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Transcript of interview with John Laws: Radio 2SM Sydney: 23 July 2013: the Coalition's Real Solutions plan; Kevin Rudd's dysfunctional leadership; Labor's FBT hit on cars; Kevin Rudd's border protection failures; Kevin Rudd's taxpayer-funded political advertising; the election date



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

23 July 2013

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR, INTERVIEW WITH JOHN LAWS, RADIO 2SM, SYDNEY

Subjects: The Coalition’s Real Solutions plan; Kevin Rudd’s dysfunctional leadership; Labor’s FBT hit on cars; Kevin Rudd’s border protection failures; Kevin Rudd’s taxpayer-funded political advertising; the election date.

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

JOHN LAWS:

Are you there Tony?

TONY ABBOTT:

Yes I am John. It’s good to be talking with you.

JOHN LAWS:

It’s nice to talk to you Tony. Who better to ask about the Coalition policy than you?

TONY ABBOTT:

Absolutely right and I made quite a big speech in Melbourne yesterday…

JOHN LAWS:

You did.

TONY ABBOTT:

…to a business luncheon which talked about our economic reform agenda and it begins with abolishing the carbon tax. It continues with abolishing the mining tax. It goes on with a billion dollars worth of red tape savings every year, particularly pitched towards small business. We’ll put the workplace relations pendulum back in the sensible centre. We’ll restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, so the rule of law operates in that tough industry. We’ll make sure that dodgy union officials face the same penalties that dodgy company officials do. I could go on and on about our policy John and I could also mention that Mr Rudd’s recently been trying to steal some of it, by pretending to have abolished the carbon tax and pretending to have stopped the boats and pretending to have cleaned up the Labor Party, but as we know, Mr Rudd is the great pretender and these are fake fixes.

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JOHN LAWS:

Have you read the article in The Spectator magazine?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, someone texted me yesterday that there was something in The Spectator that I should read and I love The Spectator but I haven’t read the current issue yet.

JOHN LAWS:

Ok, well what it says in simple terms is Kevin Rudd is a complete and utter fraud.

TONY ABBOTT:

Sounds like I might have written it, but I didn’t.

JOHN LAWS:

You’re going to be remembered for that, believe me. They talk about him being dysfunctional and the centre of the dysfunction is not simply his ruthless political ambition and the treachery, betrayal and frantic 24/7 mind-set that go with it. I mean they really give it to him.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well this is essentially John what his own colleagues said about him at different times over the last few years. Let’s face it, back in June of 2010, his own Party sacked him for incompetence and arrogance and then when he became Prime Minister again four weeks ago, a third of the Cabinet refused to serve with him. Now, this is an extraordinary indictment of an individual and the point I make is that if the people who know Kevin don’t trust him, why should we the public?

JOHN LAWS:

They say that he is dysfunctional, self-gratification is taken to the extreme - an obsession with always being the centre of attention like a spoilt child - an addiction to being in the media spotlight. I mean, they’re giving the man a fair workout.

TONY ABBOTT:

Yeah and as I said, these are the sorts of observations which have been made by the people who have worked with him over the years and I guess it’s a tribute to just how the Labor Caucus was feeling that in their desperation, they turned back to this person, just a few weeks ago when they were facing electoral annihilation.

JOHN LAWS:

The article goes on to say, despite the risk of appearing too negative, which is a criticism that has been levelled at you on many occasions as you know. Despite the risk of appearing too negative, Tony Abbott is obliged to alert the electorate to what many Labor people already know - this bloke is a complete and utter fraud. I mean I would have thought that that was libellous?

TONY ABBOTT:

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Well, look John, let the lawyers argue about that. Certainly my job is to hold a bad Government to account and the interesting thing is that nothing’s really changed since Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister. The carbon tax is still here, the boats keep coming, the faceless men are in charge of the Labor Party. In fact, the only thing that’s actually changed since Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister is that hundreds of people are losing their jobs in the leasing industry - the car leasing industry, because of another exercise of policy making on the run, without any consultation, without any proper process by Kevin Rudd in changes to the fringe benefits tax.

JOHN LAWS:

It’s going to affect the motor car industry. Tell me this just out of interest - why don’t you support the Government’s tough asylum seeker policy?

TONY ABBOTT:

I certainly support entering into suitable arrangements with other countries and that’s what the Howard Government did John and that was part of the Pacific Solution which Mr Rudd closed down in 2008.

JOHN LAWS:

But I mean the Pacific Solution hardly did anything. It was a great idea, but I don’t think it affected too many people did it?

