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5 September 2012
               
TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR
JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH THE HON. PETER DUTTON MHR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING
AND MR. GREG BICKLEY, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR BENDIGO,
BENDIGO, VICTORIA
 
Subjects: Visit to Bendigo Hospital; Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; mining and resources boom; foreign investment.
 
EO&E..............................................................................................................................................................
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
It’s terrific to be here at Bendigo. I want to thank John Mulder and his team for making myself, the Shadow Minister Peter Dutton, and our candidate for Bendigo, Greg Bickley, so welcome. Bendigo is a great city with a great people and an incoming Coalition government wants to help the people of Bendigo and this part of Victoria to be the best it possibly can be and today we have seen evidence of the difficulties that the people of Bendigo are going to face because of the Gillard Government’s carbon tax. This hospital estimates that their bills for power and for gas will increase by about $600,000 every year because of the carbon tax. That’s $600,000 that won’t be available for patient services because of the carbon tax. Now, this is happening right around our country. At every one of the 800 public hospitals right around Australia, managers are having to grapple with increased costs because of the carbon tax and that means reduced patient services. This is just one of the multitudinous ways in which the carbon tax is going to make life harder for the people of Australia.
 
What we have seen today is more evidence that this government doesn’t know what it’s doing when it comes to policies for our country. We’ve had the resources minister come out today and say that the Government is not going to go ahead with the multibillion dollar buy-out of brown coal power stations here in Victoria. Now, quite frankly, this was always bad policy but what we are seeing now is a government which is making it up as it goes. This is policymaking on the run. It proves that this is a government is in a complete shambles – even on its signature policy, the carbon tax and associated matters to deal with climate change. I think that what we have seen today from the Government is a desperate attempt to patch up the Budget. It’s a desperate attempt to preserve the microscopic budget surplus by failing to spend the money that it had previously promised on carbon tax closures.
 
Let me also say that what we are seeing from this government is a general inability to manage the economy. The fact that the Prime Minister could go to Perth yesterday and give a major speech to miners without mentioning the carbon tax and the mining tax proves that she just doesn’t get it when it comes to our economy. She just can’t be trusted to manage the resources sector properly, particularly now that it’s clear that the easy money days are over when it comes to the resources boom.
 
Now, as I keep saying to the Australian people, there is a better way. If you elect a Coalition government, you will have lower taxes, better services, stronger borders and modern infrastructure. We are a great people. We are a great country. Right now we are being let down by a bad government and I have five clear, deliverable policies that will ensure that, as far as is humanly possible, Australia keeps benefiting from the mining boom, keeps attracting resources investment.  First, no carbon tax. Second, no mining tax. Third, restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission with full powers, full funding and full authority. Fourth, less red tape, $1 billion worth of red tape cost reductions under the Coalition and, fifth, less green tape, by offering to the states the possibility of one-stop-shop environmental approval processes. So we have a clear plan for our country to continue to enjoy the benefits of the mining and resources boom.
 
I’m going to ask peter Dutton, the Shadow Minister, just to say a few words about the impact of the carbon tax on hospitals generally and then Greg Bickley, our candidate for Bendigo, will just say a few words about this particular hospital and the great work that it does, not just for the people of the city of Bendigo but for all the people of north-western Victoria for whom this hospital is a symbol of quality healthcare.
 
PETER DUTTON:
 
Well Tony thank you very much. Thank you to John and David and the staff here at Bendigo for your very warm welcome. It’s great to be here with Greg Bickley, who is an excellent local candidate. It doesn’t matter whether you live in Bendigo or in Geelong or Ballarat or in any town around Australia. Eight hundred public hospitals are going to be impacted by this carbon tax. The carbon tax is designed to hurt families and to drive up electricity prices and that’s exactly what it’s doing at this hospital. Six hundred thousand dollars every year has to be found from the Budget, money that would otherwise be paid to doctors and nurses. That money is going to be paid to Julia Gillard in the form of the carbon tax and it’s just going to make it harder to deliver health services. This is a carbon tax that is applied to every general practitioner around the country. So when you go to see your GP or you go to see your pharmacist, they are being imposed with the carbon tax and that tax is going to be passed onto families and that’s exactly what Julia Gillard wants to do. There is no compensation for it and families are going to suffer as a result of it and we will abolish this tax because we don’t want it applied to families and small businesses and in particular to hospitals around the country.
 
GREG BICKLEY:
 
Thank you Peter, thank you Tony. Look what a wonderful project for Bendigo and northern Victoria the new Bendigo Hospital will be. It’s just bad policy that will mean that this hospital is lumped with a $600,000 carbon tax bill. It will be a fantastic facility, world class and it’s just a shame that a bad government is delivering a bad tax for Bendigo.
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
Thanks mate. Ok, any questions?
 
QUESTION:
 
Mr Abbott, just on a couple of national issues first. Cubbie Station – what’s the Coalition’s official policy on this and foreign investment?
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
Well on foreign investment, we welcome foreign investment, we support foreign investment, we want to be confident that foreign investment is in Australia’s national interest and that’s the responsibility of the Foreign Investment Review Board. We have recently released a policy paper and the policy paper flags first a register of foreign agricultural land holdings, second, lower thresholds for Foreign Investment Review Board scrutiny and, third, and expanded Foreign Investment Review Board which has more agricultural expertise amongst its members.
 
