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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Abbott, Tony

Disaster Assistance Announced for Bushfire Affected Communities in New South Wales

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 19/10/2013

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 23048

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell today announced disaster assistance is being made available to communities affected by the bushfires currently burning in the eastern and north coast regions of New South Wales.

The range of assistance measures available include:

  • Personal hardship and distress assistance for families and individuals affected by the bushfires, such as emergency food, clothing and accommodation.
  • Concessional loans for small business, primary producers and not-for-profit bodies, freight subsidies for primary producers and grants for voluntary not-for-profit bodies that have suffered physical damage are also available.
  • Financial assistance for local and state government authorities is also available to assist with the restoration of damaged infrastructure and the provision of counter disaster operations.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of New South Wales who are suffering at this time. Individuals and families, farmers, small business owners and councils affected by the devastating bushfires can rest assured that assistance is available to help them recover and get back on their feet as soon as possible.

Disaster assistance is now available in the following local government areas through the New South Wales Disaster Assistance Arrangements and is jointly funded with the Commonwealth under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

Eastern NSW Bushfires (from 16 October 2013)

Blue Mountains

Eurobodalla

Lake Macquarie

Lithgow

Shoalhaven

Wingecarribee

Wollondilly

Wollongong

Wyong

Eastern NSW Bushfires (from 13 October 2013)

Cessnock

Dungog

Hawkesbury

Muswellbrook

Newcastle

Port Stephens

Singleton

The Hills

North Coast NSW Bushfires (from 9 October 2013)

Clarence Valley

Coffs Harbour

A very high level of threat still continues for many communities around NSW and emergency services and support agencies are working around the clock to contain these threats.

While the extreme weather has eased, the threat for many communities is not yet over.

Further local government areas may be declared in coming days as the bushfires continue to affect New South Wales and as assessments are completed.

The Commonwealth and New South Wales governments are committed to supporting bushfire affected communities and ensuring that the necessary assistance is being made available as events unfold.

Information about the range of assistance measures available can be found at http://www.mpes.nsw.gov.au/nddassistance or on the Australian Government’s Disaster Assist website at www.disasterassist.gov.au

19 October 2013

Transcript - 23048

Address to South Australian Liberal Party State Council

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 19/10/2013

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 23050

Location: Adelaide

Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow Liberals, thank you so much. It is a real honour and a real thrill to be here, the first State Council of our Liberal Party around Australia that I’ve had the chance to address as Prime Minister.

Before I commence this address, let me simply take a few moments to remember all of those people in New South Wales who have lost homes because of the devastating bushfires over the last couple of days. We remember them, we remember their communities, we remember all of those who are on the frontline of the fires: the fulltime professionals, the part time professionals, the volunteer professionals, in the state emergency services and the rural fire services. We remember all of them and we send our best wishes to them as they confront loss, as they confront challenge, as they rally together as Australians always do in difficult times.

South Australia is a state which understands fire, which has suffered its own fire emergencies on numerous occasions. It’s happened in the past, it will happen in the future. When South Australia suffers, the other states rally to your cause. When New South Wales suffers, I’m sure South Australians would wish to acknowledge that and to send nothing but best wishes beaming across the distance to all those people in New South Wales.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a real thrill to be here in Adelaide for your conference. An important conference for our party because it marks a transition from Grant Chapman, one of my former parliamentary colleagues who has been an outstanding President, to Alexander Downer, another one of my former parliamentary colleagues who I know will be an equally outstanding President. I salute Alexander. I am grateful for our friendship. I acknowledge the fact that Alexander was a truly great Minister in what was arguably one of the very greatest governments our country has had and I know he is absolutely the man to lead and guide the party as you approach the vital election in March of next year.

Here in South Australia, our party could hardly be in better shape. I salute my Senate team: Cory Bernardi, Sean Edwards, David Fawcett and Anne Ruston. I salute our House of Representatives members: Rowan Ramsay, Andrew Southcott, Tony Pasin, newly elected for Barker, and of course marvellous Matt Williams, magnificent Matt Williams, the newly elected member for Hindmarsh.

But I particularly salute and pay tribute to those outstanding members of the new executive Government: Simon Birmingham, who will ensure that our water is right, that we appropriately manage the balance between the environment and the needs of our agricultural industries and the cities and towns of the Murray-Darling Basin; Jamie Briggs who is going to be at the forefront as the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure, at the forefront of delivering the roads of the 21st Century; and of course my friend and colleague the Hon. Christopher Pyne, Leader of the House of Representatives and Minister for Education.

It’s nice for the first time in almost six years to have at the federal level a Minister for Education who doesn’t think that more money is the solution to every problem. It’s good to have as Minister for Education at the federal level someone who appreciates that the key to better schools, the key to better educational institutions is not just more money, but it’s better teachers, it’s better teaching, it’s more principal autonomy, it’s more community engagement and it’s more rigorous curricula. That is the key to better education in this country. Christopher Pyne understands it and thank God we have someone who does.

I want to say thank you to all of my federal colleagues for the support that they have so consistently given to me over the last four years almost since I became the leader of our federal party. But most of all I want to thank every one of you in this room for the support that you have given to them. We have been a good team. We have been a happy family. Sure, from time to time we’ve had our discussions, we’ve even had our arguments, but we’ve treated each other with respect and we’ve resolved them like adults and that’s why we are now in Government in Canberra.

Can I also say thank you to the South Australian Division for a very strong result at the recent federal election. We had a five and a half per cent two party preferred swing to the Liberal Party at that poll. It’s our best result in almost a decade and of course, the icing on the cake was an almost eight per cent swing in Hindmarsh to give us that seat. Well done, South Australia.

But of course, even elections which we win have their bittersweet moments. It doesn’t matter how well you do, there are always some who are disappointed. I pay tribute to our candidates who fought the good fight but sadly are not with us in Canberra: Tom Zorich, Sue Lawrie, Carmen Garcia, Damien Mills and Nigel McKenna. You did the right thing by our party. You did the right thing by our country. You had a go, and sure, it wasn’t quite enough to get there but in the end we are judged not so much by what we have done but by what we have tried to do. You tried to do something magnificent and we salute you.

So my friends, there is a new Government in Canberra. We inherited a mess but we have made a good start. We inherited a mess but we have made a good start. Think of the legacy of the departed Labor government in Canberra: 200,000 more unemployed, a commonwealth gross debt skyrocketing towards $400 billion, the five biggest deficits in our history, and worst of all, more than 50,000 illegal arrivals by boat under a government which had completely lost control of our borders.

We were elected, my friends, because we promised to fix this. We promised to stop the boats, to get the Budget back under control, to scrap the carbon tax and to build the roads of the 21st century. That is what we will do and that is what we are doing. Yes, we’ve only been there for one month and one day but we have made a good start.

I said on election night that Australia was under new management and Australia was open for business. Well, I can report that on that very night, by our election, we saved the motor industry of this country from Labor’s $1.8 billion fringe benefits tax hit on company cars. So at the very least, on the day after our election the motor show rooms of this country were once more open for business.

We said we would launch Operation Sovereign Borders, and we have. Lieutenant General Angus Campbell is running Operation Sovereign Borders. Former Major General Jim Molan is my special envoy for people smuggling, working already in the capitals of our region. We said we would reintroduce temporary protection visas and we have. The message has gone out – no one coming illegally to Australia by boat will ever come to this country. The message has gone out – no one who has come to Australia illegally by boat can ever expect to receive permanent residency of this country. That is the message that has gone out and I have to say it is a message which appears to have been heeded.

Never forget that in July, just three months ago in July, the worst month in our history for illegal boat arrivals almost 5,000 came in a single month. They were coming in July at the rate of 50,000 a year.

Now, we can’t work overnight miracles. We have no magic wand. But there’s no doubt the difference that new policies and new resolves make. So far in the one month and one day that this Government has been in place, illegal arrivals by boat are running at the rate of just 10 per cent. They’re down 90 per cent on what was happening at its worst under Labor.

Now I don’t pretend that the people smugglers won’t test us. I don’t say that there won’t be worse months as well as better months in the time ahead. I don’t pretend that the boats have already stopped. But I can say to you with great confidence, my friends, they are stopping. They are stopping and they will be stopped.

We said we’d have an indigenous advisory council and a business advisory council and we do.

I said that my first overseas trip as Prime Minister would be to Indonesia and it was. I think leaders of other countries have been quite pleased to go to a meeting with an Australian Prime Minister and for the first time in six years not get a lecture. I will stand up for Australia, I will sing our praises but I don’t pretend that I have all the answers for other countries. Lord knows it’s hard enough to have the answers for your country let alone to have the answers for every other country in the world! So we will never make the mistake that was made so frequently by our immediate predecessors.

