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Transcript of joint press conference: Sydney: 14 September 2010: Announcement of Coalition Shadow Ministry; Parliamentary reforms; Speaker's role



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

14 September 2010

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH THE HON. JULIE BISHOP MHR, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE

SYDNEY

Subjects: Announcement of Coalition Shadow Ministry; Parliamentary reforms; Speaker’s role.

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

TONY ABBOTT:

I’m very pleased to be here today to announce the Coalition’s new Shadow Ministry. I want to say that it is a strong and experienced team that will hold a weak and incompetent government to account. It’s a team with deep connections to the community and it will continue to put forward practical policies to build a better and stronger Australia.

I want to say that the recent election has clearly been the worst outcome for an incumbent government since 1931. The Coalition has more seats and more votes than the Labor Party. The minority government lost its way, lost its majority and now has lost its mandate. It’s still in government but it’s only just in government and so our task as a Coalition is to be an even more formidable opposition in the coming term than we were in the last term. Our challenge is to be even more effective in holding the Government to account than we were and be an even stronger and more credible alternative government than we were.

One of the things that you can be absolutely confident in is that this government will not fundamentally change its character. It will still be untrustworthy with money and we can be absolutely confident that the Government’s mining tax will unravel and with the unravelling of the mining tax, the Government’s fiscal position will also unravel.

We can remain confident that this Government will be unable to control our borders and if there is one absolute certainty about this Government it is that there will never, ever be an asylum processing centre in East Timor. Kevin Rudd will not be able to negotiate one because he fundamentally does not believe in one.

We can also be certain that this Government will remain fundamentally incompetent at delivering services. In particular, the National Broadband Network, or Nationalised Broadband Network, is going to become an icon of waste and incompetence. I’ve already described it as school halls on steroids and we can be certain that the National Broadband Network will be to this term of government what pink batts and school halls were to the last term of government.

It is a complete waste to spend $5,000 per household delivering an information superhighway beside every dirt track in this country, whether people need it, want it or can afford it and who better to hold the Government to account here than Malcolm Turnbull, who is restored to the Opposition frontbench as

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Shadow Minister for Communications and who has the technical expertise and the business experience to entirely demolish the Government on this issue.

I want to say that this is a good team. I am very pleased that my Deputy Julie Bishop will be Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Shadow Minister for Trade. I am very pleased that Warren Truss, the Leader of the Nationals, will be the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. I’m delighted to have essentially the same economic team as before, headed by Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb. I want to pay particular tribute to Scott Morrison for his work on border protection, to Christopher Pyne for his exposure of the school hall rip offs, to Greg Hunt for the vigilance that he’s shown over the pink batts disaster. I should also pay tribute to Barnaby Joyce and to Bronwyn Bishop who demonstrated during the recent election campaign that they are two of Australia’s foremost retail politicians. It has been a very good team and you do not significantly change a very good and very effective team. There is stability at the top, but there is also significant renewal and I am very pleased to welcome to the extended Ministry three women - Fiona Nash, Michaelia Cash and Teresa Gambaro and also, Darren Chester, Andrew Laming and Senator Scott Ryan. I think they are going to make an outstanding contribution to the Coalition’s effective performance in the weeks and months ahead.

As I said, it is a strong and experienced team. There is stability and renewal in the team that I announce today. Above all else, this is a Coalition which is hungry to hold the Government to account, hungry to provide Australia with the better government that we now need and I have to say that I’m confident that you will find that this is a Shadow Ministry which lasts, unlike the Government’s front bench which experienced three significant revisions between being announced on the weekend and being sworn in today.

So, I’m very happy to be announcing this team, this good blend of stability and renewal and I might ask my Deputy, Julie Bishop, just to say a few words.

JULIE BISHOP:

Thanks, Tony. I’m delighted with the make-up of the new Coalition Ministry. We do have a combination of the strength that comes with experience as well as the excitement of some new faces in the line-up. There is strength and stability, experience, talent and energy in this frontbench line-up and we also have managed to balance the House and the Senate representation as well as representatives from the States and Territories. So, it’s a strong team, whose duty will be to hold this Government to account and present as a credible alternative for the Australian people

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks, Julie.

QUESTION:

Tony, will Malcolm Turnbull be bound by Cabinet solidarity on an ETS?

TONY ABBOTT:

The short answer is that everyone is bound by the usual rules of the team.

QUESTION:

Why did you sack Tony Smith?

