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Subjects: ALP campaign launch; Liberals’ costings; Baddies vs Baddies

MARIUS BENSON: Penny Wong, good morning.

PENNY WONG: Good morning Marius, good to be with you.

BENSON: Now, Kevin Rudd was saying during the election launch yesterday, that anyone who thinks it’s done and dusted doesn’t have a clear understanding of political history. What part of political history suggests that, from your present position, Labor can win?

WONG: Look, this is a tough fight, there’s no doubt. We started behind, and the polls would suggest we still are. But what I’d say is what Kevin said yesterday: there is so much that is worth fighting for; fighting for jobs, for schools, for the National Broadband Network, and for the values of a fair go for which Labor stands.

What I’d say is this: people have had a long time to get to know Mr Abbott. He’s been in Parliament for 20 years, if you’ve still got doubts about him, then don’t vote for him.

BENSON: But if you look at political history, if you are in the position that Labor is in now, you lose. That’s the lesson of history.

WONG: Well, Marius, you know, if you want to sort of sit there and commentate, that’s obviously part of your job. My job’s not to do that. My job is to do, as Kevin urged us all to do yesterday, to keep fighting every day until the election for the values we believe in. For things like the jobs of the apprentices - the new policies we announced yesterday. Just as we protected jobs to the global financial crisis, over the opposition of Tony Abbott, so too should we be fighting for the jobs of the future. For Australian schools, for the National Broadband Network. So many of these things which are at risk should Tony Abbott become Prime Minister.

BENSON: One of the targets that Kevin Rudd had in his speech yesterday, one of the groups he was appealing to was small business, with tax breaks for small businesses being offered in the campaign launch bid. Is it disappointing then, for you, that the Small Business Council today has weighed up the Liberals and the Labor scheme - they like your tax breaks but, they say, overall, the Coalition is offering better policies for small business.

WONG: Well, if the Small Business Council want to champion a $5 billion tax hike on small business, which is what Tony Abbott’s proposing, then they can explain that to you and to others. That’s a very big hit on small business that Tony Abbott is proposing, and he’s proposing to remove a number of tax breaks that the Government’s given them, and we’ve just expanded the tax break yesterday in the announcement the Prime Minister made because we understand the importance of small business when it comes, particularly, to the economy and jobs.

BENSON: Is there anything you can do differently in the next six days to change the minds of people who’ve been watching the Labor Government for six years?

WONG: Well, I think there’s two things I’d say: first, we’ve made clear what our plan is - do you know what Tony Abbott’s plans are? It’s very interesting - today, we’re seeing comments in the papers that the Coalition has been engaged in secretive briefings of certain journalists, where they give them their policy costings then they take them back. They’re so secret they won’t even give them to the selected journalists, they’ll just let them read them so they can write something about it.

We’ve also seen… it’s emerged that the Coalition hasn’t even sent for costing their boat buy-back, which will be the biggest boost to the Indonesian shipbuilding industry ever. It seems pretty amazing: Tony Abbott wants to cut assistance to fund the car industry in Australia but he’s happy to fund the boat-building industry in Indonesia. They haven’t costed Direct Action and they haven’t costed their NBN plan. If you ever wonder why you have doubts about Tony Abbott’s plans, it’s because he’s not telling you about them.

BENSON: Tony Abbott, nonetheless, is now the preferred Prime Minister, according to Newspoll. Would you say now that the Rudd return has not worked?

WONG: Tony Abbott is the man who described a complex international conflict - the dreadful situation we see in Syria, with the use of chemical weapons and children, in particular, being affected and perishing as a result - we see him referring to this as ‘baddies versus baddies, not goodies versus baddies’. I mean, to reduce this very difficult international situation to a game of ‘cops and robbers’ I think demonstrates why some Australians have such doubts about Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.

BENSON: But you said yourself that when you switched from Julia Gillard to Kevin Rudd it was the toughest decision of your political life, has it failed?

WONG: Look, the toughest thing in politics is to fight for the things you believe in when things are against you. But this is what we have to do as a Government - we have to fight for families, for jobs, for schools, for hospitals, for the NBN, and for the values that Labor stands for. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do.

BENSON: Penny Wong, thanks again.

WONG: Good to speak with you.