Saturday, August 3, 2013

Rudd says no decision on election date, adds Nauru to asylum solution - The Australian

PM Kevin Rudd says hasn't decided on an election date and that the government has 'things to attend to yet'.

A photo provided by the Immigration Department of some of the $60m worth of damage caused by a riot at existing refugee processing facilities on Nauru last month. Source: Getty Images

KEVIN Rudd said today he had made "no determination whatsoever'' on the date of the election, citing unfinished negotiations with the states on his school and disability reforms.

Addressing election speculation, the Prime Minister said he had been "busy in the business of government", which included finalising negotiations with Nauru over a revamped asylum-seeker deal.

And he reiterated that it was his intention to attend the G20 in St Petersburg, Russia, on September 5-6.

"The G20 is a critical institution. In fact I have just come from a conversation with the Prime Minister of India on the telephone about the agenda of the G20," Mr Rudd said in Brisbane.

"It is my intention to be in St Petersburg but I'm very mindful also of the other challenges which lie ahead of us as well."

Mr Rudd said Labor was also continuing discussions with Victoria aimed at convincing the hold-out state to sign up to federal Labor's Better Schools agreement. Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia have so far refused to sign up to the plan.

"We thought we had an agreement in recent days. Now they seem to be playing politics with Tony Abbott and not willing to agree,'' he said.

Earlier today  Education Minister Bill Shorten claimed that Victorian Premier Denis Napthine was trying to delay the federal election by postponing a decision on the schools funding agreement. A spokesman for the Victorian government declined to respond to Mr Shorten's comments, other than to say that discussions were ongoing.

The Prime Minister said today that, in addition, he was negotiating with Western Australia and "seeking to reach a landing point with them'' on agreeing to take part in DisabilityCare, previously known as the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

NSW and federal Labor were also discussing environmental assessment procedures, Mr Rudd said.

"Now these three negotiations haven't reached conclusion yet so we have a few things to attend to yet, and so therefore on your question, I've made no determination whatsoever in terms of the date of an election," he said.

There were reports today that the Prime Minister was set to send the nation to the polls on September 7.

Instead, he used a press conference in Brisbane to reveal a new deal with the President of the Republic of Nauru Baron Waqa that, like Australia's recent deal with Papua New Guinea, would deny boatpeople the chance to be resettled in Australia.

Under the agreement it will now be possible for asylum-seekers to not only be processed in Nauru, but also be settled there.

"No matter where people-smugglers try to land asylum-seekers by boat in Australia, they will not be settled in Australia,'' Mr Rudd said. "This is our core principle, this is our core unshakable position''.

It was revealed yesterday that Labor's policy of sending boatpeople to Papua New Guinea would cost $1.1 billion. Under the PNG plan, asylum-seekers who arrive by boat will be told they have no chance of resettlement in Australia.

With yesterday's economic update, Labor has attempted to frame the economic debate during the election campaign as a re-run of Mr Rudd's success in shielding Australian from the global financial crisis.

Labor has argued that deep budget cuts now when terms of trade and revenue have plummeted - causing a $33.3 billion revenue writedown - would cause further harm to jobs and growth.

Speaking today about the G20 gathering, Mr Rudd said that the agenda was "full and important for all of us".

"It's about jobs and growth. We, in Australia, have been strong participants in its agenda since I attended the first G20 summit as Prime Minister back in 2008.''

Mr Rudd said the G20 leaders' summit had stabilised the global financial crisis and Australia was the next G20 host in Brisbane next year.

"I place enormous priority to the G20 and its agenda. At the same time I will always balance that against other considerations before us as well.  As I said, no decisions concerning election dates have been made,'' he said.

Additional reporting: AAP
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