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Transcript of press conference: Hobart, Tasmania: 28 August 2013: the Coalition’s plan to boost Tasmanian tourism, manufacturing and jobs; Kevin Rudd’s negative politics; the Coalition's commitment to paid parental leave; costings; the Coalition’s direct action policy; Essendon Football Club; Syria; problem gambling



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Joint Press Conference, Hobart, Tasmania August 28, 2013

Subjects: the Coalition’s plan to boost Tasmanian tourism, manufacturing and jobs; Kevin Rudd’s negative politics; the Coalition’s commitment to paid parental leave; costings; the Coalition’s direct action policy; Essendon Football Club; Syria; problem

gambling.

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

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s great to be here at Cadbury’s. This is an iconic factory. It was until recently the second most popular tourist attraction in Tasmania and as a result of the $66 million investment of which $16 million I hope will come from an incoming Coalition

government, the famous Cadbury chocolate tours will be able to commence again. I want Australia to be a country which makes things and the $66 million investment that Cadbury and the Commonwealth will make in the upgrade of this factory, will

dramatically expand production from 50,000 tonnes a year to 70,000 tonnes. It will significantly expand exports and it will create and preserve jobs. More than 300 new jobs will be created as a result of this investment and almost 1,000 existing jobs will be

preserved as a result of this investment.

This is good for Tasmania. It will help manufacturing jobs in the south. It will help dairying jobs in the north and it will help tourism jobs all around this State. I am determined to do the right thing by Tasmania. I recognise the special circumstances of Tasmania,

which has unemployment rates at 2.5 percentage points above the national average, but I am determined to do the right thing by jobs all around our country - all around our country.

In the end the best thing we can do for our country right now is to create a stronger economy and that is exactly what will happen

if the Coalition wins government on September the 7th. As I've been saying throughout this campaign, elect the Coalition on September the 7th and this is what we'll do. We'll create 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 would like to be an infrastructure prime minister.

I'm pleased to be here today with a number of my Tasmanian colleagues. Obviously Eric Abetz our Senate Leader is here with me

today. We had Will Hodgman the Opposition Leader here in Tasmania with us earlier and now I've got Tanya Denison, our candidate for Denison, Bernadette Black, our candidate for Franklin and Eric Hutchinson our candidate for Lyons is with me today.

I’m going to ask each of them to say a few brief words before I take questions and we might start with Eric, go to Tanya and then Bernadette.

ERIC HUTCHINSON:

Thank you very much Tony and welcome again to Tasmania. Agriculture is the business that I work in and for those that are

unaware of the agricultural sector in Tasmania, which is a terribly important part of the economy here, 40 per cent of the income here is generated out of the dairy sector. So the 6,000 more cows that will be required to fill this new capacity here in Hobart is

part of a growth strategy for dairy within the State that is linked to the irrigation development that is happening all around Tasmania and also it is one of our natural competitive strengths and if there's anything worth backing in this part of the world it is

dairy. It is a natural competitive advantage that we have in this part of the world.

TANYA DENISON:

This is just another example of the real solutions, the long-term solutions the Liberal Party does offer for our community. My community of Denison, the things that are really important are jobs and job stability and getting the economy back on its feet and

this is just another project that addresses those things.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks Tanya, Bernadette?

Tony Abbott Federal Member for Warringah | Leader of the Opposition

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BERNADETTE BLACK:

Thank you. Well as we've heard Tony say today, in Tasmania it's about jobs, jobs, jobs. This is jobs for the whole of our State. Not

just in the electorate of Denison or Franklin or Lyons, it's for the whole of our State. So I think it's a fantastic policy announcement today.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thank you so much. Do we have any questions?

QUESTION:

You're committing $16 million today to a company that has an annual turnover in this country of nearly a billion dollars. Is there

still a Budget emergency?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I accept that it’s quite unusual for a national Government to make direct grants to commercial operations, but Tasmania, I put it to you is a special case. Tasmania has the lowest wages, the lowest GDP per head, it has the lowest life expectancy, it has

the lowest educational attainments and it has the highest unemployment by far of any State in our Commonwealth. And if we are determined to be one nation, not some States that are skyrocketing, and other States that are languishing, we've got to be

prepared to make these judicious investments. Now over time, what we need to see here in Tasmania is lower taxes, less regulation, more dynamism, but occasionally, I think it is necessary to offer some judicious help and let's not forget that this

money is going to result in $50 million of private sector investment - a significant expansion in production, a significant expansion in exports and a very significant expansion in employment.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, Mr Rudd made a pretty strong attack on you last night on television saying that basically you don't have the bottle to be

Prime Minister, and...

TONY ABBOTT:

I think he was suggesting I might've had too much bottle at one stage.

