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Transcript of doorstop interview: Narangba, Queensland: 26 August 2013: Coalition's policy to support apprentices; the Coalition's commitment to abolish the carbon tax; Labor's debt and deficit; preferences; ACCC powers; the Coalition's commitment to paid parental leave; Syria; Israel; banking sector competition; the Coalition's commitment to upgrade the nation's roads infrastructure.



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

26 August 2013

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH MR. LUKE HOWARTH, FEDERAL LIBERAL PARTY CANDIDATE FOR PETRIE, NARANGBA, QUEENSLAND

Subjects: the Coalition’s policy to support apprentices; the Coalition’s commitment to abolish the carbon tax; Labor’s debt and deficit; preferences; ACCC powers; the Coalition’s commitment to paid parental leave; Syria; Israel; banking sector competition; the Coalition’s commitment to upgrade the nation’s roads infrastructure.

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

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s great to be here at Mills-Tui today. I’d like to thank Kevin O’Sullivan and his team for making Luke Howarth and myself so welcome. Luke is the candidate for Petrie. He is a small business person. He's a tradie and that's why this is such an appropriate place to follow up the announcement that I made at the campaign launch yesterday.

It's very important that we invest appropriately in the trade skills of the future. It's very important that Australians understand that doing a trade, no less than going to university, is a very good way to make the most of yourself. It's a very good way to make the most of your life, to do a trade and I want to make it easier for people to start a trade and finish a trade. That's why these loans of up to $20,000 on the same basis that university students get loans to cover their fees and other expenses, this is a very good way of ensuring that we get the trade skills we need if our country is to flourish economically into the future - a very good way to help build a stronger economy and everything that we are doing in this campaign is about building a stronger economy. Whether it's cutting taxes, whether it's our paid parental leave scheme, whether it's the infrastructure that we are determined to build, it's all about building a stronger economy and I want the people of Australia to know, I want you to know that if you change the Government on September the 7th we'll build a stronger economy so that everyone can get ahead. We'll scrap the carbon tax, we’ll end the waste, we’ll stop the boats and we’ll build the roads of the 21st century because I want to be known as an infrastructure prime minister.

Just one observation before I ask Luke to say a few words. Mr Rudd admitted yesterday on the Insiders programme that the Government had no mandate for a carbon tax: now, if there was no mandate for it, why did Mr Rudd vote for it? If there was no mandate for it, why did Mr Rudd and his colleagues support it in the Parliament? Yes, we have a massive fiscal deficit and it's just getting worse and worse under this Government, but there's also a yawning trust deficit and this is what I am determined to address should the Coalition form a government after the 7th of September.

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As I said, it’s great to be here at Mills-Tui. This is a good honest business doing good honest work for people who are doing their best to keep our community safe and it's a real honour to be here and it's a thrill to be with our candidate Luke Howarth who is running for Petrie.

LUKE HOWARTH:

Thanks for that, Tony. Ladies and gentlemen, as Tony said, my name is Luke Howarth. I’m the federal candidate for the seat of Petrie. Over the last 12 months when I've been out talking to people on the street, some of the key issues that they've been raising with me locally is of course jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs is a real issue. Young people under the age of 25 and people over 55 are finding it very difficult to get a job and as a federal Coalition candidate for this seat and as a small business owner myself who was a tradie before I got into politics, I think the policy of the loans scheme today is a great idea for local apprentices. I've been to Mills-Tui before. They employ a lot of local people here and as you can see from the trucks and things around us, they do a fantastic job. So, well done to all the staff here at Mills-Tui on what you do and thanks Tony for coming up today.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks so much Luke. Ok, do we have any questions?

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, can you confirm that you won't deliver a surplus in your first term. Isn't that a broken promise?

TONY ABBOTT:

No, we will deliver a surplus as soon as we can humanly can and we will deliver a surplus quicker and more reliably than the Labor Party, because the Budget bottom line will always be better under a Coalition government. Look at our record. Look at our record. The last Coalition Government turned a $10 billion Budget black hole into consistent one per cent of GDP surpluses. The last Coalition Government turned $96 billion of net Commonwealth debt into $50 billion in the bank.

QUESTION:

If the debt and deficit is so bad, why don't you promise to return to one in the first term of your government?

TONY ABBOTT:

We are going to get back to surplus as quickly as we humanly can, but we just don't know what the starting point is. The last time the Government gave us an update at the beginning of this campaign, they were forced to admit that the Budget bottom line had deteriorated to the tune of $3 billion every single week between May and July. Now, with that kind of deterioration, it would be foolish of me to give an absolute guarantee. What I can say is that the Budget bottom line will always be better under the Coalition.