And yes, we are negotiating free trade agreements. We are accelerating those negotiations. I hasten to say, free trade agreements that are in the best interest of our country as well as in the best interests of other countries; free trade agreements that will have significant benefits for us as well as significant benefits for our partners.

We said that there would be a one-stop-shop for environmental approvals and I’m pleased to say that yesterday in Brisbane, I signed a memorandum of understanding with Premier Campbell Newman to ensure that within 12 months that will be a reality.

We said that the Australian victims of overseas terrorism would receive modest compensation along the lines of the compensation available to the victims of domestic crime here in Australia and within a week or so, that compensation will be flowing.

Ladies and gentlemen, we said above all else we would scrap the carbon tax. Well, this week I released an exposure draft of legislation to do just that.

Let’s be under no illusions about the carbon tax. The carbon tax was never an environmental measure. Look at the former government’s own figuring and it made clear that despite a carbon tax tipped to be some $37 a tonne by 2020, Australia’s domestic emissions were going up, not down, from 578 million tonnes to 621 million tonnes. The carbon tax was never an environmental measure. The carbon tax was always socialism masquerading as environmentalism. That’s why the carbon tax must go.

When I released the exposure draft legislation this week, I was able to say, based on the official advice that I had received, that abolishing the carbon tax would mean a nine per cent cut in power prices, a seven per cent cut in gas prices, a $200 a year reduction in your power bill, a $70 a year reduction in your gas bill, a $550 a year benefit to households. Wouldn’t that be a nice Christmas present for the people of Australia? But who’s the person who wants to steal Christmas, at least when it comes to abolishing the carbon tax? Who’s the person who quite likes to see those electricity bills nine per cent higher than they should be? Well it’s none other than the new Leader of the Opposition, good old ‘Electricity Bill’ Shorten.

Look, I know that the new Leader of the Opposition is beholden to the Greens. I know that the new Leader of the Opposition doesn’t want to repudiate too quickly the legacy of his predecessors. But unless Mr Shorten is prepared to accept the will of the Australian people, unless he is prepared to accept that the carbon tax is nothing if it’s not a tax on your power bills, I’m afraid his tenure at the top is likely to be very short indeed – notwithstanding all the changes to the Labor Party rules designed to ensure that the leader can never lose his job – because every time those power bills come through, people will be thinking, more bill shock! What’s his name? Bill Shorten? Bill Shock? What is it?

That’s what people will be thinking unless the new Leader of the Opposition is prepared to do what we were prepared to do after the 2007 election and that is to accept that in the end, we might be Liberal, we might be Labor, we might be National, but first and foremost we have to be democrats. In a great democracy like this, we have to accept the verdict of the people. We have to understand that the Australian people have said, let’s scrap this carbon tax. Let’s scrap this toxic tax. And that is exactly what we will be doing once the Parliament resumes in the middle of November.

It is always a thrill, my friends, to be here in Adelaide. Adelaide is a fabulous city. South Australia is a great state. I regard Adelaide as probably the world’s most liveable city. Great people, great climate, terrific restaurants, art, culture. This city has got everything going for it except, I regret to say, the strong economy that the people of South Australia deserve. It is so important that we scrap the carbon tax and scrap the mining tax as soon as we humanly can because as long as those taxes stay in place there will be a permanent handbrake on the economy of this great state.

I can’t guarantee that without the carbon  tax and without the mining tax the Olympic Dam mine expansion will go ahead but I can guarantee that with the carbon tax and with the mining tax it will never happen. It will never happen. For the sake of the people of South Australia, for the sake of the future of this great state, for the sake of your children and grandchildren, we must push on with the abolition of the carbon tax and the abolition of the mining tax and we must succeed.

My friends, not only must we reduce tax, not only must we cut red tape, not only must we get government spending under better control, but we must build the infrastructure of the future and this is where I am so happy to be working hand-in-hand with my friend and colleague, the state Liberal leader, Stephen Marshall. Stephen Marshall is a very sensible man. Stephen Marshall is precisely the kind of person who will get things done in this state.

As you know, a few months ago the federal Coalition committed to spending half a billion dollars on the North-South Road Corridor. We committed to spending half a billion dollars on what was the number one priority for upgrading the North-South Corridor, the Darlington Project. Well, the day after we made that commitment, the day after Stephen Marshall enthusiastically backed that commitment, mysteriously, the Darlington Project disappeared from the State Labor Government’s website. It had been the number one project, the number one priority on the State Labor Government’s North-South Road website. The instant the Coalition committed to it at federal and state level, it disappeared and since that time the State Labor Government, the Government which has so monumentally failed when it comes to delivering any serious infrastructure to the people of this state, the State Labor Government has been saying forget Darlington, let’s get on with the Torrens Project.

Well, I say that Stephen Marshall is the kind of guy that gets things done. Stephen Marshall is the kind of guy who would never want to see happen in this country the kind of hyper-partisan deadlock that we have seen recently in the United States. Stephen Marshall came to me the other day and he said, ‘Tony, let’s do them both. Let’s do them both.  And while we are on about it, let’s try to get the whole North-South Road Corridor upgraded within a decade.’ Let’s face it. We’ve been talking about it since 1968. A story which we have been telling since 1968 should finally come to a satisfactory conclusion and that is exactly what will happen with Liberals working together at both the state and federal level to get things done.

Ladies and gentlemen, we will get these projects done. We will have cranes over our cities. We will have bulldozers on the ground. I am so pleased that to drive all of this, particularly here in South Australia, we have one of the most dynamic, young politicians in our country, Minister Jamie Briggs, the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure. Jamie, you have a heavy responsibility and I know you will not let us down.

My friends, this is a great city, in a great state, in a great country. We all know that for the last few years we have been less than we could be. We have been less than we should be. But we all know that things are changing. We all know that things are changing for the better and things will have changed for the better in March of next year, when not only do we have a Coalition Government in Canberra, but we have a Liberal government in Adelaide. Let’s make a new start, not just for our country but for our state. That’s why I am so pleased to be here today, to applaud and to thank the Leader of the Opposition Stephen Marshall and to say thank you to South Australians for everything you have done for our party.

[ends]

Transcript - 23050

A spirit distilled in the heat of battle

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 20/10/2013

Release Type:

Transcript ID: 23051

When nature is at its worst, Australia tends to be at its best. This week, thousands of volunteers have worked around the clock to tame New South Wales' most difficult bush fires in years.

All Australians grieve for what hundreds of people around New South Wales have lost this week.

If you have been affected by the fires, assistance is available through the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.  This payment provides $1,000 per eligible adult and $400 per eligible child to assist those whose homes have been lost or seriously damaged.

Information about assistance is available on the Australian Government Disaster Assist website at www.disasterassist.gov.au or on 180 22 66.

If you live in a bushfire prone area, I hope that you might develop your own bushfire survival plan if you have not already done so.  If you haven’t prepared one, there’s a plan available at www.rfs.nsw.gov.au which has been put together by experts.  Remember that leaving early is always the safest option.  Fires are fast and changes in weather make them unpredictable.

Thirteen years as a volunteer fire fighter has taught me to respect the force and ferocity of bushfire. Fire can travel much faster and further than you can imagine.  No house, property or animals are worth putting yourself or your family in harm’s way when you are thoroughly prepared.  If in doubt, leave!

To the Rural Fire Services’ 70,000 volunteers, I wish you strength and stamina because the full force of summer is yet to arrive.

The 2,000 brigades of the RFS prepare throughout the year for any eventuality.

My own brigade at Davidson is typical of the volunteer brigades across the country.  When we put on the  yellow uniform we aren’t mechanics, accountants, public servants or indeed, Members of Parliament, we are a team dedicated to fighting a fire and looking out for each other.

The word ‘heroic’ is often used in association with fire fighters. I have never met a volunteer fire fighter who thinks in those terms.  We are simply men and women trained to do a job.  On our truck, everyone has each others' back.

I do want to pay tribute to the support teams that back up our fire fighting units. Every RFS unit is backed  by a team of radio operators, cooks and logistics staff who quickly materialise to support an instant army of fire fighters.

Community groups like Red Cross, Salvos, Lions and Rotary and so many others also lend a hand and provide ongoing assistance to communities as well as to the emergency services volunteers.

I particularly want to thank the employers across Australia who support our fire fighters and SES workers.  It’s not easy to lose your staff to the emergency services with almost no notice and inevitably without complaint.  You too help our community.

There could be a long and difficult fire season ahead.  The citizens of a "sunburnt country" will rise to this challenge, as we always do.

Transcript - 23051

Federal Government Delivers Funding for New Medical Research Discoveries

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 23/10/2013

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 23052

Location: Melbourne

The Federal Government has announced more than $559 million in funding to help Australian health and medical researchers generate new health discoveries.

