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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Adelaide: 24 October 2012: MYEFO; education; Craig Thomson; Isobel Redmond; border protection; Governor-General; Julia Gillard's carbon tax.



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

24 October 2012

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH THE HON. CHRISTOPHER PYNE MHR HILLCREST, ADELAIDE

Subjects: MYEFO; education; Craig Thomson; Isobel Redmond; border protection; Governor-General; Julia Gillard's carbon tax.

E&OE……………………….……………………………………………………………

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s terrific to be here in the electorate of Sturt with Christopher Pyne, the local member and the Shadow Minister for Education. I want to thank the pupils and the staff of the Gilles Park School for making Christopher and myself so welcome today.

This is a Government which is so mired in scandal that it can’t focus on the things that matter to Australian families. To the extent that they do focus on the things that matter Australian families, they hurt families and what we saw from the Government this week in its mini budget was effectively a $4 billion cut to education. Total education spending over the forward estimates is $3.9 billion less now than it was at budget time. There are a whole range of specific cuts, including to programmes that have simply been failures, such as the trades training centres, they promised 2600, they've delivered scarcely 200.

So, this is a government which just doesn't get it when it comes to families. It’s always battling scandal. I think really this is a government which is just untrustworthy and incompetent and the longer it lasts the more obvious that is.

Over to you, Christopher.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Thank you, Tony. Tony touched on the cuts to education. It is absolutely remarkable that at a time when Julia Gillard was giving a speech about the importance of education, the Government was sharpening the knives to slash education in MYEFO. At a time when Julia Gillard was lecturing the NSW and Queensland governments about the importance of education, her Treasurer and her Minister for Schools were designing cuts to education.

We're not talking about nebulous changes or just accounting fiddles, this is cuts to teacher quality, to apprenticeships and training, to enrolments for undergraduates, for support for students, research at universities, the Teach Next programme, the trade training centres, which Tony has already touched on, computers in schools. What this government likes to do is make the big announcement and distract the

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Australian public and then later on they secretly in the night cut the actual programmes. So, computers in schools has now been cut, trade training centres have now been cut. These are all the signature tunes of the Government in education.

So, at a time when they're cutting education, the Coalition is committed to increasing spending on education through real indexation in the next quadrennium of funding for education. We are committed to teacher quality, a robust curriculum, ending the discrimination against disabled children in schools and principal autonomy. That's why I'm so glad to be here at the Gilles Plains Primary School.

On the issue of Craig Thomson who has famously, his house and I think his office have been raided today, this is a question that Julia Gillard needs to answer today: will she continue to accept Craig Thomson's vote when Parliament goes back next week? We left Parliament two weeks ago mired in scandal. We go back next Monday continuing to be steeped in scandal. If Julia Gillard wanted to restore integrity to the way Australians think about the Parliament, she would announce that she will not accept Craig Thomson's tainted vote and that's a question that needs to be put to her today and rather than squib it, she needs to answer it.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, will you start toning down your attacks on Craig Thomson given it could prejudice a court process?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, he hasn't been arrested, he hasn't yet been charged, there has been an adverse finding made against him by a quasi-judicial body, the Fair Work Australia tribunal. So, look, this does raise very serious matters for the Prime Minister. Yet again it is the Prime Minister's judgment which is in question because for months, indeed years, she kept saying that she had full confidence in Craig Thomson. She now needs to explain how she could say that given what is coming out now into the public arena.

QUESTION:

So where there's smoke there's fire?

TONY ABBOTT:

This is someone who was found by Fair Work Australia to have grievously misused the money of low paid union members and I wish the Government had been as diligent about protecting the money of low paid union members as the NSW and Victorian police have demonstrated themselves to be.

QUESTION:

So should he stand down now, then?

TONY ABBOTT:

This is a tainted vote. It is tainted vote which is absolutely crucial to this Prime Minister. This Prime Minister will do whatever it takes to protect herself. She's not interested in protecting Australian families. She will do whatever it takes to protect herself. We saw the squalid Slipper manoeuvre because she knew she was at risk of losing the support of Andrew Wilkie, the member for Denison. She always knew that there was a huge question mark over Craig Thomson, but this is constantly a Prime Minister who will look after her interests rather than protect the interests of the forgotten families of Australia.

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QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, do you believe that Labor is using business to prop up its budget?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, if you look at what they've actually done, their election year forecast surplus only exists because of a fiddle at the expense of business. If there wasn't the $5.5 billion of business tax bring-forward in the election year budget, there would be an election year deficit. So, this is a government which is using business, hurting business, to give itself a bit of election year window dressing.

QUESTION:

Have you offered the Prime Minister a personal apology about your comments regarding government and children and do you find you’re having to second guess everything you're saying in this climate for fear of being labelled a sexist?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I'm never going to apologise for being a dad, I’m never going to apologise for having a family and look, everyone is different and I respect that, but the fact of the matter is this is a government which demonstrates by its actions that it has forgotten the families of Australia. Whether it’s the carbon tax, whether it is the cuts to health and education in this week's mini budget, this is a government that has forgotten the struggling families of Australia.

QUESTION:

Do you believe that comparisons can be drawn between Julia Gillard and Isobel Redmond?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I'm just not going to get into this personal politics. I mean, please, let's leave the personal politics to the Labor Party.

