Transcript

Tony Abbott transcript - Interview with Ray Hadley, Radio 2GB, Sydney

Subjects: The Coalition’s plan to improve the Pacific Highway; Rob Oakeshott; heavy vehicle licence; the Government's failed border protection policies; A Strong Australia; manufacturing; Christmas in the Abbott household.

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

RAY HADLEY:

Tony Abbott is on the line from Port Macquarie. Tony, g’day.

TONY ABBOTT:

G’day, Ray.

RAY HADLEY:

How are things in beautiful Port?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, the sun is shining. I’m looking out over the river. It is absolutely gorgeous and I’ve just addressed a breakfast full of people who are very keen to see a change in government and very keen to see a change of Member because Rob Oakeshott made the Gillard Government, he owns the Gillard Government and if he wanted to he could get rid of the Gillard Government. But there is no one who more strongly supports the current Prime Minister and all her work then the Member for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott.

RAY HADLEY:

And you’ve got a good candidate to take him on?

TONY ABBOTT:

We do. Dave Gillespie is a terrific candidate. He has been a medical specialist in Port Macquarie for the last 20 years. He knows this community. He loves this community. He will serve this community. When you get a medical specialist putting his or her hand up to enter Parliament, you know they are fair dinkum because they are basically voting to take a big pay cut; they are voting to go from being a universally respected person to being someone who is inevitably contentious and at times divisive. So, that’s why I’m so full of admiration for senior doctors who are prepared to take on becoming a Member of Parliament.

RAY HADLEY:

Now, I’m correct in saying, like me, you had a heavy rigid licence but you’ve upgraded that because that’s the only way you could drive a semi-trailer. When did you do that?

TONY ABBOTT:

I got a medium rigid licence about ten years ago, Ray, so…

RAY HADLEY:

Only a medium?!

TONY ABBOTT:

Only a medium. Well, you only need a medium one to drive the Davidson fire truck, but to drive the bulk water carrier you needed a heavy combination licence. So, I got that about 12 months ago. I must say I haven’t used it much and Nolan’s very sensibly have given me a co-pilot for this trip. I’ve done the driving but from time to time he’s said, "now just be a little bit careful of the Macksville Bridge, for instance; watch out on the Kempsey Bridge; be careful of that big 90 degree turn at Frederickton." So, it’s been terrific to have Glen from Nolan’s as my co-pilot on this trip. I got quite a lot of CB chatter this morning on the radio. I don’t think the Prime Minister is all that popular amongst the truckies of the Mid North Coast! But look, it’s a real eye opener, Ray. You see the highway from a very different angle from the cab of a semi-trailer. You are particularly conscious of all the bits that are very narrow, very windy, the very rough surface and we’ve got to fix this road, we’ve got to do it quickly. If we don’t, there will be more fatalities, there will be more injuries, there will be more time wasted, there will be more frustration and stress in people’s lives, there will be less prosperity. The Pacific Highway is an important piece of national infrastructure and that’s why we’re prepared to spend the extra $2 billion to get it done.

RAY HADLEY:

Well, the part you’ve travelled mainly is the crookest part from basically Ballina down to Macksville, really. It’s a basket case.

TONY ABBOTT:

That’s right. Most of the road, except for the bit around Byron Bay where I regret to say there was another fatality just the other day, from Tweed Heads down to Ballina has mostly been fixed. Then from Ballina through to Port Macquarie, yes, there are some places where work is being done such as the Kempsey Bypass which is due to open in a few months’ time but there are still vast swathes of road that are 1970s goat track and it’s so important that we get cracking and fix this because 250,000 cars and trucks use this road every single day.

RAY HADLEY:

Well, look the part you would have seen most recently between Telegraph Point and the turn off to Port, that’s not much good. It’s straight but it is narrow.

TONY ABBOTT:

It was upgraded in the 1970s and in the 1970s it was a comparatively good bit of the road. I’ve been driving this road one way or another for many years and what was once a good road is now pretty inadequate because it’s still two lane and it’s starting to crumble under all the weight of the traffic that it carries.

RAY HADLEY:

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen - you and I have been talking about this since way back in 2007 which seems an eternity ago - I told you then it was a really big policy shift that they were thinking about, that Kevin Rudd would impose if elected. We now have them blinking. We’ve got them bluffing 600 Sri Lankans and saying look you don’t qualify go back to Colombo and say they comply they jump on the plane and go back. We now find out 56 Tamils have decided no we’re going to buck the system, we’ll go to the High Court with the help of Ian Rintoul and others and all of a sudden Chris Bowen blinks and loses his nerve and these people remain and that sends a signal to Sri Lanka and every Sri Lankan, ah, don’t worry, just say no I’m not going back and you won’t go back.

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, you’re dead right, Ray. This has been a comprehensive disaster, an utter failure by the Government. The Howard Government found a problem and crafted a solution. The Rudd/Gillard Government found a solution and created a problem only it’s now much, much, much, much worse than it ever was before. The number of boats coming dwarf the previous numbers and the flow is rapidly becoming a flood. We know what needs to be done. We’ve got to actually get the people offshore for processing. At the moment, something like six in 100 have been sent offshore for processing. We’ve got to have genuine temporary protection visas - not just visas which are a bridge to permanent residency. We’ve got to have the willingness to turn boats around where it’s safe to do so. We can’t squib on this and we’ve got to rebuild our relationship with Indonesia which unfortunately Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have done enormous damage to, particularly with the live cattle export ban.

