May 27, 2014

Tony Abbott Said...

By Russell Marks
Tony Abbott Said...

“I probably should, I suppose, apologise now for all my errors of the past and make a clean breast of them … and ask the public to judge me from this point.”

-Press conference on becoming leader of the Liberal Party, 1 December 2009


What exactly did prime minister Tony Abbott say, and when did he say it? Here for the first time is what aims, eventually, to be a comprehensive list of Mr Abbott's promises and commitments, and what happened next. It's the traditional 4th estate ideal – holding the powerful to account – repackaged in internet form.

Please note: this page only contains promises, commitments and backflips. Abbott has said a lot more over the years. It's not for nothing that he's also got his own book of Abbottisms, which contains much more of the best and worst of the irrepressible Mad Monk: Tony Speaks! The Wisdom of the Abbott, available from Black Inc.


Election night commitments | Breaking promises | Aboriginal affairs | Abortion | Attacks | Australia | Carbon pricing | Climate science | Deals | Education funding | Economy | Election preferences | Entitlements | Facts | Fear | Federalism | Freedom of information | Government spending | Interest rates | International relations | Life and death | Manufacturing industry | MedicareOpen government | Parental leave | Pension | Rich and poor | Sexuality | Special interests | Surplus | Taxes | Weathervane 


David Marr: The budget of a hidden man


Abbott's Victory Night Commitments


During his election night victory speech in September 2013, Tony Abbott made the following commitments:

“I now look forward to forming a government that is competent, that is trustworthy and which purposefully and steadfastly and methodically sets about delivering on our commitments to you, the Australian people.”

“In a week or so the governor-general will swear in a new government. A government that says what it means, and means what it says. A government of no surprises and no excuses. A government that understands the limits of power as well as its potential. And a government that accepts that it will be judged more by its deeds than by its mere words.”

“I give you all this assurance – we will not let you down. A good government is one that governs for all Australians, including those who haven’t voted for it. A good government is one with a duty to help everyone to maximise his or her potential, indigenous people, people with disabilities, and our forgotten families, as well as those who Menzies described as ‘lifters, not leaners’. We will not leave anyone behind.”

–Election night victory speech, Sydney, 7 September 2013



On Breaking Promises


As leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott took every opportunity to tell Australians that the Labor government was fundamentally dishonest:


“Let me just say of this government that it’s broken promises; that’s bad.”

-Doorstop interview, Sydney, 28 May 2010


“I think that what we want are governments and prime ministers who tell the truth and this prime minister just has not told the truth.”

-Doorstop interview, Parliament House, Canberra, 31 May 2010


“This is a prime minister who not only lies to the Australian public but he lies to his own Labor mates.”

-Doorstop interview, Parliament House, Canberra, 31 May 2010, on Kevin Rudd


“I am very happy to put my credibility on the line against Julia Gillard.”

-ABC TV’s 7:30 Report, 25 June 2010


“What we’re seeing from this prime minister, as from her predecessor, is incompetence, deception and ideology.”

-Doorstop interview, 9 July 2010, on Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd respectively


“It’s my job between now and polling day to remind the Australian people just what a hopeless, unreliable, untrustworthy, dishonest, deceptive Government this has been. It just doesn’t get democracy.”

-Interviewed by Alan Jones, Radio 2GB, Sydney, 21 July 2010


“A fake. An absolute fake, from start to finish.”

-Interviewed on Radio 96FM, Perth, 23 July 2010, on Labor in government


“It’s the government that is faking things, fudging things and ultimately trying to deceive people.”

-Joint doorstop interview with Michael Keenan, Perth, 23 July 2010


“The last thing we’d ever get from a Labor government is a charter of political honesty because these guys would be in breach of it every day.”

-Interviewed by Alan Jones, Radio 2GB, Sydney, 11 August 2010


“I think that the Labor Party has trouble with the truth.”

-Doorstop interview, Adelaide, 17 September 2010


“This government is built on a lie. This is a thoroughly dishonourable and deceitful government and it deserves to be exposed as such.”

-House of Representatives, 29 September 2010


“When it comes to Machiavellian bastardry, the Labor Party are world champions.”

-Broadcast on ABC TV’s Lateline, 12 October 2010


“Look, if I tell the kind of massive fibs that this government has told, I would deserve the most condign electoral punishment.”

-Interviewed by the Grill Team, Radio Triple M, Sydney, 25 February 2011


“Any carbon tax that is legislated by this parliament would be the L-I-E ‘lie’ tax. I would like to think that deep within the heart of even this prime minister is the desire not to live a lie.”

-House of Representatives, Hansard, 2 March 2011


“As I look out on this crowd of fine Australians, I want to say that I do not see scientific heretics.  I do not see environmental vandals.  I see people who want honest government.”

-Address to the ‘No Carbon Tax’ rally, Parliament House, Canberra, 23 March 2011, while standing in front of banners which proclaimed ‘JuLIAR…BOB BROWN’S BITCH” and “DITCH THE WITCH”.


“She is both misleading and ignorant.”

-Joint doorstop interview with Terry Mills, Darwin, 8 August 2012, on Julia Gillard


“This is a government which suffers from TDD – truth deficit disorder.”

-Joint doorstop interview with Terry Mills, Darwin, 8 August 2012


“We need a government that you the people can trust.”

-Joint press conference with Joe Hockey and Teresa Harding, JBS Australia, 5 August 2013


“There is going to be a lie a day from the Labor Party.”

-Doorstop interview, Launceston Toyota, Tasmania, 8 August 2013


“If you look back over the last three years of a hung parliament, of a minority government, it’s a record of betrayal, it’s a record of ineptitude, it’s a record of disappointment.”

-Press conference, Brisbane, 14 August 2013


“We’ve seen scare after scare, lie after lie, from the Labor Party, and look, sometimes it takes people a little while to sift the truth from the lies that have been heaped upon it by the Labor Party.”

-Joint press conference with Christopher Pyne, Campbelltown Leisure Centre, Campbelltown, Adelaide, 24 August 2013


“When it comes to Mr Rudd’s statements about budgetary matters, as long as his lips are moving he’s not telling the truth.”

-31 August 2013


Abbott described his party – the Liberal Party – in opposite terms, and made specific commitments regarding his own integrity:


“We are the party of political honesty.”

-ABC TV’s Q&A, 19 March 2009


“The great thing about the Coalition is you know exactly what you will get from the Coalition.”

-Interviewed by Chris Uhlmann, ABC TV’s 7.30, 8 July 2013


“We will be a consultative, collegial government. No surprises. No excuses.”

-Interviewed by Chris Uhlmann, ABC TV’s 7.30, 8 July 2013


REPORTER: “All your promises that you're announcing during this election campaign, they will be implemented in full. That is a rock solid commitment?”

TONY ABBOTT: “I will do what I say we will do. I want to be known as someone who under-promises and over-delivers.”

–Joint press conference, Colo Heights, NSW, 13 August 2013


REPORTER: “The condition of the budget will not be an excuse for breaking promises?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Exactly right. We will keep the commitments that we make. All of the commitments that we make will be commitments that are carefully costed.”

–Joint press conference, Colo Heights, NSW, 13 August 2013


“I want to be known as a prime minister who keeps commitments.”

-Joint press conference, Colo Heights, NSW, 13 August 2013


“I’ve seen the disaster that this government has done for itself by saying one thing and doing another, Jon. I don’t want to be like that. I really don’t. If we do win the election and we immediately say, oh, we got it all wrong, we've now got to do all these different things, we will instantly be just as bad as the current government has been and I just refuse to be like that… Before polling day you’ll know exactly what we’re going to spend, exactly what we’re going to save, and exactly how much better the budget bottom line will be under the Coalition.”

-Interviewed by Jon Faine, ABC Radio 774, Melbourne, 30 August 2013


“In a week or so the governor-general will swear in a new government. A government that says what it means, and means what it says. A government of no surprises and no excuses.”

-Election night victory speech, 7 September 2013



Abbott was so watertight on never breaking a promise that he even denied himself any wiggle-room on the question of not getting his legislation through the senate:


“The government knew going into the election that we didn’t support any spending associated with the mining tax. So, she knew that we were going to be opposing this because we said we were going to oppose it. Now, she shouldn’t have made a promise that she couldn’t keep.”

-Joint doorstop interview with Craig Laundy, Auburn, 4 March 2013


But Abbott also promised that he would repeal Labor’s carbon pricing legislation once he got into government:


“When I say there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead, I am telling the truth.”

-5 August 2013


Like the Gillard government's mining tax, the Abbott government's repeal of the carbon pricing scheme requires the support, in the senate, of either the Palmer United Party, the Greens or the ALP. Currently all three parties oppose the scheme's repeal, meaning that, on his own terms, Abbott promised what he couldn't deliver.



“I think that if she goes ahead with this tax it will look like a conspiracy of the parliament against the people.”

-Interviewed by Sabra Lane, ABC Radio AM, 25 February 2011


To the 2013 election Abbott took none of the following tax increases he later announced during his first year in office: a GP co-payment of $7; a temporary tax on high incomes; and a re-indexation of the fuel excise. 


“It is never a good thing for a government to break fundamental promises and this government has broken its two covenants with the Australian people: no carbon tax and a budget surplus. They’ve broken both of them. You just can’t trust this mob.”

– 21 December 2012, interviewed by David Koch on Sunrise


In response to Abbott’s charge that the Gillard government had broken its surplus promise, David Koch said: “But it is a promise that needed to be broken in the circumstances”. Koch had earlier in the interview cited the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Business Council of Australia, the OECD and the IMF as pro-business and pro-trade organisations which had applauded, on economic grounds, the Gillard government’s decision to break its surplus promise and stay in deficit. Abbott’s reply was this:

“It is a promise that should have been delivered upon.”

