full day of the election campaign. I am up for it. I hope Mr Abbott is as well. For the other networks, before we get into debates, there is four or five networks. Pick a Sunday each. Every Sunday of the campaign, I Every Sunday of the campaign, I am into that as well. You put together as the ‘National Press Club’ the panel of [questions???] to throw any question you like. When I looked at previous US presidential election campaigns there are stacks of debates put together by the best journalists in the US to those who aspire to lead that country. It should be the case here too. Mr Abbott, you can run but you can’t hide and you certainly won’t be allowed to hide behind a mega bucks-funded negative advertising campaign out of the likes of the tobacco companies.
JOURNALIST: Just on – you’re making a great play of economic management in the future but on your own economic record as a Labor Party, you have actually drastically changed from the May budget, quite drastically on Friday, a huge savings, big deterioration in the deficit and in debt. Do you distance yourself from that record of economic management and do we just now take you on what you’re going to do in the future?
RUDD: What I would say is you just should level with people. What we are doing through the economic statement last week is levelling with people about the fact that there has been a massive reduction revenues against those projected in the budget. If you speak to any finance ministry anywhere in the world, you will find real challenges in getting revenue projections right as the moment because the global economy is so volatile. It is not just a problem here. I would much rather we levelled with people rather than gloss it over and if ever there is a gloss over job and I am yet to see a … ‘The Australian’ holding Mr Abbott to account on the question of $70 billion – maybe it is time there was one.
JOURNALIST:…history in this very spot. I think the words used were you blubbered about 3 years ago. Can I ask you to reflect on the last 3 years and is the fight of your political life and also I think you took quite an unprecedented step in your remarks just then of calling for donations and people to volunteer, are you concerned about what you might come up with, come up against in terms of the Liberal Party war chest?
RUDD: I think I said very bluntly that’s a fact. Liberal Party have been running around the place for 3 years raising a bucket load of money in order to get Mr Abbott into the Lodge. Remember it was Mr Loughnane who said, I think in this city only about 2 or 3 months ago, the Liberal Party had this election won. I think it was Mr Abbott who also said that he’d already begun work on his victory speech a little time before that. That’s just a reality. The Liberal Party funded by a whole bunch of companies, some of which include vested interests and I find amazingly and appallingly still tobacco companies, is going to outspend the Labor Party massively in this campaign and so if you think it’s unprecedented for a PM to say to the Australian people at large, if you actually get out there and support an Australian Labor Government and you think what we’re doing is heading in the right direction and you support an open and conclusive support an open and conclusive- inclusive society and the sort of social and economic reforms we’re on about, then yes, we need your support including your financial support. I think President Obama did something like this in the US. I’m all for going out to people and saying lend us your enthusiasm, your talents, your ability and even your contributions. That helps. One here.
JOURNALIST: Does it worry you that the numbers in the economic statement were so far out, of the Budget just 10 weeks ago, who do you hold responsible for that and given the volatility in those numbers it’s not practically possible to guarantee a surplus?
RUDD: What I would say to you is that it’s really important to face put the forecasts into the global contest. I don’t know a finance ministry in the world who is having an easy time at the projecting revenues in a highly volatile global economy. And when you’ve got so many things happening at once, a very sluggish economic recovery, patchiness, a slowing in Chinese economic growth and given the particular resource intensity in our economy with trade doing this, it’s very tough. But here’s my challenge tough. But here’s my challenge to you. My challenge to you is what is the real economic debate here. The economic debate here. The economic debate, as these two questions would seek to frame, are both from yourself and Denis, are legitimate questions, is about debt and deficit. What you don’t answer is a simple question which is if there is a debt and deficit crisis requiring an immediate return to surplus, why did the creditrating agencies provide us with a AAA credit rating? I don’t hear the answer. And so therefore I’m saying to you, and this is what I’m saying directly, loud and clear, Denis, is that the real economic question facing Australia is this. How did we manage this economic transition coming from a radical adjustment to our terms in trade which if we don’t succeed in dealing with will affect jobs and also affect the standards of living of all Australians. That’s the real economic question. What’s our answer to it? A new national competitive agenda to the type I’ve outlined from the press club. That’s the challenge for WA, my State Queensland, every State, and that’s got to be the response, diversifying the economy, driven by competitive, that’s what we’re on about. Your framing and Mr Abbott’s framing of the economic question is, in my view, a false premise about a debt and deficit crisis and it needs to be nailed as such. If it was true why do Moody’s and the other agencies regard this as one of only 8 countries in the world with a AAA credit rating and that I’ve never had an answer on. It’s getting very late in the afternoon. You’re freezing, I’ve just come from Brisbane, I’m doubly freezing and I look forward to talking to you again soon on the campaign trail.