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Address to community morning tea.



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Thu, 17th December 2009

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION ADDRESS TO COMMUNITY MORNING TEA, WHITEHORSE CLUB

The Hon Tony Abbott MP

Leader of the Opposition

Thanks very much Phil, thanks very much Helen. It’s great to be here, it’s great to see so many enthusiastic local

people here. I really am invigorated and energised by your company, by your encouragement, by the sense I get

that you want to help us to build a better Australia, because in the end that is what it’s all about.

Now I haven’t come today to make a partisan political speech. But I do think that there is a sense of palpable

disappointment in our country today because we did change government two years ago with high hopes, you do

not elect a new government without having high hopes of that government. But I think Mr Rudd has disappointed

us. There is a lot of pressure on family budgets. We have had three interest rate rises in just three months. Mr

Rudd suggested that running the economy was easy. Well he had discovered that it is not easy at all and he has

not delivered to the Australian people the prosperity that I think we had a right to expect.

He also said that he was going to fix a lot of things. He was going to fix the public hospitals for instance. Now I

know that fixing public hospitals is not easy, but you shouldn’t make promises that you can’t keep and he did

promise that if the public hospitals weren’t fixed within 18 months he would take them over. He hasn’t taken them

over. What he has done is he has established yet another inquiry and having had the report of the inquiry he has

said now we need another inquiry. So, as I said, I don’t want to make a party political broadcast. But I think as the

Leader of the Opposition it is my job to try and articulate the concerns of the Australian people - and they want a

Government which delivers, they don’t want a Government which is all talk and no action.

Now I am just going to say a few words, if I may, about what is happening in Copenhagen. All of us want to see a

better environment. All of us understand that we only have one planet to live on; we have got to treat the planet

with respect, no doubt about that. My problem is: why does Mr Rudd think that the best way to save the

environment is to increase your cost of living? Why does he give us a tax policy and tell us that it is an

environment policy?

Now, I am all in favour of measures to improve the environment. In a few short weeks we will have out there an

excellent, strong, effective, economically and environmentally responsible policy on climate change - and I am

pleased to be with Alan from Latrobe Fertilisers here today who has already demonstrated some of the things

that you can do to improve the environment without a great big new tax.

So we will have a very strong climate change policy but it will be a policy that tackles the problem not a policy that

does a whole lot of other things while pretending to fix the environment.

Now I’m pleased that Mr Rudd is in Copenhagen. I know he is doing his best. I think it’s great to see a man who

is prepared to risk jetlag for his country the way Prime Minister Rudd seems so often ready to do. My worry is that

the more we see of Copenhagen the more it looks like a great big gravy train for people whose objective is not so

much the environment, but it is to get more for them by leaping on to the climate change bandwagon.

Now I am very concerned that Mr Rudd might do a bad deal for Australia over there. He is after all the Prime

Minister of this country not the Prime Minister of the world and my fear is, my fear is that he will sign us up to a

deal that hurts Australia’s economy but which doesn’t help the world environment because it is not a deal which

is matched by the countries that really are contributing very seriously to our environmental difficulties.

So I think that it’s very important that you have a government that delivers. My anxiety is that so far under Mr

Rudd that is not what we have got. I think it is very important for people like us, for gatherings like this, to send a

strong message to the Prime Minister: get on with the job, make things happen, we want results, we don’t want

just more process dressed up as good government.

I am really pleased to be here with you today. I’m going to take a few questions, so if any of you would like to

think of a few questions that would be good. But most of all I’m really thrilled to be with Helen and particularly with

Phil Barresi. As Phil said, we were colleagues in the Parliament for 11 and a half years. I think that while the

former government wasn’t perfect, it was a good government and it was great to have Phil’s comradeship in the

Parliament all that time.

Phil is someone who gets results. If it hadn’t been for Phil’s work we would not of had the Springvale level

crossing fixed up, here in this area. If it hadn’t been for Phil’s constant lobbying, the Scoresby road - I don’t call it

a freeway because it’s not a freeway sadly. It is a tollway and it shouldn’t have been a tollway. It should have

been a freeway and it would have been a freeway if Phil had had his way. Unfortunately it’s a tollway because the

Victorian Government is very good at taking money from the Commonwealth but not delivering on what it is

supposed to deliver on.

But look for Phil to go back in to the Parliament after he had left, after he had resumed a successful career

outside of the Parliament shows that this is a man of great public spirit who is deeply committed to serving the

people of Deakin and I think its fantastic that you have got him as a candidate for the next federal election. I am

pleased to see so many people here in this room who are prepared to give him help and support. Thank you very

much indeed.

Okay now ladies and gentlemen, politicians should not be allowed to get off scot free. This is your chance to put

us on the spot.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] on a constant basis that we have an $80 billion debt, can you extrapolate that $80 billion because it

sounds very similar to $80 million and tell the folks it’s not $80 billion, its $80 thousand million? So people really

understand the breadth of the debt. Eighty thousand million. Spell it out for them.