Just before treasurer Joe Hockey handed down a budget in May 2014 which included a wealth of cuts and tax increases which hadn't been taken to the election, Abbott said:

“No-one likes difficult decisions. Governments don't like taking difficult decisions, voters don't like the consequences of difficult decisions. But you've just got to make hard decisions at times like this, and I think in the long run the voters will thank us for doing what is absolutely necessary if Labor's debt and deficit disaster is to be tackled.”

-5 May 2014




On Education Funding


“I can promise that no school would be worse off under the Coalition.”

–Joint doorstop interview with Russell Matheson, Camden, NSW, 15 July 2013


“As far as school funding is concerned, Kevin Rudd and I are on a unity ticket. There is no difference between Kevin Rudd and myself when it comes to school funding.”

–Joint press conference with Christopher Pyne and Alan Tudge, St Andrew’s Christian College, 2 August 2013


“In order to ensure funding certainty, we will honour the deals that the government has so far made and we will match the offers that the government has so far made in terms of funding.”

–Interviewed by Sabra Lane, ABC Radio’s AM, 5 August 2013


“Mr Rudd’s scare that the Coalition is going to cut money out of education is simply false.”

–Joint press conference with Christopher Pyne and Barry O’Farrell, Penrith, 29 August 2013


Christopher Pyne, who became education minister after the election, also said this in August: “You can vote Liberal or Labor and you will get exactly the same amount of funding for your school.”

-2 August 2013


On 27 November 2013, Pyne announced that the government was scrapping Labor's Gonski plan for school funding and would fully renegotiate agreements with states and territories over the next year.

Abbott then went on Andrew Bolt’s TV show, and was played a clip of Pyne’s August commitment. The subsequent conversation went like this:


TONY ABBOTT: “I think Christopher said ‘schools’ – plural – will get the same amount of money. The quantum will be the same.”

ANDREW BOLT: “I hear that. ‘Schools’, plural. People just saw the grab. They heard ‘school’, your ‘school’, singular, and I don’t understand why that promise was made. I would go a billion dollars into debt just to keep your promise. I don’t know why you don't commit to it.”

TONY ABBOTT: “But Andrew, we are going to keep our promise. We are going to keep the promise that we actually made, not the promise that some people thought that we made or the promise that some people might have liked us to make. We’re going to keep the promise that we actually made.”

–Ten Network, The Bolt Report, 1 December 2013




On Election Preferencing


 “I have today instructed the Liberal Party organisation right around Australia that we should put the Greens last.”

–Press conference, Brisbane, 14 August 2013


“I’m going to put the Greens last.”

–Press conference, Brisbane, 14 August 2013


“I’ve made a captain’s call here. I have made a captain’s call. We are going to put the Greens last.”

–Press conference, Brisbane, 14 August 2013


REPORTER: “Going on your logic would you then rule out doing any preference deals with Bob Katter or Clive Palmer's minor parties and preference them behind Labor?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Well, that’s a perfectly good question. There is a world of difference between the Greens and as far as I’m aware just about everyone else who is contesting this election campaign because everyone else in this campaign supports economic growth and supports a more prosperous economy.”

–Press conference, Brisbane, 14 August 2013


JOHN LAWS: “Today, you announced that you are preferencing the Greens last.”


-Interviewed by John Laws, Radio 2SM, Sydney, 14 August 2013


Five days later Abbott... didn’t preference the Greens last:


REPORTER: “Last week you said you would preference the Greens last but you haven’t done that in the Senate. Why have you broken that pledge?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Look, there are one or two parties that are frankly racist and they have been put behind the Greens but everywhere, everywhere, no exceptions, the Greens are behind the Labor Party because they are economic fringe dwellers.”

REPORTER: “Why don’t you make that your speech rather than saying you’d put them last? Why didn’t you say you’d put them below Labor?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Well, what I said was that they are going last of all the significant parties and that’s exactly where they’ve been.”

-Joint press conference with Barry O’Farrell, St Marys Police Station, Sydney, 19 August 2013



“We have well and truly learnt our lesson. The last thing we want to do is expose ourselves to the wrath of the Howard battlers.”

-ABC TV’s Q&A, 5 April 2010


Abbott here was responding to a question about whether he would ever seek to re-introduce WorkChoices or something similar. But Howard’s battlers had other doubts, over whether certain welfare payments, such as family tax benefits and pensions, would get the axe. On election eve in 2013 Abbott reassured them:


“No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”

-on SBS TV on election eve, 6 September 2013


In his budget speech, treasurer Joe Hockey announced that education and health spending would be cut by a total of $80 billion, that pensions will be linked to inflation rather than wages growth after 2017 and will therefore rise at a lower annual rate, and that spending on public broadcasting will be cut by $43.5 million over four years.

Perhaps, because Abbott was speaking on a public broadcaster, he was not bound to not mislead? Recall what he said in 2000:

“Misleading the ABC is not quite the same as misleading the parliament.”

-to the Sydney Morning Herald, reported on 11 March 2000




On Doing Deals


“I won’t be doing deals with independents and minor parties.”

-Press conference, Parliament House, Canberra, 4 August 2013


A month after winning the election, the new government proposed to raise the debt ceiling by another $200 billion. Labor opposed this, but the Greens said they’d vote for an unlimited increase. The government accepted that deal and the legislation passed.


REPORTER: “Prior to the election you described the Greens as economic fringe dwellers, but now you seem to be happy to do a deal with them on the debt ceiling. How do you reconcile those two points?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Our challenge as a government is to clean up Labor’s mess and to keep our commitments.”

-Joint press conference with Christopher Pyne, Canberra, 2 December 2013





On Federalism


Tony Abbott spent two chapters of his 2009 book, Battlelines, arguing that the commonwealth government should assume ultimate responsibility for most, if not all, areas of service delivery which are currently the constitutional responsibility of the states. He even proposed a draft referendum question and associated legislation. He repeatedly made it clear that the buck-passing had to stop, and that it was no solution for the commonwealth to simply withdraw funding from the states on the pretence that service delivery was their constitutional responsibility:

“Docking the states' funding would just have made a bad situation worse.”

Battlelines (2009), p 114

“There is no realistic prospect of the Commonwealth returning significant responsibilities to the states...”

Battlelines (2009), p 125

“If the services for which the national government is responsible are delivered by a range of private, religious, charitable and community-based providers, while the services for which the state governments are responsible are delivered by centrally run bureaucracies, the conservative instinct should be to support more Commonwealth services and less state ones. To the extent that they argue for continued state control of public hospitals, schools and transport systems, at least in an Australian context, conservatives are supporting socialist service-delivery systems over market-based ones.”

Battlelines (2009), p 128

“Because voters think that health and education are so important, it's hard to imagine the revival of a political party that basically says that 'these are subjects for the states' or even that policies in this area depend on working with the states.”

Battlelines (2009), p 132

“Commonwealth spending on health and education now approaches $90 billion a year... Still, any withdrawal of Commonwealth involvement or spending in these areas would rightly be seen as a cop out.”

Battlelines (2009), p 133

Immediately after winning the 2013 election, Abbott appointed a Commission of Audit to look into budgetary savings. The Commission's final report, released to the public in late April 2014, recommended reviving a more traditional federalism by returning service delivery to the states and allowing them to raise their own revenue. This was the opposite of what Abbott had been arguing for years.

On 13 May, treasurer Joe Hockey announced that $80 billion would be withdrawn from future grants to the states for health and education spending. When quizzed the following day, Abbott said:

“There is no doubt that over time we do expect the states to take more responsibility for their pubic hospitals. We do expect the states to take more responsibility for their public schools. We want the states to be grown-up adult governments.”

-Interviewed by David Koch, Seven Network's Sunrise, 14 May 2014





On Government Spending


“This is a government which has been spending like a drunken sailor. It is not that revenue is too low, it’s that spending is too high.”

– 21 December 2012, interviewed by David Koch on the Seven Network's Sunrise


Koch responded: “Ok, but as a percentage of the size of the economy, they are spending less than the Howard government did under the Howard government’s reign”.  Indeed, in its 2012-13 budget, the Labor government forecast a 4.3 per cent cut in government spending - the largest on record. The ratio of government spending to GDP was forecast to fall to 23.5 per cent, which was lower than the average of the Howard government's 12 budgets.





On Special Interests


“All of the commitments that we make will be designed to promote the national interest, not to try to curry favours with any particular group.”

–Joint doorstop interview with Nigel McKenna, Adelaide Ice, Regency Park, Adelaide, 26 April 2013


Clive Palmer disagreed, describing the 2014 budget as one 'for the lobbyists and Liberal donors'. According to the ABC's analysis, only defence, medical research, mining and infrastructure emerged as winners, while the budget was relatively neutral for high income earners and the private sector generally.





On Sexuality


“We’re not a bunch of Stalinists inside the Coalition, but it is our absolutely crystal clear policy that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

-Interviewed by Roisin McCann, Statewide Mornings, ABC Radio 936 AM, Hobart, 6 August 2010


“At different times I have reacted a bit poorly at first to things but I hope I would always find it in my heart to treat people the way everyone should be treated, with dignity and respect and I think that people who know me well who are gay would be only too happy to testify to that.”

-ABC TV, Q&A, 16 August 2010


Are these two statements, made ten days apart, consistent? Q&A audience member Geoff Thomas, whose son is gay, didn’t think so. His response to the second comment was: “Well, we all talk about it, don’t we, but we don't get there. If I'm in a loving relationship, it’s fundamental to me that I want to marry that person.”

