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Transcript of joint press conference: Sydney: 25 October 2012: The Government's failed border protection policies; Julia Gillard's mining tax; Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; Craig Thomson.



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

25 October 2012

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH MR. SCOTT MORRISON MHR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP SYDNEY

Subjects: The Government's failed border protection policies; Julia Gillard's mining tax; Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; Craig Thomson.

E&OE……………………….……………………………………………………………

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s good to be here with Scott Morrison. What Scott and I want to do today is highlight the continuing worsening crisis on our borders which has proven completely beyond the capacity of this government to address but before we go into that, I just want to put this particular failure in some context.

Two years ago, the Prime Minister said that a good government had lost its way and she set herself for three tasks: she was going to fix the border protection problem; she was going to fix the mining tax problem; she was going to fix the climate change problem. Now, she has failed comprehensively on every count.

We learn today that the mining tax has damaged investment, damaged confidence, created perceptions of sovereign risk but it hasn't actually raised any revenue. We know that the Prime Minister's carbon tax was a complete breach of faith with the Australian people. We learn today that she made a pledge in writing to Kevin Rudd never ever to support an emissions trading scheme or a price on carbon and the boat situation just gets worse and worse and worse.

Everywhere you look, it just gets worse for this government. Their company tax cut agenda is in complete ruins. We learned from the ABS yesterday that power prices have gone up by 91 per cent under this Government. They have gone up by 41 per cent since Julia Gillard became Prime Minister and they have gone up by 15 per cent in just a quarter - in large measure because of the carbon tax; the toxic tax that Julia Gillard said we would never, ever have.

Now, of course, we come to the boats. Now, at budget time they said there would be 450 illegal boat arrivals a month. Now we are getting 450 illegal boat arrivals a week. There have been 14 boats in just the last seven days. Based on last year's figures, every illegal boat costs $12 million. This is doing untold damage to the budget. An extra 100 boats would completely blow the budget. So, this is where all of Labor's failures come together: the fact that you can't trust them with money, the fact that you can't trust them with our borders, the fact that you can't trust them with the truth. All you can trust them to do is to look after their own political survival.

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This is a government which has a political strategy but no economic plan. This is a government which has a plan for tomorrow's headline but no plan to stop the boats. It is a monumentally incompetent and untrustworthy government.

As I constantly say, there is a better way. We can stop the boats. We have done it before, we can do it again. We can return the budget to surplus. We have done it before, we can do it again. We can promote economic growth. We have done it before, we can do it again.

So, I think the Australian people are more and more waiting for an opportunity to change the government and I hope they have that opportunity as soon as possible.

I will throw to Scott now to say a few words.

SCOTT MORRISON:

Thank you, Tony. In terms of MYEFO, the figures this week are truly astounding. We have had a blowout in this year's budget on boats of $1.2 billion for this year alone. Now, that is more than this government actually budgeted to spend on this issue in the budget in total. So, with a $1.2 billion blowout in this year, that takes the cumulative blowout of this government over the last three years to more than $6 billion and when you think about what $6 billion could be spent on with the many challenges that there are that this country faces with this budget, $6 billion blown on this country's border failures is an indictment both on this Prime Minister and a Labor Government that decided to get rid of policies that were working.

Now, when we drill down into these additional costs, we learn that the Government is also not coming clean on what the full costs actually are. Of that $1.2 billion this year, they are only talking about $100 million that is for the cost of increasing the refugee and humanitarian intake to 20,000, but the Government doesn't tell us what the full costs will be over both this year and over the forward estimates for increasing that intake. This Government wants to take another 25,000 people under this program, over the next four years. When the Minister announced it, he said it would cost around $1.3 billion. That means this government is saying to the Australian people they want to spend $1.3 billion or more than $50,000 per place on taking another 25,000 refugees over the next four years.

This government needs to explain to the Australian people why that choice is more important and they want to spend more on than on the NDIS or on the many other significant matters that are before both the Parliament and the Government in terms of their budget which is in freefall.

In addition to that, they want to spend another $54 million on providing family reunion places to people who come on boats and they have allowed 16,000 places for family members for people who come on boats. This is a government who said they wanted to deny family reunion. Well, they have budgeted for it and they’ve put $54 million in this MYEFO to pay exactly for that.

So, the Government needs to come clean today on a couple of things. First they need to say what is their estimate of the number of people they expect to arrive now in this financial year. You heard Tony say, they previously budgeted 450. Well what is the new number? Because we know the actual number of people turning up at the moment is an average of more than 2,000 per month and from our recent visit to Indonesia, we know that there are more than 1,500 people, at least, coming into Indonesia every single month and so the Government needs to be clear about that.

They also need to be clear about what the cost is not just for this financial year but over the full forward estimates so the Australian people know just how imperilled this budget is and as every boat arrives, as Tony says, that is another boat that is going to blow this government's budget.

