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Transcript of interview with Ray Hadley: Radio 2GB, Sydney: 27 June 2011: Steve Fielding; Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; sovereign risk; live cattle exports; visit to the Northern Territory; Bob Brown



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

27 June 2011

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR INTERVIEW WITH RAY HADLEY, RADIO 2GB, SYDNEY

Subjects: Steve Fielding; Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; sovereign risk; live cattle exports; Visit to the Northern Territory; Bob Brown.

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

RAY HADLEY:

Tony, G‟day.

TONY ABBOTT:

G‟day, Ray.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thank you, where were you?

TONY ABBOTT:

Oh look, I was just doing some work in my office. I‟ve got a speech to give in Sydney at lunch time and why not come here and talk to the people via this programme, Ray.

RAY HADLEY:

Now we‟ve got a stack of things to get through. I cannot believe the performance of a man purporting to be a Christian, representing Family First in Senator Steven Fielding in the Senate last week when he had an opportunity - and I detailed this earlier, without boring people - to vote for an inquiry into the Heiner affair, the cover up of the sexual assault of a teenage Aboriginal girl in Queensland in 1988. I‟ve asked him to come on the programme basically so I can tell him that he‟s a grub.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well look, he probably figures that he called it as he saw it and he‟s gone and he doesn‟t want to go over it all. Look, I can understand your disappointment, Ray. I was bitterly, bitterly disappointed myself with Steve Fielding‟s decision on the Wild Rivers legislation which he supported in 2010, rejected in 2011; his

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performance on the plebiscite given that he was a ferocious critic of a carbon tax in 2009 and 2010 - he rolled over. But look, the guy‟s gone and I think that he had a pretty inglorious end.

RAY HADLEY:

And probably commensurate with his performance all the way through. So he did, in the last week what he‟s done in the last few years.

TONY ABBOTT:

You know, the sad thing is that I think he disappointed a lot of people who had previously been his strongest supporters and without really winning any new friends, and I guess you‟d like to think that people would leave the parliament with their heads held high, having made a difference, and I‟m not sure that Steve could do that and I feel sorry for him.

RAY HADLEY:

Well obviously there are suggestions in some newspapers this morning that he may be rewarded down the track by a Labor government. Well, there‟s no guarantee there‟ll be a Labor government down the track anyway. Let‟s hope that‟s not the case but a word of warning to him, we‟ll be keeping an eye on him, whatever he‟s doing in the future, in some detail and I‟m glad that Hetty Johnston - I‟m an ambassador for Bravehearts - I‟m embarrassed that he was formerly an ambassador and I‟m glad she‟s taken the decision to remove him as a patron of the White Balloon Day.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well look, again, I can understand why a lot of people are disappointed. I‟m disappointed myself but look, he‟s now got a life to rebuild and I guess I wish him well but I wish he had made more of a mark in his last few weeks in the parliament.

RAY HADLEY:

He may rebuild his life; he won‟t rebuild his reputation. Of that I can assure you. Now, as I‟ve documented this morning to my listeners, I‟ve returned from 14 days visiting the in-laws in mid western United States of America, Minnesota, and I was anxious to get there to talk to my wife‟s siblings - she‟s one of eight so there‟s plenty to talk to - and her parents about a whole range of things, most notably, carbon tax because you can be a bit insular about things when you live in this country. You think, „I need to expand my horizons and talk to other people‟. I watched just about every news broadcast I could with my father-in-law. I read most papers I could, either on the net or in Minnesota itself and over the first 10 days I couldn‟t find any reference to the carbon tax or to carbon pollution so I spoke to my father-in-law and he simply said, „look, it‟s off the agenda. It‟s dead and buried. Forget about it.‟ And then you‟d drive down the freeways of Minnesota, everyone‟s driving a dirty big truck and I‟m talking about not a ute, I‟m talking about what they call a pickup, which is a V8 Chevrolet and other makes and he said, „look, we‟re in that much trouble economically, we can‟t afford any more taxes on industry,‟ and that‟s been typified by an article by Greg Sheridan which I know you‟ve read today in The Australian newspaper where Jim Sensenbrenner, the most senior Republican in the US House of Reps, as Greg writes, is a long term friend of Australia but he‟s just delivered the most lethal, external blow yet to the Gillard Government‟s plans to introduce a carbon tax. He talks about it being dead and buried in the United States of America.