QUESTION:

What do we read into James Massola’s article today that said you wanted to emanate, Thatcher, Reagan and Howard given that Thatcher cut so deeply when she got into government?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, all of those very distinguished leaders built stronger economies - that’s what they did. They all built stronger economies. They all left their countries, including Australia, stronger and prouder for their work in government. John Howard left our country stronger and more confident. Margaret Thatcher left Britain

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stronger and more confident and Ronald Reagan, he won the Cold War, helped to make the world much safer for democracy and for the universal decencies of humanity.

QUESTION:

But Mr Abbott, they all, particularly Reagan and Thatcher were disciples of Milton Freedman's idea of trickle-down economics. Is that something that will inform your economic philosophy?

TONY ABBOTT:

I certainly think that a market economy is an extraordinarily efficient way of creating wealth. It’s an extraordinarily efficient way of creating wealth and the good thing about a stronger economy is that it isn’t about picking winners, it’s not about creating winners and losers. It's about helping everyone to get ahead. The great thing about a market economy is that everyone can succeed at the same time, whereas in politics, for everyone who wins, someone else loses.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, Barnaby Joyce has spoken this morning about his decision to preference One Nation, saying he thinks they've been unfairly tarred with a brush that should be removed and it's time to forgive and forget and move on. Do you think One Nation have been unfairly tarred as a racist party and do you think that Barnaby is making the right decision in giving preferences to One Nation?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think really that particular issue is a blast from the past. The essential thing is to ensure that fringe parties do not get an undue influence in our national life and that’s why I am determined to preference the Greens behind Labor and I am incredibly disappointed that Mr Rudd has lacked the courage, the strength and the decency to do likewise. Mr Rudd should man up to the Greens. Mr Rudd should man up to the Greens. He should accept that the Labor Party has for too long sold its soul to the Greens and he should put the Greens behind the Coalition.

QUESTION:

You fought your battles with One Nation in the past. You must be disappointed that Barnaby has decided to preference them and saying they're no longer a racist Party?

TONY ABBOTT:

As I said, it's a blast from the past. The current problem is the Greens and that's why the Greens should be put behind the major parties and if Mr Rudd was fair dinkum, if Mr Rudd had been listening to Mr Bowen who said recently Labor will govern alone or not at all, Mr Rudd obviously doesn't respect his Treasurer, in this sense at least, Mr Rudd is hoping to sneak back into office in an alliance with the Greens.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, independent retailing groups have taken out ads in papers today calling on both sides of politics to take action against the supermarket giants over fuel shopper dockets. What's your response to the campaign ads and will you review the use of fuel dockets by Coles and Woolies and is it an abuse of market power?

TONY ABBOTT:

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Mia, look it's a good question and yes I'm conscious of the fact that at least some people are concerned about this. But this is why we have got watchdogs with teeth. The ACCC is looking at this and I am confident that the ACCC will come to a balanced approach on all of this.

QUESTION:

The Greens say they want to cap your paid parental leave scheme at $50,000 - the pay-out. Nick Xenophon seems to be saying he wants the money spent on child care rather than PPL. So, you obviously have got difficulty in the Senate with this if you are to take government. Nick Minchin has accepted that. Will you be open to negotiation on your PPL or are you running the risk of it being knocked out in the Senate?

TONY ABBOTT:

Mark, I'm really pleased that Kevin Rudd is trying to make PPL one of the central issues of this campaign. I am really pleased that he is trying to run a scare campaign against paid parental leave because our paid parental leave policy, it's all upside for families and it's all upside for small business. Big business pays for it. Small business gets the benefit from it and families get the benefit from it. If you're on the minimum award wage, you're $5,000 better off. If you're on average weekly earnings you're $21,000 better off. This is a great policy. It shows that the Coalition gets it when it comes to the modern family, when it comes to the modern workplace. If we win the election we will have the clearest possible mandate for this Mark and I'd expect our mandate to be respected.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, two things on that, on paid parental. First you say that you expect a Senate would respect your mandate. In 2007, Labor had a mandate for an emissions trading scheme, and you twice voted that down. So, why would you expect a Parliament to respect your mandate on PPL? Secondly on PPL, you say that you're a believer in the markets. If this encourages big business to abolish their own paid parental leave schemes, isn't that going against the whole philosophy of markets?

TONY ABBOTT:

The important thing is to try and ensure that the families of Australia get a fair deal and at the moment if you're working for big business, typically, you will get access to some form of paid parental leave. If you are working for small business, typically, you won’t and I want to even up the playing field here. I want a level playing field for big business and for small business. I want to ensure that paid parental leave becomes an accepted part of our way of life. I want to ensure that women have a fair dinkum choice for careers and families. That's why I think it's important that everyone have access to a decent fair dinkum scheme and that will only happen under a Coalition government.

QUESTION:

Why would you expect a Parliament to respect your mandate if the Oppositions didn’t respect Labor’s on an emission trading scheme?

