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Transcript of doorstop interview: Traralgon, Victoria: 27 March 2012: Pollie Pedal 2012; carers; NDIS; Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; Latrobe Valley; Queensland election; COAG



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

27 March 2012

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR DOORSTOP INTERVIEW TRARALGON, VICTORIA

Subjects: Pollie Pedal 2012; carers; NDIS; Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; Latrobe Valley; Queensland election; COAG.

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

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s good to be here in Traralgon. Obviously, it’s been both instructive and moving to meet with the local carers group, particularly Jean Tops who is a very, very passionate woman who has been fighting for a better deal for carers for a long time and she expresses the hope that at some point well before she dies, she wants to see important, significant institutional change and as far as I’m concerned and as far as the Coalition is concerned, we want this National Disability Insurance Scheme to happen. It’s got to happen in the right way. I think it should happen following the Productivity Commission’s blueprint but nevertheless this is an important social reform. Millions of Australians' lives will be changed for the better if this reform is put in place.

Obviously, I’m here in the heart of the Latrobe Valley and the Latrobe Valley is the energy capital of Victoria and the Latrobe Valley’s future as a great source of affordable power for the manufacturing industry of Victoria is under threat from the carbon tax. Now, this Gillard Government is proposing to spend $2 billion, not to clean power stations up, but to close them down. This is an act of economic lunacy and it’s one of the reasons why areas like this are so hostile to the carbon tax because they know that the carbon tax won’t just threaten their jobs, but it will threaten the long term prosperity of the state and the nation.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, the National Disability Insurance Scheme will cost a lot of money. You’ve been criticised by some in your own party for prioritising a paid parental leave scheme that might jeopardise funding for the NDIS. Where do your priorities lie?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, they are two separate issues and the paid parental leave scheme was a policy that we took to the last election and it is fully funded by a levy on taxable corporate incomes of over $5 million a year. The National Disability Insurance Scheme will be funded, according to the Productivity Commission’s recommendations, out of general government revenue and that’s why it’s important that we build up to the this. The point that

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I’ve made is that to fully implement the scheme, the budget will have to be back in surplus but both the Government and the Opposition plan to get the budget back into surplus in the following financial year and more strongly in surplus in the years ahead.

QUESTION:

How did you feel listening to the story of, really, carers in crisis that Jean was talking about?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, these are very moving stories and there are tens of thousands of stories like this right around Australia because a lot of carers do it very, very tough. I think it’s particularly difficult for the ageing parents of children with disabilities and some of those stories that Jean told us were really quite heartbreaking. Now, this helps to motivate us to do the right thing and obviously it helps to reinforce the case for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

QUESTION:

Jean also wants to see some regional carers support networks funded. It’s been one of the positions she’s championed. Is that something that you support?

TONY ABBOTT:

The purpose of this Pollie Pedal ride is to raise money for Carers Australia and what Carers Australia are proposing to do with the half a million dollars that we are hoping to raise is to establish a really sophisticated website that will help to put carers in touch with support services, help to put carers in touch with each other and obviously that’s particularly important for regional Australia. So, I think it is important that we have a carers network and this website that Carers Australia will put together is an important step along that path.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, you talked about the electricity industry in the Latrobe Valley. With the Coalition committed to the same sort of emissions targets as the federal government, what sort of change could the Latrobe Valley expect to see, then, under a Coalition government?

TONY ABBOTT:

We certainly are committed to reducing emissions, but we are not going to reduce emissions by closing down the affordable power sources on which Australia’s economy depends and on which families' standard of living depends. So, yes, we are going to reduce emissions but we are not going to lay waste our economy in order to do so. So, we want the power stations in the Latrobe Valley to continue. Yes, we want them to be using the best possible technology so that they can be as reduced emissions as possible but in the end, we need the power and it’s got to be affordable and the brown coal fired power stations of the Latrobe Valley are a very important source of affordable power for Australian industry and Australian families. Affordable power is one of Australia’s great competitive advantages in the world and the last thing we should be doing is jeopardising our status as one of the affordable energy countries of the world.