QUESTION:

And your judgment couldn't be trusted on things like Syria. How do you respond to that?

TONY ABBOTT:

I'm not going to get into competitive character assassination with Mr Rudd. I will leave Mr Rudd to engage in that kind of personal attack. I would simply suggest that if you want to know my character, ask my colleagues. If you want to know Mr Rudd's character,

ask his colleagues.

QUESTION:

He also stepped up his attack on your paid parental leave policy, describing this as a dog of a policy. Is he getting any traction with it or is it one of those things that you are going to keep continuing on with your plan?

TONY ABBOTT:

I accept Mia that every major social advance is difficult for people to accept. I absolutely understand that every time we have a

major social advance, it takes a while for people to get their heads around it. But I'm also absolutely certain that when people properly understand the economic issues and the issues of justice and fairness involved here, they will support our policy. Let me

just make a few points about it. Paid parental leave is or should be a workplace entitlement, not a welfare entitlement and if it's a workplace entitlement, it's got to be paid at people's wage, not at a welfare rate. Paid parental leave as we are envisaging it - it's

all upside for small business, because their staff get it and the administration is done by the Family Assistance Office and they don't pay the levy. Frankly, it's upside for most big businesses as well, because there is a company tax cut so that they don't pay

more overall. The Family Assistance Office does the paperwork and in many cases including Cadbury here, because our scheme is much more generous than theirs, they don't have to spend the money on their own scheme. So it's upside for all small

business, it's all upside for all small business, it's upside for most big business and it is all upside for every single woman in the

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workplace, because every single woman in the workplace for the first time in our history will get paid parental leave at her wage for 26 weeks. So if you are working for one day a week only, you will qualify. And you will get 26 weeks at your wage or at the

minimum award wage, whatever is the greatest. So if you are on minimum award wages, you're $5,000 better off. If you're on the average wage, you're $21,000 better off. So this policy is all upside and Mr Rudd basically needs to work out what is his line of

attack? Is his line of attack that I'm some kind of vicious cutter or is his line of attack that I'm some kind of Santa Claus because I can't be both?

QUESTION:

On Monday you said that you were a believer in markets and then asked how that fits with your paid parental leave scheme. You

said that you wanted to even up the playing field. Isn't that a more socialist policy than a market-based policy?

TONY ABBOTT:

No Latika. To have a market, you've got to have a system of rules. If you don't have a system of rules there no market, there's the law of the jungle. You need the rule of law. You need a system of rules that brings in basic fairness in order to have a market in

the first place and I think it's fair that every woman in our economy should have access to paid parental leave and I think it's fair that paid parental leave like all other forms of leave, all other forms of workplace entitlement, should be at the relevant wage.

QUESTION:

How does a $16 million subsidy for a billion dollar company fit with a market-based approach to the economy?

TONY ABBOTT:

Because we have a particular problem here in Tasmania, we need to be prepared to take particular initiatives here in Tasmania.

Now, as I said to you earlier, James, it's quite unusual for the national Government to co-invest, as it were, with a profitable private business, but this co-investment, to use the term, it's going to dramatically increase production, dramatically increase

exports and dramatically increase employment.

QUESTION:

I just wondered how you would describe yourself economically given that you've been praising Margaret Thatcher but you're also, you know, advocating subsidies where needed in businesses like this.

TONY ABBOTT:

Every serious leader is pragmatic about problems and I've always described myself as someone who is moved by pragmatism

based on values. We have values. I like to think that in the case of a Liberal Conservative political movement, they are values that have stood the test of time. And we try to solve problems based on our values and yes the market is a very important element in

the values system of the Liberal National Coalition I lead, but so is jobs and so is fairness. And so is trying to ensure that in this great nation of ours, no-one gets left behind. Yes we've got to recognise people that have a go, but we can't leave people behind

either and unfortunately over the last five years or so under Labor Green Governments here in Tasmania and also nationally, Tasmania has been left behind big time. Briefly in the latter half of the Howard years, unemployment in Tasmania approached the

national average, for the first time in decades. Unfortunately, under Labor Green Governments in both Hobart and Canberra, things have gone bad again and it's important for us to ensure that that doesn’t last.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, $40 million this morning for exporters. Will you match that?

TONY ABBOTT:

I will carefully consider the proposal that's been put forward. But it seems to me that it's probably just another thought bubble from

a desperate political Party. There's been a very considered proposal on the table from Will Hodgman and the Tasmanian Liberals to modestly invest in a better overseas freight capacity. That's certainly something that's been thought through rather than just

announced in the heat of an election campaign. The other point I make is that in the end, our focus has got to be on building a more dynamic economy and that's what everything that I'm talking about here in Tasmania is all about.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, we understand today that we're going to get some of the information that we've all been looking forward to during the

campaign - your costings. There are some numbers out there in The Australian newspaper today and there’s a graphic which

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says there’s $1.6 billion of money that will help fund your paid parental leave scheme. We actually don't know where that's coming from yet - it’s as yet to be announced, adjustments to the Budget. It sounds about the same size as the franking credits save, is

that what it is?

