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Transcript of press conference: Central Coast: 2 November 2012: a plan for the nation's future; Liberal policies; WorkChoices; Slater & Gordon; asylum seekers; Dobell; Central Coast

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PRIME MINISTER Transcript of Press Conference Central Coast



Subjects: A plan for the nation’s future; Liberal policies; WorkChoices; Slater & Gordon; Asylum seekers; Dobell; Central Coast

PM: It’s a very great pleasure to be here today with Deb O’Neill in her electorate of Robertson. We’ve had an absolutely fantastic day.

I’m here at a tremendous school, at Saint Edward’s, and I’ve had the privilege of not only meeting some of the boys who study here, but girls from Saint Joseph’s as well.

This is a school where Deb O’Neill taught, so she knows it well, and we’ve had the opportunity to hear from these kids today about the things that are on their mind.

I’ve also had the opportunity today to meet with some great local volunteers, to open the Community Centre in North Gosford and to honour Laurie Maher in its opening. So we have had a tremendous day.

I’ve been speaking to these children today about the future they will live in, where we are turning to the Asian region for our economic future. Making sure that we can seize all the possibilities of this age in which we live, where our economic future will be defined in our region and our region will be home to the greatest number of middle class people on earth.

If we’re going to win that economic race, we’ve got to win the education race. There is nothing more important to our nation’s future than what is happening in Australian schools, which is why I’m so disappointed that as we are seeking to build up the resources in education, we are seeing the New South Wales State Government cut that funding back.

I’m particularly disappointed that now Premier O’Farrell has found another billion dollars in his budget, that he isn’t looking to use that billion dollars to make up for the cut backs to these great schools. So I’d say to Premier O’Farrell - standing in a fantastic school today - with a billion dollars more in his budget, he should be looking at investing that money in schools rather than cutting them back.

I also note today that Tony Abbott has been out giving a speech on productivity. Giving a speech in which he has rehashed and recycled some tired old ideas.

He has re-announced an idea from May this year about cutting red tape. But I also note that he’s announced a productivity committee today to be led by Mr Steve Ciobo, who made it absolutely clear a little bit earlier this year that his answer for productivity is bringing back WorkChoices and individual contracts.

Australians don’t want these rehashed ideas from the past like WorkChoices. They want us to be building for the future, which is why I delivered a national plan for our nation’s future on the weekend. And I’ve been here in this wonderful part of Australia talking to kids who are going to live their futures in this new age about what it means for them.

I’m very happy to take your questions.

JOURNALIST: Now that Ralph Blewitt has admitted he committed fraud in relation to setting up a slush fund with the AWU, would you welcome a police investigation into that matter?

PM: It’s all a matter for the police and they can do whatever they want to do.

JOURNALIST: Would you welcome that?

PM: I’m not at all worried about anything to do with any of this. It’s 17 years ago. The fact that the Opposition is in this sleaze and smear is just telling people they haven’t got any ideas for the future. Any authority that wants to do anything about any aspect of it - fine by me.

JOURNALIST: In Tony Abbott’s speech today he indicated he’d set aside sitting to (inaudible)?

PM: This is part of Mr Abbott’s con job on the Australian people. He’s trying to tell Australians he will get rid of carbon pricing - he never will. They’ll have a little fiddle. They’ll have a little name change if they are in a position to after the next election. Like every other living Liberal leader, he believes in carbon pricing.

But, what the next election will actually be about isn’t this tired old scare campaign. Or Mr Abbott’s name changes for policies. What it will actually be about is who has got a plan for the nation’s future.

We’ve delivered a plan for Australia’s future to make us a winner in this time of change. To make sure we’re the economic winner, and we win the education race. That’s what the next election’s going to be about - our plan versus the negativity and tired old rehashed announcements we’re now seeing from the other side.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)?

PM: If asylum seekers raise claims that aren’t credible, then action will be taken as we’ve taken over the past few days.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)?