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TONY ABBOTT:

I want to say that this is a stronger, hungrier team that will better hold the Government to account and will better present as a credible alternative. I should say that Tony still has a strong contribution to make. He’s the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Tax Reform and he’s the Deputy Chair of the Coalition Policy Development Committee. I think that he has a big contribution to make to the Coalition’s future.

QUESTION:

There was speculation that Andrew Robb, that he had his eyes on the Shadow Treasurer’s position. Why have you decided to stick with the existing team?

TONY ABBOTT:

I have confidence in the existing team. I think it’s important that there be renewal as well as stability and I think that’s what we have delivered with the Shadow Ministry that I announce today but look, I think that Joe and Andrew are a very good combination. I think that they’ve worked very well together in the past. I think that the pair of them can take very considerable credit for our success at the election and I want to build on that in the weeks and months and years ahead.

QUESTION:

What about Steve Ciobo? What did he do wrong?

TONY ABBOTT:

You know, it’s important to have renewal and I know that politics is a tough business and inevitably, one person’s elation is someone else’s disappointment. It doesn’t mean that that person has done a bad job, not at all, it just means that there is something of the quality of snakes and ladders about the business of politics. Always has been a bit like that, always will be a bit like that.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, why has Mr Turnbull got the Communications and Broadband portfolio? Can you talk us through your thinking on that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Because this is going to be the absolute focus of the political battle over the next 18 months or so. The government is going to invest $43 billion worth of hard-earned money in what I believe is going to turn out to be a white elephant on a massive scale and I can’t think of anyone better than Malcolm Turnbull, given his experience in telecommunications and in business, to hold the government ferociously to account in this area.

QUESTION:

Is there a danger that he might be looking beyond this portfolio towards the leadership?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, no one will be happier than I am if he succeeds magnificently in this shadow portfolio.

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QUESTION:

Why no multiculturalism spokesman?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that it’s important that we recognise the diversity of Australian society but these days on both sides of politics we tend to talk more in terms of citizenship and I’m happy to keep doing that. I think that it’s important that we acknowledge the diversity of Australia but I think it’s also important to focus on the unity of Australia and that’s what I want to do.

QUESTION:

Normally, Opposition Leaders at this stage of the political cycle pledge to constructive opposition, but your opening comments suggested something a bit different, you really see really rocky times ahead, they don’t have a mandate. Will you be a destabilising Opposition Leader from here on or a constructive one?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well we’ll be a responsible opposition but our job is to hold the Government to account. This has been an incompetent government, at times it’s been a shambolic government, they’re back in office by the skin of their teeth, if that, and the Australian public expect us to hold this government to account. The Australian public will expect no lesser performance of this government than of all previous governments and we certainly are going to hold them to account by that high standard.

QUESTION:

The Prime Minister will be in a highly unusual position in Question Time of having louder voices on the opposition side than on the government side, if only by one. It’s highly unusual, is Question Time going to be a point of pain for her every afternoon?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that Question Time should always be a testing time for ministers and it will be a testing time in this Parliament no less than it’s been a testing time in previous Parliaments. We’re certainly not going to be disruptive. I hope we won’t be unfair and I expect as a result of the Parliamentary reforms jointly negotiated by Christopher Pyne, Anthony Albanese and the independents, I expect it to be a good focus for debate in the months and years to come.

QUESTION:

Is it in the Coalition’s interest for the Speaker to be a Coalition MP?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think it’s in the Coalition’s interest for the Parliament to be a well-functioning Parliament and I think it’s in the national interest that we have a far more independent Speakership than we’ve had in the past. I think that Harry Jenkins has been a good Speaker, but I think he would be an even better Speaker if he were to be a Speaker under the Westminster tradition rather than under the tradition which has previously operated here in Australia. Now, the new arrangements that have been negotiated between the Government, the Opposition and the independents don’t quite constitute a Westminster Speakership, but if Harry Jenkins were to be the Speaker in the new Parliament, I think that could be a basis on which a Westminster-style Speakership could evolve.

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QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, do you really think you’re going to get stability in the Opposition when the Shadow Finance Minister was trying to replace the Shadow Treasurer?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think there is nothing wrong with Opposition frontbenchers being ambitious to do even better and to be even more effective, but the important thing is that we then work effectively as a team and I’m very confident that that’s going to happen in the months ahead, just as it’s abundantly happened in the nine months leading up to the election.

[ends]