20 minutes with Julia Gillard
TMB: The cost of living is rising faster than wages and the pension. How will the mining tax and RIF help the pensioners and ordinary people who can't afford to pay rent?
PM: What we are saying to mining communities, like this one, is "we get it''.
Mining is bringing you opportunities perhaps in the dimensions that you had not dreamt about before.
What is happening in Gladstone and Mackay for example, people would not have envisaged the rapid growth that is bringing you opportunities but also stresses and strains, too. So that (the RIF) is our recognition of these issues and problems and our preparedness to work with communities.
We understand people need cost of living relief. The mining tax is (also) going in part to increase family payments (families with children from July 1, 2013).
In the meantime, separately, the school kids' bonus associated with carbon pricing and family payments and tax cuts.
TMB: But I get the feeling it's getting worse, not better, for those living on struggle street. Even with these bits and pieces coming in, there is nothing you can do to address double-digit rises in power, housing, health, transport costs.
PM: You have to unpack it a piece at a time.
The huge increases people have seen in electricity bills are state government issues (caused) by investment in electricity infrastructure to the extent that people (now) see a price rise because of carbon prices.
We know what it (carbon impact) will be.
It will be 10% and we have given the tax cuts and pension increases and family payment increases to assist people and we know these people you are concerned about, the people on struggle street, they will be among the six million people that come out square or better off as a result of what we have done with carbon pricing.
As a government we are working to assist people with cost of living increase.
TMB: Can you do anything to assist people working in essential services - such as police, ambos, paramedics - in towns like Blackwater, and Moranbah where teachers are being driven away because they can't afford $1000 a week in rent?
PM: I understand that for people who are on incomes that don't rise with the mining boom, like police officers, making your way in these boom time communities can be really tough.
But that is a challenge for us and the State Government, who bear the brunt of responsibilities to make sure that those communities still have police officers and teachers working in state government-funded systems.
This is part of the patchwork pressures in our economy and we are trying in our policies to get a greater degree of understanding of the difficulties being felt in different parts of the nation and the different pressures there.
There are no simple answers to all of this.
We can do some things to help with the pressure of growth and that is about keeping infrastructure up (RIF) and things like helping with housing.
That's why we had the Building Better Regional Cities program at the last election. We've been implementing that to increase housing in communities that are going through a lot of growth.
The National Rental Affordability scheme, where people on fixed or limited incomes are going it very tough. Our social housing investment has also been at record levels.
TMB: I'd like to thank you on behalf of the Rockhampton region, for introducing the Better Futures, Local Solutions (social welfare programs to assisting disadvantaged people) and I recognise the role Kirsten Livermore played in achieving this. It's been a great initiative to date, despite some opposition to the income management program.
KL: I have told the PM that we (the Morning Bulletin and Ms Livermore) have been on a joint campaign (Ms Livermore used the Bully's Our Kids in Crisis campaign to lobby for the program) .
PM: This is about giving people a better life.
It's a revolution in how we conceptualise welfare and it's about giving people new opportunities and a new life. It has been controversial in some parts of the country.
KL: We're lucky here. It's big change on how Centrelink operates. They have stepped up to the challenge, finding ways to collaborate and cooperate and really get on board with what is being asked of them to make it a success.
TMB: One of the recent revelations for this city has been the arrival of hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers.
KL: That's a great success story, isn't it?
There is going to be a launch of a book on all of that shortly, I believe.
(Minister for Immigration) Chris Bowen is all over it and sees Rockhampton as a real shining light. It's because the meatworks are employing them in their hundreds. The word is getting out that there are jobs and opportunities for them here, and so is a welcoming community.
PM: That's great.
KL: This is something that is going to get much more focus and a higher profile with the release, launch of a book telling of their experiences.
For more on the interview, see the print edition of The Weekend Bulletin