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Opposition Leader discusses interest rates; budget deficits; water; and Julie Bishop.



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

2 December 2008

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP INTERVIEW WITH KEITH CONLON AND TONY PILKINGTON RADIO 5AA, ADELAIDE

Subjects: Interest rates; Labor deficits; water; Julie Bishop.

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

JOURNALIST:

Good morning.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Good morning.

JOURNALIST:

Just on that - the picture of the state of the economy just to start with. Interest rates probably down a fair bit today, have you got a tip on that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I won’t give a tip but I think everyone is expecting another reduction in the cash rate.

JOURNALIST:

Yeah we have fuel - the good news for families in South Australia and all around the place is the cost of fuel is down. We’ve got a stimulation package in next week. Is this enough to keep Australia out of recession?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Let’s hope so. My view is, and this is a tough business making economic forecasts in this environment, but my view is that Australia will not go into recession. I think we

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will have positive economic growth in the year ahead. It will obviously be less than it was the previous year but we have a fundamentally strong economy and above all the Coalition government left our public finances in very good shape. Most countries are paying off debt; we paid off all our debt so there’s no interest expense at the federal level. We’re not like other countries that have got a big debt burden and are now having to add to that. So John Howard and Peter Costello left our national balance sheet at the federal government level in very good shape and that’s a very good basis, a very strong basis to be able to deal with the challenges ahead.

JOURNALIST:

And you were around yesterday saying that Kevin Rudd has panicked and he wants a leave pass to run us into the red but can you quote an economist who is not in favour of going into a deficit if that’s what’s needed?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I think the real question is what should the Coalition do when a Labor government says ‘give us a leave pass to go into deficit’? Now the Labor Party has demonstrated that they are not responsible economic managers.

JOURNALIST:

But can you quote anybody in your defence of saying we simply should not do that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

What we are saying is that the Government has to be held to its own rhetoric, its own claims to be conservative economic managers. They said they were economic conservatives and they gave as an example of that, or as really the justification for that, that they were committed to running surpluses. Now the easiest thing is for a government to take no hard decisions and take the budget and of course the tax payers further and further into debt. So deficits should be a last resort, not an easy way out. And that’s why we’re not just going to give a leave pass to Labor to take our nation’s budget into the red.

JOURNALIST:

Leader, there are plenty of hard issues at the moment. The national water bill we know that the lower House, where the Government rules, has knocked back the amendments which you sided with in the upper House. This is all about the north-south pipeline the Vics want to build to take water out of the Murray into Melbourne. Is the problem for us at the end of the pipe that if the…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well you’re not at the end of the pipe; Melbourne is at the end of that pipe. You’re at the end of the river.

JOURNALIST:

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Quite right. We’re at the end of the river. If we’re at the end of the river and the National Water Agreement legislation doesn’t go through, we’re going backwards aren’t we?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look you’re asking the question - what is going to happen now that the legislation goes back into the Senate?

JOURNALIST:

Yeah, what next?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yeah. Well we will move an amendment, another amendment to stop the north-south pipeline because we consider it wrong for Mr Rudd and Senator Wong to take 75 billion litres of water out of the Murray Darling basin.

JOURNALIST:

Because they would say they don’t want to do it, but unless they give this to the Vics in effect the Vics won’t come in. Are you not risking that the Vics would just chuck the agreement?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look we are not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. The Water Amendment Bill will pass through the Senate. We have stood up and gone on the record, fought very hard to stop this north-south pipeline and we will continue to campaign against it.

Can I just say that this is not something that Mr Rudd and Senator Wong have to roll over on. When I was the Environment Minister last year, out of the $10 billion fund that John Howard established for the National Plan for Water Security we were able to offer the Victorians enough money to do all of those irrigation upgrades in the Goulburn Valley system on the basis that the water savings were shared between the Commonwealth, which would then keep them in the basin - so ultimately they would benefit the whole of the system all the way down to the Murray mouth - and the other half of course being held by the irrigators.

So the reality is that Mr Rudd doesn’t even have to pass legislation if he doesn’t want to. He has always been in a position, always was, to say to the Victorians, ‘look you do not need to send water to Melbourne in order to get the funding for your irrigation upgrade, because there is more than enough money in the water fund to do it’. Now he made a conscious decision to promote and support this plan, this extraordinary plan to take 75 billion litres of water a year out of an already stressed river system and pipe it down to Melbourne.

JOURNALIST:

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We’ve got to move on in a sec, but just before we conclude this have you talked to Julie Bishop about the negative headlines which are obviously emerging from your own side?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Julie Bishop is doing a great job. She is holding the Government to account. She’s a great Shadow Treasurer. We talk every day, we have a very close collaboration, as I do with all of my colleagues...

JOURNALIST:

So why is she under fire internally as Dennis Shanahan writes this morning?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look I don’t accept that.

Julie has the confidence of her colleagues, she has the confidence of the shadow ministry, she has my confidence, and she is doing a very effective job.

And she is holding Wayne Swan to account.

JOURNALIST:

Malcolm Turnbull thanks very much for joining us.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Great to be with you.

[ends]