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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Silvan, Victoria: 5 September 2013: Election campaign 2013; Labor's carbon tax con; foreign aid; internet filter; costings; the Coalition's commitment to paid parental leave



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JOH

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

5 September 2013

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR, JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH THE HON. TONY SMITH MHR, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CASEY, SILVAN, VICTORIA

Subjects: Election campaign 2013; Labor’s carbon tax con; foreign aid; internet filter; costings; the Coalition’s commitment to paid parental leave.

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

TONY ABBOTT:

We are towards the end of the second last day of the campaign and obviously the tempo is picking up. It’s very important that the Australian people understand that every member of the Coalition is working harder than ever in this countdown to polling day to let the Australian people know that we must have a better government that protects Australian jobs and which reduces the pressure on Australians cost of living. It is great to be here at this fabulous local business, Aussie Growers Fruits and it is fantastic to see that this local business has been able to ensure that an iconic Australian brand Rosella has not disappeared from our markets and it is only because we have innovative local food manufacturers that we can preserve iconic brands like Rosella.

The last thing, though, that people like this business need is additional costs and additional red tape and the carbon tax is a drag on tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of businesses right around Australia. The carbon tax is a drag on every Australian family's cost of living. The carbon tax is not only adding tens of thousands of dollars a year to the costs of businesses like this, but the carbon tax is adding $550 a year to the costs of the average Australian family. The carbon tax will go under a Coalition government. If you want to see the carbon tax go, there is only one thing you can do and that is to vote for your Coalition candidate not just in the House but in the Senate as well.

There is still, in the dying days of this election campaign, a serious risk of another hung Parliament and a Senate dominated by the Greens. So, my clear message to the people of Australia is that if you want the carbon tax gone, if you want the mining tax gone, if you want red tape reduced, if you want the boats stopped, if you want the roads of the 21st century built, you've got to vote for the Coalition, otherwise we could easily end up with another weak minority Labor-Green government and another Green-dominated Senate.

It is a very clear message as we go into the last hours of this campaign. If you want a strong and stable majority government in this country, you've got to vote for your Liberal and National candidate, not just in the House of Representatives but in the Senate as well. I want to thank Laurie Modaffari and all of his staff here at Aussie Growers Fruit for making myself and Frances so welcome this evening and I also want to

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thank Tony Smith for the effort he makes with the people and the businesses in his electorate here in Casey to try to ensure the government is their friend, not their enemy. I might ask Tony just to speak briefly with these remarks.

TONY SMITH:

Thanks you very much Tony and thanks for coming back to Casey to talk with a local business about the impact of the carbon tax. You visited Garden City Plastics just up the road in Monbulk, Australia's premium plastic pot manufacturer and they have the weight of the carbon tax and their main competition is overseas and that competition doesn't bear those costs and that burden. You visited Yarra Valley Cabinets down in Kilsyth and heard a similar story down there about the challenges they face with the extra costs of the carbon tax and increasingly their trade exposed as well from imports of flat-pack kitchens. You have seen here today a successful business that is the product of hard work and innovation from Laurie and all of his staff but they would be more successful without a carbon tax. It is fitting that you are here in the last couple of days of this election campaign because at the end of the last election campaign, this business and every other resident was being promised there would be no carbon tax. Well, the only way to get rid of the carbon tax is to vote Liberal National on Saturday. Thanks again for coming to the food bowl of the Yarra Valley.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks to the media for coming out here tonight because I realise it was a long and windy road but this is where the campaign trail leads as we enter the last hours of this campaign.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, how do you justify prioritising infrastructure and cutting more than $4 billion from the foreign aid budget. There are some aid groups that say that will cost children’s lives, how does that weigh on your conscience?

TONY ABBOTT:

We are not cutting the aid budget we are simply reducing the rate of growth. I think Australians understand that the best thing we can do for the wider world is produce a stronger domestic economy here in Australia because over time that means that we will be able to be more effectively generous to people elsewhere. At the moment we are borrowing money from overseas to send money overseas in aid. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. We are not cutting foreign aid, we are simply reducing the rate of growth.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, isn’t it a hypocrisy though because the Coalition attacked Labor for also basically cutting their aid budget now you are doing the same thing. Isn’t that just hypocrisy?

TONY ABBOTT:

As I said Matt, we are not cutting foreign aid we are simply reducing the rate of growth. Every year foreign aid goes up. It will go up at CPI. It won’t go up at the rate which was proposed at Budget time. Now, look, both sides of politics support the millennium development goals of bringing foreign aid up to a half per cent of gross national income but at a time like this I have to say there are higher immediate priorities. Yes, we will do our duty but we will do our duty at a time when the Budget is in a better position than it is in now. Right now the best thing we can do for our country and ultimately the best thing we can do for people around the world is to strengthen our economy and that means cutting taxes, building the infrastructure of the future, because if tax is lower and infrastructure is better our economy will be more productive and a strong Australia is going to be a much better international citizen than an Australia which can’t really pay its way.

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QUESTION:

[Inaudible] part of your internet filter policy that you have released. Can you explain to us exactly how it is going to work? Is it opt-in is it opt-out what is it going to do and why have you announced it at this late moment?

TONY ABBOTT:

We don’t support internet filtering. We have never supported internet filtering. The only person who supports internet filtering is Mr Rudd. The Government have supported internet filtering and admitted it belatedly after several years of insistence that it could be done that it simply couldn’t be done and it was the Coalition that stood correctly for a free internet all along. Now, there was a badly worded sentence or two in the policy document that went out last night or earlier today. The fact is we think that there should be commercially available filters at the PC and mobile phone level for people to opt-in to if they wish but we don’t, wouldn’t, won’t support any policy of filtering the internet because you simply can’t do it and it shouldn’t be done anyway.

