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Transcript of interview with Karl Stefanovic: Today Show: 13 January 2011: Queensland floods



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WARRINGAH

13 January 2011

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR INTERVIEW WITH KARL STEFANOVIC TODAY SHOW

Subjects: Queensland floods

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

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Tony, good morning to you. Thank you for joining us, good to see you.

TONY ABBOTT:

`Morning Karl.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

First of all, Anna Bligh, the Premier of this great state, in a very tough situation at the moment. When you see that situation there where she did break down, your thoughts, removed from politics?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, obviously, she’s had 72 very, very difficult hours. She’s got many weeks of tough times ahead of her and I think everyone feels for her in a situation like this. This has been a very tough period for the state of Queensland, very tough for the state’s leader. I guess it’s been Anna Bligh’s finest hour, but there are a lot of hours ahead.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Yeah, a lot of hours ahead, you’re right. Earlier today there was a call for a more bipartisan approach to getting things up and rolling in terms of a recovery. At this point, I know it’s early days but are you willing to provide that bipartisan support?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I’ve always taken the view Karl, where the Government is proposing sensible measures, they will get full support from the Opposition. If the Government is in any way neglectful of it’s duty, well we will be critical. That’s our job.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

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What have you seen here and what have you experienced and who have you dealt with here?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I have had a briefing from Campbell Newman and council officers including the other state agencies. I was able to sit in on the state emergency hook-up with the Premier earlier this morning. I think that people are doing a creditable job under very difficult circumstances. I think that the professionalism of our emergency services is always admirable. We are now in the dramatic phase. What we are going to have is days and weeks and months of the recovery phase. We will be going from the adrenalin phase to the true grit phase and that’s where it’s going to be important to keep up people’s spirits, because at the moment, as I said, there is this kind of a buzz but soon it will just be the hard slog of cleaning up and rebuilding and that’s going to get very difficult.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

You are very right about that, having been and covered unfortunately a lot of these disasters it is the weeks that follow that become a burden, it’s the weeks that follow that you realise you’re not going to be able to get into your house for a couple of months…

TONY ABBOTT:

And the builders have got to come in, I mean there will be many, many houses, perhaps tens of thousands of houses in Queensland that will need to be effectively rebuilt, rebuilding the roads will take months. This is going to be a huge recovery job and it is going to have to be a very important national focus in the weeks, months and perhaps even the years ahead.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

As a fellow who grew up on, I think, the north shore of Sydney, your thoughts about Queenslanders and they way they have responded to this?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think Australians generally respond well to a crisis and to a challenge and as I said, where we are really going to be tested Karl is not just in the next 24 and 48 hours, it’s in the next period of weeks and months which are going to require a sustained, consistent, organised, concentrated effort.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Do you think there is any room for, I know this is throwing it out there a little bit, but do you think Tony there is any room for a national disaster fund, something where the money is already allocated to these things? These things happen in Australia. We had the bushfires two years ago and instead of maybe buying into Budgets and not allocating resources for Budgets, it’s already done, it’s already factored in.

TONY ABBOTT:

The best possible fund is a strong Federal Government surplus. If you’ve got a strong surplus you’ve got the money available to deploy to meet any emergency and without being too political, one of the reasons why we have always urged a strong surplus and been deeply sceptical about some of this Government’s big spending programmes is because you never know when you are going to have a disaster like this that you need to cope with and there will be literally billions of dollars needed by all levels of government but especially the Federal Government in order to respond appropriately.

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KARL STEFANOVIC:

So much rebuilding is going to have to happen here too. We want to make sure that whatever federal funds are allocated, are allocated quickly and in the right places. Where do you see things going from here?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, it is going to be very important that there is now legalism, that there is now shiny-bummed bureaucracy in the weeks and month ahead. Where there is a need, it must be met and it must be met urgently and that’s the vigilance that the Opposition will be exercising to ensure that whatever can reasonably be down is done and is done swiftly.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Have you seen much of the flooded territory at this point? Have you been through or been over places like Condamine out in central Queensland? It’s horrible. They’ve been removed twice, evacuated twice.

TONY ABBOTT:

Yeah and look there was a woman in Dalby, Mrs Hand, who I visited about ten days ago and her house has been inundated apparently twice again since that time. This afternoon I’ll be up in and around Toowoomba with Ian MacFarlane, the local member…

KARL STEFANOVIC:

The Chainsaw, he’s a can-do man.

TONY ABBOTT:

Yup, I’ll be seeing as much as I can over the next 36 hours of these flooded areas.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Tony Abbott, always good to catch up with you. Thank you very much and let’s hope for that bipartisan approach and let’s hope that it’s done quickly from the Federal Government point of view.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks Karl.

[ends]