Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Canberra: 7 September 2015: Sticking to our Plan: two year anniversary of the Abbott Government; the Government's record of achievement; Syrian humanitarian crisis

Download PDFDownload PDF



7 September 2015



Subjects: Sticking to our Plan: two year anniversary of the Abbott Government; the Government’s record of achievement; Syrian humanitarian crisis.



It’s great to be here in the nation’s capital. It’s great to have the Prime Minister here with us today, it’s great to have the Small Business Minister, Bruce Billson, and my friend and colleague, Angus Taylor, who represents this region as well just over the border. It’s fantastic to have the Prime Minister here, particularly talking to a number of small businesses here in Canberra and we have been hearing about some of their issues today.

Whether it’s the issue of union corruption on building sites, whether it’s the importance of free trade, whether it’s the importance of incentives for small business or lower taxes, all of these things have been on the agenda today. They’re important to businesses in Canberra. They’re important to businesses in the region and, indeed, right around the country.

So, it’s a great pleasure to have the Prime Minister here today and I’ll ask him to come forward.


Thanks, Zed. I can’t think of a better way to mark the second anniversary of this Government by having a breakfast such as this with small businesspeople. That’s always been our plan: to be open for business. The plan is working and we are sticking with it and today, talking to small businesses, they are feeling a surge of confidence thanks to what this Government has done.

Some of the people in there were saying how good it was that their power prices are down because of the repeal of the carbon tax. Others have been talking about what they've been able to do with the small business instant asset write-off. Others have been talking about the new opportunities that have opened up for them


and their staff through the free trade agreements. So, this is a Government which is constantly open for business. This is a Government which is proud of the fact that our economy has created 335,000 new jobs since the election.

We're always seeking to do more.

We want to finalise the Free Trade Agreement with China as quickly as possible. We aren't going to let Bill Shorten and the CFMEU stand in our way here because this isn't just about a better deal for today and tomorrow, this is about setting up our country for decades to come. We are determined to ensure that developments such as the Carmichael Mine in Queensland can go ahead because investment and jobs are absolutely necessary for our economy.

We are also determined to ensure that workplaces are clean and fair and free and that is what the Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption - which, again, Bill Shorten and the CFMEU wants to close down - is all about: about clean, honest workplaces.

As we go into an election year next year, this is a Government which is about getting taxes down further. We want to see a tax cut for hardworking middle Australians. We want to see a further tax boost for small business because this is a Government which wants our country to be at work. This is a Government which wants our people to be as prosperous as possible. This is a Government which is doing the right thing by Australia. We're doing the right thing by Australia and when we do the right thing by Australia, Australia can do the right thing by the world.

I want to thank the Minister for Small Business who has been such a tireless advocate for small business. Not only that, he has been a remarkable policy architect for small business. One of the proudest moments over the last two years for me and I think for the entire Government was the biggest tax cut in history for small business, particularly the instant asset write-off and, Bruce, you were the architect. Thank you.


Prime Minister, it was great to hear first-hand from so many small businesses how our Government has changed the environment for them. We are pro-small business. We want to energise enterprise and we have put in place the policy settings to help support enterprising men and women. We are about helping small business grow because we know in communities right across Australia when small businesses are growing, when there’s buoyancy in the small business and family enterprise sector there's optimism, there's opportunity, there's vitality and there’s enthusiasm in the community and the economy and that's what we heard first-hand this morning.

We said we would be working as hard for the success of small business men and women as they are. That was our commitment; that’s what we’ve done two years in: full implementation of our more than a dozen election commitments and it's making a real difference. Jobs growth in small business, business formation up and I think, very encouragingly, more women than men are actually creating the enterprises today and that’s a great sign for the future as we also support the full participation of all our citizens in our economy. We're here to energise enterprise. That's what we promised, and that's exactly what we're getting on with.




Thanks, PM. It's terrific to be here across the border in the region of Canberra, which is where my electorate is, talking about small business and if there's one thing I’ve learnt very quickly as a new Member of


Parliament it's that the growth of my region - jobs in my region - is totally dependent on the success of the small business sector.

It's a huge pleasure to have a number of small businesses from my electorate here today. I heard about one business that’s exporting wool and alpaca products up into China, another business that's been battling with the union carry-on and both understood how important it is that we get the agenda that we've been pursuing as a Government and take it to fruition.

So, it is a great pleasure to be here. Small business is the backbone of my electorate and the backbone of this country. Thank you for being here.


Ok, do we have any questions?


Prime Minister, what would it take to change your mind in regards to Australia’s overall intake for humanitarian assistance? There have been repeated calls from within your Party as well to increase the number. What would it take to change your mind?


