TRANSCRIPT OF JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE
22 JANUARY 2013
E & O E – PROOF ONLY
Subjects: Senate candidacy of Nova Peris; Newstart; NT intervention; Inauguration of President Obama; National Security Strategy; Climate change; Anti-discrimination legislation exposure draft; Manus Island Supreme Court challenge
PM: I’m here today to say that as Federal Labor leader I am very proud of the Labor Party's track record in working with and for indigenous Australians.
From the days in which Gough Whitlam trickled dirt into the hand of Vincent Lingiari to signal our understanding of land rights, I believe our political party has much to be proud of.
Gough Whitlam's work was carried on by other Labor Governments.
We all remember Prime Minister Hawke handing Uluru back to back to its indigenous owners.
We all remember the work of Prime Minister Keating after the Mabo and Wik decisions and his powerful Redfern speech.
We all remember the remarkable moment when Prime Minister Rudd apologised to the stolen generations and when he launched the Closing the Gap strategy, which focuses on indigenous disadvantage and changing lives.
As Federal Labor leader I am very proud of that work but I have also been very troubled that we have never been able to count amongst our number an indigenous Australian.
There has never been an indigenous Australian who has served as a federal Labor representative.
I am determined that at the 2013 election we change that.
And that’s why I am very proud to be standing here with Nova Peris and to be in a position to announce that I have invited Nova to join the Australian Labor Party, and I have invited her to seek preselection for the Senate in the Northern Territory.
I have asked the Federal National Executive of the Labor Party to work with me on achieving this.
Nova is a household name. Many would remember Nova's sporting triumphs.
I think what they show is grit and determination to get things done and I am very admiring of that grit and determination.
I believe Nova will make a great contribution in the federal parliament; for the Labor Party, for the Northern Territory and for the nation.
Not just because of that grit and determination but because of the work she has done since her sporting career on building opportunities for young Australians, on focusing on the health of children, on focusing on the educational opportunities of children.
Nova was the first Aboriginal Australian to win an Olympic gold medal.
With the support of the people of the Northern Territory, I want her to be the first Aboriginal woman to sit in the federal parliament.
And I’m very pleased that she is here with me today, along with her family and friends and I thank them for being with us.
I would like to say a few words about Senator Trish Crossin, who has served for the Labor Party as the Northern Territory Labor Senator.
Trish is a remarkable woman who has achieved some amazing things during her federal parliamentary career since she was first elected in 1998.
She is a fiercely proud Territorian and she's spent a lot of time making sure that this parliament never forgets the views and perspectives of the Northern Territory as we make policies and plans.
She's someone who has travelled relentlessly throughout the Northern Territory so she could always ever an ear to the ground to get the views of Territorians and bring them to the federal parliament.
She has served with distinction on many parliamentary committees, the Senate having such a big committee load, and indeed she is doing that work even today as we stand here.
She has a lot to be proud of across her federal parliamentary career and there are many Australians with a passion for social justice who have pursued their causes with the help and support of Senator Trish Crossin.
She will of have course continue to serve as the Northern Territory Senator until the next election.
Now without further ado, I’d invite Nova to say a few words.
NOVA PERIS: Thank you Prime Minister.
Firstly, I want to say thank you for this amazing opportunity, having been asked by the Prime Minister to contest preselection for the Northern Territory Senate.
I stand here before you all today not only as an Australian but as a proud Aboriginal woman; proud of my heritage and culture.
I certainly understand the significance of this opportunity and I am very honoured and humbled. Thank you Prime Minister.
I firstly just want to acknowledge my family, my husband Scott, Destiny, Jacky-boy, my nephew Dante, Danny and Dion.
I am very honoured and humbled, thank you Prime Minister.
Today, with this announcement I want people to know that I am a Territorian, a proud Territorian who is extremely passionate about health, education and our youth.
I understand the significance and enormity of the challenges that I face and I’m the first person to put my hand up and say I don't know everything. I’m here to learn.
I believe I can also help regain the faith in the future and especially of my fellow indigenous Australians.
