Transcript

Tony Abbott - Interview with David Koch & Melissa Doyle, Sunrise

Subjects: Kevin Rudd’s border protection failures; The Coalition’s commitment to repeal the carbon tax and the mining tax; Kevin Rudd’s FBT hit on cars; election debates.

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

DAVID KOCH:

To kick off day one Mr Abbott, good to see you. You got your wish. September 7 is the election campaign. What are the issues that you are going to fight this campaign on?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, essentially Kochie, it is positive plans from the Coalition versus more of the same from Labor. But obviously, the big issues as always are economic strength and national security and we saw from the Government last week the Budget is deteriorating to the tune of $3 billion a week. Debt is surging towards $400 billion. Unemployment is marching towards 800,000. This is a Government that has got the Budget essentially out of control and that can't be trusted with economic management and we know that despite all of Mr Rudd's recent tough talk, the boats are still coming. We have had something like 1,600 illegal arrivals by boat since he announced his PNG so-called solution and less than 100 have gone there.

DAVID KOCH:

If the economy is so bad, why has every major international credit rating agency got us with the AAA credit rating? One of the few countries in the world.

TONY ABBOTT:

It is because we started strong. Not because we have managed well. Mr Rudd inherited a world champion economy. It is the reforms of previous governments, not the spending spree of the current one which is responsible for those ratings.

MELISSA DOYLE:

Will you get rid of the carbon tax and the mining tax as you promised?

TONY ABBOTT:

Of course we will, Mel. The first act of an incoming Coalition government will be to instruct the public servants to prepare the carbon tax repeal legislation. And the first bill that a new Parliament will handle, should we win the election, is the carbon tax repeal legislation. The mining tax will go as well.

DAVID KOCH:

Will you get rid of the bank levy and the cigarette tax?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, we will consider the three new taxes that the Government announced last Friday in due course. We are not going ahead of course with the latest slug on the car industry but we will consider the other two in due course.

DAVID KOCH:

So you might keep that?

TONY ABBOTT:

My point Kochie is that if the Government hits you with three new taxes before the election, what do you think they'll do afterwards?

DAVID KOCH:

Ok, so how do you get the Budget back into surplus without putting up taxes?

TONY ABBOTT:

By sensible expenditure restraint. In my Budget reply, I announced some $15 billion worth of sensible savings that will enable us to abolish the carbon tax but keep the carbon tax compensation. So those tax cuts and benefit increases that people got in July last year will be real. They won't just be compensation.

MELISSA DOYLE:

Debates. I just want to play you a grab from Kevin Rudd as of yesterday on this topic.

KEVIN RUDD:

I go back to the simple proposition of why Mr Abbott, up until now, I have been in this job for five weeks now, has refused, time after time, to engage in a public debate with me. Mr Abbott, you can run but you can't hide.

MELISSA DOYLE:

So the election has now been called. Will you debate Kevin Rudd?

TONY ABBOTT:

Yes, of course I will Mel and Brian Loughnane wrote to the Labor Party secretary last night. I imagine that the first debate will be at the Press Club next Sunday and I’m proposing two further debates, both of which will involve talking to the people, but certainly I’m looking forward to these debates.

MELISSA DOYLE:

Can we offer up a Sunrise set? Want to do it here? It is live.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I am here. Kevin Rudd used to come on to Sunrise quite regularly, let's see what he does in the days ahead.

MELISSA DOYLE:

Ok, so if you are keen? If we can get him across the line to do it?

TONY ABBOTT:

One thing we are not going to do though, Mel is turn this into an American-style election campaign. It is not all about Kevin. It is not all about me. It is about teams and it is about the public and what I want to do in this campaign is engage with the public. I want my team to be engaging with the public. I think Mr Rudd does tend to think that it is all about him. That is one of the reasons why he is constantly demanding a debate.

DAVID KOCH:

Ok, but I suppose the general public says, yes, you want to campaign with the public and you want to look them square in the eyes. But they are so managed these days that they are almost stage managed to the point where it becomes a reality show. We don't actually get to see the real you.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I'm not so sure about that Kochie. I did a street walk in China town yesterday and I don't think anyone who was listening to the chorus from the pub as I was walking past would think that it was all stage managed.

MELISSA DOYLE:

The positive and the negative is something that has come out particularly in this campaign already. But it is something that we have talked about a lot and our viewers have mentioned it. How do we make sure that it doesn't become a mud-slinging competition? I mean you both say that you won't go down that path but where is the line in the sand?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, it is interesting that much of Mr Rudd's statement yesterday was an attack on the Opposition. As far as I am concerned, I will pointing out where this Government has failed. But the public, the Australian people, they want a better future. They want a stronger Australia and that is the choice I’m offering them, a stronger Australia and a better future.

DAVID KOCH:

Just on the asylum seeker issue, there is a lot of criticism saying you are both in a race to cruelty to see who takes the harder line. In all reality, you can't stop the boats overnight, can you?

TONY ABBOTT:

We can make a difference from day one, Kochie. And that's why after I have spoken to the public servants about the carbon tax repeal legislation, I will be talking to the Defence chiefs about new instructions to our Naval forces in the waters to our north. We have to be prepared to turn boats around where it is safe to do so. On its own, that is not going to stop them. But certainly, it is a very important component in what has been got to be a multi-faceted response to a very serious problem which Mr Rudd created.

DAVID KOCH:

You will tell our Naval boats to just throw a line to these asylum seeker boats and say here you go, we are going to tow you all back to Indonesia.

TONY ABBOTT:

It won't be as simple at that, but it has been done before and it can be done in the future.

DAVID KOCH:

It has been done before?

TONY ABBOTT:

It has been done before. It was done before in 2001 and 2002. We’ve had retired Admiral Ritchie tell us that it can be done. We have got General Molan telling us that it can be done…

DAVID KOCH:

And if the Indonesians have a boat on the other side saying, no way, what do you do then?

TONY ABBOTT:

I am not saying that it is easy but our Navy intercepts pirate vessels in the Persian Gulf, the US Coast Guard turns around boats between America and Cuba, it is standard naval practice to intercept and turn around boats on the high seas and our Navy is a good Navy. It’s a professional Navy. What they’ve done in the past, they can do again.

MELISSA DOYLE:

Tony Abbott, thank you for your time, I know we will be speaking to you a lot over the next five weeks. We will also be speaking to Kevin Rudd of course in all fairness. So thank you for your time this morning.

TONY ABBOTT:

Mel, lovely to be with you.