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Transcript of Press Conference: Sydney: March 25, 2013: Labor's soap opera; the Government's wasteful spending; Budget; Ministerial reshuffle



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Joint Press Conference, Sydney March 25, 2013

Subjects: Labor's soap opera; the Government's wasteful spending; Budget; Ministerial reshuffle.

E&OE……………………….……………………………………………………………

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s good to be here today with the Shadow Treasurer, my friend and colleague, Joe Hockey. It’s now fifty days until Budget day - fifty days when the government has got to put the chaos of last week behind it, it has got to put the division and self-absorption of

last week behind it; focus for once on the Australian public, focus for once on the national interest and actually put together a responsible, honest budget. This, unlike previous budgets from this government, has got to be an honest budget. It's got to be a

budget that tells the truth and calls it for Australia, without cooking the books, without fiddling the figures and above all else without playing the class war card which Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson so decently and honestly warned us about last week.

Obviously, it was a bad week for the government and frankly a bad week for Australia last week when you had two of the most

respected people in the Labor Party, two Labor Party elder statesmen, say that what our country needs right now is consultation, due process and above all else, a Labor government in the tradition of the Hawke/Keating Government which for all the mistakes

that it made was a government which didn't ever deliberately set out to divide people and that's my great fear, over the next fifty days that this government will find its ‘them’ and ‘us’ instincts reinforced; that they will continue to play the class war card even

more fiercely in the future than they have in the past and I humbly request the Government to learn the lessons of last week, to heed the good advice of Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson, to harken to the best traditions of the modern Labor Party: look to

Hawke and Keating for your inspiration, try to put behind it the dissension, the bitterness and above all else the division of the last few months and years.

The other point I should make before asking Joe to offer some more detailed observations on the state of the budget and what the

Government needs to do, is to say that this is quite a challenge for the Government given that the budget will be prepared with some of Labor's most respected and most competent members on the backbench rather than on the frontbench.

It is going to be very much an L-plate Cabinet. There will be people in the Cabinet who will be confronted with budget-making for

the first time in their careers. One of the most distressing features of last week is that Chris Bowen was the fifth small business minister under Julia Gillard and we're now going to have the sixth small business minister under the current Prime Minister, and

that's a pretty dispiriting situation for small business to be in. Small business is the creative heart of our economy. Small business people who put their houses on the line so they can employ people have got to be at the heart of our economic strength and yet

this government will be giving them the sixth minister in just three short years.

So, the portents are not good, but for our country's sake, the Government does finally need to rise above the morass of last week and govern for all Australians.

JOE HOCKEY:

Thanks very much, Tony.

As Tony has just said, we expect this budget to be for all Australians and not special interest groups. At this critical point in the

economic cycle, it is vitally important that it be an honest budget. Every budget should be honest but we will be benchmarking this budget on the integrity that it has and whether it is going to be a refreshing change in the approach of the Labor Party and be

honest: honest in the budget assumptions on revenue, honest in the budget forecasts particularly in relation to economic growth. That is hugely important.

Special areas we'll be looking at will be revenue forecasts for both the carbon tax and the mining tax. The carbon tax forecasts are

currently that from 2015, it will be based on $29 a tonne which was the estimate for Europe. Currently Europe's trading around $5 to $6 a tonne so we expect there to be a significant write-down in the $9.4 billion of revenue forecast in 2015.

Tony Abbott Federal Member for Warringah | Leader of the Opposition

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The mining tax obviously is not going to raise anywhere near the revenue that was originally forecast in the Budget. We’ll be looking carefully at that and in relation to asylum seeker costs, the total for this year is $2.8 billion, the blow-out so far has been

$6.6 billion. Now, recently the Government said we’re going to be cutting $2 billion a year out of our forward estimates for dealing with asylum seekers but in the last ten days alone, 14 boats have come, which makes a mockery of them writing down the cost

associated with asylum seekers. We also will be looking carefully for money shuffling and a further example of the money shuffling was lost in the mayhem of the Government’s own problems last week where the spectrum sale worth $3 billion was delayed from

this year until next year. So, even if revenue had have been what the Government projected, even if they had no one to blame for not getting to a surplus this year they would never have got to surplus because the spectrum sale that was worth $3 billion to them

this financial year has now been delayed.

We will also be looking at the major new initiatives, the Gonski education reforms and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Government can no longer fudge it by claiming to deliver the schemes and then have a token amount compared to what the

real cost of the schemes are in the budget. So, we will be making sure that the full funding plan for both Gonski and the NDIS is in the budget in fifty days' time and that means going beyond the forward estimates. They need to lay down the six to eight year

costs when it is at full operational level. They need to say how they expect to pay for the full operational costs of those programmes.

We'll be looking at the structural savings and it's hugely important after the Government has introduced 27 new or increased taxes

in the last few years, that they don't just default to tax increases and new taxes, but they actually do something about getting rid of the waste.

Finally, we will be looking at their strategy just to stop increasing the debt. You will remember they originally said debt would get

no more than $75 billion. Then they said no more than $200 billion. Then no more than $250 billion. The debt cap is $300 billion. We want to know what the real debt cap is going to have to be, what the real level of debt that Australians are going to confront

over the next few years is going to be. No more games about debt. The Government has to have a plan to deliver a surplus and start to pay down debt because only when you deliver a surplus do you stop borrowing, do you stop actually paying down the

debt.

TONY ABBOTT:

Ok. Do we have any questions?

