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Transcript of doorstop interview: Brisbane: 28 January 2013: Queensland floods; Western Sydney rally; infrastructure; budget; industrial relations



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JOH

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

28 January 2013

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, BRISBANE

Subjects: Queensland floods; Western Sydney rally; infrastructure; budget; industrial relations.

EO&E...........................................................................................................................................

TONY ABBOTT:

I want to thank Premier Campbell Newman for his invitation to visit Queensland today and for the briefing that he’s given me on the flood crisis that is now afflicting this state. Yes, as things stand it doesn’t look like it’s going to be as bad as 2011 but it is a serious situation and I want to say how impressed I am by the way the emergency services machine here in Queensland has swung into action. I want to say how impressed I am by the way the people of Brisbane have rallied behind each other in this crisis. It was good to join some citizens at the Newmarket SES centre to help fill sandbags and to work in with local people to try to bring the best from this very difficult situation that Queenslanders find themselves in right now.

I’ve been in touch with the Coalition members who have been impacted by this crisis. Obviously everyone at a time like this is working hard to do the right thing by the community. It’s, I suppose, interesting is it not that here on the Australia Day weekend we have something that is so typically Australian - a natural disaster which is being dealt with as it so often is by Australians pulling together to help each other when times are tough.

So, I’m very pleased to be here and I want to thank Campbell, I want to thank Mayor Quirk for the welcome they’ve given me and the briefing they’ve given me on just what’s being done to keep Queenslanders and to keep the people of Brisbane as safe as they can be on this difficult day.

QUESTION:

Would it have been better to wait for the height of the flood crisis to pass before visiting the region ?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I was invited by the Premier and when the Premier thinks that it’s going to be good to keep the alternative Prime Minister well-informed, sensible alternative Prime Ministers come.

QUESTION:

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Can we ask about other stuff?

TONY ABBOTT:

Yeah, sure.

TONY ABBOTT:

You started a mini-campaign yesterday in Western Sydney. How important Mr Abbott, do you see that region being for the Opposition? How much of an important battleground has it become?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, everywhere is a battleground. There isn’t a seat anywhere in Australia where the Coalition won’t be running and running to win, but obviously, the current Labor government in Canberra and the Labor Party more generally have badly let down the people of Western Sydney. The people of Western Sydney have been taken for granted by the Labor Party for far too long and as we’re now seeing in ICAC and elsewhere, the Labor Party in New South Wales just became a stinking patronage machine in government and that’s why the Labor brand is so toxic right around Australia, but particularly in the western suburbs of Sydney.

QUESTION:

In 2010, you were very critical of the New South Wales Liberal Party saying they didn’t spend enough time preselecting candidates for certain seats. Have you taken a more active role in ensuring that the candidates that you want have been selected for these seats and has every Western Sydney seat got a Liberal candidate in it now?

TONY ABBOTT:

As I made very clear yesterday, I am proud of the team of candidates that the Coalition has picked. They are very representative of the diversity and the unity of modern Australia. They’re people from very diverse backgrounds, but they are all united in wanting, hope, reward and opportunity for our country. We are all united around the positive plans that the Coalition is putting forward for a strong and prosperous economy and a safe and secure Australia.

QUESTION:

You’re holding a mini-campaign - having a campaign doesn't that mean you should have a full suite of policies and details out there for voters to decide on?

TONY ABBOTT:

We’ve certainly got a very, very broad range of policy commitments out there already and you’re exactly right, this is all about showcasing to the Australian people the specific policy commitments that we’ve already made. Whether it be the repeal of the carbon tax to take the pressure off peoples’ cost of living; the repeal of the mining tax to get more investment and jobs into the great resources sector; the commitment to the WestConnex in Sydney, the East/West link in Melbourne, the Gateway Motorway extension here in Brisbane, the Pacific Highway and coming commitments that we will make to other important infrastructure projects right around Australia; whether it be our commitment to a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme; our commitment to try and ensure that childcare really does, really does meet the needs of a 24/7 economy and the modern Australian family. We’ve got a very full range of policies out there already and I hope at the end of this mini-campaign, the Australian people know with absolute crystal clarity that if there is a change of government, the mining tax will be gone, the carbon tax will be gone, the boats will be stopped and the budget will be back in the black.