TONY ABBOTT:

And, you know, we need it here like a hole in the head. It was none other than Heather Ridout who said on the weekend that business needs a carbon tax like it needs a hole in the head. Now, Heather Ridout is not exactly a critic of the Government under many circumstances and that‟s what she‟s saying and we read in

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the Tele this morning, Ray, that groceries have increased 16 per cent in price over the last two years. Why would anyone want a carbon tax which is going to make a difficult situation far, far worse? Now, the Government keeps peddling this lie that the rest of the world is on the verge of introducing carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes, that we‟ve got to do this…

RAY HADLEY:

We‟ll miss the boat, we‟ll miss the boat.

TONY ABBOTT:

…we‟ve got to do this urgently or we‟re going to be left behind. Well, absolute nonsense on stilts. That‟s what it is. It is absolute nonsense on stilts. It‟s deliberate deception from a Government which couldn‟t lie straight in bed to be honest and I just think that we need to understand that what we are doing here is an act of economic self-harm. As Congressmen Sensenbrenner said, it‟s unilateral economic disarmament.

RAY HADLEY:

Well, I referred to a little quote this morning on page 28 of the Telegraph from Professor Cliff Ollier, the University of Western Australia‟s School of Earth and Environment on the carbon tax scale problems, quote, “Australia‟s annual savings by 2020 could be emitted by China and India in five days”.

TONY ABBOTT:

And, you know, our carbon tax will raise more money in three months than the European Union‟s ETS has raised in five years. So, this exposes the nonsense which the Gillard Government is spouting. One of the most interesting comments today though, Ray, is the head of Holden in Australia, the head of GMH, who says that their future is far from secure if a carbon tax goes ahead and he‟s linked this whole carbon tax with the issue of sovereign risk. You‟ve had the mining tax, you‟ve had the carbon tax, you‟ve had the assault on Telstra, all of which is making the international investment community think that Australia is no longer a safe place to do business. The miracle economy of a couple of years ago has now become the risky economy and this is one of the many reasons why more and more people in business are saying this carbon tax is just a really bad idea.

RAY HADLEY:

Well I‟ll give you an example I quoted before I went away. A bloke I know, 400 people or 350 people in manufacturing in western Sydney. It‟s a very old Australian company which recently has been taken over by a large international company and the word has come from the boardroom, „if it comes, I‟m sorry but what we do can be done in Asia, a lot cheaper without a carbon tax and that‟s where we‟ll be heading‟. 350 jobs gone, management jobs gone, in western Sydney, closure, finished, kaput and causing the same sort of problems, if you believe in the climate change, in another part of the world, just transferring the problem.

TONY ABBOTT:

Exactly right. If for argument‟s sake we lose BlueScope Steel in Port Kembla, which is a real chance if a carbon tax goes ahead, we‟re not going to use less steel, we‟ll import it from China and Indonesia and Chinese steel mills are far more polluting than Australian ones. Now, manufacturing in this country is at grave risk from a carbon tax. We‟ve got small domestic markets, we‟ve got commendably high wages for workers in the manufacturing industry and we‟ve now got a very high dollar. If you want to compound all those difficulties with a carbon tax, over time that spells death for manufacturing in this country and a country without a steel industry, a country without a motor industry, an aluminium industry, a cement industry, is not a first world economy any more.

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RAY HADLEY:

Live cattle exports - and I went through at the start of the show today the things that haven‟t changed in the two weeks that I have been away. Now, Andrew Moore, who looked after the show while I was away, spoke to a gentleman involved with cattle in northern Queensland, northern Australia and it was most instructional. I‟ve had another conversation off-air today about the same matter. It‟s been portrayed to me that when the end decision is taken by the federal Government that they would ban live cattle exports to Indonesia, one of the problems - and Joe Ludwig of course has been, I believe, in the last week or so in Indonesia - he won‟t get time of day over there because they‟re insulted by the fact that they weren‟t told about the ban until they got a wire off AAP. That‟s how the Indonesian - and as you know, when you‟re in Government there are certain protocols that have to be followed. You can‟t insult your nearest neighbour, you can‟t make an arbitrary decision even if you think it‟s factored on the right things, without having some dialogue with those people. They‟re insulted by what Ludwig did.

