Transcript

Tony Abbott transcript - Joint Doorstop Interview, Adelaide

Subjects: Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; the Coalition’s Real Solutions Plan for a stronger Australia; RU486; Clive Palmer; the Coalition’s paid parental leave scheme; gender segregation; schools funding; industrial relations; local government.

 

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

 

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s terrific to be here at Adelaide Ice. I’d like to thank Michael Goonan and his staff for making myself and Nigel McKenna, our candidate for Port Adelaide, so welcome. This is another very iconic Australian business which is going to be badly damaged by the carbon tax; is being badly damaged by the carbon tax. Making ice is very simple, as everyone knows. What it requires is power and refrigeration and the cost of power is going up and up and up thanks to the carbon tax and the cost of refrigeration is going up and up and up, not just because the price of power is going up but because the cost of refrigerant gases has quadrupled under the carbon tax. So, this is one of so many thousands and thousands and thousands of Australian businesses which is being badly damaged by this toxic tax which the Prime Minister told us she would never introduce, and then she did. This was a Prime Minister who said one thing to win votes and did the opposite to hold office and that’s why people just don’t trust this government; why people just don’t trust this Prime Minister.

So, our plan for the small businesses of Australia, our plan for the forgotten families of Australia, is quite clear. We get rid of the carbon tax, we reduce red tape, we boost jobs and that will help all Australians to get ahead. It will help to deliver the strong and prosperous economy that we need for a safe and secure Australia.

Now, I’m going to take a few questions, obviously, but before I do I’ll just ask Nigel McKenna, our candidate for Port Adelaide, to say a few words. Nigel has lived most of his life in this area. He’s a small businessman. He understands the people of Port Adelaide and he knows just how toxic this carbon tax is.

 

NIGEL MCKENNA:

Thank you Tony for coming to Port Adelaide. I’m the only candidate in the seat of Port Adelaide that will be campaigning to get rid of the carbon tax. So, if you want to get rid of the carbon tax in Port Adelaide, vote for myself, Nigel McKenna. Thank you.

 

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks mate. Ok, do we have any questions?

 

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, what proportion of the price increases they're facing here are because of the carbon tax?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, power prices in Adelaide have gone up by 10 per cent-plus and most of that is because of the carbon tax. Now, the precise impact of the carbon tax on your household and your business depends very much upon your precise power usage but one of the interesting things about this business is that it basically has to run off-peak because the price of power is now so exorbitant.



QUESTION:

How much of a hole will it leave in the Budget for a Coalition government if the carbon tax was rolled back?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

Well the interesting thing, now that you mention the Budget, is that it’s the Government which is going to have a massive carbon tax hole in its Budget because the carbon tax was supposed to be raising $29 a tonne in 2015 under the Government’s forecasts but if the European carbon price is what it looks like being, there will be a multi-billion dollar black hole in the Budget and this is typical of the Government: the spending is certain but the revenue is uncertain. This is a government which always overestimates the revenue, it always underestimates the spending and that’s why this is a government which just can’t be trusted to get the Budget back into the black - not now, not ever.


QUESTION:

Firstly, Mr Abbott if those high European prices don’t eventuate, the impact on businesses like this, surely, is going to be much, much lower.

 

TONY ABBOTT:

And yet there’s always going to be the uncertainty. The whole point about the European carbon tax is that it’s up, it’s down, there’s this constant variability and that’s an additional uncertainty cost that’s added to the costs of business on top of the cost of the tax itself.


QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, it’s looking likely that RU486 will be taxpayer-subsidised. Is there anything a Coalition government would do differently in that process?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

Essentially, no. When I was the Health Minister we invariably took the advice of our professional advisers when it came to the safety and the efficacy of drugs.

 


QUESTION:

Are you under any pressure from groups to do something differently?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I understand that there are lots of people who are concerned to try to ensure that we have a humane society which deals decently with women who are in a very difficult position and I certainly have always said that the whole issue here was to try to ensure that we empowered women, to try to ensure that we gave women in a very difficult position all the support they needed to make what was for them the best possible choice.


QUESTION:

If you did have a choice would you allow RU486 to go on the PBS?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, as I said, when I was in government, we invariably accepted the advice of our technical advisers. That was the way I operated as Minister and this is now before them and that would certainly be the way I would operate. I would accept the advice of the technical experts.

 

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, Clive Palmer is saying this morning that he’s running to be Prime Minister of Australia. Are you disappointed that you have lost his support?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, anyone is entitled to run for Parliament. Anyone is entitled to aspire to be the leader of this country. The point I make is if you are serious about changing the government, you can only vote for the Liberal National Coalition. If you are serious about changing the Prime Minister, well there’s one candidate and the fact is that this is a bad government, it’s incompetent, it’s untrustworthy. If you want a competent and trustworthy government, you vote for the Coalition, you vote for me and my team.


QUESTION:

Are you concerned, though, that Clive Palmer might split the conservative vote?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

I suspect that if there’s another party on the fringe it might compete with Mr Katter’s party but I’m very, very confident that the people of Australia are very savvy here. The people of Australia are very savvy here and they are going to vote for the people who are serious, they are going to vote for the people who have done the work, who have put in the hard yards, and who can deliver competent, stable and trustworthy government.


QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, you say the Government's reckless spending should stop but how do you then describe your generous parental leave scheme?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s fully funded.

 


QUESTION:

When will that be introduced, Mr Abbott?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

We will make all of those announcements in good time before the next election, but the point about our fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme is that it is fully funded. It will be fully funded through a modest levy on the 3000 largest businesses in our country. I hope that that levy can be offset by an appropriate cut in the company tax rate. The beauty of our fair dinkum paid parental scheme is that obviously it is very good for parents because at last they'll have the support they need. It is very good for small business because small business will not be subject to the levy, and it is very good for our economy. It will boost participation, it will boost productivity and it will ensure that we make the most of the talents of 50 per cent of our population

 

QUESTION:

Isn’t it a slug on big businesses that you say are already struggling because of the carbon tax?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, as I said, the carbon tax is a $10 billion a year hit on business as things stand. The paid parental leave levy is much smaller than that and my strong hope is that we are able to introduce paid parental leave at the same time as we have a modest company tax cut so that there will be no overall increase in the tax burden. The precise details, the precise timings, obviously, we will announce in good time before the next election. But we need to know what the budgetary position is in order to fine tune all of these matters.

 

QUESTION:

Is it there a commitment for that in a first term of a government?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

The Coalition's paid parental leave scheme is a signature policy. It is going to be one of the great watershed changes that we see in our country under a Coalition government and, yes, it will happen in a first term.

 

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, can I get your response to the story today that Melbourne University has segregated the genders?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

Well yeah, I find that absolutely extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary, that a great liberal institution would take a huge leap back into the dark ages. I just think it is un-Australian what's happened here and I can't understand for a second why Melbourne University would tolerate it and I would expect members of Parliament who want to see a fair and decent and compassionate society, who want to see a society which treats women equally, I'd expect all of them to be up in arms about this.

 

QUESTION:

The Prime Minister's in the Northern Territory today and I think is speaking to Adam Giles about the Gonski reforms. You’ve said that you won't support those unless there is a majority of support. How many states would you require to sign up to this for it to be part of your policy?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, no one knows exactly what these so-called reforms involve; no one knows how much money the Prime Minister is now splashing around in a desperate bid to try to buy off individual States and Territories. We just don't know. I call on the Prime Minister to come clean about precisely what sweetheart deals she's now offering people in an attempt to get them to sign up. The fundamental point I make is that all of us want to see more money in education, but it's got to be sustainable, it's got to be affordable, and it's got to be firmly directed towards getting better outcomes and I don't think the Government can demonstrate any of those things right now.

 

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, while Port Adelaide might be a bit of a stretch to win, do you think a seat like Adelaide is winnable for the Coalition in the upcoming election?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

We don't take anything for granted. We don't take for granted that we'll keep the seats we hold and we certainly want to be competitive in all of the seats we don't hold. So, we want to give every single Australian the best possible chance to vote for the Coalition and the best possible chance to change the government.

 

QUESTION:

Does seem like you're putting extra money into the seat of Adelaide, though. There is extra money there so it is one that clearly polling is showing is a chance?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

One thing we're not going to do is engage in some kind of a pork-barrelling exercise. All of the commitments that we make will be designed to promote the national interest, not to try to curry favours with any particular group. That's why we'll get rid of the carbon tax, we'll get rid of the mining tax, we'll reduce red tape, we'll stop the boats, we'll bring an affordable and much more readily delivered National Broadband Network into being. All of this is about promoting the national interest and the best way to promote the national interest is to give us a stronger economy.

 

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, your IR policy. Have you finalised that and will that be released before the Budget?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

I've said time and time again that we will release the policy in due course and it will be a very good policy when we do. It will address the flexibility, the militancy and above all else the productivity issues with the Fair Work Act but it will do so within the context of the existing Act. It will be responsible, it will be cautious, it will be careful, it will be based on solving problems, not some kind of textbook theory.

 

QUESTION:

Mr Abbott, what do you think the chances are we'll have a referendum in the next election [inaudible] local government?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I think the challenge here is really for the government to demonstrate that it's got a reasonable chance of success. It really is a challenge for the government to demonstrate that it has a reasonable chance of success. We've had all sorts of background hints from the Government that it is about to make an announcement. Well, let them make an announcement and in making an announcement, let them give us the assessment that they have that there is a reasonable chance of a referendum succeeding, because my instinct tells me that, as with everything else, this government just has not done its homework; has not done the necessary work to give this any realistic chance of success.

 

QUESTION:

Do you feel that you have the support of your Party, though, for your in-principle position on it?

 

TONY ABBOTT:

The short answer is of course I do. Look, I think it is important to try to ensure that existing payments to local government from the Commonwealth can continue. I think that's quite important. But what we've got here is a government which has not done its homework, a government which is dropping hints about a referendum, a referendum which I think it supports because it wants to muddy the waters on polling day. I've got to say that come polling day, regardless of what the Government specifically puts forward, my message will be that it is more important to change the government than it is to change the Constitution.

Thank you.