Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of interview with Andrew Moore: 2GB Radio, Sydney: 20 January 2011: Victorian floods; Queensland floods; NBN; government spending



Download PDFDownload PDF

1

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

20 January 2011

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR INTERVIEW WITH ANDREW MOORE 2GB RADIO, SYDNEY

Subjects: Victorian floods; Queensland floods; NBN; government spending

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

ANDREW MOORE:

Tony, good to talk to you again. How are you doing?

TONY ABBOTT:

I’m not too bad, Andrew, but look I obviously feel incredibly sorry for the hundreds of thousands of Australians who have been badly impacted by these floods and I guess inevitably you feel a bit guilty flying out of the flood affected areas because I’m going back to a home which doesn’t stink.

ANDREW MOORE:

It’s funny you know, Tony, we did the show for three days last week and flew out on Friday night back to Sydney and I must admit seeing what had happened there, I couldn’t wait to get home and give the kids and my wife a hug. But you do, I feel a similar thing, I know what you’re saying.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, that’s right mate. See, even after the waters go down and the power is put back on and the water and sewerage are working again, it may be weeks, even months, before these houses are inhabitable because you’ve not got to just get, you know, the carpet stripped and the furniture clean and all that sort of thing. In many cases you got to take out all the insides of the house to above the level of the flood, you know, replace the gyprock or replace the wiring. You’ve got to, sort of, steam clean the whole thing just to ensure that the thing is really going to be safe for the longer run and this is a very long and in many cases a very costly process. I don’t think a lot of the people who have left their homes quite understand just how long this is going to be and how expensive it might be for them because there is almost no one in Victoria, probably about 50 per cent of the people in Queensland, who aren’t covered for flood damage.

ANDREW MOORE:

Yeah, that’s right and look, I think it took a while for the people of New South Wales to come to grips with the extent of the damage, the extent of the amount of land that was under water and affected by floods. But

2

now, we’re trying to come to terms with the amount of damage and the amount of flooding in Victoria. Now, you spent yesterday going around Victoria, what were you seeing?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, if you fly into any of the towns of northern Victoria, you are basically looking at from the air a bit of an inland sea and then when you actually get on the ground you notice that a lot of paddocks which from the air look to be dry are still very, very wet indeed. I mean, yes, the tops of the crops are above the water and the paddock from the air looks dry but once you’re on the ground you see that there’s still, you know, two or three inches of water left in those paddocks and that’s what is going to ultimately kill most of those crops which is going to make it very, very hard for stock in the days ahead. So look, this is in many cases a completely unprecedented flood in Victoria. They’ve never had floods like this in the course of European settlement and it’s no wonder that a lot of homes that no one ever thought would be flood prone have gone under.

ANDREW MOORE:

Well, I think one of the places you visited yesterday in Rochester was the Murray Goulburn Co-op which produces milk and is the major employer of the region. What shape was it in?

TONY ABBOTT:

See, management and the staff have done a terrific job. I mean, they’ve been working around the clock, first to try to protect the factory and to then get it clean and truly they have done an amazing job. Just looking at it casually yesterday, you wouldn’t have thought that on the weekend it was all completely, or much of it was pretty completely under water. But it’s hard to say exactly when it will be back into production. They’re hoping that it might be back in production within a couple of weeks but that does depend upon getting a whole lot of approvals because this is the food manufacturing facility and when you’ve had flood water through, obviously it is very important that the place is absolutely uncontaminated to begin production again. So, hopefully it will be in a couple of weeks. Impossible to be certain about these things and in any event there’s production which was lost, there’s sales that were lost by the factory, there’s the hundreds and thousands of dollars in clean up costs and replacing electrical equipment that has to be rebuilt or scrapped and then there are all the hundreds of farmers who supplied the factory who in many cases have lost stock, they’ve got there own infrastructure damage and they’ve lost production. So, there’s a lot of heartbreak here and there’s a lot of backbreaking work required in the weeks and months ahead.

