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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Toowoomba: 2 May 2008: visit to Toowoomba; Budget; tax on alcoholic beverages.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP

2 May 2008

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH THE HON. MR IAN MACFARLANE, TOOWOOMBA

Subjects: Visit to Toowoomba;Budget;; tax on alcoholic beverages;

EO&E………………………………………………………………………………......

QUESTION:

First time in Toowoomba (inaudible)

DR NELSON:

I have been in Toowoomba a few times over the years. It’s the first time I’ve been here in a few years though and we hear a lot about Toowoomba in Canberra of course because Ian Macfarlane is relentless in his pursuit for the best interests of Toowoomba. One of the things that’s very important though to the Toowoomba community is the Second Crossing - an article of faith as far as the Coalition is

concerned. We demand of the Government provide the $700 million that is essential to get the construction going of the Second Crossing. The Liberal and National Parties remain firmly committed to seeing that $700 million is invested in that Second Crossing. The people of Toowoomba have given much to Australia. They’ve given much to us economically and culturally and the Rudd Government owes it to the people of Toowoomba to get the $700 million on the table and let’s get the Second Crossing going.

QUESTION:

Ten years of government you didn’t actually do much about the Second Range Crossing, only at the last election did you commit $700 million, some would say that’s a vote buying exercise?

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DR NELSON:

Well look, we’ve put an enormous amount of money into road infrastructure throughout Australia. We committed in 2007, after a lot of examination of what it would mean to Toowoomba of putting a Second Crossing across, we’re firmly

committed to that $700 million and Mr Rudd is now the Government and it’s very important that Mr Rudd actually deliver for the people of Toowoomba.

QUESTION:

It seems that it’s firmly off the agenda of the Rudd Government, so what are you doing to get it back on?

DR NELSON:

I will continue to raise this with the Rudd Government. Ian Macfarlane has worked tirelessly to get this on the agenda. It is the Liberal Party policy that $700 million is the first major instalment on getting the Second Crossing built. Mr Rudd parades himself around Australia and throughout the world as a Queenslander, if he’s fair dinkum about supporting Queensland he should be fair dinkum about supporting Toowoomba and put the $700 million down that’s necessary for the Second Crossing. We already put the $43 million aside for the preliminary works and examination of this project. This is a very important part of our economic infrastructure for Queensland. The people of Toowoomba deserve it and Mr Rudd needs to deliver.

QUESTION:

This is the first time a party leader has visited the region since Paul Keating back in 90s…..

MR MACFARLANE:

….no that’s not right. John Howard was here in mid 1998 as Prime Minister.

QUESTION:

Ten years since a leader, what do you think about that?

DR NELSON:

Well you’re going to see a bit more of me then that. I will certainly be here on a regular basis. Toowoomba and Darling Downs, Toowoomba is an essential part of not only Queensland but of Australia. Ian Macfarlane is one of my most senior colleagues. He’s Shadow Minister for Trade and my commitment to the people of Toowoomba is that you’re going to see quite a bit of me.

QUESTION:

This has got to be a bit of a Coalition heartland now though, they stuck by you in the last election, the swing was nowhere near what it was in other (inaudible)

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DR NELSON:

Well we’ve got a terrific Member in Ian Macfarlane, you couldn’t find a better bloke to vote for and one of the reasons why you’re going to see quite a bit of me over the next couple of years of course is we’ve got to get this Second Crossing up. It’s not just water and agriculture and getting the Toowoomba business community thriving even more than it has done in recent years, it’s absolutely essential that we’ve got to put pressure on the Rudd Government to deliver on the $700 million for that Second Crossing. It’s for that and other reasons you’re going to see quite a bit of me.

QUESTION:

Where does that stack up in your governments priorities, you know, in road infrastructure in Queensland, is this the number one priority at the moment?

DR NELSON:

We’ve got a number of priorities for roads in Queensland. Almost all of the south east corner of Queensland is a very high priority. People in that part of Queensland find that getting from Brisbane throughout south east Queensland is like being in a parking lot. They deserve a lot better then that. We made significant commitments in government to get further construction of roads and freeways built in that part of Queensland and the other priority for us is Toowoomba. We’ve got to get this Second Crossing. This $700 million is a very high priority for me, a very high priority for us and that’s why you’re going to see quite a bit of me.

QUESTION:

There’s speculation that the Federal Government’s looking at means testing on Government payments for the wealthy, what are your thoughts on that?

DR NELSON:

I notice that Mr Swan has refused to rule out any sort of means test on the baby bonus. Every mother loves her baby. Every baby is valued and Mr Rudd should value all babies equally. We should not live in an Australia where Mr Rudd thinks that some babies are more valuable than others and it’s very important that the Government make sure that families, men and women that are trying to raise children in this country, continue to receive the support that they have over the last decade of the Howard Government.

The Liberal Party believes very strongly in families. We believe in supporting families. Thirty billion dollars a year is currently being delivered to men and women that are raising families in Australia and I would have thought that Mr Rudd, who’s already tried to pick on seniors and carers, would find another group other than families to pick on and it’s very, very important that Mr Rudd understand that every mother loves her baby and this should be an Australia where all babies are equal.

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QUESTION:

You came out in support initially of the Government’s excise on alco-pops and now you’ve changed your mind (inaudible)

DR NELSON:

What I said when we were presented with this was that we would give in principle support to it, but I wanted to see the evidence upon which this is based.

