Media Release

Tony Abbott interview with Ray Hadley

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR,

INTERVIEW WITH RAY HADLEY,

RADIO 2GB, SYDNEY

Subjects: Private health insurance rebate; Julia Gillard's carbon tax; Australia Day protests.

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

RAY HADLEY:

Mr Abbott, good morning.

TONY ABBOTT:

G'day, Ray.

RAY HADLEY:

I know that you're limited on time and there may be a division so I understand you may have to leave us so let's cut to the chase. This decision in relation to the health fund rebate, where are we up to with it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, it's still before the parliament and I am hoping against hope that the independents will see sense because, you see, this is an attack on the universality of our health system. If the private health insurance rebate is not universal, how can we be sure that the next target won't be the universality of the Medicare rebate? Because all the arguments that they use about rich people and poor people getting the same private health insurance rebate apply to the Medicare rebate as well. So, I think this is the thin end of the wedge. I think that if this goes through, the Government will soon be coming back for further attacks on private health insurance, for further attacks on Medicare and that's why we are so ferocious in our opposition to what's being done here.

RAY HADLEY:

Now, people argue the rebate cutting out for singles on $129,000 and couples on $258,000 is reasonable but the point that's being made to me - and I need to check the validity of that - is that there are many other people earning less than $129,000 who currently have private health insurance. If too many people drop out of the system the premiums go up, therefore eroding the benefit they get anyway by the rebate and then in real terms, it will be costing them more money, forcing them out of the system as well.

TONY ABBOTT:

That's exactly right. If the younger, healthier members who tend to be the better remunerated ones, drop out of private health insurance because of this means test, well then the premiums go up for the generally older, sicker people who are left. Now, the Deloitte study estimated that this would drive a ten per cent rise in premiums over and above any other premium rise and that's an attack on the three-and-a-half million people earning less than $35,000 a year who won't be directly hit by this means test, but they will be indirectly hit by this means test and anything that damages private health insurance and the private health system damages the public health system and public hospitals because when people go into the private hospital, the government is picking up 30 per cent of the tab; when they go into the public hospital, the government is picking up 100 per cent of the tab. So, it stands to reason that the more people who have got private health insurance, the better for everyone.

RAY HADLEY:

You've knocked around politics for more years than you care to remember. Have you, in your memory - and memory is a very important word at the moment - have you caught up with a politician like the Prime Minister who has such a poor memory of events, particularly recent events over the last 12, 18 months, two years? Have you ever encountered a politician who has such a poor recollection of what she did, what she said or how she acted?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I've never caught up with a politician who is as ruthless when it comes to self-serving versions of events and, look, the Prime Minister, I caught a bit of it on the Four Corners programme the other day, claiming that she was always answering questions. Well, wrong. Her tactic is to give misleading statements which are highly economical with the truth and then when further questions are asked, saying I've already answered that. Well, of course, she's never answered…

RAY HADLEY:

Well, she says all the time, I refer you back to Hansard. If you go back to Hansard, she didn't answer it in the first place.

TONY ABBOTT:

Exactly right. Look, this is a stonewall technique. It demeans the office of the Prime Minister. It is highly un-Prime Ministerial and one of the reasons why I think the Labor Party is in such turmoil is because they know that this behaviour is highly un-Prime Ministerial. The problem is when you've got a Prime Minister who's more focused on saving her job, you don't have a government who's focused on saving your job and we know that there are a lot of jobs under threat at the moment - many under threat from the impending carbon tax - and the government really needs to be focused on saving the jobs of people in manufacturing industry where it can, not a Prime Minister who's completely obsessed with the threats to her own job.

RAY HADLEY:

A thousand jobs gone at ANZ Bank, we've got companies in Sleep City, not closing down but in voluntary administration, we've got Kell & Rigby going, 500 people there, we've got other people across other states and territories losing jobs in large numbers. I had a yarn to a couple of mates of mine who are from the pointy end of town, in big business. They said in retail and in media spending, they have never seen a greater lack of confidence from people generally, from the business community. That's because they're really terrified - I'm talking about the population - about where we are headed, what's going to happen next. The carbon tax, Alcoa is now saying, yes, well, hang on, that $3 billion plant in WA is not going ahead because of the carbon tax; we need more clarity on it.

TONY ABBOTT:

The Prime Minister has been in denial about this all week. Now, if you look at the Government's own modelling, it shows that output in the aluminium sector will decline by 61.7 per cent. Now, plainly this is going to have a big impact on jobs. Plainly, the carbon tax is going to drastically shrink the aluminium industry, the steel industry, the coal industry. That's the whole point of the carbon tax: it's got to make everything that is massively emitting more expensive and therefore rarer and the Prime Minister is in denial about this. She says we can have a carbon tax and we can have an aluminium industry - wrong; that we can have a carbon tax and we can have a steel industry - wrong; that we can have a carbon tax and we can have a domestic coal industry - wrong. And the weirdness of all this is that she wants the Chinese to keep burning Australian coal and yet she's whacking a carbon tax on Australians burning Australian coal...