RAY HADLEY:

In relation to this matter, 16,000 so far this year, 16,000 people, and no sign of it abating. Do you get frustrated - and Kevin Rudd was at it again with Greg Cary on 4BC yesterday - when they reinvent history? Now, it’s 90 per cent of people from the Pacific Solution, from Nauru particularly, were resettled in Australia when in fact it’s 43 per cent. When it didn’t work, it wasn’t a solution. When we went from 5,516 I think in 2002 to none, to none, not one boat, not one person in 2003 and that theme with you know, I think there were 11 the year after and a few the year after. We get to 2007 and there were about 120, by 2008 the 120 turned into 1,000, then it turned into 5,000 then it turned into 2,200 a month and now it’s 16,000.

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s extraordinary. It is extraordinary and you’re right - there is a lot of rewriting of history. Basically you’ve got a Government that’s in denial and a Prime Minister who is in denial. Unfortunately, that’s par for the course with this Government. Whether it’s the pink batts or the school hall rip offs or the NBN white elephant or the squalid, sleazy deal with Peter Slipper or the Craig Thomson protection racket, whether it’s the constant insistence that we are going to get a budget surplus even though this Government has actually given us the four biggest deficits in history. It’s a record of incompetence and untrustworthiness and the boats, alas, is all of a piece with this.

RAY HADLEY:

Did you catch Wayne Swan’s performance on 7.30 on Tuesday after the Reserve Bank lowered the cash rate to three per cent and Chris Uhlmann asked him about it being an emergency level of an interest rate and my words not his, he said, look anyone calling this an emergency is a dill, and Chris pointed out to him that in 2009 he called the then three per cent rate an emergency rate.

TONY ABBOTT:

I didn’t see it unfortunately.

RAY HADLEY:

I’ll get you a copy.

TONY ABBOTT:

I can imagine it was quite a performance.

RAY HADLEY:

Now, I’ve got in front of me a book called A Strong Australia - the values, directions and policy priorities of the next Coalition Government. It’s comprehensive and it goes to about 145-146 pages. Would this be the platform for you to be elected as Prime Minister next year because we keep hearing you’ve got no policies?

TONY ABBOTT:

That’s exactly right, Ray. These are our positive plans for a strong and prosperous economy and a safe and secure Australia and I’ve been successively laying out these plans over the last year starting with a speech in early February, I think, at the National Press Club and look, sure, there are lots of details, dotted i’s, crossed t’s policies that will be delivered in the next eight or nine months before the election, but there is a wealth of specific policy commitments in this book. All the major policy commitments are there in this book and if people want to know what Australia would look like under an incoming Coalition government, they should get hold of this book. They can download it for free from the Liberal Party website and it’s all there.

RAY HADLEY:

Now, one of my listeners said to me yesterday – we’ve had Rosella in strife - an iconic brand that has been out of Australian hands and back in Australian hands. The emailer said, well Rosella survived two world wars, a depression, but they can’t survive the Gillard Government. I mean how many other firms, long-standing Australian icons, are going to go bust before someone realises that the blueprint being prepared by Wayne Swan, by Penny Wong and by the Prime Minister just doesn’t have any legs?

TONY ABBOTT:

Ray, that’s a very good question and it’s not just Rosella. If you look at manufacturing, there’s been a 130,000 person drop in manufacturing employment since the change of government and this is very, very dangerous for our long-term future because an economy without a strong manufacturing sector is not really a full first world economy anymore. So, look, there’s no magic wand here - and subsidies and tariffs certainly aren’t the answers - but what we’ve got to do is get taxes down, get red tape off, try to make it easier for workers and managers to be partners rather than adversaries in the workplace.

We’ve got to get productivity up, and one of the things that I did as Workplace Relations Minister was lay the foundations for the Australian Building and Construction Commission which delivered $5.5 billion a year in productivity improvements. So, I’d like to think, Ray, that my ministers and I have the runs on the board and if we do get the right policies in place, there’s no doubt at all that we can create a million new jobs within five years and two million new jobs within the decade, because that is what the Howard Government did and I think that even though the times are tough, if we do put the right policies in place, we can sure do better than we’re doing now.

RAY HADLEY:

I probably won’t speak again before I finish on Friday week. What have you got planned with the family for Christmas?

TONY ABBOTT:

Ray, just the standard Christmas. We’ll go to my sister's place this year, not mum and dad's, because mum and dad are getting a little older and it’s a bit rough to expect mum to cook for a dozen or more people. So, Margie and I - and we’ve only got one child at home this Christmas - we'll be going to Chris and Virginia’s for Christmas lunch with another sister and her kids. Then in January we'll go down the coast to a beaut place near Sussex Inlet where some of my uni friends and I have been going for the last decade or so with our families. So, I’m really looking forward to it.

RAY HADLEY:

I note you say there’s one left at home. Are you, like me, as they become adults, they’re less likely to spend time with mum and dad at Christmas; they make their own plans?

TONY ABBOTT:

Ray, the short answer is yes. Now, when we're going to the caravan park down near Sussex Inlet, they don’t want to come with us...

RAY HADLEY:

No, if it’s not five star they brush you!

TONY ABBOTT:

...but if we go to Bali they do want to come!

RAY HADLEY:

They're the first one on the plane!

TONY ABBOTT:

Exactly right.

RAY HADLEY:

My youngest is fifteen. She’s compelled to go with us, but the other three look at you as if you come from another planet when you say, “Do you want to come on holidays with mum and dad?”

TONY ABBOTT:

Exactly.

RAY HADLEY:

"You are so random, why would we go with you?"

TONY ABBOTT:

"So random" – that’s the phrase they use, isn’t it? "That’s so lame, dad!"

RAY HADLEY:

It is lame. Alright, have a safe journey down the coast.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks so much, Ray.

RAY HADLEY:

And a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Thank you, Tony.

TONY ABBOTT:

And to you. Thank you.

RAY HADLEY:

All the best. Tony Abbott the Opposition Leader there from Port Macquarie.