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Transcript of joint press conference: Canberra: 21 March 2013: Labor leadership
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WARRINGAH
21 March 2013
TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH THE HON WARREN TRUSS MHR, LEADER OF THE NATIONAL PARTY & THE HON JULIE BISHOP MHR, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY,
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
Thanks everyone for coming but what I want to do for a few moments is to talk directly to the Australian people after what has been a remarkable, even bizarre day in the life of this Parliament.
I want to reassure people that it doesn't have to be this way. It doesn't have to be as bad as this. We are a great people. We are a great country. We are currently let down by a bad government getting worse but that will change. I want to say to the Australian people that you deserve a government that is focused on you, not on itself. You deserve a government which is focused on the national interest not on its own survival.
I want to reassure the Australian people that the Coalition is ready. We are ready. We do have real solutions, we do have positive plans, we do have a good team and we stand ready to deliver these positive plans as soon as we can. Now, regrettably the message that the people of Australia has received from this government is that Australia has received this government is that nothing is resolved, the civil war goes on. The civil war will continue as long as Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard are in the Parliament. The only way to give our country the good government that we so badly need right now at a difficult time in the life of our nation is to have an election. We cannot wait till September the 14th. If the Prime Minister was concerned about the party, if she was concerned about the country, if she was less concerned about herself and her own survival, there would be an election now.
Mr Abbott, do you think the independents should withdraw their support? The justification they gave was stable government.
It's interesting that when we did move no confidence in the Prime Minister today, she only survived on a technicality. The vote was 73-71 in favour of the suspension. Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, to their credit, did vote for the suspension and it's pretty obvious that when you've lost the support of Simon Crean, when you've lost the support of Richard Marles, when you never had the support of Kevin Rudd and all of
the people who back him and now the support of people who put you into government and kept you in government is wavering, you don't deserve to stay in the top job.
Mr Abbott, are you or others on your behalf talking to the independents, the crossbenchers about the future?
We've just had a very big day and obviously some of the key crossbenchers, Andrew Wilkie, Robert Oakeshott, Tony Windsor voted with us in the Parliament in support of a motion of no confidence. Now, obviously we will keep talking to them but my message to the Australian people today is that minority government is an experiment that's failed. This Parliament has long outlived its usefulness. The only way to get the strong and stable government that the Australian people want and deserve is to have an election.
Do you think an election should be held earlier than September 14 and what can you do to bring it on earlier?
I think the Australian people watching today's events would be saying to themselves, how long must this circus last? Now, it’s pretty obvious that while this Parliament lasts and while Prime Minister Gillard and would-be Prime Minister Rudd are at each other's throats, the circus will continue. The civil war will go on. And the government, in the words of Simon Crean today, will be deadlocked and stalemated. That's just not good enough. We've got budget deficits stretching out as far as the eye can see and instead of being focused on the budget, the government is focused on itself. It's focused on its own survival.
Does this seal your election victory?
This isn't about me and in the end it's not even about the Coalition and I think that's the problem. As far as Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd are concerned, it's all about them. It's all about their success. Well, frankly, this should be about the people's success and the only way the Australian people are going to flourish and prosper as they should is if there is a strong and stable government and that's impossible with the Labor Party as it's currently constituted.
Mr Abbott, isn't it true that independents only voted for a suspension motion, that didn’t get to a no-confidence motion, therefore the Parliament does have confidence in the Prime Minister?
Plainly the independents refused to support the Prime Minister's media legislation, notwithstanding the fact that the Prime Minister had really staked her political life on this, the fact that they weren't prepared to support the media legislation in the Parliament this week, the fact that it had to be humiliatingly pulled from the Parliament this week shows that at the very least they are wavering in their support.
You just said that minority government is an experiment that’s failed. Does that mean you would rule out talking to the independents about supporting you in minority government now before the election?
My point is that the current situation cannot last. As I said in the Parliament today, a house divided against itself cannot stand and that is plainly the case with the Labor Party. That is plainly the case with the current government.
Now, I think it's high time that the Australian people had a chance to choose the Prime Minister and the government. We've let the faceless men have a few goes at it now and plainly every time they've got it wrong. It's time for the people to have their go and that means an election.
Mr Truss, are you embarrassed by the debacle of the preselection in New England and would you welcome Senator Barnaby Joyce standing in New England against Tony Windsor?
Naturally I'm disappointed at the turn of events in New England. The party has now called nominations for a new candidate. We are proceeding with the process of making that selection just as quickly as we possibly can. Barnaby Joyce has indicated that he will be one of the candidates. There are a number of other people who’ve also expressed an interest. That guarantees that we will have a really good quality candidate in New England and we’re looking forward to taking the fight up to Mr Windsor in that electorate so that the people of New England will have a voice in an incoming Coalition government.
That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for Barnaby Joyce though.
Well I’m happy to ring the bells if you would like that as well. Barnaby Joyce has done a wonderful job in the Senate. He’s played an important role in this Parliament and in the Coalition and I’m sure that if he comes into the Lower House he will also make a very useful and very worthwhile contribution.
Mr Abbott, just to follow up on the point before, if there was a vote of no-confidence, if you could win that vote on the floor of the House, the crossbenchers withdrew their support for Julia Gillard’s government, would you then proceed immediately, seek to proceed immediately to an election? Is that what would happen? You wouldn’t seek to govern in minority?
Well, as I said, minority government is an experiment that’s failed. What the Australian public need right now, deserve right now, is a strong and stable government and we stand ready to deliver that. We have our Real Solutions Plan and what we say we will do we will do. But it’s high time that we took the Prime Ministership out of the back room and put it into the full light of day. When we took the Prime Ministership out of the kind of behind closed doors, smoke-filled room, negotiations that we’ve seen constantly over the last two and a half years and gave it to the Australian people to decide in the clear light of day.
The Prime Minister was elected unopposed. Why can’t she now move on?
I think it’s pretty clear that today solves absolutely nothing. The civil war goes on. Kevin Rudd is stalking Julia Gillard. If there’s a change, Julia Gillard will stalk Kevin Rudd. It’s absolutely obvious that we have seen a stand-off, not a resolution.