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Transcript of doorstop interview: 4 April 2008: Adelaide: St Ingatius College; listening tour; Peter McGauran; LPG conversion subsidy; Mohamed Haneef.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP

4 April 2008

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP, DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, ADELAIDE

Subjects: St Ignatius College; listening tour; Peter McGauran; LPG conversion subsidy; Mohamed Haneef.

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

QUESTION:

First of all what’s it like being back at the old school? Obviously Christopher Pyne was a naughty boy. It sounds like you were the good guy?

DR NELSON:

Well I had the privilege to end up being a school prefect, but this is a magnificent school. The values that I was taught at St Ignatius here have held me in good stead throughout my life, and it’s just uplifting to see the students under the education of the Jesuits and their staff.

QUESTION:

Do you think that in this listening tour that you’re doing around Australia, and let’s say South Australia, it’s school kids that you’re particularly interested hearing their views on certain topics?

DR NELSON:

Well obviously I wanted to hear and need to hear the views of all Australians - doesn’t matter where they live or whatever their age. But importantly as far as shaping our future is concerned, the views, ideas and attitudes of young people are absolutely essential. And one of the things from my own teenage years especially that was important to me was, we’ve got to live in a country where our leadership actually

listens to us, that they actually seek out our views and then do what is right and express those views on behalf of Australia. And I’ve said to, say to young people and not so young people, if you see me you’ve got to say g’day, and then tell me what you think.

QUESTION:

Just on broader topics, Peter McGauran today has signalled that he’s on his way out and, putting a timeframe on it, I believe in the reasonably short term. Does this now put pressure on you to put pressure on Alexander Downer and Peter Costello and

others - those who want to jump ship, do it all at the same time?

DR NELSON:

Well look the only thing that I will say is that every member of parliament elected in November last year has a responsibility to his or her electorate to work as hard as they possibly can for them. I’m not going to contribute to any speculation about the future or otherwise of any member of parliament.

As far as Gippsland is concerned, the normal processes of the Liberal Party, and the Victorian division of the Liberal Party, are already in train. We will do what is best for the people of Gippsland and we will do what is best for the Coalition.

If I could also make some comments about a couple of other things.

It is deeply concerning that today we are reading that the Government is thinking about pulling the pin on LPG subsidies. LPG is a lifeline for many Australians that are struggling with their household budgets, with increasing interest rates and of course the price of petrol. That $2,000 subsidy may not be much to the Government but it means a hell of a lot to the average working Australian. Working Australian families especially. It’s also environmental madness to reduce a subsidy for LPG at a time when we’re all concerned about climate change and the price that Australia will pay for being a part of the global solution. If Mr Rudd is really concerned about affordability, about groceries, about petrol, about interest rates, then he will keep that LPG subsidy. You’ve just got to speak to any Australian filling up with LPG at a servo, or any Australian thinking about it and they know that there’s plain common sense in that LPG subsidy and it must be maintained.

Yesterday I also had the privilege to be able to visit the community at Lake Albert in the Lower Lakes in South Australia. And, as one of the residents said to me: South Australia has a thinker in residence, it’s now time that we had a doer in residence.

I do not understand why Mr Rudd and why Mr Rann are ignoring the pleas of these communities. You go down to that lake which is shrinking, where the water has moved so fast the fish can’t keep up with it, and you see families, almost up to their waist actually trying to get access to water. It is absolutely essential that in our country, that Mr Rudd when he gets back from his world trip actually make a visit to Meningie, and to the Lower Lakes.

He needs to look into the faces of those people and tell them that he believes they’re not worthy of getting support. You’ve got families there that are having to truck thousand of litres of water a day just to keep their families and their businesses going. And as one lady said to me, holding her baby, she said, ‘Brendan we have 300 cows that need a drink in the morning. Who’s going to help us?’ These are families who in some cases, who over six generations have made an enormous contribution to South Australia and to Australia. They are the forgotten people and it’s time that not only Mr Rudd, but also Mr Rann, went down there with a cheque book and helped them.

In the short term we desperately need financial assistance for water cartage. We then need a financial investment in piping water into those communities. And we also need assistance in restructuring the basis upon which dairy farming and other agricultural activity in the Lower Lakes is being conducted.

Mr Rann might be all smiles when it comes to COAG, with this cosy wall-to-wall Labor relationship that we now have, but South Australia has been duded. South Australia’s been sold down the river. And anyone who doubts that, just go down to the Meningie Lakes and just have a look at those families and how they are struggling, desperately.