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] you mentioned the term L-platers before. Do you worry that rather than being dishonest [inaudible]?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, you've obviously got a Shadow Cabinet inside the Government sitting on the backbench. This is a real problem when you have got your most respected, your most senior talent sitting on the backbench not the frontbench. Now, let’s wait and see what

the Prime Minister announces later on today but we know for a fact that it will the sixth small business minister in less than three years. Now, that's a terrible indictment on this approach to economic management because small business has got to be at the

heart of our concerns, if we are to have a strong and prosperous economy.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, the Gillard Government appears to be rewarding unions in all the right places. Does this stir something within your own mind about industrial reforms?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I'm not against unions. The Coalition supports honest, responsible unionism, but unions should not be dictating to the

Government any more than business should. It's got to be a government for everyone. It's got to be a government for all Australians. The Hawke Government understood that. Even the Keating Government understood that. This Government has

completely forgotten the best lessons of recent Labor history and that's why so many honest Labor people are so dismayed at the score settling and the ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality which seems to afflict the Government right now.

QUESTION:

Mr Hockey, if the Government does seek to increase the debt ceiling, would you support them in that?

JOE HOCKEY:

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We will always look at the proposal, we have always been reasonable about it but we want a fair dinkum approach to what the debt is going to be and given the history of the massive increases in debt against their own claims of what the debt would be; so

we've gone 75, 200, 250, now $300 billion and we're fully expecting that they're going to come back to the Parliament and seek to have the debt cap lifted well above $300 billion, maybe to $400 billion, maybe even more. But we want them to be honest. I think

Australians deserve an honest budget.

QUESTION:

You wouldn't block it?

JOE HOCKEY:

We are not in the position of blocking things unless there are major concerns.

TONY ABBOTT:

If I may add something, this is one of the things that we will be looking at as we consider the timing of a no-confidence motion in the Government. Now, there will be a no-confidence motion put on the notice paper in Budget week, because it is time for the

Australian people to have their say. We've had the faceless men, we’ve had the back-room deals, now the Australian public deserve their say. The longer this government lasts the more damage it is doing to our country and to our economy and these are

the sorts of things that we would be looking at in the context of the precise timing of a no-confidence motion, exactly what they tell us on Budget night. If the Government decides that they yet again have to lift the nation's credit card limit, if the Government is

deciding that after promising until they were blue in the face that there will be a surplus, that they can't ever deliver a surplus or they can't deliver a surplus within a reasonable time frame, obviously that feeds into our considerations in terms of the precise

timing of a no-confidence motion.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, will you have to win over the independents again in the next six or seven weeks or do you think their minds are made up on this?

TONY ABBOTT:

It is interesting that even the independents are talking about the possibility of supporting no-confidence. Andrew Wilkie has

certainly left open the possibility of supporting no-confidence. While Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor have been reluctant supporters of a no-confidence motion in budget week itself, they've certainly left open the possibility of supporting a no-confidence motion

after budget week and I would urge all Members of Parliament but particularly the independent members of Parliament to talk to their own people in the fifty days leading up to the budget, ask the people of Australia, what do you want? Do you have

confidence in this Government? Do you think that this Government can be trusted with your future? Do you think that you want a strong and stable government now or are you prepared to wait another five or six months until the election which the Prime

Minister says won't happen until September 14? If the independents persist in supporting the current Prime Minister, it will be very hard for them to claim to be genuine independents. They will be more pro-Gillard than Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson.I mean,

Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson have effectively voted no-confidence in the Prime Minister by their actions last week and if after everything that’s happened they still say under no circumstances will we support a no-confidence motion or under these

circumstances we won’t support a no-confidence motion, well, they will be labelling themselves as more pro-Gillard than Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, you’ve been calling for an early election for some time now. Wouldn’t an early election be even more disruptive to the

Budget process?

TONY ABBOTT:

What we are saying is that we will table a no-confidence motion in Budget week. So, we’re not proposing to table a no-confidence motion until Budget week and we will be carefully assessing the quality of the Budget. We will be carefully assessing the quality of

the Budget in terms of the precise timing of when that comes before the Parliament.

But I’ve said from the word go, certainly I’ve said since the Prime Minister indicated that there would be a carbon tax despite all of her talk that there would never be a carbon tax, that the Government’s problem is not simply that it lacks a majority, the

Government’s problem is that it lacks integrity. Now, it’s lacked political integrity ever since that infamous day in February of 2011 when the Prime Minister went out there with Bob Brown presiding and said well, sorry voters, sorry people, I told you before the

election to win votes that there wouldn’t be a carbon tax and now in order to hold my job I’m giving you a carbon tax.

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QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, when a man who has said horrible things to and about women turns up at the Prime Minister’s residence in Sydney

and she invites him, what do you say to that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I’m just not going to get into that. Look, I don’t…

QUESTION:

Do you think it goes to her judgement?

TONY ABBOTT:

…I think there are many, many issues that go to the Prime Minister’s judgment but this is the least of them.

QUESTION:

Mr Hockey, RBA Governor Glenn Stevens is looking for reappointment this year. Is that something the Opposition would support?

JOE HOCKEY:

Well, the Opposition would expect the Government to consult them about this, otherwise we’re not going to get into speculation about who takes what job but given the Prime Minister’s already set the date for the election and given that Governor Stevens

would in effect be starting a new term, or whoever’s appointed would be starting a new term after the election, it is one of those appointments that we would expect a decent an honourable government would consult with an opposition about no matter

whether they were Labor or Liberal.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, will Mr Hockey still be Treasurer if you win government?

TONY ABBOTT:

Of course. Look, I’ve got a very good team - a very, very good team - and the fact that there has been such stability and continuity in my team under my leadership is a sign that I have confidence in my team, unlike the Prime Minister in hers. I think this today

will be the sixth ministerial reshuffle under this Prime Minister. I’ve had a few minor adjustments but I have tremendous confidence in my team and the stability that there’s been in my team is a sign that they are doing their job.

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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