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Transcript of interview with Joseph Thomsen: ABC Goulburn Murray: 4 September 2015: visit to Albury-Wodonga; launch of Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience; Sophie Mirabella; Bill Shorten and the CFMEU's joint plan to sabotage Australia's economic future by standing in the way of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement; Beechworth Refugee Asylum Seeker Support; Andrew Hastie



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PRIME MINISTER

4 September 2015

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MP INTERVIEW WITH JOSEPH THOMSEN ABC GOULBURN MURRAY

Subjects: Visit to Albury-Wodonga; Launch of Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience; Sophie Mirabella; Bill Shorten and the CFMEU’s joint plan to sabotage Australia’s economic future by standing in the way of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement; Beechworth Refugee Asylum Seeker Support; Andrew Hastie.

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

JOSEPH THOMSEN:

I spoke to the Prime Minister just a very short time ago and asked how significant he thought this launch and exhibition is.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, this is the first outing of the Centenary of Anzac travelling exhibition. Most of the major centres of our country will be covered by this exhibition over the next three years or so and it’s a very important way for this generation to appreciate the sacrifices of our forebears and to appreciate the extraordinary effort that Australia made for the freedom of the wider world back in the Great War. So, I think this is an important day and I hope the people of Albury-Wodonga are pretty excited.

JOSEPH THOMSEN:

It’s visiting 23 locations around Australia over the next 20 months, so that’s great, it’s taking it to the people. Why did it start in Wodonga?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it had to start somewhere and Albury-Wodonga is a very important regional centre and why not start in Wodonga? Why not recognise Wodonga? Wodonga certainly did its share of the war effort between 1914 and 1918.

JOSEPH THOMSEN:

A couple of other points of local significance, Prime Minister. Sophie Mirabella, your candidate in the seat of Indi. The electorate of Indi sent a clear message last time against the national swing to the Coalition. Why is Sophie Mirabella the best candidate for the Coalition this time in Indi?

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PRIME MINISTER:

Well she’s a tough fighter and I think she’s learnt the lessons of that defeat. Obviously, it was a terrible disappointment. It was a terrible disappointment for me as well as, obviously, a disappointment to the Coalition and a great personal shock to Sophie. But let’s not forget that Sophie was campaigning around the country in 2013. She was the Shadow Minister for Industry. She was one the leaders of the campaign against the carbon tax - a very successful campaign against the carbon tax. This time, rather than fighting and campaigning right around the country, she’ll obviously be campaigning very locally.

JOSEPH THOMSEN:

As you just mentioned, you were saving the industry portfolio for Sophie Mirabella last time. If Sophie Mirabella regains Indi, will you give her that job again?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it would be premature to speculate on that, Joseph, because obviously she’s got a very tough fight on her hands. The incumbent member is always hard to beat. Incumbency is a bit of a gift. So, I’m just not going to speculate on what might happen after the election, but certainly, before the election I’ll be working as hard as I can to ensure that we get the Liberal candidate up in Indi.

JOSEPH THOMSEN:

Would she definitely be a minister, though?

PRIME MINISTER:

Joseph, I’m not just going to speculate on what might happen after an election. What matters at the moment is that we’ve got a good candidate - a very good candidate - who is very well-known locally and she is, I think, a changed and better and more focussed person as a result of the experience of the last election.

JOSEPH THOMSEN:

Because that would make two pretty senior Cabinet members from our part of the world - Sussan Ley, of course, in Farrer; Sophie Mirabella - that’s if you retake government, of course.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that’s right, and we think we’ve got a very good record to defend. We honoured our commitments to stop the boats, to scrap the carbon tax, to scrap the mining tax, to get building the roads that we need, to get the budget back under control. We’ve done all of that and, obviously, what we’re doing at the moment is focussing very much on jobs, on economic growth, and on community safety. When it comes to jobs and economic growth, the best thing we can do right now is rapidly pass through the Parliament the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and I just can’t believe the Labor Party and the CFMEU’s opposition to this and it’s high time that Bill Shorten started listening to people like Bob Hawke and not to the CFMEU.

JOSEPH THOMSEN:

Speaking of the China Free Trade Agreement, through our part of the world lots of things are being grown and made here but just to mention a few, there’s wine, of course, there’s textile - Wangaratta’s Wilson Fabrics, Bruck Textiles - we’re exporting dairy, manufacturing. So, lots of regional areas around the country like that. What will the China FTA do for regions like ours?