TONY ABBOTT:

Eliza, Joe will be making an announcement shortly in Canberra and then he will be at the National Press Club and I'm not going to steal Joe's thunder by pre-empting the announcements that he will be making. Except to say this: what you will see from Joe

today is that the Coalition is more than capable of fully funding the major initiatives that we have so far announced in this campaign from sensible savings in the Budget - more than capable of fully funding them and as will be absolutely crystal clear

from Joe in 20 or 30 minutes' time, we can fund the major initiatives that we've announced so far in this campaign without cutting health, without cutting education, without touching pensions, without changing the GST - in other words, everything that is the

basis of Mr Rudd's campaign, the series of big lies that are at the basis of Mr Rudd's campaign are exposed as simple falsehoods - simple falsehoods.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, when are you going to release the details of your direct action policy? And also, you've seen overnight obviously the

punishments that have been metered out against Essendon. Do you still contend that the Government was wrong in the way that it unveiled its investigation into drugs in high performance sport?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, look, two things, Nick. Let me take direct action first. Look, direct action was first released in February of 2010. And I've got

to say that there's been grizzling about the policy and different people have said that they don't agree with different aspects of it. But I think it's been pretty bulletproof, for more than three years now, and look, anything we say in this campaign will simply be a

rerun of what we said back in February of 2010. It's a very good policy. It's a much better way of reducing emissions without clobbering the economy than Labor's carbon tax. Now on Essendon, it's a traumatic time for a great code of football. It's a

traumatic time for the Essendon club, its players, its supporters, everyone associated with it. We have to accept the decision of the AFL and try to put this very unfortunate episode behind us.

QUESTION:

On Syria Mr Abbott, by September 7, Barack Obama may have sent troops into that country. He may be asking Australia for

assistance and you may be the next Prime Minister. What experience will you draw on to deal with an international crisis like that? Are you prepared for it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I will draw on the experience of 19 years in Parliament, including nine years as a Minister, six years as the Leader of the

House of Representatives, seven years in the Cabinet and matters of war and peace, of life and death, were before the Howard Cabinet on a number of occasions and obviously as a member of that Cabinet, I was part of the deliberations that John Howard

and Alexander Downer and others led. So that’s the experience that I will draw on and as I said, I will leave it to my colleagues to testify to what they think of my temperament and judgment and character. I will leave it to Mr Rudd's colleagues to testify as to

what they think of his, judgment and temperament and character.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, how is it appropriate that the clubs and gaming industry is in charge of setting up counselling services for those areas?

TONY ABBOTT:

That's the way it's always been and we want to try to ensure that the venues which host gambling and the venues which have some connection and contact with problem gamblers have a heavy responsibility to ensure that those people are properly looked

after. Now, the essence of our gambling policy is that we support voluntary pre-commitment, we will insist on more counselling being made available to people who have a problem and we want to ensure that on-line gambling is properly tackled, because the

gaping hole in the things that the Government proposed over the course of the last three years is on-line gambling as has been famously said of on-line gambling, you can lose your house without ever leaving home.

QUESTION:

Should there not be some independent input into that though?

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TONY ABBOTT:

Well obviously, we will expect these services to be competently delivered and made available appropriately.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, on tonight's debate - what can we expect to hear from you, what questions does Mr Rudd have to answer? And will you be taking up some of the personal attacks against you and will you be explaining about your costings?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, the interesting thing is that I’m going to be there trying as far as Mr Rudd will allow me to respond to the public. I mean,

tonight's debate is an opportunity for the public to ask questions of myself and Mr Rudd and Mr Rudd seems to think that it's his opportunity for him to be QC for the prosecution against me. Well, look, I can't control what Mr Rudd does and says. But as far as

I'm concerned, I will be doing my best to candidly answer the questions that the public has and I will be putting to the public that our country, great country, great people that it is, can't really afford another three years like the last six. I will be reminding people

that if there is a change of government, I have a plan, it's a positive plan, you know exactly what will happen. 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, particularly in Sydney, the absolutely urgent and overdue WestConnex road, because really, I do want to see the bulldozers on the ground. I want to see cranes in our skies and I would love to be remembered one day, should we win

the election, as an infrastructure prime minister.

Thank you.

[ends]

© Tony Abbott MHR 2010 | Authorised by Tony Abbott MHR, Level 2, 17 Sydney Rd, Manly NSW 2095

www.tonyabbott.com.au

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