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Transcript of doorstop interview: Queanbeyan, NSW: 20 June 2012: Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; Budget; Julian Assange; schools chaplaincy programme; media ownership; Peter Slipper; Melinda Taylor; electricity prices



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WARRINGAH

20 June 2012

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR ARTHUR SINODINOS AO, SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES, QUEANBEYAN, NEW SOUTH WALES

Subjects: Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; Budget; Julian Assange; schools chaplaincy programme; media ownership; Peter Slipper; Melinda Taylor; electricity prices.

EO&E..............................................................................................................................................................

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s great to be here at Country Style Windows in Queanbeyan. I want to thank Jenny McCarron, Dave Shiels and the staff here for making Senator Arthur Sinodinos and myself so welcome. This is one of the tens of thousands of businesses right around Australia which is apprehensive and fearful about the advent of the carbon tax in just a couple of weeks’ time. Obviously, this business is a big user of electricity. That will go up and up and up under the carbon tax. Everything that comes to this business comes in a truck, often in biggish trucks, and obviously that’s going to be impacted by the carbon tax from 2014.

This is a tax which is going to impact on every single family’s standard of living. It’s going to make every single job in our country less secure because it acts as a reverse tariff: it makes Australian companies less competitive, it makes foreign companies more competitive. This business of window making is subject to foreign competition. I’m all in favour of competition but I want Australian businesses to compete on a level playing field and the carbon tax significantly disadvantages our businesses.

If the Government is fair dinkum about looking after the forgotten families of Australia, if it’s fair dinkum about trying to make Australian jobs as secure as possible in difficult and fragile economic times, it would drop this tax and it’s not too late. We know that there are a lot of people in the Labor Party who would like to see a change of leadership. We know that Kevin Rudd thinks that the carbon tax is set too high. It is not too late for change, even now, with the carbon tax set to start in just a couple of weeks.

This is a government which is changing things on the run. We see today the second Budget bill in two days significantly changed. Yesterday they dropped the indexation of the passenger movement charge. Today they’re withdrawing the increase in the tax on managed investment trusts. If the Government can change these, it can change the carbon tax, but what we are seeing is a budget in chaos. We’re seeing a government

which is essentially having to revise the Budget on the run and that, again, is very bad for the long-term management of the Australian economy.

This is a government which simply can’t be trusted with money and rather than give lectures to the Europeans and other world leaders, the Prime Minister would be much better advised to demonstrate some

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real economic competence and real fiscal rectitude by delivering a real surplus, not a cook-the-books surplus.

Arthur?

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

Thanks very much, Tony. I’d like to thank you for coming out here to Queanbeyan to see a factory which is going to have a challenge from the 1st of the July. Part of the issue with the carbon tax is that it comes on top of a whole series of other cost increases coming through the system. Jenny today talked about workers compensation, the superannuation guarantee charge, so it’s about the straw that breaks the camel’s back and that’s the challenge that particularly smaller businesses face. So, it’s great you’re out here to talk to people, listen to real people with real jobs, trying to make a living in what is still a pretty tough environment on the ground.

TONY ABBOTT:

Ok, are there any questions?

QUESTION:

What would the impact of your direct action plan be on a business like this, Mr Abbott?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, direct action substitutes for a carbon tax, so there would be no carbon tax on a business like this and businesses which do have proposals to reduce emissions would be able to apply to the emissions reduction fund for support. The great thing about Australian businesses is that they are very environmentally responsible. This is a business which does its best to cut down pollution through things like sawdust and you might have noticed that one of the sidelines of this business is producing sawdust pellets out of waste products which is the kind of environmentally intelligent things that Australian businesses are doing without a carbon tax, and in fact will be harder to do with a carbon tax.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, do you believe that the federal government has behaved appropriately in terms of the assistance that it has offered to Julian Assange?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that Mr Assange should be offered the same kind of consular assistance that any Australian in trouble abroad would be offered.

QUESTION:

But what do you think about the fact he’s had to seek asylum in Ecuador? What does that say about the Government’s approach?

TONY ABBOTT:

That is a matter for him and, look, all I say is that he should be offered the same assistance, no more and no less, than any other Australian in trouble abroad.

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QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, the High Court has ruled against the schools chaplaincy programme. Would you be willing to support legislation to reinstate it?

