Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of joint press conference: Brisbane: 21 August 2013: the Coalition's policy to boost manufacturing; Kevin Rudd's FBT hit on cars; Kevin Rudd's negative politics; the Coalition's commitment to paid parental leave; the Coalition's workplace relations policy



Download PDFDownload PDF

1

JOH

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

21 August 2013

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR, JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH THE HON. JOE HOCKEY MHR, SHADOW TREASURER AND MRS. SOPHIE MIRABELLA MHR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INNOVATION, INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE,

BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND

Subjects: the Coalition’s policy to boost manufacturing; Kevin Rudd’s FBT hit on cars; Kevin Rudd’s negative politics; the Coalition’s commitment to paid parental leave; the Coalition’s workplace relations policy.

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

TONY ABBOTT:

Ok, well it’s great to be here at Volvo Australia to amongst other things launch our manufacturing policy. I am going to launch our manufacturing policy. Sophie will speak to our manufacturing policy. Then we’ll take some questions on that. Then if you don’t mind, I might make some observations appropriate for the fact that we’re now halfway through the campaign and Joe will support those remarks and then we’ll take further general questions on the campaign.

I want Australia to be a country that makes things and I am proud of the fact that for generations, we have been a country that makes things. I’m very pleased to be here at Volvo today because this is proof that we can make things, make sophisticated things in this country without a Government subsidy. We can make sophisticated things in this country without a Government subsidy and do so profitably and export from this plant.

So, this plant proves that you do not need to write blank cheques for businesses in order to have a strong and dynamic manufacturing sector in this country and I want to praise the Shadow Minister, Sophie Mirabella for her grasp of the fact that the best thing we can do for manufacturing industry in this country is to get the economic fundamentals right. If we get the economic fundamentals right, then we give our businesses generally including our manufacturers the best opportunity to invest, to employ, to compete, to innovate and to succeed. So that’s why at the core of our policy for manufacturing industry is to abolish the carbon tax, abolish the mining tax, get the workplace relations pendulum back to the sensible centre, to cut red tape and generally work with the businesses of Australia rather than against them.

You see we don’t take the view that business typically is there to exploit the worker, to rip off the customer and to despoil the environment. We appreciate that everyone in business is there to provide a service, we appreciate that everyone in business is also a citizen and a patriot. That’s why we want to work with the businesses, particularly the manufacturers of Australia to ensure that we do remain a five pillar economy, with manufacturing, resources, agriculture, education and services, because that will give us the strong well-

2

balanced economy that we need in order to enable households and families to be better off and jobs to be secure.

I’m now going to ask Sophie to speak to the manufacturing policy and then obviously we’ll take some questions on that before moving onto the overall political scene. Sophie?

SOPHIE MIRABELLA:

Thanks Tony. Manufacturing is absolutely essential. We’ve seen over 143,000 jobs disappear under the Labor Government and we believe that manufacturing is innovative. It does have a future and that’s why we’re supporting it not just through our competitive policies, but also by ensuring that there is additional funding for the export market development fund - an additional $50 million. A $50 million fund to help communities and businesses transition to competitive manufacturing business models - ensuring that there is manufacturing representation in the negotiation of free trade agreements - and ensuring that next year with the scheduled reassessment of the R&D tax incentive to step back and assess the problems that manufacturers have had in accessing R&D tax incentives under this Government.

These are some of the things that we will do, but the best thing we can do is provide the confidence to business to invest in manufacturing, is to remove the damage that Government policies have caused, such as the carbon tax and red tape. We will see a thriving manufacturing sector in our regions, in our towns, in this nation under a Coalition government.

TONY ABBOTT:

Ok, do we have any questions about manufacturing industry issues?

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, in a couple of years’ time after you’ve implemented all your policies - you’ve got rid of the carbon tax, you’ve taken workplace relations back to the sensible centre, Holden and Toyota come to you and say…

TONY ABBOTT:

Don’t forget the mining tax and red tape as well Andrew.

QUESTION:

… I’m giving you a lot of credit here. I’m sure [inaudible] Greens. If you do that and Holden and Toyota come to you in two years’ time and say we can’t make cars in this country without any more Government handouts, will you be prepared to let them go?

