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This program is captioned live.

Meet the Press with Bill Woods.

the Press. Good morning, and welcome to Meet

Well, it was another woeful week in

the polls for the Opposition,

Malcolm Turnbull hitting a record

low as the preferred prime minister.

He trails Kevin Rudd by 50 points.

But that didn't stop senior Liberal

Tony Abbott from having a spring in

his step when launching his book,

'Battlelines'. The veteran Polly's

put forward some radical reforms,

including raising the pension age

to 70, tougher divorce laws and

revisiting WorkChoices. So there

are some big changes that I am

canvasing in this book. In my view,

though, these changes fully accord

with what might be described as

mainstream Australian values.

The Government sees Mr Abbott's The Government sees Mr Abbott's

book as a clear tilt at the

leadership. A notable absentee from

the launch was Malcolm Turnbull.

Yes, you know, I couldn't get to it.

I was actually launching a

mentoring program with Anglicare.

Tony Abbott's out of the blocks.

The man of the moment, Tony Abbott,

is our guest today.

And later - ministers making

headlines for all the wrong reasons

at the ALP conference. Political

analyst Bruce Hawker will join us

too. But first what's making news

in the nation's papers on this

Sunday, August 2.

'wedding miss' is the line in the

Sydney 'Sun Herald', gay Labor

activists yesterday lost their

battle at the party's national

conference to have same-sex

marriage recognised in law.

'sea it flood Sydney' reports the

'Sunday Telegraph'. A new

Government report claims dead

turtles on the Barrier Reef and

waves lapping at the steps of the

Sydney Opera House could be a

reality by 2030. 'China steps up

Film Festival row', the line in the

Melbourne 'Age'. A diplomatic row

between Australia and China over

the planned visit of exiled Uighur

leader Rebiya Kadeer has escalated

with Australia's ambassador called

to a dressing-down by China's

Foreign Minister.

The 'Herald Sun' says John Howard

is costing taxpayers more in

retirement than he did while he was

running the country, allegedly

racking up a million-dollar bill

during his first year of retirement.

For now, good morning and welcome

to the program, our special guest

Tony Abbott. Thanks for joining us.

Nice to be here, Bill. Well, you

launched this book a few days ago.

What is this book to the Liberal

Party? What is it saying? This book

is an attempt to set out a possible

way forward. 7 I think that it's my

take on how we can address the

governance crisis afflicting our

great service institutions.

The demographic time bomb that is

going to cause just too many older

people to - for a sustainable

economy - and of course the

dysfunctional federation. So, um,

what I've got in this book is my

attempt to come to grips with these

issues and I think that the ideas

that I put forward are credible,

feasible and fully in accordance

with mainstream Australian values.

Peter Costello's announced his

retirement. He'll be out of the

picture very soon in terms of one picture very soon in terms of one

of the key Liberal generals. Has

that changed how you view your role

in the party? And how does that

relate to your manifesto? Well,

Bill, look - I've been in the

Parliament now for 15 years. I

served as a minister for fine years

in the Howard Government. I think

that when you get to that stage of

politics, you think, "What is the -

- you think what is the mark that

you would like to make and that's

what I've tried to do in this book,

to talk about the big issues, the real problems and potential solutions.

You do, of course, show a lot of

respect, and rightly so, for John

Howard's era, and pragmatic

politics. Or are you having two bob

each way when it comes to issues

like ETS, where you don't wish to

oppose it in the next vote but you

are a sceptic of global warming.

WorkChoices, you acknowledged it

was a policy in search of a reason,

but at the same time you do want to

revisit that, at least with

sympathy to small business. Are you sympathy to small business. Are you

having two bob each way with this?

