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Transcript - 24088

Interview with Tim Webster, Radio 2UE, Sydney

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: 22/12/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 24088

Subject(s): Changes to the Ministry

TIM WEBSTER:

Tony Abbott is on the line. G’day.

PRIME MINISTER:

G’day Tim, lovely to talk to you.

TIM WEBSTER:

You too mate. It has been a tough year, a difficult year, on a number of fronts – hasn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, it has but it has also been a year of achievement too. We got rid of the carbon tax, we have all but stopped the boats, the roads are building, the Budget is under repair – that is a difficult job – and we have three really historic free trade agreements finalised this year. So, yes, it has been tough. Obviously, there have been economic challenges, there have been Budget challenges, there have been security challenges culminating in the atrocity in Martin Place last week but it is not all bad. There is a lot of work to be done and obviously my team, we’re all rearing to go into the new year.

TIM WEBSTER:

Now, on the Cabinet reshuffle, and everyone has had an opinion over the last couple of days as to why you did it and who you did it with. Nice to see Sussan Ley in there, obviously, but is it a bit of a case of new brooms sweeping clean?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, every so often you do need to refresh the government. This has happened to all successful governments. They have been refreshed from time to time and as you know, Tim, Arthur Sinodinos did have to step down altogether because the ICAC investigation is ongoing and good on him for accepting that regrettable necessity. Then of course, David Johnston and Brett Mason both agreed to stand down and I am looking forward to their future service to the Government in various capacities. That enabled a wider reshuffle and the focus is clearly on jobs and families. We’re going to get back to the economic message front and centre because, in the end, it is a stronger economy which is the key to the greater prosperity, the better life that all of us want and that will be absolutely the focus of the Government as we go into 2015.

TIM WEBSTER:

Yeah, and you have put Scott Morrison into a tough gig, social services, but he is pretty good at tough gigs.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that is exactly right. He has done a remarkable job stopping the boats. Prior to the election I was talking to a number of very senior people who had been involved in stopping the boats under the Howard Government and they were deeply sceptical as to whether it could be done. Remarkably it was done – really within the space of just a few month – the work that was done towards the end of 2013 by Scott and the Government meant that we have had just one boat in this calendar year and the rest never made it to our shores. They were all successfully dealt with on the way and that is the way it should be and by re-establishing strong border security we have actually stopped the deaths at sea which involved, tragically, hundreds and hundreds of people drowning because they’d come to the lure of the people smugglers.

TIM WEBSTER:

Can I just bring that discussion back to you? It could be the case with Scott Morrison, I don’t know, you were the Health Minister for a long time. Does it get to the point where you say to yourself, “Look, I have really done pretty much all I can do here and I wouldn’t mind having another challenge?”

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes and no, Tim, these are all very important jobs – they really are – they are all very important jobs and frankly it is an incredible honour to have any of these responsibilities as a Member of Parliament and as a Member of Government. Look, I had four years as Health Minister; in some ways they were the four most professionally satisfying years of my life. I was moved from workplace relations into health and when the Prime Minister said to me back in 2003, I think it was, “Tony, I want you to look after health.” I was a little surprised, I never thought I would be Health Minister – but I said to the Prime Minister, “Look, John, I am happy to serve.” All of my Ministers I am pleased to say have that view. They know what an honour and privilege it is to serve our country as a Minster of the Crown and they are all happy to serve in whatever capacity they can. On that note, I guess I should also thank Arthur and David Johnson and Brett Mason for their willingness to serve the best interests of the Government.

TIM WEBSTER:

How do you, and you would know this, how do you come up to speed quickly in a brand new portfolio and a very different one that, let’s just use Scott Morrison again as an example or any of them, when you are coming into a new job in a new year.

PRIME MINISTER:

You sit down with the senior officials, you sit down with important portfolio representatives, you talk to them, you get their views as to what is happening and what is really important, what is not being done, what is being done that could be done better, what is going right, what is going not so right, you obviously talk to the outgoing minister to see what he or she has as priorities and the skill of a senior politician, like the skill of a good barrister or a senior journalist, is to quickly assimilate the things that matter and respond appropriately and direct appropriately in whatever circumstances you find yourselves in. This is what, I guess good leaders do, they go to a situation, they size it up in accordance with their values, their insights, their knowledge, their understanding of what their appropriate procedures are and away they go.

TIM WEBSTER:

Ok, so a bit of that this year or will they leave it till after Christmas?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, there will be a lot of that this week. I would be amazed…

TIM WEBSTER:

If they didn’t.

