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Transcript of doorstop: Monday, 11 August 2008: job losses; Rudd visit to WA; Fuel watch; opinion polls.



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Mon, 11th August 2008 JULIE BISHOP DOORSTOP - JOB LOSSES, RUDD VISIT TO WA, FUEL WATCH, AND OPINION POLLS...

The Hon Julie Bishop MP Deputy Leader of the Opposition Shadow Minister for Employment, Business and Workplace Relations

Acting Leader of the Opposition

JULIE BISHOP:

The fact that the Reserve Bank has predicted job losses of 100,000 in the coming months is of great concern, particularly because in May this year Labor’s first budget also had Treasury predictions of 134,000 job losses within 12 months. I have repeatedly asked the Government to come clean, to release the Treasury analysis of those 134,000 job losses. Which parts of the economy, where and why Treasury predict 134,000 job losses? So far the Government has failed to provide that information. Now the Government must clarify whether the 100,000 job losses predicted by the Reserve Bank are on top of the 134,000 job losses by the Treasury because that would mean a quarter of a million people out of work.

Of more concern was this morning Julia Gillard admitted that the Labor Government has no plans to save hundreds of thousands of jobs. Labor has no plans to save hundreds of thousands of jobs. Labor went to the last election promising to fight inflation, promising to reduce prices particularly for groceries and petrol and all we’ve seen have been two stunts - Fuel Watch, and there is a Senate enquiry that has received evidence to show that it is a waste of time and money, a fundamentally flawed scheme and now Grocery Watch which is also being universally condemned as a waste of taxpayers funds.

JOURNALIST:

Will you be trying to track down Mr Rudd when he visits Western Australia?

JULIE BISHOP:

Mr Rudd has some very serious questions to answer. First he must tell Western Australian’s whether the 134,000 job losses will occur in this state and if so, where and in which parts of the economy, and in which businesses. He has to answer why there was a $2 billion dollar tax hike on gas condensate. A two billion dollar tax hike on the North-West shelf which we believe will be passed on to domestic gas users in this state and he must also answer why he has done nothing to reduce grocery prices or petrol prices after promising to do so at the last election.

JOURNALIST:

Aren’t they a result of international factors and higher oil prices that the Government can do nothing about?

JULIE BISHOP:

The fact is Kevin Rudd led the Australian people to believe that if he were elected at the last election he would take action on petrol prices. It all very well to blame international oil prices now but he didn’t say that before the last election. He led the Australian public to believe that he would take action to reduce petrol prices. We’ve seen a Petrol Commissioner appointed. He has now resigned and on his resignation he said he had no powers to reduce petrol prices and we’ve seen a Fuel Watch scheme proposed which is fundamentally flawed. Now Mr Rudd should admit that he has taken no action at all to reduce petrol prices and stop this folly of Fuel Watch.

JOURNALIST:

What would the Liberal Party do to reduce fuel prices?

JULIE BISHOP:

The Liberal Party has a policy which we announced in the budget in reply that we would cut excise on fuel. We would also continue to fight inflation as we did when we were in government to ensure that inflation is kept within the Reserve Bank’s bands. Now Kevin Rudd went to the last election saying that he would keep prices down and he has done nothing. We’ve seen all the spin and no substance.

JOURNALIST:

The Government is still saying that it is going to push Fuel Watch through the Senate (inaudible)?

JULIE BISHOP:

The evidence before the Senate enquiry, and remember that the Opposition had to force the Government to have an enquiry into Fuel Watch because we did not believe the Government when it said that Fuel Watch would assist in reducing prices, all of the evidence before the Senate enquiry is that it will not reduce prices. It is anti competitive and it could in fact increase prices. Now here in Western Australia the Fuel Watch scheme is fundamentally flawed. People can be fined for reducing prices after they have fixed their petrol prices for 24 hours. In WA we have the ridiculous situation where the petrol retailer can actually be fined for reducing petrol prices and Mr Rudd wants to roll out that flawed scheme across Australia.

JOURNALIST:

On anther matter, Brendan Nelson’s approval rating has dropped in the latest newspoll. What’s the party’s reaction to that?

JULIE BISHOP:

Well opinion polls are one thing but on every occasion that the voters have been asked to cast a vote since the November election there has been a massive swing against Labor. In the Gippsland by-election where both Brendan Nelson and Kevin Rudd took a very high profile role in that by-election there was a 10 percent swing against Labor. We’ve seen a swing against Labor in the Northern Territory and I believe that there will be a massive swing against Labor here in Western Australia at the next State election.