The funding will support 963 grants across three National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) research support schemes and five fellowship schemes.

The investment in these innovative projects is aimed at finding better treatments for many common diseases such as cancer, diabetes, asthma, arthritis and cardiovascular disease as well as finding new ways of tackling mental illness, dementia and indigenous health.

The Federal Government is committed to ensuring that Australia remains a world leader in medical research.

Investing and supporting medical research is one of the best long-term investments in health that a government can make.

Ongoing, long-term funding of medical research improves quality of life and life expectancy and, at the same time, takes pressure off the hospital system.

Australia is among the top five countries in the world in producing scientific articles per capita and in the past decade alone, Australia’s health and medical research sector has produced three Nobel Prize winners.

It is only through sustained investment that we can retain our scientific talent, generate health discoveries and fully reap the benefits of health and medical research.

Medical research is an essential part of the Federal Government’s plan to build a more diverse, world-class five pillar economy.

This round of funding includes 652 project grants worth $423.5 million and will support investigator-initiated research projects in clinical, biomedical, public health and health services research.

Six partnership projects worth $4.5 million will support researchers and policy makers to identify tailored, evidence-based solutions that improve health practice. Twelve European Union Collaborative Research Grants worth $4 million will also support Australian researchers working in multinational research collaborative projects.

In addition, 293 fellowships totalling $126.9 million will help to build a strong cohort of future researchers.

For information on NHMRC grants awarded to successful researchers: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/grants/outcomes-funding-rounds

Transcript - 23052

Interview with Neil Mitchell, Radio 3AW, Melbourne

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 23/10/2013

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23053

Subject(s): Medibank Private

NEIL MITCHELL:

Prime Minister, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

`Morning, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you plan to sell Medibank?

PRIME MINISTER:

Medibank Private. We’ve been saying for years that it would be better off in the private sector. It’s a competitive market and we think that this would actually help the customers of Medibank because we think that the services would improve and certainly it will bring some money back to taxpayers, but all we’ve done so far, Neil, is say that there will be a scoping study because we would want to sell it at the right time, not the wrong time, so we maximise the price and get the best possible value for taxpayers.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Would you like to sell it sooner rather than later?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well again, Neil, we want to do what’s right for taxpayers. We want to do what’s right for the Australian public. Medibank have been saying for years that they think they could operate better in the private sector. Certainly under the former government Medibank Private was raided for compulsory dividends and so on. If they’re in the private sector, they’ll be free of that kind of demand from a sometimes unreasonable owner. So it will be good for Medibank and Medibank’s policy holders. Ultimately, good for taxpayers as well, but we’ve got to maximise the price. We’ve got to do it at the right time, not the wrong time and that’s what will happen.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you have a figure in mind? I read $4 billion is likely.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well again, that’s the kind of thing that we’ll have more to say about when we’ve seen this scoping study.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But you do have a figure in mind yet, or not?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let’s see what the scoping study comes up with. We want to maximise the return to taxpayers, obviously. That’s why we’ve got to do it at the right time, not the wrong time.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So if it’s not enough, will you not sell?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we want to see it return, we want to see it in the private sector, but we’ve got to do it the right way, not the wrong way, at the right time, not the wrong time. It’s been our policy for years, Neil. It was the policy of the Howard Government in its last term. Legislation passed the Parliament to do it. It was our policy at the 2010 election. It was our policy at the recent election. So we do intend to do it but we are not in a rush. We’ll do it calmly, purposefully, methodically and we’ll do it when it’s best for our country.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You don’t believe the danger that fees would go up if it was privatised?

PRIME MINISTER:

Don’t forget, Neil, that there is some regulation of private health insurance premiums. There’s an annual premium round and the Minister for Health has to approve premium increases. They’re not unreasonably refused but we’ve got to be confident that they’re necessary and not just a bit of commercial gauging.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Are other assets being reviewed for sale?

PRIME MINISTER:

We’re going to do no more and no less than we promised people at the election. The only privatisation that we’ve got slated is Medibank Private.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Would you look at other assets?

PRIME MINISTER:

We’ll honour our election mandate, Neil. Now, that’s not to say that nothing apart from Medibank Private will ever, ever be sold but we won’t do anything which is inconsistent with our mandate. Now, who knows what the recommendations of the Commission of Audit might be, but we will only act on recommendations in ways which are consistent with a mandate.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, your Commission of Audit has a very broad scope, very broad scope.

PRIME MINISTER:

As you’d expect, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Everything’s on the table.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we’ve said, ‘think outside the circle’. We’ve said it’s almost two decades since the exercise was last done. In that time the size, scope and the conduct of government has changed. Let’s look at it all again to see what can we do better and please, ‘be bold’, we’ve said. Come up with whatever you think is going to be better for taxpayers, better for the clients and the customers of government, better for our great nation because what we want as a country is the most efficient and the most effective government possible but we won’t act in ways which are inconsistent with our mandate.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So are tax rises on the table?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, this is a government that believes in lower, simpler, fairer taxes and this is going to be about more efficient government and I think we can be confident that we’ll be much more about smaller government than bigger government.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So regardless of their recommendations, you won’t consider tax rises?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it’s almost inconceivable that the Commission of Audit would be going down that path. I mean, the Commission of Audit, their mandate is to go through government branch by branch, division by division, agency by agency, asking itself the question: are we doing this in the best possible way? Are there better ways of doing this? Because everyone wants to see a government which is as efficient and as effective as possible and delivers the best possible value for taxpayers.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You’re talking about smaller government. That means cuts in some areas.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we’ve said, Neil, going into the election, that we did want to trim the size of the Commonwealth public sector. We’ve pointed out that it was roughly 20,000 larger in head count now than at the close of the Howard Government. Now, the former government had begun a trimming process and we are going to build on that. We are going to have a shrinkage of 12,000 over the forward estimates period but we think this is manageable.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Ok, if there are cuts, will we also have to look at services being cut or else transferred to the states?

PRIME MINISTER:

The important thing is to give people the best possible services and that’s what we want to ensure. Now, there may well be some services that can be better delivered. You might remember a long time ago, Neil, I was the Minister for Employment Services and in that capacity I was responsible for helping to shift employment services from the old Commonwealth Employment Service to the then new Job Network and the transition was not entirely smooth; but nevertheless, the result for the public was a big improvement in employment services and much better outcomes in terms of getting people into jobs. So, if we can do things like that – I’m not assuming that we can, but if we can do things like that, why shouldn’t we?

NEIL MITCHELL:

In a general sense, is it possible to achieve what you’re talking about without pain somewhere for somebody?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not saying that everything that the new Government does over the next three years is going to be rapturously received and I am sure that we will see a stream of press releases, particularly from public sector unions, saying how terrible the Government is. The important thing is to get the best possible services for the lowest possible cost to taxpayers and that’s what we’re exploring right now.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And will you look at transferring the responsibilities to the State, perhaps even hospitals?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the States are responsible for public hospitals. Yes, the Commonwealth has a role in funding them but….

NEIL MITCHELL:

But you’ve got a big bureaucracy…

PRIME MINISTER:

And one of the points I’ve made is that there’s something like five to six thousand Commonwealth health department employees and yet we don’t provide a single medical service. We don’t run a hospital. Now, sure, we help to fund hospitals and yes, through Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the Aged Care arrangements we fund and organise an enormous range of health services but we don’t directly deliver them and this is one of the many reasons why I think that it ought to be possible to operate just as well with a somewhat slimmer Commonwealth public sector.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Why are you increasing the debt ceiling by so much?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, peak debt had been forecast to hit $370 billion. We were going to hit Labor’s debt ceiling in December. That’s just two months away. We were going to hit Labor’s debt ceiling in just two months and the last thing we wanted, Neil, is a crisis in this country like the crisis that they’ve just gone through in Washington in the United States. So we did have to increase the debt ceiling. You might remember on this very programme in May, Wayne Swan, the then Treasurer, basically washed his hands of this. He said, well really this is going to be a problem for the next government to face. You know, Wayne Swan was like the bad tenant who was trashing the house before he got evicted. So we had Wayne Swan washing his hands of this matter on your programme in May.

The debt ceiling does have to go up. The $300 billion limit is going to be reached within two months. So peak debt was forecast to reach $370 billion. The latest estimates from Treasury are that peak debt will be well over $400 billion. That’s why we think it’s prudent to have a $500 billion limit but our job – and there’s a world of difference, if I may say so, Neil, between the limit and what you actually borrow – our job is to get debt down and we will and that’s why this Commission of Audit is so important. We’ve got the problem, which is Labor’s sky rocketing debt, and we’ve got the solution which is sensible savings and sensible efficiencies in government and that’s what the Commission of Audit will help us to deliver.