TONY ABBOTT:

Let’s cross those bridges if and when we get there, but this plan here is an example of a sophisticated plan in the motor manufacturing industry that does not require Government handouts. So it is possible to do sophisticated motor manufacturing in this country without a Government handout. Volvo and Ken Wirth down in Melbourne prove that. Now, let’s talk about the car-making industry for a moment. I want to see car-making survive in this country, not just survive but flourish. I want to make it - I want to do what I can to make it flourish. We’ll get rid of the carbon tax obviously that will reduce the cost of producing a car here in Australia by an estimated $400 a vehicle. We will make various changes to the regulatory environment which will help as well, but we will maintain a strong programme of assistance to the car industry. What we aren’t going to do is what Mr Rudd has done over the last few weeks and basically run down the road after Holden waiving a blank cheque at them. Now, we’re just not going to do that because that’s not a sensible

3

way for an adult Government to behave. We’re happy to sit down with them. If they want to sit down with us to talk through things and from our point of view, we’ll say we need to get value for taxpayers’ dollar and that means doing what you reasonably can to be as competitive as you possibly can be and doing what you should to ensure that the volumes of your plants move up and that means an export programme. Toyota have got a strong export programme, Holden have certainly moved in that direction. Unfortunately Ford never really did and that’s one of the reasons why Ford are now on the way out of manufacturing in this country.

QUESTION:

Just following on from Andrew’s question Mr Abbott you said let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. Mike Devereux the CEO of Holden has said that they need a decision sooner than we’ll see after your policies if you’re elected are implemented. The lead times on the creation of cars takes four or five years, six, seven years, whenever it might be to get these things running of the assembly line. Is that good enough for a company like Holden? It sounds like you’re prepared to risk Holden’s future in this country.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well look, we want Holden to survive. We want Holden to survive - we really do and that fact that Coalition Governments have managed to help a company like Holden to survive and at times flourish testifies to our ability to work with the motor industry and the interesting thing about the record of the current Government compared to the record of the former Government is that under the former Coalition Government of which I was a senior Minister, production, employment and exports all increased - they all increased. So we have a good record when it comes to working with the car manufacturers to help them, not just to survive, but to flourish and we will act in that same spirit in the future.

QUESTION:

In your view, what will it mean though if companies like Holden and Ford were to eventually shut up shop in Australia? What long term will that mean for this nation?

TONY ABBOTT:

Obviously it would be a pity and we don’t want to see it - we really don’t want to see it, but no adult prime minister in the heat of an election campaign, in panic over polls charges down the street waving a blank cheque after anyone. You just don’t do that - you just don’t do that. So, if the motor manufacturers want to come to us after the election, obviously they can and we will sit down and we will have an adult discussion with them about trying to ensure that those industries have a strong future, because that’s what all of us want.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA:

Just on this issue of cars, let’s remember, this Government has given more and more money to the industry. We’ve seen tens of thousands of jobs go with more money. We’ve seen Ford announce they’re going, we’ve seen them break $1.4 billion worth of promises after the election. We’ve seen a $1.8 billion hit with their FBT surprise overnight. So, calculate the damage of the uncertainty caused by surprise policies and broken promises - it’s no surprise Mike Devereux said a couple of years ago that the chopping and changing of policy had raised the issue of sovereign risk of investing in Australia. So, it’s not just about the amount of money, it is about ensuring that the rules and benchmarks for funding the car sector are sustainable and aimed at long-term viability of the sector.

QUESTION:

Isn’t one of the major issues - you said that exports could obviously under the former Howard Government, one of the emajor issues then was the Aussie Dollar was around 50, 60 cents, now it’s around a dollar -

4

parity with the US Dollar. The heads of Ford, Toyota and Holden have all cited the Aussie Dollar as one of the major impacts damaging the car industry. Now, that’s not the federal Government’s fault is it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well that’s a fair point, but the Aussie Dollar is now at much more realistic levels and the expectation is that we aren’t going to see it again at the sort of levels that it went to at the height of the resources boom. So, look, that should be providing a measure of automatic relief to the motor manufacturers of our country.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, the Dollar is still relatively high compared to many of our neighbours. There’s also an issue of proximity. Where do you see Australia’s export manufacturing base? What sort of countries do you think would be right for Australian manufacturing exports?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, we should never be pessimists about what our country can achieve. We should never be pessimists about what our country can achieve and if you look around Australia, there are all sorts of manufacturing success stories. I’m wearing RM Williams boots for instances - manufactured in South Australia, exported around the world. Most of my frontbench do wear RM Williams - a fashion statement maybe, but a very good and pro-Australian manufacturing fashion statement. I’ve been to a factory in west Gosford that manufacturers ten per cent of the world’s aerosol’s springs. Who would believe that a small factory in west Gosford would manufacture 10 per cent of the world’s aerosol springs, but it does. There’s a factory in Burnie in Tasmania which manufactures about a quarter of the world’s underground mining equipment. So, we can manufacture here, but Government is not going to have the best answers. It’s the innovative businesses of Australia that will have the best answers as to the future of manufacturing in this country.

