Feb 4, 2011

Transcript of Doorstop interview – Marrickville

Subject: Abbott’s failure to detail his Budget cuts; Abbott uses floods to solicit for political donations; flood levy; deferral of infrastructure projects

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Eight days ago Tony Abbott, in justifying his opposition to the flood levy, said that he would outline cuts he would make to the budget ‘within days’. It is now eight days later and we’ve heard nothing from Tony Abbott about what cuts he would make, rather than support for the flood levy.

At the same time, of course we know that Tony Abbott’s been out there trying to drum up support of a different kind. Support for donations to the Liberal Party. It is outrageous that Tony Abbott has used this tragedy to try to raise funds for the Liberal Party. There can be nothing more explicit than this email which has been distributed under his signature; an email that says if you want to oppose the flood levy, donate to the Liberal Party. He’s out there trying to raise money for the Liberal Party, rather than support the victims of these terrible floods.

And what’s more – what’s more, when he’s been confronted with this issue, Tony Abbott hasn’t conceded that a mistake has been made. He hasn’t apologised. Tony Abbott should concede that this is one step too far. He should apologise to the people of Queensland. And he should withdraw this email and donate any money that’s been received from this email to the Premier’s Flood Appeal.

Happy to take questions.

QUESTION: Mr Abbott wants to sit down with the Prime Minister to discuss budget cuts. Is that appropriate?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well the fact is that eight days ago Tony Abbott said that he had a list of cuts ready to go. He said he would announce it within days. What we’ve seen since then is nothing from Tony Abbott except opposition for opposition’s sake. He’s been unable to rise to the occasion and support the flood levy, just as Kim Beazley when he was leader of the opposition supported the levy to pay for the guns buy-back and Labor, in opposition, supported a number of these other levies.

Tony Abbott supported six levies whilst he was a member of the Howard Government and went to the last election seeking to impose another levy to pay for his paid parental leave scheme.

So Tony Abbot has shown that he simply isn’t fair dinkum when it comes to these issues. He hasn’t been able to rise to the occasion and he should apologise for this disgraceful appeal, to gain money for the Liberal Party, in order to oppose the flood levy.

QUESTION: He’s described the email, with the donations link, as standard practice and the Labor Party does similar things as well.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well there’s nothing standard practice about this. What Tony Abbott has done is link directly opposition to the flood levy with an appeal for donations to the Liberal Party. He wants money to go for his partisan political purposes to the Liberal Party, rather than go to help the victims of the flood disaster in Queensland and to help rebuild infrastructure in Queensland.

He says he’s concerned and would ‘within days’ outline a series of cuts that he would make rather than have the levy. And yet, on issues such as the postponement of infrastructure projects in Queensland – which have been worked out in partnership between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government – because simply it will not be possible to rebuild Queensland, repair the roads, bridges and ports, do the work that’s necessary, and at the same time be able to complete the work on the same time frame of every project that was envisaged to be done under the Nation Building Program.

In an opportunistic way, Warren Truss, his Shadow Infrastructure Minister, has come out and opposed those measures.

So he can’t have it both ways. He can’t stand up and say I’m opposed to the flood levy, but I’d make more cuts without outlining what cuts he would make and at the same time oppose any of the postponement in expenditure which the government has announced.

QUESTION: Has there been any developments with Kristina Keneally calling for concessions on the flood levy for the people of Western Sydney?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We don’t have taxation in Australia based upon where you live. The flood levy is based upon your ability to pay and, indeed, if you earn $50,000 or under, you won’t pay anything. If you pay – if you earn around about $100,000, you will pay the equivalent of $5 a week for one year. The government has made our position clear on the flood levy. It is being applied in a very progressive manner – indeed I’ve seen one report that suggests that over 40 per cent of the revenue raised from the flood levy will be raised from people who earn $200,000 a year or more.

So this is a progressive imposition of the levy. We’ve made sure that those who cannot afford to pay, those people who are earning under $50,000 a year or less, won’t have to pay a single cent of this levy.

QUESTION: Minister, one of the proposed cuts for the flood levy funding is supposed to be for the Bruce Highway in Queensland, which we know has been ravaged by the floods. Shouldn’t this highway be a priority?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It is a priority, that’s why $2 billion has already been allocated to Queensland to help build infrastructure, to help fix the roads and the bridges and the ports that have been impacted by this damage. There will be a lot more activity on the Bruce Highway and in the areas that have been flood affected as a result of this infrastructure commitment.

So it will be more spending, not less, as a result of the government’s determinations.

Thank you.