11 March 2011 Transcript of Gillard's interview with CNBCAustralian PM Julia Gillard talks about her US visit, climate change, carbon price and trade in an interview to CNBC's Emma Barnett. Here's the transcript of that interview:
Transcript of Julia Gillard's speech to Congress
US Congress hails Gillard speech
HOST: Prime Minister Gillard, thank you so much for taking the time to come and visit us.
PM: My pleasure. Thank you.
HOST: And get to see the Stock Exchange. Hopefully you'll see it with some people on it too.
But over the past two days it's been incredibly busy for you. You've obviously spent time with President Obama, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, Congress and a whole lot of other people. How's the visit been so far?
PM: It's been a fantastic visit and I couldn't have got a warmer welcome. It's-- been really enjoyable, interesting, stimulating. Having the opportunity to address Congress yesterday was a very special honour for Australia and I enjoyed it a great deal. So, it's a great way of reminding ourselves of the strong bonds between our two countries.
HOST: And we have a picture of you, which is a lovely picture, of you playing Australian football yesterday at the White House with the President. How did that come about?
PM: Well, we'd had the formal meeting where we talked about a range of issues, but I'd brought one of our Australian footballs, so we were just mucking around with it in the Oval Office. President Obama kept, you know, going like that, like you would with an American football, but that's not how we do it. We handball, we kick and we did that around the Oval Office without breaking anything.
HOST: Had to correct him and show him how to do it.
Well, you mentioned the speech to the joint session of Congress, which I had a chance to hear. It was very moving and you were talking about how as a little girl you saw America put a man on the Moon and actually got the afternoon off, they sent everyone home from school to go home and watch it, and you said that now, and I'm quoting you, ‘I believe that you can do anything still’, about America. Look, our country's had a tough few years and I think a lot of people have questioned where America is headed and I wanted to just ask you what it is about America that you think makes our country special?
PM: I wanted to send that message when I was in Congress - a message of ‘be bold’ to America. I am so optimistic about this country's future and almost every decade people predicted the demise of America and they've always been wrong and they'll be wrong again, and I think the special characteristics of Americans are their optimism, their belief in the future, their capacity for reinvention, for grabbing opportunities, innovating, changing, seizing the future, and I know that's what we're going to see in this country again.
HOST: And it matters a lot to hear that from Australia because when we look at Australia, your most important economic partner, by far, if you look at exports and trade, it's China now. Number one buyer of your iron, I think nearly half of their iron comes from your country, from Australia. Is China more important to Australia's future now than the United States?
PM: The United States and China are both important to our future. Our alliance with America is rock solid and we are still huge economic partners. Our free trade agreement has brought tremendous benefits and we want to keep working together and increasing trade and I'm very supportive of President Obama's trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Initiative.
Yes, we've got a big economic relationship with China too and we believe it's important to constructively engage with China. We are frank when we need to be, but we want to see China take its proper place in the rules-based order in our world and we were very passionate about making sure the US sat down the able of the East Asia Summit. China is there, the major countries in the region are there, and we can work issues through.
HOST: Given, though, the reliance economically on China, I'm wondering what you think about how the terms some have thrown around about Australia that it's becoming an economic colony of China in some ways. Is that fair or totally insulting?
PM: Well, it's not a fair analysis on the facts. We've got a highly diversified economy. We get a lot of inward investment from the United States. Indeed, the inward investment we get from the United States is far greater than the inward investment we get from China.
So, we have a diversified economy. We're making our way in the world on our resources, of course. Our commodities are strong.
But we are also a strong services economy, a great agricultural trading nation. We've got a strong manufacturing sector, a great tourism sector. We want everybody to come and visit-
HOST: -Right, well, so there’s that, yeah, but if you look take the top industries in Australia in terms of goods, all the top 10 are commodities. If you add in services, sure, tourism and education get in there, but are you worried that Australia is way too reliant on commodities?
PM: Look, we are making sure that we balance economic growth. The resources boom is a good thing. It's a great thing for our country.