QUESTION:

And what would happen to the Labor Party’s billion dollar jobs plan that it has in place? What’s the future for that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Are you talking about their automotive plans?

QUESTION:

No…

SOPHIE MIRABELLA:

Well, we didn’t support that jobs plan. We’ve been very clear from the very beginning and that’s been our position and that position hasn’t changed.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, it sounds like you’re saying that the age of entitlement is over for corporate Australia - is that a fair characterisation of this policy?

TONY ABBOTT:

5

Well let’s - sorry we’re still on this policy. Look, we aren’t prepared - we want to work with the manufacturing sector to ensure that it has the best possible overall economic environment in which to succeed and as I said, there are many, many manufacturing businesses in this country which even under the current difficult environment have survived and even flourished. I’m confident in the better economic environment that a Coalition government will create, with lower taxes, much less regulation and a government which is motivated by the first do no harm principle, which doesn’t make policy on the run such as the FBT hit on the car industry. I am confident that manufacturing will again start to expand. As Sophie said, under this Government, we’ve lost 140,000 jobs in manufacturing. That’s one job gone every 20 minutes. That’s a pretty damning indictment. Under the Howard Government, the number of workers in manufacturing remained more or less constant, even increased a little bit and I think we can do that again, if there is a change of government on September the 7th.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, can I just quickly ask - the Minister for Trade and Investment that you will create - who will take that role? And they are going to give a statement to the parliament about the number of new jobs created if - do you have a target in the manufacturing sector?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, we are very much in favour of investment. We wouldn’t have a motor industry in this country without foreign investment. I think Volvo have recently invested $25 million in this particular plant and good on them for doing that. So, we want to try and ensure that we do get more investment in this country and look the more the merrier frankly, provided it is in Australia’s national interest. That is our one test, is it in Australia’s national interest and if it is new money creating new businesses and creating new jobs then obviously it is in our national interest.

QUESTION:

And who would take on that role?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, we have got to win an election first. I am not talking about who is doing post-election jobs because that would be to tempt fate and that is not something I want to do.

QUESTION:

Does that mean that Julie Bishop, I think she has the trade portfolio at the moment is going to lose the trade portfolio?

TONY ABBOTT:

I am just not going to speculate on who might be doing what job after the election because we have got an election to win.

QUESTION:

Surely you can guarantee that Ms Bishop is not going to lose the trade portfolio?

TONY ABBOTT:

I can guarantee that Julie Bishop is going to be the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, she is going to be a magnificent Minister for Foreign Affairs. I suspect she has the potential and you know, at the risk of

6

upsetting Alexander Downer I think she has the potential to be Australia’s best ever Minister for Foreign Affairs.

QUESTION:

Have you spoken to Ms Bishop about the planned changes to her portfolios?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I speak to Julie all the time, James, all the time. I think if I may say so we are now getting into matters which are, I mean this is an election campaign, we are trying to focus on building a better Australia and the minutia of conversation like that is best left aside.

QUESTION:

You previously said there would be no changes to your side. Is that still the case? Is that right?

TONY ABBOTT:

Essentially yes. I have said before that people who are in my team can expect to do more or less the same job in government should we win that they have done in opposition because I have got a great team. Unlike Mr Rudd, I am not a one-man band, unlike Mr Rudd I have never had mass resignations from the Shadow Cabinet. I have got a great team, they have served this country well in Shadow Ministries and I expect them to serve our country well in Ministries if we win the election.

I think we are starting to run out of questions on manufacturing so let me make a few observations about the campaign and then obviously I will take some more questions.

