Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of press conference: Sydney: 18 January 2011: Queensland and Victorian floods; National Broadband Network; flood insurance; AUKMIN talks; Afghanistan



Download PDFDownload PDF

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

18 January 2011

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR PRESS CONFERENCE SYDNEY

Subjects: Queensland and Victorian floods; National Broadband Network; flood insurance; AUKMIN talks; Afghanistan.

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

TONY ABBOTT:

As the flood waters recede, it’s clear that the damages bill is going to be enormous, perhaps even gargantuan, as Sir Rod Eddington suggested this morning. Certainly it will run to many, many billions of dollars. Now, the money just has to be spent because the people of Queensland have to be resupplied with the roads, the railroads and the bridges on which modern living absolutely depends. But the damages bill will have to be met, the money will have to be found. It should not be found via a new tax. The people of Queensland have suffered enough, they shouldn’t have to suffer higher taxes as well. It should be found through re-prioritising government expenditure.

It’s time for the Government to stop spending on unnecessary projects so that it can start spending on unavoidable projects such as the reconstruction that will be needed in Queensland and perhaps in Victoria as well. It can start with the National Broadband Network. The National Broadband Network is a luxury that Australia cannot now afford. The one thing you don’t do is re-do your bathroom when the roof has just been blown off and that’s the situation that we find ourselves in right now.

While I’m on the subject of the National Broadband Network, not only is it the most expensive government infrastructure project in Australia’s history but it’s also the most secretive government project in Australia’s history. Not only is there no cost-benefit analysis, not only is it being exempted from competition laws, not only is it being exempted from public works committee scrutiny, we learn today that it’s also being exempted from freedom of information laws. This really is a project that doesn’t stack up and it shouldn’t go ahead. It particularly shouldn’t be going ahead at a time like this.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister Gillard announced a fund today for corporations to donate towards the flood victims. Can I just get your thoughts on that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I think it’s been really good the way corporate Australia has responded to the floods and I think that there’s a lot of expertise in corporate Australia that governments at all levels could well draw on. I think it’s important for governments at all levels to draw on relevant business expertise and I’m pleased that the Gillard Government, in this instance, looks like doing so.

QUESTION:

Do you think corporations need to go beyond financially donating towards the flood relief and actually, I don’t know, donate items or…?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that probably the two most important sectors of corporate Australia, as we recover from the floods, are going to be the insurers and the bankers and I think it’s very important that our insurers and our bankers respond intelligently, constructively and cooperatively because there are an enormous number of businesses and households that are going to need support from those sectors and I hope they get it.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, apart from the NBN what other projects should the Government either delay or cancel altogether?

TONY ABBOTT:

Plainly this is a Government which has a very poor record when it comes to spending money effectively. I think that any money that’s still to be spent under the Government’s stimulus package should certainly be redirected. I think there are a range of election commitments such as ‘Cash for Clunkers’ that are just begging to be scrapped. I think that there are a whole range of unnecessary spending programmes that the Government needs to look at again.

Let’s face it, no less a figure than Sir Rod Eddington himself this morning said that the Government was going to have to focus on the urgent, unavoidable and necessary repair work, not on other projects which at a time like this look like luxuries.

QUESTION:

The National Broadband Network’s not included in the Budget so how is it possible to cancel that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Because it’s going to involve some $50 billion plus of government spending and the point I make is that when you’ve got an absolutely urgent and unavoidable spending commitment,

you don’t go ahead with unnecessary and avoidable spending commitments and that’s what the NBN is.

QUESTION:

How would you like to see the insurance industry improve their [inaudible]?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, the point I’ve been making is that insurers should respond intelligently and constructively to this. They shouldn’t respond legalistically. They shouldn’t respond with the kind of nitpicking which you sometimes get. We don’t want the insurers looking at the fine print and suddenly saying that ‘oh, oops, those premiums that you’ve been paying out for years aren’t going to cover you in this particular instance’.

QUESTION:

The British and Australian foreign and defence ministers are meeting today. The British Government has set out a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Is it time Australia did the same?

TONY ABBOTT:

I’m pleased that the AUKMIN talks are going ahead. I think this was one of the really significant innovations of the Howard and Blair Governments to commence these annual high level ministerial talks between Australia and Britain. Britain is our oldest ally. Along with the United States, it’s our greatest ally and it’s very important that we keep all our alliance relationships in very good shape. So, I’m pleased that they’re going ahead and I’m confident that we’ll have much to exchange with the British when it comes to our shared experience in Afghanistan.

QUESTION:

Would you like to see a timetable for withdrawal?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I’ve said that it’s important for Australian troops to stay in Afghanistan until the job is done and I’m certainly not in the business of putting a limit on that. I note that the Prime Minister talked about a decade when she gave her parliamentary statement just a few months ago. The important thing is to win, the important thing is to achieve our national and international objectives in Afghanistan. That’s what Australian troops are there to do and I want to say that they are doing an absolutely magnificent job. Thanks.

[ends]