Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he is satisfied with the job his government has done in the 100 days since the September 7 election.
Abbott told a press conference in Sydney this afternoon that the carbon tax repeal legislation was through the House of Representatives. Legislation to repeal the mining tax is in progress, as is legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission. He said the boats are slowing, if not yet totally stopped. Foreign policy has a Jakarta, not a Geneva, focus.
Acknowledging the government’s difficulties in the Senate, Abbott looked ahead to the new Senate that takes office on July 1 next year. Whilst that is six months away, it will eventually look like a “blink”.
“I am confident that we are doing precisely what we said we would do,” Abbott said. “We are a government that will keep its commitments in full.”
Abbott said the government has been discovering the extent of “Labor’s fiscal disaster”. He said this Tuesday’s release of the Mid-Year Economic Forecast would “draw a line” under the previous government’s budget.
The Prime Minister’s press conference comes in the wake of a flurry of media commentary portraying his government as struggling in its first few months, particularly in the light of the backflip on Gonski school funding and its handling of the Indonesian spying controversy and the Holden closure announcement.
The government has today released a booklet titled “The First 100 Days of Government – Delivering on Our Plan”. The booklet says: “Over the past 100 days, the Government has been putting in place the policy foundations that will deliver the stronger Australia you voter for. We are doing what we said we would so.”
- Listen to Abbott’s press conference – transcript below (18m)
- Watch Abbott (2m)
- Watch a Channel 7 news report (2m)
Transcript of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s 100 days press conference.
ABBOTT: Thanks everyone for giving up some of your Sunday afternoon to be here.
One hundred days ago tomorrow, the government changed. At the election, the people voted for a change of government. They voted for a new government with a plan – a plan to create a strong and prosperous economy, for a safe and secure Australia, and since that time we have been carefully, methodically and purposefully implementing our commitments.
I’m very satisfied that what we’ve demonstrated over the last hundred days is a Government which is competent and trustworthy.
We said we would repeal the carbon tax and that legislation is through the House of Representatives.
We said we would repeal the mining tax and that legislation is through the House of Representatives.
We said we’d fully restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and that legislation is through the House of Representatives.
We said we’d get the budget back under control and the Commission of Audit is well underway.
We said we’d build the roads of the 21st century and planning for roads like WestConnex and the East West Link is now well underway.
We said we’d stop the boats and Operation Sovereign Borders commenced immediately the Government took office, and the boats are stopping. They haven’t entirely stopped, but they certainly are stopping.
We said there’d be a Jakarta not a Geneva focus to our foreign policy and I’m pleased to say that the new two-way-street Colombo Plan will be operational next year.
We said we would accelerate free trade agreement negotiations and the agreement with Korea has now been finalised.
We said that Australia was under new management and open for business and since the election, Environment Minister, Greg Hunt has given environmental approval for some $180 billion worth of projects.
What this Government is on about is building a stronger and more prosperous economy, because a stronger and more prosperous economy means a better life for the individuals and families of Australia. A stronger and more prosperous economy means that government services will be better.
So, I am very satisfied with what’s been achieved over 100 days – we’ve made a good start.
Of course there is much more to do, but given the mess that we inherited, given the continued obstruction of the Australian Labor Party, I think the Australian people can be confident that they made the right choice.
QUESTION: Mr Abbott, on Tuesday [inaudible] MYEFO, are we going to see small growth for Australia?
ABBOTT: Our objective is to build a high growth economy, because a high growth economy will be good for getting the budget under control. High growth economy will be good for jobs and for wages and for investment. So our objective is to increase economic growth, but to increase economic growth you’ve got to get taxes down, you’ve got to get regulation down, you’ve got to get productivity up and obviously, if we’re going to get taxes down we’ve got to get spending under control.
Now, what I think we will see in MYEFO is the full extent of Labor’s profligacy. But the job of the MYEFO statement, is if you like, to rule a line under Labor’s era of debt and deficit, so that henceforth from this time on, the Government can begin the fiscal repair job that our country needs.
QUESTION: I guess the only public assessment we have of your first 100 days in office is the published polling, which shows that your Government’s not doing so well. Is public opinion wrong?
ABBOTT: No, the people are never wrong and what the people did above all else back in September, was vote to repeal the carbon tax and the mining tax, and this is one thing that the Labor Party just doesn’t get; it doesn’t get that the people voted to repeal the carbon tax and the mining tax. But look, the Labor Party might derive some short-term benefit from this kind of intransigence, but nevertheless, the public won’t forget what the Labor Party is doing.
