PRIME MINISTER

30 March 2014

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, SYDNEY
Subjects: Royal Australian Navy Bradley’s Head Memorial Walk; MH370; Budget; Coalition Government to renew homelessness agreement. E&OE……………………….…………………………………………………………… PRIME MINISTER: It’s good to be here to help unveil this commemorative walk that honours the 22 Australian naval ships lost as a result of enemy action over the life of our Navy. These were fine ships – fine men – and they have sacrificed themselves for our country and it’s appropriate that we should remember them and because of this memorial walk, people in this area will now be able to pay their own tribute to the ships and the men that have paid a high price for our freedom. QUESTION: Angus Houston’s been appointed to oversee the [inaudible] for MH370. Tell me, what was the decision behind that and how is that progressing at the moment? PRIME MINISTER: Well I can report that we did have quite a successful day yesterday. We had quite a few ships out there in the search zone and two vessels – a Chinese vessel and HMAS Success did recover objects from the ocean. We haven’t yet been able to ascertain what those objects are, but nevertheless, for the first time yesterday objects have been recovered from the ocean. Today we’ll have some eight ships in the search area, we’ll have some ten aircraft in the search area, so this is an intensifying search effort. It’s been coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and Angus Houston is available to oversee the overall search and investigation effort depending upon the responsibilities that Australia may have in the days and weeks ahead.

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QUESTION: Why was he brought in? What experience will he bring to the search? PRIME MINISTER: Well Angus Houston is one of our most experienced former military officers – he was Chief of Air Force, he was CDF for two terms; a very experienced, very well respected former military officer. At the moment the search is being coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, but should our responsibilities increase as time goes by, there is no one better placed than Angus to coordinate and liaise given the quite significant number of countries that all have a stake in this search. QUESTION: The AMA’s come out today and said they’re concerned about $560 million that’s being stripped from health funding, specifically for elective surgery and waiting lists. Should people be concerned about this decrease in funding? PRIME MINISTER: Well people should be concerned by the Budget black-hole that was left by the former government and this is the difficulty: the former government left us with debt and deficit stretching out as far as the eye can see. This is a consequence of decisions taken by the former government, but despite this, there remains debt and deficit stretching out as far as the eye can see. I want to assure the Australian people that we will restore the budgetary position. We will undertake the necessary job of budgetary repair, because you can’t have a strong economy without a strong budget, you can’t fix our economy without fixing the budget. That’s what the Government is focussed on over the next few weeks – ensuring that the budget repair job that is needed after six years of bad Labor government is done and done well. QUESTION: Why have you cut homeless funding by $44 million compared to last year’s funding level? PRIME MINISTER: Well we haven’t done that, Minister Andrews today will be making some announcements in respect of funding for homelessness and I reject any suggestion of cuts. QUESTION: Can I also ask you, Alison Anderson in the Northern Territory has asked you to intervene in that row – will you do that? PRIME MINISTER: I have a lot of time for Alison Anderson. Alison Anderson is a very, very fine and articulate voice of indigenous Australia. I deeply respect Alison Anderson and I admire the work she’s done. In the end though, the relationship between Alison Anderson and Adam Giles is a matter for Alison and for Adam. But my general message today is a very simple one: there is a massive budget repair job. This Government is up for it. We have been left with debt and deficit stretching out as far as the eye can see - $123 billion in
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cumulative deficits over the four years coming, $667 billion of projected debt thanks to the massive six year spending spree of the former Labor government. It’s just unsustainable; governments can’t spend what they don’t have, you can’t spend what you can’t raise. This was a government here in this country that was living way beyond its means and the new Government – the Coalition Government – has the job of fixing the budget and fix it we will. QUESTION: Can you tell us what the plane search is costing so far? PRIME MINISTER: It’s costing what’s necessary to do the job properly and we’re not going to shirk the job. We will spend what we need to spend to get this job done... QUESTION: A ballpark figure? PRIME MINISTER: …Let’s not forget that amongst the 239 people who have perished on that plane, there were six Australian citizens, one Australian resident and we owe it to all of the families, particularly to the Australian families, to do what we can to resolve this mystery and frankly this Government won’t rest until we’ve done everything we reasonably can to give those families and give the wider community of the world a little more peace and a little more insight into exactly what happened. [ends]

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