Media Release

TA Doorstop

Subjects: Solar hot water rebate; Julia Gillard's carbon tax; Julia Gillard's mining tax; Queensland state election; Fair Work Australia.

EO&E..............................................................................................................................................................

TONY ABBOTT:

I'd like to thank Jeff and Helen of Pure Solar for making Greg Hunt and me so welcome today. This is one of the hundreds of small businesses which have been left in the lurch by the Government's precipitate closure of the solar rebate scheme. Now, this is typical of a government which just doesn't get it when it comes to business. Business needs certainty. They thought they had the scheme until the 30th of June. The Government capriciously and arbitrarily closed the scheme down at the end of February and as you can see, warehouses that were once full are now empty, tradesmen who were once busy and now idle and this is all because we have a government which just doesn't get it when it comes to business. This is a government which has form again and again and again when it comes to pulling the rug out from under small business. They did it with roof batts, they did it with the live cattle trade, now they've done it with solar. This is not the first time they've done it with solar, but they've done it again with solar.

Today we also have more bad news about the toxic tax, more bad news about the carbon tax. Every day Australians get more bad news about the carbon tax. We learn today that there is modelling in South Australia to show that in its first year of operation, the carbon tax will cost 1,500 jobs. This carbon tax is a reverse tariff on Australian jobs. The carbon tax is a reverse tariff because it makes jobs in Australia less sustainable. It makes jobs in Australia less economic. It makes jobs in other countries more sustainable and more economic and that is why I say the carbon tax is such an act of economic self-harm and if the Prime minister is serious about helping small business, the first thing she should be doing is scrapping the toxic tax which is acting like a reverse tariff on Australian jobs.

I'm going to ask Greg to say a few words and then I might ask Jeff and Helen is they want to say a few words.

GREG HUNT:

Jeff and Helen are the human face of the Government's attack on the solar sector. What we have is solar chaos and an attack on business confidence at the same time. What does this mean? It means that we've had pink batts, green loans, solar chaos: all are evidence of a government which is, firstly, an environmental fraud and, secondly, a menace to business. If you're in government, the first duty is do no harm. This is a government that does harm every day it's in office. What's the action? Well, when we return to the Parliament today, we will be moving to bring on the Opposition's solar hot water rebate protection bill. We want to hold the Government to account. We want to do it today and here's a chance for the Government to do the right thing by the solar sector, to do the right thing by small businesses and to stand by their word.

JEFF KNOWLES:

I guess what Helen and I would like to say is very simple. It's been tough in the solar industry - we all know that, but the timing of the hot water rebate closing couldn't have been worse. We had the Royal Canberra Show here - we had 60 or so leads. We were following them up. People have just said listen, we can afford a top system like behind me; we can go the extra, you know, $100, $200 maybe $500 to $4,500, but we can't go to $5,500. So, that $1,000 means a lot to the people I knock on the doors of and it's just really unfortunate timing for us again in the solar business.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks Jeff. Ok, are there any questions?

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, you are at a small business today, you say that you support small business. Well, the Coalition promised a 1.5 percent cut to the company tax at the last election. Is that still the Coalition's policy and is it still fully funded in your fiscal plans?

TONY ABBOTT:

It is the Coalition's firm commitment, our strong policy, to deliver a modest company tax cut at the next election and all our policies will be fully funded.

QUESTION:

A 1.5 percent cut?

TONY ABBOTT:

It will be a modest cut. We took a 1.5 percent cut to the last election. There will be a modest cut that we're taking forward at the next election. What you'll get under us are tax cuts without new taxes. What you're getting under Labor are tax cuts that are funded by new taxes and a tax cut that's paid for with a tax increase. It's not a real cut, it's a con.

QUESTION:

Are you potentially flagging that it will be lower than 1.5 percent, then? You're saying modest, but not committing to 1.5 percent.

TONY ABBOTT:

I'm just saying that we will be taking a corporate tax cut to the next election and it will be fully costed and it will be fully funded.

QUESTION:

The Greens have offered a compromise over the small business tax cuts. Can you categorically rule out that the Coalition would support them?

TONY ABBOTT:

What we've said very consistently ever since the Government first announced the mining tax is that we don't support the new tax and we don't support the measures associated with the new tax. We think that the mining tax is a tax on success. We think it's very important that people understand that the mining industry already pays corporate tax, it already pays state royalties. So, it's already double-taxed if this federal mining tax is going to come in, it'll be triple tax. Now the last thing we want to do is kill the goose that's laid the golden egg for Australia. The last thing we want to do is get into the business of punishing success. The mining industry was the industry that kept Australia going through the global financial crisis. The miners can easily go and invest in other countries. They can easily take their jobs to other countries. We want that investment and those jobs to stay in Australia. That's why we've been utterly consistent all along about the mining tax and let me stress again: a tax cut that's paid for by a tax increase is not a cut, it's a con. It's a tax fiddle, not a tax reduction.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, what do you think about Bob Carr suggesting you're pretty much like a cheap, you know, magician with good one liners, hypnotic one liners, but without any real substance?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I thought that the former New South Wales Premier's job was to be the Foreign Minister, not to be Julia Gillard's attack dog. Now, I think it's typical of this government that instead of being constructive about how to run our country, ask them a question and all they can do is attack the Opposition. Ask the Prime Minister a question, she attacks the Opposition. Ask the Treasurer a question, he attacks the Opposition. Ask the Foreign Minister a question, he attacks the Opposition. Well, I say the relentless negativity must stop and it's time for this government to get on with the business of governing. At the moment, we have a government which looks more like an alternative opposition than a fair dinkum adult government.