QUESTION:
 
So what about Cubbie Station? Do you agree with its sale?
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
Well, Cubbie Station was a matter that went before the Foreign Investment Review Board. It then went to the Treasurer, they looked at the issues, the facts and they made their decision. Now, I can understand why some people are disappointed with the decision, but it’s a decision that the Treasurer has made. I regret that he announced it late on a Friday night. That made the whole thing look like the Government had something to hide and I regret that he has done not nearly enough to reassure people that this is in Australia’s national interests.
 
QUESTION:
 
Have you asked Warren Truss to tell Nationals MPs to stop speaking out against the sale?
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
Look, the Coalition has a clear and distinct policy as articulate by the policy paper that we have just put out. We support foreign investment. We support foreign investment in agriculture. It’s important that we continue to support foreign investment, but it does have to be in Australia’s national interest.
 
QUESTION:
 
Mr Abbott, has Barnaby Joyce broken frontbench solidarity then by speaking out against this?
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
Barnaby is a St George local. Cubbie Station is just up the road from St George. I can understand why Barnaby and local people feel strongly about this, but in the end this is a decision for the Treasurer based on the recommendations of the Foreign Investment Review Board.
 
QUESTION:
 
Would you allow discussion of the issue in Shadow Cabinet?
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
Look, people are free to raise whatever issues they want in the Shadow Cabinet, but the Shadow Cabinet normally discusses the matters that are coming before the Parliament in the coming fortnight and this is not a matter that would come before the Parliament. It’s a matter which is decided by the Treasurer.
 
Now, are there any other issues that people would like to ask questions on?
 
QUESTION:
 
Back to the Bendigo Hospital, has Bendigo Health confirmed that the $600,000 increase in its power bills will come solely because of the carbon tax?
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
They have.
 
QUESTION:
 
And what evidence is there? Because there’s things like rising infrastructure costs and things like that. How is that…?
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
My understand is that the overall increase in the power bill will be significantly higher than $600,000 but $600,000 is specifically identifiable to increases flowing from the carbon tax.
 
QUESTION:
 
Can you respond to Steve Gibbons’ claims the $600,000 is also due to the states upping the cost of electricity, not just the carbon tax?
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
The advice that the hospital has – and the hospital, as I understand it, has got the advice from its electricity and gas suppliers – the advice that the hospital has is that this $600,000 is by no means the total of the cost increases that they’re facing but this is the cost increase that is wholly and solely due to the carbon tax.
 
QUESTION:
 
You outlined a few points of what the Coalition would bring in government. What benefits would Bendigo see from the Coalition coming to power?
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
Bendigo would benefit from a government which delivers lower taxes, better services, stronger borders and modern infrastructure. Now, I think that it would be very good for Bendigo if Bendigo Hospital didn’t have to pay the carbon tax. I think it would be very good for Bendigo if Thales had a government that was more focused and single minded on trying to ensure that the Australian armed forces, wherever possible, are using Australian produced equipment. It was the current Government, let’s face it, which completely neglected Thales when giving $40 million to the Americans for project development work for the light armoured vehicle. Now, it was only because of the pressure that the Coalition put on that as an afterthought $30 million was then belatedly allocated to Thales. So, this is a Coalition which is committed to ensuring that Australian firms get a fair deal when it comes to producing equipment for the Australian armed forces.
 
QUESTION:
 
Would the Coalition honour the Thales contracts that have been announced?
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
It is the ordinary practice of government that contracts signed by an outgoing government are honoured by an incoming government and we would certainly adhere to that practice.
 
QUESTION:
 
Mr Abbott, what do you make of Gina Rinehart’s sort of idea of special economic zones and lower taxes in Northern Australia?
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
I think that Gina Rinehart has a perfect entitlement to put forward ideas but it’s not something that the Coalition has considered and it’s not something that the Coalition is planning for.
 
QUESTION:
 
I just have a question from our Canberra bureau. With the Government scrapping plans to compensate power companies to shut down dirty coal fired power generators, where does this leave your direct action plan?
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
Well, we’ve always wanted to clean them up not to shut them down. We’ve never wanted to shut down perfectly good businesses that are employing hundreds, in some case thousands, of people and we always though that it was complete economic lunacy to spend millions of dollars not to create jobs but to destroy jobs. It is precisely this kind of misdirected, misbegotten policy from the current government which has lead the former Queensland Labor Treasurer Keith De Lacy to describe the carbon tax as, and I quote, “an act of collective insanity”. That’s what the former Labor Treasurer of Queensland has called the carbon tax – an act of collective insanity – and it’s because associated with Labor’s carbon tax are things like a multi-billion dollar close down of perfectly functioning power stations that Keith De Lacy has come to this judgment.
 
QUESTION:
 
But you wouldn’t pay money to power companies to shut down dirty generators?
 
TONY ABBOTT:
 
We will work with the power industry to do what we can to improve it but the last thing we would be doing is closing down perfectly good power stations. Our job is to try to clean up power stations, not to close them down and the fact that this government was going to invest billions of dollars to destroy jobs, not to create them is one of the reasons why Keith De Lacy said that the carbon tax is an act of collective insanity.
 
Thank you.
 
[ends]
Posted in: Media Releases
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