NEIL MITCHELL:

See my point is I don’t think you can achieve that without pain, and yes, there’s pain to the public service but are you saying to the people of Australia as you go through this audit: you’re going to have to carry a bit of the load as well?

PRIME MINISTER:

If we are going to get debt under control, if we’re going to get the Budget back into the black, yes, inevitably, things will have to change and there will be some things that people don’t like but I think the public, Neil, understand that government has been living beyond its means. Let’s face it, we have the five biggest deficits in Australian history from Wayne Swan’s five budgets. We can’t continue, we can’t continue and that’s why, amongst other things, we’re having this Commission of Audit.

NEIL MITCHELL:

We’ll take a break and come back with more from the Prime Minister in a moment. I want to talk about the Sydney fires, gay marriage etcetera and your role as a fire-fighter, Prime Minister, in a moment.

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NEIL MITCHELL:

Prime Minister, will you continue in your role as a rural fire fighter?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ve been in the brigade now, the local Davidson Rural Fire Brigade for 13 years Neil. I love my service with the Brigade. It helps to keep me grounded, quite apart from being an important form of community service. Obviously, my time is much more limited, but yes from time-to-time, I will do my best to turn out with the Brigade.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Are the security people happy about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the short answer is not very, but I’ve explained to them that we don’t go out there to take silly risks, we go out there to do what’s necessary to defend peoples’ homes and communities and I’ll be with the crew and I’ll act under the instructions of the deputy captain and the other officers and it’ll be done as effectively as it can be.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What do you do?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well on Saturday night when I was out with the Davidson crew as part of the Warringah/Pittwater strike team, we were up in the Blue Mountains around the Bilpin area. We lit up various back burns. So you get out the drip torch, you light up along a fire trail or a cleared area, you get the fire going, then you watch for a while to make sure it’s behaving itself, then you wait to get re-tasked and…

NEIL MITCHELL:

Have you been in a dangerous position in the years you’ve been doing it?

PRIME MINISTER:

There’ve been moments when you start to get a bit of adrenaline. There are moments when you think, ‘oh dear’, but the fires in the Blue Mountains in 2001, Boxing Day 2001, was probably my hairiest day out on the fire ground and that was a bad day.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Did you [inaudible] your life was in danger?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I didn’t because, we were well trained, we’re well equipped. We’re well supervised and the risks are all well and truly considered and they’re taken for good reason.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But as Prime Minister, should you be taking those risks?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the risks are well within the bounds of what’s acceptable and you see, even as a Prime Minister, you’ve got to be a human being first and it is a normal part of a normal Australian life to serve in various community organisations. Whether it be the Rotary club on the one hand, the church auxiliary on the other hand or the surf life-saving patrol or the Rural Fire Service on the other hand and I will do my best to continue to be a citizen as well as a Prime Minister.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Does climate change have anything to do with the New South Wales fires? I know the head of the UN climate change negotiations says there’s a clear link, she said this week, a clear link between climate change and the New South Wales fires.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think the official in question is talking through her hat, if I may say so, Neil. Look, we’ve had bad fires since almost the beginning of European settlement. I think the first massive bushfires in Victoria were back in the 1850s. We had terrible fires in 1939 in Victoria. We had shocking fires in 1983 in South Australia, in Victoria. We had terrible fires in Hobart in 1968 – something like 70 people were killed on the edges of Hobart. We’ve had bad fires in New South Wales in 1968, in 1994, in 2001. Of course, we had the terrible fires here in Victoria in 2009. Look, fire is a part of the Australian experience. It has been since humans were on this continent. The Aboriginal people managed the landscape through various forms of fire stick farming. It took us a long time to figure out that our landscape needed to be managed and at times burnt. So, look, climate change is real as I’ve often said and we should take strong action against it, but these fires are certainly not a function of climate change, they’re just a function of life in Australia.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Calls for the Prime Minister and I’ve got some more questions. Chris, go ahead please.

CALLER:

Yes, good morning Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Chris.

CALLER:

I just wanted to quickly ask why the government would not consider selling SBS and the ABC since they’re spending a lot of taxpayer money every year and I presume, and please correct me if I’m wrong, there’ll be in circa of $10 billion if both are sold, thank you.

NEIL MITCHELL:

ABC and SBS for sale?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, no, they’re not for sale. Some would say they’re cultural icons. Some would say that there’s only a limited advertising market so why flood the market with more advertisers and drive others out of business or compromise the already shaky profitability of free to air broadcasters. Look, one way or another Chris, they’re not for sale, but certainly it’s important that they be as well managed as possible, that they be as well run as possible and the new Government will do its best to make sure that’s the case.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And as fair as possible?

PRIME MINISTER:

As fair as possible. Look, every politician sometimes feels that he or she has been hard done by. Whether it’s at the hands of the ABC or even sometimes perhaps Neil, here on 3AW, we sometimes feel we’ve been hard done by. I think it’s true that at times, there is an ABC, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age view of the world, if you like. That said, there’s probably also a Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun view of the world and it might be rather different and in a robust democracy like ours, thank God there are a multitude of different voices and for a politician like me on the ABC, the important thing is to have a good argument and make it as best you can.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Gay marriage, what if people marry under the ACT law later this year, will that be void if you then go on to block it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well what’s happening Neil, is that the Attorney-General has instructed the Commonwealth lawyers to challenge this legislation in the High Court because under our Constitution, pretty clearly, the Commonwealth has responsibility for marriage and the regulation of marriage. So, it’s not a question of being for or against gay marriage, it’s a question of adhering to the Constitution. Now, if as I think, the ACT legislation turns out to be invalid under the Constitution, well then those marriages wouldn’t be valid. So, I suggest to people who would like to be married under the ACT legislation, hold on ‘til its validity is tested.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So you’re definitely going to fight it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, we are going to challenge this because we think that the Constitution should be adhered to.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So is this therefore, is the decision to fight it a moral one or a legal one?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s purely a legal one. If the truth be known, there’s a range of views within the Coalition Party room and I suspect the Attorney’s view is probably more ‘progressive’ in inverted commas, than some others’ views might be, but the job of the Attorney is to uphold the Constitution and that’s what we are determined to do, to ensure that our Constitution is adhered to.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So George Brandis is, I was going to say in the closet, but he’s in fact a supporter of gay marriage?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not going to put words into anyone’s mouth. I’m not going to put people on one side or the other of these issues, just to say that it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth and in particular of the Attorney to ensure that the Constitution is adhered to and that’s what we’re determined to do here.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Your sister was a very good advocate.

PRIME MINISTER:

She’s a terrific advocate. Outstanding advocate and she chews my ear uphill and down dale on this subject and I wish her and Virginia all the best for their future happiness.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And you will go to her wedding?

PRIME MINISTER:

And if there’s a ceremony of some kind, yes I will be there with a present. I’ll do the right thing, but look, I am a traditionalist Neil, on this. From time immemorial in every culture that’s been known marriage, or that kind of solemnised relationship, has been between a man and a woman.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I did remind her, I’ve got a bet with you that you’ll change your mind within five years.

PRIME MINISTER:

I fear that’s a bet you’re likely to lose Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Darren, go ahead please.

CALLER:

Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Darren, how are you?

CALLER:

I’m excellent. I have a gay son. I was brought up in a Christian house. I don’t support gay marriage. I do, however, think that we could see ourselves to have a legal civil union so gay people do have all the benefits of being in a committed relationship and so on. Is it possible to see something like that in the near future rather than, I mean I believe that marriage itself is religious, it’s more religious based and I think Christianity doesn’t support gay marriage, but I think from a government point of view, is it possible that we could possibly see a legal framework so as they do have the legal benefit of marriage?

NEIL MITCHELL:

Some sort of civil union you’re talking about Darren?

CALLER:

Exactly.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Darren, if we were starting from scratch, you’d probably have a situation where the state formally acknowledges relationships of great significance, but then if you want to go and get married you go off and do that in a church. I gather that is the kind of thing that happens in France. So, if we were starting from scratch it may well be that we go down that path. Of course we are not starting from scratch. We have got a Commonwealth Marriage Act which provides that marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not proposing to change that. When people did propose to change that in the last Parliament, I voted against it. My Party voted against it because that was the position we’d taken to the election as had the Labor Party. The Labor Party took the view that they might say one thing before the election and do the opposite afterwards but we took the view that we weren’t going to do that and therefore that we would stay with the traditional position as a Party. Now, I don’t know what is going to happen in this and subsequent Parliaments if this whole question of gay marriage were to come up in the coming Commonwealth Parliament, the Coalition party room would deal with it in the usual way.

NEIL MITCHELL:

There are a number of issues I would like to get through quickly if I may. The bikie laws in Queensland, pretty tough, extra jail time for being a bikie, pink jumpsuits, no right to refuse questions - are they going too far?

