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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Canberra: 26 June 2012: visit to the RSPCA; Julia Gillard's carbon tax; asylum seeker boat tragedy; border protection policies; Clive Palmer



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JOH

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

26 June 2012

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH THE HON. GREG HUNT MHR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE ACTION, ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE,

CANBERRA

Subjects: Visit to the RSPCA; Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; asylum seeker boat tragedy; border protection policies; Clive Palmer.

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

TONY ABBOTT:

I want to thank Michael Linke and Heather Neal and everyone at the RSPCA for making Greg Hunt and Gary Humphries and myself so welcome this morning. The RSPCA is one of Australia's great charities. It is a household name and justly so. It is one of the many organisations which is going to be damaged by the carbon tax.

The Prime Minister loves to say that only the so-called big polluters will pay the carbon tax. That is just dead wrong. Everyone will pay the carbon tax, including tens of thousands of charities, particularly major charities like the RSPCA that have a power bill of tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. They will all pay the carbon tax but there are no tax cuts for them, no credits for them, no compensation for them and that is why this carbon tax is just so wrong.

Now, it’s just a few days away but I will be travelling the length and breadth of Australia in the first fortnight of the carbon tax’s introduction just pointing out to people that every family’s cost of living is going to be harmed. Every Australian job is going to be less secure and it is not actually going to reduce emissions. Even on the Government’s own modelling, Australia's domestic emissions go up by eight per cent not down by five per cent, and finally, this is a bad tax based on a lie. That’s why even now the Government should think again.

I’m going to ask Greg Hunt to say a few words and then I will ask Michael to say a few words on behalf of the RSPCA. Then we will take some questions on the impact of the carbon tax on the RSPCA and other charities and then we might excuse Michael and take questions on other subjects.

Greg?

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GREG HUNT:

Thanks very much to Tony and to Michael and to Gary. How can the Prime Minister justify a tax on charities? How can the Prime Minister justify a $180,000 tax on the RSPCA? Look around. This facility will be hit with the tax and the RSPCA across the country will be hit with about $180,000 for their electricity and for their waste bills. That is the reality of the carbon tax. It is not about the big polluters. It is about the fact that every Australian, wherever they are, who uses electricity will pay the carbon tax and that means charities.

TONY ABBOTT:

Michael?

MICHAEL LINKE [CEO OF RSPCA A.C.T]:

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to thank Mr Abbott and Greg Hunt and Senator Humphries for attending today - a fantastic opportunity to really showcase the plight, not only of the RSPCA, but of charities across the country. My fear is with the additional cost in terms of the electrical bills, we will see an erosion of the services not only at the RSPCA but at charities across the country because there is no compensation, there is no funding elsewhere to pay for this. The money will have to come from somewhere and the only place charities can find that money is from service delivery.

So, we’re concerned about it, we’re hoping that we can see some changes or engage with the Government to try and get some compensation or some other form of support as we face additional costs here. Locally, just here in Canberra, it is between $5,000 and $10,000 a year at this shelter. Across the country, then you multiply that across our 40 shelters, as Greg Hunt said, $180,000 additional electrical and waste costs for RSPCA, equates to between three and four jobs across the organisation for the RSPCA - significant costs for an organisation that relies on 97 per cent of funding from the local community.

So, we are hoping for a change. We’re hoping to see some conversation and some support from the Government. Thank you.

QUESTION:

Do you think you’ll have to shed any jobs here as a result of the carbon tax?

MICHAEL LINKE:

At this stage we're not expecting job losses here in Canberra. As I said, it’s between $5,000 and $10,000. We are going to have to look at cutting some corners in other places. There is absolutely no way that I’m going to compromise animal welfare, so we are going to have to shave costs in other areas.

QUESTION:

So what will you do? What corners will you cut? What’s the practical implication of this carbon tax?

MICHAEL LINKE:

The practical implications are looking at some of the non-core services we deliver so perhaps saying no to some of those people that need some of our services or some of our support here or talking to the staff about not upgrading computers, not upgrading facilities. It’s a very dilapidated facility that we’re on already and we just make do from day to day. So, we will look at savings in those areas across this facility to try and fund the additional costs of the electrical imposts that we’re expecting in the next twelve months.

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QUESTION:

Have you thought of solar power?

MICHAEL LINKE:

We’ve looked at solar power, we’ve engaged with solar organisations but looking at the Molonglo development here, the long term viability of this site is unknown and I am not about to make a multi-hundred thousand dollar investment in a site that may not be here in two to five years’ time. So, if this site is developed or we move to a new site, solar energy will be a solution that we’ll look at at a new site but on this site, it’s not a practical solution.

QUESTION:

Isn’t it the case that Canberra electricity prices have soared regardless of the carbon tax?

MICHAEL LINKE:

I can’t comment generally on prices there. Our advice from our electrical company is that our prices will be going up and a large proportion of that is as a result of the carbon tax.

GREG HUNT:

I’ll just add on that that the ACT regulator says there’ll be a 17.74 per cent increase in ACT electricity prices in the coming year and almost 80 per cent of that or 14 out of the 17.74 per cent will come from the carbon tax.

