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Transcript of interview: 3AW Melbourne with Neil Mitchell: 8 October 2012: parliamentary debate; the Coalition's plan for safer streets; Nicola Roxon; Peter Slipper; Speakership; Julia Gillard's carbon tax; proceeds of crime



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

8 October 2012

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR, INTERVIEW WITH NEIL MITCHELL, RADIO 3AW, MELBOURNE

Subjects: Parliamentary debate; the Coalition’s plan for safer streets; Nicola Roxon; Peter Slipper; Speakership; Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; proceeds of crime.

E&OE……………………….…………………………………………………………………

NEIL MITCHELL:

Tony Abbott is in Melbourne. He’s on his way back to Canberra but he has launched, with the Premier Ted Baillieu, a sort of a street safety campaign including some money for CCTV cameras and improved security. He’s on the line. Tony Abbott, the Opposition Leader, good morning.

TONY ABBOTT:

`Morning, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Just looking at a couple of comments today, there was a promise to sort of bring decency and respect back into politics. Do you reckon you’ve all failed here?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, look, people will make their own judgements about that, Neil. I’ve always tried to focus on what will help the forgotten families of Australia and that’s why I’m so keen to get rid of the carbon tax, because it will improve people’s cost of living.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, yeah, but you throw ‘liar’ around a lot at the Prime Minister. Is that really edifying?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, the fact is she did say one thing to win votes before the election and did the opposite after the election to stay in government as part of the rather squalid deal with the Greens. So, I think I’m perfectly entitled to make those comments but the point I’ve always made, Neil, is I’m not saying the Prime Minister is a bad person. I am saying that she’s been a poor Prime Minister and…

NEIL MITCHELL:

But how do we lift the standard? We’ve got Robert McClelland and John Anderson, one from either side, both saying it’s sort of un-Australian, spin and spittle they’re talking about. But how do we lift the standard?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, in the end I think that the political culture of the day very much takes its lead from the Government and from the Prime Minister and I don’t think anyone listening to government ministers’ answers and Prime Ministerial answers in the Parliament at the moment would think that this is very edifying because basically you’ve got a government which acts more like an alternative opposition and the Prime Minister who seems more interested in attacking the Opposition than she does in demonstrating her credentials to govern the country and I think if the Government focused more on governing and less on politics, everyone would be better off.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So, is there any chance of turning it around; of returning some sort of decency to the debate? I mean, will you try to do it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think I have been trying to do it, if I may say so, Neil, and I would respectfully suggest to your listeners that they should ask themselves this question: when was there more decency in the debate? I think the answer they will conclude is that under the former government there was more decency in the debate and my role model in these things is John Howard. John Howard was a fine Prime Minister and I certainly would do my best to emulate him when it comes to fiscal responsibility and when it comes to generally trying to govern for all Australians.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Of course there are ways to do it, and I noticed you today talking about your daughters and your family. Is that perhaps sending a subtle message? ‘Well, I’ve got a family, Julia Gillard hasn’t’?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think it would be wrong to read that into it, Neil…

NEIL MITCHELL:

Ok.

TONY ABBOTT:

…but the fact is, we are all conscious, or we should all be conscious of doing the right thing by the Australian people and that’s why I said this morning that we’ll be spending $50 million from the proceeds of crime fund on CCTV cameras and other measures to make our streets and communities safer and why I’m so committed to getting rid of the carbon tax to help people’s cost of living pressures, to get the infrastructure that we need for modern cities and better communities built.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I’d like to get some of that in a moment but Nicola Roxon has said today she will continue her campaign against you, that she doesn’t like you much and you don’t seem to like her much. Is that fair comment? You don’t like her?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that is inaccurate. I mean…

NEIL MITCHELL:

Sorry, inaccurate, is it?

TONY ABBOTT:

…it’s inaccurate. I mean, I have nothing against Nicola Roxon except that I think this is a poor government.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But she says you turn your back on her at functions and you’re quite rude to her. That’s wrong?

TONY ABBOTT:

I just don’t think there’s any evidence for that. No evidence whatsoever.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You don’t remember doing that?

TONY ABBOTT:

No recollection whatsoever. Yes, there was a celebrated incident during the 2007 election campaign when I responded robustly to an accusation she had made but look, that was a one-off and I treat Julia Gillard and Nicola Roxon with the ordinary civility that Australians should treat each other with.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah, that’s part of the problem. We are not seeing enough civility in politics, isn’t it?

