The Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, was campaigning in the NSW electorate of Barton this morning.
Barton is held for Labor by the former Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, with a margin of 6.86%. McClelland has announced that he will not contest the seat at this year’s election. There has been speculation that he may cause a by-election by resigning to take up a judicial post from the NSW government.
Tony Abbott was in Barton campaigning with the Liberal candidate, Nick Varvaris. He repeated his standard promise of getting rid of the carbon tax and took questions on Treasurer Wayne Swan’s allegation that the Liberal Party is assuming Tea Party characteristics.
Abbott said: “One thing that we never do in the Coalition is import political techniques and political personnel from other countries. We just don’t believe in imported politics. We believe in a strong, home-grown policy, we believe in strong local candidates and that’s what you’ll always see from the Coalition under my leadership. We will speak with a strong Australian accent. Always have and always will.”
The remark has been interpreted in some quarters as a dig at John McTernan, the Scottish-born UK political operative who now works as Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Director of Communications.
- Listen to Abbott’s doorstop (9m)
Transcript of Tony Abbott’s doorstop in the Barton electorate.
ABBOTT: It’s great to be here in Ramsgate in the electorate of Barton. It’s an honour to be here with Nick Varvaris, our candidate who is the Mayor of Kogarah. Nick is doing an excellent job. He’s campaigning hard on the ground. The message to the people of Barton and to the people of Australia is that the Coalition is ready. We are ready. The Prime Minister has named September the 14th but you just never know when the election will be and whenever it is, the Coalition is ready; grassroots candidates like Nick Varvaris are ready.
Just talking to people here in the Ramsgate shopping centre this morning, people here – as around Australia – are concerned about their cost of living. A lot of people are still very angry about the carbon tax. The carbon tax was something that the Prime Minister promised wouldn’t happen before the last election, now it has happened. It is impacting on small business costs, it is impacting on everyone’s bills. It is impacting on the pressure that so many Australians feel on their daily life.
What the Coalition offers is real solutions to the problems that the Australian people face. We can’t fix everything overnight but we can and will get rid of the carbon tax and we can and will reduce the red tape burden on small business. We will listen to the people of Australia. We will treat them with respect because in the end, politics should be about doing what’s right for the country. It shouldn’t just be about surviving in office.
So, I’m very pleased to be here with Nick Varvaris. Nick is typical of the good grassroots candidates that the Coalition has running for us right around Australia. I’m just going to ask Nick to say a few words and then I will take some questions.
NICK VARVARIS: Thanks, Tony. Thanks for coming out to Ramsgate in the seat of Barton. As Mayor of Kogarah City Council for the last five years, I have seen first-hand the impact that the Gillard Government has had on local families and local businesses and I’m committed to ensuring that we can improve that and the only way to do that is by having a Tony Abbott-led government. So, I look forward to being part of that team and I look forward to campaigning with you.
ABBOTT: Thank you so much. Ok, do we have any questions?
QUESTION: Mr Abbott, have you brought a Tea Party-style negativity to the Australian political debate?
ABBOTT: One thing that we never do in the Coalition is import political techniques and political personnel from other countries. We just don’t believe in imported politics. We believe in a strong, home-grown policy, we believe in strong local candidates and that’s what you’ll always see from the Coalition under my leadership. We will speak with a strong Australian accent. Always have and always will.
QUESTION: What do you think of the Tea Party? Do you think the movement has merit?
ABBOTT: Look, it is not something that I’m deeply familiar with. It is not something that I closely study. What I do want to get away from, though, is the deeply negative politics which I think some of my opponents are trying to import from the United Kingdom and the United States. One of the great things about our country is the way we try to stick together and help each other and you will never find from me or from any government I lead the kind of politics of division which I fear others seek to introduce. I will never try to divide Australians on the basis of class, on the basis of gender, on the basis of race. I will just never do that.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say that there are cracks emerging between the left and the right in your party?
ABBOTT: We are a vigorous party, we are a “broad church” as John Howard used to say or a “big tent” as John Brogden used to say. We will have vigorous internal debates but in the end we are a united team; united in our passion to give Australians a better government both here in New South Wales under Barry O’Farrell and hopefully in Canberra after September 14 or whenever the election is held.
QUESTION: There are members of your party though who sought to mobilise the Australian Tea Party movement as they call themselves; some people in Queensland [inaudible]?
ABBOTT: Look, you may cite names but I don’t think these are names which anyone has ever heard of, certainly they are not names which are familiar to me and my determination is to practice politics with an Australian accent. We are an Australian Party. We don’t import our politics from overseas, we don’t import our personnel from overseas. We just get on with the job of trying to bring Australians together to build a better country.
QUESTION: Will you honour any RBA or APRA appointments that have been appointed by this government?
ABBOTT: The short answer is we respect due process and I am not aware of any appointments that are a problem in that respect.
QUESTION: [Inaudible] in the Four Corners programme last night about the Strike Fighter pilot project, for example, that’s it over budget. Would you scrap that project if you get into government?
ABBOTT: We think it is important that the project go ahead. It is something which the Coalition supports but it is also important that it be properly and competently managed and that is always the difficulty with this government. You just can’t trust them to get the job done properly.
QUESTION: Would you reconsider the purchase then?
ABBOTT: We think it is very important that this purchase go ahead, very important that this purchase go ahead but it has got to be done properly.
QUESTION: Do you support the Greens movement in the Senate for a root and branch review of the MRRT?
ABBOTT: We think that this is a bad tax. You don’t speed up the slow lane of our economy by slowing down the fast lane. You don’t strengthen the economy by penalising its strongest sector. You do not build prosperity by whacking the economy with new taxes. No country has ever taxed its way to prosperity so we think this tax should be scrapped, not reviewed.
QUESTION: Recent polls have shown that what was seen to be a gap between yourself and women seems to have narrowed. What do you make of that?
ABBOTT: In the end, it doesn’t matter what the polls say. My job and the job of my candidates is the same every day. We have got to hold a bad government to account and we have got to present a positive, credible alternative. For the last few weeks we have been promoting our Real Solutions plan and the Real Solutions plan will create a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia.
QUESTION: Are women swinging around to the Liberal-Nationals?
ABBOTT: Look, as I said, I am just not going to run a commentary on polls. The important thing is to do the right thing by the people of Australia, not to divide them, bring them together, give them the hope, reward and opportunity that they are entitled to expect.
QUESTION: You must be quite pleased that you are now ahead of the Prime Minister?
ABBOTT: Again, I’m not focused on polls. What I’m focused on is trying to help the people of Australia and the tragedy at the moment is that one side of politics is focused on doing the right thing by the Australian people. The other side of politics is focused on its own survival and I think that is one of the reasons why people have so little confidence in the Government right now.
QUESTION: Do you still believe you will be up against Julia Gillard at the coming election?
ABBOTT: There is obviously a lot of unrest and unhappiness in the caucus right now but the basic problem is that no one is in charge of Labor’s house except the faceless men. The faceless men got rid of Kevin Rudd. Now the faceless men are looking at getting rid of Julia Gillard. I think it is time we got rid of the faceless men.