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(generated from captions) five years now. Some observers

believe the Burmese military is

trying to silence the

63-year-old ahead of next

year's general election. The

latest Fairfax Nielsen poll

shows very good news for the

opposition. Senator Eric Abetz

is the deputy opposition Senate

Leader and he joins us now from Hobart. Good morning. Good

morning to you. You must be

very pleased to have a look at

the Fairfax Nielsen poll today,

which shows that we've got, I

think, the opposition now and

the Labor Party just 1 point

difference now when it comes to

the primary vote? As a rule, I

don't comment on opinion polls.

Suffice to say that the figures

seem to be going in the right

direction. They certainly are.

Is it an unexpected jump or did

you think you might get a kick

like this after the Budget

announcement? Can I say to

you, Virginia, it's not about

us. It's about what is

happening to the Australian

people and the Australian

economy. And if it's starting

to register with the Australian

people that the Budget is going

to put a debt on future

generations, and that's plural,

generations, of Australians,

then it's a heartening thing

for the opposition because that

is why we voted against the

first stimulus package, because

we believe that this reckless

spending is going to do untold

damage for future generations

of Australians. When it comes

to rating the Opposition

Leader's performance though,

figures there unchanged, 47 before, 47 now and preferred

Prime Minister, a bit of a jump

from 24 to 28. Does this get a

hoodoo off the back of Malcolm

Turnbull when it comes to constantly scrutinising his performance? Malcolm Turnbull

made it perfectly clear that he

had taken a very unpopular decision in relation to voting

against the stimulus package.

We were willing to wear the

short-term pain of that

decision, believing that the

Australian people would come

around to our point of view,

that the overwhelming damage

that's going to be done for

future years by this reckless

cash splash would register, and

I believe it is starting to

register and I think that's why

we may be seeing some of the

changes in the opinion poll

figures, but let's not

speculate on that. Suffice to

say that I think Malcolm

Turnbull and the opposition

messages are getting through,

and the figures are moving in

the right direction. Just a

final observation on the

opinion polls before we move on

- we are going to hear from

Peter Costello this morning, he

will appear on a radio station

and no doubt he will be asked

about these figures and just

what he will choose to do,

whether he will renominate for

his seat of Higgins or not. Do

you think figures like this

finally put to rest the endless speculation about whether he is

interested in getting the

leadership shop? -- job? Peter Costello is a good

fantastic contribution for the friend of minl. He's made a

Australian political scene. I

for one would like to see him

continue in the Australian political scene because I think

he has a lot to offer but in relation to leadership speculation - Peter Costello

has not offered himself and

Malcolm Turnbull is well and

truly secure in the

leadership. But in wanting to

see him stay on over the years,

over the time, could that

include a position or a stint

as being leader of your party?

The important thing is for us

to win the next election to

ensure that the economic damage

that's being done by this

reckless Rudd/Swan team is stop

and we are focused to ensure

that Malcolm Turnbull becomes

the next Prime Minister, to

stop this reckless damaging of

our economy. What happens in

the future, I'm not going to

speculate on. Speaking of

reckless damage - the Treasury

doesn't seem to have a very

high regard for the proposal

that was made by Malcolm

Turnbull last week, that is, in

relation to lifting the excise

on cigarettes in order to

overturn the idea that's been

proposed by the government in

relation to the private health

rebate. A $3 billion hole

figures. What's your response according to the Treasury'

to that? Well, it's a quite bizarre proposition. Wayne Swan

talks about a $1.9 billion

saving. That is all. And then

they get Treasury to spin out

the figures for a decade and

then somehow come up with a $3

billion figure. The figures we

were dealing with were those

provided, we have offset that

$1.9 billion and that will be

revenue neutral up until as I

understand it, 2014 or thereabouts. Figures thereafter, with great respect to Treasury and this

government, they don't get the figures right from week to

week, month to month, let alone

trying to spin it out past five

years. This is a desperate

attempt by Wayne Swan to damage

our economic credibility and

the simple issue is that

private health insurance is in

fact a savings measure because

for every dollar we put into

private health insurance we

save about 2 or $3 that would

otherwise be required for the

public hospital system. This is

not about favouring people with

private health insurance; it's about favouring people that

should not be pushed off the

public hospital waiting list,

and that is what the

consequences will be of the

Rudd Government's decision in

relation to private health

insurance. So are you saying

that Treasury is not to be

believed, that Treasury's been

politicised by the government?

Well, clearly, the government

has asked Treasury to try to

spin something. By that, do you

mean asked them to misrepresent

figures? Is Treasury not to be

believed? No what I'm talking

about is spinning it out until

past 2014. So the Budget figure

of $1.9 billion of alleged

savings didn't go for 10 years.

What we did in response didn't

go for 10 years either, and now

Wayne Swan is saying because we

haven't looked at it for 10

years into the future, we are

somehow bad managers. Well,

that wasn't the parameter in

which Wayne Swan ... But you do need to anticipate that people up smoking and then continuing

to do that, the numbers have

been declining thankfully over

many years now, so it's simply

taking that into account, isn't

it? Oh well the Budget figures

talked about private health

insurance over the Budget

cycle. So that is a quite

unfair and quite frankly

disingenuous by Rudd and Swan.

Fact that they're doing it I

think indicated we've hit a

real nerve on this one and

they're now scrambling around

for an argument and the

argument now is that they said

a saving of $1.9 billion, yet

if you believe their spin, it

would be $3 billion. Well, the

figures simply don't add up,

and the reason is they haven't

compared apples with apples and

they're scrambling round for

any excuse not to support what

I thought was a very reasonable

and sensible initiative by

Malcolm Turnbull in his Budget

response. Eric Abetz, good to