JOURNALIST:

Is that more evidence then that it’s Brendan Nelson that’s the problem rather than the Liberal Party?

JULIE BISHOP:

Opinion polls are one thing but when people actually have to focus on the issues and cast a vote they are reflecting their disillusionment and their dismay with Labor Governments across the country. The result in the Gippsland by-election was almost a 10 percent swing against Labor and about an 8 percent swing against Labor in the Northern Territory election. If there is a swing anything like that in Western Australia the Carpenter Government will be thrown out of office. People are not prepared to put up with arrogant Labor Governments across this country - incompetent Governments which have mismanaged their state economies.

JOURNALIST:

Does it help Brendan Nelson that there is still all this talk of Costello coming back as leader especially a facebook group being created trying to get Peter Costello back and that Liberal members have actually signed up as friends for it?

JULIE BISHOP:

Well there are many facebook sites and a number of people have support groups on them. The fact is Peter Costello made a statement at the last election last year and I am not aware of him changing his mind.

JOURNALIST:

That can’t help that Liberal Party members are fuelling speculation by joining up or pushing this site or still talking about Peter Costello?

JULIE BISHOP:

Peter Costello is one of the most competent Treasurer’s this country has ever seen. In fact I believe he is the greatest Treasurer this country has seen and of course people would like Peter to stay in politics but it’s a question for Peter Costello and he made a statement last November and I’m not aware of any change in that statement.

JOURNALIST:

But even comments like that, are you trying to get him back in the fold?

JULIE BISHOP:

Well Peter knows that the Liberal Party would welcome him staying in parliament. Any parliamentary party would want to have someone of Peter Costello’s talent in their ranks but it’s a matter for Peter. He has served this country as Treasurer for almost 12 years and he’s earned the right to make a decision about his future in his own time.

JOURNALIST:

Kevin Rudd promised open accountability do you think he should be forced to reveal the Government’s options when it comes to a cut on fuel excise?

JULIE BISHOP:

Absolutely. The secret Treasury documents that were revealed under the Freedom of Information laws just show the hypocrisy within the Rudd Government. At the time that the Rudd Government was attacking the Coalition for suggesting a cut in taxes on petrol the Government was actually asking Treasury to do that very same modelling. They were considering options for a cut in taxes on petrol and then criticised the Coalition for suggesting it. But all the Rudd-Government came up with was this silly stunt in Fuel Watch which will not reduce petrol prices. Kevin Rudd failed to deliver on his election promises.

JOURNALIST:

Is there anything you can do in the Senate to force the Government to release these documents?

JULIE BISHOP:

We no longer have control of the Senate. We don’t have a majority in the Senate and Labor will have to work with the five Greens Senators and the two independents in relations to Senate matters but we will most certainly be pursuing the Labor Government over its failure to release information. As I said, there is Treasury analysis predicting 134,000 job losses within the next twelve months and the Labor Government is refusing to release that information. I think the Australian public deserves to know where those job losses will occur, in which sections of the economy and why? The Australian public deserves to know whether the 100,000 job losses predicted by the Reserve Bank are on top of the 134,000 job losses predicted by Treasury.

JOURNALIST:

With respect to tariffs. Just talking about a fuel cut excise of few cents, isn’t that fiddling at the edges, isn’t the bigger issue that oil prices are inevitable going to go up and fuel prices inevitably are going to go up so we need to encourage a change in behaviour rather than just trying to give a couple of cent relief at the bowser?

JULIE BISHOP:

It’s not one or the other but the point is that Kevin Rudd promised people that he would take action on petrol prices. He went to the last election saying if you elect Kevin Rudd I will do something about petrol prices and he has failed to do it. The Coalition has come up with a policy that we should reduce tax on petrol. That is our philosophy. Wherever we can reduce tax we believe we should as well as changing behaviours and hoping people use more fuel efficient cars and the like. It’s not one thing or another but the point is Kevin Rudd led the Australian people to believe that he would take action on fuel prices and he has let them down badly.

JOURNALIST:

Getting back to your comments on AM this morning. Do you think Fuel Watch is dead?

JULIE BISHOP:

Well Fuel Watch is certainly mortally wounded we will just see what happens to it in the Senate. As I said this morning, it’s a question of who delivers the last rites.

JOURNALIST:

Just one more issue on Nelson. Can you confirm that the Liberal Party is united behind Nelson’s leadership at the moment despite the latest newspoll?

JULIE BISHOP:

Brendan Nelson was elected the leader of the Party and the Party is supporting Brendan Nelson as leader.