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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: April 17, 2013: Pollie Pedal 2013; Carers Australia; Boston Marathon bombings; One Nation; Pauline Hanson; Bob Katter; school funding

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Joint Doorstop Interview, Parliament House, Canberra April 17, 2013

Subjects: Pollie Pedal 2013; Carers Australia; Boston Marathon bombings; One Nation; Pauline Hanson; Bob Katter; school funding.



It's good to be here at Parliament House this morning with Ara Cresswell, the CEO of Carers Australia, to officially launch Pollie Pedal 2013.

This is the 16th annual Pollie Pedal. Every year since 1998, Pollie Pedal has gone about a thousand kilometres raising money for

various good causes. They include Youth in Search, the Australian Paralympic team for the 2000 Paralympics, the Royal Far West, Ronald McDonald House, medical research at Westmead Hospital, indigenous health scholarships and for the last two

years, Carers Australia. I’ve got to say that Carers Australia have been a really outstanding partner to work with on Pollie Pedal. Of all the various Pollie Pedal beneficiaries, I think I can honestly say that Carers Australia has been the most enthusiastic

participant in the Pollie Pedal and it’s been terrific to work with you, Ara, as part of all of that.

Could I just say before asking Kevin to say a few words and then asking Ara to speak, that Pollie Pedal essentially has two purposes. Firstly, obviously, to raise money for good causes - and there's no better cause than Carers Australia - but, secondly, it

has been a chance for me and many of colleagues over the last 16 years to get out of the political comfort zone and to visit parts of Australia that politicians don't normally see. This year, for instance, we’re going through places like Halls Gap, Ararat, Dunkeld

as well as larger centres like Mount Gambier and Ballarat on our way from Adelaide through to Geelong. These small places are the sorts of places where hundreds of thousands, even millions of Australians call home and it's important that, while they are off

the politically-beaten track, they are not neglected by senior leaders of our country. Speaking for myself, I think I can honestly say that my insights into our country have deepened because of the experience of Pollie Pedal over the last 16 years and, as far as

I'm concerned, as long as I am in public life, this will be a significant part of my year. I think it's part of the political character and personality that I've developed over the last 16 years and I'm really proud to have been associated with so many good causes and

with such fine colleagues in that time.

Now, I am going to ask Kevin to say a few words because, of all of my parliamentary colleagues, Kevin has probably been the most consistent Pollie Pedaller, but before asking Kevin to say a few words, I should particularly acknowledge Andrew Southcott,

because along with Jackie Kelly and Ross Cameron, Andrew was one of the original Pollie Pedallers. It was, in fact, in Andrew's office back in 1997 that the original idea for the Pollie Pedal came about. You might remember back then it was not a particularly

good time to be a member of parliament. Politicians were not particularly well thought of, there had been a lot resignations in the first Howard term, there was a certain member for Oxley crusading around the country saying that the whole system was rotten to

the core and Andrew and Ross and Jackie and I thought that one thing we could do to try to raise the reputation of politicians was something that was a little bit selfless, something that was a little bit humble and out of the ordinary, and hence the idea of a long

distance charity bike ride staying in caravan parks and visiting parts of Australia that most politicians didn’t see was born.

So Kevin, over to you, and then to Ara.


Thanks Tony and Ara, and to Stuart, Andrew and Michael, and I reiterate what Tony has said for the 16th Pollie Pedal. The great delight for me is not just being out in the countryside and pedalling along with a group of mates on bikes, it's the opportunity to

visit such a number of small communities throughout Australia. I remember it was last year visiting a carers group in Colac before we started riding to Geelong for the start, or visiting a group in Nar Nar Goon - places that are not on the map of most ordinary

Australians. These people really are the heart and the soul of Australia. The life of Australia exists in small communities right across this nation and this gives us an opportunity to give something back to them but also to hear their stories. Many of them

have done it tough. When you're talking about people who are carers, it's not only those that they’re caring for, there are

Tony Abbott Federal Member for Warringah | Leader of the Opposition

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extraordinary efforts by so many Australians - old and middle-aged and young - that they make towards contributing to the wellbeing of their family and friends around them. That really is, as I said, the heart and the soul of this nation.

So, to be part of that, and to have the opportunity of meeting so many Australians on this journey from Adelaide to Geelong this

year through a whole range of large and small towns and virtually villages, I think is a great thing for us to be able to do and to be able to do it for an organisation such as Carers Australia, I think is wonderful as an example, I hope, to other Australians and as

an acknowledgement of the great work which so many people right across this country do.


Thanks. Well said, Kevin. Ara?


Thank you. Carers Australia is absolutely delighted to once again be the recipient of the charity funds from the Pollie Pedal ride. Last year was an exciting and incredibly important event in our calendar. There are 2.6 million unpaid family carers in this country.