With this Labor Government I want to be able to help the Australian youth to live constructive and fulfilling living and to also become healthy and educated citizens of this fantastic and brilliant country of ours.
In my life I’ve never taken anything for granted.
I believe in hard work and I will be doing everything in the weeks and months ahead to get the opportunity to represent all Territorians in the Senate.
PM: We’re happy to take some questions.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, did Trish Crossin offer her resignation or did you ask for it?
PM: I made an approach to Nova to stand for us in the Northern Territory.
Trish Crossin is today serving for us on a parliamentary committee getting about the work of the Government. She’ll make her own statement in her own time.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there is obviously a process to go through. Can you guarantee that Nova will be at the top of the ticket?
Also people will observe that you have had to ask Nova to join the Labor Party and they may draw the conclusion that there is no Aboriginal member of the Labor Party who is deemed to be a suitable candidate for this. What would you say to that?
PM: Firstly, on process, the National Executive Committee has met today and National Executive will meet tomorrow and I have asked the National Executive to work with me on ensuring that Nova is eligible to stand for preselection and that she is preselected as our number one candidate for the Senate in the Northern Territory.
On membership of our political party, we very proudly have amongst our number a number of indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory and in other parts of the country.
But as Prime Minister, as Labor Leader, I have decided on this occasion to engage in a captain's pick and I think that Nova, particularly, has a track record which shows she will make a great contribution in federal parliament.
Now that isn’t to diminish the work of others. The reality of seeking preselection for the Labor Party in the federal parliament is that there are many people willing to serve with capacity and ideas and interests.
Many people who could make a contribution seek to be preselected and don't ultimately get to come here.
I know what it is like to fight a few preselection battles myself as it happens; probably fought more than most.
So it always is difficult, judgements have to be made and I’ve made one.
PM: We’ll just go one at a time. I have promised Nova that it is a new year and you will all be on your absolute best behaviour. So I don't want to see anything that lets me down.
JOURNALIST: The sitting senator, Trish Crossin, has been involved in the debate over single mothers, moving people from the parenting payment over to Newstart when their youngest child reaches the age of eight.
You have trained with your oldest daughter I think when you were a single mum, are you concerned about any of those changes?
Do you think it is too early to be forcing mums off of those parenting payments that are higher, onto Centrelink payments when their youngest child reaches eight?
NOVA PERIS: I understand wholeheartedly how hard it is to be a single mother. I have been down that road before.
And my understanding is it is actually set up to support the younger mothers to move them back into the workforce.
JOURNALIST: Again Nova to you, just about your motivation to do this. We saw at last year's Northern Territory election a strong rejection of Labor by indigenous Australians in the Territory. They embraced the CLP for the first time really.
Why do you think that was? Is Labor getting something wrong when it comes to indigenous Australians in the Territory in particular? What sort of change do you want to see in how the party approaches these issues?
NOVA PERIS: From my view I truly believe Labor pretty much took their eye off the mark.
I guess there was a lot of work done by the CLP with regard to working hard in the bush and they got a lot of voters to vote, probably a lot of voters who have never voted before in their life.
I think the way that the CLP is now, there is a lot of things that are unravelling, there is a lot of broken promises.
As an Aboriginal woman, I’ve seen and I’ve been around the ropes long and hard enough to know that Aboriginal people have been disappointed with government for a long time and hence the intervention.
I was at the midst of that and I saw first-hand that you could have policies, but if you don't have the right people implementing it, it’s never going to work.
So I am proud and honoured like I said, and humbled to be part of this Government and we are working very hard to win the next election and get the right people working.
JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard, one of the problems that's been identified in the Labor Party has been the disillusionment of branch members at executive and administrative committees overriding the branches and making choices.
What do you say to those in the Northern Territory who say that they should have had a vote in this matter? And secondly, will you be using your prerogative as captain to get in some other local champions?
PM: I am a huge respecter of our own internal processes and consequently it has not been my track record to intervene in those processes.
I respect that our members around the country in part join the Labor Party because they want a say about who then goes on to contest elections for the Labor Party.
So it is not my intention to be a federal leader who routinely intervenes in party processes.
