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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: M5 Control Centre, Sydney: 6 October 2012: the Coalition's $1.5 billion commitment to Sydney's WestConnex project; infrastructure; Margie Abbott; the Government's failed border protection policies; High Court decision



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JOH

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

6 October 2012

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH THE HON. BARRY O’FARRELL MP, PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES, SYDNEY

Subjects: The Coalition’s $1.5 billion commitment to Sydney’s WestConnex project; infrastructure; Margie Abbott; the Government’s failed border protection policies; High Court decision.

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

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s terrific to be here at the M5 Control Centre with Premier O’Farrell and to renew the Coalition’s commitment to immediately provide $1.5 billion to the state government for the WestConnex project. This is an absolutely vital project for the future of Sydney. Getting this underway will be a sign that this city, this state and this country can get things done, we can build a future and I would say to the Prime Minister and Minister Albanese: be part of the solution, not part of the problem; stop sitting on your hands, commit to this project, get it done, you don’t have to ask the Greens for permission, just get going, give the state government the money and let’s get on with the job.

So, I’m totally committed to this. One of the first acts of an incoming Coalition government will be to write out the cheque to the state government so that this project can get underway as quickly as is humanly possible. So, I’m very pleased to be here with Premier O’Farrell and I’m delighted to see the state government’s commitment to building a better Sydney and I’m very happy to be part of it.

PREMIER O’FARRELL:

Thanks, Tony. Can I simply say that it’s terrific to have a federal leader who is interested in this city, Australia’s largest city, Australia’s city that has the biggest infrastructure backlog in the nation. It’s terrific and I thank you, Tony, for the commitment that you have made on behalf of the federal Liberal National Party to commit $1.5 billion to the WestConnex programme that the state government kicked off on Wednesday of this week.

This project is not just about moving people around this city, it’s also about ensuring that trucks carrying freight, helping our economic growth, are able to move freely through this city. So, this is a terrific commitment by the federal Coalition. It matches the $1.8 billion that the state government put towards that project on Wednesday. It recognises that the cost of congestion across New South Wales, principally from Sydney, is $4 billion a year. That’s $4 billion a year of the cost of congestion that the current Federal

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Government has ignored because all we’ve had from them over the past five years has been $20 million, which ultimately was handed back by the former government.

So, if we’d got our fair share of infrastructure funding - Melbourne got $800 million - we’d have $800 million, but what I’m glad now is we have a federal Liberal National Party pledging at the next election to provide us with $1.5 billion to get this road project going, a project that has been long overdue, a project that will help motorists, but importantly will kick start the economy and there’s benefits there for both New South Wales and the national economy.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks so much, Barry. Do we have any questions?

QUESTION:

Isn’t this just a re-announcement of money that you already pledged to the M4 East?

TONY ABBOTT:

What’s happened here is that we now have a state government and a federal Coalition working together for the betterment of Sydney. Now, in the end you can only get these projects built if you’ve got a state government which wants to get things done and now you’ve got a federal Coalition, which is working hand-in-hand with a good state government to get this city moving again - and it’s not just getting Sydney moving again, it’s getting our other major cities moving again - that’s why the $1.5 billion that we have pledged to WestConnex is matched by the $1.5 billion we have pledged to the East West Link in Melbourne and the $1 billion that we have pledged to the Gateway extension in Brisbane and then there’s the $2 billion to make $5.5 billion in total that we’ve pledged to the Pacific Highway so we can get the Pacific Highway fully duplicated all the way from Newcastle to the Queensland border well before the end of the decade.

This is a great country but a great country needs modern infrastructure and they will get modern infrastructure under the Coalition. Unfortunately, because the federal Labor Government can’t do anything without asking the Greens’ permission, we get money for studies but we never get money for building and that’s what we need: we need building in this city, this state and this country. We need the transport infrastructure that a modern economy and a great first world country deserve.

