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Transcript - 23081

Interview with Lisa Wilkinson, Today, Nine Network

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: 13/11/2013

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23081

Subject(s): Opening of the 44th Parliament

LISA WILKINSON:

Well, Prime Minister Tony Abbott faces his first Question Time today as the 44th Federal Parliament kicks off in earnest, and I'm pleased to say the Prime Minister joins us now. Prime Minister, good morning to you, thank you for joining us.

PRIME MINISTER:

Pleasure, Lisa.

LISA WILKINSON:

Now, Prime Minister, one of your election promises was greater government transparency and yet we've seen very little of you and many of your senior ministers in the nine weeks since the election. Why have you all been hiding?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't believe that that's a fair suggestion, Lisa. Look, we've been out there talking when we've had something to say. We've been out there acting when we've had something to do but we aren't political exhibitionists and we don't believe in hogging the airwaves while we're actually getting on with the job of implementing government policy, and that's what people expect from their government. They expect their government to improve the running of the country, not to be constantly manipulating the media. They want us to be about substance, not spin.

LISA WILKINSON:

Well, the suggestion is that you are manipulating the media by stopping the flow of information to the public. These weekly briefings rather than daily updates on the asylum seeker issue often in these weekly updates, Scott Morrison, the Immigration Minister, refuses to answer questions. People are seeing that as a perfect example of stopping the flow of information?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think this is a bit of a, if you like, a media obsession. I don't think the public think that. I think the public are pleased that the flow of boats is actually reducing very dramatically. In the first two months of this Government, boat arrivals were 75 per cent down on the last two months of the former Government, and in October, boat arrivals were 90 per cent down on July, which was the peak month under the former government, and I think that's what people are interested in. They're interested in a government which actually delivers on its commitments, Lisa, and is in the process of stopping the boats.

LISA WILKINSON:

The boats have definitely slowed, I don't think anybody would argue that, but you promised to get tough and stop the boats, and twice now we've seen you back down to Indonesian pressure and accepted boats that were picked up in Indonesia's search-and-rescue zone. Why did you back down?

PRIME MINISTER:

Again, Lisa, I don't accept your assertion there. We have had very good cooperation with Indonesia in their search-and-rescue zone. Our relations with Indonesia are close and getting closer. Our cooperation is close and getting better all the time, but under the former government, the Australian Navy was essentially a taxi service for people smugglers and thank God that's stopped.

LISA WILKINSON:

Scott Morrison, again your Immigration Minister, says that Indonesia's policy has no rhyme or reason. He doesn't seem to agree with you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, again, I don't run a commentary on everything that everyone has said. We have good relations with Indonesia, they're getting better all the time. These boats are mostly going down in Indonesia's search-and-rescue zone and we are constantly talking to the Indonesians about how we can best cooperate, first to stop the boats, and second to save life at sea.

LISA WILKINSON:

Are you discussing a people swap deal with Indonesia at the moment?

PRIME MINISTER:

We're talking about the sort of arrangements which ought to apply to people who are picked up by Australians in the Indonesian search-and-rescue zone.

LISA WILKINSON:

Alright. Meantime, first order of business today in the new Parliament is the carbon tax that you promised voters you would repeal, but it already looks like it could fail. That's a promise you are going to find very hard to keep, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a commitment that we made and it's a commitment that we are determined to keep. The people who aren't interested in the result of the election, who are still in denial about the result of the election are the Labor Party, and the bill, Lisa, that I am introducing into the Parliament this morning is my bill to reduce all of your bills, all of your power bills, and if the carbon tax repeal bill passes, every household's cost will go down by some $550 a year. Power bills will go down on average by $200 a year. Gas bills by $70 a year on average. For some reason, good old ‘Electricity’ Bill Shorten is standing in the way of everyone else's power bills going down, and we are doing precisely what we said we would do. The big difference, Lisa, between this Government and the last government, we made commitments at the election and are now implementing them. The former government made a commitment at the election never to have a carbon tax, and the first thing it did afterwards was break that commitment.

LISA WILKINSON:

But the problem is you may end up breaking this promise because you can't get it through Parliament. Are you prepared to go to a double dissolution if you can't get it through?

PRIME MINISTER:

We won't break the promise. We will not break the promise, and I say to the decent, honest members of the Labor Party, why are you putting up with a leader who is in denial about the election result? The Labor Party should do the right thing by the workers and the families of Australia and not stand in the way of scrapping this toxic tax.

LISA WILKINSON:

Alright. Also on the agenda today is your call to lift the debt ceiling from $300 to $500 billion. Joe Hockey says this is the Opposition playing Russian Roulette with the country's economy, but the Coalition under your leadership did in fact oppose the lifting of the debt ceiling with the previous Labor Government.

PRIME MINISTER:

That's not true. That's not true, Lisa.

LISA WILKINSON:

My understanding is that twice, twice you stood in the way of that?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no, Lisa, we never opposed the former government's bills to raise the debt ceiling. We never opposed them.

LISA WILKINSON:

So you were happy for them to lift the debt ceiling?

PRIME MINISTER:

We were very critical. We were very critical of their policies. We said they were doing the wrong thing by our country. We said they were plunging our children and our grandchildren deeper and deeper into debt, but we never played fast and loose with this country's economic strength by trying to bung on a Tea Party-style situation in Australia. We never did that, never ever, and never would have done that. This Opposition, having criticised us as being relentlessly negative is now bunging on a Tea Party-style situation, a Washington Tea Party-style situation here in Canberra.

LISA WILKINSON:

But won't that $500 billion put our grandchildren into deeper debt?

PRIME MINISTER:

This bill is designed to clear up Labor's debt legacy. Under Labor's policy, the latest Treasury advice says gross debt is skyrocketing past $400 billion. Treasurer Swan in the Budget earlier this year, said, yes, there would be a problem, the debt limit would be exceeded later in the year, but he squibbed it. He basically said, "This will be a problem for the next government." Now, having trashed the place fiscally, the Labor Party, the former government, the now Opposition, they are trying to stop us from fixing the mess. This is utterly dishonourable behaviour.

LISA WILKINSON:

Alright, Prime Minister, first day of the Parliament under way today. We hope that your wish for a kinder, gentler parliamentary time is something that will come true and we thank you very much for your time this morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that's Bronwyn Bishop who will be presiding today, Lisa, and if there is anyone who can ensure the decent standards of behaviour are maintained, it's Bronwyn Bishop.

LISA WILKINSON:

She certainly looked very comfortable in the seat yesterday, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

She did.

LISA WILKINSON:

Thanks very much.

 [ends]

Transcript - 23081