Abbott Introduces Marshall At Launch Of South Australian Liberal Party Election Campaign

With the South Australian state election just one week away, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has introduced Liberal leader Steven Marshall at the official campaign launch in Adelaide.

Marshall

The former Howard government Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, introduced Abbott to the crowd at the Norwood Town Hall.

The centrepiece of Marshall’s policy speech is a proposal to increase concession payments for energy and water bills. Marshall also said he would abolish the Save the River Murray Levy.

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Text of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s speech at the South Australian Liberal Party campaign launch.

Abbott

It’s lovely to be in Adelaide and it’s lovely to have such a wonderful South Australian welcome.

It’s great to be in the presence of my friend and former colleague, and mentor, Alexander Downer, who has been such a lion of this state and such a lion of our Party for so long.

It’s great to see so many of my federal colleagues here today, led by the Leader of the House of Representatives, the Honourable Christopher Pyne, and of course, somewhere in this audience is my favourite South Australian Liberal, the new member for Hindmarsh, Matt Williams. [Read more...]


Government Refuses Debt Guarantee For Qantas But Will Repeal Foreign Ownership Restrictions

The federal government has refused to provide a debt guarantee or a line of credit for Qantas but says it will relax ownership restrictions by repealing Part 3 of the Qantas Sale Act.

Abbott

Amongst other provisions, Part 3 restricts foreign ownership of the airline to 49%. It restricts foreign airlines from owning more than 35% of Qantas. It stipulates that maintenance jobs are based in Australia. The full text of Part 3 is available here in a popup window.

The decision was announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Treasurer Joe Hockey at a press conference in Canberra tonight. Abbott said there was a two hour discussion of Qantas at today’s Cabinet meeting.

The Prime Minister said repeal of Section 3 did not mean Qantas would become foreign owned because it would still be subject to the 49% limit imposed by the Air Navigation Act. He said the existing Qantas Sale Act 1992 places restrictions on Qantas that advantage its competitors.

Abbott said it was time Qantas was freed from the shackles of the Sale Act so that it can compete internationally. He said the government would not play favourites and that the decision was about “giving everyone a fair go”. He said Virgin was an Australian company because it employed Australians.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said repeal of the Sale Act would provide a “level playing field”. Abbott said he had “faith” in Qantas. “If Australians are allowed to have a go there is nothing we can’t do,” he said.

Legislation to repeal Part 3 may be introduced this week.

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Joint press release from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Treasurer Joe Hockey.

LEVELLING THE AVIATION PLAYING FIELD

The Government will move to a single regulatory framework for all Australian international airlines.

As soon as possible, legislation will be introduced to remove the foreign ownership restrictions and conditions that apply to Qantas’ business operations contained in Part 3 of the Qantas Sale Act 1992.

Removing these conditions is the best way to ensure Qantas can secure Australian jobs now and into the future.

Australians want a strong and competitive Qantas. The existing Qantas Sale Act 1992 places restrictions on Qantas that advantage its competitors.

Like all other Australian international airlines, Qantas will continue to be subject to the Air Navigation Act 1920 (ANA). The ANA applies to both Virgin Australia and Jetstar.

The ANA effectively limits total foreign ownership of Australian international airlines to 49 per cent, but does not impose the additional restrictions on business operations that apply to Qantas under the Qantas Sale Act 1992.

These changes will provide business flexibility for Qantas consistent with other airlines based in Australia.

Foreign investment will continue to be subject to consideration and approval by the Foreign Investment Review Board.

This is the best policy response to the difficulties currently being faced by Qantas.

Legislation will be finalised and introduced as soon as practicable. Any changes to Qantas’ operations as a result of these changes are a matter for the Qantas board and management.


Afghanistan Troops Welcomed Home In Darwin

Australian troops who served in Afghanistan have been welcomed home at a ceremony in Darwin attended by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

Shorten

In addition to speeches from Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten, the troops were addressed by the Northern Territory Chief Minister, Adam Giles, and the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison.

Abbott said Australia’s commitment to Afghanistan had ended “not with victory, not with defeat, but with hope that Afghanistan will be a better country for our presence”.