QUESTION:

There’s still going to be a massive shortfall in the cost of building this thing. How much do you think is acceptable for motorists to pay on a toll road?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, look, Barry and I both accept the reality that there will be private sector involvement. If we want to get these things done, we should have private sector involvement and inevitably there are going to be tolls. Now, I think the Australian public accept that as long as the money is actually going into improved transport infrastructure, it’s not too high a price to pay. We want to get things done. We don’t want to sit on our hands and I keep saying to the Prime Minister and Minister Albanese: be part of the solution, don’t stay part of the problem, don’t feel that you’ve got to ask the Greens for permission, just get on with it, just start the building process.

PREMIER O’FARRELL:

Infrastructure New South Wales said that it should be 75/25 per cent funded - 75 per cent through tolls, 25 per cent by state government. As I said on Wednesday, the tolls will be less if there’s a commitment from

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the Federal Government to infrastructure funding. Tony Abbott’s commitment today on behalf of the federal Liberal National Party mean that if they’re elected, the tolls on WestConnex will be lower than was proposed by Infrastructure New South Wales.

QUESTION:

It’s been proposed that the tolls will be capped at $7.00. For how long will they be capped at $7.00?

PREMIER O’FARRELL:

For the life of the project, as they are on the M7.

QUESTION:

I mean, there’s a lot of focus here on congestion in Sydney, there was a bad accident out at Appin last night, there’s a lot of black spots still on some suburban roads and country roads. Are you focussing too much on Sydney and not on those black spots?

PREMIER O’FARRELL:

Well, from a state government perspective we do both, so our infrastructure spending is $15 billion a year, an increase of a billion dollars a year since we came to office. That includes local roads, it includes suburban roads, it includes regional roads, we’ve put additional funding into the Pacific Highway, the Newell Highway, the Princes Highway, major roads across this city. We will continue to address those issues. But Tony Abbott’s commitment today makes the task easier for a state government that inherited the infrastructure backlog, that’s determined to start building the roads this state and this nation needs to drive economic performance, to create those jobs and to give our citizens the opportunities they deserve.

QUESTION:

Will the project progress regardless of whether the Federal Government makes a commitment right now?

PREMIER O’FARRELL:

Well, we said on Wednesday we’re getting on with the project. As I said on Wednesday, the detailed design work to make the concept a reality has started. We welcome this commitment from the federal Liberal National Party, but yes, it would be terrific if finally Julia Gillard woke up to the fact that this is Australia’s biggest city, that it deserves more than simply two per cent of Infrastructure Australia’s funding - which is all we’ve had from Labor - and that the cost of congestion is not just the $4 billion, but the reduction in economic activity and the impact that has on jobs and prospects for people in this nation.

QUESTION:

Can I ask you a question about class sizes? The Opposition today is saying that you are trying to put too many people in existing schools and cutting funding and that’s going to lead to a 30 per cent increase in class sizes. Is that true?

PREMIER O’FARRELL:

No, look, Infrastructure New South Wales has made some comments, we’ll make a comprehensive response to them by the end of the year. But understand, since we’ve had schools in this state, schools have often got bigger. In fact we’re rebuilding or building six new schools and the present time and one of those schools for instance is Killara High School where we are building a bigger school to get rid of demountables. That’s something that does happen. Secondly today, that report also suggests that we make better use of schools

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within communities. Well, I’ve just come from the state conference of the Federation of Language Schools of New South Wales, that’s community languages taught through various ethnic groups, usually in public schools across the state, those things are happening now. But we are committed to replacing demountables, we are committed to building new schools as population uses it and yes, as every government has been since we were settled, we’re committed to making the best possible use of our school buildings.

QUESTION:

Premier, one of the state’s bigger power stations is closing for repairs. Is this going to affect Sydney’s power?