What I think people want to see is a generous response to the crisis in Syria and that’s exactly what this Government has done and will continue. We have already taken some 4,500 people who have been displaced by the fighting in Syria and Iraq and we have now got the Immigration Minister in Europe because we are determined to do more. We’ve always been a country which is a good global citizen. We have always been a country that shoulders its responsibilities, that pulls its weight globally. We take on a per capita basis more refugees than any other country on earth through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and we are going to build on that in the weeks and months ahead. There will be a very strong humanitarian response from Australia, but there will be a strong security response as well because we've got to appreciate that these people are fleeing an absolutely evil death cult. People in Syria are caught between the mass executions of the Daesh death cult and the chemical weapons of the regime. We need both a strong humanitarian response and a strong security response as well.


Josh Frydenberg has told Sky News this morning that the Government should take extra refugees from Syria like John Howard did with the Kosovars in ‘99. What would you say to him and other Liberal members that would like to see an increased intake from Syria above the overall humanitarian intake from Australia?


Well, that’s exactly what we are doing. Last year, the conflict in Syria and Iraq was responsible for some 30 per cent of our overall intake. The overall intake is going up to 18,000 in the next couple of years and this is one of the dividends of stopping the boats: because we’ve stopped the boats, it's the Australian Government which is now able to select people who come in under our refugee and humanitarian intake. Under the former government it was the people smugglers that were doing the selection. So, now we are in a position to say there is a crisis in Syria, we are prepared to respond and we will take from camps family groups of persecuted minorities. That’s what we will do.



Prime Minister, as you said, it is two years since the last election, yet polling consistently shows that you and your Government are worse off in almost every way. What needs to change to ensure that you don't lose 30-odd seats at the next election?


Well, we are sticking with the plan. We have a plan. The plan was to get taxes down, to get regulation down, to get productivity up, to create jobs, to reduce taxes, to boost prosperity. The plan is working and we are sticking with it. There are 335,000 more jobs in our economy. Car sales are at record highs, bankruptcies are at record lows. We’ve got confidence above long-term levels. We’ve got housing approvals at near record levels. So, the plan is working and we are sticking to it.


Is the plan working, though, if voters aren’t responding to it?


Look, come polling day, I am very confident that people will be choosing between a Government which has delivered on its commitments and an Opposition which hasn't learnt and can't change. So, I am very confident that come polling day, people will acknowledge the free trade agreements that we have put in place, the tax reductions that we have put in place, the business boosts that we have put in place, the commitment to get our country moving which is happening.


Just back on Syria, are you any closer to determining whether Australia will join the air campaign?


We’ll have more to say later in the week, but again, I just want to stress that what we need in response to the Syrian crisis is a humanitarian response and a security response and you will get a very balanced response from Australia.


On the humanitarian response, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is going to take hundreds of extra Syrian refugees above their annual humanitarian intake of 750. Can you see any circumstance in which Australia should take increased Syrian refugees outside of the humanitarian intake that we are already taking in?


I think your question says it all, doesn’t it? New Zealand takes 700. We take 13,750 now and we are building up to 18,000. On a per capita basis, Australia takes more refugees through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees than any other country. And, yes, good on New Zealand for announcing that they're going to take a few hundred. Australia has already taken 4,500. Australia has already taken 4,500 and, yes, we will do more. We will do more because this is an ongoing crisis, but let's not forget what we have already done, and let's not forget the comparative generosity that Australia has always shown in situations like this.



If the UNHCR suggests to Minister Dutton to increase Australia's overall humanitarian intake, would that be considered by the Abbott Government?


Let's not pre-empt the results of those discussions. Let's not forget that we are increasing - because we have stopped the boats - we are in a position to increase the overall intake of refugees and humanitarian entrants. So, that’s already happening and what we are determined to do is to take more people from Syria and that war-torn part of the world as a response to this particular crisis. But again, I stress, we are taking people from camps because the last thing we want to do is to encourage and reward people smuggling. We are taking people from camps and we are taking family groups. Our focus will be on family groups from persecuted minorities.


Mr Abbott, did Julie Bishop approach you late last year about Joe Hockey's future and how frustrating are those reports?


I just don't get into Canberra gossip. There are lots of things that are happening right now. We've got a Government which is determined to get the Free Trade Agreement through the Parliament. We’ve got a Government which is determined to get the $20 billion and the 10,000 jobs of the Carmichael Mine up and running. You’ve got a Government which is determined to ensure that we have fair and honest workplaces. You've got a Government which is determined to respond to the crisis in Syria with both a strong humanitarian and a security response. I don't deal with this kind of gossip. I just don't.


One more on Syria, Prime Minister. Do you think it's unhelpful for Coalition members going out there saying there should be an extra special intake of refugees above our humanitarian intake because it might be confusing the Government's message on this?


Look, the Australian people are a decent and generous people - always have been, always will be - and Australian Governments have always shouldered our responsibilities. Whenever there is a crisis in the world, Australia responds and we respond strongly, we respond generously and that’s exactly what we are going to do here: we will respond with strength and with generosity because that’s the Australian way. You do the right thing by Australia, and Australia can do the right thing by the world - always have, always will.

Thank you.