QUESTION: The public says that they’re not too happy with how you’re progressing so far.
ABBOTT: I am confident that we are doing precisely what we said we would do and sure there’ll always be critics. There are lots of people out there whose job it is to be critical of the government of the day. So, there will always be critics, the question is: are the critics justified? And if you look at what we’ve done, we have precisely delivered on our commitment and we have intelligently responded to the developments of the day.
QUESTION: But you haven’t completely… you’ve got the carbon tax you say through the House of Representatives, but you said you’d get it through the Parliament?
ABBOTT: And we will continue to put it into the Senate and as you know, a new Senate takes office on the 1st July of next year. I know six months seems a long time, but come the next election, it will be a mere blink.
And we will get it through – we will get it through. We will get it through because the Labor Party will wake up to itself, because the new Senate will take office, or because we will utilise the constitutional opportunities available to us.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, before I… on Qantas, I just want to work out what you might do about this, if anything. The former government offered debt guarantees to Qantas. I’m wondering if that’s an option you would consider or alternatively, are you thinking of changing the Qantas Sales Act to allow foreign ownership and are those issues going to be before Cabinet this week?
ABBOTT: Well, no government is going to fight as hard for Qantas as Qantas will fight for itself and the important thing is for Qantas to put its house in order, and the important thing is for Qantas to fight for whatever changes it thinks are necessary and desirable to keep it prospering. Now, that’s the important thing, for Qantas to fight for itself.
Now, obviously in the process of fighting for itself it’s perfectly entitled to put a proposal to Government and when we have a formal proposition from Qantas, we’ll respond appropriately.
QUESTION: Mr Abbott, will you limit the assistance to the removal of the Qantas Sales Act?
ABBOTT: As I said, it’s important for Qantas to fight for itself. In the end, Qantas won’t survive because the Government has brought about a survival plan; Qantas will survive and flourish because everyone at Qantas, from the highest in management to the lowest in staff has decided that they collectively want to fight to keep this iconic Australian brand going.
So, they should fight for the survival and the prosperity of the business. We will be cheering them on in government and if they put formal proposals to us, we’ll obviously work constructively with them.
QUESTION: Well that proposal that’s basically out there is to remove the foreign ownership limits. Now, you did make some comments about this in the weekend media. What is your view? Do you really need in this day and age to privatise corporation a 51 per cent Australian ownership or is that old-fashioned? Can you get rid of that?
ABBOTT: We are perfectly prepared to consider whatever proposals Qantas puts to us, but in the end, there is no proposal that Government will successfully implement if Qantas is not prepared to fight for it. And this is the thing – no one is going to fight harder for a business than the management, the staff and the shareholders of that business and that’s what we need. We need to see Qantas staff, management and shareholders doing everything they humanly can to get Qantas’ house in order, so that this great and iconic Australian business can have the kind of flourishing future that we all want for it.
QUESTION: Do you think a conscience vote is likely in the next three years?
ABBOTT: Well we don’t have any legislation before the Parliament. I’m not expecting any legislation to come before the Parliament, because when legislation came before the last Parliament it was fairly decisively dealt with, but if legislation comes before the Parliament, it will be considered by our Party Room in the usual way.
QUESTION: So were Mr Turnbull’s comments this morning that it is likely, were they accurate?
ABBOTT: Well I didn’t see Malcolm’s comments, but it’s really up to individual members of Parliament to propose private members’ bills if that’s what they want.
QUESTION: Do you have any regrets about anything you’ve done in the last 100 days? Is there anything you could’ve done differently?
ABBOTT: Well I’m sure many people will tell me that there are lots of things that I could’ve done differently and I’m not in the business of offering a running commentary on myself. I’m in the business of explaining why we have done what we have done and telling people why what we have done is eminently justified.
QUESTION: Isn’t a bit of self-assessment part of your role as Prime Minister?
ABBOTT: Look, I’m not into selfies and I’m not into self-assessment! I’m into explaining as thoroughly and as convincingly as I can, what the Government has done.
QUESTION: But what about the Gonski plan, you did a double backflip on that? Could you have handled that better?
ABBOTT: Again, I’ll leave the critics to offer us their various criticisms. What was clear was that this is a Government which is rightly expected to keep its commitments, not just in the letter, but in spirit as well, and that’s our intention; to keep our commitments in full, in letter and in spirit.
