Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of interview with Linda Mottram: 702 ABC Sydney: March 15, 2013: Indigenous recognition in the constitution; the Government's media reforms; Baby Bonus



Download PDFDownload PDF

Interview with Linda Mottram, 702 ABC Sydney March 15, 2013

Subjects: Indigenous recognition in the constitution; the Government's media reforms; Baby Bonus.

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

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Thank you very much for talking to us.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks for having me.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

You’re doing this speech to The Sydney Institute tonight on indigenous issues, particularly on constitutional recognition. What would a Coalition government do on that?

TONY ABBOTT:

We don’t want the process to stall. The Prime Minister was right to say that we shouldn’t try to do this in conjunction with a fiercely

contested election. We should have any referendum on this subject separate from an election, but we don’t want the process to stall. We don’t want a referendum to go forward and fail, but nevertheless we don’t want the process to stall and I’ll be making that

crystal clear to The Sydney Institute tonight.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

So, what can you do? Because, I mean, you know, this has had bipartisan support, the current Government has had a go at it, it got very complicated. How will you try to cut through that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think what we need to do is come up with a draft form of words and then we need to take the draft form of words to the

people. Now, the expert committee which the current government set up had a go and I think the problem with the recommendation of the expert committee is that it was a little bit too ambitious and it looked like there was effectively going to be

the creation of new rights. Now, what we want is a new brotherhood, if you like; a new partnership, if you like; a new way of going forward as a united nation together. We don’t necessarily want a whole new system of legal rights and that was the difficulty with

what the expert committee suggested. So, we need to have another go and see if we can come closer to what the Australian public and indigenous people will be happy with.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Will you have the same committee in place or a different committee?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, that committee has done a good job and I very much appreciate their work. I really do think they did a great job. But what we

need is a new proposal and then a new process to try to ensure that it is as broadly acceptable to the Australian people as these things can be.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Tony Abbott Federal Member for Warringah | Leader of the Opposition

Page 1 of 4 Interview with Linda Mottram, 702 ABC Sydney > Tony Abbott

22/11/2013 http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/22487/20130903-0148/www.tonyabbott.c...

Do you think you can cut through? I mean, my feeling about that whole question around rights was that it felt very much unresolved and it didn’t seem that we were getting past it. What do you think can be done to get past it? Do you have a form of

words in mind; a specific constitutional idea?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, at this point, no, but I think we do need to have a form of words reasonably early in the life of a new parliament if we are to hope to have a possible referendum in the next parliament. Now, it’s important to get this right. There is no point at all, Linda,

having a referendum of this type that fails. That would set back our nation’s cause - it would badly set back our nation’s cause - so we’ve got to get it right rather than rush it, but we need to make sure it stays on our agenda.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Ok, so you’d set this up nice and early so that there can be a long run in for all those discussions?

TONY ABBOTT:

Exactly right and for understandable reasons one of the problems with the process under the current government is that it started

really a little too late.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Tony Abbott, the Federal Opposition Leader is with us. Mr Abbott, in other parts of your speech you also talk about other aspects of indigenous policy. Just outline briefly what you have in mind?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, it’s what they call in the trade a wide-ranging speech, Linda! But some of the things we need to do, we need to really have a

new effort to ensure that indigenous kids, particularly in remote areas, are actually going to school because full participation in modern Australia requires a decent education and a decent education begins with turning up at school. Even the official figures

are appalling for many remote schools. Official attendance is about 60 per cent for remote schools in the Territory. I think those figures overstate the actual attendance. I’ve been to quite a few remote schools over the years and you often think there are more

staff than kids in the school. Now, we’ve got to get the kids to school - that is the absolute starting point for a better life for Aboriginal people. We’ve got to get the adults to work and that’s where the work that Warren Mundine and 'Twiggy' Forrest and

others have been doing lately is so encouraging.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

I mean, it is patchy, isn’t it? Because in some areas there have been enormous successes and in other areas it seems to go backwards and that seems to be despite whatever approach we take. How will you do things differently?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, what I will be doing from day one is ensuring that indigenous affairs are not just a down-the-order business for an incoming

Coalition government. We will be taking this seriously from day one. I would like a stronger partnership with indigenous people to be a hallmark of an incoming Coalition government. I’d like it to be one of the legacies of my prime ministership, should the public

give me that honour later in the year. So, people need to know that we are serious, we’re serious at all times, we’re serious across the board, but we will be particularly focussed on schooling and jobs - they will be our particular focusses.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Well, we’ll look forward to your speech tonight. If I can ask you about a couple of other issues that are bouncing around the place

at the moment? Of course, the public interest media matters, the six bills that were put before Parliament yesterday, a lot of that you will actually support, won’t you?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, there are parts of it that don’t seem particularly controversial. I mean, obviously the media environment is very different

today than a couple of decades ago and licence fees that were appropriate a couple of decades ago, where there was far less contestability, are not really appropriate today. So, I accept that. But at the heart of these proposals is this new media tsar,

essentially, who will basically be sitting in judgment of the press in particular. Now, I think this is an absolutely unnecessary