Look, this is the halfway point in the campaign. Not, only is it the halfway point in the campaign but today is the third anniversary of the last election, the election that gave us this disastrous hung parliament and this Labor Green minority government which has been such a disappointment even to its strongest supporters. It is pretty obvious after two and a half weeks that there is only one side contesting this election that has a plan for the future. We have a plan for the future. We know how we are going to pay for it and let me just repeat the elements of that plan. We will build a stronger economy so that everyone can get ahead, we will abolish the carbon tax, we will get the Budget back under control by abolishing Labor’s waste. We will build the roads of the 21st century and we will stop the boats. Everyone knows where we stand on this. By contrast Mr Rudd had a plan to tear down a Prime Minister but he has no plan to govern and he has no plan for the future of our country. That is why his campaign is increasingly negative at times even hysterical.

We have now seen a lot of Labor ads on TV. They are all negative. Mr Rudd made some observation about being outspent by the Liberal Party. Well, I wish. I wish. In every recent election, state and Federal, the Labor Party has massively outspent the Coalition and this election is going to be no exception. The experts looking at the ads say that Labor is substantially out-spending us and then there is the unions with the $12 million war chest about to come into play. The final point I want to make is it will be relentless negativity from Mr Rudd and Labor but every time you see another negative ad from Mr Rudd and the Labor Party know this. They don’t have a clue about the future. They are completely clueless about the future of this great country and think we cannot afford another three years like the last six.

I am going to ask Joe to add to those remarks.

JOE HOCKEY:

Thanks very much Tony. Australia is crying out for a change of government and Australia is crying out for an economic agenda that focuses on job security, on economic growth, on increased profitability, on reward

7

for effort and it is only the Coalition that is going to do that. Labor can’t talk about its past because it is embarrassed and Labor can’t talk about its future because it can’t pay for it. Therefore they are spending a lot of time talking about Tony and the Coalition. It is going to become and it has become increasingly hysterical and shrill. They are making it up as they go along. The bottom line is only the Coalition is offering a positive plan for Australia’s future that is going to deliver the prosperity that Australians are desperately crying out for.

We said a little earlier in relation to manufacturing under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard manufacturing jobs are being lost in Australia every 20 minutes. We now face rising unemployment, slower economic growth, rising deficits and rising debt. It’s unsustainable.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott on the paid parental leave scheme the Government is today saying, describing the levy as Tony Abbott’s giant raid on investors. Is it true, yes or no that you will be offering tax credits for the levy?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I really welcome questions on paid parental leave, I really do because this is a watershed reform which I want to be a signature policy of an incoming Coalition government because for the first time in our history, women and families will get justice from the workplace so I welcome the Labor Party’s obsessive…

QUESTION:

So, what is your answer to that question?

TONY ABBOTT:

I welcome the Labor Party’s new found obsession with this particular policy. Now, the interesting thing about a company tax cut is that there are inevitably and necessarily less franking credits. That is just part of having a company tax cut but a company tax cut is good for the economy. A paid parental leave scheme is good for the economy, abolishing the carbon tax and the mining tax, getting regulation down is good for the economy so the investors in these companies will get higher dividends and a more reliable dividends stream from a Coalition government.

QUESTION:

Will retirees will be worse off once your paid parental leave scheme is in place?

TONY ABBOTT:

No, I am not acknowledging that at all and just look at what this Government has done to superannuation. I mean let’s look at what this Government has done to superannuation. This Government that came in, Mr Rudd himself, promising not one jot not one tiddle of change would there be to superannuation. He has imposed $9 billion worth of hits on superannuation. The best thing that we can do for retirees is not fiddle around with their super, and we give that commitment. Not to fiddle around with their super and to produce the strong economy that will produce the profitable business, that will produce the strong dividend stream.

QUESTION:

Do you acknowledge that the dividend on shares will be lower once the Paid Parental Leave scheme is…

TONY ABBOTT:

8

Well, I am going to ask Joe to respond as well but under our policy they will be more profitable because the economy will be stronger and the dividends will be higher. Producing a stronger economy means you produce higher profitability, you produce better dividends. Now, obviously, obviously if you reduce company tax. If companies are paying less tax there is less franking credits. Obviously, but until very recently Labor was actually in favour of the company tax cut. We had none of this hysteria about franking credits when Labor was in favour of a company tax cut. When Labor was in favour of a company tax cut, let me quote, she who must now be forgotten the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that if you are against cutting the company tax you are against jobs. Well there you are.