The replacement cost of those carers is over $40 billion a year. So, if every carer was to pull out, the unpaid care and support they give to their loved ones today, the country would need around $900 million a week to pay for the care for the people who are

supported by family carers at home.

We believe that supporting carers is incredibly important. We're delighted, therefore, to be the recipient of the funds from Pollie Pedal. It made a big difference last year. It made a difference on the ground in the lives of carers and systemically we're able to

do a lot more to raise awareness of what is being done to make the country care aware. We are really delighted that Australians are beginning to understand that next door, at home, in our community, there are people who are carers, who are doing

something important to keep our country afloat. If one in eight Australians is a carer, that means in all probability some of us here today are carers. It’s an incredibly important role and most carers will tell us it’s something they absolutely cherish. What we want

to see those careers are supported, that they're recognised, supported and celebrated. Pollie Pedal gives us the opportunity to do that. We very much thank everybody involved in Pollie Pedal.

Thank you very much to Mr Abbott and his team. Thank you so all those people who sponsor to the people who do the hard yards

and this year we have one of our own staff riding, so one of the Carers Australia staff will be riding this year which is exciting for us. But there are a whole lot of people behind Pollie Pedal, volunteers who are there to make sure this happens. It's an incredibly

important event in Carers Australia's calendar because it is about giving back to the community. Carers Australia is very glad that we are the one being showcased. We are very glad that Australia gets to acknowledge that we have that one in eight Australians

is doing something really important.

Thank you all for the opportunity. Thank you for again naming us as the recipient for this incredibly important event. We are really looking forward to getting on the bike for some and behind the wheel for some of us for the next Pollie Pedal.


Thank you so much, Ara, thank you. Ok, now we will take some questions on Pollie Pedal and then if you want to ask other

questions on other subjects. Let's have pure Pollie Pedal questions first and then other questions.


You might have said it before, but are you going to keep doing this if you're Prime Minister?


The short answer is yes, that’s my strong intention and I’ve already promised Ara that next year the beneficiary will be Carers Australia because obviously Carers Australia has a very strong interest in the implementation of the National Disability Insurance

Scheme and I've said to Ara that it would be good if they had the chance to chew the ear of a Prime Minister on Pollie Pedal next year. Now, I’m not preempting the outcome of the election, but should it go the way I hope, I would love for the carers that we

meet on the Pollie Pedal next year to be able to directly talk to a Prime Minister about the issues they face and their hopes for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.


[inaudible]...when the member for Oxley was talking down pollies, what is it that you wanted to try to turn around or change? Was

it the reputation of politicians?


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Look, Lane, politics is a tough life and I guess the toughest aspect of it is that you often disappoint people because you can't do

exactly what they want you to do. There are any number of worthy causes that we can't fund now. There are any number of priorities that a particular government or a particular political party might have which are not precisely shared by everyone. So,

politicians inevitably disappoint at least part of the electorate most of the time but it's important to try to remind the Australian public that just about everyone in this place, regardless of his or her political party, is in it for good reasons. Just about everyone in

this place, regardless of political persuasion, comes here to serve our nation. Now, the public are perfectly entitled to sit in judgment of politicians but I think that the vast majority of us are deeply well-intentioned and I hoped, and Andrew hoped, and

Ross and Jackie hoped back in those days, that at least our good intentions would be better understood and our, if you like, underlying patriotism would be better understood as a result of the Pollie Pedal.


In that context, Mr Abbott, you said during the 1999 republic referendum to be wary about trusting politicians. Do you regret that

statement [inaudible] a long time ago?


Well Phil, look, I think I got a bit verballed there. Certainly there were some people in the course of that referendum, including people who were close to me, who said that we don't really trust politicians and do you want to trust politicians with this additional

power? My own line - and Malcolm Farr, who repeated effectively your interpretation a few years back and I challenged him to justify, he became back to me and said well, you’re right Tony, I can't actually find anything where you said it in those terms - my

line from those days was that politicians have enough power already. We don't need to give them this additional power to directly control the head of state and that was my line then and that's my line now, although we don't really have a republican debate right

now because of the much greater respect in which the monarchy is held after the events of the last few years.


Are there any Government MPs who will be joining you on the Pollie Pedal this year?


Look, I’m not aware of any. Over the years there have certainly been people from the Labor Party who have been involved in Pollie Pedal. Julie Owens, the member for Parramatta was involved in quite a few Pollie Pedals. Bernie Ripoll, the current

member for Oxley has been involved in quite a few and Bernie is probably the best parliamentary cyclist I would say, Kevin?


Yes, I can acknowledge that!


Bernie is a very strong rider and Bernie does his own charity bike ride up in Brisbane now but look, as far as I’m concerned, while we’re Pollie Pedalling, we are principally representatives of the Australian Parliament and of the Australian people, we’re not party

politicians out to hammer the other side, although if you ask me questions which invite some criticism of the other side, I might reluctantly have to comply.


