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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: 6 October 2011: Bendigo, Victoria: 6 October 2011: Julia Gillard's carbon tax; jobs forum; taxation; Kevin Rudd; Steve Jobs



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

6 October 2011

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR MICHAEL RONALDSON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS, BENDIGO, VICTORIA

Subjects: Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; jobs forum; taxation; Kevin Rudd; Steve Jobs.

E&OE……………………….……………………………………………………………

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s terrific to be here in Bendigo. It’s great to be with Michael Ronaldson. Ronno of course knows central Victoria extremely well, former member for Ballarat and the duty Liberal senator for this part of Victoria. It was good earlier to be out at the Elmore Agricultural Show. The Elmore Agricultural Show is a very, very significant local event and I was pleased to be there. It was good also to be here in Bendigo for this community forum. What I sense today is a great passion for the welfare of regional Australia, a great passion for the progress and prosperity of the city of Bendigo and I think that it’s very important that the people of Bendigo have a government which is responsive to the concerns of regional Australia. One of the problems with the current federal government is that there is not a single Cabinet minister who lives outside of a metropolitan area. By contrast last time I counted, there were eight members of my Shadow Cabinet whose home was outside a metropolitan area, which is one of the reasons why the Coalition is always going to do a better deal for regional Australia than the Australian Labor Party.

This is obviously a day when our country is rightfully focusing on jobs and the best thing you can do for the jobs of Australian workers right now is to drop the carbon tax. The carbon tax will be toxic for regional Australia because regional Australia is dependent on power and transport. The carbon tax will be toxic for the manufacturing industry because manufacturing is critically dependent upon power. Victoria is a great centre of manufacturing industry in this country because the cheap power of the Latrobe Valley has given it a comparative economic advantage and Labor wants to take that away. Almost the first thing that will happen if the Government’s carbon tax package passes the parliament is that they will start to close down the power stations of the Latrobe Valley.

If you want a productive economy, there is a better way. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve had out there my six point plan for a more productive Australia. We need to get more people into the workforce. We need to have more productive and effective public institutions. We need to have less red tape. We need to have a genuine and competitive level playing field for our businesses. We’ve got to get better value for the infrastructure spend. We’ve got to have a more flexible and productive workplace. So, we’ve got a six point plan out there. All the Government has is more taxes, more spending, more bureaucracy. It’s not the right way. It’s particularly not the right way for regional Australia.

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Ronno, do you want to add something?

MICHAEL RONALDSON:

Just very quickly, at Elmore today we saw the farmers out there but while they’ve come out of drought there are still significant issues and the last thing that those farmers want to see, it was articulated very strongly by them today, is this toxic carbon tax. They know it will wreck the dairy industry. They know the Broadacre farmers will suffer a significant cost impact and now in regional Victoria, both from manufacturing point of view and a cultural point of view, now is not the time for this toxic tax.

TONY ABBOTT:

Ok.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, Steve Gibbons has labelled today as a political stunt and saying Bendigo residents will be able to spot a phoney. What’s your response to that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, how many community forums has Steve Gibbons organised lately? I mean, has Steve Gibbons had the Prime Minister come to Bendigo to host a community forum? I suggest that he would be taken much more seriously as the local member if he could bring the Prime Minister here and get the Prime Minister to take questions from members of the public.

QUESTION:

Central Victorian businesses have been struggling. I think we’ve had many close down in the town centre. What more needs to be done to support small businesses, especially in regional areas?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, the first task of government is do no harm and the problem at the moment is that we’ve got a government which is spending like a drunken sailor but it’s not spending effectively and in order to sustain that spending it’s raising taxes, including the toxic carbon tax and the mining tax. Now, you do not help business by increasing taxes. You help business by reducing taxes and the tragedy of the tax forum which we’ve just seen is that the tax increases that this Government is proposing were off the agenda and everything that was on the agenda essentially involves a tax shift, not a tax cut.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, there were about 100 people out the front earlier who disagree with your view on the carbon tax. You did go through the back door instead of talking to them. Will you be meeting with representatives of this group to discuss their views and your opposition?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, it was pretty clear that there were people in the room who didn’t entirely support my view and I took questions from them and I did my best to answer them.