The following year, Abbott said in response to a question asking whether the Coalition would ever consider legalising same-sex marriage:


“Look, the short answer is no, not because we want to see any discrimination at all, but we just think that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

-Interviewed by “Nimsy”, WakeUp, RadioWest, Esperance, 18 August 2011


During 2013 Abbott was still asserting non-discrimination, no doubt leaving same-sex attracted Australians wondering about Abbott’s definition of what would constitute discrimination:


“My position on so-called same-sex marriage is that I want to see no discrimination against homosexuals.”

-Interviewed by Peter van Onselen and Paul Kelly, Australian Agenda, Sky News, 21 April 2013


“My sister, as you know, Christine, is gay. I want her to be treated as every other Australian is treated and that’s the Australian standard: we don’t discriminate.”

-Interviewed by Melissa Doyle, Seven Network’s Sunrise, 30 July 2013



“We have had thousands of years of human existence and ... human relationships have not changed much.  In all of that time and for all of that time we have had marriage defined as something between a man and woman.”

-Interviewed by Ben Fordham, Radio 2GB, Sydney, 14 August 2013

In fact, polygamy was practiced in most places before the invention of technologies which allowed sedentary farming. An analysis of over a thousand societies between 1960 and 1980 found that only 186 restricted the marriage relationship to a single woman and a single man.


JOHN LAWS: “Marriage is a tradition of very long standing and I like tradition and I think it is very important for a country like Australia to abide by some of those traditions.”

TONY ABBOTT: “I’m not saying that our culture and our traditions are perfect. But we have to respect them and my idea is to build on the strength of our society and I support by and large evolutionary change. I’m not someone who wants to see radical changes based on the fashion of the moment.”

-interviewed by John Laws, Radio 2SM, Sydney, 14 August 2013


A few days later, journalist Paul Bongiorno asked Abbott whether he still thought same-sex marriage was a fad. Abbott said: “Well, that’s not what I said, Paul.”

Bongiorno: “Well, you said it was a fad and a fashion.”

Abbott: “I was having a general chat about the conservative mindset with John Laws.”

-Network Ten’s Meet the Press, 19 August 2013




On Taxation


“To the best of my recollection, there were no tax increases whatsoever in the life of the Coalition government.”

-interviewed by Virginia Triolo, ABC TV’s Lateline, 16 May 2008

“Unless you include the GST?” Trioli interjected.


“The Coalition is against new taxes.”

-Interviewed by Madonna King, 612 ABC Radio, Brisbane, 25 January 2010


“The only person who is addicted to tax around here is the prime minister. I think the prime minister must have been hallucinating when he started talking about a mega tax from the Coalition.”

-­Doorstop interview, Parliament House, Canberra, 1 February 2010, referring to prime minister Kevin Rudd


The following month Abbott announced his ‘Captain’s Call’ paid parental leave scheme, to be partially funded by a new tax:

“It will be funded by a levy on larger businesses”.

-Doorstop interview, Manly, 8 March 2010


Having said he wouldn’t introduce any new taxes and then announce that he would, Abbott was inevitably questioned:

REPORTER: “Mr Abbott, how can you be taken seriously when you’re talking about lower taxes but one of your first major policies was paid parental leave to be funded by tax on business?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Well, it’s a temporary – what I hope will be a temporary levy on a very small number of businesses. It’s very important, as the Howard government acknowledged, sometimes when your fiscal circumstances are tight, to do what is absolutely necessary there may have to be levies or charges. This is not something that I take any pleasure in.”

-Doorstop interview, Sydney, 30 March 2010


KERRY O'BRIEN: “In February this year you said in a radio interview, 'We will fund our promises without new taxes and without increased taxes'. A month later you announced that you'd fund six months paid maternity leave by putting a new tax on big companies. I'm not quite sure how you justify such a fundamental U-turn in such a short time?”

TONY ABBOTT: “And, the point I tried to make at the time was that I didn't like the levy very much, but if we were going to have a paid parental leave scheme any time soon, a decent paid parental leave scheme any time soon, it had to be paid for and this was the least bad way of doing it.”

O'BRIEN: “But what you haven't explained is how you can make one promise in one month and then completely change it the next.”

ABBOTT: “Well, again, Kerry, people will make their own judgments about me and if they ...”

O'BRIEN: “No, but I'd like you to explain it.”

ABBOTT: “Well, again Kerry, I know politicians are gonna be judged on everything they say, but sometimes, in the heat of discussion, you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark, which is one of the reasons why the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth is those carefully prepared scripted remarks.”

O'BRIEN: “So every time you make a statement, we have to ask you whether it's carefully prepared and scripted or whether it's just something on the fly?”

ABBOTT: “But all of us, Kerry, all of us when we're in the heat of verbal combat, so to speak, will sometimes say things that go a little bit further.”

O'BRIEN: “Mr Abbott, we're not all leaders of major political parties who are either Prime Minister or aspiring to be.”

ABBOTT: “True, true, true.”

O'BRIEN: “Would you agree there is extra onus on you ...”

ABBOTT: “Absolutely right. Absolutely right.”

O'BRIEN: “... to be accurate and honest and make promises that can be trusted?”

ABBOTT: “Absolutely right.”

O'BRIEN: “But that time, you couldn't?”

ABBOTT: “But the thing is I made a statement in a radio interview in February and then I think in March I made a commitment to paid parental leave. Now ...”

O'BRIEN: “Which was the opposite of what you'd said the month before.”

ABBOTT: “Well, it wasn't absolutely consistent with what I said the month before.”

O'BRIEN: “It was the opposite! One month you say no new tax, the next month you say a $2.7 billion tax.”

ABBOTT: “OK... There is a bit of inconsistency.”

O'BRIEN: “But this business about times when you're - what you say can be believed or trusted and times when we should accept that it's not necessarily the truth – it makes it very hard for people –”

ABBOTT: “If you gave an Andrew Olle Lecture, that would obviously be the distilled essence of what O'Brien thinks on a particular issue.”

O'BRIEN: “But I'll say again: I'm not aspiring to be the Prime Minister of Australia, no matter what I say.”

ABBOTT: “People will make their judgments of me, Kerry, and I accept that and I understand that, and some of them will say, "Ah ha, he said this in a radio interview in February and then a month later in March he made a commitment on paid parental leave which is not completely consistent with that former statement.”

O'BRIEN: “No, no; it was the opposite! It was the opposite of the first statement, Mr Abbott?”

ABBOTT: “And some people, Kerry, will judge me very harshly.”

-ABC TV’s The 7:30 Report, 17 May 2010


But at least he changed his mind before the election. He still managed to say in May:

“The Coalition is allergic to new taxes.”

-Interviewed by Michael Bailey, Radio 4RO, Rockhampton, 18 May 2010


There is, of course, a big difference between changing one’s mind on a new tax before an election (which means the electorate can still consider it) and after an election (which means a commitment has been broken). As Abbott pointed out after prime minister Julia Gillard announced the Labor government’s carbon pricing scheme in early 2011:


“They said before the election there wouldn’t be a tax, now they say it won’t hurt you. The only certainties are that Labor tells lies and the public pay.”

-Interviewed by the Grill Team, Triple M Radio, Sydney, 25 February 2011


“She’s telling people that now is the best possible time to introduce a carbon tax. Well, what planet is our prime minister living on that she thinks this? And I just think her obstinacy and her pigheadedness is further proof that this is an utterly out of touch government.”

-Interviewed by Alan Jones, Radio 2GB, Sydney, 12 August 2011


Abbott also said – repeatedly – that he would not introduce any new taxes:


“There can be no tax collection without an election. If this government had any honesty, any decency, that is what we would have: an election now.”

-House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra, 16 August 2011, arguing against the Gillard government's carbon pricing scheme


“There is one fundamental message that we want to go out from this place to every nook and cranny of our country: there should be no new tax collection without an election.”

-Address to 'No Carbon Tax' rally, Canberra, 16 August 2011


“This government thinks that somehow you can build prosperity with new taxes. No country ever got rich by increasing taxation. No country ever built a strong economy by clobbering itself with tax after tax after tax.”

-House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra, 23 November 2011


“What you'll get under us are tax cuts without new taxes.”

-Doorstop interview with Greg Hunt, Pure Solar, 14 March 2012


“The carbon tax will go, but no-one personal tax will go up and no-one's fortnightly pension or benefit will go down.”

-Budget reply speech, House of Representatives, Parliament House, 16 May 2013


DAVID KOCH: “How do you get the budget back into surplus without putting up taxes?”

TONY ABBOTT: “By sensible expenditure restraint.”

-Interviewed by David Koch and Melissa Doyle, Seven Network's Sunrise, 5 August 2013


“The only party which is going to increase taxes after the election is the Labor Party.”

-Joint press conference with Greg Hunt and Bill Glasson, Brisbane, 9 August 2013


REPORTER: “Mr Abbott, Julie Bishop said on TV would have to do both raising taxes and cutting spending to bring the budget back to black. What taxes do you propose to raise?”

TONY ABBOTT: “The only party that will raise taxes after the election is the Labor Party.”

-Joint press conference with Malcolm Turnbull, Bondi Beach, Sydney, 11 August 2013


“I am absolutely determined not to increase the overall tax burden on anyone.”

-Joint press conference with Joe Hockey and Will Hodgman, Launceston, Tasmania, 15 August 2013


On 13 May as part of the 2014 budget, treasurer Joe Hockey announced that high income earners would be paying a new income tax, that fuel excise would be re-indexed, and that visits to the GP would attract a $7 co-payment which would flow back to general revenue.