TONY ABBOTT:

And I can understand why because they regard this as basically an attack not just on a couple of rogue abattoirs but on them and their society.

RAY HADLEY:

Exactly.

TONY ABBOTT:

Now, this is why it is very important that we have an urgent, very high level delegation to go to Indonesia and say, „look, this is not about you, this is just about trying to ensure that we have reasonable international standards in the export cattle industry‟. We know that the vast majority of big Indonesian operations meet those standards. So look, let‟s resume the trade immediately on the basis of goodwill and constructive engagement but it‟s going to need a much higher level individual than Joe Ludwig who I gather didn‟t exactly cover himself with glory up there. That‟s why I say, Ray, that if Kevin Rudd is too busy in Kazakhstan and places like that that are vital to Australia‟s national interest to go up to Indonesia, well, the Prime Minister should go and she should go this week.

RAY HADLEY:

Look, and we‟re talking about subsidies at a time when we can‟t afford it to people going broke just to mark time. I‟ll talk to the cattle farmer from the Northern Territory, David Warriner, again tomorrow and I‟m led to believe that, you know, the markets that Indonesia would normally call on from other parts of the world, they can‟t supply the same amount of cattle - live cattle - that we can quickly. So, you‟ve got the prospect of not just offending the Indonesian Government and people generally by our actions, and we needed to tell them that they couldn‟t slaughter cattle in the way that was shown on the Four Corners programme, there‟s no doubt about that…

TONY ABBOTT:

Absolutely unacceptable.

RAY HADLEY:

…but we took a sledge hammer to a problem that required a little bit of finesse.

TONY ABBOTT:

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And look, almost certainly if you had tried hard enough you could find bad things happening in Australia but the Indonesians understandably are unhappy at the way that this whole matter has been handled and that‟s why to make amends we need to have a very high level delegation. Now, I think it‟s very, very unfortunate, Ray, that Julia Gillard didn‟t send Kevin Rudd up there before. He‟s now apparently detained doing other things. She should go herself and, you know, the problem with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister is the Prime Minister took away his job 12 months ago and now it seems she won‟t let him actually do his job by sending him to Indonesia where he‟s really needed. I mean, this guy is really needed in Indonesia.

RAY HADLEY:

No, there‟s another theory - Indonesia is too close. She likes to keep him on the other side of the world where there‟s a sufficient time delay that she can, sort of, head off any trouble at the pass because she knows the opinion… I read the Courier Mail from Friday on the aircraft yesterday. They despise her up there and they love Kevin and, I mean, that‟s their prerogative to love, you know, a Queensland hometown boy but they despise her and so my theory is that if there‟s a problem in that corridor, we‟re in the same timeframe, he can‟t go. She puts him somewhere where there is a time difference so she can hit off trouble at the pass.

TONY ABBOTT:

But one way or another, this is an industry that is vital for the future of northern Australia. There are 10,000 jobs immediately at stake. There‟s a half a billion dollars a year immediately at stake, and if we don‟t resume the industry very quickly, resume the trade very quickly, there will be an economic and social disaster in northern Australia. I was up in the Territory yesterday, Ray. I was talking to a delightful young couple who have invested a vast amount of money getting their property properly watered for this export trade. They will be completely ruined if the trade is not resumed again quickly and there are hundreds of people in a similar position and then of course there‟s all the Aboriginal stockman, then there are all the other people, the truckies, the vets, the helicopter pilots, the road houses - I mean, this is the economic mainstay, apart from mining, of northern Australia and surely the Prime Minister is not too proud to interrupt her schedule for a day to go to Indonesia this week to save this vital industry.

RAY HADLEY:

I‟ve seen you on the saddle of a push bike plenty of times but I saw you on horseback last night.

TONY ABBOTT:

I probably looked more confident on the bike than I do on horseback.

RAY HADLEY:

But an honesty test - I know you can climb onto the bike OK, did you receive any assistance, did you get a leg-up onto the horse or did you put the foot in the stirrup and over you went?