QUESTION: Just back to the Qantas question, it sounded like you were a little critical of management from the start. Do they need… what is it that they’ve done wrong? And you talk about an Aussie icon, does an Aussie icon have to be Australian owned?
ABBOTT: Well, I’m not critical of Qantas management or staff, I’m just saying that no one will fight harder for the survival of Qantas than its management, its workers and its shareholders and they need to fight hard for Qantas and for its flourishing and obviously, we’ll work constructively with them to that end.
QUESTION: Mr Abbott [inaudible] look at besides the removal of the Act? Will it consider any other options?
ABBOTT: Well, it’s important for the company to put measures to us if it wants us to consider them. But, we want to work constructively with Qantas to ensure that it has a bright future, but obviously we’ll do so in keeping with our values and our commitments.
And in the end, we are a Government which wants to see private business succeed and flourish, because in the end it’s not governments which build the prosperity of nations, it’s individuals and businesses which build the prosperity of nations. And that’s why our fundamental objective is to liberate the individuals and the businesses of this country to be their best and most productive selves.
QUESTION: Has the Indonesian spying problem… that issue affected the Government’s ability to stop the boats?
ABBOTT: There’s no doubt that the suspension of co-operation by the Indonesian authorities has been unhelpful; it’s been singularly unhelpful. And given that people smuggling is a crime in Indonesia, just as it’s a crime in Australia, I think it’s high time that that resumption, that that co-operation was resumed. But, I accept that in the end, what Indonesia does is a matter for Indonesia and what Australia does is a matter for Australia.
We absolutely respect Indonesia’s sovereignty. We expect Indonesia to respect our sovereignty. As far as we’re concerned these illegal boats that are coming to Australia are a sovereignty issue and so we stand by all the policies that we took to the election and we will stop the boats.
QUESTION: Mr Abbott, with Holden and Ford planning to withdraw from Australia, is this exactly the wrong time to be withdrawing funding from [inaudible]?
ABBOTT: Well I’m not going to pre-empt what will be said by Joe Hockey on Tuesday when he formally releases the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, but I want to make the point that we will entirely honour our commitments and one of the commitments that we made was that any contracts that had been entered into by the former government will be kept.
QUESTION: On Olympic Dam, there seem to be some suggestions that it might be possible to advance the new development project, the extension project. Is this something that you have discussed with BHP Billiton? Is it something that you would like put on the agenda for this week?
ABBOTT: If you ask me what is the best thing that could happen for the economy of South Australia, the Olympic Dam extension is clearly the best thing that could happen for the economy of South Australia. The Olympic Dam extension, should it take place, would set South Australia up for decades – absolutely decades.
Now, one of the reasons why it was hard for the company to go ahead was the general length of time that it took to get decisions out of government, the general atmospherics surrounding the resources sector under the former government, the mining tax, the carbon tax and so on. These weren’t the only factors of course; international markets, the value of the dollar and so on all play a part.
But nevertheless, I want to ensure that as far as is humanly possible, everything that Government does is directed towards making it easier, not harder for this iconic project to go ahead.
QUESTION: Have you or another member of your Cabinet spoken with BHP Billiton on this matter?
ABBOTT: I’m just not going to go into the private conversations that people like myself and my Ministers have.
QUESTION: Mr Abbott, on Tuesday are we likely to see you prepare the Australian public for a series of quite substantial budget cuts and can you still return the budget to surplus by the time you said you would?
ABBOTT: Well, we said we would get the budget back to surplus at least as quickly as Labor had proposed. What we are discovering the more we dive deeply into the budget, is the extent of Labor’s fiscal disaster – the extent of Labor’s fiscal deception.
Now what we are doing on Tuesday is ruling a line under the debt and deficits of the last six years. We are ruling a line under the fiscal disaster which the Labor Party was responsible for.
This has been the most disastrous period for budget management in our history. Never has the budget deteriorated as quickly as it did under Labor, despite the fact that we have had terms of trade at record highs.
So, this is a period of monumental economic incompetence under the Labor Party. It’s absolute proof that you can’t trust the Labor Party with money. But having laid out the full extent of Labor’s disaster, the repair job begins. The repair job begins and the Australian people can trust us to do the right thing by taxpayers, to treat taxpayers dollars with respect and to build the strong and prosperous economy that the Australian people need and deserve.