TONY ABBOTT:

It stopped the boats, John. When in combination with turning boats around and temporary protection visas, processing people in Nauru and Manus Island under the Howard Government did stop the boats. Now, as we know, the Rudd Government abolished that in 2008 and 50,000 illegal arrivals and 700 odd boats and we think about 1,000 deaths and $10 billion in border protection blowouts later, Mr Rudd says, well maybe I got it wrong. Let’s think of doing it all again - going back to Manus. Now, I support appropriately using places like PNG and Nauru for offshore processing. I absolutely support that John, but the interesting thing is, not a single person has been sent to Manus since Mr Rudd made this announcement on Friday night. We’ve had well over 200 illegal arrivals by boats since he made the announcement on Friday night, not a single one of them has gone to Manus Island and that’s why you’ve got to conclude this guy is not serious. He’s just not serious. This is an election fix, not a real policy to stop the boats.

JOHN LAWS:

Ok, do you think that the politicians and the public are tending now to demonise asylum seekers?

TONY ABBOTT:

I’ve always tried to draw a distinction between the people smugglers and their customers and while I think that the boat people are very much doing the wrong thing, they’re trying to enter our country by the back door, not the front door and they must know that. I can certainly understand why people from wretched places would want to live in a great country like Australia and we’ve always had a generous refugee and humanitarian intake….

JOHN LAWS:

Yes we have.

TONY ABBOTT:

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….but it’s got to be one that we’re controlling John, not the people smugglers and since Mr Rudd changed Mr Howard’s policies, the people smugglers have been running to a very great extent, our refugee and humanitarian intake and that’s just dead wrong - dead wrong.

JOHN LAWS:

Well I think anybody would agree with that. I mean somebody’s got to have a firm hand on what could blossom into a very unsavoury situation if we had people arriving simply willy-nilly.

TONY ABBOTT:

Absolutely and even if you are to take Mr Rudd at face value and to assume that this new policy will work, what he’s really saying is, well after five years of abject failure, I finally cottoned onto something that might improve the situation, please re-elect me. Well, I think the public are pretty sensible and I think they would prefer to have in government people who believe this stuff and who would never have made these mistakes, rather than someone who’s effectively been experimenting with our future as part of his own learning experience.

JOHN LAWS:

You couldn’t have helped but notice the Government’s advertising strategy regarding asylum seekers. How fair dinkum is that?

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s a shocking abuse of the taxpayer. There’s obviously been many hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on these full page newspaper ads…

JOHN LAWS:

Yes.

TONY ABBOTT:

…since the weekend.

JOHN LAWS:

Yes.

TONY ABBOTT:

Mr Rudd, let’s not forget was the person who said that political advertising on the taxpayer was and I think the phrase he used was a cancer on our democracy. He said it was a cancer on our democracy. He also said that if he became Prime Minister, there’d be no taxpayer funded advertising within six months of an election, except necessary public announcements that had been approved by the Leader of the Opposition. So, this is yet another example of the fact that Mr Rudd seems to lack an ethical compass when it comes to these sorts of matters.

JOHN LAWS:

Is Mr Rudd an out and out liar?

TONY ABBOTT:

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John, look…

JOHN LAWS:

Tony, is he an out and out liar?

TONY ABBOTT:

I probably prefer to use different language and just say that the Prime Minister is incompetent and untrustworthy - that you can’t rely on anything he says.

JOHN LAWS:

So in other words, doesn’t that make him a liar?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I’d probably use my own words and I’d say he’s all talk and no action. He’s all announcement and no delivery. He’s incompetent and untrustworthy and what he says today is to be discounted because he’ll say the opposite tomorrow.

JOHN LAWS:

Nick Xenophon who has always appeared to me to be a decent sort of fellow - he has asked the Auditor General to look at the new political ads that the Government is running. Do you support his ideas in that regard?

TONY ABBOTT:

Oh look I agree with you John. I think Nick Xenophon is a pretty good bloke. Obviously I hope people vote for the Liberal candidate in the South Australian Senate elections, not for Nick, but nevertheless he is a decent bloke. I think he’s made a good contribution in the Senate. He’s straight, I respect him, I don’t always agree with him, but on this one I think he is substantially right. This is just an outrage. Frankly, the Labor Party should be asked to repay the money to the taxpayer that these ads have cost, because plainly they’re not directed towards people smugglers.

JOHN LAWS:

No.

TONY ABBOTT:

They’re directed towards Australian voters.

JOHN LAWS:

Yeah, if they were directed against people smugglers…

TONY ABBOTT:

They’d be advertising in Indonesia.

JOHN LAWS:

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That’s exactly right.

TONY ABBOTT:

In Bahasa - there’d be ads in Bahasa and Farsi and other languages in Indonesia, but no, this is targeted fairly and squarely at Australian voters. It’s got nothing to do with deterring people smugglers and their customers and the Labor Party should be paying for these ads.