MICHAEL RONALDSON:

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Can I just answer that? That was the Bendigo Sustainability Group and the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group, both of whom were represented in that room today and there was a question on behalf of that organisation.

QUESTION:

Do you think that represents sort of a changing of times, people are actually going to start supporting the carbon tax? Especially here in Bendigo?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, obviously, in a democracy you’ll find people on both sides of any contentious question but I think the more people see about the carbon tax the less they like it. I mean, the trouble with the carbon tax is that it’s going to add to people’s cost of living, it’s going to hit jobs and it’s not going to achieve any lasting environmental improvement because if you actually look at the Government’s own figures, under the carbon tax our emissions are going to go up, not down between now and 2020. If you look at the Government’s own figures, our emissions are going to go up from 578 million tonnes now to 621 million tonnes in 2020. That’s not a five per cent cut, that’s more like an eight per cent increase. So the carbon tax is simply not going to do its job.

QUESTION:

Why didn’t you enter through the front like Senator Ronaldson did?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, my car drove up at the back. I got out and I walked in.

QUESTION:

What do you take out of today and what do you hope it achieves, particularly in the context of Steve Gibbons retirement? Perhaps the hopes of taking the seat?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think it’s very important for senior politicians to spend more time listening to the Australian community. I think if the Prime Minister spent more time listening to the Australian community, she wouldn’t be going ahead with the carbon tax. She wouldn’t be going ahead with a whole lot of things but she particularly wouldn’t be going ahead with the carbon tax. Now, I’ve had three community forums this week. I had four community forums last week. I think it’s very important for senior politicians to spend less time lecturing, more time listening and I think that it was good that through Michael Ronaldson I have had the chance to come and listen as well as put forward my point of view here in Bendigo.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, the Australian dollar has hit central Victorian exporters quite hard. What can be done to help regional exporters?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, again, I think that they are going to be hurt further by the impact of the carbon tax. The carbon tax is going to put up their price of power. It’s going to put up their price of transport. Those prices are just going to go up and up and up under a carbon tax and as I said, the first task of government is to do no harm. We

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can’t wave a magic wand and get the dollar down but at least we can avoid hitting them further with this toxic carbon tax.

QUESTION:

What do you make of Graham Richardson’s naming of the Labor backbenchers apparently agitating for Kevin Rudd’s return to the leadership of the Labor Party?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, look, Graham Richardson is the ultimate insider and I think that he has always got to be taken seriously when it comes to the inner workings of the Labor Party but from my perspective I am interested in good government and a Prime Minister who is watching her back is not getting on with the business of government.

QUESTION:

How strong do you think the support is for renewable energy within the regions, from your trips?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think there are mixed views. I think that all of us are in principle supportive of renewable energy. Certainly, the Howard Government put the mandatory renewable energy targets in place and as a Coalition we supported them. We’ve supported significant increases in the use of renewable energy but we’ve got to also accept that there is a lot of controversy about these wind farms. I think it’s good that the Baillieu Government has brought in new rules to prevent wind farms being too close to residential areas and we’ve got to remember always that when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine the power doesn’t flow. We do need to keep using coal and gas if we are going to have baseload power at an affordable price.

QUESTION:

Can we expect a bit more money coming in before the next election, unlike last election now that the seat of Bendigo could be…?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I think the people of Bendigo are interested in good government, not pork barrelling. We will obviously have a lot to say between now and the election on all sorts of issues including regional policy. I think the people of Bendigo and the people of central Victoria, the people of Australia generally, they want good government. That’s not what they are getting right now.

Just one thing, I should just say, Steve Jobs has passed away. He was an extraordinary entrepreneur of technology. A technological innovator, he was genuinely someone who changed the world and there would be few Australians who don’t own examples of his work and I think we should note his passing.

[ends]