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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Calvary John James Hospital, Canberra: 22 August 2012: Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; Olympic Dam project



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JOH

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

23 August 2012

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH THE HON. JULIE BISHOP MHR, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS,

CANBERRA

Subjects: Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; Olympic Dam project.

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

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s terrific to be here at Calvary John James Hospital. It’s great to be with Julie Bishop, my Deputy Leader. I want to thank Shaune Gillespie and his team for making Julie and myself so welcome. I also want to thank Sally and Imogen, the two mums who we were lucky enough to visit here in the maternity ward of the hospital.

I was here at John James about a year ago and I predicted that the carbon tax would cost this hospital $60,000 a year. It seems that I underestimated the impact of the carbon tax on this hospital. They’ve just had their first carbon tax-impacted bill and based on that bill, the impact of the carbon tax on electricity alone will be $84,000 a year and then there’s the carbon tax hit on gas as well. Now, if you look at the $7,000 carbon tax hit for the month of July alone, that’s almost 250 specialist intensive care consultations that could have been paid for by money which is instead going to pay the carbon tax. Every dollar that goes on the carbon tax is a dollar less on services to patients, is a dollar less on health care. Shaune will have a bit more to say about the impact of the carbon tax on this hospital and on health more generally in a moment.

I also want to raise just a couple of other subjects.

Obviously, the postponement of the Olympic Dam expansion is a tragedy for South Australia. That’s 4,000 production jobs, 8,000 construction jobs, 13,000 associated jobs that won’t happen in South Australia because of this decision and the problem with the policies of this government, the problem with the taxes of this government, the cost that this government is heaping on investment is that they are making good projects marginal and they are making marginal projects impossible. That is the tragedy for Australia that we are experiencing right now.

Finally, we’ve got Martin Ferguson announcing officially this morning that the mining boom is over. How can you have a government whose policy is based on spreading the benefits of the boom now that the boom is officially over? This is a real problem for the Government. It undermines their whole economic strategy and I guess the question Prime Minister is, does she agree with the Resources Minister that the boom is over? We’ve got less than 12 months to the next election, less than 12 months until Australians have a

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chance to vote for a better way to give this country a better government that wants to make our country an attractive place for people to invest and the best thing that the Australian Government could do right now to try to secure the investment that we need for our future prosperity is get rid of the mining tax, get rid of the carbon tax, try to ensure that there aren’t sovereign risk issues hanging over the whole question of investment in our country.

I’m going to ask Julie to say a few words and then Shaune to say a few words.

JULIE BISHOP:

Thanks, Tony. Our visit to this hospital this morning just highlighted how skewed this Government’s priorities are. As a result of the imposition of a carbon tax which will go up year on year on year, which on the Government’s own modelling will not reduce Australia’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, this hospital has been hit with a $7,000 carbon tax bill for one month alone. This money could’ve been spent in so many other ways. It could’ve been spent on patient care. Instead, based on this month’s bill, this hospital, this not-for-profit hospital, will have to find $84,000 to pay for carbon tax when that money could have been spent on patient care.

In relation to the announcement by BHP, Wayne Swan’s attacks on mining companies are now coming home to roost. In my state of Western Australia, mining companies have been warning for months that a combination of the carbon tax, the mining tax and other incompetent and dysfunctional actions by this Government have led to a real perception of sovereign risk and the investment environment is nowhere near as healthy as it was before this Government came into office and implemented these policies.

The delay of the expansion of the Port Hedland iron ore facilities on the part of BHP is a real blow to the Pilbara and our fear is this is just the beginning. The mining companies have been warning that the investment environment is no longer as attractive as it was and we are concerned that BHP’s announcement of delays in Olympic Dam and at Port Headland and the iron ore facilities there is just the beginning.

TONY ABBOTT:

Shaune?

SHAUNE GILESPIE [CEO, CALVARY JOHN JAMES HOSPITAL]:

Every dollar that we pay in carbon tax is a dollar less that we reinvest into our organisation. As a not-for-profit, every dollar that we make gets reinvested into our facility. So we are looking at $84,000 that could have improved patient care or renewed equipment that we’re not going to be able to do.

TONY ABBOTT:

Do we have any questions?

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, what’s your assessment? Is the resources boom over?

TONY ABBOTT:

I want to prolong the resources boom for as long as we humanly can and the best way to do that is to repeal the taxes that are making it harder to invest in this country to try to ensure that as far as is humanly possible, you don’t have the sovereign risk issues hovering over Australia which right now are sending so many Australian mining companies looking offshore for their next investment, not right here at home.

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QUESTION:

Is Marius Kloppers just being polite not sighting the carbon or the mining taxes in his statement yesterday?