TONY ABBOTT:

Ok. Well, thanks Michael. We might have any other questions. Thanks so much, mate.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, would you be willing to work with a multi-party committee to find a solution on the asylum seeker deadlock as the Greens have suggested?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, if I may say so, for many years there was a solution. The Howard Government put policies in place which did stop the boats and I just wish that the Prime Minister was not too proud to put in place the policies that have been proven to work and what I think the Australian public want right now is not more talk. They certainly don’t want talk for talk’s sake. They want policies that work and they are essentially the policies that the Howard Government put in place and the Coalition has consistently advocated for more than a decade.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, if the Prime Minister did that, would you support it through the Parliament?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, the thing is, the Prime Minister says she wants to talk but there’s been no letter, no phone call, no email and above all else, no indication of a change in position. The Prime Minister still wants the Parliament

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to approve the Malaysia people swap. Well, I’ve got to say, since the Malaysia people swap was first announced for 800 illegal arrivals to go to Malaysia, we’ve had almost 8,000 which absolutely overwhelms anything that Malaysia might do and it just demonstrates that as far as the border protection crisis is concerned, the best you can say about Malaysia is that it’s a band-aid on a bullet wound.

QUESTION:

But you’re not willing to say you’ll back the Prime Minister even if she gives you everything you want?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, our position has always been that we support good policy, we oppose bad policy. If the Prime Minister wants to introduce offshore processing at countries like Nauru, temporary protection visas and the option of turning boats around where it’s safe to do so, of course we would provide support and encouragement. My doubt is that this Government can effectively implement anything, even the right policies, but certainly if she wants to put good policies in place, we’ll give her support.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, you’ve been posing here this morning admittedly with some very cute puppy dogs, but respectfully shouldn’t you be back in Parliament negotiating a way forward with either your backbenchers and/or the Government MPs who were looking for a breakthrough on this deadlock?

TONY ABBOTT:

As I said, what we want here is not negotiation for negotiation’s sake. We don’t want talk for talk’s sake. We want effective policies. Now, the Prime Minister has a media strategy, she doesn’t have a border protection strategy. Her border protection strategy is to blame the Coalition. Well, hang on a minute. She’s in Government. It’s not Opposition policies that have failed here. It’s Government policies that failed here. It’s up to the Prime Minister to put in place policies that work.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, how can you in good faith say that you’re willing to negotiate when actually your position is unchanged, so you won’t give any compromise on the table?

TONY ABBOTT:

But, the Prime Minister’s position is unchanged. I mean, can anyone point to any change in the Prime Minister’s position? Now, what the last thing the Australian public want are compromised borders and the only compromise this Government has given us is compromised borders; compromised border protection. The Howard Government by contrast, gave us good border security for fully five years.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, do you believe that registered lobbyists should be banned from the federal executive of the Liberal Party?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that the federal executive of the Liberal Party should be open to people from all walks of life. If they’ve got the talent to serve, if they’ve got the willingness to serve, they should be able to do so.

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QUESTION:

Is there a conflict of interest concern, though, if you’ve got vice presidents who are lobbyists?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that there is no evidence whatsoever that any of the serving members of the executive have in any way been compromised and as for Mr Palmer, look, he is just as ordinary rank and file member of the Liberal National Party and he has no more and no less influence than any other serving member of our party.

QUESTION:

What happened on Thursday? There’s talk of foul language and various threats, talk us through it.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, look, I’m going to politely decline that request, but if there was any heat, it certainly wasn’t coming from me.

QUESTION:

Have you patched up your differences with Mr Palmer?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I’m very happy to be leading our party and if Mr Palmer has a position to put to me, he’s welcome to put it to me as indeed is any other member of our party, but no member of our party has a privileged status by virtue of his wealth or his donation.

QUESTION:

Apparently, he wants a motion to be debated at the Federal Council. Do you think it will get up or will you marshal the numbers against him?

TONY ABBOTT:

My job at the Federal Council will be to speak to our members of the better way that the Coalition is offering the people of Australia. My job at the Federal Council will be to reassure the Australian people that government doesn’t have to be as bad as it is now and there’s hope, reward and opportunity available from a Coalition government.

QUESTION:

Would he be a good member of Parliament?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, there was some talk that he might want to put his hand up for a seat in Queensland. I welcome people who are interested in running for Parliament to approach our party, but look, they all have to run the gauntlet of a preselection panel and it doesn’t matter how big your bank account is, it doesn’t matter how big your donations have been, you’ve got to go through the ordinary preselection panel and then you’ve got to be a good grassroots local candidate and then you’ve got to support the party’s policies.

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QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, can I just get your response to some of the rhetoric from the Government this morning on the asylum seeker question? Mark Dreyfus says your position leaves one thinking that you see political advantage in people dying. What do you think of that kind of statement?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, it’s wrong. Absolutely wrong and frankly, I think that the member in question should be a bit bigger than that kind of thing.

QUESTION:

Can I just clarify, do you believe that Malaysia together with Nauru would be a stronger deterrent than the current situation?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that if the Prime Minister was fair dinkum about Nauru, she would have done something about it months ago. There is no legal impediment to Nauru going ahead. The Government’s talk of Nauru was just playing politics.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, why can’t you meet the Government half way on this question and go to the next election on your own platform on asylum seekers?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that what the Australian public want is not more talk, they want effective policies. Our policies have been absolutely crystal clear and consistent for the last decade. What we’ve seen from the Labor Party though is almost every possible policy except one that has worked and that’s what the public want: they want policies that work. John Howard had them, the Coalition has them now and I would respectfully suggest to the Prime Minster that she should adopt them.

[ends]