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QUESTION:

Joe Hockey has been saying that the Coalition would be able to deliver a surplus based on the numbers available today, is he right? Can the Coalition deliver a surplus?

TONY ABBOTT:

Yes he is. I want to make this point: the fundamental difference between the Coalition and the Labor Party is competence and honesty. Now, we have seen an incompetent, and untrustworthy Labor government pledge on no fewer than 200 separate occasions that there would be a 'no ifs no buts', 'come hell or high water' budget surplus. Now, they reneged on that solemn pledge to the Australian people just before Christmas. It shows that you just can’t trust this government with money. Now, based on the published figures we believe that we can deliver surpluses in each year of the first term of a Coalition government and we expect the Labor Party, we expect the incumbent government to publish new figures as quickly as possible.

QUESTION:

Isn’t it time though for you as well to fill in some of the blanks? You are going on this mini-campaign, shouldn’t you say exactly what you are doing for example in industrial relations?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I’ve made it very clear that there is a flexibility problem, a militancy problem and above all else a productivity problem with elements of the Fair Work Act. We will reform the system but it will be careful, cautious, responsible and it will be within the framework of the existing Act. What we are not interested in…

QUESTION:

What about the actual, you know the detail, really fleshing it out?

TONY ABBOTT:

In good time, before the next election the Australian people will know exactly what will happen under an incoming Coalition government. This will be a no surprises Coalition government. We are not going to say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards because quite frankly that is what has brought our public life into disrepute. A government which fibs its way into office is a government which brings the polity into contempt.

QUESTION:

Can the Coalition guarantee that there won’t be any adverse changes to superannuation?

TONY ABBOTT:

Absolutely right. There will be a no surprises policy on superannuation. There will be no adverse changes to superannuation over and above what has been announced running into the election under a Coalition government in the first term.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, have you had a chance to speak to Cory Bernardi about his parliamentary disclosure?

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TONY ABBOTT:

I have been in contact, my office has been in contact with Cory Bernardi and he is adamant that there has been no breach of the disclosure requirements.

QUESTION:

You say that the budget surplus does depend somewhat on the financial situation of the Budget, does that also apply to other things such as direct action on climate, paid parental leave scheme? Are they somewhat up in the air? Do you have to see the books before you can commit to the full sweep?

TONY ABBOTT:

We are totally committed to these policies. We are absolutely committed to these policies. We will implement them in a responsible way.

QUESTION:

So they could be a bit delayed depending on the financial situation?

TONY ABBOTT:

Based on the current figures we are confident that these can be implemented and implemented during the first term of a Coalition government. We are committed to the policies. We will implement them in a responsible way.

QUESTION:

So they will come first and then if you can do the surplus, the surplus will be a second priority after the policies are [inaudible]?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look I know the game that you guys are playing. I know what you’re trying to do. We are absolutely committed to these policies because these policies reflect what we believe are the best interests and the best values of the Australian people.

But the thing about the Coalition is we will be upfront with people before an election. We will be responsible in government after an election.

QUESTION:

Some media are suggesting if you get into power that you might crack down on the unions right to enter the workplace, any changes foreseeable there?

TONY ABBOTT:

We are carefully listening to community concerns about misuse or claimed misuse of right of entry provisions. We will listen carefully to what people have to say. Our workplace relations policy will be about solving problems, not applying the textbook or economic theory to the workplace and you’ll know in good time before the next election exactly what changes, if any, will be made.

QUESTION:

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Mr Abbott, following the 2011 flood crisis the federal government instituted a flood levy to help pay for the reconstruction. Do you think this is something that will come on the federal government’s agenda again and would the Coalition support it?

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s certainly highly likely that at some point in time the current government will seek to increase taxes because that’s what they always do. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, spend more, tax more is the Labor Party’s solution.

Now, our position on the flood levy back in 2011 is well known but I really don’t think today with this crisis still developing is a great time to be arguing the toss over this again.

QUESTION:

But if the Federal Government were to institute a flood levy, would you be likely to support it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well you’ve got Wayne Swan, as I understand it, not too far away. You ought to ask him questions about the surplus and when he is going to actually publish updated financial figures. You ought to ask him questions about exactly why he has reneged on his 150 times personally repeated insistence that there would be a budget surplus and you might ask him about a flood levy when you get a chance to talk to him.

Thank you.

[ends]