I have though taken a different view on this occasion because I believe Nova's selection is a matter of national significance, as well as a matter of significance for the Northern Territory.
A matter of national significance because it would be the first time that our political party has put forward an indigenous Australian in a winnable position at a federal election; has said to Australians indigenous and non-indigenous, that if you elect this Labor team, you will see amongst its number an indigenous Australian.
I think that is a nationally important question and that is why I have determined to take this course of action.
JOURNALIST: And local champions?
PM: And so, Michelle I think I have answered your question. I am not going to make it a routine for me to intervene in party processes. I am a big respecter of party processes.
But I think there is a national significance here, a national significance for our political party, a significance too for the nation generally because we have not, in the building that we are standing in a courtyard of today, seen an indigenous woman serve in this parliament. I think it is time that changed.
JOURNALIST: Nova, do you fully support the NT intervention and all of its programs?
I do believe that something needed to be done.
Without a doubt, like I said, I have done a significant amount of work, not only in the Northern Territory but at an Australian level, and worked in many remote communities across Queensland and also WA.
Women in particular; children, were crying out for some sort of change and like I said before, the way that the intervention was implemented was wrong.
I now know that this Government has the Stronger Futures legislation which now hopefully I will be a big part of that to ensure that voices of Aboriginal Australia is actually heard here now at the federal level and I can ensure that these new programs are implemented the correct way.
JOURNALIST: Are there any changes you would like to make?
NOVA PERIS: There is a lot. I could be here, I mean, education, essential services in remote communities, getting kids to stay at school. There is a number of things.
Health, I am a big advocate for health. There is a lot of issues around Aboriginal health. So I’m an advocate for all those and I would love to see big changes.
JOURNALIST: Nova, when and how did the Prime Minister approach you? And what was your initial reaction?
NOVA PERIS: I actually was approached about seven or eight years ago. At that time, as you can see, my two young kids were babies at the time.
I wasn't ready then. I have always been a Labor voter, so has all my family. And I didn't think I was ready.
I wanted to get the runs on the board and I know that to be given – not given a position – but to be put into a position where you have a voice for Aboriginal Australians, I had to do a significant amount of work.
So I have been doing an enormous amount of work at a national level for the past seven or eight years.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, you weren't a member of the Labor Party until the Prime Minister approached you or have you been a member before?
PM: Nova is not currently a member of the Labor Party, so that is a matter that National Executive will resolve for me.
Just in terms of process here, I obviously knew a bit about Nova Peris like all other Australians. She's a familiar name and someone whose history I knew a bit about.
So I think many of us have watched her on the sporting field. Many of us have followed her journey since, all of the work she's done for reconciliation.
She was a Young Australian of the Year. Nova's been a public figure for quite some time now. So of course, I knew about Nova.
I did form the view that Nova would be a great person to run for the Labor Party.
I asked our National Secretary to make some enquiries of Nova about her preparedness to serve.
It is not all that routine to get someone knocking on your door talking to you about running for federal Labor. Nova had that experience and out of those discussions we are standing here today.
JOURNALIST: What was the timeframe for those discussions, and Ms Peris can you tell us whether you have had any discussions with Trish Crossin at all about your candidacy?
NOVA PERIS: I was actually approached formally about six to eight weeks ago.
George Wright, the Secretary of the national Labor Party, I had several discussions with him, and this is a big step that I have had to make. It is life changing.
This affects everyone in my family but in a way that we have all said yes I am ready, we're ready.
And like I said, there are a lot of challenges ahead but I have been a person that's overcome a lot of things in my lifetime and I am ready to step forward in this new role.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you have told us why you think it is important to have an Aboriginal woman in parliament.
But Trish Crossin, as you’ve said yourself, was a hardworking member of the parliament. What do you say to people who will view this as a ruthless decision?
PM: Inevitably there is change in politics. Our political party selects new people. We change, that is appropriate.
And so over time, people come to the parliament, serve in the parliament, move from the parliament and new people replace them.
Trish is someone who is continuing to work now. When she goes at the next election she will go with my thanks.