PRIME MINISTER:

They are tough laws and I have discussed these with Campbell Newman. He is determined to make a difference and he accepts that this is draconian legislation – that is one of the reasons there is a time limit on it – but he wants to make a difference, he is determined to ensure that these bikie gangs are defeated at least in his state.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you support them or are they going too far?

PRIME MINISTER:

I support the right of the state governments to do what they think is necessary to ensure peace, order and good government in their states.

NEIL MITCHELL:

There’s likely to be some High Court challenges on them. Will the Federal Government be involved in this as you would be on gay marriage?

PRIME MINISTER:

We would support the right of the states to get on with good government.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So, they have got the right on bikies but not on gay marriage?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it is a question of the Constitution. Under the Constitution, standard normal policing is a matter for the states and territories. Now, the criminal law is normally a matter for the states and territories under the Constitution, but marriage under the Constitution is a matter for the Commonwealth.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Is it correct you are looking, or you are planning an Arlington-like cemetery in Canberra?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not planning it but I do think it is important that we have a lasting legacy out of the whole Centenary of ANZAC process. We are going to have various local commemorations. Every electorate will be given $125,000 to help with these local commemorations and that might involve refurbishing memorials, having essay competitions, art competitions, public speaking competitions on the theme of ANZAC. There will be a major travelling exhibition which the War Memorial will be organising.

I would like to think that we could do some more. We have got this significant commemorative centre being opened in Albany from where many of our World War I veterans, World War I soldiers departed. That was the last sight of Australia that many of them had. That’s good but let’s see if we can do some more.

Now, the Canadians have got, I believe, a magnificent interpretive centre at Vimy Ridge, where the Canadian Army did such significant work in 1917. The Canadians and the Australians were the shock troops of the British Army in World War I. The Australian Army was in fact decisive in the defeat of the final German offensive in March of 1918, and we spear headed the big push against the Germans which ultimately led to what Ludendorff said was the ‘black day’ of the German Army. I mean, this was all Australia’s doing.

We are much more familiar with the Gallipoli story then we are with the story of the Western Front and yet on the Western Front, which was the main game in World War I, Australia was often the decisive military actor. Now, our exploits have sometimes been lost because we were operating as part of the wider British Army.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So, how does that relate to the cemetery?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I am saying the two things that we ought to consider, Neil, are a major interpretive centre on the Western Front along the lines of what the Canadians have done at Vimy, and an Arlington-style national war cemetery in Canberra. Now, the Americans obviously have a magnificent national cemetery and many Australians who visit Washington go there. The Indonesians, your listeners might be interested to know, have a national war cemetery in Jakarta, where many of their senior military leaders and war heroes are buried. I am not saying that we must do it but I think we should consider it.

The RSL a few years ago thought it was a good idea. I suspect that the families of quite a number of VC winners would be happy to see their famous family member reinterred in a national cemetery. So, let’s have the debate and see what we can come up with. I think it would be sad if in 2018 we looked back on four years and we had had essay competitions and memorial refurbishments but we didn’t have some more lasting legacy.

NEIL MITCHELL:

A couple of very quick things if I may? What do you think Peter Cosgrove will be doing in June next year?

PRIME MINISTER:

He’ll be doing a very good job.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What as?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, he is a busy man, he gets all sorts of invitations to do all sorts of things. He has a very busy life.

NEIL MITCHELL:

He would be a good Governor-General, wouldn’t he?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I have seen speculation but I don’t comment on speculation.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Ok, fair enough. Malcolm Fraser seems to be saying we are too close to the US. Is he right?

PRIME MINISTER:

We should be close to the United States. The United States is our best friend in the whole world. They are our most important security partner, they are a very important trading partner, they are a democracy, they speak our language, they share our values, our television programmes are broadcast there, their programmes are broadcast here. Australians don’t feel like strangers in the United States. Americans don’t feel like strangers here. We are hardly foreign countries so we should be very close to the United States.

NEIL MITCHELL:

The Australian newspaper reporting that Barrie Cassidy appointed by Labor to chair the old Parliament House Advisory Committee the day after the election was called. Does that concern you? Are you going to reverse it or doesn’t it matter?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, the former government, Neil, rushed to appoint its friends to all sorts of positions in the dying days. Barrie Cassidy is a good bloke. I don’t begrudge him the appointment but it did all seem to be done with a certain unseemly haste.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Are you going to watch his expenses closer than the Members of Parliament? I can’t understand why you just won’t tighten them? Not Opposition Leaders, not Prime Minister’s – backbenchers.

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil, I appreciate that the public are always concerned and annoyed whenever there are stories of politicians allegedly misusing entitlements. Now, I am not saying that we are never going to change the system. I am always vigilant for ways to improve. The difficulty is that whatever the system is there is always going to be arguments at the margin and the only proposal that has come up so far is the Greens proposal for an Integrity Commissioner. Now, this was one that they actually put to the former government with whom they were in alliance and not even the former government thought it was a great idea.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You could find an answer if there was a will there. It is not on the margins to fly from Perth to Cairns to buy a house on the taxpayer and then pay it back.

PRIME MINISTER:

The gentleman in question tells me that he didn’t do that. That he went from Perth to Cairns to have some very important discussions with the whip.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Haven’t they got a telephone?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil, look, there are some discussions that are best done face to face. I can remember in December last year coming down to Melbourne for a fantastic event that you might be familiar with.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yes, you came to a Christmas lunch but that was in your role as…

PRIME MINISTER:

But you can’t have that on the phone. I mean there are certain things which just have to happen face to face and look, Members of Parliament are entitled to travel to have important meetings because teleconferencing is sometimes no substitute for a face to face discussion. Now, I am not defending any particular action and look over the years there have been a lot of things which look contrived, I have got to say. All I am saying Neil, is that whatever the system is there is going to be arguments at the margins. I am not ruling out improvements but no one has come to me yet with a proposal which I am confident on balance would take things forward.

NEIL MITCHELL:

We will work on that for you. Prime Minister, later today you are announcing grants, medical grants, which quite a few of them are going to Victoria.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, essentially this is the next round of National Health and Medical Research Council grants. Australia really does punch above its weight when it comes to medical research. Victoria punches above every other state when it comes to medical research. Melbourne is essentially the health and medical research capital of Australia. There is about $560 million worth of grants. I think $250 million will be here in Victoria. So, it is a great outcome for health and medical research in Victoria. The interesting thing about health and medical research – which is one of the reasons Neil, why we promised absolutely no cuts whatsoever in this area – is that for every dollar spent the econometricians tell us there is $5 worth of value in that spending. So, it’s good for our research community and ultimately it is very good for Australia and the world that this research is being done.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you very much for coming in. I appreciate your time. Many surprises in the job so far? Harder than you expected?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, you can never really anticipate what it is going to be like to be in a big new job and I guess I spent 20 years watching prime ministers, increasingly close to prime ministers and to the prime ministership, but nothing ever really prepares you for the job and this is why good prime ministers grow in the job. Poor prime ministers sometimes seem to shrink in the job and I will let you and others decide down the track Neil, whether I have grown or shrunk.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Have you started growing yet?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, as I said I will leave others to judge that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript - 23053

Remarks at National Health and Medical Research Council funding announcement, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 23/10/2013

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 23054

It’s very, very good to be here with you all today to pay tribute to the great work that has been done at the Alfred Hospital for about 130 years now and to celebrate the work of Australia’s health and medical research community.

We don’t always appreciate out there in the general community just how good we are as Australians at health and medical research. There’re 23 million of us but we are a comparative super power, certainly a world power, when it comes to health and medical research. We’re up there amongst the top five nations of the world when it comes to health and medical research – about one per cent of the world’s population, close to five per cent of the world’s refereed health and medical research. We are very, very good at it and because we are good at it, we do so much good for patients here in Australia and right around the world who benefit from the results of our health and medical research community.

We do, of course, get some recognition. We’ve had three Australian Nobel Prize winners in just the last decade in health and medical research. Three Australians of the year in just the last decade have been health and medical researchers, but frankly, we are so good at this that we do need to tell the story again and again and again and I’m pleased, as Prime Minister, to be here to do what I can in my own way today to let Australia and the wider world know just what we are doing with health and medical research here in this country right now.

The Government that I have the honour to lead is determined to do everything that we reasonably can, even in these fiscally challenged times, to ensure that Australia’s health and medical research effort continues. At this point in time, we don’t have additional funding but we are determined to try to ensure that the funding goes as far as it can. That’s why there are some changes coming to increase the length of most NHMRC grants so that people spend more of their time researching and less of their time filling out forms.

