Tony Abbott – media conference
Transcript of Tony Abbott’s first media conference as Leader of the Opposition:
ABBOTT: Well, ladies and gentlemen thanks very much for coming. It’s great to be here. It’s been a tumultuous week for the Liberal Party and obviously it’s been a big day for me. It’s been a tough day for some of my colleagues. I do feel humbled and daunted by what’s ahead, but I also feel proud and exhilarated at the prospect of leading this great political party into the next election.
Obviously there are some wounds that do need to be healed. I have said to my colleagues that I will do my best to be a consultative and collegial leader. Political parties don’t work when people just announce what they are doing and expect everyone else to follow. I will not be that kind of a leader.
I want to pay tribute to all of my predecessors, but I particularly want to pay tribute to Malcolm Turnbull. I have known Malcolm for a long time. We have sometimes been sparring partners, but we have mostly been friends. I really meant it when I said in recent days that my respect and admiration for Malcolm has grown enormously over the last few months. Malcolm has shone in adversity. I think that when he elected to join the Parliamentary Liberal Party he did us great credit and great honour and I want him to have a long and successful future in public life.
Now this Emissions Trading Scheme legislation, which is really an energy taxation scheme, does deserve the most rigorous scrutiny by this Parliament. This is a $120b tax on the Australian public and that is just for starters. As we heard from the Independent Pricing Regulator in New South Wales just yesterday, this ETS will add 30% to the people of New South Wales’ power bills. Now, we can’t just wave that through the Parliament. We really can’t. It would be grossly irresponsible of us to wave this through the Parliament. So what I have successfully asked my colleagues to approve, by way of an unprecedented secret ballot in the Party Room, and I have said to them that I hope we never again in my time need a secret ballot in the Party Room, but we had one today because of the contentious nature of this issue, by secret ballot my colleagues have approved this course of action.
First, we will seek to refer the legislation to committee for further scrutiny. If in the end we cannot get the support of the cross benches for that course of action, we will oppose the legislation in the Senate this week. And that is the right thing to do. As an Opposition our job is to hold the Government rigorously to account. Oppositions are not there to get legislation through. Oppositions are there to hold the Government to account. And unless we are confident that a piece of legislation is beyond reasonable doubt in the national interest, it is our duty as the Opposition to vote it down.
Now, as Leader, I am not frightened of an election and I am not frightened of an election on this issue. I really am not frightened of an election on this issue because as far as many many millions of Australians are concerned, what the Rudd Government ETS looks like is a great big tax to create a great big slush fund to provide politicised handouts run by giant bureaucracy and they expect us to scrutinise and to criticise this, not just to wave it through the Parliament. But of course it is typical of the Rudd Government to raise taxes and to bloat the bureaucracy. What we have seen from the Rudd Government over the last two years is an incredible waste of money. A waste of money that has been worse than Whitlam, and just to give you two examples, we have had the Schools Program and I am all in favour of effective investing in schools – the Howard Government did that the first time a national government has ever directly invested in school infrastructure in that way – but what the Rudd Government is getting is $7b worth of value from $14b worth of spending. And then of course there’s the $43b National Broadband Network without even a business plan. Not even Gough Whitlam would be as crazy as that. In the end the fundamental job of Government is to run a good economy. And ladies and gentlemen, we are here meeting in this place, in another place the Reserve Bank Board is meeting and the Australian people need to understand that each and every interest rate rise over the next 12 months is due to the irresponsible spending spree of the Rudd Government.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be a tough fight, but it will be a fight. You cannot win an election without a fight. The job of the Opposition is to be an alternative, not an echo, to provide a choice, not a copy. Now I cannot promise victory. Obviously this is going to be very tough. But I can promise a contest. It will be a good contest, it will be a clean contest, and I know my colleagues are gearing up for the fight of their lives.
BISHOP: Thank you Tony. I want to congratulate my colleague Tony Abbott on being elected as the Leader of the great Liberal Party. He is a personality, a character, a fighter and I am honoured to be able to serve as his Deputy. And as Tony said, we will have a contest at the next election whenever that may be. And as I have said from the outset, there was no need, no logical reason for this legislation to be rammed through the Parliament prior to Copenhagen. That’s what I said in my speeches and publicly, yet the Rudd Government opportunistically on a political agenda, wants to ram it through the Parliament when even the United Nations Climate Change Advocate says Australia does not need an ETS to go to Copenhagen. We have already agreed on targets with the Government.
Now, I also want to pay tribute to Malcolm Turnbull. He has been a wonderful friend to me over 20 years and I admire Malcolm enormously. He adds so much style and flair and colour to public debate in this country and I hope that he continues to do so. Today, our colleagues showed a great sense of unity in that they have drawn a line and we will now move forward under our new leader, Tony Abbott.