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Transcript of interview with John Laws: Radio 2SM: 31 January 2011: Julia Gillard's flood tax; reconstruction in Queensland



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

31 January 2011

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

Subjects: Julia Gillard’s flood tax; reconstruction in Queensland.

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

JOHN LAWS:

On the line we have Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition. Tony, good morning.

TONY ABBOTT:

G’day John.

JOHN LAWS:

How are you doing?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I’m fine mate. It’s a beautiful day here in Sydney. I’m sitting on my verandah doing some paperwork and you can probably hear the cicadas in the background.

JOHN LAWS:

I really can. It’s a wonderful city, isn’t it?

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s a gorgeous city. God’s great garden you used to call it and I think that’s a marvellous description.

JOHN LAWS:

Yep. That’s what I still call it and will continue to do so.

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TONY ABBOTT:

And John look, I should join everyone else in welcoming you back on air. I remember having a very nice lunch with you about a year ago where we canvassed this very possibility. So it’s good to see that it’s happened.

JOHN LAWS:

That’s very nice of you Tony. Time to have lunch again too.

TONY ABBOTT:

Look forward to it.

JOHN LAWS:

Ok, whenever you can. What do you think of the performance so far of the Prime Minister?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I don’t want to be a commentator and so I’d rather talk about the particular things that she’s done or failed to do and I think there’s been a lot of dud decisions. I think the East Timor detention centre was a very bad decision and I think it’s never going to happen. I think that the climate change…

JOHN LAWS:

Well excuse me, if it’s never going to happen it doesn’t matter if it was a bad decision, does it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, we’ve wasted a lot of time and energy on it.

JOHN LAWS:

Have we wasted money?

TONY ABBOTT:

I don’t know; we’ve certainly sent lots of our senior ministers to East Timor on what I think is a wild goose chase. Then there was the climate change people’s convention which only lasted a couple of weeks after the election which was plainly a bad decision. She’s reversed a lot of her election policies such as cash for clunkers, which suggests that they were bad decisions to start with. I think this recent decision to whack on a flood tax is a very bad decision. It’s not that the money shouldn’t be spent - of course it should be spent - but I think people, they like the idea of prudent government having the wherewithal to meet these contingencies. I think they also like the idea of people giving of their own volition which has been done generously.

JOHN LAWS:

I think that’s right because Australians I think are probably some of the most generous people in the world. But why don’t we simply have a disaster fund in place?

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TONY ABBOTT:

Good question, John, and this is why a surplus is important because the best possible contingency fund is a strong surplus and if you’ve got a strong surplus you can meet whatever disasters come. We were able to meet what was probably the biggest social and economic disaster, or economic disaster which had a lot of potential to be a social disaster, namely the global financial crisis, because we had surpluses at that time running in the order of about $20 billion a year and the sad thing is that we’ve blown the dough without all that much to show for it.

JOHN LAWS:

Well, virtually nothing to show for it.

TONY ABBOTT:

No. We’ve got a lot of over-priced school halls and a bit of minor infrastructure. But I think the sad thing is that we’ve now got a Government which is addicted to spending and I think deep down this is why they wanted this flood tax, because I suspect it may become permanent if this Government has its way and it will fund a whole bunch of new stimulus projects particularly in marginal seats in Queensland.

JOHN LAWS:

Yeah. Queensland is in a hell of a mess; it’s a tragedy.

TONY ABBOTT:

Look it is, it is. It is heartbreaking to see what’s happened to Queensland. On the other hand, it was heart-warming to see the response of the public to it all, not just the donations but the tens of thousands of people who just turned up to help. I was in the Murphys Creek Recovery Centre last Friday and there’s a guy called Peter Souter who was in charge of that. He has just retired from the Army as a Major, he had opened up his kind of a commercial camping ground about 12 months ago, got a lot of damage to the infrastructure around his property. When he could finally get through across the creek and he saw what was going on with his neighbours, he kind of put himself in charge of the recovery centre and is doing and absolutely extraordinary job and that is typical of the kind of spontaneous leadership that you get from Australians in times of trouble and it’s been repeated in dozens and dozens of places right around our country over the last few weeks and it does show that Australians have good hearts.