On Medicare



In early 2014 rumours began circulating about the possibility that the Abbott government would be imposing a "co-payment" on visits to the GP. Co-payments were not a new idea: one had been briefly imposed by the Hawke government; New Zealand and France charge fees for GP visits; and the Commission of Audit re-introduced the idea in Australia. But Abbott had said nothing about a co-payment before the election.


REPORTER: “Can you guarantee there won't be a Medicare co-payment?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Nothing is being considered, nothing has been proposed, nothing is planned.”

-Joint doorstop interview with Bill Glasson, Brisbane, 1 February 2014


REPORTER: “Would you consider a co-payment, a means testing to help relieve the pressure on the health budget?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Obviously the budget, generally, is under pressure and it’s very important that we do what we can to fix the budget, as quickly as we can, but we’ve got to do it in ways which are consistent with our pre-election commitments. Don’t forget, I said we were going to be a no surprises, no excuses government.”

-Doorstop interview, Sydney, 20 February 2014


REPORTER: “In light of the latest scare campaign however, can’t you just knock it on the head, pull the rug out from under Labor’s scare campaign and guarantee no co-payments?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Well I think I have knocked the scare campaign on the head and again this is all the Labor Party has got.”

REPORTER: “But what would be wrong with the co-payments? Surely there are arguments in favour of it?”

TONY ABBOTT: “I’ve dealt with this issue. Now, are there other questions?”

-Doorstop interview, Sydney, 20 February 2014


The first Abbott-Hockey budget in May 2014 proposed that patients contribute a $7 co-payment for every visit to the GP, with some exemptions for low-income earners and patients with chronic conditions. At least $5 of that co-payment would be collected by the government, meaning that it would be a new tax – which Abbott had expressly ruled out prior to the election.


NEIL MITCHELL: “Now, putting the concession card holders aside, if I am the average person going along to the doctor, what is the safety net on the $7 co-payment?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Well, it is 10 visits and then the standard bulk-billing arrangements will apply. If I could just–”

NEIL MITCHELL: “Without the $7?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Yes, that’s right. The standard bulk billing arrangements kick in after you have had ten visits in a calendar year. Look, I have had calls at various radio stations, Neil, from pensioners that say ‘look, I am not well, I will go to the doctor at least ten times’. After you have been ten times – that is, after you have racked up the $70 – well, then the normal bulk-billing arrangements apply.”

-Interviewed by Neil Mitchell, Radio 3AW, Melbourne, 21 May 2014


TONY ABBOTT: “This is an important reform. It is important to have some modest price signals in the system. There will be a strong safety net and once anyone has had ten co-payments in a calendar year it will go to the standard bulk-billing arrangement.”

-Interviewed by Jon Faine, ABC Radio 774, Melbourne, 21 May 2014

Abbott's explanation of the co-payment, however, contradicted his government's own budget papers. In fact, they proposed that the only patients who would benefit from the capped 10-visit safety net would be concession card holders, pensioners and children under 16. The PM's office released a statement correcting Abbott's words later the same day. 


TONY ABBOTT: “We believe in a price signal, and it's interesting last night we had Labor members of parliament saying that it was somehow unconscionable to see a co-payment... I think what we saw last night was a Labor Party which is in denial about the debt and deficit disaster that it created. This government has a plan to fix Labor's debt and deficit disaster. Labor obviously has no plan to fix the disaster which it created.”

-Joint press conference with NSW premier Mike Baird, Sydney, 16 May 2014

But the government had not proposed that the co-payment would go to fixing "Labor's debt and deficit disaster". Rather, $5 would go toward the creation of a new fund for medical research (also unmentioned before the election), and $2 would go directly to the GP.





On a Budget Surplus


“We don't think pensioners should suffer while Labor creates a slush fund for the states. Really, it is not absolutely essential for economic responsibility to have a $22 billion surplus. That surplus belongs to the people. And other than a modest margin for prudence, it should be given back to the people, either by way of tax cuts or judicious spending increase and that’s what we're proposing.”

-interviewed by Leigh Sales, ABC TV’s Lateline, 10 September 2008

For the next six years he railed against the Labor government's deficits, before hitting pensioners with a reduction in their annual rates of indexation from 2017 in his first (2014) budget.





On Interest Rates


One of the Howard government's most successful re-election pitches was its refrain that “interest rates will always be lower under the Coalition” than under Labor. In mid-2010, Abbott was blaming the Labor government for high interest rates:

DAVID KOCH: “Early in the campaign, you played the interest rate card: ‘If we get elected, interest rates will come down’. And you know that’s a load of rot. You can’t, you can’t influence interest rates coming down, can you?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Sure you can, Kochie. When you’ve got the government out there borrowing $100 million a day that puts upward pressure on interest rates.”

-interviewed by David Koch, the Seven Network’s Sunrise, 20 July 2010


But after interest rates fell to their lowest levels since the 1950s under the Labor administration, Abbott said just before the 2013 election:


“If interest rates go down today it won't be because the Reserve Bank says 'yippee, isn't our economy in great shape'. It will be because the Reserve Bank thinks economic activity is heading south.”

-6 August 2013





On the Car and Manufacturing Industries


“What I want to do is make it easier for this industry to flourish. I want to make it easier for people to get on with their lives and to enjoy driving great motor cars, particularly great Australian made motor cars.”

-28 July 2013


“I want Australia to be a country that makes things.”

-21 August 2013


Abbott made these motherhood statements during the pre-election period, while he was still opposition leader. He was vague on specifics. In August 2013, a reporter tried to pin him down on what exactly he would do in relation to the car industry:


REPORTER: “If… Holden and Toyota come to you in two years’ time and say we can’t make cars in this country without any more Government handouts, will you be prepared to let them go?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Let’s cross those bridges if and when we get there.”

-21 August 2013

Holden and Toyota felt uncertain about Abbott’s statement. Holden’s CEO, Mike Devereux, had already said that his company would need a firm policy from the Coalition, and the sooner the better. Later during that same press conference, a reporter tried again for more specifics:

REPORTER: “The lead times on the creation of cars takes four or five years, six, seven years... Is that good enough for a company like Holden? It sounds like you’re prepared to risk Holden’s future in this country.”

TONY ABBOTT: “Well, look, we want Holden to survive. We want Holden to survive.”

-21 August 2013

Abbott then gave what looked like a relatively specific commitment:

“We have a good record when it comes to working with the car manufacturers to help them, not just to survive, but to flourish, and we will act in that same spirit in the future.”

-21 August 2013


But Abbott refused to commit to anything other than cuts to subsidies, and after the election both Holden and Toyota announced that they would be leaving along with Ford, which had announced its exit earlier in the year. 


REPORTER: “Do you accept any blame for what has happened with Holden?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Like everyone, I think it's tragic that Holden will close down in 2017... But I don't want to play politics here. I don't want to indulge in the blame game.”

-16 December 2013




On the Mining Industry


“The Government has trashed Australia’s international reputation with its proposal for a great big new tax on mining.”

-Joint press conference with Joe Hockey, 2 July 2010


“You may not have noticed it, but every year there’s a well-respected international survey of safe places to do mining business and thanks to the mining tax, Australia has dropped 13 places in just 12 months, and as a place to do business, a safe place to do business, Australia is now behind Argentina, Tanzania, Zambia, Ghana, Botswana and Namibia. Now, these are all normally regarded as pretty dodgy places and Australia is now behind them as a place to do business. So, how can the Government claim to be good economic managers if that’s what they’ve done to our international reputation?”

-Interviewed by John-Michael Howson and Steve Murphy, Radio 3AW, Melbourne, 15 August 2010


Abbott was here referring to the annual Canadian-based Fraser Institute’s Survey of Mining Companies, which ranks jurisdictions according to their attractiveness for mining investment.  Each of Australia's states and the Northern Territory are ranked separately (so there is no ranking for Australia as a whole), but in the 2009/10 survey, the mean of all the Australian jurisdictions was higher than all six of the ‘pretty dodgy places’ mentioned by Abbott, and was significantly higher than most of them.  Although there was a sharp drop in Australia's mean ranking in the 2010 Mid-Year Update, Australia’s mean ranking then actually improved by 2011/12.  What’s more, the Behre Dolbear Group's 2010 Mining Survey placed Australia No.1 on the list for ‘Best Places to Invest’, having replaced Chile, which held the No.1 ranking in 2009.  Australia went on to retain the No.1 ranking in both 2011 and 2012.





On the Economy


“Well, you’ve got to cut spending, Alan, that’s the only way, and the countries that don’t cut spending will eventually end up in the situation that we’ve seen develop in a country like Greece.”

-Interviewed by Alan Jones, Radio 2GB, Sydney, 29 June 2010


Abbott said this to Jones in the context of warning Australians about the Labor government’s growing debt ‘problem’. Australia’s public debt then stood at about 30 per cent of GDP, one of the lowest in the world. Greece’s public debt, by contrast, was then 160 per cent of GDP.


“We’ve seen [in] the last three economy which has underperformed...”

-14 August 2013

Not only had Australia maintained its AAA credit rating and relatively low unemployment rate in a global environment in which Europe and the USA had major problems, Australia had actually improved its economic situation since 2007 on most measures: GDP per capita had climbed 13%; real wages had increased 27%; household savings had more than doubled; labour productivity was at an all-time high; pension levels were up; superannuation was up; the Australian dollar was up; industrial production growth was up; foreign exchange reserves were up; the balance of trade had improved; the current account as a percentage of GDP was healthier; the government ten-year bond rate had improved; interest rates were lower.