Well, Bill, we can't ignore the

real issues. We've got to deal with

them. We've also got to be

realistic. And so there are some

grounds on which I would choose to

fight first but one thing that I

don't believe politicians should

deal in is the kind of dull,

deadening jargon which we

constantly get from the Prime

Minister, the avoidance of the the

real issues and the failure to take

tough decisions. Are you trying on

behalf of the Liberal Party to

recapture the middle ground, which

it seems the ALP has successfully

covered at the moment? Well, I

think the only reason why the ALP

are riding as high in the polls as

they are is because Kevin Rudd is buying popularity. What's happened,

Bill, is that he is spending the

inheritance that he got from John

Howard and Peter Costello. He's

like the guy in the pub handing out

the 50-dollar bills to every

drinker and of course, while the

money lasts, he's going to be

popular. One of the reasons why I

think Kevin Rudd is eager to move

to an election before next year's

budget is because next year's

budget is when the chickens are

going to come home to roost. Well,

I'll ask you about what your

colleagues of this book in a moment.

As you've openly admitted it does

propose some fairly radical shake-

ups to current Coalition policy.

The Government hasn't missed the

chance to pounce on some of those

suggestions. Here's what Jenny

Macklin had to say. Tony Abbott's

call to increase the aged pension

age to 70 is yet another challenge age to 70 is yet another challenge

to Malcolm Turnbull's leadership.

Malcolm Turnbull needs to make it

absolutely clear, is this now

Liberal Party policy. What does Mr

Turnbull - indeed, your colleagues

- think about the book? Well, you

know, this is my book. It's not

Liberal Party policy. Obviously,

there are ideas here that my party

might choose to adopt. But let me

say this, Bill - the Labor

Government sprung pension age

increases on people. It didn't have

the honesty to talk about this

before the election. It just

presented it as a done deal. Now, I

don't think that's fair. I don't

think it's decent. I don't think

it's honest and at least I'm

prepared to talk about these things.

You do remind us of course, it is

your book. It's not on behalf of

the Liberal Party. But of course,

the timing is such that, with

Malcolm Turnbull at an all-time low

in the popularity polls, it looks

like a pitch for the leadership.

You must acknowledge that. Look,

it's not a job application, because it's not a job application, because

we have a leader. Well, we'll take

a break now. We'll return with

today's panel of course and

continue this discussion. Thousands

of Australians die every year due

to errors in our hospital system

and the Government says it's the

Coalition's fault. We'll be talking

about that and a few other issues

with Tony Abbott when we come back.

In the meantime, it's no surprise

the joke of the week goes to

MrAbility. The conservative

Catholic openly conceding his

initial plan to become a priest was

destined for failure. Some of the

people who've helped me through

tough times, like Josephine Ul, who

was my celibacy adviser when I was

a pastoral assistant out at the Emu

Plains parish. Um, thank you for

the advice, Jo. (LAUGHTER)

You're on Meet the Press. Our guest

today is Tony Abbott. And welcome today is Tony Abbott. And welcome

to our panel today, Mark Kenny from

the Adelaide 'Advertiser' and the

'Financial Review's Toohey too.

Thanks for joining us. Morning,

Bill. Well, the Health and Hospital

Commission delivered a critical

prognosis for our public health

system this week, reporting almost

5,000 Australians are dying every

year due to preventable errors in

our hospitals. Kevin Rudd and his

Health Minister are visiting

hospitals across the country and

promising to fix the system.

People care very deeply about

Medicare, about hospitals and the

health system, which is why they

are upset to see it so under stress,

something that the previous

government chose to ignore. That's

why we went to the last election

with a commitment to the Australian

community. You support the

Commonwealth taking over public

hospitals from the States. The

Commonwealth used to run

repatriation hospitals and did such

a dreadful job they had to give

them back to the States. Why do you

think it will be any different this

time? Well, they actually gave some time? Well, they actually gave some

of the repatriation hospitals to of the repatriation hospitals to

the private sector. Yes, yes. And

those ones are doing extremely well.

And if the Commonwealth did run

hospitals, it wouldn't run them

with public servants the way the

States do, it would devolve the

management to community groups, to

the private sector, the way it runs

the Job Network, the way it runs

nursing homes. Everything the

Commonwealth does, Brian, all the

services the Commonwealth deliver

are delivered through private

sector, charitable and community

groups and that's why, generally speaking, Commonwealth services

work much better than State

services. But the conservatives in

this country have long held to the

principle that you shouldn't

centralise power in Canberra, that

government should be as close to

the people as possible. I mean, why

do you want to change that?

