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PRIME MINISTER

9 February 2015

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER


THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MP
PRESS CONFERENCE,
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
Subjects: Party Room Meeting; families and jobs package; a strong and sustainable Medicare; future
submarines project.
E&OE.
PRIME MINISTER:
If I could open up just by addressing some remarks to the Australian people.
Obviously, I accept that the last few weeks have been difficult weeks for the Government, but theyve also
been difficult weeks for the Australian people because the people expect and deserve a Government which is
getting on with the job. I am confident that we have put this time behind us. I am confident that as of today
were back at work for the people of Australia. I am confident that what we have shown the Australian
people is that we have looked over the precipice and we have decided that we are not going to go down the
Labor Party path of a damaged, divided, dysfunctional Government which votes no confidence in itself.
So, the task is there ahead of us. It's a big task, but its a task that we are more than capable of doing, and it
starts from today. Our focus this year will be on jobs and families. It will be on a strong economy and a
secure nation. We start in the next few months with the families package that Ive been talking about with
the small business and jobs package, which will focus on a tax cut for small business. This is what the
Australian people want. They want a Government which is focused on them, not on itself, and that's what I
am determined to deliver.
QUESTION:
[inaudible] what your indications are on the Medicare co-payment, can you confirm whether that's going to
be dropped and will you take a different approach to contentious reforms that can't get through the Senate?
PRIME MINISTER:
Two issues there, David. Obviously, we have some proposals which are out there already. What I indicated
to the Party Room this morning was that there would be no new proposals come forward without the broad
backing of the medical profession.
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As you know, I was a health minister for four years. I rapidly came to the conclusion as health minister that
in any dispute between a politician and a doctor, the doctor normally won, while the health minister can't be
a minister for doctors, nevertheless, it is important to maintain the support of the medical profession
because, let's face it, they have the best interests of their patients at heart. That is certainly something that
Governments have to take very, very seriously indeed.
As for the Senate, Ive said it before, let me say it again it was a bold and ambitious budget last year. With
the wisdom of hindsight it was perhaps too bold and too ambitious. We did, with the wisdom of hindsight,
bite off more than we could chew, but Ive listened, Ive learnt, and Ive changed and the Government will
change with me. We will not buy fights with the Senate that we can't win, unless we are absolutely
determined that they are the fights that we really, really do need to have.
QUESTION:
Prime Minister, when you say that you've changed and the Government will change, will the Government
change manifestly, will you stick to your team, are you going to dump your Treasurer, did you tell your
Party Room today that you wanted six months to turn things around?
PRIME MINISTER:
Theres a sense in which governments and prime ministers, theyre being tested every day. Every day is a
test for the Government and the Prime Minister and I accept that every day I'm being tested. That's the way
it is. Now, I am determined to do better in these tests in the next few months than I have in the last couple of
months, but I'm also very confident that this is a Party Room which believes in the marrow of its bones that
we are a Government that has good answers for the people of Australia. We want our country to be open for
business; we want to end the intergenerational theft which the former government put in place with its
spending spree. We want a strong economy and obviously we want a strong nation. So, the party room
believes no less than I do, no less than all senior Members of the Government do, in the broad direction, but
obviously what we do need to do, going forward, is take a more consultative and collegial approach and
steps have been put in place already to make sure that's the case.
QUESTION:
Prime Minister, were you shocked by the result today? Were you expecting more than a third of the Party
Room to back this spill motion? And have you spoken to Malcolm Turnbull?
PRIME MINISTER:
I haven't had a lengthy discussion with any of my colleagues since the vote, because, as you know, it's been
a very busy day in and around this building already. The point that I make to you and which I have been
making to all of my colleagues over the last few weeks is that my door is open, my phone is there, I answer
my phone, I listen to my messages, and I certainly want to build on the kind of dialogue that I have been
having with my colleagues over recent weeks, because if we are all working together, we are an incredibly
powerful Government. A Government which is united and working together is incredibly powerful. I love
this country, I want to do the right thing by this country. I want our country to flourish and I want the
Government working together to bring that about.
QUESTION:
What specifically has changed or will change?

