Media Release

Tony Abbott interview with Steve Price

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR,

INTERVIEW WITH STEVE PRICE,

RADIO MTR, MELBOURNE

Subjects: Labor's tax forum; border protection; Craig Thomson; whaling.

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………………

STEVE PRICE:

The Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is making a visit to Melbourne this morning. He's on the line. Good morning to you.

TONY ABBOTT:

G'day Steve.

STEVE PRICE:

We seem to be doing a lot of talking and not much action.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, we're doing bad action. There's the mining tax and there's the carbon tax, neither of which were allowed to be discussed yesterday and that's the tax change which this Government is making and it's not about lower, simpler, fairer taxes, it's about big new taxes which will in the case of the mining tax damage investment and jobs and in the case of the carbon tax hit jobs and everyone's cost of living. So, look, I think that if you are going to be fair dinkum about tax reform it's got to be about lower, simpler, fairer taxes and a Government that wants tax reform shouldn't be introducing big new taxes that are going to hurt our economy, not help it.

STEVE PRICE:

Well, it's pretty silly to have a tax summit if you don't talk about those major things that are changing, isn't it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think it is Steve, but what we've seen from this Government is a whole lot of things which are more about PR than about helping the country. We had the 2020 summit which produced from memory 962 ideas of which I think nine were ultimately actioned. We had the Henry tax review which cost $10 million and which was many hundreds of pages long and about the only change to come out of that was a bastardised version of the Henry mining tax and, well, I mean we all know what's happened to the mining tax since then. Now, in the end what we need is a government which has a clear, comprehensible, achievable agenda which it methodically sets about achieving but we haven't got that from this Government.

STEVE PRICE:

Is this any more than just a sop to Rob Oakeshott? He wanted it, he proposed it, it was part of his agreement. Is that why they're there?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think you're right. I think this is basically a going through the motions thing and, again Steve, it's an expensive way to go through the motions. It's costing almost $1 million to stage this and yesterday I was at a public forum where people were saying they can't get just a few thousand dollars to keep vital mental health services going. Now, every time someone suffers because the Government says it has no money for what they rightly or wrongly think is a vital community purpose and yet they see the Government spending $900,000 on yet another pointless talkfest, they get angrier and angrier and they think that our democracy is becoming a parody. I think this is one of the many reasons why people are so unhappy with the current Government.

STEVE PRICE:

On to a couple of other issues in a moment. Just clear up, the organisers are suggesting you were invited but declined to attend. Is that right?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I was not invited. I think Wayne Swan originally said that we weren't going to be invited because we just want to put a wrecking ball through the system...

STEVE PRICE:

He did.

TONY ABBOTT:

The truth is that we want good tax changes, we don't want bad tax changes and hitting us with a mining tax and a carbon tax, this isn't progress this is regress.

STEVE PRICE:

Australia as we know has too many taxes. Is the Opposition very clear in what your reform if you were in government would be to the tax system?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, the first thing we'd do is repeal, should it be implemented, the carbon tax and the mining tax. Now, these are important economic reforms, as would be not going ahead with the telecommunications infrastructure monopoly, as would be getting the fiscal situation under control because the best thing that government can do for the public is no harm and the carbon tax and the mining tax are harmful measures, Steve, and living beyond its means is probably the greatest harm that the government can inflict on people because it means that taxes are higher than they otherwise would be and borrowing is higher than it otherwise would be.

STEVE PRICE:

Parliament resumes next week, there's still no solution to the Malaysian asylum seeker issue, that is because of the High Court ruling not an option available to the Government. They won't reopen Nauru. We're going to go back to Canberra next week, the debate again will focus on that. What are the Government's options now? They can do nothing but accept they've got to process people onshore, can they?

TONY ABBOTT:

There's no reason, Steve, why they can't reopen Nauru. I mean, the Prime Minister has been saying for 12 months now that she wants offshore processing. Well, she can have offshore processing at any time, could have had it at any time in the last 12 months simply by picking up the phone to the President of Nauru. Nauru has been ready, willing and able to help all this time. They've even gone to the trouble and effort of ratifying the UN refugee convention to make it easier for the Government and I don't know why the Prime Minister can't put aside her pride and stubbornness, accept that Nauru has always been the best option and get on with it.

STEVE PRICE:

I notice the Opposition spokesman Michael Keenan last night on Sky talking again about towing boats back to Indonesia. Is that really a viable option?

TONY ABBOTT:

It's happened before and…

STEVE PRICE:

Well, you did it what, 11 times in government?

TONY ABBOTT:

That's my understanding…

STEVE PRICE:

I think 11 or seven, I might be wrong on the figure.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, we didn't make a big fanfare about it, Steve, because if you want to get things done in Indonesia you don't in the process humiliate the Indonesian government and this is the difficulty with the Rudd-Gillard approach.

STEVE PRICE:

But how does boat towing work in practice?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, that's the kind of operational question that would have to be worked out by the commander on the spot and I'm not going to set myself up as an expert, but what's been done in the past can under the right conditions be done again in the future.

STEVE PRICE:

So you would intercept boats in international waters, check that they are seaworthy and try and either convince them to turn around and go back from where they came or attach a rope and tow them back?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, as I said Steve, I'm not going to get into the precise operational details because that would be a matter for the commanders on the spot but it's been done in the past, successfully done in the past and what was done in the past can be done again in the future.

STEVE PRICE:

The other thing that will come up next week obviously is the future of Labor MP Craig Thomson. I notice now that Victoria police will investigate allegations after the New South Wales police handed a file to the Victorian fraud squad. Are you pleased about that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I'm not at all pleased about what seems to have happened to the membership fees of low paid workers. I mean, plainly something very, very concerning has taken place in this union. There does appear to be a culture in some unions where the officials treat the members' money as their personal piggy bank. I think that if the Prime Minister had any real ticker she would have made it crystal clear that this is absolutely unacceptable conduct and she wouldn't have been running around the countryside saying that she has full confidence in the Member for Dobell because if she has full confidence in that member she presumably thinks that there's nothing untoward in what seems to have been done and I don't think that's a tenable position.

STEVE PRICE:

Just finally, your environment spokesman Greg Hunt has called on the Government now to tell us what they're going to do in regard to the Japanese whaling fleet. You make the point and you've talked here about the Government not actually get on and doing anything. They've been grandstanding for years and the Japanese are just going to thumb their nose again it would appear at what the Australian Government has said.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, that's right. I mean, look, we all would like to see the Japanese stop whaling. I know it's easier to want than to achieve, but this is a Government that said it was going to do various things including take the Japanese to the world court and it just hasn't done that. So I think it's another case of a Government which has turned out to be inept and untrustworthy.

STEVE PRICE:

And just finally the unions apparently are involved in a serious of death threats against the CEO of Qantas, that's very disturbing isn't it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Of course it is, Steve, and the one thing that we've got to have throughout our country, including in workplace relations, is the rule of law and once you've got the rule of the bullies or the thugs, whether it's in the streets or in our workplaces, there is a real threat to normal civilisation. Now, thank God this kind of industrial thuggery and intimidation has been very rare. There was one industry where it was not rare, the construction industry, and thanks to the Australian Building and Construction Commission set up by the Howard Government it's been largely stamped out even in that industry. So any return to intimidation is an extremely worrying sign and I guess I'd want to know from the relevant minister and from the Prime Minister what they're doing to ensure that this doesn't happen because it's their mates in the union movement who I regret to say have from time to time been implicated in this kind of thing.

STEVE PRICE:

Good on you. Appreciate your time. Have a good day in Melbourne today. I'll talk to you soon.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks so much.