TONY ABBOTT:

And its $4,000 for every man, woman and child in this country and it’s a debt that didn’t exist, that didn’t exist two

years ago. John Howard and Peter Costello, over 12 years, they eliminated $100 billion, a hundred thousand

million dollars, and within 12 months Kevin Rudd had racked up an even bigger debt. And look, I don’t want to as

I said make too many party political broadcasts here, but I’m afraid Peter you’ve invited me to trespass into this

territory and I don’t want to let you down. But look, it is disappointing that all of that fiscal prudence so

painstakingly implemented over 12, in some respects difficult years, was blown in less than 12 months and that’s

very, very sad. And this is why I think the public is starting to ask themselves the question: can you trust Kevin

Rudd with our money? It’s not his money, it’s not the Government’s money, it’s the people’s money and it can’t

be mishandled.

And the thing that I dislike about so many of his so-called stimulus measures - and we all want to see better

schools, we all want to see better infrastructure - but so much of the money seems to be wasted. I mean there’s

$15 billion going into schools and the local schools have gotten almost no say over the detail of what it is, which

is why so many are being forced to accept a second hall or being forced to accept new classrooms for old

classrooms that were perfectly good classrooms. But the thing about it is that we seem to be getting about $8

billion bucks worth of value for $14 billion worth of spending, which is fourteen thousand million dollars worth of

spending, which isn’t so good.

Yes, ma’am?

QUESTION:

Bernice [inaudible]. Mine isn’t a question. I just want to thank you for stepping up and stopping that ETS

legislation.

TONY ABBOTT:

Bernice, just on that subject, as you know, we came close to a fundamental mistake on this one and we were

recalled to our principles of low tax, small government and economic freedom by people like yourself, Bernice,

because my colleagues and I were just deluged with phone calls, with emails, with letters in the weeks leading up

to this ballot, and I think thank God we heeded the message of grassroots Australia. Thank God we heeded the

message that the job of an opposition is to scrutinise and to hold to account and where necessary to oppose

ferociously what isn’t in the best interests of our country. We were in danger of forgetting that. Yes, sir?

QUESTION:

Hello Tony, Rod Anderson’s my name. Tony, one of the things that I’ve been frustrated with, particularly over the

last couple of years, has been the lack of penetrating questions that the Opposition is asking, and some

questions may come but it seems as though the Government sidesteps them, but there’s not this continual

pursuit like a dog with a bone. And do you believe that we’re going to see more of that holding the Government to

task, issues like the current interest rates that we’re paying on the debt now and those sort of things?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, Rod, you know, I was an adviser to the Leader of the Opposition between 1990 and 1993, and every day I

thought as I looked at the questions that I’d helped to draft, ‘these questions are going to bring down the

Government’ and on no day did they actually bring down the Government. You know, watching Question Time is

a bit like watching your team play football. You want it to succeed and if you are a close observer of politics, as of

football, you can always see what your team is doing wrong and why if only the coach had said maybe we’re

going to run a different player or a different tactic we would have won the game. So look Rod, we will do our best.

One thing that we will try to avoid in the new year is rhetorical questions which just get a rhetorical answer.

Another thing that we will try to avoid in the new year is Question Times that focus entirely on stuff that’s been in

the newspaper that day, because if it’s been in the newspaper that day the Government has got its answers

ready. So we will try to be a bit innovative, a bit left field and above all else we’ll try to ensure that local members

whose electorates are being damaged in some way by Government maladministration have the opportunity to

raise those issues in the Parliament as well. One more question.

QUESTION:

Tony.

TONY ABBOTT:

Yes sir. Alright, two more questions.

QUESTION:

There was a time when scientific inquiry and funding would be managed by CSIRO. Very objective, very

accountable and the money went where it was genuinely needed. We now have environmental issues run on

emotion and on shonky so-called scientific methodology that’s unsubstantiated. What can we do to get it back

onto a more objective, beyond-all-reasonable-doubt basis?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well Phil, I think you make a very fair point. I mean, I think that something is happening to our climate. I also think

that over the centuries lots of things have happened to our climate and we need to be careful about leaping to

conclusions that are based on a hunch rather than on solid science. And one of the things that has disappointed

me about the debate about climate change - on both sides - is the resort to fear and scare and I think that any

public debate that is not focused on the facts is a public debate that can easily run off the rails.

Now, I also don’t like the way there’s this constant talk about believers and deniers, because in the end this is a

question of fact not faith. You know, faith is not really an appropriate spirit to enter into a scientific controversy. I

mean, matters of science are determined by fact, full stop, end of story, and that’s the way we should approach

this issue and I am confident that over time as more people start considering the real evidence that we will get a

balanced approach to this issue.

Okay, Margaret?

QUESTION:

Margaret Kirby. You said thank God that you, you got the… How should I say…?

TONY ABBOTT:

We recovered our political principles, yep.

QUESTION:

But I think Kevin Rudd seems to think he’s got God on his side. I mean, he’s always at the church there and

giving out, and what’s your reaction to that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well look, you know, I think it’s terrific that Kevin goes to church. I think that probably it would be good if more of

us took the chance to worship in our own way. But I don’t like the politicisation of religion which seems to be

taking place and I don’t like the implication that God is on any one’s side in this general political world of politics. I

think that to the extent that we can know the mind of God - and I guess it’s an impertinence to probe too far into

that - God would support all men and women of good will, and one thing that I can promise is that you will never

see me holding a press conference in front of a church.

Well thank you very much indeed ladies and gentlemen.