She will have served the Labor Party for 15 years in the federal parliament.
And of course there are only so many positions and that makes tough choices, inevitably tough choices.
But choices need to be made about the Labor team and about the people that we put forward.
None of that diminishes the significant work that Trish Crossin has done across her political life.
And I am sure, knowing Trish, that she will continue to find ways to serve the social justice causes that she holds so dear.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, have you personally spoken to Senator Crossin?
PM: Yes, I have.
JOURNALIST: About this, how long ago was that?
PM: Look I’m not going to go into private discussions but yes, I have.
JOURNALIST: It is one thing for a Prime Minister to make a captain's call on who should be preselected.
Isn't it another thing for a Prime Minister to suggest a serving Member of Parliament should hang up their hat and move on?
PM: Well I have made a decision and that’s it.
JOURNALIST: Are you planning to move any other senators on?
PM: I have answered Michelle's question.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you say that you believe in a party process but it has also been unable to preselect a female indigenous candidate.
So you obviously didn’t believe it could do that as you move forward. Why is that?
PM: I think around the nation, when you look at preselections, people inevitably view them as individual contests. So they’re looking at the person in their seat on their senate ticket.
And there has been times in our party's history where we have had to say, across our political party, let's broaden the view.
That is what we did with the affirmative action agenda where we said people making up their minds in their individual contests, some great people are being selected.
But when you add it altogether, what it means is that we are getting a lot of men and not that many women. And we need to find a way of balancing that up.
Because if you believe as I do, fundamentally, that merit is distributed equitably across the population, across genders, across races, then if you're looking at an outcome where you are seeing lots of men or not many indigenous Australians, then people of merit are missing out.
And so, our whole political party had to have a look at that for women and I think this is a moment when our whole political party needs to look at it too so that we are joined by an indigenous Australian in our Federal Labor Caucus.
So there are times when you have got to step back and have a look at the whole picture. That is what I ever done on this occasion.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can I just ask on climate change, President Obama spoke quite a bit about it in his speech overnight. What do you make of his remarks?
What are you expecting and what would you like him to do on climate change?
And just reflecting on the summer as well, heatwaves, bushfires, did they have anything to do with climate change?
PM: On the first, a great speech, absolutely great speech. People wouldn't expect anything less from President Obama and it was a wonderful speech.
What I was taken by in the speech was all of the work that President Obama has committed himself to which matters not only to the nation he leads, but matters to the world.
We have got work to do with the United States to strengthen the global economy.
We have got work to do on climate change and President Obama was very forthright about the need to tackle climate change.
We have got work to do together in our region of the world as increasingly the US focus sharpens on our region of the world.
So I saw all of that in the speech, the shared agenda that we have as two nations.
I also saw in the speech some domestic public policy issues that are obviously at the forefront for both of us.
President Obama, very focused on education. President Obama too, making reference to better circumstances for people with disabilities.
So as we go about improving our education system, as we go about building a National Disability Insurance Scheme, I think we will be able to have a lively public policy exchange with the United States.
On the specifics of what President Obama is committing the United States to, that is clearly a matter for President Obama.
But I think his statement reinforces climate change is real and pretending it is not or pretending that there are slipshod solutions to it is not good enough.
And here in this nation we have resolved for ourselves that we are going down the most effective path for reducing carbon pollution and that is putting a price on carbon.
On the extreme weather events that we have seen over the summer, I have got family in Adelaide so I have heard at length about sweltering Adelaide. I was in Sydney the day that the records tumbled. I have been to bushfire grounds in two states.
You can't ever put down one weather event and say this is climate change, but you can accept the science that the scientists are telling us.
They are telling us very clearly climate change means more extreme weather events.
I am not a scientist, but from a layperson's point of view it is a pretty startling day when the weather bureau says that they have had to pick a new colour for their map because they don't have a colour that tells us about a land temperature of 50 and above.
I think that is a pretty startling day.
So you can't look at one weather event but you can look at the broad sweep.