Precisely because the Commonwealth

has a long tradition in this

country, under both Liberal and

Labor governments, of devolving

service delivery to the people. So

if you want service delivery close

to the people, the Commonwealth is

more likely to give it to you than

the States. I mean compare the way

the Commonwealth runs its part of

the health system, um, by funding private doctors, private

institutions and so on, with the

way the States run their part of

the health system which is through

giant top-down bureaucracies. Sorry,

can I just be clear on that -

you're not just advocating that the

Commonwealth not just take over the

hospital system but also that it be,

in some elements, privatised? Well,

it's got to be given back to the

people. We need power to the people

here, Mark, and that's why the most

important thing that we could do

for public hospitals would be to establish local public hospital

boards with real authorities to

appoint the CEO and with the CEO

set the hospital budget and to keep

any private income or donation

income that they get, without

having a reduction in their

government, in their government

funding. But doesn't that just

reduce, in a sense, accountability?

At the moment State governments are

elected. These boards would be

presumably appointed by the Federal

Government, the minister or someone,

and then they would appoint CEOs.

Doesn't that remove delivery of

health services one step further

from people? The trouble at the

moment in our public hospital

testimony is that no-one is really

in charge. I mean local administrators are frightened to

make a decision, can't make a

decision without referring it to

the director-general or the

minister's office. In the end, when

things go wrong, the State

ministers blame the federal

government. The federal government

has no direct authorities over

public hospitals. It is a dog's

breakfast of divided responsibility.

It's got to end and that's why I

say we need local hospital boards

by, more importantly and more

generally, we actually need to give

the national government the same

authority over the States that it's

long had over the Territories. We

need a clear hierarchy of

governance in this country. Frankly,

we are a nation today. We are not

just a collection of States and our

constitutional arrangements should

reflect that. But you say this

would give power to the people and

the local hospital boards would

control the budget. But they aren't

really. The budget would depend for

each hospital on how much money

someone in Canberra would give them.

Canberra would make that decision.

Canberra would make that decision

about government funding - For

individual hospitals - Canberra

would decide what funding from the

government these institutions would

get. There may well be flexible

funding mechanisms from the

government as well. I mean Medicare

is a flexible funding institution.

But additional money that you might

get from private patients or

donations you would keep. At the

moment in NSW, if a public hospital

makes private income from private

patients, it gets taken off their

government budget and as we've discovered with Westmead hospital,

-- Westmead Hospital, where the

chairman of the board resigned, if

you get private income from

donations, that might be ripped off

by the State Government to -- State

government to fund recurrent

expenses like salaries. Can I turn

now to the Emissions Trading Scheme

- your intervention a couple of

weeks ago to support Malcolm

Turnbull. His push to in fact have

the party, the Opposition support

the Government's bills this year,

subject to those nine conditions he

talked about. Your intervention was

quite critical. It helped him get

the support of the frontbench and

that's where you now stand.

Literally we found out a few days

later that the majority of people

favour waiting until after

Copenhagen. Have you sort of led

Malcolm Turnbull to the wrong side

of the... Well, the important thing

is for the leader to have the

tactical flexibility that he needs

to respond to this rapidly evolving

issue. Now, um, I am dubious about

the so-called climate change

science and I suspect that we can

do a lot better than an ETS. But

our position is to try to make the

Government's bad ETS better and

Malcolm needs - and as far as I'm

concerned will always have - the

flexibility to respond

appropriately. But that flexibility

is really just playing out in the

electorate as confusion, is it not?

I mean we see that Malcolm

Turnbull's numbers now are

disastrously low. Can he unite the

party? And is there a way forward,

really, out of this? Well, look,

the polls of the Opposition leader

in the end are the inverse of the

polls of the Prime Minister. That's

the way it nearly always works. And

as I said, Kevin Rudd is buying

popularity with borrowed money. He

still hasn't made a tough decision.

He is so anxious about his

popularity - I mean, his popularity

has paralysed him. He can't make a

tough decision for fear of losing

his precious popularity. Well, in

recent weeks, of corks Mr Abbott

has spoken quite fondly of Malcolm

Turnbull, defending him throughout

the Utegate scandal and the never-

ending trail of disappointing polls.