JOE HOCKEY:

If I may add. If Kevin Rudd wants a debate about the prosperity of self-funded retirees, bring it on - bring it on. Because under Labor, self-funded retirees have suffered a hit in every aspect of their life. On their economic returns from their investment. They have had higher cost of loving with increased electricity charges and increased water charges. The bottom line is that self-funded retirees will always and has always, been better off under the Coalition than under Labor. Now this debate about franking credits about the levy has been going on since 2010. This is not a gotcha moment. It has been around, it has been reported everywhere. There is nothing new about it and quite frankly Labor’s hypocrisy is dripping on this. They argued for a reduction in company tax until recently. That would have meant fewer franking credits. And then the Labor Party goes and imposes taxes on business - the carbon tax, mining tax. $1.8 billion in increased taxes - the fringe benefits tax. So please do not buy the hypocrisy, the dripping hypocrisy out of Labor in relation to taxes. If they are arguing for more franking credits, they are arguing for higher company taxes. That is what they are doing right? But what we are saying is people - shareholders - will be better off under our economic plan because we are reducing the overall tax burden by getting rid of the carbon tax, getting rid of the mining tax, not proceeding with the FBT. And by the way self-funded retirees will get to keep their personal income tax cuts and if they are part pensioners they are also going to get preservation of their pension entitlements.

QUESTION:

NATSEM modelling today showed that on your claims about how better off mothers will be under your scheme is wrong because you don’t factor in that they lose the family tax benefit payments. So is that correct? Are you exaggerating the amount that they are better off?

TONY ABBOTT:

This is a progressive system obviously, obviously if you are going to have a higher income you lose some benefits and you pay a little bit more tax but you are always better off if your income increases and if you are a woman on minimum award wages. You are $5,000 better off under our Paid Parental Leave scheme, if you are a woman on average weekly earnings you are better off by $21,000 because of paid parental leave changes that we will make.

QUESTION:

Just in terms of the minimum wage it is only about $3,700 better off and also on minimum wage it is [inaudible]

TONY ABBOTT:

But under the paid parental leave provisions they will be $5,000 better off under us.

QUESTION:

9

How much for the costs of the PPL is going to come from the levy? And I want to ask Mr Hockey as well because he had a stab at it earlier in the week and it ranged from 50-70 per cent. Is there any way that we can clarify how much is coming from the company tax cut and how much is coming from other sources?

TONY ABBOTT:

Ok, look, company tax is going to go up and down depending on the profitability of the economy - that is just a fact of life.

QUESTION:

So, the cost of this could blow out significantly?

TONY ABBOTT:

No, no no, our costing has be done by the Parliamentary Budget Office. It is the best and the most professional costing body that we have access to. It is fully costed, it is fully funded. It is funded from essentially three sources. It is funded from the levy on big business, it is funded from discontinuing Labor’s inadequate paid parental leave scheme and it is funded from consequential adjustments such ending double dipping for public servants. It is fully coasted and it is fully funded.

QUESTION:

Can I just clarify the 1.5 per cent levy, will it attract the franking credits?

TONY ABBOTT:

Levy’s don’t attract franking credits, that is just a standard rule.

QUESTION:

In relation to those Labor ads can I ask for your reaction to revelations that it was an actress. Does the Coalition use actors in their campaign?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I suppose that politicians are sometimes descried as actors. I have seen myself in Coalition ads, I have seen Joe Hockey in Coalition ads - but look you would have to put that question to Brian Loughnane.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, Brad [inaudible] has said that the Coalition has shied away from industrial relations reform because of WorkChoices. Is he right? If not why not? If Brad and people like him come to after the election and say that we really need reform in this area, what will you say to him?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well I will say Brad, you’d be very grateful that there is a new government because under a new government the workplace relations pendulum will be restored to the sensible centre. Now, there are all sorts of changes that we will be making. We will be fully restoring the Building and Construction Commission so there is a tough cop on the construction industry beat. We will be ensuring that the dodgy union officials face the same penalties as dodgy company officials and we don’t see the kind of corruption that we have seen in unions such as the Health Services Union. We will be making sensible changes to the Fair Work Act to address issues such as right of entry and Greenfield sites - but I want to make it absolutely crystal clear

10

that we are about solving problems. We are about trying to ensure that our businesses’ employ more and pay more expands more. Because that in the end is what is best for everyone including the workers.

[ends]