RAY HADLEY:

It's bizarre.

TONY ABBOTT:

…and the Government's own paper says that domestically produced coal power, absent carbon capture and storage, will be down to ten per cent by 2050. So, she's in denial about the results of her own modelling and I think her own modelling is pretty optimistic when it comes to these things.

RAY HADLEY:

Now, I mentioned, and no doubt you've caught up with the news of the audio played last night in relation to the Canberra union official Kim Sattler getting a touch of the Gillards herself and telling porkies about what she relayed to Barbara Shaw on that stage. We now know, unequivocally, what she said. She simply said that you wanted to tear the embassy, or pull the embassy down, I think was the exact term, relayed to her by Tony Hodges as we understand it. That's not going anywhere but it just again strikes at the very core of all of this and it goes hand in glove with the speech being written two weeks before, the fact that Hodges had told his immediate superiors on that Thursday afternoon of Australia Day what he'd done, her Chief of Staff, the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff knew early on Friday morning when I broke the story and I'd spoken to you about it at that time and I must say to people, you were almost disbelieving when I revealed the story to you. You said I couldn't believe that a Prime Minister's office would be involved in this.

TONY ABBOTT:

It just struck me as beyond belief that a Prime Ministerial staffer would verbal a leader of the opposition to try to provoke a riot for political gain. I just thought, this is impossible. We could not possibly sink that low and yet it seems we did.

RAY HADLEY:

Well, I think your exact words were, to me, Ray, your sources, you're sure of them? and I said, yes I certainly am, and you said, well look I just can't put much faith in the story because I wouldn't believe it could happen in this sort of democracy we live in.

TONY ABBOTT:

That's right and again I think this is why the Labor caucus is now so restive about the Prime Minister because there does seem to be this dirty tricks department and there does seem to be this truth deficit disorder, that's essentially what there is, a truth deficit disorder at the heart of the Government because it's the syndrome that the Prime Minister seems to have succumbed to. Now, one of the other interesting things on 7.30 last night, there are apparently text messages between the Prime Ministerial staffer and the union official. Now, the Prime Minister, in the interests of, I guess, demonstrating to the Parliament that she has been accurate and truthful - she should make those text messages available.

RAY HADLEY:

I asked you earlier have you encountered a politician with a worse memory than the Prime Minister. Have you ever encountered a bigger wanker than Peter Slipper…I'll refer you to the vision of him walking behind the Sergeant-at-Arms in the Parliament yesterday where he looked like someone from the Edinburgh Military Tattoo as he wheeled left and right and I'm a bit stronger than the words used by Laurie Oakes on the Today programme this morning but he is a complete imbecile. It's embarrassing. This man holds a very senior position in our parliament.

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I don't mind a bit of formality and I think a certain ceremony is a good thing but I understand why a lot of people were bemused…

RAY HADLEY:

Well, is he the biggest wanker you've encountered in Parliament, yes or no? You've encountered a lot of them over the years…is he the biggest? Is he on the podium?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I have a few issues with the Speaker. I have a few issues, obviously and I think that it was a very grubby thing what the Prime Minister did to get rid of Harry Jenkins and put Peter Slipper in there and again, I think this is one of the things that the Prime Minister is being judged for. There are lots of people in the caucus who had a lot of time for Harry Jenkins. I had a lot of time for Harry Jenkins. I thought he was a very good Speaker and a very decent human being and for the Prime Minister to replace Jenkins with Slipper shows yet again very, very poor judgement.

RAY HADLEY:

I'll take that as a yes, after all that, by the way. He's on the podium there somewhere among the top three - he's either gold, silver or bronze in terms of that particular title. Just one final thing as we go back to the health insurance rebate. I know exactly what you're going to say, because you say the same thing every time I talk to you about legislation that hasn't passed through either the upper or the lower house, as it may be. You always say to me, "Oh, but hang on Ray, it's not law yet." Will you repeal this if you are the Prime Minister the next time we go around?

TONY ABBOTT:

Let me give you a slightly unexpected answer. The private health insurance rebate is an article of faith for the Coalition. It is an article of faith for the Coalition. Private health insurance is in our DNA. Support for people who want to get ahead, it is our raison d'etre. I mean, that is why we exist as a political movement - to give more support and encouragement to people who want to get ahead and whether it's independent schools, whether it's private superannuation, whether it's private health insurance, we want to support policies that support them. So, look, private health insurance is an article of faith for us. We will restore the rebate in government as soon as we can.

RAY HADLEY:

Ok. Well that's the answer we were looking for. Thanks for your time.