But one political analyst seems to

think that you're up to something

more sinister, Mr Abtd. On the one hand, he's offering unconditional support for Malcolm Turnbull. He

wants to be seen to be loyal to him.

But he's make a long-term

leadership play and that long-term

play - this book is part of that.

He doesn't want to be leader ahead

of the next election, possibly not

immediately after it. But he's

trying to rebuild himself slowly,

almost the way John Howard did

during the early 1990s. You want to

put the qualifying age for the aged

pension up to 70, but what's gained

by doing that if you can still

retire at age 55 on a

superannuation pension which has a

very, very high cost to the budget?

Why not bring the two qualifying

ages, for super and the aged

pension into line? Well, look, I

know the point you're driving at,

Brian, and it's not an unreasonable

point. I would just make the

distinction between superannuation,

which is largely funded by the

retiree, and the aged pension,

which is wholly funded by the taxpayer.

We do have this demographic time

bomb. We can't have a sustainable

situation where you've only got 2.5

workers for each retiree, which is

what we'll have under current

trends in 2050. We need more kids,

which is why I they we need a

universal family payment. We need

to have people working. We need

people's productive lives extended.

And let's face it, when the pension

age was set at 55, people's life

expectancy was below 60. Today it's

over 80. There's no reason why

people can't be contributing

economically for longer. We're

almost out of time. One quick

question we must ask you on the ALP

conference, Mr Abbott. Your views

on Kevin Rudd's apparent

suppression of restless hordes

within the ALP. There have been a

few protests and statements and

what not. It appears he has a

strong grip on thongs at the moment.

Has this been an advantage for the

Liberal Party or not? It's been a

conference on Mogadon. In the end,

this is bad for policy. I mean

debate is a good thing. It is a debate is a good thing. It is a

sign of life, not division. There

is no life in modern Labor. Tony

Abbott, thank you very much for

your time. We wish we had more but

such it is on Meet the Press. After

the break, Labor is on the back

foot over their key party

conference announcement - that

thousands of new green jobs will be

coming soon but the details are

sketchy. Bruce Hawker joins us to

talk about that and other things.

Our ka cartoon of the week goes to

Wilcox in the 'Sydney Morning

Herald'. Can Kevin Rudd deliver on health

Welcome back to Meet the Press.

Angry protests made for some

tumultuous scenes outside this

week's ALP conference. Gay rights

lobbies, climate change activists

and angry unions were peppering

Labor with a range of demands and

if the demonstrators didn't ruffle

feathers inside, Employment

Minister Mark Arbib may have,

stealing the spotlight with a bit

of a fumble over the Government's

key announcement of 50,000 new

green jobs. In terms of the program,

I don't have all the details -

You're the minister, though. Well,

I am but I don't have all the

details today for you, mate - Well,

why not? It's just been announced

by the Prime Minister at the Labor

conference. It's the set piece

announcement of the day. Well, to

delve deeper on this, we're joined

by Labor adviser Bruce Hawker from

Hawker Britton kfpltd one of the

nicknames of the Prime Minister is

Kevin 24/7 because he allegedly

sleeps very little and works very

hard. Is he really in total control

of everything in the party at the

moment? Oh, no-one's in total

control but I think he does drive

the agenda very forcefully and it

largely comes from his office. That

doesn't mean that all the ministers

aren't signed up to the Rudd agenda.

I think they are. We saw that on

display on the weekend. But he is a

leader who leads from the front, no

doubt about that. Bruce, what was

the point of the Labor Party

conference? Was this just an

elaborate fundraiser? Does it have

any actual particular role while any actual particular role while

Labor's in government? Of course it

does. They have to debate serious

policy issues and there were

serious policy debates taking place

during the conference. I think it's

a sign, though, of the consensus

that is driving the party these

days that a lot of the tough

decisions were being nutted out

behind the scenes and they were

able to present to the world a

united front. You'd remember well, united front. You'd remember well,

Brian, earlier, earlier party

conferences like Terrigal in 1975

where there was true division, true where there was true division, true

embarrassment inside the party and

of course that was a media field

day but it didn't play out well for day but it didn't play out well for the government and it certainly

didn't leave a good taste in the

public's mouth. That's the

difference between this conference, difference between this conference,

I think, and the one we saw. Media

unhappy but public pretty satisfied.

