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Tony Abbott joins Chris Uhlmann -

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CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: It might seem like an eon ago but only a month has passed since Tony
Abbott emerged as leader of the Liberal Party, its third in two years, and time is against him.

This is an election year and even if it runs to term he has 10 months to convince Australians that
he is a better choice to lead than the apparently unsinkable Prime Minister. I spoke with Tony
Abbott late this evening.

Tony Abbott, if the Coalition can't run itself, why should people trust it to run the country?

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: Well we can run ourselves and I think that's been pretty evident
over the last four weeks.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The evidence of the last two years is that you're the third leader in two years and
you only got up with half the party vote.

TONY ABBOTT: Yes, but as Senator Keneally famously said, a one vote win is a landslide in politics.
Now I think everything has changed since the 1st December.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Have you wasted the last two years, the Coalition that is?

TONY ABBOTT: I think we've gone through a necessary period of introspection. I now think we've got
our act together. I think we're holding the Government to account and I think we're developing
credible policies. And thay's why I think it is realistic to think that we can win the next
election.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well the country is running fairly well, it's going fairly well after the greatest
financial crisis to hit since the Great Depression and the Government seems to be going fairly well
as well. So where do you beat Kevin Rudd, how can you beat Kevin Rudd?

TONY ABBOTT: But I think people also understand that Kevin Rudd is all talk and no action.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Do they?

TONY ABBOTT: And I think people understand that, sure, he hasn't mucked all that much up
economically but that's because he had a tremendous legacy to work with. He has managed to turn a
$20 billion surplus into a $30 billion deficit in just 12 months. He has managed to turn a
government that was massively in surplus into a government that is massive in deficit. So he has
done a lot wrong. But I take your point - compared to other countries we have cruised through the
global financial crisis.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And surely the Government can take some credit for that. You say they've spent all
this money but of course they did that to prop up the economy and it worked.

TONY ABBOTT: Yes, but there is always a bill to be paid. And in pretending that there is no cost to
this, I think the people understand that Kevin Rudd is basically conning them.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But you would have spent money as well. The Coalition actually backed the first
stimulus package, didn't it?

TONY ABBOTT: Yes, which was about a quarter the size of the second stimulus package, which we
opposed.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But certainly that money was necessary and it appears to have done the trick.

TONY ABBOTT: But at high price. And if you look across the Tasman, New Zealand has done just as
well it seems as Australia without going into anything like the same level of debt and deficit that
we have.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Now you say the Government has done nothing but of course they've completely remade
the industrial relations system. To nationalise the system of awards is something that your
government didn't even attempt.

TONY ABBOTT: And as even Heather Ridout said in today's paper, they need to be extremely careful
that they don't destroy the flexibility that both the Keating and the Howard government put into
our workplace system and which has been responsible for us getting through the global financial
crisis without the massive increase in unemployment which other countries have suffered.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The economy needed flexibility but of course the people wanted fairness and that's
something that you took from them with WorkChoices.

TONY ABBOTT: Well that's not true. Sure, WorkChoices was a mistake. It's dead. It's buried. But the
no-disadvantage test was at the death restored by the former government and there's no going back
by this Coalition to the excesses of the former policies.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Is WorkChoices dead and buried? You actually said at your first press conference
that the phrase "WorkChoices" was dead. Is the idea dead as well?

TONY ABBOTT: Of course it is Chris. What we do need, though, is freedom as well as fairness in our
workplaces. What we need is freedom from union bullying and that's certainly what the Coalition's
policy will be designed to ensure.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Do you still think the science on climate change is crap?

TONY ABBOTT: That's not quite what I said. Certainly the science is not nearly as settled as the
wild zealots say. But, look, we will be releasing a strong and effective climate change policy in
just a few weeks and I'll ask you to restrain your impatience and wait and see what we come up
with.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But do you believe that man-made global warming is a factor? Is it actually a fact?

TONY ABBOTT: In the end this is not a question of belief, it's a question of fact. Now I keep
saying that we need more facts and less faith in this whole argument. We should take prudent
precautions against credible threats. What we shouldn't do is impose a great big tax on the
necessities of daily life, that in the absence of comparable action from other countries will be
entirely futile.

And that's why our policy will make sense in a way that the Government's policy doesn't.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But it won't be cost free.

TONY ABBOTT: Of course it won't be cost free but nevertheless there is a lot that you can do to
reduce emission and improve the environment that will fund itself.