He said: “We salute all the men and women who have served in a far country for a good cause. We mourn the 40 who did not return. We grieve with the more than 250 with serious injuries and we acknowledge the unseen wounds of thousands. You have done things that no-one should have to do.” [Read more...]


Government Announces $320 Million Drought Assistance Package

The federal government has announced a drought assistance package worth $320 million.

The package includes more generous income support arrangements, $280 million of concessional loans, $12 million for water infrastructure, $10 million for pest management and $10.7 million for social and mental health services.

The package was announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce at a joint press conference. [Read more...]


Abbott Presents Closing The Gap Report 2014

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has presented the 2014 Closing the Gap report on Indigenous Australians.

Abbott said Aboriginal policy has become for him “personal rather than just political”. He said: “It has become a personal mission to help my fellow Australians to open their hearts, as much as to change their minds, on Aboriginal policy.”

This year’s Closing the Gap shows some progress. Halving the gap in child mortality within a decade is on track and the target of 95% of remote children enrolled for pre-school is close, as is the goal of halving the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020.

However, Abbott told the House of Representatives, “we are not on track to achieve the more important and meaningful targets”. There has been almost no progress in closing the decade gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and other Australians

Abbott said: “There’s been very little improvement towards halving the gap in reading, writing and numeracy. And indigenous employment has, if anything, slipped backwards over the past few years.”

Abbott concluded: “A fair go for Aboriginal people is far too important to be put off to the judgment of history. We have to provide it now – or as soon as we reasonably can.”

The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, responded to the statement.

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Statement by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the House of Representatives.

When Prime Minister Keating made his famous Redfern speech in 1992, I was an opposition staffer.

My job was to disagree with everything he said.

While I could quibble with aspects of that speech, I couldn’t disagree with its central point: that our failures towards Australia’s first people were a stain on our soul. [Read more...]


Condolence Motions Make For Heartfelt Start To Parliament

Proceedings in the House of Representatives got off to a prickly start today with the government goading the ALP during condolence motions for Arthur Gietzelt and Ariel Sharon.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott set the tone when he moved a motion of condolence for the former Senator Gietzelt who died on January 5 at the age of 93.

Abbott

During his speech, Abbott said: “He was a lion of the Labor Party—or at least he always asserted that he was a lion of the Labor Party and of no other party.” The Labor benches bristled at the comment and as Opposition Leader Bill Shorten rose to speak a voice could be heard describing Abbott as a “low dog”.

Abbott’s comment was a reference to allegations in documents released by the Australian Security Intelligence Service (ASIO) that claimed Gietzelt had communist connections during his time as a member of the ALP. Gietzelt served as a minister in the Hawke government from 1983 to 1987.

Following the Gietzelt condolence, Abbott moved a second condolence motion for former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon who died on January 11 after spending eight years in a permanent vegetative state following a stroke in 2006. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spoke to the motion, as did Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and his deputy, Tanya Plibersek.

After the speeches, the Manager of Government Business, Christopher Pyne, associated himself with what he called “the genuine and heartfelt remarks” by Abbott, Bishop and Shorten, “and the remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition”.

The Opposition benches bristled again, with the comment assumed to refer to a statement made by Tanya Plibersek in the House on September 17, 2002, in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. She said: “…I can think of a rogue state which consistently ignores UN resolutions, whose ruler is a war criminal responsible for the massacres of civilians in refugee camps outside its borders. The US supports and funds this country. This year it gave it a blank cheque to continue its repression of its enemies. It uses US military hardware to bulldoze homes and kill civilians. It is called Israel, and the war criminal is Ariel Sharon.” [Read more...]


Abbott Government Establishes Royal Commission Into Union Corruption

The Abbott government has established a Royal Commission into union governance and corruption.

The announcement, anticipated over recent weeks, was made by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Employment Minister Senator Eric Abetz and Attorney-General Senator George Brandis at a press conference in Canberra.

Abbott

The Royal Commission will be headed by former High Court Justice John Dyson Heydon. [Read more...]