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Transcript of doorstop interview: Carmel School, Dianella: 21 November 2008: bungled deposit guarantee; bungled wholesale funding guarantee; whaling; immigration; British National Party leader visiting Australia; Haneef report; Budget deficits; first anniversary of the Rudd Government; Kevin Rudd talking down economy; Colin Barnett.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WENTWORTH

21 November 2008

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, CARMEL SCHOOL, DIANELLA

Subjects: Bungled deposit guarantee; bungled wholesale funding guarantee; whaling; immigration; British National Party leader visiting Australia; Haneef Report; Budget deficits; first anniversary of the Rudd Government; Kevin Rudd talking down economy; Colin Barnett.

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

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

The Government has two sitting weeks left to fix up the mess they’ve created with their rushed and bungled decisions on the bank deposit guarantee and the bank guarantees. We’re now seeing banks, members of the community, mortgage trusts, finance companies begging the Government to fix up it’s bungled bank deposit guarantee which they announced initially as an unlimited guarantee, it has very adverse consequences for two hundred and seventy thousand Australians whose savings were frozen in unguaranteed funds and institutions, the finance companies who weren’t able to raise money to enable them to finance people to buy motor cars.

They brought it back to a million dollars and now we see the banks and other finance sector leaders saying to the Government you’ve got to bring that cap back to something approaching the hundred thousand dollars that Julie Bishop and I originally recommended.

But there is in a way an even bigger bungle. About a month ago, shortly after their decision to guarantee the wholesale term funding of banks, which is to say guarantee the banks when they go to borrow money in the wholesale markets, mostly internationally, we said to the Government you’re going to have to legislate for this. It will not be effective if you do not legislate. And this was treated characteristically with scorn and contempt. I mean they are at least consistent on that they have no regard for the Opposition. Julia Gillard’s best advice to us is just get out of the way. Wayne Swan says we’re completely irrelevant.

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Well now we’re seeing the Government is about to do an enormous back flip. They’re going to have to admit that they were wrong, they’re going to come back to the Parliament next week to legislate for the wholesale term funding guarantee because the banks, the markets have said to them we cannot, these guarantees will not be effective unless they are the subject of legislation. We’ve asked the Government to show us that legislation in draft form, we’ve offered to cooperate with them and collaborate with them - we’ve seen nothing. No doubt they will produce it late today so as to avoid getting criticised in the Saturday papers.

And that fundamentally is the problem with the Rudd Government. All year they’ve had a political agenda, they haven’t had an economic agenda. Everything’s been driven by spin, by headlines, by grabs on television. Australia deserves better than that. We need sound economic management, that’s what we need, we don’t need swift and decisive action that turns out to be rushed and bungled. Good intentions are no substitute for good management.

QUESTION:

So where do you want the threshold to be set?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well it should be set at around a hundred thousand dollars which is what we originally suggested, which by the way is where it is almost everywhere else in the world. I think over in the UK its fifty thousand Pounds, and Europe it’s fifty thousand Euros, in the United States it’s been a hundred thousand dollars for a very long time, it’s recently been increased somewhat. But that is the level, and the idea is to set a level that is high enough to cover most accounts, to cover most households and small business accounts, but not so large as to produce big distortions in the financial markets.

QUESTION:

The Federal Government won’t be monitoring Japan’s whaling fleet this year. What’s your reaction to that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I think it’s a pity that they’re not monitoring it, and I know Greg Hunt our Environment spokesman has had some things to say about that so I won’t trespass on his territory too much. But it would be better if it was monitored, but frankly the only thing that will stop Japan whaling in my view, having been the Environment Minister last year, is a change in Japanese public opinion.

And one of the things we’ve got to be very conscious of is that the more aggressive we are, or particularly the way Mr Garrett has been, the more threats Mr Garrett makes and of course then walks away from, the less credibility the anti-whaling forces have in Japan, and the more likely it is that people in Japan will dig their heels in and say we’re not going to be pushed around by Australians or anybody else. So it is very much not an issue that can be resolved by trying to bully or engage in some sort of

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Japan-bashing exercise such as Mr Garrett has been involved in. This has to be won by diplomacy and ultimately whaling will end by Japan when public opinion moves against it in Japan.

QUESTION:

Do you think that the Oceanic Viking then has successfully completed its mission as Peter Garrett has said recently?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I’ll leave Greg Hunt to comment on that. The reality is that Japan goes whaling there every year. There are advantages in monitoring that whaling, the Government’s got to weigh up the merits of it. On balance it would be better, I think most Australians would prefer the whaling to be monitored, but as I said, frankly the thing that will change Japan’s opinion, Japan’s decision to whale, is a change in public opinion in Japan. That’s really what the focus is and that’s why if I may say so people like the Sea Shepherd are quite counterproductive because the more aggression, the more active hostility towards the Japanese whalers may give some people some satisfaction, but back in Japan, it causes public opinion to if anything harden in favour of whaling. And this is really an exercise in public diplomacy in promoting a change of heart among public opinion in Japan.

QUESTION:

There have been more boat people intercepted off Ashmore Reef, do you think the federal Government’s become a bit lax when it comes to boatpeople and laws in regards to that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well look there is a very big concern; I don’t want to play politics with this issue. Border security is a vital issue and it is very important that everyone around the world understands that Australia will defend its borders and that we will not tolerate people smugglers. People smuggling is a crime, a very lucrative business for those people that engage in it, it’s a very dangerous business for the people that go as passengers because of course as we have seen many of these boats are not seaworthy and we don’t know how many sink. Who knows how many people have drowned. It should not be tolerated, and I am concerned that the Government is not sending a strong enough signal that it will not tolerate people smuggling.