PM: But we're also conscious that we need to use the wealth coming from the resources boom to invest in the things that will be the drivers of growth tomorrow, and the most important driver of growth tomorrow will be the skills and capacity of the Australian people. So, I'm passionate about using this moment in time to invest in education, invest in skills and to increase the participation rate of Australians in the workforce.
HOST: Would you be all right with a Chinese company buying one of your, benchmark, marquee companies, and obviously China does have a stake in some of your big mining companies in Rio, but a BHP Billiton or a Rio Tinto. I mean, it's a big issue in this country. Do you allow a Chinese company to come in and buy an American giant. Would you be open to that?
PM: Well, we have a Foreign Investment Review Board process to look at major investments with a national interest criteria. We, in our free trade agreement, the US-Australia free trade agreement, have increased the benchmarks, so it really has to be a huge investment from the United States-
HOST: -To trigger that-
PM: -before there’s scrutiny, but for other investments, scrutiny happens. It happens for Chinese investments and any other investment, so we do keep a weathered eye on national interest concerns.
PM: But we're also an open trading economy and we accept the disciplines that come with that. We do want to see money move. We want to see investment move. We want to see trade in goods and services.
HOST: And then since we're talking about mining, obviously the mining tax in Australia has gotten a lot of discussion in markets around the world. I know that your version obviously is different than your predecessor's, but with the coal industry in Australia so hit by floods and coal and iron being what you would tax at up to 30 percent, are you still committed to pushing that mining tax through this year?
PM: Look, we are committed to pushing it through and it's a profit-based tax, so when you have problems like we had in Queensland with mines not able to operate because of floodwaters, then of course that affects their profitability, and under the Minerals Resources Rent Tax would take their tax burden down. But we think it's appropriate to be taxing on the upside when profits are strong.
HOST: So is it going to be at the 30 percent or are you open, as some are trying to push you to do, to increase that tax rate to 40 percent, as Mr. Rudd had originally proposed?
PM: We entered an agreement with the biggest miners in our country and we'll stick to it, so the new tax rate that I agreed with them will be the tax rate that we legislate.
HOST: When people think of Australia - all right, in this country - they think of kangaroos. They think of the Outback. They hopefully think of commodities. But they should be thinking about how you really emerged from the financial crisis unscathed, relative to all the other developed economies, so unscathed that when I looked at the numbers this week your housing prices are at record levels in Australia, and I'm wondering if you're worried about an eventual housing crash? I mean I thought housing prices almost six percent year on year, even now. That's a big jump.
PM: It is a big jump, and housing shortage is a big issue. We do need to make sure we are building enough houses and planning some more growth, but I'm very confident that the fundamentals of our economy are strong and we will be able to work our way through issues like housing supply shortage.
HOST: The floods obviously are contributing to that, but I mean it was horrible and we saw a lot of the images here with the loss of life and property and obviously affecting such a crucial industry for you. For Americans, I guess, I've seen it compared to Hurricane Katrina in terms of the dramatic affect it's had on Australia. Do you think that climate change was responsible for the floods?
PM: I don't think you can look at one weather event and say that equals climate change.
PM: But across the globe and into the future the scientists are telling us that there will be more extreme weather events with climate change. I believe we do have to act on climate change. I believe it's real. I think it's humans that are causing the carbon pollution that causes climate change, and so we've determined that we will price carbon, put a price on it from the first of July 2012. We are a very emissions-intensive economy. Per head of population we generate more emissions than Americans do.
HOST: Right. And you rely on coal.
PM: Our industrialisation has been based on relatively cheap coal. We've got to seize the opportunity for the clean energy future and pricing carbon will help us do that.
HOST: The carbon issue though is a big one in your country. There was a quote from you when you took office saying you weren't going to do anything with carbon taxing and that change in policy is part of the reason that support for your party is at a record low, and for the first time your personal approval ratings fell below 50 percent. Why the change of heart? What do you say to people who say, ‘Well, she said she's going to do this and now she's doing that’.