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PRIME MINISTER:

It’s basically a terrific export deal for Australia and we are confident that should the deal go through the Parliament that we’ll have the same kind of benefits that New Zealand have had. They got their free trade agreement with China in place about five years ago and their exports to China have quintupled since then and we believe that we can do something similar. At the moment, our exports to China are mostly resources, but all of the agricultural tariffs that we currently face exporting to China will essentially disappear over the next few years under this agreement and that means, as you say, our wine, our dairy, our services, our manufacturers, will all have privileged access to the Chinese market which over time will be the biggest market in the world.

JOSEPH THOMSEN:

Just to pick up on the New Zealand experience, one little aspect of that. I was in New Zealand a couple of years ago and milk was horrendously expensive there. Everybody said it was because they were selling all of their milk to China and therefore New Zealanders were having to pay the same price. Could it be a downside of such a free trade agreement?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, obviously, it’s the market which sets the price of milk but the bigger the market for Australian milk producers, the more the potential for jobs and for prosperity.

JOSEPH THOMSEN:

Prime Minister, you are in Indi today. What’s your relationship with Indi Member, Cathy McGowan like?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh look, it’s a courteous relationship. It’s a respectful relationship. Obviously, I was campaigning for her opponent at the last election but as a democrat, you accept the will of the people and you work with the Parliament you’ve got, including Independent Members of Parliament. So, it’s a respectful and a courteous relationship, but obviously, while as Prime Minister I work with the Members of Parliament who we have, as the Leader of the Liberal Party and of the Liberal/National Coalition, I want to see Liberal/National candidates elected right around the country and one of them is Sophie Mirabella in Indi.

JOSEPH THOMSEN:

Prime Minister, you might be aware of this group called the Beechworth Refugee Asylum Seeker Support, or BRASS, they’re staging a protest in Wodonga today as part of your visit and they’re also calling for a meeting with you. I know your schedule is pretty cramped so that can’t happen. What would you have said to a group like BRASS or similar groups to allay their concerns if you were meeting with them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I’d say if you want to stop the deaths, if you want to stop the drownings, you’ve got to stop the boats and we saw yesterday on our screens a very sad and poignant image of children tragically - tragically - dead at sea in illegal migration and thankfully, we’ve stopped that in Australia because we’ve stopped the illegal boats. We have said to the people smugglers: your trade is closed down. As long as people think that if they can get here they can stay here we’ll have the illegal trade, we’ll have the people smugglers in business, and we’ll have the tragedies at sea. So, if you want to keep people safe, you’ve got to stop illegal migration and that’s what we’ve done.

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JOSEPH THOMSEN:

Prime Minister, all eyes are on Canning at the moment in Western Australia, the by-election there. You know Andrew Hastie is from Wangaratta, in our part of the world.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, he is! He’s an Army lad so he and his family have moved around a bit. Over the last six years or so he’s been based in Perth as part of the Special Air Service regiment. He’s done great work for our country in the Army and I’m hoping that he’ll be doing great work for our country and for Canning in the Parliament. But he is an absolutely outstanding individual. I’ve had the privilege of spending a bit of time with him lately and this man would be an adornment to the Parliament should he be elected.

JOSEPH THOMSEN:

I know former PM John Howard was there on the hustings with Andrew Hastie over the last couple of days or so. You’re confident?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, but we’re certainly not taking anything for granted. The fact that Bill Shorten has been there three times in the last fortnight suggests that Labor is throwing everything they can at the seat. Obviously, they would love to take this seat back. It’s a seat they held not so long ago. Our margin was inflated, if you like, by the swing of the last election and Don Randall, the former member’s, strong personal vote. Nevertheless, given our great candidate, given our strong record in Government, given the fact that the carbon tax and the mining tax were, in particular, anti-Western Australian taxes, I’m expecting us to win the seat.

JOSEPH THOMSEN:

Prime Minister, enjoy your time in the seat of Indi today. Are you going to be returning to Indi during the election campaign?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I think the short answer is yes! I will try to be in all parts of the country between now and the election, but I’m really looking forward to the trip today.

JOSEPH THOMSEN:

Thank you very much for your time today.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good on you, Joseph.

[ends]