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TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR
JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR THE HON RICHARD COLBECK, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR FISHERIES AND FORESTRY,
FORTH, TASMANIA

Subject: Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; National Broadband Network; Labor’s Malaysian people swap; Reith report; Tasmanian forestry industry.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks for coming out this morning. It’s great to be here at Premium Fresh. I want to thank the Ertler brothers for making me and Richard Colbeck, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, so welcome.

This is typical of the thousands and thousands of businesses right around Australia that are going to be hit by Julia Gillard’s toxic tax. This is a business which is operating in a fiercely competitive market. They’ve got to give growers a decent price. On the other hand, Coles and Woolworths and the other supermarkets are always trying to cut their costs. So a business like this is caught in the middle and we don’t want to do anything that makes the work of this business, the employment of these staff, harder than it already is. This business has an electricity bill of about $400,000 a year. It spends vast amounts of money on transport. Sea freight is going to be hit with the carbon tax, trucking is going to be hit with the carbon tax and of course power is going to be hit big time with the carbon tax and if the Prime Minister is serious about protecting jobs in places like northern Tasmania, she would drop this toxic tax.

Every day there are more and more Labor figures, decent Labor people who are concerned about jobs coming out against this tax. Today Premier Bligh of Queensland joins former Premier Iemma of New South Wales in saying that this tax is a very bad deal for the people of Queensland and I call on the Prime Minister to listen to the words of people like Morris Iemma who said that this isn’t Labor policy, this is Greens policy and the Labor Party should be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the miners and the manufacturing workers of Australia and not hitting them with this toxic tax.

Couple of other issues I just want to touch on before asking Richard to say a few words. Look, the more we learn about the National Broadband Network the more of a dud deal it seems. This is a Government which is spending upwards of $50 billion to give Australians a service that they can’t afford. How many Australians could afford $190 a month for a broadband service that they’re currently getting for about $30 a month? It’s just bad policy and it’s typical of a Government which spends billions and billions without thinking it through first.

Finally, on the Malaysian deal, it’s a bad deal and it hasn’t worked. It hasn’t stopped the boats and it’s in breach of the Prime Minister’s clear commitment not to do any deal, not to send any boat people to a country that hasn’t signed the UN Convention on Refugees. Now, there is a solution. It’s called Nauru. Nauru is available, it’s fair and it has signed the UN Convention on Refugees and if the Prime Minister were serious about the stopping the boats she wouldn’t persist with this dud Malaysian deal and she would pick up the phone to the President of Nauru.

RICHARD COLBECK:

Firstly I’d like to thank Tony for coming down to the north west today because it gives him an opportunity to see firsthand how toxic this tax is in this community. Talking to the growers, the employees and the businesses in this region we know that they’re going to face a whole range of additional costs. It’s going to cost them more for transport, it’s going to cost them more for power, it’s going to cost them more for gas, it’s going to cost them more for fertiliser and agriculture is a core component of this community and this tax is going to have a significant impact on businesses and employees right throughout this region and the really disappointing thing is that the local member is completely and utterly silent, not saying a word in support of his constituents. All he’s doing is bringing a message from Canberra to Braddon, not taking a message from the people of the north west coast back to Julia, how bad this tax is.

TONY ABBOTT:

Ok. Any questions?

QUESTION:
Malcolm Turnbull says that climate change is real and people need to start believing the science and the only ones that don’t is business or people fearful of losing profits. Is he right?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well I agree with Malcolm that the science has to be taken seriously and that climate change happens. The point I’ve been making all along is that climate change is real, humanity makes a contribution and you’ve got to take strong and effective action against it and that’s what the Coalition is doing. There’s a difference though, between taking direct action to reduce emissions at a reasonable cost and clobbering the economy with this great big new tax.

QUESTION:

Your direct action plan will see companies penalised if they emit above a certain level. How much will that be?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, it’s very important that no one gratuitously increases their rate of emitting and that’s why we’ve provided in our direct action plan that emissions above a current business as usual rate won’t be allowed to happen.

QUESTION:

Malcolm Turnbull was obviously speaking out of line last night. Is it about time you disciplined him?

TONY ABBOTT:

Malcolm puts things in his own way and he’s entitled to do that but Malcolm absolutely opposes the Government’s toxic tax and he strongly supports the Coalition’s direct action policy and, you know, I invite you to put those questions to him and you’ll find that he doesn’t like the Government’s toxic tax one little bit and he strongly supports the Coalition’s direct action policy, as every member of the shadow cabinet does.