Mr Abbott, are you worried about facing a lawsuit from One Nation co-founder David Ettridge?


Well, I think the short answer is you’d always prefer not to be subject to litigation but this arises from the campaign I waged about

15 years ago to expose what I thought was the dodgy nature of the One Nation party. I was never particularly critical of One Nation supporters but I certainly thought back then that it was a dodgy party and that position of mine was vindicated by the

courts. Now, obviously, the gentleman in question is entitled to go to court if he thinks he has a case and that’ll be dealt with by the courts in due course.


Is it a bit of a get square?

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Look, obviously there are still some hard feelings from those days but it’s now before the courts and I’m confident that everything I did back then was justifiable and could be justified.


Will you appear at the [inaudible] in Brisbane next week?


This is a matter which obviously will be discussed with various legal representatives and I think it’s fair to say that this is going to

be just a bit of a sideshow and I try not to be involved in sideshows if I can avoid it.


Do you feel an obligation, Mr Abbott, as alternative Prime Minister, to now reveal where the $100,000 came from that you raised for those cases against One Nation?


Well, at the time, the Australian Electoral Commission - and indeed the Labor Party - were all over it, absolutely all over it and

there was quite extensive correspondence from me and the Australian Electoral Commission not once but twice concluded that I had fully complied with any requirements that were upon me.


But you revealed some of the names from memory but not all of them. You don’t feel an obligation now for full disclosure?


Well, as I said, I absolutely complied with all of the obligations that were upon me.


Mr Abbott, you say that One Nation was a dodgy party and that’s why you took the action that you took, but you had no quarrel

with One Nation supporters. What about One Nation values? What do you say about that, in terms of the position that that party stood for?


Well, if you go back to the mid-to-late 90s, there were a lot of people who were feeling very ripped off and in some cases they

were feeling understandably and almost justifiably ripped off. The problem with the former One Nation party was that it wasn’t perceptively and sensibly addressing those particular problems and if you followed the prescriptions of One Nation, you would’ve

made a bad situation worse and that was why I was ferociously opposed to that particular organisation while at the same time understanding many of the people who were tempted to support it.


In the wake of the Boston bombing, there’s been a debate about the potential implications for similar events here. Barry O’Farrell

says he’s worried about changing the character of things like the City to Surf. What do you say to that, balancing out with the security concerns?


Look, obviously major sporting events bring together lots and lots of people and I guess any large gathering of people is a

potential target but I would be very disappointed if the nature of these events were to significantly change. My expectation is organisers will be more aware than ever of security but it would be tragic for our country, for like-minded countries, for our way of

life, if mass participation sporting ever became more difficult to stage because of this.


Pauline Hanson has said she warns to make a comeback into federal politics at the September election. Do you think that would

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be bad for politics?


Look, she is an Australian citizen and she is perfectly entitled today put up her hand and run for office. I won't be voting for her, obviously, and I keep saying to people that if you want to change the government you have got to vote for the Coalition. There is

only one way to change the current government and that is to vote for the Coalition. Voting for the independents, voting for minor party candidates, voting for celebrities, is not going to change the government. They only way to change the government is to vote

for the Coalition.


What’s your view on Katter’s Australia Party and its supporters? Do you have any similar views about that party?


I obviously know Bob pretty well. He was a member of the Coalition for quite a few years. He was a former colleague. I’ve had a lot to do with him obviously in the current parliament. I like Bob. I respect Bob but I respectfully say to people who might be

tempted to support him that if you want to change the government you have got to vote for the Coalition.


Do you think it shares any One Nation-like qualities?


Different times, different issues and I wouldn’t want to equate the two.


Under a Coalition government would you wind back any deals struck with the states, so the education funding and will you wind back as well the cuts to tertiary education that have been proposed by the Gillard Government?


Well, you are asking me a hypothetical question. I think it is really irresponsible of politicians to make commitments based on

deals that haven’t even been done yet and where so much of the detail appears to be secret even to the states who are supposed to sign up to this. I just want to make a couple of points, though. First of all we would all like to see better funded schools. We

would all like to see better schools. What the Government is plainly doing here is robbing Peter to pay Paul and this is a government that has a very poor record when it comes to delivering better schools. Our schools perform worse now in all of the

international tests then they did five or six years ago despite the $16 billion that the Prime Minister spent on overpriced school halls; despite the education revolution which turned out to be very expensive computers - many of which never left the boxes that

they arrived in. This is a government which is really hopeless when it comes to keeping commitments and competently implementing policy.

Thank you.


© Tony Abbott MHR 2010 | Authorised by Tony Abbott MHR, Level 2, 17 Sydney Rd, Manly NSW 2095

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