TONY ABBOTT:

He didn’t need to refer to them yesterday because for months both Marius Kloppers the CEO of BHP and Jac Nasser, the Chairman of BHP have been warning this Government that Australia had gone from being a low cost place to invest to being a high cost place to invest. As Jac Nasser said back in May, sure, governments have a right to change tax and royalty regimes but he said these decisions have repercussions and the repercussions are that investments in Australia look less attractive; investments in places like Canada lock more attractive.

QUESTION:

By the time the Coalition is in government, you repeal the mining tax, you would repeal the carbon tax, you can then see the Olympic Dam site up and running within how long after you are elected?

TONY ABBOTT:

We want to create the best possible environment for investment. Now, there's no magic wand that forces companies to invest in Australia. What we've got to do is create the best do is create the best possible environment that will attract countries and companies to invest in Australia.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, could you just clarify, had you read BHP's announcement?

TONY ABBOTT:

Yes I had.

QUESTION:

When did you read it?

TONY ABBOTT:

About 3.45 yesterday afternoon.

QUESTION:

Why did you say on the ABC last night that you hadn't?

TONY ABBOTT:

I was responding to something that Leigh had said about Marius Kloppers.

QUESTION:

Just going back to the carbon tax and the mining tax, Marius Kloppers says that the mining tax doesn't apply to gold, iron ore and copper at Olympic Dam. So, can you at least say that the mining tax has nothing to do with the Olympic Dam site being postponed?

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TONY ABBOTT:

Look, you know, there are lots of investors in Australia and they're looking at this Prime Minister saying there will be no mining tax on gold and copper and all the rest of it and they're thinking, yes, sure, sure, that's what she said about the carbon tax and what have we got? We've got a carbon tax. Look, investors don't believe the assurances that this Government makes because they know that this government has form when it comes to saying one thing in one set of circumstances but doing the opposite when it suits it to change its position.

Just on the subject of the mining tax, the $20 billion Port Hedland expansion is obviously impacted by the mining tax because that's an iron ore port. BHP, with Rio, is Australia's biggest iron ore miner. BHP is one of our biggest coal miners. The mining tax is a big element in BHP's overall profitability down the track. Of course these investment decisions are not considered in isolation. The mining tax might not have been on the project but it was certainly on the company doing the investment.

JULIE BISHOP:

Can I just make a point there? The mining tax is not going to raise, according to modelling, anywhere near the money that the Government said it would. Yet, the Government has already spent that money by expending it elsewhere. There's going be a black hole. So, the Government is either going to have to increase the mining tax or expand it to cover other mining elements and commodities. The Greens, the Government's coalition partner, insists that the mining tax should cover all ores including uranium, nickel and the like. So, Wayne Swan can't have it both ways. He has already spent the proceeds of the mining tax. He's not going to get anywhere near that from the mining companies. He'll have to either increase the tax or expand it to cover other commodities.

QUESTION:

This morning, Ian Macfarlane has said that the carbon tax bill was assessed with Olympic Dam by BHP as around $50 million. For a 20 to 30 billion dollar project, that's pretty small change, isn't it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, the fact of the matter is this Government's policies have turned good investments into marginal ones and they've turned marginal projects into impossible ones. That's what this Government has done. It has made good projects marginal, made marginal projects impossible, and in the end it might be tens of billions of dollars rather than tens of millions of dollars, rather than hundreds of millions of dollars, but it all counts. It all counts. All these things are placed in the scales when big decisions like this are being made.

QUESTION:

Just on the asylum seeker issue, the Government hasn't put legislation forward for Nauru and Manus Island. Shouldn't those diplomatic negotiations be worked out first before this legislation goes into the Parliament?

TONY ABBOTT:

We're talking here about a regulation which specifically authorises boat people being sent to Nauru and Manus. I just think that it’s odd that a Government which says now, after four years of procrastination and denial, that it wants to send illegal arrivals to Nauru as soon as is humanly possible, hasn't actually got the relevant instrument into the Parliament. The point I've been making is if you want John Howard's results you've got to have John Howard's resolve. It’s impossible to imagine John Howard in a situation like this sitting on his hands while the Parliament is proceeding and not getting that instrument right into the Parliament immediately.

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QUESTION:

The six hundred or so people who have arrived by boat in last week and a half, do you think they will be processed in Australia or do you think they will go to Nauru or Manus Island?

TONY ABBOTT:

The point I keep making about this Government is that you can never trust them to get the job done. This is a Government that's all announcement and no delivery. The point I've been making all along is a government that couldn't be trusted to get pink batts into people's roofs can hardly be trusted to get boat people on to Nauru competently and expeditiously. I want Nauru up and running as soon as possible. The former government got Nauru up and running in just 19 days. This Government announced that it was going to do Nauru, I think about 10 days ago. How much real progress has been made? That's the issue with this Government. They are untrustworthy, they're incompetent, they've got the Midas Touch in reverse. They're very good at stopping things but hopeless at getting things done.

[ends]