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Transcript of interview with Michael Bailey: Radio 4RO, Rockhampton: 18 August 2010: Labor’s spending waste; infrastructure; Labor’s mining tax; Election 2010.



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

18 August 2010

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL BAILEY, RADIO 4RO, ROCKHAMPTON

Subjects: Labor’s spending waste; infrastructure; Labor’s mining tax; Election 2010.

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

Greetings omitted.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

Welcome to central Queensland. Crackerjack morning, isn’t it.

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, it’s lovely to be here. Obviously it’s great to be with Michelle Landry our candidate and nice to be here in Rocky.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

Yeah, Michelle, you must be ecstatic that the Leader’s come in and given you some good moral support with only days to go.

MICHELLE LANDRY:

We are very excited, Michael. We’ve had a lot of people asking and we’ve got him here. So we’re very happy.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

Also, I’ve got Brad from Paint Place and being a small business man he was thinking to himself I’ve got to ask the man who actually could be running the country in the next couple of days some questions and Brad, what are your biggest concerns?

BRAD:

My biggest concern is debt. Tony, I think you’ve covered that a little bit in your interviews and stuff and I think that’s the biggest thing for confidence and interest rates.

TONY ABBOTT:

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Well, I think that’s right, Brad. I mean, when the Government is spending like a drunken sailor they’ve got to get the money from somewhere and it’s either higher taxes or higher interest rates and that’s bad for business. I reckon that if government tightens its belt that would be good because that means that it’s taking less money from the public and that means that the public don’t have to tighten their belts as much. I mean, we all know running a household budget just how hard it is to make ends meet and that’s why when government wastes money on overprices school halls, on pink batts that catch fire in your roof, that’s disastrous and people think ‘hang on a minute, these guys are ripping us off.’

BRAD:

That’s right and confidence. We just find when interest rates go up we just have that big decline in confidence and retail spending seems to go down.

TONY ABBOTT:

I think that’s right and in Queensland in particular you’ve got the threat of the mining tax and all the places up and down the coast here are critically dependant upon mining. I mean, the prosperity of Rockhampton, of Gladstone, of Mackay, of Townsville, even Cairns, because there’s a lot of mining activity in North Queensland. It really depends upon the mining industry and this new tax will give Australia’s mines the highest tax rate in the world and I just don’t see how the Government can claim to be decent economic managers when they want to clobber our most successful industry.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

Now, Michelle’s been going around to all the mining towns right across central Queensland and she tells us on the ground the miners are very, very nervous. Is that right Michelle?

MICHELLE LANDRY:

Yes they are, Michael. They’re worried their contracts aren’t going to be renewed. People are, you know, losing cars and houses out there. The money’s just not out there. There’s a lot of very scared people in the mining communities.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

So are you finding that, Tony, you know, going around Australia?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, absolutely right and you see headlines in the Financial Review this morning. A lot of the international investment houses say terrible damage has been done to Australia’s reputation and if we don’t get the investment we won’t get the jobs because every mine has a limited life. It’s the next mine coming on which gives you the security and the certainty of a job in the future and that means you’ve got to have the investment and if people think they’re not going to be able to make a profit in mining, well they don’t do the investment, you don’t get the jobs. So this is a terrible, terrible problem and I keep saying to people the best way to persuade international investors that Australia’s a safe place to do business, get rid of the Government which has put this mining tax on.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

And talking about investments, you’re asking mums and dads to invest in infrastructure instead of the government. That seems to be pretty logical. Do you think there’ll be a good uptake?

TONY ABBOTT:

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Well, let’s wait and see. Certainly about two decades ago we had a form of these infrastructure bonds and we did get quite a lot of investment in infrastructure at that time. What we’re trying to do is to make it relatively more advantageous, tax advantageous, to invest in infrastructure projects vis a vis other kinds of projects and look, there’s a $700 billion infrastructure backlog in this country. If we’re going to tackle it any time soon let’s see if we can get some of that superannuation money into infrastructure.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

Do you feel partly responsible for the lack of infrastructure that’s happened in Australia? Because we went into the election last time with a huge surplus which got spent overnight. But what about the roads and the hospitals and the schools? Should they have been looked at ten years ago?