PRIME MINISTER:

…given the responsibilities, if they aren’t sitting down today, tomorrow, Wednesday with their senior officials, with important people in the portfolio. They will be swotting up over the Christmas, New Year break and I expect them all roaring out of the blocks early in the new year.

TIM WEBSTER:

Can I just say this to you because I saw Mike Baird, had a long chat to him, when we turned on the lights at St Mary’s Cathedral a week or so ago and it is just such a beautiful evening and I said, “look, mate, the reason you’re going so well in the polls – in my view – is because people in New South Wales are seeing things getting done. They are seeing the borers in the ground for the North West Rail Link. They are seeing you do something.” And he has done it again today with this trial of medical cannabis, which I think is fantastic. Now, you have done a lot, your Government has done a lot, but you are not getting the traction. Is it fair to say, and I think you would admit it and I think Joe Hockey has admitted it, that the sell job wasn’t great?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you can always do better when it comes to self-promotion and some people have said I am not that great at self-promotion and that is probably a charge that I am happy to plead guilty to. Look, we are reset and refocused. Jobs and families will be at the absolute forefront of all our activities in the new year, the economy will be front and centre and the job of Budget repair, the absolutely critical job of Budget repair will be put in the context of its importance for building greater confidence for a stronger economy and that is why Budget repair matters. You know what it is like if you have maxed out the credit card you’ve got to reduce your spending. You know what happens to people, sometimes they increase their mortgage based on a surge in overtime payments, the overtime reduces and they have still got this big mortgage. That is the situation our country is in right now, that is why Budget repair matters because what we can’t have is our country succumbing to the European disease of endlessly increasing expenditure and stagnant revenue because the economy just isn’t growing.

TIM WEBSTER:

Well, I for one have consistently agreed with that concept that is for sure. Now, I know you are on a timeframe I’ll let you go but what about Christmas at the Abbott house – all the girls home?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, sadly, our eldest Louise is not going to be home for Christmas. She is spending Christmas in Italy with her Italian boyfriend’s family, which is nice.

TIM WEBSTER:

Lovely.

PRIME MINISTER:

She will be back early in the new year and that will be nice to have her back in the country. She starts her new job in the end of January or thereabouts and we are very proud of her. So, look, it will be a pretty standard Christmas in the Abbott household and in mid-January we are going down to the south coast to stay at a beautiful, beautiful spot near Sussex Inlet with the same families that we have been holidaying with for about the last…

TIM WEBSTER:

Yeah I read that, yeah. We are kindred spirits that’s for sure. I have a little place down at Bawley Point in between Ulladulla and Batemans Bay.

PRIME MINISTER:

Bawley Point what a magnificent place. The Racecourse Beach Caravan Park was the place this group of families started saying at about, gee whiz, 1994 or 1995. We then went a little bit further north about 10 or 11 years ago and we have been ever since but Racecourse Beach and that whole Bawley Point area are just fabulous.

TIM WEBSTER:

Gorgeous, absolutely beautiful. By the way how is your Italian?

PRIME MINISTER:

Arrivederci?

TIM WEBSTER:

Grazie, ah no, that’s Spanish, I’m as good as you. That will have to do, mate, what about under the tree? New pair of smugglers? What?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I still have to get down and do my proficiency at the Queenscliff Surf Club so I am going to ring up and see if they will give me a special proficiency test on Sunday and hopefully I will then be able to do my first patrol of the season.

TIM WEBSTER:

I tell you what, I know you are busy, but I was down at that beautiful dog beach at Bayview. I used it with my little girls yesterday and they had the 15 year old girls training in the Warriewood Surf Boat there on the beach. Yeah, God, that is a wonderful lifestyle, isn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER:

It certainly is. I mean at the risk of sounding incredibly privileged I mean the Northern Beaches, it is the most enchanted urban area in the world because you have the bush, you have the water, you have the harbour, you have Pittwater, you have the surf beaches and look, ok, traffic is a problem in peak hours and we all want to do something about the Spit Bridge and everything else but what a great place to live, what a fabulous place to live.

TIM WEBSTER:

It was so beautiful down there yesterday and God love the council for doing that by the way. Those dogs just all have a terrific time and it’s just a lovely thing for everyone to do down there.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no you’re right. I occasionally ride my bike through that park on the way on to McCarrs Creek Road – it is a beautiful spot.

TIM WEBSTER:

Thanks for your time this morning. I know you are extremely busy, have a lovely Christmas and all the best to you because if you are going well in the new year – so are we.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks so much Tim and all the best to you and your listeners.

TIM WEBSTER:

Thank you, Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

[ends]

Transcript - 24088