QUESTION:

The Prime Minister, I’ve not seen the vision myself but I don’t know if you’ve seen him saluting George Bush and it’s apparently a rather peculiar gesture under the circumstances. Would you remark on what it indicates about the relationship he’s developing there?

DR NELSON:

Well I think it’s conduct unbecoming of an Australian Prime Minister. And Mr Rudd appears to conduct himself in one manner when he thinks the television is upon him and another when it is not.

QUESTION:

Do you think he would regret doing that and what’s unbecoming about it?

DR NELSON:

Well Australia is a confident, outward looking country after more than 10 years of strong foreign policy development, and we need a strong Prime Minister to represent our very best interests throughout the world. And as far as whether Mr Rudd regrets that or not, that’s a question you need to put to him.

QUESTION:

Do you think it might have just been a friendly gesture, he’d only seen the President last week?

DR NELSON:

Well again, you can ask Mr Rudd that.

QUESTION:

Dr Nelson, just getting back to the Downer, McGauran, Costello issue that you don’t want to buy into. But isn’t it fair on Australians that - and you should be leading the charge and I think you’ve already indicated that you would - that if the others are going to make up their mind and Alexander Downer is on radio today, I believe, and feathering his nest perhaps for another career, shouldn’t it be fair on Australian voters that they all go on the same day and that we have by-elections on the same day?

DR NELSON:

Well look I’m not going to contribute to speculation about the service of any member of the federal parliament. I’ll only say that every member of the parliament elected in November last year should be working very hard for his or her electorate. Mr Downer is not the first member of parliament to have the opportunity to talk about issues through a radio programme. It’s been done by others on both sides of the House and the people of his own electorate will make judgments about it. But I’m not going to contribute to speculation…

QUESTION:

Have you spoken to any of them about let’s get some unity in all of this?

DR NELSON:

Well, look, I speak to all of my colleagues frequently and I’m not going to entertain any public discussion about it. The responsibility, as I say, is to work hard for our electorates and that’s precisely what Christopher Pyne and I and our team are doing.

QUESTION:

Are you sad to see Mr McGauran go?

DR NELSON:

Well, look, 25 years in public life is enormous service on Mr McGauran’s part to the people of Gippsland and also to the National Party. I’m disappointed that he’s chosen not to continue but, as he said himself, he believes it’s time for new blood to have an opportunity to be representing the people of Gippsland. And I think whatever the

politics of any people throughout Australia, including in Gippsland, Mr McGauran has worked very hard over a long period of time to do the very best he can for those people and I think he’s given exemplary service.

QUESTION:

Will the Nationals have trouble retaining that seat?

DR NELSON:

Well, look, I’m not going to comment about what may or may not happen in a by-election.

QUESTION:

Doesn’t the position of the Opposition in the polls really have to significantly improve before these by-elections can be contemplated?

DR NELSON:

Well, look, I’m not going to comment on the polls. I’m working, I can assure you, I’m working very hard to make sure that this is and will be a credible, attractive and inspiring alternative government for Australia. After just over four months from a change of government we’ve seen significant volatility in the markets, increases in interest rates, petrol and groceries. We have a Prime Minister who seems to be more interested in events that happen in other parts of the world than framing his first Budget, which will be so important to households in Australia. And my job is to do the very, very best I can to keep this Government up to the plate, particularly when we also have a Treasurer who’s got a touch of the wobbles and is just learning the job.

QUESTION:

Do you think it’s a peculiar situation as reported today that there are still nine federal police looking into the Mohamed Haneef matter?

DR NELSON:

I won’t comment on what the Australian Federal Police do. They presumably have very good reasons for the things that they’re doing.

QUESTION:

He was exonerated, largely. Does it not strike you as strange that they still seem to be banging away at it?

DR NELSON:

Well I am not going to comment on the investigations that are done by the Australian Federal Police, whether it’s into the Dr Haneef matter or anything else.

QUESTION:

Would it be your preference, just getting back to the topic…

DR NELSON:

Persistence.

QUESTION:

…I’m being persistent…

DR NELSON:

I won’t do a re-run of a certain press conference you had, not you personally, but that I understand was held in Adelaide recently.

QUESTION:

Oh, okay that one. I was there. I was present for it, so I won’t come in the other direction either. But just getting back to that matter, would it be your personal preference to have a super-Saturday of by-elections?

DR NELSON:

Well, look, again I’m not going to speculate in relation to that.

QUESTION:

You don’t have to speculate when it’s going to be, just would it be your preference that…

DR NELSON:

We’re talking about hypotheticals and I’m not going to go into that. I appreciate you asked the question but I’m not going to talk about hypotheticals.

[ends]