QUESTION:

But it’s not just badly worded is it Mr Abbott, the policy document that we’ve read clearly says it is an opt-out policy. So, it is completely different to your policy that you are now talking about.

QUESTION:

And one of your Shadow Ministers Paul Fletcher was giving interviews on this on the record?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, one at a time. I read the policy last night. Quickly it has to be said and I thought it was a reference to the ability of people to get a PC based filter.That's what I thought it was. I'm sorry that it was poorly worded but that's been cleared up. As I said, the only person who supports an Internet filter is Mr Rudd, who supported an Internet filter for years until it became absolutely apparent that it just can't be done. We don't support filtering the Internet. We don't support censoring the Internet. We do want to see our children protected from online bullying. We do want to see our children protected where parents wish from the kind of material which is available on the net but you can only do it at the PC and phone level. You certainly can't try to filter the Internet.

QUESTION:

Can voters trust the quality of your policies if you can't get your opt-in and opt-out right in a policy that you are presenting to the electorate?

TONY ABBOTT:

We have released I think it is now up to 800 pages of policy and this is the first time anyone has been able to find a lack of clarity in any of our policy. Yes, I guess in this particular instance there was a failure of quality control, but the fact is no Opposition has ever gone to an election with a more carefully, comprehensively and thoroughly prepared set of policies. You only have to compare our policy offering at this election, almost 800 pages, compared to scarcely 200 pages from the Government. Our costings, all very thoroughly and professionally done by the PBO, signed off on by three experts in public finance compared to the Government which has announced policies which haven't even gone to Treasury or Finance for costings. So, I am happy to submit myself and to submit our work to the judgment of the Australian people.

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QUESTION:

Why have you announced major policies today including aged care when yesterday you said all your policies would be out by the end of the day.

TONY ABBOTT:

What happened yesterday was that all of the policies that announced significant spending were out because we needed to sign off on the books, before finalising the overall fiscal document. But to ensure that people know exactly where we stand on a range of important issues, but where no significant additional spending was involved, some policies went up today.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, you are banking about a billion dollars I think from stopping the boats, reducing the number of asylum seekers arriving but that policy hasn't been costed. How can those figures be believed, particularly when you are reducing the foreign aid commitment of Australia? Isn't that going to create more asylum seekers potentially coming here?

TONY ABBOTT:

No. The three experts in public finance signed off on all of our policies, including the savings from our policy to stop the boats and they said that based on the assumptions that we were making, the costings were a reasonable and accurate picture of the overall fiscal position.

QUESTION:

Why can't we see those assumptions?

TONY ABBOTT:

No government or political party publishes detailed working papers but there is in a footnote to the costings document published today, the assumptions that we make in order to achieve the savings in this area. We are assuming that, by the end of next year, illegal arrivals by boat will have returned to the long-term average. We are assuming by the end of 2016, that illegal arrivals by boat will be at 50 a month or less. We think we can do better than that. We think we can stop the boats full stop. That's what we believe. But for the purposes of our costings document and we have been very conservative here, we are not claiming savings we believe we can be achieve, but we are claiming savings based on that level of reduction in illegal arrivals.

QUESTION:

So you are saying by the end of next year you believe boat arrivals will have returned to the long-term average, is that correct?

TONY ABBOTT:

No, I am saying we will stop the boats. I am saying that we will stop the boats. But for the purposes of providing a figure going forward for the costs of our border protection policy, we had to make an assumption on illegal arrivals. Now, if I had assumed zero illegal arrivals in six months' time, you would have said, "this is an unrealistic costing", that's what you would have said, Nick, so I haven't made that assumption.

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I have been very cautious and conservative. We have assumed that the level of arrivals will drop from those estimated in PEFO to the long-term average by the end of 2014 and they will have dropped from there to 50 a month by the end of 2016. Now, I think that's a very careful, cautious, conservative costing. I believe that, in fact, we can do better than this because I think we will absolutely stop the boats, but for the purposes of today's document, and the billion-dollar saving that we believe that we can reasonably make, these were the assumptions that we took.

QUESTION:

Why didn't you submit them to the PBO though? If it is good enough for the panel to sign off on them, why would submit any policy to the PBO?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, some 200 policies were submitted to the PBO. Some 200 draft policies. There are some policies which inevitably were finalised late in the day because...

QUESTION:

It’s a key policy though.

TONY ABBOTT:

…because the situation is constantly evolving. As you know, Mr Rudd was announcing changes just a week or so before the election was called, so this is what we have done. But the three experts in public finance, Messrs Carmody, Scanlon and Shergold, respectfully, Queensland Auditor General, one of the foundation partners of Access Economics and a former senior Treasury official, a former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. I mean Shergold, Carmody and Scanlon, you could hardly get three bigger names when it comes to public finance. Penny Wong herself said that she had no problems with the panel. The panel has signed off on this. These are very cautious, careful, conservative figures.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, can I ask about the paid parental leave costings? The amount that you are calculating for receipts from the levy increases 10 times in the third year. How do you explain that? Do really think companies are going to have that massive increase in their receipts in 2016-17?

TONY ABBOTT:

These are issues to do with ramp-up. They're quite technical. As I said, this policy has very much gone to the Parliamentary Budget Office. The Parliamentary Budget Office poured over this policy for months and these costings come first and foremost from the Parliamentary Budget Office but then they have been signed off by the panel. The fact is our paid parental leave policy is absolutely fully funded, fully costed and over the forward estimates period, is actually a modestly budget positive.

Thank you so much.

[ends]