Now that’s all I have to say about it. This is a zero tolerance situation. Our borders must be preserved. We have a very large humanitarian program in terms of bringing in refugees into Australia; it’s one of the largest in the world. This is a very generous openhearted country, but we cannot tolerate people smuggling.

QUESTION:

So what more needs to be done then if the message isn’t getting through? If you could just finish on that topic…

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MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well again it’s a question of defending our borders, it’s a question of being very very clear that people smuggling will not be tolerated.

QUESTION:

Do you have any concerns with the head of the British National Party being allowed into Australia? Should he be allowed in?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well the British National Party’s views are anathema to all Australians I’m sure. I’m not familiar with the status of the discussions as to whether this gentleman can be allowed into Australia, but certainly his views are appalling, unacceptable and they would produce only revulsion in most Australians. I’ll be talking to my colleagues and in particular the Shadow Immigration Spokesman Dr Sharman Stone about this and she’ll no doubt be liaising with her counterpart in the Government.

QUESTION:

So do you think he should be allowed in, or…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I’ve answered that question.

QUESTION:

Do you think the report into Mohammed Haneef should be made public?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yes, George Brandis has called for that, our shadow Attorney-General has called for that to be made public and I certainly support our Shadow Attorney-General in making that call.

QUESTION:

Do you make a comment on deficits; are they necessarily such a bad thing? Shouldn’t the Government spend to stimulate?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look, what Mr Rudd is trying to get is a leave pass to engage in lazy economic policy. Let’s not forget there were some very important messages that Glenn Stevens gave yesterday, the Governor of the Reserve Bank. Number one: Glenn Stevens reminded us that Australia is in a very strong financial position. And it is in a strong financial position because, in Mr Stevens’ words, of years of fiscal discipline. That was years under the Howard Government, in which Labor’s debt was paid off, surplus Budgets were managed, money was put aside in the Future Fund to pay the future

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liabilities, obligations for Commonwealth Government and Defence pensions. So all of that good work was done. Mr Rudd was dealt a very very strong hand of economic cards. Now he has the ability, if he chooses to, to manage this economy well given the growth we’re expecting next year, to maintain employment at high levels and not run a deficit.

The other point that Mr Stevens made was that spending to stimulate economic activity is good as long as the quality of the spending is right. And he said the same tests for the quality of the spending and investment by government should be applied regardless of the economic circumstances. So as far as a deficit is concerned, I believe the Government can manage our economy if the are competent, without running this country into debt. It took eleven and a half years for John Howard to get our economy and our Federal budget into the shape it is. We don’t want to see Mr Rudd blow that through poor and lazy economic management, through rushed and bungled economic decisions in the space of a year or two. Just one more.

QUESTION:

This weekend marks the one year anniversary since Kevin Rudd won office. What’s your assessment of the last twelve months?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Throughout his year in office Mr Rudd has had a political strategy but no economic strategy. Everything has been focused on the grand gesture, the headline. We saw it at the beginning of the year, at a time when every other country in the world was getting ready to deal with the credit crisis in the United States and getting ready to deal with the impact on growth that the sub-prime crisis would have, what did our Government do? We had Mr Swan and Mr Rudd talking up inflation. In fact Mr Swan said the genie was out of the bottle. In other words it’s out of control. They egged on the Reserve Bank to put up interest rates at precisely the wrong time, when others including the Opposition were saying hang on, there are some bad developments overseas, what we’ve got to do, what the Reserve Bank should be doing is staying its hand and not raising rates.

Now with the benefit of hindsight you can see the damage that is done with a Government that’s got a political strategy because it wants to blame its predecessor for higher inflation, and no economic strategy.

We’ve seen it with the bank deposit guarantee, an unlimited bank deposit guarantee created enormous problems, as indeed the Government has acknowledged because they have already had to roll it back. They wanted a grand gesture, a big headline.

You’ve seen it with the absurd Fuel Watch scheme. You know they went in the election and said they were going to bring down petrol prices and then came up with a scheme which happily - I think the Government is probably as relieved as everyone else is - that happily has been defeated in the Senate, which would have just simply watched fuel prices and of course you know exactly what the effect of it has been in Western Australia.

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There is a very long, there’s a long list, it has been a government of spin, it has not been a government of substance. They have got to get off politics and the spin and focus on solid economic management. That’s what Australia needs, real leadership.

QUESTION:

Just quickly Mr Turnbull on your visit to WA has the Premier raised anything specifically with you in terms of issues WA is facing and how you can perhaps intervene and assist?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I met with Colin on Sunday night in fact shortly after I arrived and I have met with him since and I’ll be seeing him again today and tomorrow. So we’ve talked about a whole range of issues, it’s a long list. He is doing a great job already.

I was in the Ord River scheme a couple of days ago and one of the great examples of what a difference good economic management makes is that Colin Barnett has thrown out that crazy left-wing ideological policy of the Labor government that said you couldn’t have GM cotton. Now GM cotton has been an enormous boon because what it enables you to do is grow cotton with a fraction of the pesticides that you would otherwise have to use. So it’s a huge win for the environment. But because the Labor government here was so left, so ideological, they opposed that which of course had a very adverse impact on the prospects for future development in the north which is really I think at the cutting edge of where Australia’s future agricultural growth is going to be.

Okay, thanks very much.

[ends]