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Transcript of joint press statement with John Burgess: Radio 6iX, Perth: 2 April 2014: Visit by Prime Minister Najib Razak; flight MH370; independent public schools; the Government's commitment to repeal the carbon tax and the mining tax; Western Australian Senate election; GST: National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness



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Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Tony Abbott MP

Interview with John Burgess, Radio 6iX, Perth Wednesday, 2 April 2014 Prime Minister Subjects:

Visit by Prime Minister Najib Razak; flight MH370; independent public schools; the Government’s commitment to repeal the carbon tax and the mining tax; Western Australian Senate election; GST: National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. E&OE JOHN BURGESS: I’m delighted to have in the studio this morning the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott. Prime Minister, good morning. PRIME MINISTER: Burgo, it’s great to be here, JOHN BURGESS: It’s very nice to see you. A bit of an extended stay in Perth this time? PRIME MINISTER: Well, yes. I got here on Sunday evening but we’ve got the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak coming tonight and staying for most of tomorrow. He’s obviously here to thank all of the international crews involved in the search for ill-fated flight MH370 and given the friendship that Australia has with Malaysia, I think it’s appropriate that I should be here to help welcome Prime Minister Najib. JOHN BURGESS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean this MH370’s becoming the mystery of the century, isn’t it? PRIME MINISTER: Look, it’s one of the great mysteries of our time. It’s a terrible tragedy. There are 239 devastated families. There are a lot of very concerned people right around the world and Australia is leading the search and recovery effort as is right given that it all happened in our search and rescue zone. We owe it to the world, we owe it to those families to do whatever we reasonably can do get to the bottom of this. JOHN BURGESS: You’ve appointed Angus Houston, of course former Defence Force Chief to look after things. Are you confident that he can do a good job? PRIME MINISTER: I’m confident that if anyone is capable of ensuring that the effort that is being put in gets the best possible result, it’s Angus Houston. JOHN BURGESS: And of course there was a number of Australians on board that plane very sadly and one of them here in WA, Danica Weeks. I mean, they must be going through just an awful time. PRIME MINISTER: Just, just awful - just awful. To lose a loved one is terrible, but to have a loved one disappear in such circumstances - in such mysterious circumstances - is just devastating and it must be almost unbearable for those families and I can fully understand why so many of them are just so desperately anxious and so desperately unhappy and this is why we need to give them the reassurance that we will not rest here in Australia until we’ve done everything we reasonably can to get to the bottom of this. JOHN BURGESS:

Yeah, well that’s very encouraging news because they’ve got some very mixed messages so far, particularly from overseas. Moving on to other subjects. Of course, yesterday you’ve been well aware the teachers’ strike that happened here. Timing not good for the Senate election? PRIME MINISTER: Well, Burgo, I just think it’s sad for the schools and the students of Western Australia that so many teachers were protesting yesterday rather than in their classroom. Now, people are entitled to say we should be paid more, but Western Australian public schools are better funded than any other public schools in the country thanks to Premier Barnett’s independent public school movement. I think that this is probably the most innovative state in the country when it comes to public school education and, look, there are record levels of federal funding going to schools, just as there are record levels of federal funding going into roads under this Government. We’ve put back into public schools the $1.2 billion that Bill Shorten, as education minister, cut out just before the election. JOHN BURGESS: Why do you think people have to resort to this sort of action to get the attention of governments? PRIME MINISTER: Well, certainly, as far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, we are trying to pay due attention to everyone and the message that we’re getting form the public is, Burgo, that they want their cost of living reduced where possible and that’s why I am so determined to scrap the carbon tax because that’s a $550 hit on every Western Australian family and every Australian families’ cost of living and we’re determined to get rid of it. Every time legislation comes before the Parliament, the Labor Party and the Greens say, “Let’s keep the carbon tax”. Well, this is a bad tax, Burgo. It’s a bad tax which is an anti-Western Australian tax because Western Australia is the energy capital of our country. It must go, but the only way to get rid of it is to support the Liberal candidates. JOHN BURGESS: How confident are you after the Senate election at the weekend that you’ll be able to have the numbers, both yours or with help, to repeal this tax? PRIME MINISTER: Look, it’s always tough to get legislation through the Senate - always tough - but I am confident that if we get three Liberal Senators again, which is what we got at the election back in September - and let’s face it, there’s was no doubt about the election of the Liberal Senators, there was only some doubt because of the AEC’s ineptitude over the last two places - but I am confident that if the Western Australian public reproduce that result, we’ll have the best possible chance of getting rid of the carbon tax and getting rid of the mining tax which are anti-Western Australian taxes that the Labor Party hit this state with. JOHN BURGESS: Just on a lighter note for a moment, last time we spoke I mentioned to you that I understood that the chocolate biscuits and the jellybeans have disappeared from the Cabinet table. So I know that you’ve been away for a while but I managed to get some jellybeans for you, Prime Minister. PRIME MINISTER: You want me to have a sugar hit, don’t you Burgo? You think this is early in the morning and I might need a sugar hit to perk up a bit, don’t you?! JOHN BURGESS: I’m sorry, the budget here didn’t extend to chocolate biscuits, but the jellybeans are yours! Much has been said in the last couple of days and we’ve had a fair bit of advertising about the GST and how WA’s GST funds should be remaining here and not helping other states - not possible? PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, I fully understand Colin Barnett’s pleas on behalf of Western Australia, but look the best thing we can do for Western Australia is get rid of the carbon tax and get rid of the mining tax. The things I can do I will do; the things that are in the hands of the other states, well, that’s difficult. JOHN BURGESS: Absolutely. I spoke to you last time we had a chat about the national partnerships on homelessness and you told me that there would be an announcement in the budget and I should wait till then and I said if we’re not happy, Prime Minister, I’ll be talking to you again and you said by all means. Well, the Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has now announced that yes you will be funding for another year, but it would appear the size of the pie has got a little smaller. Does that mean that WA’s slice will as well? PRIME MINISTER: Well, Burgo, it is important to give people certainty. These are important services. In a very difficult fiscal environment everyone is going to have to take a little bit of stringency, but these services will be re-funded and that’s the assurance that Kevin Andrews gave people on Sunday. JOHN BURGESS:

