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Transcript - 24106

Interview with Warren Moore, Radio 2GB, 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: 29/12/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 24106

Subject(s): Christmas holidays

WARREN MOORE:

Prime Minister, thank you for joining us.

PRIME MINISTER:

Warren, it’s a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

WARREN MOORE:

So have you had much of a break as yet?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I’ve had a long weekend – a lovely Christmas with the family, nice quiet Boxing Day, spent the weekend getting down to the beach a couple of times, getting out on the bike a bit. I won’t have formal holidays as such until the middle of January when I’ll take a week off and go down the coast with the families that the Abbotts have been holidaying with for the last couple of decades and that will be great. But, I can’t say to you, Warren, that I’ve been quite as intensively in the office over the last day, or will be for the next few days, than would normally be the case.

WARREN MOORE:

Yeah. Well, unfortunately this Christmas a bit of sad news – a lot of sad news, obviously, in Indonesia –hearing about AirAsia QZ8501. I know the Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop, has had something to say on that, but what have you got to say as Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, look, I’ve just spoken to the Chief of the Defence Force and we have one of our P-3 Orion aircraft searching for wreckage as we speak. With the Indonesians’ permission, because it’s their search and rescue zone, we will make ourselves as available as we can be until the wreckage is located and we’re certainly prepared to assist with the recovery and any investigation as well.

As you know, Warren, Australia has a very strong friendship with Indonesia. In recent years we’ve developed a stronger than ever partnership with them. It probably started in the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami a decade ago, where we were really the first in to help and under the Howard Government we provided about $1 billion worth of reconstruction assistance. I see what we’re doing at the moment as in that tradition. It’s very important to me and to this Government that we build the closest possible partnership with Indonesia. Indonesia is in some respects our most important relationship. It’s a strong friendship and I’m determined to make it stronger and these kinds of practical assistance are a very important part of that.

WARREN MOORE:

There’s been seven commercial accidents of aviation this year. Three have been in the Asia Pacific region, obviously, with ties to Malaysia and I know they’re quite different in nature, but the one thing that comes to the fore, particularly after MH370, was that push for live data tracking of commercial aircraft. Do you think that really the world political and governmental forums have to start talking about that being a reality now, not soon?

PRIME MINISTER:

Warren, I am sure that the aviation experts will be putting their heads together to come up with the most effective way of ensuring that we don’t just lose planes. I think it would be a big mistake to equate what has happened here with MH370. MH370, as things stand, is one of the great mysteries of our time. It doesn’t appear that there’s any particular mystery here. It’s an aircraft that was flying a regular route on a regular schedule. It struck what appears to have been horrific weather and it’s down, but this is not a mystery like the MH370 disappearance and it’s not an atrocity like the MH17 shooting down.

WARREN MOORE:

We’ve got The Australian today running an analysis of Newspolls – it’s not really a new Newspoll but they’re running an analysis of trends over the last quarter. The 20 point lead in support by men enjoyed by the Coalition at the last election pretty much lost, your own position as preferred prime minister now pretty much a tie with Bill Shorten and the common theme there is I’m talking about that lead by men; the support of men seems to have gone by the wayside.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Warren, let me be absolutely candid with you and your listeners; it’s always better to be up than down in the polls and any politician who says that he or she doesn’t look at the polls is telling a fib. But, we always thought that 2014 was going to be a tough year because we always thought that the job of budget repair would be incredibly difficult. It’s proven to be every bit as difficult as we expected, but we are on the right track, Warren, we are on the right track, and in the end what’s important to me and my ministers is not passing popularity, but doing the best job by the people of Australia. The reason why we do need to get the Budget under control is because a strong Budget feeds into a strong economy. If governments look like they haven’t got their budgetary position under control, it saps confidence and ultimately that’s bad for the economy.

Now, the former Labor government left us with a budgetary nightmare – a Budget disaster. We have been step-by-step doing what’s necessary to get it back under control, but, obviously, there’s still a fair way to go.

WARREN MOORE:

Well, getting back to stead may not be a popularity contest in your mind with the public, but you’ve got to have a popularity contest with the Senate that’s still got some way to go, too.

PRIME MINISTER:

And again, I would stress – and I’ll certainly be doing a lot more of this over the coming year – the whole of the Parliament has a responsibility to the nation to do the right thing by the future. At the moment, we are guilty of intergenerational theft. We are robbing our children and our grandchildren to pay for present-day consumption. What the Government is trying to do is to spend less on short-term consumption and more on long-term investment. That’s the responsible thing to do, but we’re being sabotaged by the Labor Party and the crossbenchers are being populists and my point to the Senate crossbench is sure, there might be individual budget measures that you don’t like, but you’ve got to look at the big picture as well as the small picture. If all you’re prepared to do is point to small things that you don’t like and reject the message of budget repair, you’re part of the problem; you’re not part of the solution.

WARREN MOORE:

We like a bit of rivalry with the Kiwis, as you know. Usually it’s on the sporting field, but psychologically it’s going to be a bit of a blow to Australia if the Kiwi currency is stronger than the Australian currency which looks like it’s going to happen.

PRIME MINISTER:

Let’s wait and see. Australia has fundamental economic strengths, obviously, but if we want to stay strong we’ve got to get the Budget under control and if we don’t get the Budget under control, the risk is that we will eventually succumb to the European disease. We all look at the countries of Europe – or many of the countries of Europe – we see bloated public sectors, we see an entitlement mindset which is proving very resistant to better leadership. We don’t want that for our country, because we are an inherently dynamic, creative, capable people and what I want to do as a Government is unleash the talent of our people, because every dollar that government spends is a dollar that you don’t spend; it’s a dollar less that families have to spend, because every dollar that government spends is a dollar that comes out of your pocket and my pocket. It’s not created out of thin air; it comes out of our pockets.