TONY ABBOTT:

There’s always an argument with the wisdom of hindsight we should have done differently. But the point is I think not to recriminate over the past. The thing is to worry what do we do better in the future and the last think we want to do is waste money on pink batts and overpriced school halls when we’ve got bottlenecks in our ports, we’ve got goat tracks between major regional towns. We haven’t got proper motorways in our cities. I mean, if we get better rail, better road, better ports that makes a lot more sense than shoving pink batts into roofs and building school halls for schools that have already got them.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

Well let me tell you, Michelle Landry can tell you, the goat track actually starts just outside of Gympie because that’s south east Queensland. That’s where all the money is going and that goat track goes all the way up to Cook Town and it’s just outrageous. So as a Coalition with Michelle by your side what can you do for central Queensland?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, what we need to do with infrastructure is have proper planning and what we said yesterday was that Infrastructure Australia needs to be much more transparent. It’s got to have a 15 year forward rolling plan for infrastructure. Every major infrastructure item has got to have a clear, published cost benefit analysis so that we can properly prioritise these projects and so you don’t have silly situations where the Federal and the New South Wales Governments, for instance, in a poll driven panic about their seats in western Sydney suddenly announce a rail road, a $2.6 billion railway, which wasn’t even on the state Government’s planning wish list 10 days earlier. I mean, that’s the kind of stupidity that we get when you don’t have a proper planning process and that’s what we want to see masterminded by Infrastructure Australia.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

So how are you going to get people out of the city into rural areas and you know they classify Rockhampton as a country town, god knows why, you know we’re in God’s own country here. We’ve got everything here, we’ve got the river.

TONY ABBOTT:

A great regional city, that’s what Rockhampton is.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

Exactly right. But they treat us like country cousins. Anything out of Gympie is a country cousin. How are you going to get the people from south east Queensland or Melbourne or Sydney or Perth to actually come

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into our region? Because we’re desperately short still of teachers, nurses, doctors, professionals. It’s a terrible situation where we’ve become a fly-in fly-out not just for miners but for professional people and even lawyers.

TONY ABBOTT:

Yeah, I think, Michael, economic opportunity is what will bring people in regional areas and obviously mining has been such an incredible magnet. Tourism to a great extent in many places has been good and obviously government can be a magnet too. I mean, you take Townsville. A lot of the expansion of Townsville has been driven by the military and by the university. You’ve got a university here in Rockhampton, that’s a good thing. So look, there are all sorts of ways of getting people into town. The important thing is when they’re here they’ve got to have the appropriate level of infrastructure and services.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

So, what are you talking long term? I mean, what would you actually drag in the city to make it more liveable? Because our Mayor Brad Carter wants us to be one of the most liveable cities in the world. But it’s very hard to get the professionals in.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, that’s true. But this is where you’ve got to come back to the basics, Michael. Now this mining tax is going to stop Rockhampton and so many other places in regional Queensland stone dead and what’s your local Labor Member done to stop the mining tax? I mean, I ask you, Michael, has your local Labor Member done anything to protect local mining jobs by speaking out against Labor’s mining tax?

MICHAEL BAILEY:

Well of course the answer’s no.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well this is the point.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

But then again, you know, she says without that mining tax they won’t get that $45 million to do the Yeppen roundabout. Now, I know that snowballed because Ken O’Dowd along with Michelle Landry got together and said hey, we can pony up $25 million for the Yeppen roundabout and then all of a sudden that snowballed into the Labor Party saying well actually that’s silly. It’s not going to be $25 million you’ve got to pony up $40 million and they’ve come up with a plan. Now, it was good that the federal election is on because all of a sudden that jam tin is finally being opened and we’re getting stuff that we should have had 10 years ago.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, that’s a very good point, Michael. But you see the thing about the mining tax is that it will kill the boom on which all of these places depend. Now, this is always the problem with Labor. Labor is addicted to spending and they want to try to improve the situation by raising more taxes. The Coalition thinks that the best way to improve the economy is to get government spending under control and we’ve identified in the course of this campaign, going into this campaign some $30 billion worth of recurrent federal government expenditure that we think is unnecessary. To give you one example we’re going to reduce the number of federal public servants by 12,000 and that’s not going to cut services it’s going to mean that there’s less fat in the federal government. Because we’ve actually had a 20,000 person growth in the federal public service

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over the last three years and I don’t think anyone’s noticed that much improvement in federal public services over the last three years. So let’s reduce the number of federal public servants by natural attrition. That will give us more money to spend on things like your roundabout here in Rocky and that’s our approach to try to take the fat out of government. Labor’s approach by contrast is always raise taxes so they can keep spending like a drunken sailor, often on bad things like these pink batts and overpriced school halls.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

So you’re saying we’ve been over-governed all these years? Even when, you know, the Coalition were in power?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, again I think the important thing is what do we do going forward and if you’re the Coalition you try to keep government spending under control and you don’t whack great big new taxes on people. If you’re the Labor Party you spend, often wastefully, and you hit people with big new taxes and again I just issue this challenge to the local Labor Member. What has she done to stop the mining tax? This is the big threat to jobs and prosperity here in Capricornia. What has she done to save her people from her Government’s jobs destroying mining tax?