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PRIME MINISTER:
Well, as you know, I have dropped the paid parental leave scheme, which we took to two elections and it
was a bit of a favourite of mine, as all of you know. But I accept that prime ministers don't always get their
way. I accept that on this particular issue I had tried my colleagues' patience. I have also dropped the Prime
Ministerially awarded knighthoods. All awards in the Order of Australia will henceforth be determined by
the Council of the Order of Australia.
There have also been some significant internal changes with Cabinet processes, with staff appointments,
with public service travel, but fundamentally, this is going to be a Government which socialises decisions
before theyre finalised. Later on this afternoon, I will be having a discussion with all of the backbench
committee chairs, to talk to them about the new approach which will be at least once every two months, a
Cabinet discussion with the backbench committee chairs. At least every month there will be a discussion of
the full Ministry because I want to harness all the creativity, not just Cabinet Ministers' creativity, not just
public service creativity, I want to harness all of the creativity and insights that this Party Room has to offer.
QUESTION:
Mr Abbott, your Chief of Staff has obviously been a centre of controversy. Has she at any stage offered to
resign in the cause of unity and will she be staying on and will her role, if she is staying on, be changed?
PRIME MINISTER:
Look, all of us have had to have a good, long, hard look at ourselves over the last few weeks. Obviously,
yes, it's been a difficult time for our country, but it's been a particularly difficult time for the Government,
particularly with the, I suppose, nightmarish result that the LNP got in Queensland. So, weve all had a
good, long, hard look at ourselves and all of us are resolved to be different and better in the future than we
have been in the past and that's true at every level. Me, my Cabinet colleagues, my Ministerial colleagues,
my senior staff, we are all resolved to be and do better.
QUESTION:
Prime Minister, one of the reasons many of your colleagues felt it needed to get to this drastic measure to
send you a signal is because of the conflict of interest involving your Chief of Staff and the Federal Director.
What are you going to do to resolve that specific situation?
PRIME MINISTER:
Well, look, that specific situation has been around for five years now, and it certainly didn't stop us from
having a very good result in the 2010 election. It didn't stop us running a very strong Opposition throughout
the last term of the Parliament. It didn't stop us getting a very good result in the 2013 election. Frankly, it
didn't stop us doing a lot of good things last year, whether it be stopping the boats, repealing the carbon tax,
getting the three Free Trade Agreements negotiated. Now, I say to people that my door is open, I am
available to people, and if theyre anxious about talking to person X or anxious about talking to person Y,
they can talk to me.
QUESTION:
Do you retain confidence in your senior Ministers including the Treasurer, Joe Hockey?
PRIME MINISTER:
The point I make is that this has been a very chastening experience obviously, a very chastening
experience. It's not often that something like this happens 16 or 17 months into the life of a Government. But
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we have had some headwinds, as they say. I'm not complaining, because we take the world as it is, not as we
would wish it to be, but the Senate obviously has been difficult. The attitude of the Opposition has been
obstructionist to say the least. Obviously, there was a difficult, difficult result in Queensland and who
wouldn't be nervous after watching the result in Queensland. So, all of us are determined to lift our game
and the fundamental point I make is that the solution to all of these things is good Government, and good
Government starts today good Government starts today.
QUESTION:
Prime Minister, could I ask just on two topics firstly, what structural and procedural changes will you
make to your office, which is still a big bugbear for your colleagues? And secondly, do you have a secret
deal with Shinzo Abe for Japan to supply the hull or major parts of the submarine, because people within
industry are wondering whether this is why, rather than talking about open tender, youre now talking about
a competitive evaluation process which is quite different?
PRIME MINISTER:
There are no secret deals. Obviously, we want to get the best possible submarines at the best possible price
obviously we want that. We want Australian submariners to put to sea in a really world class submarine. It
would be criminally irresponsible of us to send our submariners to sea in something that wasn't capable of
taking on whatever others could throw at us and hoping to succeed. So, we want the best possible
submarines at the best possible price.
But equally obviously we want the best possible deal for Australia and the competitive evaluation process
that Ive spoken about is exactly what you'd expect from a Government it's exactly what youd expect
from a Government. Now, it's possible, maybe even likely, that there will be an international partner. When
the Collins-class subs were built, there was an international partner there. We are talking, not just to the
Japanese, although we certainly are talking to them, were talking to the French, were talking to the
Germans that's what you would expect.
Now, as for my office, as I said, I stand by my colleagues, whether theyre parliamentary colleagues,
whether theyre staff colleagues, but do I say every one of us is perfect? Absolutely not I don't say that. Do
I say that we can't all lift our game? Of course, we all do need to lift our game after something like this and I
am absolutely confident that that's exactly the message that weve got from the Australian people, that they
expect Government at every level to be focused on their concerns, to be focused on them, not on ourselves,
and that's exactly what I am determined to deliver in the weeks and months and years ahead.
[ends]

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