QUESTION:

Not personal politics. I'm talking about the style and the attitude and the behaviour politically of Ms Gillard and Ms Redmond? I think you know what we’re talking about?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well no, I don't.

QUESTION:

What advice do you have for Isobel Redmond on how to lead a party after winning a ballot by one vote?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I don't presume to give my state parliamentary colleagues advice. All I know from my regular visits to South Australia is that the people of South Australia desperately need and want a change of government and I'm confident that that's what they'll get under Isobel's leadership.

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QUESTION:

Are you quite happy with Isobel Redmond as leader, because it could have been quite different, we might have been here talking about Martin Hamilton-Smith. So which one would have you favoured?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, again, what I favour is a change of government here in South Australia just as I favour a change of government in Canberra and we will get a change of government here in South Australia under the leadership of Isobel Redmond.

QUESTION:

You won't actively endorse her or disendorse her or anything else?

TONY ABBOTT:

I'm happy to support her leadership and I am working enthusiastically for a change of government here in South Australia just as I'm working enthusiastically for a change of government in Canberra.

QUESTION:

Should voters trust what Ms Redmond says?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I think I've fully dealt with that issue and I'm happy to answer questions on other subjects.

QUESTION:

I'm just asking whether you think the voters can trust the Opposition Leader in South Australia?

TONY ABBOTT:

The short answer is yes. Now I’m happy to take questions on other subjects but I think we’ve fully dealt with that issue.

QUESTION:

One final question on this. How would you rate the performance of the South Australian Liberal Party, because it is embarrassing, isn't it?

TONY ABBOTT:

The South Australian Liberal Party is poised, I believe, to win an election, whenever the next election is held here in South Australia.

QUESTION:

But are you embarrassed by them, by their behaviour in the last couple of weeks?

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TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I know the game you guys are playing and I’m not going to play it. Are there any further questions on other subjects?

QUESTION:

What do you make of the dispute in the South Australian Labor Party over who should get the number one spot on the Senate ticket and do you believe that Penny Wong’s gender is playing any role in her not being given the top position?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think it simply proves that the faceless men are in charge and when you’ve got a party run by faceless men, the faceless men tend to give themselves the plum positions.

QUESTION:

The Secretary General of ASEAN has labelled your policy on towing back the boats as counterproductive. Are you going to give ASEAN a briefing on your policy?

TONY ABBOTT:

Our policy is to stop the boats and if you want to stop the boats you’ve got to do principally, three things. First of all you’ve got to have rigorous offshore processing; second, you’ve got to have temporary protection visas to deny the people smugglers a product to sell; and third, you’ve got to be prepared to turn boats around where it’s safe to do so. Now, I am happy to explain my policy to anyone who wants to hear it.

QUESTION:

Would Alexander Downer make a good Premier?

TONY ABBOTT:

Alexander Downer is doing a terrific job on many fronts, particularly his diplomatic role to resolve the Cyprus dispute.

QUESTION:

So, he’d be a great Premier then. If he can handle the UN and Cyprus, he must be able to handle the South Australian Liberal Party.

TONY ABBOTT:

Please. Are there any questions on other subjects?

QUESTION:

Seriously, do you think he’d make a good Premier?

TONY ABBOTT:

I’m just not going to entertain that one.

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QUESTION:

He has seriously considered running for state parliament. He’s had extensive discussions. You worked closely with him. Do you think he would be a good Premier?

TONY ABBOTT:

All I know is that Mrs Downer said on radio that there was no way her husband was going back into politics.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, back on to Craig Thomson for a second, you didn’t actually answer the question. Do you think he should stand down?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, it is a matter for him what he does but essentially this is an exemplar of the kind of thing which makes people question the Prime Minister’s judgment. I mean, this is a Prime Minister who relies on this man’s vote for her position. This is a Prime Minister whose judgment is such that she was saying for months and years that Craig Thomson was someone in whom she had "full confidence." Now, I think it’s really up to the Prime Minister to decide what she is going to do with this person on whom she utterly relies for her survival.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, if your deputy tried to get rid of you, would you like to continue working with them as your deputy?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think we’ve fully dealt with that issue.

QUESTION:

So what’s the answer to that question? Would you trust a deputy who tried to get rid of you?

TONY ABBOTT:

Are there questions on other subjects?

QUESTION:

What’s your response to the extension of Quentin Bryce’s term as Governor-General?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that Quentin Bryce has done an excellent job. I think she has filled that role with distinction and I warmly applaud this extension of her term.

QUESTION:

Economists are saying that the impact of the CPI increase will be modest this year. That doesn’t exactly fit in with your policy on the impact of the carbon price, does it?

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TONY ABBOTT:

Look, this is a government which is so out of touch that it thinks that increases in power prices don’t really matter. Well, the fact is, power prices have gone up by some 50 per cent over the last four and a half years. Even on the Government’s own figures, they’ve gone up by 10 per cent under the carbon tax. It’s just going to get worse and worse as time goes by and the best thing I can do for the forgotten families of Australia is get rid of the carbon tax. The carbon tax is a bad tax based on a lie and when I say there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead, I am telling the truth.

Thank you.

[ends]