We are going to try to streamline and improve the assessment process through an early triage system so that over time, more of the grant applications ought to be successful. We don’t want to see a situation where our best people are filling out grant applications only to find four in five fail. So there’s lot of work that we are going to do even within the current fiscal envelope to ensure that your work bears even more fruit in the future than it has in the recent past.

I’m about to throw to Minister Dutton to say some more about the successful grant applications which are announced today – some $559 million of spending, which is announced today. I just want to say that the lion’s share has gone to Victoria, including to researchers at institutions based here in and around the Alfred Hospital.

As a Sydneysider, let me say how proud I am of the health and medical research which is done in Melbourne. You are proudly and by quite a way, the health and medical research capital of Australia and I’m pleased to be part of a Government which is able to support you in this way.

[ends]

Transcript - 23054

Joint Doorstop Interview , Wynyard

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 25/10/2013

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23055

Subject(s): Government’s economic growth plan for Tasmania

Location: Tasmania

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s terrific to be here at Haulmax. This is a successful, local Tasmanian manufacturing business. I was very proud to be shown around these operations by Dale Elphinstone, one of Tasmania's most successful citizens today.

The great thing about this particular plant is that the trucks that are coming out of here go all around the world and one of the trucks that I was looking at this morning, manufactured here in Burnie, in a few months’ time is going to be in northern Canada. Just goes to show what Australian manufacturing can do, what Australian manufacturing still is and what Australian manufacturing might be under the right policies.

It's very important that, as well as trying to boost our economy generally, we do everything we can to take Tasmania from the back of the pack economically to an economic leader here within Australia. Tasmania has great people, it has great potential and the new Commonwealth Government is determined to do more to realise the economic potential of Tasmania.

We have made some important commitments to Tasmania. There’s the $38 million to upgrade Hobart airport, there's $400 million to upgrade the Midland Highway, there's $24 million to help create a world class Antarctic research centre here in Tasmania, there's the Major Projects Agency to be based in Launceston. Then of course there's the Commonwealth Tasmania Economic Council involving myself, the Treasurer, the Premier and Dale Elphinstone as the most successful businessman here in Tasmania.

Our mission – and we will not fail – is to ensure that we get the economy of this great state going again. Tasmania needs to be more than just a national park. It needs to be more than just a beautiful place to visit, a lovely place to live. Tasmania has to be a terrific place to invest, to do business, to make things and that's what the incoming Commonwealth Government is determined to do.

It's a pleasure to be here with Will Hodgman, my friend and state parliamentary colleague. It's a pleasure to be here with Eric Hutchinson – sorry, with Brett Whiteley! Eric's down the road. It's a pleasure to be here with Brett Whiteley. Eric and Brett and Andrew Nikolic are our new members here in Tasmania. We had a very good result right around the country but we had an 11 per cent swing to the Coalition, to the Liberal Party, here in Tasmania. It shows Tasmanians want change. It shows that Tasmanians are ready to embrace development, to embrace a strong economy and that's what the new Commonwealth Government is determined to lead.

I'm going to ask Brett to say a few words and then I’ll ask Will to say a few words and then I’ll take questions.

Brett?

BRETT WHITELEY MP:

Thanks, Prime Minister. It's an absolute honour to have the Prime Minister here in Braddon. Your first visit, Prime Minister, since assuming office and we're so proud to be associated with the team and it's just great to be here today to see the Prime Minister reaffirm his commitment to the rebirth of the Tasmanian economy. That's why we put out a Tasmanian growth plan. That's why we put so much work into it. That’s why we asked for the input that we got and just to hear the Prime Minister of Australia reaffirm that commitment today I think should be a tremendous positive message to the people of Tasmania: that our intention is to be reopened for business.

So, thanks Prime Minister for coming.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks Brett. Will?

WILL HODGMAN MP:

Can I join in welcoming Tony back, this time as Prime Minister. It’s fantastic to have you back in the state after so many visits during the election campaign and I think Tasmanians warmed to your ongoing interest in our State and your plan to make sure Tasmania's economy is moving in the right direction. That's entirely consistent, of course, with what we offer the Tasmanian people when we go to our election in March of next year.

I think it's really important for Tasmanians to understand that not only does the Federal Government have a strong plan for Tasmania's economy, Tasmania's alternative government has the same thing. I think it's important for governments to work cooperatively and to work constructively to deliver good outcomes. I think it's a disturbing thing to find the current Premier and her Ministers being so critical and so antagonistic of this new Federal Government that has a mandate and a plan to deliver for Tasmania.

I would urge Lara Giddings and her colleagues to work constructively, to put politics to one side and to start working on delivering the best outcomes for Tasmanians – that is, growing our economy and creating jobs in this state.

PRIME MINISTER:

Ok, do we have any questions?

QUESTION:

Earlier today Simplot announced that they would stay open here in Devonport, for the next three years if it can remain viable. Will the Federal Government commit any funding to ensure that that happens?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm going to ask Ian Macfarlane to add to this answer because Ian has been down here in Tasmania to talk to Simplot, amongst other people, and it's very important that we do talk to the major businesses and the major employers of Tasmania and right around Australia.

What's really encouraging is that Simplot have agreed to continue their operations here in Tasmania, at least for the next three years, without government subsidy. I think they are expecting the Government, both nationally and locally, to deliver a better business environment and that is what we are determined to give them by abolishing the carbon tax, by getting red and green tape down.

One of the problems – which Ian might like to elaborate on – that they’re wrestling with there is a massive increase in their water charges because the local authorities have decided that they have to have an extraordinarily rigorous system of water quality. Now, we want good water quality. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. But if we are going to insist on the purity of a mountain stream, we won’t have the business and we won’t have the jobs. We’ve got to be reasonable. We’ve got to understand that there is a price to be paid for everything and we have got to be prepared to pay the price of having viable manufacturing industry here in Tasmania, for the benefit of Australian consumers, for the benefit of Tasmanian farmers and for the protection of Tasmanian workers.

But Ian, you might like to add to that?

MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY:

Thanks, PM. As you know, I’ve already visited Simplot’s plant in Bathurst. I’ve already had extensive discussions with Simplot. I this morning visited the plant here in Devonport. As well as that, I’ve had discussions with the AMWU who came to my office on Wednesday in Canberra and discussed the things that they were prepared to do and what that highlights is that the long term solution for the likes of Simplot here Devonport and the corn plant in Bathurst, which can be long-term viable, is that everyone gets involved in getting the solution.

So, as the PM said, we need to get rid of the carbon tax because the electricity costs on this plant here, through its refrigeration system – and remember it freezes everything, sometimes twice – so we need to make sure we get our electricity charges down, we need to make sure that local authorities aren't over-charging for water, where their water charges are going from $800,000 to $2.5 million, that's just not going to allow that business to be competitive. We need to make sure that the State Government’s involved, that we get rid of red tape. It is about getting a long-term solution. So, we're not going to consider flying in, as the Labor Party did, hurling out some money and shooting through knowing the business won't be there in six months’ time. We’re about long-term solutions.  I’ve told Simplot that we’ll work with them and the rest of the food processing industry over the next 12 months to get a long-term answer.

QUESTION:

No direct federal funding?

MINISTER IAN MACFARLANE:

Look, I’m not ruling anything in or out. I've started a process. It's two weeks into the process. At the end of that process, everyone will know exactly what needs to be done and who is going to do it.

PRIME MINISTER:

And just on that subject, we are not going to run down the road waving a blank cheque at people. That's not the way that a responsible, adult government behaves. It’s not prudent responsible management of taxpayers’ funds. What we need to do is to create the right climate for business to survive and to flourish. That means getting taxes down, that means getting red and green tape down, it means trying to ensure that there is a stable, predictable, certain regulatory environment without sovereign risk.

Now, if we can do all of those things, the creativity of Australians generally, but Tasmanians in particular, will do the rest. We can grow the cleanest, greenest food here in Tasmania. We've got great soil, we've got an abundance of water, we've got terrific people. If government creates a level playing field with the minimum of interference, Tasmanians will do the rest.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, as part of the federal election campaign run by the ALP, they pledged $10 million to vegetable growers. Now a lot of the points in the plan that was actually funded were also established in your economic plan for the state as goals that they would like to reach to improve productivity and profitability. I guess my question is - we've seen a lot of talk about the industrial aspects of the issues confronting Simplot, what about the agricultural issues?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, again, I’ll gladly defer to Ian on some of the specifics but there were a number of grants that were made by the former government as part of the forestry readjustment package. We committed to all of those grants and, in addition to the various grants that the former government announced that we were prepared to commit to, and I think a big, long list was published by the Deputy Prime Minister yesterday. There is, as I said, there’s the $38 million to improve Hobart Airport, there's the $24 million to the Antarctic Research Centre, there's the $400 million to the Midland Highway, there's the long-term jobs scheme to try to ensure that people who've been long-term unemployed get a hand into work. So, there are a lot of things that we're committed to.