JOHN LAWS:

The sure do and very big hearts too.

TONY ABBOTT:

Yeah, that’s right, John.

JOHN LAWS:

Very, very big hearts. Even when they can’t afford to give, they still manage to give.

TONY ABBOTT:

That’s absolutely right and the stoicism with which so many people have met these disasters; there was a lady called Mrs Hand in Dalby who when I visited her, her house, which she calls, “it mightn’t be grand but it’s my palace”, which she’d lived in for many years with her late husband. It had been knocked badly by the

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floods, she couldn’t wait to get it cleaned up and get back in. She’s been inundated twice since then so, these are the, the natural shocks which people in Queensland have suffered.

JOHN LAWS:

Tell me, what has Julia Gillard done wrong?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think, as I said, she’s made a whole series of dud decisions and the point about being Prime Minister is you’ve got to make right decisions. I mean, every day…

JOHN LAWS:

Well, she obviously thinks they’re right.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well and I beg to disagree. I respectfully disagree on, as I said, a whole host of things. I mean, I could talk about water policy for instance…

JOHN LAWS:

Yes. Easily, easily.

TONY ABBOTT:

You know, before the election she was going to endorse the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s plan sight unseen. After the election, when it was released, she ran away from it at a million miles an hour and that was fair enough because it’s a bad plan, but you don’t…

JOHN LAWS:

It’s a good thing she did run away from it then, isn’t it?

TONY ABBOTT:

And what she’s got to do now is scrap the plan and start again in a way the acknowledges that, yes, the environment is important but in the end what is critical is having the Murray-Darling Basin communities keep their economic base and that requires water for farming.

JOHN LAWS:

True. Have you got any more Elvis albums?

TONY ABBOTT:

I’ve been singing Suspicious Minds when the kids aren’t in the car because if I try to sing it when the kids are in the car, they demand that I put something else on.

JOHN LAWS:

That’s a great song, isn’t it?

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TONY ABBOTT:

Oh, isn’t it just?

JOHN LAWS:

Didn’t he sing some wonderful stuff?

TONY ABBOTT:

Oh, look, John. I mean, you know, from the mid-60’s through to the mid-70’s was a golden age for popular music and my kids tell me there’s good stuff on now but the interesting thing is that when I’m in the car and I’m allowed 2CH or something like that on, they all…

JOHN LAWS:

Hey, hey, hey…

TONY ABBOTT:

Sorry, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t mention a rival channel…

JOHN LAWS:

It’s not a rival…

TONY ABBOTT:

But when I’m allowed to listen to what I would describe as golden oldies, it’s amazing how many of them the kids start singing along to as well.

JOHN LAWS:

Well, if you listen to me, you’re listening to a golden oldie!

TONY ABBOTT:

As gold as they get.

JOHN LAWS:

And bloody near as old as they get too.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, there’s one older chap on that station that I can’t mention…

JOHN LAWS:

Oh, yes, but he’s considerably older.

TONY ABBOTT:

He is, but he’s going very strong still.

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JOHN LAWS:

Oh yeah, he’s good, you can always tell when he’s going to ad-lib to, he puts his glasses on… And you can hear the walker rattling up to the…

TONY ABBOTT:

Come on, come on, don’t be tough. This is a day to be genial John!

JOHN LAWS:

I am genial, always genial to Bob. He knows that. I think he’s a terrific survivor. Good to talk to you Tony, I hope we get to talk again very, very soon.

TONY ABBOTT:

Ok, John.

JOHN LAWS:

Lots of luck.

TONY ABBOTT:

Ok and you.

JOHN LAWS:

Thank you. Bye.

[ends]