TONY ABBOTT:

I went on myself. This is a stock horse mind you, Ray. I mean it‟s ten years since I‟ve been on a horse. The last horse I was on was a horse at a riding school where I took the kids. So, this was a tough, fast, spirited horse. I sought a bit of advice before I got on. They said „not the dark one, go for the chestnut one‟. That‟s the older one and they said, „whatever you do, when you‟re getting on make sure you don‟t drag the leg over the rump because that will be the sign for it to take off.‟ So, I took the advice and you might notice that while I was on the horse I stayed very close to Rex, the senior indigenous stockman, and made sure that he was keeping an eye on me and my horse.

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RAY HADLEY:

You weren‟t on a lead pony were you like the kids at the circus?

TONY ABBOTT:

No, no, no. It wasn‟t quite as bad as that. Wasn‟t quite as bad as that but a stockman I am not. Well, at least not yet.

RAY HADLEY:

Well, congratulations for going there and enunciating the concerns of the people in northern Australia. I‟ve got to get to Bob Brown before we leave. Just have a listen to what I have been playing my listeners this morning about what he said to Barrie Cassidy yesterday.

BOB BROWN:

Well, wherever he might be, this is mid-government and he’s been having a fest out of the fact that we haven’t yet got a climate agreement but when we get that and you know, I’ve got increasing confidence, he’s going to find himself on the back foot. Whatever. I don’t have a party that’s like riven like his is and…

BARRIE CASSIDY:

No but what you did say in that feature article in The Age is that if there is an Abbott-led government, I’d love to be in that position.

BOB BROWN:

True.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

What do you mean by that?

BOB BROWN:

Well, I’d like to take him on. I just think, I think the guy is just a bit of an [inaudible].

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But you hold the balance of power; you don’t take him on. The idea is to work cooperatively with the government of the day, isn’t it?

BOB BROWN:

And I’ve offered that to Tony Abbott all the way down the line. He hasn’t picked up the phone.

RAY HADLEY:

He got cut off there. I don‟t know whether he was going to say you are vindictive but it sounded like he was starting to say that and then Barrie asked him another question but I made the point and I‟d like a comment, he‟s delusional. He thinks he is the alternate Prime Minister.

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TONY ABBOTT:

I think he thinks is the Prime Minister.

RAY HADLEY:

I‟m sorry. Yeah, that‟s probably, that‟s the point that I have made here previously, that the Prime Minister, or the elected Prime Minister or the anointed Prime Minister from Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor does defer to him and will have to defer to him even more as of next month when he has the balance of power in the Senate. But, you know, I know that it‟s robust in parliament, even though he‟s in a separate house to you but, and I know there is a certain level of vitriol but there‟s a lot of hate in his voice. He despises you. He really does.

TONY ABBOTT:

Yeah, my dealings with Bob Brown at a personal level, Ray, have always been cordial enough and we have had…

RAY HADLEY:

He must be a good actor…

TONY ABBOTT:

…at least two or three meetings in the last nine months and if he wants a meeting I am only too happy to have one. The thing that I found distressing about that interview yesterday is that he confirmed that, as far as the Greens are concerned, the coal industry is gone. Now, the coal industry is our biggest single export industry and the idea that Australia can get by without a coal industry, that the Illawarra, the Hunter, that the Bowen Basin of central Queensland can get by without a coal industry is just crazy. I mean, all of those areas would be completely devastated without the coal industry and, frankly, I think that this carbon tax will over time kill the coal industry and this is why the Prime Minister should be much more careful about the political company she keeps.

RAY HADLEY:

But surely, it can‟t be lost on the electorate or even on Bob Brown, even if he is, as I say, delusional, that he‟s not the alternative - and I have said previously that he is the de facto prime minister …

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, he is driving the agenda.

RAY HADLEY:

The point being that if you look at the vote of the Greens, federally, and you look at what the Opposition, the Coalition has and what the Government has at the moment, they are not a player. They are not the alternative to… They can‟t offer enough seats in the lower house to form government. They will have more people in the upper house as of July, but they can‟t in any way claim to have any authority and Barrie Cassidy to his great credit tried to illustrate that, that you are not there to be confrontational. You are there to support the government of the day over issues that are important to the government which has the mandate to rule.

