Feb 2, 2011

Press Conference

Subject: Flood levy – Tony Abbott solicits political donations

Anthony Albanese: Good afternoon – thank you for coming.

I’ve taken the opportunity of holding a press conference this afternoon to call for support for the flood levy legislation that the Government will be introducing into the parliament next week.

To justify his opposition to the flood levy, Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, asserted on radio just last week on ABC Brisbane on 28 January, that there’s about $8 billion in various funds, including the Building Australia Fund, which is currently uncommitted.

That of course is not true.

Today in an email to Liberal Party supporters, Tony Abbott, has come up with an entirely different, smaller figure. Today, he says, there’s about $2 billion in various funds including the Building Australia Fund that is currently uncommitted. That is also incorrect.

The BAF has in it $1.1 billion. That is there for nation building infrastructure, under legislation, connected with recommendations of Infrastructure Australia. Most importantly, expenditure of this money has an impact on the budget bottom line and this government is determined to bring the budget into surplus in 2012/13 in accordance with our commitments, and in accordance with the national economic interests.

So, once again, you have Tony Abbott as the Leader of the Opposition out there misleading Australians about the facts and seeking to gain a political opportunity.

Perhaps of most concern in today’s email to liberal party supporters is that Mr Abbott in words appearing directly beneath his signature in an email titled We Can Do Better than Labor’s Flood Tax – said “PS – Click to donate to help our campaign against Labor’s flood tax”.

In Tony Abbott’s letter, in his own words, he’s saying that Australians should not contribute to rebuild Queensland in the aftermath of this terrible disaster that has had such a dreadful human impact, but also an enormous economic impact. Don’t worry about that, says Tony Abbott, just donate to myself and the Liberal Party.

Tony Abbott never misses an opportunity to put his own selfish political interest and opportunism first, ahead of the national interest. At a time like this, it is up to leaders or those who seek leadership positions in our nation to rise above the political fray. Tony Abbott has once again shown that he is incapable of putting the national interest before his own opportunistic political interest.

And I think he owes, at the very least, an apology, yet when confronted with this issue, there’s the same old macho bluster from Tony Abbott, a refusal to acknowledge that this an offensive and serious error of judgment on behalf of someone whose judgment is increasingly being brought into question by the Australian public.

Question: inaudible

Anthony Albanese: There is nothing standard practice about an email under the leader of the Liberal Party’s signature which says – “PS – click to donate to help our campaign against Labor’s flood tax.”

There’s nothing standard practice about that – that’s just offensive. It’s one step too far, yet again from Tony Abbott who always goes that one step too far.

That’s in contrast with the Labor Party web-site which has a range of information about how you can contribute to the victims of the floods. That’s what I think Australians expect to occur, not out there seeking to use the floods and this tragic issue to raise money for the Liberal Party for partisan ends.

Question: inaudible

Anthony Albanese: Well, it’s on his web-site – and it’s an email that’s just gone out We Can Do Better Than Labor’s Flood Tax. I assure you that the fact that we have access to this –I’m not a Liberal Party member. This has gone out very extensively, it says very clearly – it relates the issue of the floods to donations to the Liberal Party. Of course, on web-sites, there areas in which people can donate to political parties, but this seeks to draw a direct link between the two issues, under his signature. An entirely inappropriate, offensive action by Tony Abbott.

Question: inaudible

Anthony Albanese: That’s right, that’s right. Mr Abbott should just concede that he has made a grave error of judgement rather than just make vague statement about ‘everyone does this’. Clearly that is not the case, clearly Tony Abbott has gone that one step too far.

The contradiction in the Coalition’s position, on the one hand out there arguing against the flood tax, saying that there should be further cuts. On the other hand, the dishonest way in which some of the deferrals, for example, of infrastructure spending that have been made in my portfolio in order to create the capacity to help rebuild Queensland that have been the agreed to by the Australian Government and the Queensland Government – you can’t have it both ways, you can’t have it both ways.

And yet, the Liberal and National parties are attempting in a completely opportunistic way – on the one hand to campaign against Labor’s flood tax, on the other hand to complain about any cuts or savings or deferrals of expenditure which have been made. Totally inconsistent, totally opportunist. And it contrasts considerably, for example, with the actions of Kim Beazley as the Labor Leader of the Opposition when the levy was brought in with the support of Tony Abbott with the guns buy-back, or any of the other six levies which were introduced by the Howard Government with the support of Tony Abbott.