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Transcript - 23536

Interview with Andrew Bolt, The Bolt Report, Network Ten

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: 01/06/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23536

Subject(s): Budget 2014

ANDREW BOLT:

Joining me is the Prime Minister. Tony Abbott, thank you for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning, Andrew.

ANDREW BOLT:

Now, why is Malcolm Turnbull wooing Clive Palmer on his own? It looks like he's got his eye on your job.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it's perfectly reasonable for senior members of the Coalition to talk with independent and minor party senators, because let's face it, Andrew, we have a Budget to get through the Parliament, but even before that we've got the carbon tax abolition to get through, the mining tax abolition to get through. I am utterly determined to deliver on the fundamental commitments we took to the people and the abolition of the carbon tax and the mining tax are central to that.

ANDREW BOLT:

Yes, but Malcom Turnbull made a sort of pitch, it seemed to me on Channel Nine on Friday as well, saying - announcing basically that he could talk to Clive Palmer to get things through the Senate, but you can't?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I'm talking to various minor party and independent senators right now. They're really courtesy calls, as much as anything. But obviously I'm stressing to all of them the Government's absolute determination to repeal the carbon tax, to repeal the mining tax, deliver on our commitments and Andrew, I don't pretend that any of this process will be easy. But you've got to remember that not many governments in recent times have had a majority in their own right in the Senate and yet almost no government has failed to get the major elements of its Budget through.

ANDREW BOLT:

You're absolutely right. But here's the problem, I think - you’ve got nothing - you can get nothing through the Senate unless Labor, the Greens, and with the new Senate, Clive Palmer, together agree. Right? Labor wants to destroy you, the Greens want to destroy you, and Clive Palmer, it seems to me, doesn't like you either. You can talk all you like to the other cross-benchers, but Clive Palmer is the key. What's wrong with his relationship with you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, there’s nothing wrong with him having a relationship with senior members of my frontbench and over time I'm confident that he will have a constructive relationship with the Government. But the important point, Andrew, is this is the Government. We have a Budget. It's the right Budget for these times. We will get it through.

ANDREW BOLT:

But he hates you. He hates you. He wants to destroy you.

PRIME MINISTER:

This is your assertion, I don't necessarily accept it. But all the others have is a complaint. All the others have is a complaint, whether it's Bill Shorten, whether it's the Greens, whether it's others - it's one long chorus of complaint. In the end, what the public want is a Government that knows where it wants to go and knows where it wants to take our country. If you go back to the Budget, sure it's a Budget for saving, it’s also a Budget for building. Sure it's a Budget for living within our means, it’s also a Budget for playing to our strengths with things like the medical research fund. So, I don't pretend for a second that people have been cheering in the streets, because it's a tough Budget. It had to be a tough Budget.

ANDREW BOLT:

Look, I agree, there's no alternative plan put forward by the others. Absolutely agree with you. The point is, whatever its virtues, if the Greens, Labor and Palmer don't want it, it's not going ahead.

PRIME MINISTER:

But the man with the plan has an extraordinary advantage over the person who’s just got the complaint.

ANDREW BOLT:

Clive Palmer, is he an honest man?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, look, he's been a senior member of the Coalition, lay member of the Coalition parties, I’m not in the business of impugning. I’m not in the business, Andrew…

ANDREW BOLT:

So you can't say yes, does it worry you, these allegations by his Chinese partners that he misused $12 million of their money, partly to finance his political party? Palmer denies it. Do the allegations concern you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, just to get back to the previous issue, Andrew, it's not my job to give a character reference for my political competitors and I'm not going to. But on the other hand, it's also not my job to impugn the integrity of people who may well be our negotiating partners. I expect him to deal openly and honestly with this Government and we'll be open and honest with him.

ANDREW BOLT:

The Medicare co-payment seems to be the one that's in real problems. Your $7 charge on what were previously free visits to the doctor. Labor, The Greens, Palmer, all say they don't like it. Which seems to you of those three most likely to give in? Because if one of them doesn't give in, you're gone.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, let's talk about the principle Andrew, 70 per cent of GP visits at the moment are bulk billed. But a lot of people might pay $70 or $80 as well to see the GP. So, this idea that no-one has ever paid anything to see the GP is simply wrong. Second point I make is that we've been paying for years a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme co-payment for subsidised medicines. How can it be wrong to have a modest co-payment for the PBS? How can it be right, rather, to have a modest co-payment for the PBS and somehow wrong to have a modest co-payment for Medicare? And it is just bizarre for the Labor Party to be waxing morally indignant about one co-payment when they actually introduced the other co-payment, particularly when Bob Hawke sought to introduce a Medicare co-payment, supported by the then deputy minister Brian Howe, and indeed encouraged by the current Shadow Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin.

ANDREW BOLT:

Exactly right. But the point is, which of those three parties, Labor, the Greens, and Palmer, do you think will give up their opposition to the Medicare co-payment? Because if one of them doesn't, it's finished, isn't it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Andrew, I don't expect people to like the Medicare co-payment but I do expect people to support the Medicare co-payment. Because…

ANDREW BOLT:

Which one of those three will?

TONY ABBOTT:

Because when the facts are explained, we've long had a PBS co-payment, it hasn't damaged the universality of our health system – in fact it's helped to keep it sustainable. If the PBS co-payment has been an important part of the system, and it's helped the system, there’s no reason why the Medicare co-payment won't be the same.