What we aren't going to be doing in the years ahead is running around offering special deals for failing businesses because that's not the way to get the economy right in the long run. The way to get the economy right in the long run is to get taxes down, to get regulation down, to have a stable, consistent approach by government to business so you don't have sovereign risk issues. That's the way forward because that will unlock the creativity of the Tasmanian people.

QUESTION:

Can I ask a really brief follow up? Just quickly, I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of timeframe you're looking at for that kind of structural reform, because I'm sure that those growers impacted are keen to know when those costs will come down?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the carbon tax can be off before Christmas – or at least we can have the certainty of the carbon tax coming off before Christmas – if Bill Shorten would be prepared to respect the mandate of the people to the Government at the election. I mean, the best Christmas present that Bill Shorten could give the manufacturers and the workers and the households of Australia would be to let the carbon tax repeal legislation go through the Parliament and that way, from the 1st of July next year, everyone’s power will come down come in price; everyone's power will come down in price. The average household bill will come down by about $150 and obviously businesses like Simplot would have a massive reduction in their power costs.

QUESTION:

Labor promised $5 million in RDA funding for the Hobart Show Ground and $1 million for Streetscape projects which apparently wasn’t contingent on the election outcome. What's happened with that money?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I'm sure that that is correct. What we said was with all of those projects that were funded out of programmes associated with the mining tax, because we were abolishing the mining tax we would abolish the programmes and the funding associated with it, unless we specifically committed to it ourselves.

Now I'm sure the government announced funding for the show grounds out of that mining tax related fund. We didn't match it so we're not committed to it. Now that's not to say that in the years ahead, out of one of the funds that we do have, properly funded programmes that we will have, that we can't do something to help, but this particular grant won't be going ahead.

QUESTION:

Can you guarantee that funding for highway upgrades, including the Brooker and Huon and Midland Highways is safe?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I can certainly guarantee that we will spend $400 million on the Midland Highway upgrade because that's been part of our policy since before the 2010 election.

QUESTION:

When will that money start to flow?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it will start to flow from this year. I mean, the money will start to flow – it's not all going to flow in one hit – but it will start to flow basically as the work starts and that's really a matter for the Tasmanian Government.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, why hasn’t the $100 million growth money that was promised for Tasmania been spent yet?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the commitments that the former government made are commitments that the new government is going to keep. The $100 million that was associated with forestry restructuring, the commitments under that particular programme that the former government made, the new government will keep. As I said, we announced during the election that that would be the case. The Deputy Prime Minister put out a press release yesterday that had a whole list of grants that will be honoured by the government and that money will be paid across just as soon as the appropriate paperwork can be completed.

QUESTION:

Have you made any significant changes as to who will get the money?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. The recipients, as announced, will receive the money.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, what plans have you got in place to fix Tasmania's freight issues?

PRIME MINISTER:

I accept that this is a very serious problem and I had some very good discussions with Dale Elphinstone earlier today and this is obviously an issue for a company like Haulmax which is importing steel and other material from the mainland and from overseas and then exporting from here to the mainland and right around the world. So, look, this is a very significant issue. The Coalition will fully maintain the freight equalisation scheme that was put in place by the Fraser Government and has been maintained ever since by governments of both persuasions. We do have a joint Productivity Commission /ACCC inquiry that will get underway shortly into Tasmanian freight issues. We’ll get that report within a few months and we will make the appropriate decisions based on that report. In the end, though, what we need are strong and viable businesses here in Tasmania because if there are more Tasmanian businesses that want to export to the mainland and overseas, obviously there will be a lot more of an incentive for shippers to come in and help service Tasmania.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, do you have any concerns about the implications for our commitments to international obligations on environmental protection when the environmental approval process has changed? That means that some of the decisions are made at a state level rather than a double up occurring.

PRIME MINISTER:

What I want to avoid is the situation of double, triple and quadruple jeopardy which seems to have been happening in recent times. There ought to be clear rules, clear criteria to be met and if you’ve met them, the project should go ahead. What I want to avoid is a situation where the proponents of projects have met all the rules and then before they’re able to get underway, someone comes in with some new problem that hadn’t been looked at before and the whole process starts again. Now, the best way forward on this is to have a one-stop-shop for environmental approvals with clear rules, high standards, swift assessment, one lot of paperwork, one lot of assessors and that’s what we are working towards. That was a clear commitment that we took to the election. I’ve already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Campbell Newman to move swiftly towards a one-stop-shop environmental approvals process in Queensland. We’re making good progress with some other states. I think this is going to be a very significant improvement for people wanting to invest and create jobs and do business here in Australia.

[ends]

Transcript - 23055

Address to Tasmanian Liberal Party State Council, Hobart

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 26/10/2013

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 23056

Eric, members and delegates, ladies and gentlemen, my friends, thank you so much for that warm introduction. Thank you so much for that extraordinary welcome and I will know whether this speech has been successful by whether I get the same enthusiastic response at the end that I have at the beginning.

It is great to be here in Hobart. It's great to be amongst my Tasmanian colleagues. It is so good to be here to savour success and I want all of you to be so proud of the fact that while our Party, our Coalition did extremely well right around Australia at the recent election, nowhere did it do better than here in Tasmania. It was an 11.3 per cent swing to the Liberal Party here in Tasmania and I want to say congratulations and thank you.

I also want to note that my colleagues, in significant numbers are here to bask in your success. We are coming from all over Australia today to revel in the success of the Tasmanian Liberal Party. Mathias Cormann, the Minister for Finance. Bruce Billson, the Minister for Small Business. Arthur Sinodinos, the Assistant Treasurer. Paul Fletcher, the Parliamentary Secretary for Communications. We are all here to pay tribute to the Tasmanian Liberal Party and to say thank you for what you have done to ensure that this country of ours has the best possible government.

I want to say how well the Tasmanian division has done. It's been well led at every level. My distinguished friend and colleague and now Leader of the Government in the Senate, Eric Abetz. Our Senate team, Richard Colbeck, Stephen Parry, David Bushby and now our House of Representatives team, Andrew Nikolic, Eric Hutchinson and Brett Whiteley.

But I also want to pay tribute today to those who didn't get elected because every election, even a successful election, is a bitter-sweet experience. It's sweet for the victors, but inevitably it's a disappointment for those who worked just as hard, who carry our flag just as high and just as proudly, but for whatever reason don't succeed. So I do pay tribute today to Bernadette Black and to Tanya Denison, our House of Representatives candidates and I also pay tribute to Sally Chandler and Sarah Courtney, our Senate candidates. Please give them a round of applause.

One of the errors which members of Parliament sometimes fall into and the further up the greasy pole you get, the more prone you are to falling into the error, is to neglect the rank-and-file membership of our Party. We are only members of Parliament. We are only ministers in a government because we have decent Australians working night and day to put us there. I say thank you to the rank-and-file members of our Party here in Tasmania. I say thank you to your President, Geoff Page for the work that he's done, Richard Chugg, the former President, for the work that he did, but in particular I want to say thank you to the person who, in every division, tends to be the forgotten man, that is your State Director, Sam McQuestin.

State directors, they're the first people to be criticised, they're the last people to be praised and yet we cannot run successful election campaigns without highly competent, highly professional, incredibly hard-working state directors so, Sam, well done. I hope you are feeling very proud of what the Tasmanian division has achieved.

Well, my friends, tomorrow marks fifty days since the election. We inherited a mess but we have made a very strong start. Never forget the trough into which our country had fallen under the former government. Of course we were always a great people, of course we always had fundamental strengths, but those strengths were being mismanaged and misdirected by the former government. Never let us forget the legacy of the government that we have replaced. Unemployment, 200,000 higher than it was. Debt sky-rocketing beyond $400 billion because of their policies, because of the spending spree that the former government embarked upon and perhaps worst of all, a legacy of more than 50,000 illegal arrivals by boat because this was a government that had completely lost control of our borders.

Well, almost 50 days that on, the Australian public know that this country is under new management and this country is now, once again, as it should always be, open for business.

