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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 22 August 2012: Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; Craig Thomson; Fair Work Australia; Slater & Gordon



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JOH

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

22 August 2012

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR MICHAELIA CASH, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR THE STATUS OF WOMEN, CANBERRA

Subjects: Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; Craig Thomson; Fair Work Australia; Slater & Gordon.

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

TONY ABBOTT:

Within 12 months now, Australians will have their opportunity to vote for lower taxes, better services, stronger borders and modern infrastructure. It is very important that we give Australians a chance to vote for a better government and a better country and that is what the Coalition is offering people: a better government for a better country. It is very important that we eliminate the carbon tax because what is really troubling just about every Australian family right now is cost of living.

I want to thank the Newman family, I want to thank Lindsay and Jackie and young Emma for making Michaelia Cash and myself so welcome, but this is typical of a middle Australian family that is doing its best to get ahead - a part-time public servant, a builder, trying to do the right thing by themselves and by their kids. This is exactly the family that is going to be squeezed by the carbon tax. Their power bill is something like $4,000 a year. The 14 per cent increase that is coming just because of the carbon tax here in the ACT, is going to mean an extra $600 a year for this family and that more than outweighs any compensation that they are going to get from this Government.

So, I am serious about tackling the cost of living pressures on Australian families and the best way a Federal Government can tackle those pressures is by axing the tax. Axe the carbon tax and we relieve many of the cost of living pressures on Australian families.

I am going to ask Michaelia to say a few words and then I will take questions.

MICHAELIA CASH:

I also thank Lindsay and Jackie for inviting Tony and myself here. This is an example of a family that has received the Gillard triple whammy. As a mum and dad, they are facing problems with child care and an inability to find their little daughter Emma a place in child care. That is why the Coalition is going to ask the Productivity Commission to consider better ways to find child care more flexible, more accessible and more affordable for families just like Jackie and Lindsay. They're also small business people and they have told us that as small business people they are already experiencing an increase in their electricity costs which they cannot, unlike what Julia Gillard has told them, pass onto their consumers. That is just not the reality for

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small business. In relation to just being an average Australian family, they are also already experiencing an increase in their home electricity costs. As Tony said, there is a way to change all of that and that is to scrap the carbon tax and that is what we are going to do if and when we govern Australia.

QUESTION:

The KPMG report did find that Fair Work Australia did botch their investigation into the HSU, but do you accept the findings also that there was no interference, political or otherwise, into this three and a half year investigation?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that the real issue here is does the Prime Minister accept Craig Thomson's claims that he's been cleared? That is the only real issue here. Does the Prime Minister accept the claim of the member for Dobell that the report clears him? I believe it does no such thing. I think that there are still very serious issues hanging over the member for Dobell and I think there are still very serious questions for a government and a Prime Minister that spent four long years protecting this member.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, your deputy Julie Bishop, Andrew Wilkie and Adam Bandt have all called on the Prime Minister to address Parliament in relation to the Slater & Gordon issue. Do you back that call?

TONY ABBOTT:

I’ve been doing it myself. I have been saying since the weekend that very serious issues have been raised and if the Prime Minister wishes to address the Parliament to clear the air on these issues, well, we would facilitate giving her that opportunity.

QUESTION:

But do you think she should address the Parliament?

TONY ABBOTT:

As I said, I think these are very legitimate areas of public interest. I think that the circumstances surrounding her departure from her former employer are issues of legitimate public interest. I think the media are perfectly entitled to pursue this. I think they're perfectly entitled to pose questions and if the Prime Minister believes that it would clear the air to make a statement to the Parliament, well, obviously the Coalition would do everything possible to assist that.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, do you believe it would clear the air?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, as I said, I think this is an issue for the Prime Minister. These questions have been raised. I think they are very appropriately raised by the media organisations that have been investigating these matters and it is really up to the Prime Minister to decide whether she wants to leave them hanging or whether she would like to make a full statement to the Parliament.

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QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, it was reported that you met with Rupert Murdoch on your recent trip to the United States. Did you discuss with him Ms Gillard's departure from Slater & Gordon?

TONY ABBOTT:

It was not just reported. I, in fact, wrote about my meeting with Rupert Murdoch. Rupert Murdoch is one of the most influential Australians of all time. I think he's made an extraordinary contribution to the media and I think he's been a very great Australian. So, I make no apologies whatsoever for meeting with Rupert Murdoch. As it happens, that was not a subject of discussion.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, what should happen with Fair Work Australia now? The Government says they will adopt all 31 recommendations but should Fair Work Australia moving forward still be or have that investigative arm because it appears in this investigation that they weren't equipped to deal with it, but do you think moving forward they should still have that arm of investigating?

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s very important that people have full confidence in the integrity of our workplace relations system and that means full confidence that union monies are not being misused. It is very important that the regulatory system be an effective one and the Coalition has long been calling for two things. First of all, the separation of the arbitral and the regulatory functions of Fair Work Australia into two separate bodies and secondly, we’ve seen saying that union officials who misuse money, who act improperly, should be subject to the same sorts of penalties which company officers are subject to for similar offences.

QUESTION:

Throughout this investigation, we know it took three and a half years but members of your team and I think even you yourself said it was either an institutional go-slow or suggested that there could have been some kind of interference. Do you accept in this report now that there was no political interference or otherwise? Eric Abetz has accepted it. Do you?

TONY ABBOTT:

I certainly believe that this report should have been done far more quickly, but now that it is out, I think that it is a very thorough report. Now, the report that has just been released today, the KPMG report, that certainly says that there were serious process problems inside Fair Work Australia. It goes to, as it were, the house-keeping inside Fair Work Australia but none of the findings of the Fair Work Australia report into Craig Thomson have been questioned by this latest one.

QUESTION:

But it does raise questions about the procedure that they went through in reaching those findings so does that mean now that it’s not as credible as what you thought it was before?

TONY ABBOTT:

I don’t think that’s a fair conclusion at all. As Bill Shorten himself has said, serious matters remain that that should be determined by a court and I think the sooner these matters are appropriately dealt with by the prosecuting authorities and by the courts, the better. If the Government was serious about ensuring public confidence in our system and ensuring public confidence in the use of union members' money by union

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officials, it would adopt the Coalition's policy which would ensure there was a proper regulatory body and it would ensure that union officials who do misuse money face appropriate levels of penalty.

Thank you so much.

[ends]