BRAD:

Can I just ask a question, Michael? We’ve got a store out in Emerald, a Paint Place store there and when we found there’s a bit of resurgence, a bit of recovery from the economic crisis. And then when the whole mining tax thing sort of opened up we just saw instantly that town that was just coming good again, because they were looking at cutting projects through the economic, you know, crisis. And it was just starting to come back and as soon as that tax came it just flattened the place and now it’s you know, people are getting I think a little bit more on to it. But I really can’t see why people talk about boat people and this sort of thing in elections and just as a voter’s point of view it sort of comes up every election. Why do people even bother about that when you’ve got something like this mining tax that can cripple a state like Queensland?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think they’re obviously separate issues, Brad, and I mean I think in their own way each of them count. But a government has got to keep control of its borders. I mean, the mark of a sovereign country is that you are controlling your own borders. But you’re absolutely right. In a place like Queensland the mining tax is an immediate threat. It’s a clear and present danger to the prosperity of Queensland and that’s why I say all of these Labor members in regional Queensland, they’ve done nothing to protect their areas against the mining tax and that’s why they should all get voted out. Because if you want to change the tax you’ve got to change the government. If you want to change the government you’ve got to change your local Labor member, get rid of that person.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

Now, you’ve got to get 17 extra seats. How’s it shaping up because the polls, ever 12 hours, you’re ahead, she’s ahead, you know, even stevens and now there’s a swing to Labor. How are you feeling? You know, you’re out there on the coalface is it going to be really to the wire?

TONY ABBOTT:

Yeah, look, Michael, this is going to be a very close election. A very, very close election. People are incredibly disappointed with the Labor Government. A lot of people in Queensland, in particular, feel really ripped off because they voted for Kevin 07 and the faceless men of the part executed the elected Prime Minister. That’s a terrible business. A lot of people feel very uneasy. What does it say about our democracy

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that within two and half years of electing a Prime Minister, the faceless men of the factions can get rid of him? So, lot of unhappiness with the Government, but it’s very difficult to beat a first term government. This Government has been monumentally awful, but still, it’s 79 years since a first term government was beaten so I’m not just running against the might of the incumbent State Labor Government and Federal Labor Government and the union movement, I’m also running against 79 years of history, but with Michelle and other great candidates here in Queensland, I think we can do it.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

One final question before you go, because I know you’re very busy and you’re on the hop, $110 million a day spent, why aren’t the citizens of Australia so concerned about that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think they are concerned because, you know, even in 2012-13, when we are suppose, on the Government’s figures, to go back into surplus, we’ll be paying something like $6 billion that year in interest, now that’s eight tertiary hospitals that you could build, I mean that’s many, many miles of motorway that you could build and instead, the money is going down the drain in interest and again it’s because the Labor Party can’t control it’s own spending, they can’t be trusted with money.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

So, you can give us a rock sure guarantee that if you get back in to power or when you get into power, you’re not going to forget Capricornia because, hopefully, Michelle will be in there for you and Ken O’Dowd, so you know, we need to, because we always seem to be forgotten.

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I will not forget the seats that return a Coalition government and I’m hoping that Capricornia and Flynn will be those seats.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

Sounds good to me, Tony Abbott.

MICHELLE LANDRY:

Going to try hard anyway.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

Yeah, that’s all systems go, isn’t it Michelle?

MICHELLE LANDRY:

It sure is.

MICHAEL BAILEY:

Ok, then, well best luck to you, Michelle and Ken O’Dowd, I know that they’re both working hard for the Coalition and it’s good to see a real tough race happening in our region. Tony Abbott, thanks very much for coming in and sharing your thoughts on 994RO.

TONY ABBOTT:

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Thanks so much, Michael. Thank you.

[ends]