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Transcript of interview with Neil Mitchell: Radio 3AW, Melbourne: 23 October 2012: MYEFO; baby bonus



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

23 October 2012

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

Subjects: MYEFO; baby bonus.

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

NEIL MITCHELL:

Tony Abbott's about to join me. He was on Channel Seven’s Sunrise programme. I’ve played at length what he said. He was asked to respond to the Gillard Government’s mini budget and the comments about the baby bonus, particularly Wayne Swan who said well you need the five grand for the first baby, but then when the second child comes along you don’t need so much because you can use the same cot and pusher and everything and Tony Abbott in the middle of his response to that said this:

TONY ABBOTT:

I think if the Government was a bit more experienced in this area they wouldn’t come out with glib lines like that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

The Prime Minister says he has to explain it. She’s suggesting it was a sexist barb aimed at her; that’s what she’s suggesting without spelling it out. He’s on the line. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, good morning.

TONY ABBOTT:

Neil, I was thinking of my own personal experience. We had Louise, and we had Frances about 15 months later, and we had to spend several hundreds of dollars buying a double pram. So, it was simply a reference to my own experience and, look, I think what we’ve got is a government which hyperventilates about all sorts of things at the least possible excuse and, look, this is a Government that I think is out of touch when it comes to these sorts of cost of living issues.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Ok, were you in any way referring to the Prime Minister’s lack of children?

TONY ABBOTT:

Of course not, of course not.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So, do you apologise to her if she took it that way?

TONY ABBOTT:

Oh, please, Neil. I was alluding to my own experience of a double pram for Louise and Frances. If she wants to take offence, of course I’m sorry about that and if she would like me to say sorry, I’m sorry.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah, well I accept what you’re saying it wasn’t intended but she’s taken it that way, let’s move on.

TONY ABBOTT:

Yeah, that’s exactly right.

NEIL MITCHELL:

It probably wasn’t worded the best.

TONY ABBOTT:

Oh, mate, look, I think that a lot of people are very ready to read far too much into entirely innocent comments and this was as innocent as a comment can be.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Is this a bit of that sort of sexism here, is it?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think people want to move on from all of that, I really do, I really do. Look, I am the father of three daughters. I want them to be judged on "the content of their character" to quote that famous line of Martin Luther King’s. I think we should just move past all of this and if I’ve got a criticism of the Government, I’m criticising it because of its record, not because of the gender of any of its members.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What I’m saying, though, is that I wonder if in this current environment, we all have to be particularly careful in what we say, because this is an environment where people are sort of looking for sexism and not just with you but with anybody.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think that in a robust democracy like Australia, everyone in public life has got to expect criticism, but it ought to be fair criticism and this idea that people are off-limits because of their gender, their race, their religion, look, if people say the wrong thing, they are entitled to expect criticism but it’s got to be fair criticism and I think there’s been a lot of unfair criticism bandied around.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Ok, the baby bonus. Will you restore it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, we’re going to mull over the various measures that the Government announced yesterday. We don’t like them. Plainly, this was a mini-budget that hurt families’ budgets to patch up the Government’s budget. There’s $3.9 billion worth of education cuts. There’s $1.5 billion worth of health cuts - hospitals as well as the private health insurance rebate. Schools and apprenticeships as well as universities and research are being cut. We need to look at this carefully and our position will be announced when the legislation goes into the Parliament. We accept that the first task of an incoming government will be to restore economic growth, to restore a sustainable surplus as quickly as we can but let’s look at these things when the measures come in to the Parliament.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Are you willing to say what does concern you the most?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think anything that impacts on families at a time when they are under massive cost of living pressure is a problem. Now, why didn’t the Government tell us about this attack on the baby bonus for families with two or more kids when they were patting themselves on the back about the carbon tax compensation? It’s typical of the misleading and deceptive conduct of this government. So, look, there’s all sorts of things about this which I think are just dead wrong, Neil. I mean, this is a government which we now know is only going to achieve an election year surplus by bringing forward $5 billion of company tax collection, otherwise there’d be a $3 billion deficit in an election year. So, everywhere you look, there are fiddles.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you think that’s going to impact badly on business? I was talking to the Treasurer earlier. He doesn’t really think it’ll really matter to business. Do you think it will?

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s just more money that they’re going to have to find when they didn’t expect to have to find it. Then, of course, there’s the prospect of even higher taxes because one of the things that Wayne Swan did do this morning was fail to rule out new or higher taxes. Yesterday he said that there’d be further structural adjustments to accommodate things like the Gonski changes and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I think what we can always expect from this government is more spending, more borrowing and more taxing because you just can’t trust them with money, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Ok, thanks for talking to us. Just finally, on the issue of babies and things, there are a few babies in Cabinet; I mean, there are a few people in Cabinet with babies, aren’t there, or with kids, anyway?

TONY ABBOTT:

Indeed.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So if there was an issue of understanding, you’d assume the Cabinet would understand it.

TONY ABBOTT:

And there’s a few people in the Shadow Cabinet as well.

NEIL MITCHELL:

That’s true. I mean, it gets to the point of how we expect our politicians to be in touch. I mean, how do you stay in touch? Do you need kids? Do you need a mortgage? Do you need all these things?

TONY ABBOTT:

Neil, this idea that you can have second and subsequent kids on the cheap is just wrong. It’s just wrong. I mean, they can’t exist entirely on hand-me-downs. Then, of course, there’s the fact that as your family expands you might have to move from a flat to a house, you might have to get a bigger car, and look, this simply an economy. I don’t believe there is any credible public policy justification for it and, as I said, the Government should have told us about this back in the middle of the year when it was patting itself on the back for its carbon tax compensation. Let’s never forget that back in 2007 this government made a solemn pledge not to touch the baby bonus, a solemn pledge, and in its first term it’s fiddled with the baby bonus, it means-tested the baby bonus. Now it’s changing it again and it’s typical of a government that you just can’t trust.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you for your time.

[ends]