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Transcript of doorstop interview: Sydney: 6 June 2011: Julia Gillard's carbon tax; Labor's Malaysian people swap; live cattle exports; Bob Katter's Australian Party



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

6 June 2011

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR, DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, SYDNEY

Subjects: Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; Labor’s Malaysian people swap; live cattle exports; Bob Katter’s Australian Party.

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

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s good to be here at Ernst & Young. I was very pleased to attend the Gut Foundation lunch. I was particularly pleased to have the chance to say hello to Christian Anderson who is not only a constituent of mine but who has been working very hard to ensure that the Government does put Erbitux on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. This drug has gone through all of the normal approval processes. It has passed all the normal cost effectiveness tests for PBS listing and one of the real problems thus far - not much acknowledged in the community - is that the Government appears to be fundamentally changing the PBS from a demand driven programme to a budget limited programme and I think that would be a real problem for our health system were that to happen.

There are just a couple of issues that I would like to mention before taking questions. Obviously, pressure is building on the Government not to introduce a carbon tax without seeking a mandate at an election. It was good to see that more and more people are speaking out. I don’t comment on opinion polls but it is pretty obvious that a lot of people in our community feel badly ripped off by this Government. In particular, they feel badly ripped off by this Government’s attempt to sneak a carbon tax through a parliament that has no mandate for it.

It’s also pretty obvious that in its ‘anywhere but Nauru’ boat people policy, the Government is going to end up being really cruel to people who come to Australia seeking asylum. I don’t pretend that the policy of the former government met with universal approval but the great thing about a detention centre on Nauru is that it was run by Australians according to Australian human rights standards. I can give an absolute guarantee that no boat person sent to Nauru will be caned but the Prime Minister can’t give anything like that guarantee about the boat people that she wants to send to Malaysia.

Finally, what we are seeing is more and more unhappiness inside the Government at the fact that the Government has lost its moral compass. The fact that the Government wants to bring a carbon tax in without seeking a mandate first is worrying a lot of backbenchers, particularly backbenchers in manufacturing seats. The fact that the Government is proposing to treat boat people with, really, just wanton cruelty is upsetting a lot of people inside the Labor Party as well as a lot of people inside the community and I find that when government backbenchers are telling me, the Leader of the Opposition, that they’ve got a problem, they are

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very, very concerned inside the caucus.

QUESTION:

Are they calling you up, are they? Are they calling you up?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I don’t talk about private conversations. That last thing I would ever do is reveal the contents of a private conversation but I know because they’ve told me that there is a lot unhappiness inside the caucus.

QUESTION:

Would you tear up an agreement with Malaysia if you became Prime Minister and it was in force?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think there is an obvious and preferable alternative: that is to pick up the phone to the President of Nauru. The great thing about Nauru is we could send boat people to Nauru, they could be accommodated at a centre which is already there, which has been paid for by Australian taxpayers. We wouldn’t need to take boat people from Nauru because there aren’t any currently there, so there would be no need for a five-for-one swap arrangement and the beauty of Nauru is that boat people there would be looked after by Australians in accordance with Australian standards. So, it’s a far more humane way of dealing with this issue than packing people off to Malaysia which hasn’t signed the UN Refugee Convention, it hasn’t signed the UN Convention against torture and it routinely treats people who are in the country illegally with what we would normally regard as very, very severe and unusual punishment.

QUESTION:

But would you tear up the deal? I guess the question was would you tear up the deal with Malaysia?

TONY ABBOTT:

There is absolutely no need for any deal with Malaysia because we have the Nauru option sitting there, waiting to be embraced by the Government. The only thing that stops the Prime Minister from picking up the phone to the President of Nauru is sheer stubbornness, the sheer desire not to admit that the Howard Government had it far more right than wrong when it comes to looking after border protection.

QUESTION:

Can you respond to Mr Bowen’s comments this morning that Nauru won’t act as a deterrent because the asylum seekers there, the majority of them anyway, ended up coming to Australia?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, Nauru, along with temporary protection visas and along with a willingness where safe to turn boats around, did act as a deterrent because the boats stopped coming. I mean, I ask Mr Bowen and indeed the Prime Minister to look at the facts. Between 2002 and 2007 we had 3 boats a year. There were less than 250 people arrive illegally by boat and what brought about that happy outcome was the fact that we had Nauru, temporary protection visas and the willingness to turn boats around where safe to do so.

QUESTION:

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Back into the unhappiness within the Government, would you say that the Prime Minister has lost control of her backbench?

TONY ABBOTT:

Plainly, the Prime Minister and the Government has lost its moral compass and under those circumstances inevitably a lot of people inside the Labor Party feel understandably concerned because people go into the parliament to do what they think is the right thing by the Australian people in accordance with their values and I think a lot of people inside the Labor Party are now asking what values, if any, does this party now have.

QUESTION:

Is Craig Thomson a fit and proper person to be in parliament?

TONY ABBOTT:

I understand that there is an investigation going on. I think that that investigation should be thorough and if as a result of that investigation any action should be taken, well, let it to be taken at the right time.

QUESTION:

Tony Abbott, what do you make of Peter Slipper’s comments on his recent study tour saying he was acting as a go-between, between Stephen Smith and the Moroccan Navy or the Moroccan Government on the possible sale of Australian patrol boats?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well look, I haven’t seen the report and I wouldn’t want to comment but I make the general observation that it’s entirely appropriate for Australians to do their best to promote the interests of Australia abroad.

QUESTION:

Had he discussed with you that he was acting as this go-between?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, Peter is the Deputy Speaker of the parliament and as a result of his position as Deputy Speaker of the parliament Peter doesn’t normally attend Coalition party room meetings.

QUESTION:

The livestock industry says Australia should only sell cattle to the 25 abattoirs, 25 processing facilities, in Indonesia that are accredited. Do you agree with that?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that the important thing is to ensure that Australian live exports are properly treated at their destination countries and I think that only sending live exports to processing centres that we are confident have the right standards sounds to me like a pretty smart way forward.

QUESTION:

So, only the accredited ones because I understand there is only 12 that have been banned?

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TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I’m not going to get into detail here because it’s an area of policy that I’ve never dealt with as a minister or shadow minister but the general principle of sending live animal exports to processing centres that we are confident will treat them the right way I think is a good one.

QUESTION:

Tony, can you tell us a little about what you think about Bob Katter’s new Australian Party?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think there’s a terrific new party in Queensland called the Liberal National Party. The Liberal National Party is quite different and in my judgement much better than the old National Party or indeed the old Liberal Party and I think if Bob is interested in joining a new party in Queensland, the Liberal National Party would only be too happy to have him.

Thank you.

[ends]