There was a bit of embarrassment There was a bit of embarrassment

around the pool I thinking back in

those conferences. There was,

indeed. No pools at the Sydney

convention centre. You say about

policy debought but really everyone

accepts that the Labor Party

conference no longer has any say in

policy and it would seem ministers

don't even seem to understand

policy if you take the example of

Mr Arbib who was not remotely on

top of an important announcement in

his area where he has ministerial

responsibility. He did not have a

clue. So I mean... What's going on

there? Well, I think, you know, you

see the big serious policy debates

I think taking place largely in

Opposition. You see the division in

Opposition. We've seen that now

with the Liberal Party. We've seen

that this morning on display. I

mean if the Liberal Party had had

an ETS debate at their conference

on the weekend, if they'd been having their conference, imagine

the uncertainty and division that

would have reigned there. I don't

think the public worries that much

about a government that's united in

its views. They like to see unity.

I mean there's a joke going around

at the moment - how many Liberal

politicians does it take to make an

ETTS? Answer - I've got no idea and nor do they.

Labor is actually presenting quite

a united front. The Liberal Party

did actually take an ETS to the did actually take an ETS to the

last election. It was government

policy before Labor had it. But

leaving that to one side, where is

left politics now? We see for

example the debate on same-sex

unions. What's the difference now

on these sorts of social questions between arch conservatives like

Tony Abbott and John Howard and the

Labor Party? I don't think you'll

ever see people like Tony Abbott

making any concessions on the issue

of gay marriage. In the debate of gay marriage. In the debate

yesterday, I sat in and watched the

debate on gay marriage, and Robert

McCleland Meath made the point that

something like 84 pieces of

legislation have been amended by

him in the last 12 months to make

sure that same-sex couples don't

suffer the discrimination that they

did for 150 years of federation. So did for 150 years of federation

things are happening, change is

happening, but because it's not

accompanied by a lot of fanfare,

hoo-ha and demonstrations, then we

tend to take the simple view that

there's no real difference between

the parties. I think Tony Abbott this morning demonstrates that

there is. Kevin Rudd's made his

position clear, though. He's not

Queenslanding at all on allowing

same-sex unions to be the same

level as marriage. He's made that

clear. But the point I'm making is

that many of these discriminatory

conditions that many people in

same-sex relationships have been

having in recent years are now a

thing of the past because of

policies introduced by the Rudd

Government. What's been happening

in Queensland recently, the

controversy there over the role of

lobbyists suggestion suggests that

that they have too much influence

over governments. Now Anna Bligh

and Peter Beattie have said,

"That's not true. Anyone can get in

my door to see me." Is that

realistic? Doesn't it help if you

pay a lobbyist to get you in or you

pay large amounts of money to go to

a dinner where you have exclusive

entree to minister? I will make a

declaration at the outset - we are

lobbyists in Hawker Britton so

we've got an interest in this

debate. The real role of a lobbyist

should be to advise a client on how

best to deal with government, to

explain how government works and

what the priorities of government

are. If you shiep a lit on it and

start to develop more transparent

arrangements with respect to

lobbyists, with respect to

fundraising, then I think the

public will be a lot more

comfortable and I certainly will be

in my day-to-day work too. Isn't

the claim that you don't get

anything for nothing - if you pay a

lot of money to get in to see or to

get exclusive time with a minister,

surely you expect to have more

influence and more say than someone

who walks in off the street. Well,

I think people may have that naive

view but I don't think that's a

reality. I think all they get to do is give government their opinion

and let them think about it. Bruce

Hawker thank you very much. We are

out of time once again. Our out of time once again. Our

apologies for that, Bruce but thank

you for joining us. Thanks to our

panel Mark Kenny and Toohey too.

Once again, a transcript of this

program will be on our website

shortly. In the meantime, goodbye for now.

This program is captioned live. Today on State Focus, we've got 2 big mouths from the local airwaves ready to give your laughing gas going on some hot topics. Plus 10 key questions on food allergies, reactions and how some

medical minds are helping your immune system. Hello I'm Peta Burton and welcome to State Focus, first today, picture