Our scientists do and just like we accept the science when they tell us smoking and lung cancer are related, when they tell us standing in the sun too long and melanomas are related, we should of course accept their science that carbon pollution, what we are doing on the planet, is making a difference to our climate.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you share the concerns of Japan about the incursions by China into its airspace over the Senkaku Islands as something you're attending to address when you look at national security for our nation?
PM: I will make a statement about national security tomorrow and I will be launching our National Security Strategy so I will ever an opportunity to address some of these questions then.
On the tensions between China and Japan, we have made it clear, indeed some of these discussions I have done personally myself, we have made it clear that we don't take a position on contesting territorial claims but we do have a very clear view about matters being resolved peacefully with no provocative action.
That is in the interests of China and Japan. It is in our interests, it is in the interests of the world.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Victorian police have been travelling around the country interviewing people about the Australian Workforce Reform Association. Have they spoken to you at all since the Christmas break or in the last few weeks?
PM: No, they have not.
JOURNALIST: Back to President Obama's speech, what do you make of the portion where he says our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law?
PM: I don't think it is of any surprise to people that President Obama has announced and did in the run-up to the election his support for same sex marriage, so I presume he's referring to that.
JOURNALIST: You say this election is going to be about supporting the families of Australia. Will you be looking at increasing Newstart and by how much?
PM: I have dealt with this question before.
I do recognise it is very, very tough for people when they lose a job, incredibly tough, incredibly tough to get by on a low or fixed income and our job is to keep creating jobs, whatever the global economic conditions throw at us.
We have kept creating jobs, even during the biggest meltdown since the Great Depression, and a key focus this year will be on the future of our economy and creating jobs.
I want us to be a nation with a diverse economy that doesn't have its eggs all in one basket; that is tapped into the growth in Asia and is ready for the future with things like the NBN and clean energy sources and a better focus on skills and education.
PM: Well look, I’ve answered your question.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) several Australian lawyers including Julian Burnside has said could have a decent chance of success?
PM: This is a matter for the PNG judicial system now and I’m not going to start predicting the outcome of a court case which I don’t believe has even been formally filed yet.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the Opposition has criticised the proposed reforms of anti-discrimination laws. Do you share any of their concerns about there has been a possible incursion on freedom of speech?
PM: Well, let's take a step back and perhaps clarify all of the tenses we should be using in that question. I don't like to lecture on grammar, but perhaps I will.
What is happening is there is an exposure draft that has been put out for public commentary because we're interested in the public commentary.
So before anybody concludes that anything has happened to anyone, it's not possible for anything to happen to anyone because an exposure draft is out for public commentary.
What is possible is that people can put their views in and they will be considered.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what do you think of Mr Windsor's public commentary this morning on the proposed anti-discrimination (inaudible)?
PM: Tony Windsor, like any other Australian who wants to have a say, the reason you put out an exposure draft is you're expecting people to have things to say.
People are saying things. There is a parliamentary committee process. All of that feedback is wanted.
We would not have gone down an exposure draft route if we didn't want people's feedback, so we will get the feedback and consider it.
JOURNALIST: So you do have a genuinely open mind on the fundamentals of that bill, not just around the edges?
JOURNALIST: We put out there what we thought was most worthy of consideration, so we're not starting from a blank page.
We put out there what we thought was most worthy of consideration, but we put it out there for feedback and we'll consider the feedback.
JOURNALIST: Nova, can I ask you before you go, it was obviously tough for you to come out here today on a personal level-
PM: And we will go and this is a long time to stand on very hard stone, for young people.
JOURNALIST: If you are successful, what would be, given the significance that the Prime Minister spoke about, what would be the greater achievement, that or winning an Olympic gold medal?
NOVA PERIS: Do you know what, this is amazing, amazing part of my life and, and it's certainly up there and I guess in a way through my sporting successes, I've always been in control of my own journey.
When you lose you take it on the chin, whereas here, I'm all about being successful, I want to be the best person that I can possibly be for the Australian youth and also Aboriginal Australia and I'm going to give it one hell of a go.
I'm determined to be successful, like I said, and this without doubt would have to cap it off.
PM: Thanks very much.