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Transcript of doorstop: Monday, 11 May 2009: Budget; need for a plan for economic recovery; paid parental leave; Baby Bonus; Labor's debt.



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Mon, 11th May 2009

Turnbull Doorstop - Budget, need for a plan for economic recovery, paid parental leave, Baby Bonus, Labor’s debt...

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP Leader of the Opposition

Subjects: budget; need for a plan for economic recovery; paid parental leave; Baby Bonus; Labor’s debt; Labor’s broken promise on private health insurance rebate.

E&OE

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Tomorrow night’s budget has to provide a plan for recovery for our economy. It has to provide a plan that will deliver jobs for these young Australians we’ve just been speaking with today. They’re learning the trades that enable them today to build the Australia of tomorrow. But they need a Government with a plan for recovery; not a Government that just has plans for spending one minute, spending like Paris Hilton one minute and then cutting back on essential services the next. Mr Swan has to deliver a coherent strategy that will ensure that Australians have the confidence to invest, employers have the confidence to hire and these young people know that they will have a strong future in a prosperous nation.

QUESTION:

So Mr Turnbull, can I ask you about tomorrow night. Are you supporting paid parental leave?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

We certainly support paid parental leave as long as mums who work at home, who stay at home and work at home with their children are treated fairly and of course as long as the Government demonstrates how it’s going to be paid for. But at the moment what we’ve been told in the leaks appears to be not so much the delivery of paid parental leave but an election promise for 2011.

QUESTION:

Do you support the 18 weeks?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

We support a paid parental leave program along the lines that has been discussed as long as, after seeing the details, we can see that it treats mums who stay at home fairly. That’s always been our position.

QUESTION:

What about business saying that women won’t be worse off but if an existing scheme is better for an employee that woman will be able to still access that scheme?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look these are all among the details that we’ve got to look at tomorrow night. This is one of the unsatisfactory things about this pre-budget process as we all know. The Government leaks out bits and pieces in dribs and drabs, and then when you ask them for the details they throw their hands up in mock horror and say they couldn’t possibly comment on what’s in the budget. Let’s see the detail tomorrow night.

QUESTION:

And what do you think the impact will be on business with this [inaudible]?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well again we’ll see what the final package looks like tomorrow night. Obviously it has to support business, it has to treat mums at home fairly, it has to be affordable. All of these are important details but really the Government knows what’s in the budget obviously and they’ve leaked out bits and pieces for the benefit of, I suppose, their political strategy but we’ll… they will have to deliver all of the detail tomorrow night.

QUESTION:

Do you think women should still get the Baby Bonus if they take the parental leave?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I think the proposal has always been that parental leave is in substitution for the Baby Bonus just as, if I may say, when we introduced the Baby Bonus it was delivered and structured as, in effect, an alternative to paid parental leave which benefited all mothers.

QUESTION:

What’s your response to the Treasurer’s claims that the previous Howard Government’s to blame for the size of the deficit?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Mr Swan, you know, he’s just all over the place, isn’t he. He’s like his boss. One minute they’re spending like Paris Hilton; next minute they’re cutting back on essential services. One minute they’re praising John Howard and Peter Costello - through gritted teeth I’d have to say - after the IMF reported on the strong financial position Australia was left in by the Coalition Government. Now that he faces a bit of rough weather, he wants to blame it all on John Howard. Really, tomorrow night Mr Swan’s got to get his story straight. That’s the big challenge for him.

QUESTION:

[inaudible]

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well let’s be quite clear about this - the Howard Government paid off $96 billion of Labor debt. The Howard Government set aside $45 billion cash in the bank that enabled us to pay in advance, provide for the previously unfunded pensions of Commonwealth public servants and Defence personnel. We were able to put billions away into funds for education and health. The Howard Government used those years of strong economic growth wisely and prudently, and that is why Mr Rudd was dealt the best hand of economic cards any prime minister could ever ask for.

You know when he compares Australia’s position with that of other countries, we must never forget that Australia went in to this global downturn with no government debt at the federal level. None. Why? Because of the Coalition paying off all of Labor’s debt. Other countries went into this downturn with heavy debts and now of course they’re heavier still. So the principal reason why Australia is doing better than other countries, other developed countries is because of the strong financial state it was left in by the Coalition, and you don’t have to take my word for that. The IMF and the OECD have said precisely the same thing.

QUESTION:

One more question on health insurance. You’ve talked about it yesterday as a broken election promise, the changes to private health insurance. Are you going to block the measures if they come through the budget?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

We will assess the budget in its entirety but what we’ve been told about the changes to the private health insurance rebate are unquestionably a broken election promise. There was no election promise that was made more repeatedly or more emphatically by Mr Rudd than that there would be no change to the private health insurance rebate and apparently they are going to abandon it. Anyway, we will see tomorrow night.

Thanks very much.