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New Kevin Rudd promises to consult


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Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has held off on changes to policy and delayed naming his new Cabinet until Monday.

In an hour-long media conference today the “new” Kevin Rudd promised to work policy discussions through his Cabinet.

He uttered the words “consult with my colleagues” continually as he sought to confirm that he has changed his ways.

The PM wouldn’t be drawn on the carbon tax, changes to asylum seeker policies or the make up of his front bench.

“These things take time,” he said.

His only policy announcement was a name change; the Gonski education reform package will henceforth be known as the national schools improvement plan.

Prime Minister Rudd also extended the deadline for states and territories to sign up to the plan by two weeks.

The original deadline set by former leader Julia Gillard was Sunday, June 30.

Under Rudd it will be around July 14.

“Under my prime ministership we will support the national schools improvement plan for the nation’s schools,” Mr Rudd told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

The plan offers $14.5 billion for public and private schools over six years from 2014.

The Commonwealth will provide 65 per cent, or $9.4 billion, of the total with the states stumping up the rest.

So far only NSW, South Australia and the ACT have signed on.

Rudd now plans to sit down with the premiers of Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, and Northern Territory chief minister Adam Giles.

“I look forward to my discussion when I return to the people’s republic of Queensland to speak to the premier thereof, I’m sure I’ll get a warm reception because all we Queenslanders bond closely particular after a State of Origin win,” he said.

Mr Rudd also flagged further discussions with the Catholic and Independent school sectors.

“What is really important here also is the Catholic scheme, where much progress has been made in negotiations … and the independent schools where frankly there is still a gap between their position and those held by the government,” he said.

He said Australia needs “certainty of future funding, and the parallel guarantee of the improvement of educational outcomes of Australian schools and their kids”.

On the government’s plans to pursue closer ties with business, Mr Rudd said he looked forward to spending time with business leaders and the trade union movement “pretty soon”.

He also planned to speak to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

“I look forward to actually having a civilised policy discussion, even if in private, with the leader of the opposition on some of the big challenges facing the country,” Mr Rudd said.

He again challenged Mr Abbott to a public debate on government debt and deficit at the National Press Club in the next week or so.

Meanwhile, Mr Rudd is still to decide whether to travel to Indonesia next week but does plan to speak to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday afternoon about security issues.

The prime minister again took issues with Mr Abbott’s promise to turn back asylum seeker boats if he wins government, saying it could not be done given Indonesia had said it would not co-operate with such a policy.

“I really wonder if he is trying to risk conflict with Indonesia … there have been some pretty rough times in the relationship, I never want to see that again,” Mr Rudd said.

Rudd said the coalition’s “turn back the boats” policy could have foreign policy implications, if Mr Abbott won the election.

“So what happens on day one when Field Marshall Tony puts out the order to the captain of the naval frigate X to turn back a bunch of boats,” he said.

“And you have got a naval frigate from the Indonesian navy on the other side of the equation?”

Rudd said Mr Abbott was on a “policy collision” with the government of Indonesia.

“I am just putting a spotlight on a direct policy conflict,” he said.

“Mr Abbott seeks to take personal political capital out of a three-line slogan. It has huge foreign policy consequences.”

On the economy, the PM said dealing with the end of the China resources boom was the challenge for rest of this year, and for the next government.

“This will have a dramatic affect on our terms of trade, a dramatic affect on living standards of the country, a dramatic affect also potentially on employment, unless we have an effective counter-strategy,” he said.

But he does believe a lower Australian dollar exchange rate will help to support agricultural, manufacturing and service exports into a “better space” to create new jobs which may be lost in the resources sector.

Asked if he would consider altering Labor’s mining tax, Rudd said “I don’t foreshadow anything dramatic on it.”

He will soon be getting a Treasury briefing on the revenue projects for the tax, which so far have been disappointing.

The prime minister also challenged Abbott on the issue of same-sex marriage, saying the coalition should allow its MPs a conscience vote.

He said if Mr Abbott didn’t agree to this, he would look at other mechanisms, including the possibility of a referendum.

“I would just prefer to have this thing resolved,” he said.

“I think I am now the first prime minister in Australia who is a fully signed up supporter of marriage equality.”

When the same-sex marriage issues was voted on in parliament, coalition MPs were directed to vote along party lines. Labor allowed its members a conscience vote.

On the role of women in politics, Mr Rudd said their participation was absolutely essential.

“Getting more women into parliament is my aspiration…. I want them to have every, every opportunity and support, particularly in full political life,” he added.

There would be a strong team of female ministers in his new cabinet, which will be announced in coming days.

Earlier today, political observers had expected the PM to announce his full cabinet and announce changes to key policies.

But the new Kevin Rudd is in no rush.

So far, Treasurer Chris Bowen has been sworn in to replace Wayne Swan, Anthony Albanese has been named deputy prime minister and Gillard ministers Stephen Smith, Gary Gray, Don Farrell and Penny Wong are staying.

Senator Kim Carr is being tipped for a mega-portfolio taking in industry, climate change and research, and the other winners may include Jason Clare, Senator Jacinta Collins, Richard Marles, Joel Fitzgibbon, Ed Husic, Yvette D’Ath and Shayne Neumann.

Rudd deflected questions on the election date.

“The Australian people deserve better. They deserve stable, competent government, and they deserve to know when the election will be,” she said.

– with AAP

 Did South Australian Senator Don Farrell let slip the election date? Read our exclusive story.


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