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Transcript of join doorstop interview with Dr Bill Glasson: Brisbane: 6 February 2014: Griffith by-election; the Government’s commitment to repeal the carbon tax; Renewable Energy Target; Paul Howes; drought assistance; Bird flu in Asia; Ford



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PRIME MINISTEROF AUSTRALIA

THE HON TONY ABBOTT JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH DR BILL GLASSON, BRISBANE Thursday, 6 February 2014 Brisbane Prime Minister Subjects:

Griffith by-election; the Government’s commitment to repeal the carbon tax; Renewable Energy Target; Paul Howes; drought assistance; Bird flu in Asia; Ford. E&OE PRIME MINISTER: It’s good to be here at Breezway Windows. I want to thank David Brogan and his staff for making Bill Glasson, our candidate for Griffith and myself so welcome today. This is a successful Australian business; it’s been operating for more than 60 years, it’s exporting to about a dozen countries as well as developing constantly new products here in Australia. So, it really is a pleasure to be here. I want to say how proud I am of businesses like this and how, as far as I am concerned, the Government should always be in the business of making it easier for business to get on with its business and that’s what we do; we try to make it easier for business to get on with its business. That’s why we’re so keen to repeal the carbon tax, because the carbon tax has become emblematic of unnecessary burdens imposed by government on the businesses, the workers and the consumers of Australia. The electricity bill here is many thousands of dollars a month. Those bills would be significantly lower if the carbon tax went and that would be a significant boost to a business like this. Now, it’s also great to be with Bill Glasson because of the kind of man Bill Glasson is. I’ve known Bill Glasson for quite a few years now, we worked together very closely when I was the Health Minister and he was the President of the Australian Medical Association. We worked together very effectively, we worked with state Labor health ministers to address and ultimately to solve the medical indemnity crisis. That’s the kind of person Bill is, he rolls up his sleeves and he gets problems solved. He’s one of the most approachable and decent human beings you’d ever come across and if you want someone to give you a fair hearing and then to go about addressing your problem, you couldn’t have a better man than Bill Glasson. So, not only is Bill the outstanding individual to represent the people of Griffith, but one thing Bill will do in the Parliament is vote to repeal the carbon tax; one thing we can be absolutely certain of, no other candidate in this election is voting to repeal the carbon tax. So, if you want a terrific human being, a very distinguished Australian, someone with a proven record of service to our community as your Member in Griffith, vote for Bill Glasson. If you want to see the end of the carbon tax here in Griffith, vote for Bill Glasson. Bill, I’m very proud to be with you again and I wish you all the best on Saturday. BILL GLASSON: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Thank you for your third visit since Mr Rudd decided to resign from the seat of Griffith, having promised the people of Griffith that he would serve his full term and I appreciate you coming up and supporting me so much. Ladies and Gentlemen, on Saturday - we’re on the countdown now - the people of Griffith have got one clear choice and that’s to decide who the next Member for Griffith will be. I say to them, I would like that to be me. Why? Because I believe I have the knowledge and experience, having lived in Griffith all my life. I believe I can bring that strong voice to the Federal Parliament and to the current Abbott Government who’ve been given the job of getting on and sorting the mess - the Labor tragedy - that was left behind under the Gillard/Rudd era. Next, I am a family person; I’ve brought up three beautiful children. I’ve run a small business and continue to run small businesses. I’ve worked across a range of organisations, in terms of both volunteer organisations, like Cancer Australia, I’ve also worked on both sides of government and that has given me, I suppose, an understanding of government processes and obviously an understanding and respect on both sides of politics. One, I’d like to say that I do have a plan; a plan for the people of Griffith moving forward and first and foremost of that plan, obviously try and reduce the cost of living for my families in Griffith and also the businesses like