On International Relations


“We won’t conduct megaphone diplomacy with host and transit countries; we will try to do it quietly behind the scenes.”

-Interviewed by Alan Jones, Radio 2GB, Sydney, 18 March 2010


“What we need to do is to get increasingly close cooperation between Australia and Indonesia on this issue and I think we can get it if we play our cards right and one way not to play your cards right is to engage in public criticism of them.”

-4 July 2012


“I pledge myself to do everything I humanly can – should I be elected as prime minister – to get the relationship with Indonesia back on a firm footing.”

-8 August 2012


“We would never have conducted the kind of megaphone diplomacy that Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have conducted with Indonesians.”

-10 May 2013


“The last thing you would want to do as a patriotic Australian is do anything to needlessly complicate the relationship which Australia has with Indonesia.”

-27 September 2013


That was in opposition. Abbott won the September 2013 election, and became frustrated:


“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.”

-15 December 2013, engaging in megaphone diplomacy


“I am very confident that in government, we would be able to achieve the levels of cooperation with the Indonesian government necessary to ensure that we stop the boats. Let’s face it, under prime minister Howard, those levels of cooperation were there. I’m confident that under the next Coalition government we can have the same levels of cooperation.”

-13 October 2012


The Indonesian government soon made its feelings about Abbott's plan known. The following May, the Indonesian ambassador to Australia, Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, said: “I think it’s not possible for the Coalition to say that it [the flow of boats] has to go back to Indonesia... No such collaboration will happen between Australia and Indonesia.”

-31 May 2013

In July, president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said: “Indonesia also receives thousands of boat people… If we are the only ones solving this issue, it will not be fair.”

-5 July 2013

CHRIS UHLMANN: “The Indonesian President...couldn’t be clearer that he doesn’t agree with your boat turn back policy, could he?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Well, the interesting thing, Chris, is that Indonesia did not give explicit permission before, but that didn’t stop it from happening.”

-9 July 2013





On Open Government and Freedom of Information


“It’s high time we took the prime ministership out of the back room and put it into the full light of day.”

-21 March 2013


“In the end I want the government to be upfront with people.”

-2 May 2013


 “One way or another, we will get full disclosure to the Australian people.”

-9 August 2013


“The last thing we want to do is to hide anything from the Australian people.”

-9 August 2013


Within hours of being sworn in as prime minister, Abbott sacked three departmental secretaries: Don Russell, head of industry; Andrew Metcalfe, head of agriculture; and Blair Comley, head of resources. He also announced that Martin Parkinson, head of treasury, would be moved off during 2014. If the decisions were politically motivated, the reasons were obvious, as Michelle Grattan reported in The Conversation. But that was speculation. Abbott was asked to explain the sackings himself:


REPORTER: “Why sack those three [senior public servants] yesterday? Weren't they just carrying out the business of the government of the day?”

TONY ABBOTT: “I’m just not going to get into the whys and wherefores of individual decisions.”

-19 September 2013


It quickly emerged that Abbott’s office required that all media requests for interviews with his front bench ministers be first approved by Abbott’s staff. He refused to say why:


REPORTER: “Prime Minister, do you trust your own ministry? And if so, why do they have to clear themselves through your office before they speak publicly?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Well, I am very proud of my team. I have an excellent team. This is a very strong government. It was a strong and effective opposition. It’s already moving decisively to be a strong and effective government. We will be a consultative and collegial government. We will be consultative and collegial internally as well as externally.”

REPORTER: “Does against a centralised approach go against the public’s right to know what ministers are doing?”

ABBOTT: “I’m very keen to see ministers in the new government active in their portfolios and I’m very pleased to see that my ministers have been active in their portfolios from day one.”

-26 September 2013


Within weeks Abbott had developed a reputation for being seen very sparingly in public:

LISA WILKINSON: “One of your election promises was greater government transparency and yet we’ve seen very little of you and many of your senior ministers in the nine weeks since the election. Why have you all been hiding?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Look, we've been out there talking when we’ve had something to say.”

-13 November 2013


“There will always be some issues that are contentious, but the best way to deal with them is openly, candidly and behind closed doors and that is what I propose to do.”

-14 November 2013


“I'll be interviewed when there’s something to say, but I never want to be a political exhibitionist who has got to be parading himself before the public just because he needs the attention.”

-14 November 2013


The government then announced that it would only be answering journalists' questions about Operation Sovereign Borders at press conferences on Friday afternoons, at which 'operational' matters would not be discussed at all. The tightly-controlled flow of information about asylum seeker boats became a source of frustration among journalists.

LEIGH SALES: “How many boatloads of asylum seekers has Indonesia declined to take back since the election?”

TONY ABBOTT: “And I’m just not going to get into who did what, when, who said what, when.”

-13 November 2013


REPORTER: “A couple of weeks ago a group of asylum seekers were brought ashore to Darwin on another Customs boat under the cover of darkness and extreme efforts were taken to stop the Nine News cameras capturing any images of that. Are you trying to hide the boats, as the opposition says?”

TONY ABBOTT: “We are trying to stop the boats.”

REPORTER: “Is stopping the people from knowing about the fact that a boatload of asylum seekers is coming in, is that intended to stop the bad publicity?”

ABBOTT: “Our job is to stop the boats. It’s not to provide sport. It’s not to provide copy.”

REPORTER: “Don’t Australians deserve to know when a boat’s arrived and when people have come in, as you say, illegally, shouldn’t Australians have a right to know that information?”

ABBOTT: “Our job as a government is not to provide shipping news for people smugglers.”

-Doorstop interview, Darwin, 11 October 2013


TONY ABBOTT: “I am confident that we are running these [detention] centres effectively and humanely.”

PRESENTER: “We have to take your word on that. Reporters aren’t able to get in there. Journalists aren’t able to get in there, so we don’t really have any confirmation that the conditions in these centres are up to the standards that are acceptable to the Australian public.”

ABBOTT: “Let’s remember that everyone in these centres in there because he or she has come illegally to Australia by boat.”

-10 January 2014





On Aboriginal Affairs


“It was generally assumed that the sooner Aboriginal people disappeared into the rest of the Australian population, the better. It was a mild enough form of racism, but it was enough to justify a formal apology.”

-Battlelines (2009), pp 165-166


Abbott was seemingly unaware that this “mild enough form of racism” is defined as “genocide” in the United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948.





On Australia


“The beauty about Australia throughout its history, but particularly in more recent decades, is that we don’t impose Australianness tests on people.”

-ABC TV’s 4 Corners, 16 August 2010

The Howard government imposed a cultural content-rich Citizenship Test in 2007.




Fear Mongering


“The public are entitled to vote for whom so ever they wish in this great democracy of ours, but they need to understand that their vote matters and if they vote Labor, there will be consequences. Potentially dire consequences.”

-ABC TV’s Lateline, 23 May 2007, while still in government


“This government’s campaign for re-election is totally based on fear and smear.”

-Doorstop press conference, Brisbane, 9 August 2010


And minutes later, during the same press conference:


“If the government is re-elected, your power bills are going up and up and up.”




On Personal and Political Attacks


“He’s probably going to tell a lot of lies about the Coalition’s record in health.”

-Doorstop interview, Nowra, 19 March 2010, predicting Kevin Rudd’s approach in his upcoming debate with Abbott

Five days later, Abbott was on Alan Jones’ radio show:

“I think it’s very hard to work with someone who is basically calling you a liar and that’s what Mr Rudd does.”

- Interviewed by Alan Jones, Radio 2GB, Sydney, 24 March 2010


TONY ABBOTT: The Labor Party just has a stack of money. I mean, they are the big money party. They are the big faction, big union party and they’ve got rivers of gold pouring into their war chest and I’ve got to run a kind of grassroots people’s revolt against them.

TIM WEBSTER: My listeners, though, are refusing to believe that you’re not cashed up as well.

ABBOTT: I wish your listeners were right and we were that cashed up, but we’re not. These days Tim, big business either doesn’t donate, or in many cases it donates far more to the Labor Party than it does to us.

-Interviewed by Tim Webster, Radio 2UE, Sydney, 16 August 2010


“We haven’t had nearly as much money to spend as the Labor Party.”

-Interviewed by John McKenzie, Radio 4CA, Cairns, 18 August 2010


According to the Australian Electoral Commission’s disclosure figures, the ALP managed to raise under 2% more than the Liberal Party for the 2010-11 period.  The Liberal Party's major donors included Minara Resources, Independence Group NL, Clive Palmer's Mineralogy (all major mining companies), Village Roadshow, the Australian Hotels Association and Furama (a multinational hotel company), Inghams, Sonic Healthcare, the National Australia Bank, Pratt Holdings, Walker Group Holdings (a developer), Manildra, the Macquarie Group, etc, etc...


“We will not impugn the motives of our political opponents. We will not trash the reputations of Members of Parliament.”

-9 November 2013, soon after winning the election and becoming prime minister.

A few minutes later, Abbott said:

“The only people who are in denial about the result of the last election, well, we know who they are. It’s good old ‘Electricity’ Bill Shorten, good old ‘Electricity Bill’ Shorten and his Green colleagues.”





On Paid Parental Leave


“Compulsory paid maternity leave?  Over this government’s dead body, frankly.”

-Speech to a Liberal Party function, Victoria, 2002

In 2010 Abbott, now leader of the Liberal Party, was polling poorly with women. He then unilaterally (meaning, without consulting his party room) proposing a universal paid parental leave scheme.


