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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts

Eminent Australians Program, Tony Abbott, Sister Mary MacKillop

E&OE transcript
Doorstop interview
Eminent Australians Program
Sister Mary Mackillop Place
North Sydney
30 June 2010

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GARRETT: It's good to provide some support for the memories of our eminent Australians, whether they're motivated by religious belief, by political conviction, by social issues and social justice issues. It's a good opportunity to provide some support for those memorials that commemorate the lives that they lived. And so it is beaut to be here at Mary MacKillop Place to make these announcements today, and particularly acknowledging that the imminent canonisation of Sister Mary MacKillop will provide an incredible focus on her activities and the work that she did.

But today's announcements are also about recognising that our eminent Australians, when they are laid to rest, we can look after and provide some assistance for the memorials that acknowledge the actual activities and the record of their lives lived in the national interest.

So I really do want to thank the Sisters here for hosting us, wish them all the best in the next 109 days of their preparations for the incredible activities that will be taking place on the canonisation of Sister Mary MacKillop, but also acknowledging those other communities that have memorials in their areas recognising the contributions of Australians. Whether it's Les Darcy, Ben Chifley - these are household names in Australia. Today's announcement provides some support for those memorials to those Australians who very much shaped our understanding of our history and our lives today.

QUESTION: 109 days Minister, we'll see an election well within that won't we?

GARRETT: Well look Geoff, I am not going to start speculating about election dates. The Prime Minister has made it clear that there will be an election this year. It's up to her to make a call on what day that will be.

In the meantime we'll just focus on getting on with the job at hand going out there and doing the sort of work that I think governments should do.

QUESTION: What are the people in your electorate saying, what do they say on the change of the leader?

GARRETT: We've had a very positive response to the Prime Minister taking up that position following the decision of the Caucus. I think that the key thing here is a recognition that she will provide a very strong focus on what we want to do, what we want to communicate to people over the coming months. And, a great deal of excitement and about what lies ahead.

QUESTION: There was a Cabinet meeting yesterday, is the Cabinet now operating in a more inclusive way?

GARRETT: Look we had a good long Cabinet meeting yesterday. It was a very constructive meeting. I think there was a sense that we'll continue to focus on the work that we want to do, recognising that there are significant risks for Australians if Tony Abbott were to come into the position of Prime Minister.

We think that the commitments that have been made; the commitments on health, the provision of additional hospital capacity, the provision of additional training places for nurses and for GPs. The delivery of services that has been a hallmark of Labor governments, and will continue to be a strong focus for us, is something that which is really at risk if Mr Abbott should become Prime Minister, and the Cabinet was very clear as we were discussing and planning that Mr Abbott as Prime Minister presents a very real risk to the delivery of those services to Australians.

QUESTION: Did the meeting operate differently though to how Cabinet meetings did under Kevin Rudd?

GARRETT: Look I don't propose to go into the details of how Cabinet meetings are conducted one way or the other, all I can say is that it was a good constructive Cabinet meeting.

QUESTION: Minister Garrett does Mary MacKillop hold any special significance for you?

GARRETT: Well I think the thing about Sister Mary MacKillop's story is that it is a very inspiring one, and I think it inspires Australians regardless of their religious beliefs or backgrounds, she speaks to all Australians. And so she certainly speaks loudly to me as well.

And I am absolutely pleased that we are here in Mary MacKillop Place, had an opportunity to see some of the museum displays here, and recognise that this was somebody who lived a humble life, totally committed and dedicated through her own religious convictions to assisting and helping a lot of Australians, particularly younger Australians who were struggling in the circumstances they faced at the time.

Thanks everybody.

[ENDS]

Commonwealth of Australia