QUESTION:

So, seemingly, the key way to reduce emissions when it comes to brown coal is by advancing clean coal technology. So, would you commit a Coalition government to the sort of very significant funding required to see that advance?

TONY ABBOTT:

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Well, look, we certainly in government were committed to clean coal technology and one of the things that is very disappointing about the current government is that the $10 billion which is being set aside in the kind of Bob Brown bank, excludes clean coal. So, we certainly think that clean coal is important. But, regardless we have got to continue to be a country with affordable power and that’s why the Latrobe Valley is so significant.

QUESTION:

In a recent visit to the Latrobe Valley, Martin Ferguson appeared to sort of back away a little from an iron clad commitment to remove 2,000 megawatts from the system by 2020 and I’m just wondering where the Coalition stands on that. Is it an iron clad commitment yourselves, your emissions targets, or are they ideas?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, we believe that it is important to get a five per cent emissions reduction and the point I should make is that under the carbon tax which if you believe the Government’s own figures they’re not actually going to reduce emissions. Under the carbon tax, Australia’s emissions go up from 578 million tonnes a year now to 621 million tonnes in 2020. The only way we meet our five per cent emissions reduction target is by spending some $3.5 billion buying foreign carbon credits which strikes me as extremely counterintuitive, so to speak. It strikes me as not exactly a common sense way to proceed. So, we’ll get it and we’ll get it without closing down the power stations of the Latrobe Valley.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, to some poll questions, you describe Julia Gillard’s policies as toxic. If that’s so, why do more people prefer her?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I’m more interested in policies for a stronger Australia than I am in opinion polls. Every day I’m talking about what the Coalition would do to build a stronger economy, for a stronger country, to build stronger communities including through policies like a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme, getting serious about flexible and effective forms of child care, moving forward on things like the National Disability Insurance Scheme. These are the sorts of things that I’m working on and I’ll leave others to be commentators on opinion polls.

QUESTION:

Do you think you are our new Prime Minister?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that I am the Opposition Leader...

QUESTION:

Our next Prime Minister, rather?

TONY ABBOTT:

...I think that if we continue to promote good policies for a stronger Australia, if we continue to hold the government to account, well, we’ll be doing our job and let’s see what the future holds.

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QUESTION:

The Prime Minister said yesterday, Tony, that you were conducting yourself like you’ve got the election in the bag. You know, polls seem to suggest that. Have you got it in the bag?

TONY ABBOTT:

Do you think I’d be getting on my bike and pedalling 100 kilometres every day for nine days if I thought that this thing was somehow in the bag? Look, all of you know the pace that I work at. You know the pace that my colleagues work at. You know that we’re not taking anything for granted. I think that a good model for us is Campbell Newman and the campaign that he and the LNP waged in Queensland. It was a high energy campaign. It was a grassroots campaign. It was a campaign that was based on positive policies as well as criticisms of the Government and my message for the people of Australia is that if you want hope, reward and opportunity, the only way you’re going to get it is from a Coalition government.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, on just about every key social and economic indicators the Latrobe Valley is quite a significantly disadvantaged and depressed region. What do you think the Federal Government should be doing to start addressing those issues?

TONY ABBOTT:

Not proceeding with the carbon tax is ultimately the first and foremost thing that the Federal Government could do for the Latrobe Valley. If the Federal Government’s got $2 billion to spend in the Latrobe Valley, spend it creating jobs, not destroying jobs; spend it building industries up, not closing industries down.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, should Premiers be given a greater say in running the COAG agenda?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that COAG is a cooperative forum and it’s going to be very important to listen to the Premiers and to work constructively with them. That’s certainly what I would want to do were I the Prime Minister. I think one of the problems with the current government under both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard is that they think they can give the states instructions. Well, they can’t give the states instructions. They’ve got to sit down and work with them and if they were prepared to work with the states to have more community controlled public hospitals, to have more independent public schools, I think we would have a much better country and that’s what I would commend to the Prime Minister, working constructively with the state Premiers to try to get better schools and hospitals as soon as we can.

[ends]