REPORTER: “What would you say specifically to voters at the lower end, mothers at the lower end, whose taxes will be paying for people perhaps here in Malvern at six figure salaries?”

TONY ABBOTT: “I’d say don’t believe Labor’s lies. That’s what I’d say, I’d say don’t believe Labor’s lies.”

-18 August 2013





On Facts


“Countries like Australia have never really operated as ‘closed shops’. Race has rarely been central to any of the English-speaking national identities.”

-‘The Brother Countries’: 2003 Sir Robert Menzies Lecture, Parliament House, Spring Street, Melbourne, 17 May 2004

To the contrary, Australia was governed for the better part of seventy years after federation on the bipartisan ‘closed shop’ of the ‘white Australia’ policy.


TONY JONES: “So there was never any question of any party funds –”

TONY ABBOTT: “Absolutely not.”

JONES: “Or other funds from any other source –”

ABBOTT: “Absolutely not.”

JONES: “– being offered to Terry Sharples?”

ABBOTT: “Absolutely not.”

-Interviewed on 31 July 1998, broadcast on ABC TV’s 4 Corners, 10 August 2003

Terry Sharples was a disendorsed One Nation party electoral candidate who later launched a court case which ended with One Nation's deregistration for not following electoral rules. Sharples' legal action was initially backed by Australians for Honest Politics, a slush fund established by Tony Abbott in 1998 to combat One Nation and Pauline Hanson.

A couple of weeks after that 4 Corners report, Sharples was interviewed and said this: “The exact words he [Abbott] used were, ‘Right, we're going to go ahead with this because we've been discussing a possible court action. I’m going to put $20,000 into a trust account of a solicitor called Russell.’ [Later that year,] I started to get phone calls from a solicitor who purported to be acting for Abbott, purportedly offering to try and settle everything for $10,000, which was a nonsense because the court costs at that stage that had been awarded against me were significantly higher than that. John Howard, through his private secretary Tony Nutt, wrote to me and indicated he regarded the matter between Tony and myself as a private matter.”​

- Interviewed for ABC TV’s The 7:30 Report, 26 August 2003


That led to this exchange the following evening:


KERRY O’BRIEN: “And you're saying now that wasn't a lie – not just Liberal Party funds but any other funds?”

TONY ABBOTT: “I had promised that he wouldn't be out of pocket, but there's a difference between telling someone he won't be out of pocket and telling someone that you're going to have to pay him money.”

O’BRIEN: “What's the difference?”

ABBOTT: “Money would only have gone from a person who was willing to support this case to Sharples in what I thought was the then-unlikely event of a cost orders being made against him.  Strictly speaking no money at all was ever offered to Terry Sharples.”

O’BRIEN: “Well, Terry Sharples says you had a meeting with him and others on July 7, '98, where you offered him $20,000 to cover his legal costs.”

ABBOTT: “Well, see, I dispute that and I always have.”

O’BRIEN: “You did have the meeting though, didn't you, on July 7?”

ABBOTT: “Yes, so what? Big deal.”

O’BRIEN: “And the question of costs didn't come up?”

ABBOTT: “Yes, but there's a difference between offering to pay someone money – offering to pay Terry Sharples money – and supporting a legal case.”

O’BRIEN: “Where were you going to get the money?”

ABBOTT: “Well, I'm not going to tell you that, Kerry.”

O’BRIEN: “So you didn't have a fund in mind?”

ABBOTT: “No, I didn't at that stage.”

O’BRIEN: “But you were confident that you would be able to find money for him, presumably not out of your own pocket?”

ABBOTT: “Not for him not for him – but for an action, for a legal action.”

O’BRIEN: “And then you offered to underwrite effectively his costs in a legal action.  That is money.  Costs is money, isn't it?”

ABBOTT: “Well, I said that he would not be out of pocket.”

O’BRIEN: “Is costs money?”

ABBOTT: “Well –”

O’BRIEN: “When it really gets down to it, costs is money, isn't it?”

ABBOTT: “What I said was that he would not be out of pocket.”

O’BRIEN: “He wouldn't be out of pocket?”

ABBOTT: “That's correct.”

O’BRIEN: “With money?  Money?  Cash?  Money?”

ABBOTT: “Well, I said he wouldn't be out of pocket.”

O’BRIEN: “And on July 11 you met him again and you handwrote a guarantee, didn't you?”

ABBOTT: “I had sent him a note, but this is not new news, Kerry.”

O’BRIEN: “But on July 31, you told Tony Jones – you gave him an "absolutely not" denial about any kind of funds going to Terry Sharples.”

ABBOTT: “I said that I had not offered him money and I stand by that.”

O’BRIEN: “You offered him costs?  That's money!”

ABBOTT: “Oh, come on, Kerry.”

O’BRIEN: “Tony Abbott, that is money!  Let me hear it from your lips: that is money!”

ABBOTT: “Let's move on. I did not offer to pay Terry Sharples any money.”

O’BRIEN: “You offered to cover his costs.”

ABBOTT:  “But I did not offer to pay Terry Sharples any money.”

-ABC TV’s The 7:30 Report, 27 August 2003


Kerry O’Brien remarked at the end of the interview: “There are a lot of people out there right now who would believe that you're anything but honest in the way you've explained all this.”

Abbott replied: “Well, I think that I can live with my conscience.  I think it was very important to challenge the Hanson juggernaut back then in 1998.”


LEIGH SALES: “You were pretty loose with the truth today, weren’t you, when you said that BHP’s decision to put the Olympic Dam project on hold was partly due to the federal government’s new taxes?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Not at all, Leigh. For months BHP have been warning that the carbon tax and the mining tax are making Australia a less competitive place to invest.”

SALES: “Well let me read you exactly what Marius Kloppers had to say today when he was asked if the decision on Olympic Dam was related to Australian taxes. He said, ‘The decision is almost wholly associated with in the first instance capital costs’. He goes on to say: ‘as you know, the tax environment for this particular project has not changed at all since we started working on it six or seven years ago. The MRRT only covers coal and iron ore, not copper, not gold and not uranium, so the tax situation for this project has not changed’. Why does it say nowhere in the BHP statement that there’s anything to do with the federal government? If you go through the documents they blame weakness in commodity markets, industry-wide cost pressure, instability in the Eurozone, the slowdown of growth in China. They haven't been backwards in criticising the federal government before, but they certainly haven't today.”

ABBOTT: “And, Leigh, they didn't need to say it today because they've said it so often in the recent past.”

SALES: “Well they listed everything else that was to blame.  Have you actually read BHP’s statements?”


-22 August 2012


The following day something strange happened:


REPORTER: “Could you just clarify: had you read BHP’s announcement?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Yes, I had.”

REPORTER: “Why did you say on the ABC last night that you hadn’t?”

ABBOTT: “I was responding to something that Leigh had said about Marius Kloppers.”

-23 August 2012


“The carbon tax is not the only factor in price rises, but right now, it is at least 50 per cent of the price rise around Australia. It is 80 per cent in western Sydney, it is almost 100 per cent in Queensland.”

-28 September 2012

The figures Abbott used were "pure speculation", according to the ABC's Fact Check website, which concluded that the carbon price accounts for just ten per cent of every increase in power prices.

Lisa Wilkinson of the Nine Network's Today​ show tried to pin Abbott down:

LISA WILKINSON: “The truth is that the carbon tax only contributes a small amount to those price rises.  It’s only been in since July 1 and for these proposals that the government is putting forward to work, it does need cooperation from state governments to deregulate power prices.  Now, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has already said no.  We’re getting similar indications from the NSW Coalition government.  Is that because it’s actually politically convenient to keep those prices high leading up to the federal election and just keep blaming it on the carbon tax?”

TONY ABBOTT: “No one wants to see prices high. Everyone wants to see prices down. But the most practical thing the Commonwealth could do right now to get power prices down is to take off the carbon tax.”

WILKINSON: “Alright. Well, you've already promised that, should you be elected Prime Minister, you will get rid of that carbon tax. That leaves you 79 per cent of those price rises you've got to play with. Can you guarantee that an Abbott government will bring energy prices down beyond taking off the carbon tax?”

ABBOTT: “Well, that's a very, very good start.”

WILKINSON: “Ok, but you still haven't answered my question. How much will you bring down energy prices beyond taking off the carbon tax?”

ABBOTT: “Well, we will do vastly better than the Labor Party, Lisa, because there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead...”

WILKINSON: “You're still not answering my question, Mr Abbott.”

ABBOTT: “But, Lisa, I'm saying there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead and when I say that, I'm telling the truth.”

WILKINSON: “So should I get from that that you don't actually have a plan on how to bring prices down beyond the carbon tax, beyond getting rid of the carbon tax, Mr Abbott?”

ABBOTT: “That's a very, very good start, Lisa.”

WILKINSON: “Ok, well, I'll have to take it that you don't have a plan. Unless you're going to put one forward, it doesn't look like you've got a plan, Mr Abbott.”

ABBOTT: “Lisa, the plan starts with getting rid of the carbon tax.”

-9 November 2012


“The vast majority of [boat] people are not fair dinkum refugees. They are economic migrants, pure and simple.”

-2 July 2013

Far from “pure and simple”, Abbott would have – or should have – known that the vast majority of asylum seekers who arrive by boat are eventually found to meet the criteria for a “genuine refugee”.