we are at today. I reiterate what the Prime Minister has just said; if we can just get rid of that carbon tax, that will put $550 back in your pocket and not in Mr Shorten’s pocket. I want to take this $550 out of Mr Shorten’s pocket and put it in the pockets of my families. If you want to reduce the cost of living - my counterpart last night was talking about the cost of living - can I say to her that the best way you can improve the cost of living is remove that carbon tax. Second issue is about jobs; jobs, jobs, jobs. Businesses like this that employ a huge number of people, it is about reducing red-tape, regulation and importantly we have made a commitment to reducing the corporate tax rate. It’s about aged-care. What I want to be able to say to the people who are ageing, is that I want to keep you in your home for as long as you can. I want to support you in your home; that’s where you want to be and that’s where you deserve to be. In terms of childcare, my mums are really struggling out there. They’ve got two or three children; they are struggling with the costs of childcare. Under the previous government, childcare’s gone up 50 per cent, so if you’ve got two or three children in childcare it’s a major financial impost. So, as a consequence we are looking at this through the Productivity Review and looking at importance of flexibility, availability, affordability and quality. Finally, I appeal, yet again, to the fact that we have made a commitment to Hummingbird House. As I've said to you before, if you've ever had a child of yours die, if you ever have the misfortune of outliving one of your children - there is nothing more catastrophic. The Abbott Government, as well as the Queensland Government, has made a commitment of $10 million to building Hummingbird House over here at St Vincent’s Hospital. I'd like to see that completed, so we can support the mums and dads who are in that predicament. Thank you very much PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Bill. Do we have any questions? QUESTION: Prime Minister, yesterday one of Queensland’s power stations was mothballed because you can’t make money off selling electricity and yet we can’t afford to buy it. Can you explain what’s going on? PRIME MINISTER: What they said was that Australia had become one of the highest cost of power countries in the world. What I want to do is to make us the affordable energy capital of the world. The best way to do that is to take the artificial price increases out of power and fundamental to those artificial price increases was the carbon tax. So, we get the carbon tax off, we bring the price of power down. We've got abundant coal, we've got abundant gas, in the appropriate parts of our country we've got plenty of wind and we’ve got a tonne of sun. So, we can be the affordable energy capital of the world but that requires smart policy from Government, not dumb policy from Government and the carbon tax is dumb policy, dumb policy which the Labor Party and the Greens are still wedded to. If you want to see smart policy, vote for Bill Glasson. QUESTION: Is the renewable energy target dumb policy? Will you retain that strong renewable energy target? PRIME MINISTER: We support renewable energy but I accept that the way the system works at the moment is putting upward pressure on power prices. We've got a review of the renewable energy target coming up this year and I'll be asking that review to consider the impact of the renewable energy target on power prices and doing what it can to bear down on power prices in ways which are consistent with the commitments that we've given to business. QUESTION: How soon and by how much can you bring down power bills? PRIME MINISTER: The former government estimated the carbon tax was adding 10 per cent to the price of power. So, on that reasoning, take the carbon tax off and you'll commensurately reduce the price of people's power bills. QUESTION: Dr Glasson, as a former head of the AMA which is essentially a doctors' union, what's your opinion of Paul Howes yesterday appearing to be laying down the welcome mat, calling for a compact of unions, business and government? Do you think the Government should work with Mr Howes? BILL GLASSON: I think Australians want everybody to work together. I think they are sick of what's gone on over the last six years of disharmony and dysfunction. I do believe what Mr Howes has said is sensible and sound. So, whether you're an employee or employer, we want the best outcome for everybody concerned. We want our nation to grow, we want to build a better future for our children. So, I want to see everybody, whether they be employers or employees, make sure what you're putting in place is viable in terms of the future for us and our children. QUESTION: Prime Minister, can I ask you would you be happy to work with Mr Howes to sit down and discuss IR? PRIME MINISTER:

I'm very happy to work with people. I could certainly work with someone like Paul Howes, the question is can Bill Shorten work with someone like Paul Howes. What Paul Howes did yesterday was essentially pull the rug from out of the Shorten scare campaign. Everything that the Labor Party has been doing since the election, everything they're doing now in the Griffith by-election, it's just one big scare. What Mr Howes did yesterday was say - we've got to leave all that behind us, we've got to root out the corruption and the racketeering inside the union movement, we've got to boost productivity and we've got to accept that profitable businesses are essential if we're going to have well-paid workers in secure jobs. So, all of that is simple common sense from Paul Howes but all we've had from the Labor Party in the parliament is relentless negativity and scare after scare after scare. QUESTION: Prime Minister, half of Queensland is in drought, you mentioned on radio this morning, you talked about bringing forward drought assistance measures. Are you talking about Barnaby Joyce’s plan that he is going to take to Cabinet or are you discussing something else for example what Labor had in [inaudible]? PRIME MINISTER: Well, obviously there is a very serious drought problem in western Queensland. It’s a very long time indeed since there were good rains in western Queensland, parts of News South Wales and even parts of northern Victoria are now suffering from the drought. The Commonwealth and the states agreed early last year that they would move from an old system to a new system. A system that essentially involves providing income support to people who are in exceptional circumstances - drought. What I’d like to do is bring forward the start of that scheme and that is what we are looking at now. I want to remind you though that we have already significantly improved the operation of the concessional loans scheme that the former government put in place. We’ve also made available extra money in Queensland and New South Wales for water infrastructure. Look, I certainly want the farmers of Australia to understand that this is a Government which feels what they’re experiencing at the moment. I was looking around the Cabinet table just the other day and I think there are at least five people around that Cabinet table who are farmers, one way or another. So we know what’s happening and we are moving to address it. QUESTION: Prime Minister Abbott, recent strains of bird flu in Asia. Should we be concerned about the availability of some drugs should there be a pandemic? PRIME MINISTER: It’s interesting that you should raise that because this was an issue that I wrestled with constantly as Health Minister a few years ago. At that time we did build up a very serious stockpile of antiviral drugs to deal with precisely that eventuality and my understanding is that the former government maintained the stockpile and it is very important that we don’t just protect our national security by having stronger borders, but we protect our national security by having the appropriate reserves of vital medicines. QUESTION: Prime Minister, the Labor Party are saying that the by-election in Griffith is a referendum, or they’re framing it as a referendum on your Government, if Dr Glasson doesn’t get up is it a poor reflection of your Government? PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’m just not going to speculate on what might happen on Saturday. I’m going to urge the people of Griffith to vote for the person who they think is the best person to represent them and on the one hand they’ve got a community doctor with a lifetime of public service under his belt, someone who has done an enormous amount of charity work in Australia, aid work abroad, someone who’s served his country in uniform, as well as, served his country in hospitals large and small around this state and overseas. You can have someone like that, who will talk to you of what is in his heart, or you can have someone who is just going to spout the party line and I think it’s a very clear choice. QUESTION: Can we ask Dr Glasson on that; what sort of local member will you be? If you have an issue like SPC in this electorate should you be a member. Would you be a Sharman Stone or would you voice the party line? BILL GLASSON: Look, it’s very important that if I’m elected that I do reflect the views of the people I represent, but I’m very much a team player, I’ve engaged people I work with and if I had such an issue in my electorate I’d be going to the Prime Minister and saying ‘Prime Minister we’ve got a problem here and let’s see if we can work it out together in the best interests of the people concerned’. So it is my responsibility to work with people and but it’s also my responsibility to ensure that I advocate strongly and if the issue’s strong enough - Prime Minister - I will make a stand. PRIME MINISTER: Sure. BILL GLASSON: If I believe it’s strong enough.

