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Transcript of doorstop interview: Canberra: 21 June 2012: Australian Olympic team; Rio+20 Earth Summit; Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; the Government’s failed border protection policies; Victims of Overseas Terrorism Bill; school chaplain programme; electricity prices; Labor leadership



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JOH

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

21 June 2012

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR DOORSTOP INTERVIEW CANBERRA

Subjects: Australian Olympic team; Rio+20 Earth Summit; Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; the Government’s failed border protection policies; Victims of Overseas Terrorism Bill; school chaplain programme; electricity prices; Labor leadership.

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

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s great to be here at the Australian Institute of Sport. It was a thrill to be able to support the announcement of the Australian gymnasts going to London. They have put an enormous amount of work in to being selected in the Australian Olympic team and I think all Australians hope that they are able to bring back serious medals and all credit to them for the effort that they have put in over many, many years to get to this point.

The Prime Minister is now in Rio. It looks more and more like just another international talk fest. It’s pretty clear that there are going to be no binding commitments come out of this conference and what that is going to mean is that Australia is out on its own with the world’s biggest carbon tax at the worst possible time.

This is the last thing we need at a time when the international economic situation is very fragile, something that will work like a reverse tariff, damaging Australian jobs and effectively promoting jobs overseas. Every day we see the pressure that manufacturing industry in particular is under. We’ve had falls in manufacturing output for six of the last eight quarters and there are many, many energy-intensive industries in this country like aluminium, like steel, like glass, like bricks which are just going to get more and more expensive and less and less competitive and it would be a very sorry day for Australia if we end up importing bricks from China rather than making them here in this country.

We are getting more and more boats. It seems we’ve had three more boats just in the last 24 hours or so. We’ve had 18 boats in just 21 days this month. The Government has totally lost control of our borders. There are reports this morning that Minister Bowen and his staff are ringing constituents asking questions about people’s voting intentions. Well, the phone call that Minister Bowen ought to be making is to the President of Nauru to reopen the processing centre there, because everyone knows what needs to be done to stop the boats - you’ve got to put in place the policies that have been proving to work: rigorous offshore processing at Nauru, temporary protection visas and turning boats around where it is safe to do so.

Finally the Parliament is today debating the Victims of Overseas Terrorism Bill. This is the Government’s response to my Private Member’s Bill. I want to acknowledge that the Government has in part taken up my

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Private Member’s Bill, but the whole point of my Bill was not just to safeguard the victims of future terrorist acts, but to acknowledge the victims of past terrorist acts and that’s why the Coalition will be moving an amendment in the Parliament to try to ensure that the Government can provide assistance to the Australian victims of overseas terrorism, analogous to the assistance provided to the victims of domestic crime to enable the Government to provide this modest measure of acknowledgement and assistance to the victims of the two Bali bombings, to the victims of September 11, to the victims of the Jakarta bombings, the London bombings. This is the least that a decent and humane nation should do for its own citizens killed or injured in terrorist acts targeting us.

QUESTION:

What should the Prime Minister be doing in Rio?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think the Prime Minister should be waking up to herself and waking up to the fact that the rest of the world is not taking decisive action by way of carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes. Sure, lots of other countries are doing the sorts of things to help the environment that the Coalition is recommending - they’re taking direct action - but they are not putting in place economy wide carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes and the Prime Minister should finally admit that Australia’s carbon tax is an international orphan.

QUESTION:

Should she be there at all?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I think that the Australian Prime Minister quite appropriately travels to major international conferences, but you’ve got to learn the right lessons from these conferences and first of all, you don’t go there to lecture and second, you don’t go there to deny reality and I think that’s the problem that our Prime Minister has manifested on this overseas trip. First of all, an unfortunate tendency to lecture other countries and second, when it comes to this conference at Rio she continues to be in denial about the fact that no other country is putting in place an economy wide carbon tax.

QUESTION:

Ban Ki-moon has just praised Julia Gillard for her eloquent contribution to the conversation on the Eurozone crisis. Do you really think she shouldn’t be in your words, lecturing?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, look, we’ve also had the comments of the President of the European Commission, Mr Barroso and I think it was pretty clear that no previous Australian Prime Minister would have preceded a conference such as this by sending a letter to all the other participants and then publishing the letter before the other participants have had the chance even to read it.

QUESTION:

There are suggestions that the High Court challenge on chaplains could affect other government-funded programmes. How concerned are you about that?

TONY ABBOTT:

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Well, I think that the Government should be prepared to work with the Opposition to ensure that the chaplaincy programme can continue. The Coalition started it, the Coalition supports it, the Coalition wants it to continue and I hope that the Government is big enough to work with us to ensure that that happens.

QUESTION:

But how about if arts and sport are also challenged and Roads to Recovery is also challenged, would you support those outright or would it be a case-by-case thing?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, it’s up to the Government to put in place practical means to enable these worthy programmes to continue and I think the Government should for once, just for once, be prepared to work constructively with the Opposition to ensure that that happens.

QUESTION:

Barnaby Joyce reckons there should be a referendum to remove ambiguity on this issue. Do you agree with Barnaby on that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, Barnaby and I have been saying for a long time now that it is important to ensure that local government is recognised in the Constitution so that there can be security of payments.

QUESTION:

You appeared this morning to at last concede that the price rises in electricity aren't solely to blame on the carbon tax. Is that right?

TONY ABBOTT:

I have been saying for a long time there is a lot of upward pressure on electricity prices and that's why the last thing we need right now is a carbon tax which is going to make bad situation so much worse. If the Prime Minister was serious about reducing the pressure on family budgets, she would abolish the carbon tax and, in so doing, she could cut at least in half this latest round of electricity price rises.

QUESTION:

So, should state governments take some of the blame for those increases?

TONY ABBOTT:

I’m really pleased that Greg Hunt is now talking to the Coalition state governments to try to see how their renewable energy schemes can be folded into the Coalition's emissions reduction fund. That is by far the most economically and environmentally responsible way of handling our desire to get emissions down.

QUESTION:

Judi Moylan says she will vote against the cut benefits to single parents. She says those changes will drive them into poverty. Is she right?

TONY ABBOTT:

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Look, I can understand why a lot of members of parliament on both sides of the Parliament are very concerned to ensure we do the right thing by people on benefits, but in the end, the best thing we can do for people is to encourage them and foster them into work. That's the best thing we can do for people. That's why the Opposition took important steps in this direction when we were in government and that's why we certainly encourage the current government to continue to take steps to this goal.

QUESTION:

There’s more speculation that the Rudd forces are circling. The Prime Minister has been given until spring. Who do you expect to face across the Parliament?

TONY ABBOTT:

In the end, I don't really mind who the Labor Party puts up because my job is the same. My job is to hold a bad government to account and every day to offer a credible alternative. What I have been doing for many months now is patiently explaining to the Australian people that there is a better way; that we can again have the hope, reward and opportunity that Australians deserve and we have the plans needed to produce a stronger economy for a stronger Australia.

That's what I will be talking about every day between now and every day between now and the next election: my plans for a stronger economy, for a stronger Australia. I will be doing that regardless of who the Labor Party puts up. But it is interesting, isn't it, that the faceless men yet again are moving inside the Labor Party. I think the Australian people are sick of having a Prime Minister chosen by the faceless men or by Greens and independents. I think they want the chance to choose their own Prime Minister and that's why the sooner we have an election in this country, the better for our future.

[ends]