JOHN LAWS:

How many seats will they lose at the next election?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well I hope that they lose enough to lose office, but I’m not cocky or complacent John. I really am not. I’ve always said that to win government from Opposition was like climbing Mount Everest and we’ve seen plenty of evidence over the last few weeks of just how hard it will be for the Opposition to win, because even though this mob are hopeless at Government - absolutely hopeless at Government and frankly they’ll get worse under Mr Rudd, not better because of Mr Rudd’s chaotic decision-making style, but nevertheless, they’re brilliant at low politics, absolutely brilliant at low politics and the kind of contrived theatre that we’ve seen over the last few weeks - the kind of manipulation of taxpayer funded advertising that we’re seeing this very day illustrates the magnitude of our task.

JOHN LAWS:

Do you feel sorry for Julia Gillard?

TONY ABBOTT:

John look, we had a pretty rugged relationship it’s got to be said. I have known her for a long time professionally and I guess I was - tended to be her antagonist, both as Health Minister, as Leader of the House of Representatives, as Opposition Leader and when we did those debates on the Today programme for quite a long time. I did lose respect for her, it has to be said, at times during her Prime Ministership, but it’s hard not to feel sorry for the way she was undermined by Kevin Rudd and as she said in her valedictory press conference, she always faced two enemies. She had the official enemy, I guess that was me and she had the unofficial enemy - that was Mr Rudd who plainly as every Canberra journalist if he or she is being honest would tell you was relentlessly undermining the former Prime Minister every day she was in the job.

JOHN LAWS:

It’s been a tough time in politics. Do you think it’s been a damaging time? I mean, has it been good for the country?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think the short answer is no. I think that our country has marked time at best since the Rudd/Gillard Government has been in power. I think most Australians feel that our country is better than this - that we could be much more than we are right now and that’s what our Real Solutions plan is all about John. It’s about trying to bring out the best in our people and in our country - helping everyone to be his or her best self. So look, we can be so much better and I think the pity of it all is that Mr Beazley for all his faults would have been a worthy prime minister.

JOHN LAWS:

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I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t agree more.

TONY ABBOTT:

He was a highly competent decent human being who’d served his country and his Party well in many great offices and as Opposition Leader for two full terms, but the Labor Party in its desperation, they gave us Mark Latham and he blew up. They gave us Kevin Rudd, he blew up. They gave us Julia Gillard, she blew up. Now they’ve given us Kevin Rudd again. I just think you’ve got to question the judgment of the Labor Party and the trouble is John, whoever you vote for, if it’s someone in the Labor Party, you just get Labor.

JOHN LAWS:

Yeah, I think it might have been different with Kim Beazley. Kim Beazley’s a terrific bloke.

TONY ABBOTT:

I agree.

JOHN LAWS:

Yeah.

TONY ABBOTT:

He’s doing a great job as our Ambassador in Washington.

JOHN LAWS:

Oh yes he’s very good, likeable bloke with a good brain - very good brain.

TONY ABBOTT:

Look - a very smart guy, a very decent character, a man of strong values who has served our country and his Party with distinction and look, I could probably feel more genial towards Julia Gillard in the months and years ahead, but I think you could say categorically that neither of Kim Beazley’s two successors as Labor leader have been of similar calibre.

JOHN LAWS:

Ok, alright, good to talk to you Tony. Listen have you got any gut feeling about when the election date might be?

TONY ABBOTT:

My instinct John is that Mr Rudd will call it when it’s in his interest to do so and…

JOHN LAWS:

Well wouldn’t you do that?

TONY ABBOTT:

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Exactly. I think that it’s likely to be sooner rather than later, because my instinct is that all of these things that he’s been announcing will be exposed as shams, the longer they last, whether it be the pretence that the carbon tax has gone or whether it be the pretence that he stopped the boats, because they’ll just keep coming and no-one will go to Manus anytime soon.

JOHN LAWS:

Are you going to stop the boats?

TONY ABBOTT:

Yes. We’ll make a difference from day one and we’ll put a range of measures in place. We won’t be just relying on any one single measure. We certainly won’t be simply relying on another country to solve our problems for us. We’ll put a range of measures in place and on day one, the Navy will get new orders.

JOHN LAWS:

How long will it take you to stop the boats?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think we can make a difference from day one. I think we can make a substantial difference within months and I am confident that well within a term, we’ll be back to the same situation that was brought about by the Howard Government.

JOHN LAWS:

Ok, Tony thank you very much for your time. It’s been good to talk to you.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thank you so much John.

[ends]