QUESTION:

Coming back to solar energy for a second, under the carbon price, isn't it fair to say that this business and solar industries would be supported by the low carbon communities programme, a $330 million programme, the clean technology investment programme that's $800 million and also eligible for $1,000 discounts under the small technology certificates?

TONY ABBOTT:

And we support the solar sector and under the direct action policy that we took to the last election, we would be adding additional support to existing support for the solar sector. We had a million solar roofs policy that we took to the last election, we were going to spend an additional $100 million on solar. So, we are second-to-none when it comes to supporting the solar sector.

QUESTION:

Jeff and Helen, can I just ask how you feel about that, then? I mean obviously there's going to be a lot of good things under the carbon tax for the renewable energy sector, so how do you feel about it?

JEFF KNOWLES:

Cautious would be my answer; simply because I've seen promises one way or another for dollars before and we've basically just had to manage blow after blow. So, the money would be welcome, the grants scheme and so on we would be a part of, but we need to see it to believe it.

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, just a quick question about your daughter Bridget. She's been named as one of the faces of the BMW racing carnival. How do you feel about that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I'm very proud of Bridgie. She's a terrific girl. She was talent-spotted at the races last year but I've got to say not only is she doing this to promote the Sydney racing carnival, she's also studying at university and I wouldn't want anyone to think that my daughter is a one-dimensional person.

QUESTION:

Just back on to some policy issues, you've criticised Bob Katter's advertising campaign against gay marriage as tacky and foolish. Can you clarify that comment and also isn't that a bit at odds with your own position on gay marriage?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, look, there is a policy position and then there is an appropriate way of promoting it and I think it's quite possible to promote a policy the wrong way as well as to promote a policy the right way. But the thing is that this is essentially a sideshow in the Queensland election. The real issue in the Queensland election is whether you want three years of bad Labor government on top of 20. Do we really want 23 years of bad Labor government in Queensland? The only way to change the Government in Queensland is to vote for the LNP, including a vote for Campbell Newman in Ashgrove.

QUESTION:

Mr Katter received a nice big donation from James Packer, $250,000. Mr Wilkie described it or linked it yesterday to getting money in a brown paper bag in a developing country. Do you think it's right for Mr Packer to give Mr Katter such a large donation when the pokies debate is, you know, in Parliament at the moment?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I think people are entitled to donate and obviously journalists are perfectly entitled to question politicians about the donations that they get. I think that when it comes to donations the real issue in this country is the fact that the trade union movement still owns and operates the Labor Party. It is a financial life support system for the Labor Party. Is it any wonder that we have this government appointing an overwhelming majority of Fair Work Australia commissioners from the union movement, given the links between the union movement and the current Labor Government? Is it any wonder that Fair Work Australia is now into its fourth year of investigating what is plainly illegal conduct that has been taking place in that union and I think that the Prime Minister needs to be put on the spot here: does she think it's right that Fair Work Australia should now be in its fourth year of its investigation into Craig Thomson and the Health Services Union? Does she think it right that a federal law enforcement agency should refuse to cooperate with state law enforcement agencies? It looks, for all the world, like an institutional go-slow to protect the Labor Government. It looks, for all the world, like the Prime Minister is complicit in a conspiracy to protect her government from the kind of scrutiny that it deserves from law enforcement agencies.

QUESTION:

A few minutes ago, you said that you would continue supporting solar when I asked you about the low carbon communities programme, the clean technology investment programme and the small technology certificates. When you said you would continue supporting it and add to support, does that mean you would leave those three programmes under the carbon price in place when you remove the carbon tax?

GREG HUNT:

Can I just say something here very briefly? We have an alternative policy and that's the million roofs solar policy. Those programmes are paid for with what the Government says on its own language is a ten per cent rise in electricity prices. The New South Wales Treasury says it's a 15 per cent rise and the Electricity Suppliers Association of Australia which comprises the members that actually issue the bills says it will be a 20 per cent rise in electricity prices. So, we have been absolutely clear that our approach is the million roofs solar policy, a sustainable policy which will be long term. The Government's approach is to fund things with massively higher electricity taxes and we don't support those massively higher electricity taxes.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks so much.