TONY ABBOTT:

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Ok. Do you have any questions?

QUESTION:

How long do you think it will take you to stop the boats if you are elected? What time frame do you put on it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, we believe we can do it very quickly. As you know, there are three elements to our border protection policies: you have got to have rigorous offshore processing at Nauru and elsewhere, you have got to have temporary protection visas to deny the people smugglers a product to sell and you’ve got to have a willingness to turn boats around where it's safe to do so. Now, a lot of people have said, oh you can't turn boats around. Well, you can turn boats around because it has been done before and what has been done before can and should be done again.

SCOTT MORRISON:

Just on that, Tony, can I add to that on turning boats back. There is one boat in particular this government must turn back and that's the boat for which warrants have been issued by the Sri Lankan Government for alleged pirates on their way to Australia. Now, this boat should be intercepted outside Australia's waters so these alleged pirates don't have the opportunity to come in and seek protection and engage in a process that could see them in Australia for years before they ever have to face the music for their alleged crimes in Sri Lanka. The Government's decision to allow this vessel carrying alleged pirates into our waters is an admission of their impotence when it comes to dealing with this issue. If they are not prepared to turn back alleged pirates, then who are they prepared to turn back? I think that just shows that their heart is just not in it when it comes to border protection.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, on your previous answer, you said that you would expect to stop the boats quickly I think, was the phrase you used. Can you be more specific, would that be 12 months, 6 months?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well within those timeframes.

QUESTION:

On a different topic, Craig Thomson's lawyer is criticising you for mouthing off. Any reaction to that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, that's what you would expect him to say, but the fact is Craig Thomson hasn't been arrested, he hasn't been charged. The matter is not sub judice and if you go back and look at what I said yesterday, what I said was entirely in keeping with the findings of Fair Work Australia - not allegations, but the findings of Fair Work Australia - and the essential point I made yesterday was that Craig Thomson is Julia Gillard's man. Craig Thomson is Julia Gillard's vote. The Prime Minister must be held accountable for this person, for this vote, that she absolutely relies upon to survive in the Parliament.

QUESTION:

Mr Morrison, in regards to the alleged Sri Lankan pirates, why not ask the Australian authorities to take these people into custody and send them back to Sri Lanka?

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SCOTT MORRISON:

Well, because if they come across our sea borders, then they will be able to engage our non-refoulement obligations under the conventions as they stand and our current laws, which could see them have any claims as dubious as they might be assessed, appealed, taken to the refugee appeal tribunal, appealed in the Federal Court, taken to the High Court and it will be some time potentially before any of these individuals would have to face what appears from the reports to be very serious alleged crimes. So, the option here for the Government is fairly straightforward: intercept this vessel before it gets into Australian waters and make arrangements for these individuals to be returned to Sri Lanka where they should face the music for their alleged crimes.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, in regard to the mining tax, before it was even introduced you said it would kill the goose that laid the golden egg but they haven't paid any tax. What is your response to that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, this is a lose-lose tax. This is a lose-lose tax. Only the Labor Party could introduce a confidence-destroying, investment-destroying tax and then not raise any money. I mean, this is the extraordinary feature of this monumentally incompetent government that they can have the worst of all possible worlds. They can introduce a new tax which does massive damage to our reputation overseas, which does massive damage to investor perceptions of Australia and then so botch it that they get no revenue from it. Yet, the spending associated with the mining tax continues apace.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, in light of revelations that Ms Gillard had previously joked that two childless women were now the policy guardians of Australian children, was your apology on Tuesday warranted?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I'm just going to leave those matters entirely earlier in the week. That's where they belong.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, going back to the mining tax, is it not too soon to write it off as a failure after only three months?

TONY ABBOTT:

Given that conditions in the sector are much flatter than they were and expectations in the sector are mixed at best, I don't think that the Government can have any real confidence of getting more revenue in subsequent quarters than it has got in this quarter.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, the woman who accused you of physically intimidating her is now suing Michael Kroger. Any reaction to that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, that's a matter for her but, as you know, I believe that the claim that was made in that book is completely without foundation.

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QUESTION:

Mr Morrison, part of the recent hikes in visa application fees were part of this user-pays system. Does the Opposition have a detailed cost analysis of the cost of visa applications?

SCOTT MORRISON:

Well, in MYEFO the Government is slugging people looking to come to Australia the right way with $500 million worth of effectively what are new taxes on tourists and people on working holiday visas and people bringing their partners out legitimately to this country. I mean, this government is saying to the migrant communities of Australia that if you want to come here the right way, we will make you pay for those we can't stop coming the wrong way and I think there is something grossly inequitable about that. I mean, increases in fees, particularly in the area of visas should be attached to improvements in service. This is simply a crash grab from migrants coming the right way to pay for this government's failure to stop those coming the wrong way.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thank you.

[ends]