“It is wrong in principle for Australian taxpayers’ money to be given to a foreign government as a free gift, as a simple cash grant with no accountability. It’s just wrong in principle. And that doesn’t matter whether the money is going to PNG or to Indonesia or to Fiji or to any other country that might warrant our help. And I’m all in favour of appropriate Australian assistance to PNG, but it’s our taxpayers’ money. We need to make sure that it’s spent responsibly and we need to make sure that ultimately, it’s spent with accountability. And it won't be if what Mr O'Neill is saying is correct. The only accountability will be with the PNG Government, not with the Australian Government.”

-23 July 2013

A reporter quickly immediately out the inaccuracy in what Abbott had just said, by referring to Peter O’Neill’s speech: “That’s not right, Mr Abbott. I’m just looking at what Mr O'Neill said and he says there is still AusAID oversight, that the priorities will be determined in discussions between his Government and the Australian Government.”





On Climate Science


CHRIS BOWEN: “Well, Tony says the science is evolving. I don’t believe it is. The Government doesn’t believe that it is. The science is in. The verdict is in. The world is warming and governments need to take action.”

TONY ABBOTT: “So did you read the article by David Evans in the paper today?”

-ABC TV’s Lateline, 18 July 2008.

Dr David Evans was at that time a computer modeller who had only ever published a single peer-reviewed scientific paper (in 1987, on algorithms) and had never been published on climate change.  He had worked largely in Right-wing think-tanks.


“The argument is absolute crap... However, the politics of this are tough for us. 80% of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.”

-Public meeting, Beaufort, Vic, circa 1 October 2009, on the reliability of climate science, reported in the Pyrenees Advocate, 2 Oct 2009, p 5


Abbott spent the next few years back-pedalling from that comment. For instance:


TONY JONES: “Do you still believe the science of human induced climate change is crap?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Well, that’s not quite what I said. What I said was that this idea that the science was settled was not something that I wholly accepted.”

-ABC TV’s Q&A, 16 August 2010





On Pricing Carbon Dioxide Emissions


“I think the climate change science is far from settled.  The fact that we've had, if anything, cooling global temperatures over the last decade, notwithstanding continued dramatic increases in carbon dioxide emissions, suggests that the role of CO2 is not nearly as clear as the climate catastrophists would suggest.  I also think that if you want to put a price on carbon, why not just do it with a simple tax?  Why not ask motorists to pay more?  Why not ask electricity consumers to pay more?  And then at the end of the year you can take your invoices to the tax office and get a rebate of the carbon tax you paid.  It would be burdensome – all taxes are burdensome – but it would certainly raise the price of carbon without in any way increasing the overall tax burden.”

- Interviewed on Sky News, 2009

This, of course, was essentially the model of the Gillard government’s carbon pricing scheme, which Abbott put enormous energy into opposing after it was mooted in 2010. The Sky News clip was replayed to Abbott on the ABC TV’s Q&A on 6 June 2011, and the next month he said:

“I’ve never been in favour of a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.”

-19 July 2011


“New South Wales electricity prices are going up by $900 over the next couple of years. $300 of that increase is due to the Rudd Government’s emissions trading scheme, their great big new tax on everything, and it hasn’t even started yet.”

-Interviewed by Nick Rheinberger, ABC Illawarra, 19 March 2010, demonstrating the remarkable impact of the government’s proposed Emissions Trading Scheme well over two years before it was due to begin operation


 “A carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme, it’s effectively an electricity tax.  It means that every time you turn on the light you pay. It means every time you put something in the toaster, you pay. It means every time you get into the shower, you pay.”

-Joint press conference with Scott Morrison, Sydney, 10 August 2010, perhaps forgetting that we already pay every time we do these things

This became Abbott’s message for the duration of the Labor terms in government. Abbott remained silent on the other “side” to the scheme that Abbott himself had identified when he suggested it in 2009: households would be compensated for the price in a way that would provide an incentive for businesses to find less carbon-intensive production methods.


“When I say there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead, I am telling the truth.”

-5 August 2013

Eight months after being elected, the Abbott government was still governing with a carbon price in operation.





On Abortion


REPORTER: “You said abortion was the easy way out in 2004. Do you still think that’s the case?”

TONY ABBOTT: “What I said in 2004 was that abortion should be safe, legal and rare and I think that’s the way it should be.”

-8 January 2013


In 2004, Abbott had actually said this:

“Abortion is the easy way out.  It's hardy surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.”

-Address to the Adelaide University Democratic Club, Union Hall, University of Adelaide, 16 March 2004


Nine years later Abbott was reminded of the speech. He said: “Look, there are all sorts of phrases in that speech which you could take out of context.”

-21 April 2013


Later that same year he said this, again about abortion:

“No one should be making this a political issue, frankly. It hasn’t been a political issue in our country for years and years and years. The last think we should want to do in this great country of ours is to politicise issues like this.”

-20 August 2013





On Life and Death


“The problem with laws allowing experimentation with embryos is not that they are contrary to church teaching but that they don’t show the ordinary respect due to human life.”

-Address to the Adelaide University Democratic Club, Union Hall, University of Adelaide, 16 March 2004


“There is actually a good reason why Christians should speak with one voice on life issues but not on economic ones. The sanctity of life is a higher order moral issue than the promotion of social justice.”

-Address to the Catholic Students’ Conference, Canberra, 6 July 2007


Clearly, Abbott has strong views on the sanctity of life, which is consistent with mainstream Catholic teaching. But not in all circumstances:


“I’d always been against the death penalty, but … contemplating the enormity of certain sort of crimes I sometimes thought that some crimes were so hideous that if the punishment were to fit maybe we were left with no alternative but the death penalty.”

-Interviewed for the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes, broadcast March 2010





On the Aged Pension


REPORTER: “Should the pension age be raised to 70?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Look, I think one of the real problems that the government has created for itself is this impression that it’s blaming seniors for our economic problems.”

-Doorstop interview, Parliament House, Canberra, 1 February 2010

Barely six months earlier, Abbott had said this on TV:

“The pension age was set back in 1908 when life expectancy was under 60. Today, life expectancy is over 80.  I don't see it as unreasonable at all to raise the pension age. And it's not so much saying to people ‘Work till you drop’, it's saying to people, ‘We do not want to prematurely shut you out of economic participation in our society’.”

-ABC TV’s The 7:30 Report, 27 July 2009

The Abbott government’s first budget in May 2014 forecast a rise in the pension age to 70, as part of a suite of measures designed to fix “our economic problems”.



On Rich and Poor


This is one of the areas where, had everyone paid more attention to what was said before the election, the May 2014 budget would not have been such a surprise in its overwhelmingly detrimental impact on the poor.  Before the election, Abbott said:


“The idea that families earning beyond a certain amount of money are somehow rich is just wrong.”

-Doorstop interview, Parliament House, Canberra, 1 February 2010


PAUL MURRAY: “Somebody on $300,000 – sure they’re doing alright, but are they fabulously wealthy, Mr Abbott?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Well, I just think that these sorts of terms are very unhelpful because we shouldn’t be against wealth and we shouldn’t be against people who are trying to get ahead.”

-3 April 2013


REPORTER: “Cutting the low income super contribution scheme, doesn’t that show that your government would be supporting higher income earners over lower income earners?”

TONY ABBOTT: “What I’m saying is that you just can’t trust this government.”

-4 April 2013


After the election, Abbott confirmed in an interview with Alison Carabine on ABC Radio National on 16 December 2013 that he aimed to withdraw a recent pay increase awarded to low-paid child care workers and aged care workers, and also that he would be proceeding with his paid parental leave scheme that would see wealthy women claim what was to be up to $75,000 from taxpayers.

During the weeks before treasurer Joe Hockey handed down the May 2014 budget, Abbott gave assurances that it would be tough but fair:


TONY ABBOTT: “I'm not going to comment on the detail of the budget, but I want to assure the people of Australia that this is a government which is going to bring down a budget which is fair.”

-5 May 2013


Two independent analyses – one by public policy experts at the Australian National University, the other by NATSEM – confirmed that low income earners would overwhelmingly bear the brunt of the government's budget fix. Some low income earners would lose up to 20 per cent of their incomes, while many wealthy families would lose almost nothing.


“If Australia had large and growing gaps between rich and poor, if minorities were persecuted… there'd be every reason to want fundamental change.  Instead, MPs direct their passion into arguments of detail… because we don’t have more elemental issues to grapple with.”

-Battlelines (2009), p 153


In August 2012 the federal government’s Social Inclusion Board released its second annual report, which found, as reported in the Australian, that the gap between rich and poor had risen sharply since the mid-1990s. One of the Abbott government’s first moves was to abolish the Social Inclusion Board.





On Politicians’ Entitlements


“I thought that one thing we could do to try to raise the reputation of politicians was something that was a little bit selfless, something that was a little bit humble and out of the ordinary, and hence the idea of a long distance charity bike ride staying in caravan parks and visiting parts of Australia that most politicians didn’t see was born.”

-17 April 2013, on the origins of the ‘Pollie Pedal’


Abbott said nothing during that interview, or any others, about having claimed $8,237 in travel expenses, on top of his salary, for participating ‘selflessly’ in Pollie Pedal between 2010 and 2012.


In 2009 Abbott published his book, Battlelines, and set off, like many authors, on a publicity tour of the capital cities. Two years later he said this:

“Taxpayers should not be ripped off to fund political propaganda.”

-17 July 2011


A couple of years after that some information to the contrary had emerged:


REPORTER: “Did you claim travel expenses on your book tour?”

TONY ABBOTT: “I did not.”

-8 July 2013

That wasn’t entirely accurate. For this tour he claimed $9,397.42 in travel expenses on top of his ordinary salary. A Freedom of Information request by No Fibs, a citizen journalism website, revealed that not only had he claimed this amount, but also that he was asked to pay back the money after a finance department investigation. He was also using government vehicles on the tour.


