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Transcript of doorstop interview: Darwin: 23 April 2009: visit to Darwin; Coalition's plan for economic recovery; Kevin Rudd running up the white flag.

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23 April 2009


Subjects: Visit to Darwin; Coalition’s plan for economic recovery; Kevin Rudd running up the white flag.



It’s wonderful for Lucy and I to be back in the Territory here in Darwin. It’s a wonderful visit for us. We’re meeting leaders, community leaders. We’ve obviously said farewell to a very important community leader this morning; a very moving ceremony. We’re also going to see Len Notaras at the Hospital today. He and his team have been doing heroic work in attending to the victims of the tragic boat explosion on Ashmore Reef recently. We’ll also be speaking to the Northern Command, visiting Robertson Barracks. We’ll be having a Jobs Forum tomorrow with Senator Nigel Scullion. Our key focus is jobs, jobs, jobs.

The big difference between us and the Labor Party on the economic front is that we have a plan for jobs. I see Mr Swan is now saying he’s not going to rule out increasing taxes. So no sooner have they handed out $23 billion, they’re now wanting to raise taxes. A lot of people will find that doesn’t make much sense. There seems to be a lack of leadership on the economic front from the Government. Now we have a clear set of policies which are focused on small business, on driving employment, on making it easier for small business to put people on the payroll and keep them there, lowering the cost of employing people in small businesses. Those are among the issues we’ll be talking about at the small business forum tomorrow. And of course on Saturday we’ll be joining with Territorians at the Dawn Service for Anzac Day.


The IMF has come out quite clearly in support of the Government’s fiscal stimulus, surely you’ve got to concede if the IMF is coming out that way that the Government has done right, at least to some degree with that?


Well I wouldn’t agree with that. The reality is that governments around the world are spending money. Some are spending it more effectively than others. You’ve got to judge every dollar that governments spend by what you get out of it and Mr Rudd has borrowed $23 billion and he’s given it away in cash splashes in four months - that’s nearly 2.5 per cent of GDP - no one could have imagined that was possible a year ago. But that’s what he’s done. He said it would create 75,000 jobs. It hasn’t created one. Now that’s the big difference: Mr Rudd is spending and borrowing to no effect. We have a positive plan for recovery.


We have developed that plan through meetings like the one we’re going to have tomorrow, listening to small business. We’ve built up a six-point plan for recovery focused on small business which involves giving real tax relief to small businesses, lowering the cost of their employing Australians by rebating a proportion of the Superannuation Guarantee Contribution, by allowing them to roll losses backwards to in effect reclaim tax paid in past years and offset it against losses in current years.

These are all important changes which will make it easier for small business in particular - that’s the front line of the economy, that’s the engine room of the economy - make it easier for them to put people on the payroll and above all, keep them there.


Can you name one country that’s been able to protect their economy from this downturn?


Well every country is facing this global downturn. Some countries are being more effective in the way they respond to it. A good example is China. China is focusing its economic stimulus, its spending on infrastructure, spending on economic infrastructure. Mr Rudd has spent $23 billion in cash handouts. It’s great for his popularity but it hasn’t created any jobs.

I go around Australia and I listen to people talking about the infrastructure; the roads, the ports, the airports, the freeways that are not getting funded by the Rudd Government. They say, why is he giving away $23 billion dollars in cash handouts but he’s not doing the F3 link in the lower Hunter, he’s not investing in the Gladstone Airport or the missing rail link in central Queensland.

There are a range of projects right around the country - and I’m sure we’ll hear plenty about them tomorrow here in Darwin - where people are saying, where is the money being spent? So it’s not good enough for a government to say, oh we’re spending money. The question is - what are you spending it on and what are you getting out of it? And if all you’re getting is popularity, that’s not doing anything for jobs. Remember, Mr Rudd said in December the cash splash then would create 75,000 jobs. It hasn’t created one.

In February, remember, he said that he wasn’t going to say a recession was inevitable because that would be running up the white flag. Well now he can’t say the word ‘recession’ too often.

He wants to blame everything on international circumstances so that he isn’t held responsible. Well, he is responsible, he is the Prime Minister. That’s the difference between Mr Rudd and me - I have a positive plan for recovery, measures which will cost the Australian public a lot less in terms of spending, incur much less debt but will deliver jobs. That’s the difference - we’re focused on jobs.


You said on the radio this morning that you wanted to… you were trying to meet asylum seekers in the hospital. If you did get that chance, what would you have said to them?


We’re going to the hospital. It’s not intended... it’s not a media visit or a political visit. Like all of us, we are filled with compassion for the victims of this terrible accident and admiration and thanks to the medical staff led by Len Notaras that have done such a great job in caring for them.


So Lucy and I are going to go there and thank Dr Notaras and his team for their great work. If we are able to meet people who have been injured and provide some measure, some sign of our compassion and caring for them, we’d be happy to do so, but really we’ll be in the hands of Dr Notaras.

And I just want to say to you that this is not a visit, it is not a visit that is intended to be a political statement or a media statement. It is really a question of Lucy and I, as two human beings, saying to Dr Notaras and his team, thank you for your hard work, your heroism, sharing our compassion for the victims of this terrible accident. Thank you.