PRIME MINISTER: As you should. BILL GLASSON: And if we don’t agree then so be it, but I will make my voice known loud and clear. PRIME MINISTER: If I may say so on that score, I expect my Members of Parliament to be human beings first, I expect them to be champions for their electorate and yes, I expect them to be team players, but you’ve got to be a human being first, you’ve got to be a local member second and then you’ve got to be a team player. One of the many reasons why I am confident that by far the best person to be the Member for Griffith is Bill Glasson is because Bill is a man of character and principle and the last thing you’ll be getting from a fellow like Bill Glasson is a mindless parroting of the party line. QUESTION: Would the voters believe that too? PRIME MINISTER: Well, I am here to do my best to let the people of Griffith know what kind of a man Bill Glasson is and rarely have I stood beside a candidate who I know as well as Bill Glasson, who I like as much Bill Glasson and who I respect as much as Bill Glasson because this is someone with an absolute lifetime of community service behind him and a lifetime of commitment to his state, to our country. This is one of the best people you could possibly send to Canberra in the Parliament. QUESTION: Prime Minister, just to be clear are you saying that you are prepared to work with Paul Howes on his idea of a compact? What do you think of his idea of a compact? PRIME MINISTER: Ok, well, look there was much good in his speech yesterday - no doubt about that - and it would’ve been very embarrassing for Bill Shorten to hear Paul Howes speaking as he did yesterday. That said, I think that what we need to see is managers and workers in partnership at the workplace. That’s what we need to see because you can’t have strong and profitable and innovative businesses without committed, engaged and enthusiastic workers so we really do need to see a very high level of personal engagement between workers and managers at every individual business. What I don’t particularly want to see is some kind of big government, big business, big unions council which somehow dictates to everyone because we all know that that’s not democracy, that’s corporatism and I want to see more partnerships, more grassroots partnerships at every level of our country including at the level workplaces. …. BILL GLASSON: Could I just say something first to the people of Griffith; over the last month we have bombarded them - that’s we being the Labor Party and the LNP - bombarded their letterboxes, we’ve bombarded the calls on phones and I want to apologise to them and remind them that the reason we’re going through this exercise is because Mr Rudd decided to resign, but having said that I do empathise with those people out who are trying to get their kids back to school and they’re trying to cook their kids dinner etc and they have a lot of politicians ringing them up on the phone and putting a whole lot of stuff in their letterboxes. So I do apologise, but can I say to them next Saturday you’ve got the opportunity to elect myself - Bill Glasson - as your Federal representative in Canberra. I look forward to the challenge and I would take it with great honour. QUESTION: Prime Minister, can we just ask you Ford is expected to make an announcement about its future today. Has the Government had any discussions as to what that might be? We’re hearing there could be further job losses. PRIME MINISTER: My understanding is that these are internal discussions. We know that Ford are going to finish up manufacturing in this country in 2016 and that’s deeply regrettable and look, any job losses are deeply regrettable, but I would want to stress that the Government’s job is to ensure that the overall economic fundamentals are right; that’s why we’re determined to get taxes down, to get regulation down, to get productivity up because that means more jobs, higher pay and more prosperity. While we have seen some bad news from the auto industry in recent times, just yesterday Coles announced a $300 million investment in Victoria, including regional Victoria which will produce 3000 jobs so some jobs go, other jobs begin and the important thing is to promote policies which boost our economic strength. QUESTION: Has your Government had discussions about exactly what this announcement is? How many jobs are going to go and have you tried to do something to ease that I guess? PRIME MINISTER: As I said, Ford made the announcement last year under the former government that they were going to be closing down their manufacturing operations in Australia by 2016. My understanding is that they’re having

internal discussions. Look, the loss of any job is deeply, deeply regrettable. The Government’s job though is to ensure that the overall economy is strong and the right conditions are in place for employment to expand, some good things are happening as well as some not so good things. Yesterday we saw a $300 million investment by Coles that will produce 3,000 new jobs, including many in regional Victoria. So, I think we should be looking at the whole employment picture rather than focussing on just one dimension of it. Thank you.