ANDREW BOLT:

See, I can't see any of them cracking that's the problem, with trying to put the argument to the people…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I'm more optimistic than you are Andrew, and I’m confident…

ANDREW BOLT:

Where is the optimism based, then?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the optimism is based on the ability of people in the end to see sense. Who would have believed that Bob Hawke would have been a tariff carder? Who would have believed that Bob Hawke would have turned out to be a privatiser?

ANDREW BOLT:

So who’s the Bob Hawke? Clive Palmer or Bill Shorten?

PRIME MINISTER:

Who would have believed that Paul Keating would have turned out to be the great deregulator of our financial markets? Now, these were reforming Labor people. I don't believe that the reform spirit is entirely dead, even in the contemporary Labor Party. You look at someone like the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, he's written uphill and down dale in support of higher education reform, in support of the Medicare co-payment. There are sensible people in the Labor Party. In the end, I'll be appealing to them.

ANDREW BOLT:

Good on you. More with the Prime Minister after the break.

ANDREW BOLT:

Welcome back and my guest today is the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, I've never seen a hatred of a political leader being expressed in terms that I see now. Now, I know you personally. I actually know you as a kind and compassionate bloke. We disagree on a number of policies, obviously. But I see Labor claiming you hate women. The Greens calling you warped. Leftist protesters wearing F-Abbott T-shirts. How do you explain this hatred?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, John Howard was widely and ferociously criticised in his day. I don't dwell on it, Andrew. I really don’t dwell on it. I accept that one of the penalties of being in public life, on either side of the spectrum, is that you will be unfairly criticised by people who don't know you, and occasionally, you'll be unfairly praised by people who don't know you.

ANDREW BOLT: 

There have been repeated attacks on your daughters lately and on your wife by socialist students and Tim Mathieson, Julia Gillard's partner. How angry do you get, as a dad, when you see two of your daughters attacked as freeloaders?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, of course, this is hurtful and upsetting. That's why people do it. The important thing is to be as protective as you can be for your family but at the same time to get on with the job. That's what I'm utterly focussed on now, Andrew. It's getting on with the job of changing our country for the better by getting the carbon tax gone, by getting the mining tax gone, and then getting the Budget back under control. That means getting our Budget through the Parliament.

ANDREW BOLT:

But some of this is just OTT. I mean, Tim Mathieson suggesting your wife doesn't do any charity work, I mean, is he a bludger, I don't know, to get it from him…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s completely false.

ANDREW BOLT:

That must make you insane with hatred. I'd want to tear his block off.

PRIME MINISTER:

It's completely false and…

ANDREW BOLT:

No apology from him…

PRIME MINISTER:

Because it's completely false, I mean, the false criticism really has no impact. If it was true criticism, then it would have some impact, but this is utterly false – false and unfair.

ANDREW BOLT:

But doesn’t it hurt you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it does. But, again, you can't let these things put you off because there are people who make these criticisms precisely to put you off. It's like the niggle in a football match. Now, it should have no place in our polity, but sadly, there are some people who don't play fair.

ANDREW BOLT:

Well, Tim Mathieson, you should damn well apologise. Benefits – this story today in News Limited papers that unemployed people who fail drug tests could face a cut in benefits along the New Zealand model. Are you contemplating that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, this was a highly speculative piece and I'm just not going to comment on highly speculative pieces. There were some significant changes to our welfare system in the Budget. We do have the “earn or learn” initiative for people under 30 who might otherwise be on unemployment benefits. We are also extending some of the former government's initiatives in the Disability Support Pension area to try to ensure that as far as is possible people are economic contributors as well as social and cultural contributors. So, there's a lot already in the Budget.

ANDREW BOLT:

Drug tests?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, as I said, it's highly speculative, and as far as I am aware, you couldn't even do that kind of thing without the cooperation of the states. So, it doesn't look to me like the sort of things that are likely.

ANDREW BOLT:

Ok, I was just really amazed at seeing some material that Joe Hockey put out, the Treasurer, the sort of benefits that a single mother with two young children studying could get. I'm looking at the list. Something like 18 different benefits; parenting payments, study payments, child care for studying people, telephone allowances, clean energy supplements – it's unbelievable. That's tax free $56,000 a year.

PRIME MINISTER:

Our welfare system has grown like topsy over the last couple of decades. It is something that does need to be reconsidered. But at the moment we are absolutely focussed on the Budget, the changes that we have brought in…

ANDREW BOLT:

You're just going to let that go? $56,000 tax free is incredible. I've got to pay for that, lots of working people have got to pay for that.

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not saying, Andrew, that it's going to be unchanged forever. Obviously, I'm not saying that it's going to be unchanged forever. But at the moment there's the “learn or earn” initiative for people under 30 who might otherwise be on unemployment benefits and there's the firming up of some of the changes that the Labor Party made to try to ensure that some of the people on Disability Support Pension are as engaged as they can be with our community – including economically engaged.

ANDREW BOLT:

This week you're going to the US and to Europe. What's the most important thing you want to achieve in your trip?

PRIME MINISTER:

I want to ensure that the world knows Australia is open for business and that they know we are under new management. I think under the former government there were anxieties about just how committed we were to being an open economy. Over the last few months we've had successful free-trade negotiations with Korea and Japan. We are making considerable progress I believe with China but it's important to let all the world – including the North Americans – know that we are open.

ANDREW BOLT:

So, it’s a sales job?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, every time the Australian Prime Minister goes abroad he is doing a sales job for our country. I mean, the whole point of sending the Prime Minister abroad on the taxpayer is for him to bring back economic and security benefits and that's what I'll be intending to do.

ANDREW BOLT:

Tony Abbott, thank you very much for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks so much.

[ends]

Transcript - 23536