PM: They didn’t raise a claim which would give you any reason to believe that they had a well-founded fear of persecution.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)?

PM: What we are doing is as people arrive, making assessments about whether or not they have any credible claim and if they don’t have any credible claim, then they should return to where they came from.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)?

PM: The processes that are being gone through are proper processes. If people don’t have any credible claim, then they should be returned to where they came from.

JOURNALIST: Craig Thomson, one of your former MPs was pretty critical of it yesterday, saying that it’s basically saying that the Howard policies were right. What’s your reaction to that?

PM: We’ve been guided in the policies we’re taking by a review led by Angus Houston, a former Chief of the Defence Force. And we have committed to implementing every aspect of that review.

I think Angus Houston is an incredibly powerful voice. He’s a man with a depth of experience in defence matters. He was assisted by a foreign policy expert and a refugee policy expert. We have said we will implement the recommendations of that most high-level review.

JOURNALIST: Can I just get you on the record saying now, 17 years on from AWU, that you can categorically rule out that you received any-

PM: I’ve done it a thousand times, we’ll send you 100 pages of transcript.

JOURNALIST: Just going back to Craig Thomson, obviously he’s no longer a member of the Labor Party, or certainly a suspended member of the Labor Party. It means the Labor Party doesn’t necessarily have a representative in Dobell at the moment. The Central Coast is renowned as a swinging area. Less than a year out from the election is it something that you need to look at potentially, pre-selecting someone there?

PM: There will be a Labor person for people to vote for in Dobell come the next election.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it will be Craig Thomson?

PM: Mr Thomson is no longer a member of the Labor Party. There will be a Labor person for people to vote for at the next election.

JOURNALIST: Mr Abbott’s speech today he also indicated (inaudible)?

PM: Well decoded that means he hasn’t got any plans.

JOURNALIST: Just to be clear you said Craig Thomson’s no longer a member of the Labor Party. Does that mean that suspension will never be lifted - he’ll never return to the caucus?

PM: Mr Thomson is an independent member of parliament now. What I’ve just said to you is there will be a Labor person for people to vote for in Dobell at the next election.

JOURNALIST: How important is the Central Coast - obviously Deb doing a great job in Robertson - but both seats have swapped hands so many times.

PM: Every part of the country is important to me as Prime Minister. But I do get Deb raising with me very, very routinely how important this part of the world is, how beautiful this part of the world is, and the needs of the Central Coast.

So I get great advice on what’s happening on the Central Coast and we will keep working here the way we have. We’ve invested here in the new integrated cancer centre to meet this community’s needs. We’ve invested in the GP super clinic to meet this community’s needs.

We’re rolling out the NBN here to meet this community’s needs. We’re continuing to make record investments in local schools so these kids of this community have a great future, and the list goes on.

I’ve very proud to be working alongside Deb O’Neill on everything that her electorate needs, and of course across the Central Coast, across New South Wales, across Australia we’ll be working with Australian communities as we deliver our plan for the nation’s future.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)?

PM: Persistence, in a word, persistence.

JOURNALIST: Can I just throw the AWU thing forward if you will so (inaudible). Would you welcome the release of further legal documents in relation to your setting up the fund and would you free Mr Blewitt or Mr Wilson from any legal or professional privilege that he may have had?

PM: You completely misunderstand the situation. Legal professional privilege is about the client, it’s absolutely nothing to do with me.

JOURNALIST: If they cleared you of it-

PM: It’s nothing to do with me.

JOURNALIST: Would you welcome-

PM: The premise of your question is wrong. It’s nothing to do with me. It’s a matter for them. They are the holders of the legal professional privilege not me, nothing to do with me.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) the legal documents?

PM: You’re on completely the wrong tram, you misunderstand the situation. I’ve answered all of this before. Questions of privilege are nothing to do with me. The privilege relates to the client.

Okay, thank you very much.