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Transcript of doorstop interview: Sydney: 2, November 2008: President Bush and Kevin Rudd telephone conversation; budget; interest rates.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WENTWORTH

2 November 2008

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, SYDNEY

Subjects: President Bush and Kevin Rudd telephone conversation; budget; interest rates .

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

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

The Prime Minister should establish an AFP inquiry into this remarkable diplomatic gaffe that we have seen recently, where an account of his conversation with George Bush about the upcoming G20 Conference was briefed out to the media in a way that was clearly authoritative, that clearly came from the Prime Minister’s office. And this was briefed in a way that was designed both to embarrass the United States, and in particular the President, and of course to make Mr Rudd look particularly knowledgeable.

Now this has caused considerable offence in Washington. It has undermined the reputation of Australia as a country with which other nations can have confidential discussions, and it really is something that should be investigated. Now if Mr Rudd wants to own up to what he has done and make an apology then I guess there is no need for an investigation. But in the absence of him doing that, I think we need to know how this could have occurred. It has clearly done considerable damage to our relationship with the US and of course our reputation for being a country with whom other countries can have confidential discussions.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull do you have first hand knowledge of the fact that the Americans are angry about it?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

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Well we have heard this Chris through the usual channels. It is plainly something that has caused offence; I have heard that directly. But you only have to look at the Washington Post where you can see a very irritated White House had to go on the record in an unprecedented way and actually state that the version of the conversation that Mr Rudd’s office had put into the public domain was false. Now that is unprecedented and we should never have gotten to that [inaudible].

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] …other countries were disturbed by the way Australia [inaudible]

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well it does because the whole basis of these conversations is that they occur in confidence. So if Mr Rudd is not capable of keeping confidential a discussion, a private conversation he has with the President of the United States, how do the heads of other governments feel? What do they think their chances are of not being misrepresented or selectively quoted by Mr Rudd if it suits his own political agenda?

QUESTION:

Now Chris Bowen has suggested this morning that the Government would be prepared to go into deficit to get in order to make sure the country didn’t go into recession [inaudible]

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well the Government has got to make the right decisions. We have already seen it making decisions which were rushed and bungled on economic management. The unlimited deposit guarantee has proved to be a decision that was held up by Mr Rudd as being swift and decisive. It was clearly made without due consideration, without Mr Rudd even bothering to pick up the phone and let alone meet face-to- face with the Governor of the Reserve Bank. It has caused considerable harm to hundreds of thousands of people who have had their assets, their life savings in many cases frozen. And it has caused a lot of other damage as well. So really the challenge now for Mr Rudd is to stop managing the economy with a view to a quick headline and start doing the work and taking the care to make the right decisions.

Now surpluses have been built up over a long period of time. The Coalition paid off all of Labor’s debt and put additional money in the bank - the Commonwealth Government is a net lender. Now the Rudd Government has to take very great care that it doesn’t fritter that away in poorly designed and poorly executed economic policy decisions.

QUESTION:

What is the right course [inaudible] deposit guarantee? [Inaudible]

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

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It is very hard to undo the damage Mr Rudd has done immediately. A lot of this damage has been to confidence. But I think Gail Kelly, the head of Westpac suggested correctly a few days ago that the target should be to get the depos it guarantee down to $100 000, which was the level we recommended it should be set at and which I might say is the level where it is set, or thereabouts that level, in almost every other comparable country in the world. So the aim of the bank deposit guarantee is to have it high enough to give comfort to households and small business so that they have a greater sense of security but not so high that it distorts money markets and financial markets and works very strongly to the prejudice of funds and institutions that are not guaranteed. Now of course and unlimited guarantee is as high as you can go, so Mr Rudd did considerable damage to us, to our economy and to the savings of many Australians by that very ill-considered decision.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] interest rates again [inaudible].

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well my view is they are. Yes, if the Reserve Banks cuts interest rates next week, the banks should pass on the entirety of that cut. They are in a position to do so in my view. I took that view with respect to the last rate cut, and they have now passed, most of them, in most of their rates they have passed that cut on; not with all their business rates I might add. Nonetheless they are highly profitable and they should be able to pass on that rate cut. Bear in mind they are getting considerable assistance from the taxpayer through the guarantees and that just underlines the importance of them doing the right thing by their customers and by the millions of Australians who are struggling to pay interest on their borrowings in these difficult times.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] do you believe that you can win the next election?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Not only can we win the election in 2010, we must. We can’t afford to have two more years of Mr Rudd’s poor economic management. We have already seen the type of economic management we are getting from Mr Rudd - rushed and bungled, focused on headlines not on sound policy. It is very much the same type of Government that we have seen from Labor in NSW. We cannot allow Mr Rudd to do to Australia what Bob Carr, Morris Iemma and Nathan Rees have do ne to NSW.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible]

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well look I haven’t read Mr Murdoch’s speech. I look forward to reading it and when I have read it I will perhaps make some comments on it. [ends]