QUESTION:

Do you agree that your comments about reducing carbon emissions by five per cent by 2020 were offensive, about saying there’s not much point that we do that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I have always supported reducing our emissions by five per cent by 2020. I just think we should do it in a sane manner not in a crazy manner. The trouble with the Government’s proposal is that it’s going to badly damage the cost of living of Australian families and if you look at their own figures it’s not actually going to reduce our emissions. If you look at the Government’s own figures our emissions go up from 578 million tonnes a year now to 621 million tonnes in 2020. So the point I make is why go to all this time and trouble and effort and churn, why put so many stresses on households and on businesses, if at the end of the day it’s an ineffective method to reduce emissions? So again I say there’s a smart way and a dumb way to reduce emissions. Our direct action policy is the smart way, the Government’s great big new tax is a dumb way.

QUESTION:

Malcolm Turnbull said it was embarrassing to compare Australia with China. Your thoughts on that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, it is a fact – and this is drawn from the Garnaut Report – it is just a fact that in the same time period that we will reduce our emissions through a range of measures including carbon credits from abroad, in the same timeframe that we are planning to reduce our emissions by 50 million tonnes a year the Chinese are going to increase their emissions by 5,000 million tonnes a year. That’s just a fact. Now, I don’t think facts are embarrassing or exhilarating, they’re just facts, and that’s the fact as the Garnaut Report has made clear. Now, I am all in favour of the Chinese doing what is necessary to raise the standards of living of their population. If we are going to see China move generally into a middle class way of life, the sort of way of life that Australians have taken for granted now for a couple of generations, they are going to use more energy and inevitably that is going to be coal-fired energy and inevitably there are going to be more emissions from China. That’s just a fact.

QUESTION:

On the Malaysian swap deal, Chris Bowen says that the plan mooted by the Government has already stopped a lot of boats coming. You don’t really agree with that. What’s your opinion?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, since the Malaysian deal was announced there have been 10 boats and more than 500 people arrive and the sad thing is that those people are in limbo. No wonder we’ve got riots at Christmas Island when this Government’s policy is keeping people in limbo and the other really disturbing thing is the treatment that would be meted out to people who are sent to Malaysia. I watched a television programme last week on Today Tonight which had shocking footage of people whose immigration status was uncertain being caned – a very, very brutal form of punishment at least by our standards. Now, I don’t criticise Malaysia for having its standards but I think that it is incumbent upon Australia to treat people including boat people by our standards not by other countries’ standards and if we sent them to Nauru we would be in charge of how they are treated because that was the agreement that the Australian Government had with the Nauruan Government.

QUESTION:

On the Tasmanians electoral result for the Liberals, the Peter Reith report found that the Liberals failed to offer policies that appealed to Tasmanians. Do you think that that’s what cost the Liberals Bass and Braddon in the election?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I think the important thing is to learn from the past. One of the things that we always learn from election disappointments is the importance of good candidates. Now, I’m going to be going from here to another event with Andrew Nikolic who has just been endorsed as the Liberal candidate for Bass. Andrew is a really distinguished Australian who has served his country in the armed forces for many, many years. He’s risen to the rank of Brigadier. He’s been decorated for bravery and for distinguished service and I am very much looking forward to helping Andrew to continue his distinguished service to our country, only this time in the parliament.

QUESTION:

You’ve been in northern Tasmania twice in the past couple of months. Is this part of a push to try and connect with northern Tasmanians again?

TONY ABBOTT:

I think it’s very important that the Coalition reach out to Australians everywhere. It’s interesting talking to workers at this plant this morning. A lot of them felt badly let down by the current federal government. They thought that the Prime Minister had broken faith with them. People made various comments to me but some of them were, you know, ‘we elected Kevin Rudd – what gave her the right to politically assassinate him? We elected her on the basis of in part her statement that there would be no carbon tax. What gave her the right to change her mind after the election without coming back to us and seeking a new mandate?’ One of the other comments I heard this morning from the workers here is, ‘why is it the Greens have so much power? We have been traditionally Labor voters and yet now it seems you vote Labor and you get Green. What kind of a deal is that?’

QUESTION:

What’s your plan to get back votes in Tasmania?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, as I said, the first part of the plan is to have really good candidates and Andrew Nikolic is an outstanding candidate.

QUESTION:

On the Tasmanian forestry deal, do you support the peace deal and the federal Government giving compensation for workers to move out of the native forest [inaudible]?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I want to see the details of the deal but one thing I certainly don’t support is spending taxpayers’ money to get people out of work rather than to get people into work and I think it’s really important that we have a strong and vital and prospective Tasmanian forestry industry. Forestry is really important for the economic prospects of Tasmania. It is one of the significant productive industries of this state and I want that to have a big future, not to have a shrunken diminished future and I am very, very concerned about Labor-Green governments in Hobart and Labor-Green governments in Canberra that seem to want to get people out of forestry jobs not get people into forestry jobs. If there’s going to be money spent, let’s spend it in ways to keep people working, not in ways that stop people working.

Thank you.