PREMIER O’FARRELL:

I’m happy to get advice on that from the Minister for Energy but really, clearly there are issues that have to be managed there but we’ll get the detailed advice.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott there’s been a lot of talk in the last couple of days about how women relate to you and how you relate to women. The polls show that you aren’t particularly popular with women. Can you just tell us why you think that might be?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I’m going to leave polls to the pollsters. I’m going to leave other people to pontificate on that but I’ve got to say I was very proud to be with my wife Margie yesterday who made an absolutely cracking speech. it wasn’t a political speech, but it was certainly a speech about the kind of family that the Abbott’s are and the kind of relationships that I have with the important women in my life.

QUESTION:

Are we going to be seeing more of her before the next election? Is she your new secret weapon?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, look, I don’t call Margie my better half for nothing and I suspect that there’ll be a few people who say ‘yay, Margie for PM’ after yesterday. But, look, she’s not a political person, she’s married to a politician, but I think she felt that there had been some untruths put into the public area and she thought it was important to correct the record. Certainly, I think if the Labor Party persists in this idea that there’s some kind of problem with women, well, Margie will be out there correcting the record again.

QUESTION:

So, you think it might be what the Labor Party is saying that is affecting your standing with women?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, this is a Labor Party which is going to run a very destructive, negative, personal campaign. I mean, let’s face it, this is the Labor Party that gave us Michael Williamson, Craig Thomson, Peter Slipper, the Australia Day riot. These are the masters of negativity and they’re also the masters of nasty, personal politics.

Now, I want to try to avoid that and I hope that after the nasty personal politics of the last few months, in particular, we can focus on how do we actually build a better country, and how do we actually take the

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pressure off Australian households? One of the reasons why I am so determined to remove the carbon tax is because it is the best thing that the Federal Government can do right now to reduce the cost of living pressure on families. One of the reasons why I’m determined to support good state governments, like the O’Farrell Government build infrastructure, is because this actually gives the forgotten families of Australia a better life. If you are not stuck in a traffic jam for hours every day, your life is better. If you are not struggling to pay electricity bills that are going up and up and up, your life is better. If the Federal Government can get its spending down by removing waste, and therefore take the pressure off interest rates, your life is better and that’s what I want to do. I want to deliver a better life for the families of our country.

QUESTION:

Do you expect Tim Mathieson to come out in support of Julia Gillard?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, look, that’s a matter for him.

QUESTION:

Can you tell us why Downton Abbey is your favourite TV show?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I have quite a few shows that I like and I don’t want to go through a long list of the programmes that I enjoy, but Downton Abbey is a marvellous programme and I’m certainly not alone. I think quite a few millions of people in this country and hundreds of millions of people right around the world have fallen in love with that programme and I can’t wait for series three.

QUESTION:

Who is your favourite character?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think they are all pretty good but the Dowager Duchess is pretty impressive. So, there’s none of them that I dislike other than perhaps that rather nasty butler, but everyone else I think, well…

QUESTION:

The Earl has three daughters like yourself…

TONY ABBOTT:

Enough TV commentary!

QUESTION:

Just on the High Court yesterday. How serious do you think that is for the Government?

TONY ABBOTT:

I just want to say that it is yet another complication for a government which has comprehensively mishandled border protection policy. Now, the only way to sort out these problems is to stop the boats and the only way to stop the boats is to put in place a comprehensive set of policies which includes Nauru, but

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which vigorously and determinedly uses Nauru - not half-heartedly uses Nauru, which this current Government is doing. But we just don’t need Nauru and Manus, we also need temporary protection visas to deny the people smugglers a product to sell and we need the determination to turn boats around where it’s safe to do so.

These are the policies that we know will work. They’ve worked in the past. They can work again in the future. It’s only by putting in place policies that you are absolutely determined and committed to and that you are determined to implement and demonstrate that determination from day one that we are going to stop the boats and it’s only by stopping the boats that we can avoid the kind of problem which the High Court pointed to yesterday.

Thank you.

[ends]