It’s now become clear that Mr Rudd is trying to con the Australian people.

(inaudible) about $800 million in excise is delivered each year by the consumption of these ready mixed drinks. We were told on Sunday by the Government that the cause and the source of alcohol abuse and binge drinking was the so called abuse of alco-

pops and ready mixed drinks. We were told by Mr Rudd’s Health Minister that by increasing the excise by some 70 per cent that this would make significant inroads into binge drinking.

What we now know, after some five days, is in fact that binge drinking by young women and young girls in particular since 2001, according to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, has actually declined and abstinence on a weekly and a monthly basis by women in this age group has actually increased.

In other words Mr Rudd has been trying to tell Australians that they’ve got to pay $500 million more a year in tax to deal with alcohol abuse and binge drinking when in fact the source and the cause of binge drinking that does exist is not these ready mixed drinks. If you look at the basic facts as we know them, $800 million a year is currently paid in excise. Mr Rudd says he’ll raise $500 million a year more, in other words he’s not actually expecting any reduction in consumption.

It’s very important that Mr Rudd be an evidence based Prime Minister. He should not try to rip $500 million a year out of the pockets of hardworking, fair dinkum Australian’s who’ve been falsely lead to believe that these ready to drink mixers are the cause or source of binge drinking by young women in particular when in fact the facts are quite different.

This is nothing more than a tax binge by Mr Rudd. He also says he’s some sort of Robin Hood when it comes to the Budget. Yet over the next four years he wants to take $2 billion in taxes on ready to drink mixers out of the pockets of fair dinkum everyday Australians and $77 million from the pockets of high income executives.

I mean if that’s not a con I don’t know what is?

QUESTION:

(inaudible) you don’t agree with what they’ve done. From the publics perspective questions might have to be asked about why you changed your mind so quickly?

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DR NELSON:

That is absolute nonsense. What is obvious here is that you cannot take the Government on its word.

What’s obvious here is that Mr Rudd and his Health Minister who say to Australians that there’s a binge drinking problem, that alco-pops and ready mixed drinks are the cause of it, and therefore they need to increase the excise by 70 per cent.

I said at the time, I want to see the evidence. Now I’ve seen the evidence, in fact the evidence is that these ready mixed drinks are not the source of binge drinking, particularly by young people, that 80 per cent of these drinks which are mainly

bourbon and cokes and mixes like that, are actually being purchased by blokes over the age of 25. And binge drinking, as reported by young women and teenagers in particular, has actually declined since 2001.

So in other words what Mr Rudd is doing all of the time is trying to exploit the goodwill of Australians and concerns in this case about binge drinking, pretending that something is the case when in fact it’s not. The most important thing that all of us has got to do as Australians, whatever Mr Rudd says, we’ve just got to look behind the facade, the two dimensional figure of Mr Rudd and actually look at the facts - and the facts do not support what Mr Rudd and his Government was asserting at the

weekend.

QUESTION:

Ian, it’s taken you 10 years to get a leader up here, how are you feeling?

MR MACFARLANE:

Well I’m, pleased to see Brendan here. Obviously this is an area of great economic importance and it was good to see Brendan not only able to address the Chamber of Commerce here this morning but also talk to some of the leaders of the future by attending the the Young Nationals dinner tonight. It’s great also to take the opportunity to show him some of the high technology which we have in the region, which we’re about to do.

QUESTION:

Mate, you drove up the Range, did you have a talk about that with him?

MR MACFARLANE:

I didn’t drive up with Brendan. I was already here but I’ve had a number of discussions with Brendan about the Toowoomba Range Crossing and he’s quite right, the Rudd Labor Government is walking away from the Crossing. It’s obvious from the comments of Warren Pitt that the state government doesn’t see it as a priority and certainly as a Coalition Government in Canberra we’ll be pushing the Rudd Labor

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Government to reinstate the $700 million which was allocated in the Budget to be spent to begin construction on this Range Crossing.

QUESTION:

What kind of role did you have in getting the leader up here?

MR MACFARLANE:

Well Brendan had a number of invitations and I’m always urging my colleagues to come to Toowoomba and he’ll be the first of many to come through this region over the next two and a half years.

QUESTION:

You won’t have to wait until 2008 to…….

DR NELSON:

I’ll be here in 2008 again. Just two other things.

Mr Rudd in his recent 17 day overseas trip did not visit Japan and it was only after considerable pressure was placed upon him from us that he’s now agreed to visit Japan later this year. He’s yet to make a phone call to Prime Minister in Japan. It’s very important from Australia’s perspective as I said at the time, the United States, China, Japan and also Indonesia I think are the priority countries outside the Pacific for an Australian Prime Minister.

And one thing that’s very important is I think Mr Rudd needs to make a visit very soon to Jakarta.

In terms of baby issues too, again I reiterate given that Mr Swan is refusing to rule out taking the baby bonus off Australian mothers, it’s very important again that Mr Rudd commit $800,000 for the Bonnie Babes service which is providing counselling to women all over Australia, 12,000 of them last year who suffered a miscarriage or a stillbirth. I don’t understand why Mr Rudd’s priorities are everything but actually

trying to look after women and provide national counselling and a free call service for them, irrespective of their circumstances. And for the record this is the 14th occasion upon which Mr Rudd I’ve said to you, can you please pick up the phone, speak to these women and provide the funding for them. Thanks.

[ends]