TONY ABBOTT:

Do you seriously believe Latika, that the Labor Party in opposition after a defeat, should they lose this election, is going to say no to the women of Australia? I mean, do you really think that the Labor Party is going to say no to the women of Australia? I doubt it very much.

QUESTION:

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On Syria, after your briefings yesterday, would a Coalition government consider military intervention if asked? And we haven't heard a lot about your international and foreign policy this campaign. Nothing in your campaign launch yesterday. Will this feature in the last two weeks?

TONY ABBOTT:

It's too early to speculate on what kind of action might be taken against the perpetrators of this atrocity, if that what it turns out to be. The latest reports are that the Syrian regime is going to allow the UN inspectors access to the site. I hope that the UN inspectors are able to determine exactly what has happened. Once that has been done, it will then be up to the international community to consider a response. Now, obviously Australia is a good international citizen. We always do our duty by the wider world, but I just don't want to speculate on who is responsible, what has happened and what the consequences ought to be.

QUESTION:

On foreign policy, can you just outline, there were some reports today about you being a friend of Israel and the changes you might want to make to further that relationship. Can you outline the stance you take on extremist groups and your plan for Israeli visas?

TONY ABBOTT:

We'll have more to say on this subject in the next few days. But yes, I'm a friend of Israel. I always have been and always will be. Australia has been a friend of Israel, a good friend of Israel's. There been a bit of wobbling under the current Government but I would expect our standard rock solid friendship for Israel to resume should the Coalition win the election.

QUESTION:

Do you support the two-state solution?

TONY ABBOTT:

Yes, we do. That's been the orthodox policy of Australian Governments for several decades now.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, just back on Syria, you could be Prime Minister, potentially, by the time the world does decide to take some action on Syria. Would you be in favour of Australia taking any limited role if the international community were to take some sort of action against Syria.

TONY ABBOTT:

Look you're asking me to speculate on a hypothetical situation. What's happened in Syria is very serious. If the regime has deployed chemical weapons against its own people, that is an affront to all notions of decency and respect for human rights. It's a very serious thing, but I'm not going to make a difficult situation worse by speculating before we know exactly what the facts are.

QUESTION:

On New Zealand's TV over the weekend, Joe Hockey indicated that more competition in the banking sector could be a good thing for New Zealand banks. Do you think there should be more competition in the Australian banking sector and will you rule out any changes to the four pillar policy?

TONY ABBOTT:

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We support the four pillar policy and that won't change, but obviously we want to see very vigorous competition between the banks and we want to see very vigorous competition between the banks collectively and other financial institutions. So yes, competition is a good thing. As long as it's within an overall framework, competition is a very good thing and it will deliver the best outcomes for consumers.

QUESTION:

Labor's giving out $60 million today for the high speed rail. Is that something the Coalition would support?

TONY ABBOTT:

Sid, look, the Government has been talking about spending $100 billion in 30 or 40 years’ time. I'd much rather spend money now to get better outcomes tomorrow rather than in 40 years' time and that's why I say elect a Coalition government and the Gateway upgrade here in Brisbane, the WestConnex in Sydney, the East West Link in Melbourne, the Swan bypass in Perth, the North South road upgrade in Adelaide, the Pacific Highway, the Bruce Highway, the Midland, the Range Crossing, all of these will be substantially under way within the first term of a Coalition government.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, we're at a manufacturing plant in Australia here at the moment. Some of the chaps around here have pointed out that we arrived in a foreign-made and foreign assembled bus. It's the sort of thing that you hear a lot of complaints about in Australian manufacturing. What do you say to those people who feel that too many foreign manufactured goods are being put on Australian roads and sold in Australia?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I can very much understand those concerns, Tony. This is a business which in the past, has manufactured buses. At the moment it is not doing this. It's manufacturing emergency vehicles because that is a more effective and successful niche for it to occupy. We still have bus manufacturers in this country, Volgren here in Brisbane is a very big bus manufacturer, Custom Coaches in Sydney is a manufacturer that I visited myself. I think it was about two years ago, to talk about the Carbon Tax.

Our businesses will inevitably face a competitive market. And some of their competitors will be overseas. I make two points. The first point is, we've got to make it as easy as we can for our businesses to compete. That means abolishing the carbon tax, cutting red tape and if you're a government purchaser, trying to ensure that you follow an orderly purchasing pattern, so that you don't have businesses that supply you gearing up and then crashing because the orders suddenly dry up. That's the first point I make.

The second point I make is that, I want Australian consumers to give the Australian business a fair go. We obviously want Australian consumers to give the Australian business a fair. But then it's up to the Australian business to do a good job. Now we do at a place like this, we do an excellent job. That in the end is what will save Australian manufacturing, making the best possible product and it's my job, should I win the election, to make it as easy as possible for these great Australian businesses to make the best possible product.

Thank you.

[ends]