TONY ABBOTT:

We invented the programme, we support the programme, we want it to continue. I haven’t seen the court’s decision. Let’s have a look at the decision and let’s see what the Government has in mind. I think it would be a real pity if this programme wasn’t able to continue.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, we’ve had News’ announcement this morning that it’s going to take over CMH. Given the woes that Fairfax finds itself in, are you concerned that we’re going to see an excessively concentrated media environment?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think it’s good to see that at least some news operations are confident and optimistic about the future. I think it’s very important that we always have in this country a diverse and dynamic media. We can’t have a diverse and dynamic media without high quality journalism. As a former journalist you won't be surprised to hear me say that I think that Australia has had a pretty good journalistic culture and I hope that that is strengthened not weakened in the years ahead.

QUESTION:

But do you think these consolidations do weaken it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, the short answer is that it is very important for media organisations to be profitable. The traditional news media obviously has a serious challenge on its hands from online media and I'm not going to get into the business of telling the different news organisations how they should run them themselves.

QUESTION:

How about Gina Rinehart? Do you believe she should sign the editorial charter of independence?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that is a matter for her. That is a matter for the Fairfax board.

QUESTION:

But what’s your advice?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I don't presume to give people advice on this. I'd like to see a strong and dynamic and diverse media culture in Australia, but I don’t presume to give gratuitous advice to business owners and managers.

QUESTION:

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Mr Abbott, the Government feels the case against Peter Slipper is a stitch-up involving James Ashby and members of the LNP. Do you know of any collusion or are you confident that there hasn’t been any collusion?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think this is just a desperate distraction from a desperate government. The only issue that counts here is did or did not Mr Slipper sexually harass a staff member? That's all that counts and that's now before the courts.

QUESTION:

Regarding Melinda Taylor, Julie Bishop yesterday was fairly critical of the way that Bob Carr has handled the case but said that she also believed he must have been getting some form of consular advice. Do you believe that he has bungled this? What’s the Opposition’s firm position?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I hope that Bob Carr the Foreign Minister is following advice and I thought that the Shadow Foreign Minister's comments yesterday on this were absolutely apt.

QUESTION:

There are some big rises coming in electricity that are about half, or a tiny bit less than half, from the carbon tax. Are you hoping people just get the next bill and assume it’s all from the carbon tax?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think that the best thing the Government can do is try to limit those price rises. Obviously, the way to do that is to scrap the carbon tax. If Julia Gillard was serious about easing the pressure on the forgotten families, she could halve it instantly by not going ahead with the carbon tax.

QUESTION:

Given she relies on the support of the Greens, though, is that realistically going to happen?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, that's the whole problem, isn't it? This is a Prime Minister who said one thing before the election to win votes and she did the opposite after the election to stay in office. She did a dishonest deal with the Greens. That is what has contaminated her government from that day to this and it will haunt her to her political grave and the sooner the Labor Party wakes up to the fact that this alliance with the Greens is killing it, the better for the Labor Party and the better for our country.

QUESTION:

There are reports of grumblings within your own party about dishonesty over electricity prices rises. The renewable energy target has something to do with it. Is that something you’d reject?

TONY ABBOTT:

I certainly accept that renewable energy schemes are contributing to rises in prices, I certainly accept that. I'm very pleased that the Shadow Minister, Greg Hunt, is working with the Coalition states to try to reduce

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the price impact of renewable schemes and I'm pleased that our emissions reduction fund is offering the states a much more acceptable and economically responsible way of reducing emissions.

QUESTION:

But you’re going to have to lean on that technology if you're going to reach your five per cent target, at least to some extent. If these schemes are so inefficient, that’s far more damaging in many ways, in your opinion, than the carbon tax, in terms of contributing to prices. Aren’t you going to face a serious difficulty there?

TONY ABBOTT:

No, we think that the most economically efficient way of reaching that emissions reduction target is to go to the market, get their proposals and to fund the best value proposals and what we've seen over the years is very substantial improvements in Australia's emissions intensity because Australian businesses have taken common sense measures to reduce their power bills, to reduce their fuel bills. Now, the emissions reduction fund is designed to further encourage those common sense steps. Now, if we can get a 50 per cent reduction in our emissions intensity over the last two decades without a carbon tax, I think there's enormous potential to achieve significant emissions reductions through our policy and that's what we're going to do and that is the smart way of getting emissions down. The dumb way is to hit everyone with a great big new tax.

Thank you.

[ends]