On day one – on day one – we freed the motor industry from the threat of Labor's fringe benefits tax hit and our motor showrooms were open for business. We said there would be an Indigenous advisory council and there is. We said there would be a business advisory council and there is. We said we would take control of the National Broadband Network and ensure that faster broadband was delivered more affordably and much more quickly than would ever have happened under Labor and we have. I said that the first overseas visit that I would make would be to Jakarta and it was. We said that we would revitalise the free trade agreement negotiations which had languished in some cases for 7 or 8 years and we've done precisely that. We said we would stop the boats and they are stopping. I don't want to underestimate the difficulty of that challenge but they are stopping. Over the last month, illegal arrivals by boat have been scarcely ten per cent of the peak under Labor in July. There is a hard road ahead. And thank you for acknowledging the good work that has been done not just by the Minister, Scott Morrison, but by everyone associated with Operation Sovereign Borders – our military, our Customs, our Immigration officials. These are people who had been set the wrong task by the former government. They were essentially managing a problem. Our determination is to end the problem. Our determination is not to guide the boats, our determination is to stop the boats and thanks to strong leadership from the top and extraordinary professionalism at every level, that is now happening.

We've released exposure drafts of the legislation to repeal the mining tax and above all else to repeal the carbon tax. Never forget what Labor did to Australia with its carbon tax. Not only was this a fundamental breach of promise, not only was this a basic betrayal of trust, because this was the tax, remember, that before the 2010 election was never going to happen. It was fundamentally wrong-headed because it was damaging our economy without helping our environment. Never forget that even under the former government’s own figures, the carbon tax was going to raise power prices by 10 per cent. It was going to raise gas prices by 9 per cent. It was going to shrink the aluminium industry by 60 per cent, the steel industry by 20 per cent. Even under the government's own figures, it wasn't actually going to reduce our emissions which the projections from the former government showed were going to rise from 578 million tonnes, now to 621 million tonnes in 2020, despite a carbon tax of $37 a tonne.

So let's be under no illusions, the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism. That's what the carbon tax was. That's why the carbon tax has been rejected by the Australian people. We are implementing what the Australian people voted for and the only people who are still in denial about what the Australian people voted for are the members of the federal parliamentary Labor Party.

The best Christmas present that Bill Shorten could give the people of Australia would be to stand aside and let the carbon tax repeal legislation pass through the Senate. It can be done. There are four weeks of parliamentary sittings coming up, more than long enough to take this burden off the backs of Australian workers, to take this burden off the backs of Australian families. The only person in this country right now who is in favour of higher power prices is good old electricity Bill Shorten, good old electricity Bill. That's what people will be thinking every time their power bill comes in until the carbon tax goes, "That's Electricity Bill who's responsible for the fact that this bill is up to $200 more than it should be." They call it bill shock. Bill ‘shock’ Shorten. That's what people will be suffering, good old Bill ‘shock’ Shorten and you know we know that he's capable of changing his mind. We remember what he said about Kevin Rudd back in 2010. He changed his mind about Kevin. We remember what he said about Julia Gillard until quite recently. He changed his mind about her. Well, Bill, if you can change your mind on your colleagues, you can change your mind on something of far more weight for the people of Australia. And every day that Bill Shorten refuses to change his mind is another day when the people of Australia and the people of Tasmania will conclude that he is more interested in pandering to Greens than he is in listening to the clear unambiguous verdict of the Australian people. Well, shame, Bill, shame. Put the people first and vote down this tax.

So 50 days on, it's clear that Australia is under new management, it's clear that Australia is open for business and it's clear that the only people who are still the same is the Australian Labor Party. But we do have a big job in front of us. This a great country blessed with a creative people, with a God-given environment that's second to none. In a part of the world which is growing strongly and yet it's an uncertain world. We've seen consistent long-term economic mismanagement in so many of the countries that we are accustomed to look to for leadership. It's more important than ever that we get the economic management of our country and of our states right and that's why it's so important that the new government in Canberra focus on the great state of Tasmania and ensure that Tasmania can once again be one of the economic leaders of our federation rather than one of the economic laggards.

Some of you would have picked up the local paper this morning and you would have seen the headline. The dispiriting headline that Tasmania had fewer people and more jobs 35 years ago than it does today. Over 35 years, Tasmania has lost jobs and gained people. This is a sad indictment on the political and economic management of our country and our state. Tasmania, I regret to say, it has the highest unemployment, it has the lowest wages, it has the lowest GDP per head, it has the lowest life expectancy of any state in our Commonwealth. That must change and the fact that people here in Tasmania were so ready to vote overwhelmingly for change in the recent federal election shows that the Tasmanian people are eager to embrace a better future and that's what we have to give them.

Now, I have abundant confidence in the capacity of the people of Tasmania. I have been a very regular visitor to this state throughout my parliamentary career, but in particular since leading our Coalition, leading our Liberal Party in Canberra. I have been to Tasmania again and again and again and I know what the Tasmanian people can do. I know the creativity that the Tasmanian people are capable of. Yesterday, Will Hodgman and Ian Macfarlane and I were in Burnie, in the company of Tasmania's most successful businessman, Dale Elphinstone.

How many Australians are aware of the fact that Tasmania, from some factories in Burnie, produces something like 30 per cent of the word's underground mining equipment? Heavy engineering, sophisticated engineering. I was looking at a truck at Haulmax yesterday that in just a few weeks' time will be on its way to Canada to haul minerals above the Arctic Circle. When I went for my run in Hobart I thought, yes, Tasmania is the right place to produce that kind of equipment.

We should set no limits on what we can achieve. We should set no limits on our future. Yet, all too often, particularly here in Tasmania, we have programmed ourselves to fail. We have burdened ourselves with unnecessary taxes and regulations. We have set standards of perfection which no-one can achieve. Instead of getting on with a reasonable job, with a reasonable prospect of success and all that simply has to change. It simply has to change. Well, it will change. The incoming government in Canberra will commit $400 million to upgrading the Midland Highway. We'll commit $38 million to upgrading Hobart Airport. We'll commit $24 million to ensuring that we have an absolutely world-leading Antarctic research centre here in Hobart. We'll have a major projects approval agency based in Launceston to ensure that when people want to invest $50 million or more in Tasmania, the doors are opened, not shut.

We will do all these things but in the end, what we need here in Tasmania is new will and new leadership and that's what is sitting right here beside me today. New leadership and new will to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield for a better future for Tasmania and a better future for Australia. That's what we want. That's what we will deliver.

My friends, it is such an honour to be amongst you. I am confident that things are changing for the better. I know that our best days are ahead of us and I look forward so much to walking with the people of Tasmania into that better brighter future.

Thank you so much.

[ends]

Transcript - 23056

Visit to Afghanistan

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 28/10/2013

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 23057

Today, along with the Chief of the Defence Force, the Defence Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, I visited Australian military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan to mark the approaching end of Australia’s mission in Uruzgan Province.

The ceremony at the Multi-National Base – Tarin Kot marked the closure of the Provincial Reconstruction Team, which directed Australia’s civilian-led development efforts in Uruzgan.

The ceremony honoured Australian, allied and Afghan sacrifices and achievements in Uruzgan. The ceremony helped to mark the transfer of lead security responsibility in the province to the Afghan authorities.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) mission in Uruzgan is drawing down and will be complete by the end of the year.  By that time, over 1,000 Australian troops currently serving in Afghanistan will have returned home.

Our mission in Afghanistan has been critical to our national security.  We have worked to ensure Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for terrorists and have worked with our allies to make the world a safer place.

Australia has helped to make a difference to the lives of people in Uruzgan.

We have helped to build and rehabilitate schools, improve health care and upgrade roads.  There are now 26 girls’ schools in Uruzgan and around 200 schools in total – a twenty-fold increase since 2001.  Up to 80 per cent of pregnant women now receive at least one pre-natal health care visit, and Australia is helping train nurses and midwives.  Some 200 kilometres of roads and bridges have been upgraded, improving access to markets and health and education services.

It was important to reaffirm Australia’s ongoing commitment to support Afghanistan’s security, governance and development in 2014 and beyond.  This support will include ongoing training for the Afghan National Security Forces and development assistance.

Australia will not walk away from Afghanistan but it will be for the Afghan people to determine their own future.

28 October 2013

Transcript - 23057

Supporting our Defence Forces

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 28/10/2013

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 23058

As the Australian mission in Uruzgan Province comes to an end, it’s more important than ever to support our troops and their families.

We cannot ask our young men and women to put themselves in harm’s way for our country without giving them the best possible care on their return.  This is especially true for those who have returned with physical and mental scars.

After today’s ceremony to mark the closure of the Australian‑led Provincial Reconstruction Team, two cricket kits were presented: one for the Australian troops and one for their local Afghan partners. It’s my hope that there might soon be an opportunity for a cricket match between Australian troops and Afghanistan troops to take place in Afghanistan.

Also gifted were two bats signed by members of the Australian XI.  Defence will be donating these bats to charities providing support to wounded members of the ADF and their families: Soldier On and Mates4Mates.

Soldier On and Mates4Mates will be able to use these commemorative bats to raise funds for their work.

Supporting these charities, along with the RSL and Legacy, is a good way to acknowledge the work of our armed forces.

28 October 2013

Transcript - 23058

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