CHRIS UHLMANN: So it won't be a great big tax, it might be a medium sized tax or perhaps a tax that
you can't put a number on?

TONY ABBOTT: Well what we will do is fund sensible action, direct action on the environment from
the budget in the ordinary way.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But that might mean that you might need to change some regulations in order to force
change and that will impose costs on business and that'll be passed onto people.

TONY ABBOTT: But what we're not going to do is impose a great big tax on daily life that won't
actually improve the environment.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Do you think that you will be credible on climate change? Clearly the electorate
wants something done about this.

TONY ABBOTT: And I think that the Coalition in government, both under Mr Howard and Mr Fraser, were
very credible in practical terms on the environment and I intend to maintain a strong record in
practical environmentalism.

I regard myself as an environmentalist. My first action in government was to create the Green Corps
which mobilised thousands of young people for practical environmental restoration work and the
interesting thing about the Rudd Government is that it's basically wasted its first two years when
it comes to environmental problems here in Australia that we can actually make a difference to
because of its preoccupation with climate change.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Will you really turn back the boats of refugees?

TONY ABBOTT: We will take strong action on border security. Now, that is not something, turning
boats back is not something that you would do lightly or necessarily frequently, but you've got to
have that option at your disposal.

CHRIS UHLMANN: What if they sink their boats?

TONY ABBOTT: Well we would look at each circumstance, each situation on its own merits but you've
got to have the option, and what you've got to understand Chris, is that John Howard found a
problem, created a solution. Mr Rudd found a solution and created a problem.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Is 2,800 refugees though really a crisis? Do you really need to launch a campaign
against these people?

TONY ABBOTT: And I understand that the individuals themselves are in many cases decent people
seeking a better life. But sovereign countries have to control their own boarders. They cannot be
exposed to what amounts to peaceful invasion. Now, the truth is that we have to take strong action
to secure the boarders. Mr Rudd has signally failed to do. And if we're in government, look at us
on our record, we will take strong action.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Do you favour Chinese investment in Australian companies? Because it appears that
your finance spokesman doesn't.

TONY ABBOTT: I'm in favour of appropriate foreign investment. What I'm not in favour is of
nationalisation of Australian industries and if I don't support Australian Government ownership of
Australian industries under most circumstances, I would certainly be pretty wary about Chinese
Government ownership of Australian businesses.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But that's the way this investment comes, isn't it. Do you want that investment in
Australia or not?

TONY ABBOTT: That's why we have to take a sensible and balanced approach to this.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Now I see that you've put Corey Bernardi to advise you on population policy. Kevin
Rudd says that he wants a big Australia - 35 million people by 2050. Is that what you want to see?

TONY ABBOTT: Look, I want to see a strong Australia. I want to see Australian families looking to
the future with confidence and I think that families look to the future with confidence will tend
to have more kids. Now I'm all in favour of that.

I also want Australia to continue to be a country which is welcoming to migrants. People have got
to understand that when they come here they're joining our team. But with Australian families
looking to have more kids, and a continued sensible immigration policy in Australia's national
interests, I think we'll be a bigger country in the years to come.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well Tony Abbott, we know what you're against. What are you for? What would an
Australia with Tony Abbott as Prime Minister look like?

TONY ABBOTT: Well perhaps people who are in some doubt ought to read my book Battlelines, which
came out last year.

CHRIS UHLMANN: For those who don't have the moment, the time?

TONY ABBOTT: If you look at the book what you will see is that I want to see an Australia which has
more confidence, more strength, more prosperity but in particular I want to see a fair go for
families.

I want to see more patient centred health care. I want to see more patient power in our health
system. That means local boards running hospitals. I want to see more parent power in our education
system. That means local boards having more influence over schools. I am in favour of democracy.
I'm in power of empowering the Australian public. You look at Kevin Rudd by contrast Chris, what he
likes is big bureaucracy, big unions and great big taxes.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Finally and very briefly, Kevin Rudd, is it personal between you and him? You don't
seem to like him very much.

TONY ABBOTT: Look, he is my opponent and he might be the best bloke in the country.

CHRIS UHLMANN: You doubt that.

TONY ABBOTT: He might be a fantastic author of children's books. The fact is he is my opponent so I
am not in the business of looking at his good personal qualities. I am in the business of exposing
his poor political qualities.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Tony Abbott, thank you.

TONY ABBOTT: Thanks, Chris.