WARREN MOORE:

How much can yourself and Joe Hockey, though, bring it under control? The elements in particular that have led to the Budget forecast blowing out – that $10 billion worse than originally forecasted.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I’m not saying that this is easy, Warren. If it were easy we wouldn’t be in this position. The former government was incapable of the kind of discipline necessary to get this back under control.

WARREN MOORE:

But at the end of the day you can’t just make iron ore prices go up.

PRIME MINISTER:

Indeed, we can’t. At the end of the day we aren’t responsible for the rate of growth in China or the rate of growth in the United States. What we’re responsible for is the situation here in Australia and we’ve made a very good start to getting the Budget under control and as I’m sure you know, Warren, in the course of the last year we’ve negotiated three absolutely critical Free Trade Agreements which will help to set us up for decades to come because they will do an enormous amount to help Australian consumers and they’ll also do an enormous amount to help Australian exporters, particularly our agricultural exporters.

WARREN MOORE:

Will you be able to get through the Senate those other initiatives that have cost the bottom-line of the Budget about $10.6 billion – the Medicare co-payment, the changes to universities?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I’m confident that we can and we will. The changes to the Medicare arrangements I think are an improved version of what we brought forward on Budget night earlier this year and I am very confident that we will be able to continue to work with the crossbench senators to ensure that those changes stick.

On the higher education reforms, every single university bar one is enthusiastically backing these changes. The universities know that they need these changes to survive and with these changes, university students still won’t have to pay a dollar up front, they’ll still have access to the FEE-HELP system and they’ll still have about 50 per cent of their course supported by the taxpayer.

Now, I appreciate that every university student is a potential economic asset and that’s why it’s right and proper to invest in higher education, but we’ve got to get a degree of balance here and that’s what these changes do. We’ve also got to liberate our universities, because at the moment so many of them are drowning under a raft of federal government rules and let’s blow them up. These were rules that were put in place largely by former Labor governments and if there’s one institution in our society which should be able to run itself it’s our universities, because let’s face it, universities are powerhouses of our best and brightest.

WARREN MOORE:

Yeah, best and brightest. It’s interesting, though, under these reforms do you think that we’ll end up with some degrees that aren’t such an economical entity, such as the humanities and so forth, not being valued as much as the sciences and medicine and so forth?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am certain that a goodly number of Australian universities will continue to teach in the traditional areas such as Latin and Greek and philosophy, which I was lucky enough to study at different stages of my life.

WARREN MOORE:

I thought you had Latin, yeah!

PRIME MINISTER:

But look, it’s also important that to a greater extent we let the market rule as well and over time, the market is more likely than the bureaucrats to get things right, because students…

WARREN MOORE:

But it does mean some of those disciplines won’t be as valued as they have been?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I don’t think we can leap to that conclusion. There is always going to be someone who values these disciplines and as long as there are people who value them – I certainly value them – these disciplines won’t just survive but they’ll flourish.

WARREN MOORE:

Talking about the polls, going back to where we started in a way, or soon after we started, you’ve had, obviously, the Budget blowout and that was a line used insistently against the Labor governments, so they’ve obviously got ammunition to come back at you. You’ve also got stories like in the Sunday papers yesterday that childcare is going to be less affordable for people. So going to the end of the year, surely that’s going to be very hard to combat and come back from in 2015?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we are the solution; the Labor Party was the problem. Now, I don’t say that we have entirely solved as yet the problem that the Labor Party has created, but I don’t believe that the Australian people want to surrender when it comes to the task of strengthening our economy and strengthening our Budget and to go back to Labor would be a surrender. It would basically be…

WARREN MOORE:

But you’ve got a lot of convincing of the electorate.

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, and every day that’s my job, Warren. Every day that’s my job: to patiently talk the public through all of this, to as best I can help the public to understand why all these things are necessary and I will patiently persevere at that task.

WARREN MOORE:

Has there been a strategy of clearing the decks, so to speak, at the end of 2014 for 2015? When I say that I mean the Cabinet reshuffle, the fact that you made the changes to the proposed Medicare system – the changes to what you originally proposed? Have you cleared the decks to try and get a fresh start for 2015?

PRIME MINISTER:

Warren, when I announced the reshuffle about 10 days ago I said this was an opportunity to reset and refocus. But look, every day I am trying to be the best Prime Minister I can be, my ministers are trying to be the best that they can be and collectively we’re trying to be the best Government that we can be and where we see that some things can be done better, we do them better and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve adjusted our Medicare proposals, we’ve announced that there will be a scaling back and a retargeting of the paid parental leave scheme, we’ve got, I think, an even stronger ministry now than we did a couple of weeks ago. So, these are all important changes going into the new year that should give people confidence that their Government is in charge and does have a plan for a better future for everyone.

WARREN MOORE:

And, obviously, Scott Morrison, you moving him, you’re seeing social services as a key target area?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, this is the largest single spending portfolio by far. There’s close to $150 billion a year in social services spending. It’s important that we remain generous to vulnerable people, but it’s also important that it’s very effective and very efficient. We’ve got to target it right, we’ve got to ensure that people are giving a fair go as well as getting a fair go and that’s what Scott will be doing.

WARREN MOORE:

Ok, I’ve got to leave it there. Thanks so much. Happy New Year.

PRIME MINISTER:

And to you too, Warren, and to your listeners.

[ends]

Transcript - 24106