Abbott opens up

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott revealed some more details of Liberal Party policy at an outdoor meeting with the news media in Frankston, Melbourne, this morning. He was visiting the seat of Bruce Billson, Member for Dunkley and Shadow Minister for Small Business, Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs.

Mr Abbott and Mr Billson walked through a shopping area and spoke to retailers. The ALP claims Mr Abbott plans to shut down the Frankston Trade Training Centre. The seat of Dunkley is the Coalition’s fourth most marginal electorate.

The following is a transcript from an ABC website, apparently created by voice recognition software. The first few remarks were lost while ABC News24 crossed from coverage of another event. The news conference began with a statement by Mr Abbott. Some garbled words have been deleted or carefully interpreted, in keeping with the context.

“… to talk to small business and local people about what we can do, our positive plans, our real solutions for small business and for the forgotten families of outer metropolitan Melbourne,” Mr Abbott said.

“The best thing we can do for the small businesses of Australia, for the workers of Australia, for the workers of Australia, and for the families of Australia is get rid of the carbon tax. This is a toxic tax. It hurts every small business’s bottom line. It damages every worker’s job security and it hurts every family’s cost of living.

“We are going to get rid of it. We’re going to get rid of it as the first priority of an incoming government. On day one of a new government the public service will be instructed to prepare the legislation. On day one of a new Parliament the legislation will be introduced. It will be the first item of legislative business in a new Parliament.

“We will get rid of this tax. When I say there will be no carbon tax under the Government when I lead, I am telling the truth. We won’t just get rid of the carbon tax, though. We will also start the process of getting rid of the regulations which are suffocating so many businesses, so many households.

“I want to see a bonfire of the regulations. We are confident that we can reduce the red tape costs of Australian business by at least $1 billion every year. Our plan for small business involves getting rid of the carbon tax, it involves reducing regulation, and importantly, in places like Melbourne, it involves improving infrastructure because every business and every family depends on the infrastructure of a great city like this.

“We will start improving Melbourne’s infrastructure by committing infrastructure by committing $1.5 billion to the East West link. This is a very important part of the infrastructure that Melbourne needs. It will happen within 18 months of a change of government in Canberra.”

“Mr Abbott, what about …”

“Before I take some questions, Bruce? You might like to add something.”

“It is great to have you back [garbled] in what the is riff vary rah [?] in Melbourne. It’s great to have you back here again,” Mr Billson said.

“You heard first-hand small business describing the impact of carbon tax on [consumer confidence] and I was encouraged by their positive response [to your] commitment to repeal the carbon tax. That’s not the only part of the Coalition’s plan. You have seen this document. The fieldier [?] of it is our plan to put business back into small business.”

Mr Abbott: “It is important to remember that 243,000 jobs have been lost in small business over the life of these Labor Governments. We’ve now got 10,000 fewer small businesses employing people. We’ve seen a halving of the rate of small business formation and yet, we’ve got the fifth Small Business Minister in 15 months, hardly something that builds confidence and competence.

“We’ve got a plan to see small business restored in terms of its growth, in terms of its rate of formation, its important role in providing private sector jobs. That’s what we’re on about and we have the commitments to make that happen.

“It was interesting to see the Prime Minister very interested in the Asian Century when she’s travelling to Asia but when it comes to skilled migration [it’s] a totally different story. That’s part of the dysfunction and division of that government.

“What we heard today was small business wants today was small business wants to see a fresh start, not more of the same, and that hopefully will be the formation of an but Abbott-led Coalition government at the next election.

“Do we have any questions? We’ll start with the media. You can ask your question.”

“You can give a guarantee that the coalition government will not change the superannuation system?”

“We give an absolute guarantee that people’s superannuation is safe with us. The last thing we would ever support is a Government that raids your money to fund its spending spree. We will ferociously oppose any attempt by this government to raid people’s superannuation savings and we won’t make any unexpected adverse changes to superannuation should we win the election.”

“Do you think [the] Government should make clear what its plans are in records [regards] to super before the May budget?”

“I think Simon Crean has made it clear already what the Government’s plans are. [The] Government plans to raid your superannuation to fund its spending spree. The Government is going to take your money, your superannuation money, because it has run out of your existing taxation money and that’s the problem with this government. It is addicted to spending. If it comes for your neighbour’s superannuation now, [for?] spending, it will come for your superannuation tomorrow.”

“Why spending? Are you campaigning against super changes for high income earners while at the same time supporting cuts to super contribution to lower income owners?”