TONY ABBOTT:

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Except this Government doesn‟t really have a mandate and Bob Brown believes that he is effectively calling the shots. He knows that Julia Gillard can‟t survive in office without his support and that‟s why at the moment it often seems like Bob Brown is the only real defender of the Prime Minister. Certainly, I don‟t think the Prime Minister would long survive as Labor leader if it was just up to caucus. But it‟s not just up to caucus at the moment. Effectively, Julia Gillard‟s job no longer depends on caucus. It depends upon these independents and the Greens and this is one of the crazy things. If you are a Labor MP, you no longer decide who runs your party. The people who are deciding who runs your party are the Greens and the independents which is one of the reasons why there is so much unhappiness in the caucus.

RAY HADLEY:

I did play that audio earlier that you refer to about the closure of coal-fired power stations and there‟s no, and he can no longer deny, as he did when The Australian approached him, „oh I was misquoted, I didn‟t say that‟. We now know exactly how he feels. A couple of emails. George from Green Valley in south western Sydney, „can you ask the Opposition Leader Mr Abbott about the hypocrisy of Julia Gillard asking for costings from him? We are still waiting for Labor‟s costings on a whole range of issues that were promised during the election campaign.‟ I heard your comments on the news last night but maybe you could repeat that now?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, look, this is Government which tries to use the Treasury as a political weapon and I think it‟s very unfair on the Treasury that they are expected to be used like this and, you know, this is a Government which won‟t tell us what the Treasury modelling is on price rises under a carbon tax, won‟t tell us how much the carbon tax has got to go up and up and up to drive a change from coal to gas and from fossil fuels to renewables. So, really, I mean, this is just a try on from the Prime Minister.

RAY HADLEY:

One final one from Hillston in far western New South Wales, Chris says „I‟d love to hear Mr Abbott‟s views on the United Nations agenda on climate change, global warming and the fact that we as a nation are committed to handing over billions of dollars to them as the result of the incoming tax or the penalties we face for not making a reduction.‟

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, this is another one of those issues where the Prime Minster doesn‟t appear to be straight. Julie Bishop has now asked at least one question in parliament about what we have agreed to do in respect of UN climate change programmes and, as is sadly always the case in the parliament, all we got back was a bucket of abuse. We didn‟t get back any straight answers.

RAY HADLEY:

Ken says, according to him, the obscured comment you referred to by Mr Brown about Mr Abbott was „he‟s just an idiot‟ and that, I‟ll just have a listen again, to see whether that‟s right or not.

BOB BROWN:

Well, wherever he might be, this is mid-government and he’s been having a fest out of the fact that we haven’t yet got a climate agreement but when we get that and you know, I’ve got increasing confidence, he’s going to find himself on the back foot. Whatever. I don’t have a party that’s like riven like his is and…

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BARRIE CASSIDY:

No but what you did say in that feature article in The Age is that if there is an Abbott-led government, I’d love to be in that position.

BOB BROWN:

True.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

What do you mean by that?

BOB BROWN:

Well, I’d like to take him on. I just think, I think the guy is just a bit of an [inaudible].

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But you hold the balance of power, you don’t take him on. The idea is to work cooperatively with the government of the day, isn’t it?

BOB BROWN:

And I’ve offered that to Tony Abbott all the way down the line. He hasn’t picked up the phone.

RAY HADLEY:

I don‟t think he said, I think he was about to say „he‟s vindictive‟, I don‟t think, do you think „idiot‟? Yeah?

TONY ABBOTT:

That‟s what I thought heard, but look, you know, I‟m not going to play that kind of tit-for-tat…

RAY HADLEY:

Go on. Get back into the ring like the old days, come on, get the guard up, come on, rip into him, get into him!

TONY ABBOTT:

No…

RAY HADLEY:

Go on, people are waiting for you to say, „he‟s a waste of space, get back to Tasmania and burn your wood‟. I‟ve had a gutful of you.

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, my fight is with Julia Gillard and that‟s the fight I‟ve got to win for Australia‟s sake.

RAY HADLEY:

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You know, that‟s probably the smartest thing to come out of the interview. Despite the delusional rantings of Bob Brown, he‟s not the alternate prime minister despite he thinks he is, with all the pomp and ceremony, he walks around, the fight is with the Government. They are the alternative government if you are the prime minister and, in opposition, they are the target.

TONY ABBOTT:

That‟s correct.

RAY HADLEY:

Alright. Thanks very much for your time. I appreciate it and we‟ll talk soon.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks Ray. Thank you.

[ends]