PM: Well, look, I understand this is going to be a big debate. Before the election I did say we needed to price carbon and we've always supported, as a political Party, a cap and trade scheme. We are in a minority government and we need to work with others to get legislation through, and in order to act we've agreed to have a scheme that is fixed price for a period - effectively like a tax - and then going to a full cap-and-trade scheme.
So, yes, that's different than what I said before the election. If I had every choice in the world we would be there going to a full cap-and-trade scheme, but I've seized the opportunities of this parliament to make sure we get carbon pricing done.
HOST: And you're willing to make this your signature issue? You're willing to, ‘my tenure, my career, to stand on this issue of carbon’?
PM: Well, I'd like my tenure, my career, to be remembered for creating an opportunity society in Australia; for making sure that every Australian child gets the chance at a high-quality education and has all of the opportunities that the future should bring that child. Part of those opportunities is going to be a clean energy future.
I can't stand by and have our economy fall behind as the world moves to a cleaner energy future.
HOST: I know you obviously spent a lot of time with the President and many issues came up, I know among them Afghanistan, And you're visiting our country in the midst of history. I mean it's an amazing moment, what we're seeing in the Middle East and the President is considering right now a no-fly zone over Libya.
This is a tough issue - how much it's going to cost, what we would get for it, who's going to be a part of it. You're a crucial ally of the United States. Oil prices matter to Australia as much as anyone else, and I'm curious whether you'd be part of, let's just call it a coalition of the willing if there were to be military involvement in Libya?
PM: Well, I think we are all absolutely revolted by the violence that we're seeing in Libya, and the message to Colonel Gaddafi from the US, from Australia, from the world is it's time to go - to stop this violence and to go.
A no-fly zone is one of the options before the Security Council. We believe it's vital that any action has Security Council support and we will wait to hear from the Security Council. We acted autonomously on sanctions. The Security Council then backed sanctions then.
Clearly further options can be looked at, including a no-fly zone, but this be Security Council-authorized.
HOST: All right, so not going ahead without that. And what about on Afghanistan? I mean, in Afghanistan you've had more troops serving than any other non-NATO country and withdrawal is slated right now for about 2014, although this week Secretary Gates had indicated he might keep some troops in a little bit longer than that. Do you support an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan or are you going to say we're in it until the end, even if the US moves that date?
PM: Well, we're in it to make sure that we are denying Afghanistan as safe haven for terrorists and I've been very clear with the Australian people - we want to transition security leadership to local Afghan forces, but we've got to do that when they can provide security sustainably. We can't transition out early only to have to transition back in later.
It's got to be sustainable, and I said to the Australian people the timetable that President Karzai has announced is 2014, but we should expected to be engaged in Afghanistan in some form to the end of this decade at least.
HOST: And one final topic, one I personally am very curious about and a lot of Americans don't know that Australia has more camels than any other country in the world. Your predecessor, Kevin Rudd, had supported- a lot of these camels obviously are wild and seen as pests by many Australians. He'd supported killing them in aerial culls and some of the pictures that came out from that were rather disturbing. So, I'm wondering whether you support aerial culls of camels or whether you believe this could be an industry for Australia? Some of the numbers we've seen are if you ranched camels the milk market alone could be $10 billion. The milk's good for autistic children or lactose-intolerant people. I know you've got a lot of things to think about, right, but I'm curious what you think about this issue.
PM: Look we need to deal with these issues in the best way. I understand that when culling's necessary people want to see that done humanely, but we are talking about huge amounts of terrain and sometimes a very sizeable problem, so I'm not sure that it's practical to say that that could all be dealt with through farming methods
So, we do have sometimes camels, sometimes wild horses, we have other pests that were introduced when people first came to Australia. Rabbits continue to be a great big problem-
HOST: -Cane toads.
PM: -cane toads. Yeah, you name it, we've got it, but we've also got a lot of wonderful wildlife that people come from around the world to see.
HOST: All right. Well, thank you so much Prime Minister Gillard. Wonderful to see you.
PM: Thank you very much.