“Let’s be crystal clear here. This government cut the low income superannuation co-contribution from $1500 to $500 and that’s cost low-income earners close to $4 billion over the life of this Government. This Government has form when it comes to ripping off low-income earners’ superannuation. The fact of the matter is that a government which is prepared to raid people’s superannuation savings is a person, is a Government under which no-one’s superannuation savings are safe. If they raid your neighbour’s savings today, they’ll raid your savings tomorrow. This is the thin end of the wedge.

“This is the class warfare, this is the them against us mindset which Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson have warned us about and it is a sign that, frankly, there is no real Labor Party any more. There’s the Gillard party which is dead set on ripping off your superannuation savings and then superannuation savings and then superannuation [?]. There are decent people like Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson that are trying to stop that.”

“In terms of the low income super contributions scheme, you’ve said you’re going to cut that back. Are you willing to cut low-income earners to protect the rich?”

“You can’t rely on this government not to do exactly that, because the low income superannuation offset is funded out of mining tax and the mining tax is raising no revenue. If this Government is re-elected the first thing it is going to do is abolish the low income super offset because it has no money to pay for it.” 

“If you’re elected into government and you have to bring this policy forward, cutting the low income super contribution scheme, does that show your government would be supporting high income earners over lower income earners over lower income earners?”

“What I’m saying is you just can’t trust this government. You just can’t government. You just can’t government. trust this government. You can imagine this Prime Minister saying, can’t you, ‘the superannuation offset is safe with us’. This is a Prime Minister who simply can’t be trusted. You just can’t trust the commitments that this Prime Minister makes.”

“What would your government do?”

“I’m not getting ahead of myself and we’re not in government. What we are going to do is ferociously oppose any attempt by this government to raid Australian’s superannuation savings. The superannuation savings. The superannuation savings of Australians are safe with us. We will make no unexpected adverse changes.”

Andrew Australians are said yesterday [?]

Possibly: “Andrew?” “The Australian ah said yesterday …”

“… there’s no guarantee everything in your real solutions will be done in the first term of a Coalition Government. You can say which would be done in a first term as opposed to the long-term goals?”

The commitments we say we’ll keep, you can say which ones they’ll be out of the book you’re holding. We’ll get rid of the mining tax, the carbon tax, the process of reducing red tape, we’ll build the East-West link, the we’ll start the process of duplicating the tax [?], Pacific Highway [?]. We’ll revitalise work for the dole. We’ll start the green army. We will ensure union officials who commit crimes face the same penalties that company officials do. We will give Australians the hope, reward and opportunity they deserve. We’ll build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia.”

(Inaudible) “… you can give any sort of in regards to the Melbourne Metro project?”

“We spoke to Infrastructure Australia and their advice was that the most pressing road priority in Melbourne was the East-West link. That’s why we committed to it. The Commonwealth Government has a long history of funding roads. We have no history of funding urban rail and I think it is important that we stick to our knitting and the Commonwealth’s knitting when it comes to funding infrastructure of roads.”

“Doesn’t that mean there might not be -Sorry? Doesn’t that mean it might not get built if the State Government can’t get Federal Government support in addition to investment?”

“What we’re committing to do is to ensure that the East-West link is investment [has investment ?] under way at least within 18 months of a change of government in Canberra. We will do our job, the State Government will do its job and together we won’t let the people of Victoria down. Thank you.”

“On North Korea – what do you … On North Korea – what do you think Australia’s involvement at this point should be with North Korea?” 

“North Korea is the ultimate rogue state. North Korea has significantly ratcheted up its rhetoric. It is important that the international community does what it can to hold back North Korea and that’s why it is very important that the Prime Minister on her visit to China does what she can to urge the Chinese Government to exercise what restraint it can over the North Koreans. China is probably the only country that does have serious influence on that rogue state and I hope the Prime Minister will use what influence she can on them to hold the North Koreans back.”

Another question, inaudible, was asked at this point, but Mr Abbott walked off.

The above is not meant to be news reporting. It is nothing more than the raw material, tidied up carefully and impartially. The transcript provides insights into the news reporting process. For example, Mr Abbott’s slip of the tongue when he said “a person” then substituted “a government” is instructive because it shows his mind is focussed on the Prime Minister, Ms Gillard. That slip was edited out of an ABC News24 replay of that section of Mr Abbott’s comments. Much heavier editing and cherry picking of parts considered to be newsworthy is the normal process of reporting and editing.

Note how inaudible or garbled phrases, questions and answers can easily add to the difficulty of accurate reporting. Editors and journos say: “If in doubt, leave it out.”

Note also that in several a few places Mr Abbott does not respond directly to the question “What will you do?” etc, and uses the opportunity to criticise the government.

Tidying up, editing, additional research and comments by Barry Tucker.