TONY ABBOTT:

And Neil, ask yourself the question: when did the rot set in? The commitments that the Prime Minister made to cobble together a government in the context of a hung parliament and the breaking of commitments that had been made to the people during the election, I think that is a big part of the problem and this is why I say that if you want to clean up politics, the best thing you can do is have a new election. I think this minority government is an experiment that’s failed. I think this particular government and the contemporary Labor Party has been fatally compromised by what it’s done to stay in office.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you see more of this coming or do you think we are now going to move through it?

TONY ABBOTT:

I would like to think that even at the 11th hour the Prime Minister and her ministers can change their tone and lift their game but my fear is that the contemporary Labor Party is addicted to the politics of personal destruction. Look at what happened in Queensland. Look at the attacks on Campbell Newman and his family. I fear that there will be a campaign of relentless criticism, very personal criticism, of the Opposition and I dare say of me, in particular.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So do you tell your people to fight clean? Not to play the person?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think where there are legitimate matters of public contention, well, let’s debate them, let’s discuss them. For instance, I think it is very reasonable of my people to say of the Prime Minister, how can she on the one hand have her ministers making claims that they make that I am somehow anti-woman when she put in the position of the Speakership of the Parliament someone who has obviously conducted himself in ways which are pretty disrespectful towards women? Now, I’m not going to go into all of the text messages which are now seeping into the public arena, but plainly I think there are legitimate questions. How can Nicola Roxon and how can Julia Gillard continue to support a Speaker who has that kind of attitude towards women?

NEIL MITCHELL:

You’re talking about his vulgar text references referring to female genitalia?

TONY ABBOTT:

Which I’m not going to repeat on air.

NEIL MITCHELL:

No, neither am I! But that’s what you’re referring to, isn’t it?

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s pretty obvious that this bloke has shown considerable disrespect towards women.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Ok, the other thing, 100 days of the carbon tax, today. Now, it hasn’t hurt that much. Are you still saying it’s going to?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, what I was saying for months, is that this is a python squeeze rather than a cobra strike. Everyone who is getting their power bills at the moment - and millions of Australian households are getting their power bills - knows that this is hurting. Every business…

NEIL MITCHELL:

But it’s only a percentage of the power bill in fairness. I mean, the vast majority of the power bill’s got nothing to do with the carbon tax.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, even the Government’s own literature says that the carbon tax is 10 per cent of the price. Now, the carbon tax is coming on now, many people have had massive increases in their power bills just over the last couple of months. I was listening to the Today programme the other day and there were a couple of people who had bills close to doubling and the carbon tax is obviously a very, very significant element in that. So, Neil, there is the hit on households through much higher electricity bills. Then there’s the hit on jobs.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So it’s still coming, is it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, it is happening and it’s just going to get worse and worse and worse as time goes by because at the moment it is $23 a tonne, the Government says it will be $29 a tonne by 2015, it will be $37 a tonne by 2020 and, believe it or not, $350 a tonne by 2050. So, if this thing stays it just gets worse and worse and worse over time. The whole point of a carbon tax is to make power more expensive. That’s the whole point and the Government is in denial if it thinks that this is not going to hurt.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Can I just ask a couple of quick things, too. Alan Jones, are you starting to feel there’s an overreaction there to what’s happened?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I think Alan did the wrong thing. He said the wrong thing, he has admitted that. He has admitted it time and time again over the last few days…

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah, but is he being targeted over that now or is he being targeted over his politics?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think there are a lot of people who are looking for every possible opportunity to victimise and demonise people who they don’t agree with politically.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So, have you spoken to him privately to offer some support?

TONY ABBOTT:

I talk to all sorts of people all the time, Neil, and I’ve tried to make it a practice never to identify particular conversations.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Oh no, I don’t want particular conversations, but generally I would assume from that you’ve had a chat to him.

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, obviously I’ve spoken to him…

NEIL MITCHELL:

Fair enough.

TONY ABBOTT:

…since the unfortunate night when he made those comments that should have never been made about the Prime Minister.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So, the $50 million for crime hotspots, that’s right around the country and it’s proceeds of crime, is it, to put up the CCTVs?

TONY ABBOTT:

That’s correct. Look, the Government reckons there are $58.3 million in the proceeds of crime pool. They’ve said that that money will simply go towards reducing the bottom line. My point is that money that comes from crime should be used to fight crime and $50 million of that will be used to make our streets safer, make our communities safer, in particular by providing local councils in consultation with the police the money to put up more CCTV cameras because these have a proven demonstrated effect in deterring crime, in detecting crime and in clearing up crime.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I agree with you. Thank you very much for you time.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thank you so much, Neil.

[ends]