ANDREW MOORE:

I saw you interviewed while you were in Brisbane last week on Sky News and you’re very reluctant to get into the whole political game of all of this and as Opposition Leader you are always going to be asked these things and you risk the ire of people for politicising these sorts of these things. But the bottom line is as you mention, this is going to cost billions of dollars to repair and people are going to be months out of their homes. I have spoken to farmers at various parts of Queensland who are going to be 18 months before they are going to get paid for the next lot of crops. I mean, people are going to be doing it tough for a long, long time. How are we going to go about making sure, I mean we’re getting so many emails and calls over the last two weeks of people suggesting what you have, that the NBN needs to be put on hold and put all this money towards helping these people, stopping foreign aid until we look after our own people, what’s the best way going about ensuring that everyone who needs help and assistance, everyone who is doing it tough at the moment is getting that support?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, Andrew, look, you’re absolutely right. This is going to be a multi, multi-billion dollar repair job and in the meantime there are going to be hundreds of thousands of people who are very short of cash because the

3

businesses that they run or that they depend upon can’t operate in the normal way for a long, long time. So, look it is a very serious situation and a situation like that, government needs to respond and the first thing that government needs to do is to make sure that appropriate emergency payments are being made swiftly and there was a bit of a glitch in Victoria where the $1000 Centrelink payments apparently are only going to start flowing today and that’s a pity. I mean, I know these things sometimes happen, but I hope this is a precursor of things to come. So, the government has got to make sure the emergency payments are paid to the right people properly. They’ve then got to consider the predicament of people whose insurance policies are not going to cover anything like the cost of restoring their homes and businesses. They’ve then got to make sure that the infrastructure is fully operational again and in the case of south-eastern Queensland, the infrastructure was only just coping anyway. I mean, you’ve only got to look at the state of bridges, of railroads, of roads which are being caved in and so on. This is going to be a massive job and yet it is got to be tackled very, very quickly because…

ANDREW MOORE:

Well, we need to be prioritising where all this money is going to and making sure that it is getting to the people who need it most urgently today.

TONY ABBOTT:

And Andrew, a normal life in a modern society absolutely depends upon the ability to get around. So, the infrastructure has got to be restored very, very quickly. Now, the point I made is that you do not renovate the bathroom if the roof has just been blown off and the massive spend on the National Broadband Network, I’m all in favour of broadband and I think we do need good and better broadband services but it’s not unavoidable and urgent in the way that getting the infrastructure up and running again is and I just think that government has got to be sensible and tough minded about their priorities at a time like this and I think the National Broadband Network is going to look increasingly like an indulgence if the Government pushes ahead with that at the same time as bridges are unsafe, roads are not restored and people don’t feel that they can move around their communities with comfort and safety.

ANDREW MOORE:

Yeah, I mean they’re not ruling out a flood levy. Is that the answer?

TONY ABBOTT:

Of course it’s not, Andrew. I mean, look, I know there are precedents on these levies but levies were imposed by previous governments that weren’t engaging in what I think is effectively indulgent spending and when you’ve got a government with the track record of this Government with so much indulgent spending coming up, far better to reign back that and spend what is necessary on urgent and unavoidable projects than go ahead with these other things which just look out of place at a time like this.

ANDREW MOORE:

Glad you say that, money put aside for things like the BER, which has been hammered in many quarters and rightly so, and other sorts of things. Let’s free the money up, let’s get it out there.

TONY ABBOTT:

And there’s still billions left in the stimulus package to solve a problem which finished in 2008. Now, you know, the point I make, Andrew, is the people of Queensland and Victoria have suffered enough without being whacked with a new tax. I mean, surely the last thing they need on top of this attack from Mother Nature is a fiscal attack from government.

4

ANDREW MOORE:

Alright. Just one last question and politics aside because I’d question a lot of Anna Bligh’s politics over the years but I think she’s been a great leader for her state over the last two weeks at this time of devastation. How have you rated Anna Bligh’s performance over the last couple of weeks?

TONY ABBOTT:

There’s no doubt that she has, I think, really responded well and this has been her finest hour, no doubt about that. So look, all credit to Anna Bligh for being a decisive and, I think, compassionate and efficient and effective leader at a difficult time. The challenge though is going to be to keep up the focus when the adrenaline surge is gone. I mean, it’s all very well to respond well to an immediate crisis but we are going to need months and months of rebuilding and it’s all very well to, as it were, feel people’s pain but in the end you’ve got to solve their problems, so I think that’s what people will be looking both to the Queensland Premier and particularly the Prime Minister for in the weeks and months ahead.

ANDREW MOORE:

Alright. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, I appreciate your time.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thank you so much, Andrew.

[ends]