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Transcript of press conference: Canberra: 5 September 2013: Tony Abbott's Commission of Audit Cuts; Liberal costings

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Campaign Media Release

Campaign Spokesperson Penny Wong

Transcript of press conference canberra 5 SEPTEMBER 2013

E & O E - PROOF ONLY _____________________________________________________________

Subjects: Tony Abbott’s Commission of Audit Cuts; Liberal Costings _____________________________________________________________

WONG: Thanks very much for coming.

Well, I want to make a few comments today about this election campaign - about policies, costings and cuts to come.

Let’s just take a step back and think through what has occurred though this election campaign to date. We’ve seen Tony Abbott ducking and weaving for the entirety, for the entirety of the election campaign trying to avoid telling Australians where his cuts will come. That’s what he has done for the entirety of the election campaign.

For the entirety of the election campaign. And, then, what we see now is 48 hours before the election, 48 hours before the electoin we get selected briefing of some journalists about some of Tony Abbott’s plans. Now I don’t how many of you are part of those select briefings but I tell you this: the Australian people haven’t been briefed - the Australian people haven’t been briefed. And I think Australians are entitled to ask this: what has Tony Abbott got to hide? Why would someone who wants to be the Prime Minister, who is ahead in the polls at the moment, go to such efforts, such efforts to hide his costings and his cuts from the Australian people? And I think Australians know that its because he has got something to hide.

And really we got a rare insight into that, there was a rare moment of honesty today from Tony Abbott because despite Joe Hockey saying ‘certain things are off limits, there wont be any cuts, things like health and education and pensions’, a commitment that Tony Abbott himself has repeated. What we do know is today Mr Abbott was asked twice, was asked twice, whether any area would be quarantined from his post-election commissoin of audit - a commission which we know from past Liberal governments is only ever set up to justify deep cuts. He was asked twice and his answer was ‘no’ that he was happy to have the Commission of Audit go through the whole of the administration. Well, a rare moment of honesty when is comes to cuts from Tony Abbott, everything is on the table. Everything is on the table: health,

education, pensions, family payments - everything is on the table and nothing is quarantined. A rare moment of honesty from Tony Abbott.

I would also say this: on Sunday, last Sunday I think it was on the ABC, Tony Abbott was asked whether or not, before the Prime Minister stood up at the Press Club, Australians would have his full costings and he said ‘yes.’ Well, he clearly wasn’t telling the truth because I don’t think selected briefing of some journalists is telling the Australian people.

But what we do know is we’ve got a pic fac while I’m doing this conference, we’ve got a pic fac going on with the Coalition. Another media stunt to try and avoid attention from a very simple fact; the entire election campaign has been the Coalition avoiding telling people about their cuts to come. Now what we do know 48 hours before the election, or less, the Coalition have had a rare moment of honesty, with Tony Abbott saying everything is on the table.

Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott said that he wouldn’t make any changes, in response to that audit, that went against his mandate.

WONG: Well, that’s not what he said in the second answer. Have a look at the transcript, that is not what he said in the second answer. And I’d ask you, do you believe him? Do Australian’s really believe that the man who talks about ‘Liberal DNA’, the man who has gone around the country saying ‘we have to cut, we have to save, we have to spend less,’ the man who’s Treaurer-would-be, Joe Hockey, has said ‘we have to end the age of entitlement’. Does anyone really believe them when they say they wont cut further?

I think Australians have doubts about Tony Abbott and what I’d say to them is if you’ve got doubts about him don’t vote for him.

JOURNALIST: Senator, you have spent the last five weeks chasing the Coalition on their costings, yet it doesn’t seem to have resonated with voters, the opinion polls suggest you’re going to lose on Saturday. Do you think you should have spent your energies promoting more about what Labor has done in the past and going to do in the future rather than chastising the Coalition over its costings every five minutes?

WONG: I think two things. First is this: we are a Labor Party and a Labor Government that has put jobs and the economy first, that sought and is seeking to continue to expand opportunity, to make our schools better, even better, to make our health and hospital system even better, to roll out DisabilityCare - a great thing to talk about on the 30th anniversary of another great Labor reform, Medicare. But I think it is an important aspect of the Australian democracy, that people who want to become Prime Minister tell Australians what their real plans are. And, I think one thing you can say about Tony Abbott, he hasn’t told you what his real plans really are.

JOURNALIST: When will all of Labor’s costed policies be publically availiable?

WONG: Now, I do want to be very clear about this because I think it is important to understand the difference between the transparent process that Labor has gone through and the process that the Coalition have gone through.

The Labor Party announced its budget bottom line with a whole range of costing information in the Economic Statement. And we had to take some savings in that which where controversial. That was confirmed in a subsequent update by the Departments during the election campaign. In accordance with the Charter of Budget Honesty we have then lodged policies as they have been announced. That is what the Charter contemplates, that’s what Peter Costello set up as the system. There is only one Party that has complied with the Charter of Budget Honesty in this campaign, only one Party and it is not the Party of Peter Costello - it’s the Labor Party.

JOURNALIST: But, I understand you have got a number of policies that are still with Treasury. When will they be released?

WONG: Treaury is working through those in accordance with the Charter. But I want to make this very clear to Australians: when we lodge policies for verification we make clear how we’re funding them. That’s what is in the policy costing to be lodged. That’s what Treasury verifies. We have lodged I think 79 policies for costing. How many has Joe Hocky lodged? Zero, zero, zero.

JOURNALIST: How many costings…(inaudible)… have been verified by Treasury and been released?

WONG: Well those are all on the website and we have complied with the Charter of Budget Honesty. I want to make that really clear. And a very good example is the paid parental leave scheme. If Tony Abbott had told you and the Australian people how he was acctually funding the paid parental leave scheme when he announced it, if he had actually done what Labor has done for every policy - which is to lodge a costing document that said ‘this is how we’re funding it’ - it wouldn’t have taken days of questioning from the Labor Party, from the media to find out that in fact part of how he is funding his unfair, unaffordable, expensive paid parental leave scheme is to double tax, to double tax mum and dad investors in Australia.

JOURNALIST: Just to be really clear, those policies that are still with Treasury, will they be released before polling day?

WONG: Look, I anticipate they will providing Treasury verify them in the time frame. But I want to make this point again: we’ve lodged the policy costing that tells you how we’re funding it. Tony Abbott hasn’t, not for one policy, not for one policy.

JOURNALIST: I’m from the pacific media.

WONG: Hello, yes I saw some of your collegues.

JOURNALIST: Australian media has almost said it’s a foregone conclusion that the Labor Party will not be back in government. Us in the pacific we don’t make a call

like that straight away before the elections. I noticed most of the Australian journalists in the media doing that. What’s your comments about that?

WONG: Well, what the media say in Australia is up to the media. What I’d say is this: we will fight for every vote, for every vote between now and when polls close and the reason Labor people will fight for every vote is because the things we’re fighting for matter.

We’re fighting always for an Australia that is about the fair go. We’re fighting always for an Australia where a kid from a disadvantaged background can have a better opportunity to be the best who they can be. We are fighting always for a stronger health system. And today, on the 30th anniversary of a great Labor reform that the Liberal Party opposed, and opposed, and opposed time and again, Medicare, we’re reminded it’s a Labor governments and their commitment to a fair go for all Australians that make this country strong.

Thank you very much.


Communications Unit: T 03 8625 5111

Authorised by G. Wright, Australian Labor Party, 5/9 Sydney Avenue, Barton, ACT, 2600