Page 2 of 4 Interview with Linda Mottram, 702 ABC Sydney > Tony Abbott

22/11/2013 http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/22487/20130903-0148/www.tonyabbott.c...

additional restriction on free speech. I think we have quite enough restrictions on free speech in this country already. I think we have quite enough regulation of the media already and this is just unnecessary and it looks like an attempt to bully the papers,

particularly the News Limited papers, out of their criticisms of the Government.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Well, I guess arguably the bullying is going on in both directions then because it is obvious that News Limited is willing to use its might to press the Government very hard on that.

TONY ABBOTT:

But look politicians, Linda, should be big enough to take a bit of gentle ribbing. Now look, any government - I mean, Malcolm

Turnbull put this very well in the Parliament yesterday - any government which wakes up in the morning, reads the press and is universally satisfied, frankly is a government that doesn’t understand the duty of the press because the duty of the press is to

speak truth to power; the duty of the press is to be a critic, not to be a cheer squad. Now, politicians often wish that they had a media that was an advertising agency rather than a true free media, but very few of us are silly enough to actually try to legislate

that way and that’s what this government has done.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

But the other side of this coin, isn’t it, is the public’s right to expect that it has an easy accessible way in to have its issues with media coverage dealt with properly, so complaints quickly and easily dealt with and acknowledged when there’ve been errors. Do

you think there’s room for improvement in the media in that; in the print media, in particular?

TONY ABBOTT:

I don’t say that there aren’t currently aggrieved people, but there will always be aggrieved people. I mean, no one who feels upset by media coverage is ever going to be entirely satisfied. There’s no way of entirely making amends for what some people feel is

their unfair treatment. Now, the important thing is - are there mechanisms? Are they adequate? And I think there are. I mean, if I don’t like the way this interview has gone, Linda, I can complain to an ABC ombudsman. If people don’t like the way The Daily

Telegraph or The Australian or The Herald are reporting, then they can complain to the Press Council. Now, they may not like the result but that’s the way of the world and this is not improving accountability, it is a government attempting to muzzle what it

perceives as a hyper-critical media.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Tony Abbott is with us, the Federal Opposition Leader. It is 20 past nine on 702 ABC Sydney Mornings. Lots and lots of things on my long list of things to ask you about and it would be good to get you back again soon, but if I can pick up on the Baby Bonus

issue from yesterday. Joe Hockey obviously would love to find some savings but you and Kevin Andrews have decided not to support the Government in shaving back the Baby Bonus. Why are you so committed to the Baby Bonus?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, Linda, I don’t see this as a savings issue. Obviously, the Coalition supports appropriate savings. I see this as an integrity

issue because the Government, before it was elected, promised repeatedly that it would not change the Baby Bonus. This is the fourth time the Government has reduced the Baby Bonus to the forgotten families of Australia and I don’t believe the Opposition

should connive at a government which is breaking promises.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

But, I mean, policies don’t stay set in stone just for the sake of it over the years and both sides of politics have other measures. You know, you’re promising parental leave measures, the Government’s got parental leave measures. Things change. Wouldn’t

this be a sensible move in terms of getting rid of middle class welfare under the new circumstances?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, you know, whenever people say they’re attacking middle class welfare, what they are nearly always doing is just attacking the middle class. Now, I think that the middle class are the foundation of a strong civil society. The middle class are people we

should be proud of. They’re people who want to do the right thing by our country.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

But removing a bonus that is arguably not needed by many people who receive it is not a question of attacking the middle class.

Page 3 of 4 Interview with Linda Mottram, 702 ABC Sydney > Tony Abbott

22/11/2013 http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/22487/20130903-0148/www.tonyabbott.c...

It’s sensible policy.

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that families with kids, particularly low and middle income families with kids, are not people on clover. I mean, I think that there wouldn’t be a low or middle income family in this country that is finding it easy right now and that’s why I am inherently

suspicious of what this government is proposing but, as I said, it’s not so much a savings question here, it’s an integrity question. Oppositions should not connive at governments which are breaking the commitments they made to the people before they

assumed office.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Mr Abbott, I’ll let you go. Love to get you back again soon though, if you’re happy to.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thank you, Linda. It’s nice to talk to you.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Thanks, Tony. Bye-bye.

TONY ABBOTT:

`Bye.

[ends]

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

www.tonyabbott.com.au

Page 4 of 4 Interview with Linda Mottram, 702 ABC Sydney > Tony Abbott

22/11/2013 http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/22487/20130903-0148/www.tonyabbott.c...