I’ve had a lot of calls from people because I told them that you were coming in today and quite a few calls concerning homelessness and also mental health issues as well. They’re saying not enough money’s put into resources for that. PRIME MINISTER: Look, there’s a sense, Burgo, in which you can never do enough in these areas because these are very difficult problems to deal with. We have to as a decent and compassionate society constantly make a bigger effort, but there’s a sense in which nothing will ever be enough. But I’m pleased to say that when I was the health minister the Howard Government put $1.9 billion into the Better Outcomes in Mental Health package. We extended Medicare rebates to psychologist’s consultations. We established GP mental health care plans. So, we did a lot for mental health when I was the health minister. It’s early days for the new Government, but certainly this is something which is very much front and centre of my concerns. JOHN BURGESS: Excellent. Well I know that you’re working hard towards that and people should be encouraged to hear that because 6000 people rely on the homeless package, of course, and 110 staff who are very nervous about their jobs. PRIME MINISTER: And look, people need to understand that while we are going to ensure that the Commonwealth Government’s spending is reined back so that the Commonwealth does live within its means, what we’re interested in is ensuring that the services that people get are maintained and improved; it’s government which become more efficient, becomes more cost-conscious. JOHN BURGESS: I saved out of the paper your pledge to Australia when you became Prime Minister of the country and I’d just like you to read this quote here that said ‘we will be a no surprises, no excuses’ government. We’ll deliver on our commitments. We won’t be perfect; no government ever is, but when we get it wrong, we’ll admit it and when we make a mistake, we will learn from it’. On track? PRIME MINISTER: Look, broadly yes. Obviously there’s been one or two things that have been completely beyond our control that have happened since the election. There are a couple of things that I dare say some people don’t agree with, but I’m happy with the way it’s going and we are delivering on our commitments. The boats are stopping, in fact, they’ve stopped for 100 days or more. We are getting the budget back under control. I’ll be spending a day of very intensive meetings today on just this subject and look we are putting our legislation into the Parliament - as we said we would - to get rid of the carbon tax, to get rid of the mining tax. It’s just that the Labor Party and the Greens are doing their best to frustrate it in the Senate. The only reason why the carbon tax is not yet gone is because Mr Shorten says that he’s scrapping the carbon tax in Perth, but in Canberra he actually votes in favour of it and that’s one of the reasons why we need a very strong result on Saturday. JOHN BURGESS: Well, I’m sure people will take everything into consideration and it is a very important day on Saturday for Western Australia. A little worried about complacency - about people not turning up to vote? I mean, it beggars belief that we lost all those votes last time and we’ve got to do this again. PRIME MINISTER: Dead right, Burgo, and look at least the Electoral Commissioner had the decency to resign after this because it was an extraordinary failing on the part of the Electoral Commission. Look, I know that people are a little bit annoyed at having to go to the polls three times in 12 months: for the state election, for the federal election and now for this unnecessary by-election. I know people are annoyed. But it is important. It does matter. We need to get a strong, pro-Western Australian Senate and the only way to do that is to vote for a Liberal candidate. JOHN BURGESS: Nice to talk to you. Thank you very much for coming in today, I really appreciate it. PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Burgo.