REPORTER: “Mr Abbott, how is Peter Slipper incorrectly claiming $900 and offering to pay it back different from you incorrectly claiming $9,000 worth of travel expenses and then paying it back? How are the situations different?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Well look, this matter was fully dealt with last year. There’s nothing further to add.”

REPORTER: “Well, he’s facing charges and you just got to pay $9,000 back. How are those two situations different?”

ABBOTT: “Well, as I said, this matter was fully dealt with by the Labor minister last year who said that the matter was closed.”

REPORTER: “And why were the travel expenses incorrectly claimed? How did that happen? Can you explain what happened in your office that you incorrectly claimed $9,000 worth of travel expenses?”

ABBOTT: “The matter was fully dealt with last year.”

REPORTER: “But you’re not explaining how it occurred, why it occurred, why it happened in the first place?”

ABBOTT: “As I said, it was an oversight in my office. It was fully dealt with last year.”

REPORTER: “Why did you use Comcars on your book tour? Surely you would have known when you were using the Comcars that you were on private business?”

ABBOTT: “Fully dealt with last year.”

REPORTER: “Do you take responsibility for the mistake?”

ABBOTT: “I think I’ve fully dealt with it. Time to move on.”

REPORTER: “It’s been reported that you have been forced to repay the amount? Are the reports inaccurate?”

ABBOTT: This was dealt with two years ago. This is old news. Old news. Now, why is Kevin Rudd now trying to dish this sort of dirt? Kevin Rudd came into the prime ministership a few days ago and he said let’s have a kinder, gentler polity. Now, that was a bit rich from someone who’d spent three years and three days plotting against a prime minister, but he called for a kinder, gentler polity and he called for positive politics. Now, we’ve got the Labor Party spinning this kind of stuff. Now, let’s move on.”

REPORTER: “It’s not the Labor Party. It’s an independent website who did an FOI.”

ABBOTT: “Let’s move on.  Let’s move on.”

REPORTER: “Why didn’t you say yesterday you had incorrectly claimed those travel expenses?”

ABBOTT: “Look, I think we’ve fully dealt with this.”

REPORTER: “You just repeated your lines over and over again to me. You haven’t answered any questions.”

ABBOTT: “Calm down. Gary Gray looked at this matter two years ago. He said there's nothing to see here. Ok. Next question.”

REPORTER: “After you repaid. Do you take responsibility for the incorrect claim of $9,000?”

ABBOTT: “I didn’t claim travel allowance. I never claimed travel allowance. My office inadvertently booked some travel as official, which should not have been booked that way. It’s been fully dealt with.”

REPORTER: “No, there were expenses. Gary Gray wrote back after you repaid the initial $6,000 and said there were travel expenses that had been claimed, such as ComCars.”

TONY ABBOTT: “Ok. Are there any other questions?”

-9 July 2013


Soon after winning the election, it emerged that Abbott had attended former colleague Sophie Mirabella’s wedding in 2006 and claimed travel expenses from the public purse for the privilege. After being asked about that by News Ltd journalists, he agreed to pay the $1,095 back.


REPORTER: “Why would you claim it in the first place, Prime Minister, to go to a wedding?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Well, I was the leader of the House of Representatives and the leader of the House of Representatives has certain representational roles and I believed it was within entitlements.”

-7 October 2013


By this time it had emerged that Abbott was not the only Coalition MP in the habit of claiming dodgy travel expenses. Three Coalition MPs had recently been revealed to have claimed more than $12,000 to attend a wedding in India as the guests of Gina Rinehart. And George Brandis and Barnaby Joyce also claimed travel expenses when they attended radio shock jock Mike Smith’s wedding in 2011. Abbott was asked the obvious question:


REPORTER: “Prime Minister, have you taken any steps with your own team to ensure that there aren’t any other stories like this that will come out? Have you called for an audit [of politicians' travel expense claims] of your own side of politics?”

TONY ABBOTT: “Well, Mark, I said I wasn’t going to take any more questions on this subject.”

-10 October 2013





Tony the Weathervane


LAURIE OAKES: “You told Malcolm Turnbull once that you were a weathervane. Does Australia need a weathervane as a prime minister?”

TONY ABBOTT: “It was a bit of light-hearted banter.”

OAKES: “It was followed by the word ‘mate’.”

ABBOTT: “Yeah, and it was light-hearted banter, and obviously I want to do what I’m saying I’m going to do. And that is, as we said earlier, it’s to end the waste, it’s to repay the debt, it’s to stop the new taxes and stop the boats, Laurie.”

OAKES: “That was specifically about your attitude to climate change and an emissions trading scheme. You’ve had more positions on that than the kama sutra, haven’t you?”

ABBOTT: “That’s an old joke, Laurie.”

OAKES: “But it’s true.”

ABBOTT: “Look, I have always thought that climate change happens. The important thing, though, is how do you deal with it, and I think that the best way to deal with it is to take practical action that will achieve the 5 per cent emissions reduction target by 2020.”

OAKES: “That’s now. But last year you wrote an op ed piece in a newspaper saying the best thing for the Coalition to do was to pass the emissions trading legislation, get it out of the way.”

ABBOTT: “I was trying to support the leader. And, obviously, the leader then had a rather different position to me on this.”

OAKES: “Then you said climate change was crap.”

ABBOTT: “I think what I actually said was the idea of the settled science of climate change is a bit aromatic.”

OAKES: “And then you said you only said that, in fact on this programme you said you only said climate change was crap, because you were trying to persuade a group of Liberals in Beaufort, Victoria that negotiating an improved ETS scheme would be the best thing to do.”

ABBOTT: “Sure, Laurie. Look, we can go over all the history. But the important thing --”

OAKES: “Then you had another position when Malcolm Turnbull did negotiate a compromise, you pulled the rug out from under him, and you became leader and said ‘no ETS, now or ever’.”

ABBOTT: “The important thing, Laurie, is what will happen if the Coalition wins.”

OAKES: “But isn’t it important if you become prime minister that Australians can believe what their prime minister says?”

ABBOTT: “It is. And I am very happy to pit my record against that of Julia Gillard. Why should the public trust the prime minister when not even Kevin Rudd could?”

OAKES: “But I’m interviewing you today, not Julia Gillard. Another weathervane example. You said you would not have a new tax under any circumstances. A month later you announced there would be a 1.7 tax levy to pay for your paid parental leave scheme. Weathervane?”

ABBOTT: “Well, Laurie, the point is that paid parental leave is not only a visionary social change, but it’s an important economic---”

OAKES: “We’re talking about the broken promise on taxes. Within a month. You couldn’t hold a position for a month.”

ABBOTT: “The point I’m trying to make, Laurie, is that paid parental leave is a very important social change and an economic reform. And if we are going to get it any time soon it does have to be paid for.”

OAKES: “So, another example where people couldn’t believe what you said?”

ABBOTT: “I think it was a situation where I changed my mind about how we were best going to achieve a very important social change, and a very important economic reform.”

OAKES: “There’s a lot of mind-changing though on paid parental leave itself. First it was only going to happen over your dead body.”

ABBOTT: “Look, I’ve been quite upfront about the fact that I did change my mind on this issue.”

OAKES: “On a lot of issues.”

ABBOTT: “But that’s what people do. When they are mature people they are capable of growing and changing in response to changing circumstances.”

OAKES: “But it keeps changing. In your book Battlelines you said you’d come round and believed in a paid parental scheme which was a modest scheme, funded by a small levy on all business. Then you produce something that’s not modest at all, very generous, people get full pay up to $150,000 a year and it’s paid for by a tax only on big business.”

ABBOTT: “And I think if you go back to Battlelines, Laurie, you’ll see that the scheme the Coalition has proposed is quite similar to the scheme that I came up with in Battlelines.”

OAKES: “The scheme you came up with is not modest. Battlelines said it would be modest.”

ABBOTT: “Well, look, people can argue the toss backwards and forwards, but do we or don’t we want a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme. Years and years ago I didn’t. I have grown in to this position, and I don’t apologise for growing out of old-fashioned positions and coming in to better positions, which better reflect the enduring values of the political movement that I now lead.”

OAKES: “People change their minds, but you change yours a lot for a bloke who wants to be prime minister. I mean, now you’re talking about changing the paid parental leave scheme again. You haven’t held a position through the election campaign.”

ABBOTT: “Labor can’t have it both ways. On the one hand they can’t say I’m an old-fashioned ogre, and on the other hand say that I change my mind too much.”

OAKES: “It’s not the Labor Party saying it, I’m saying it.”

ABBOTT: “I think Labor needs to get its story straight, Laurie.”

OAKES: “You know I’m not spouting Labor Party lines. This is fact. I’m quoting you, not the Labor Party. Let’s look at immigration. Where do you stand on immigration at the moment? You announced a week ago that you wanted to halve the intake.”

ABBOTT: “What we need, we need to get the intake down from the current unsustainable levels. We had 301,000 in 2008, we had 277,000 last year, and we’ll get it down to a maximum of 170,000 in the first term of a Coalition government.”

OAKES: “So you’re a small immigration man.”

ABBOTT: “I’m an appropriate immigration man, and I want a strong Australia, over time a strong Australia will be a bigger Australia but not nearly as big as the kind of figures that recent levels of immigration would give us. We don’t need 43 million people by 2050.”

OAKES: “Well, in late 2008 you said, and I’m quoting you again not the Labor Party, you said ‘one of the Howard government’s greatest and least recognised achievements was to rehabilitate the immigration programme, increasing numbers to record levels.’ A big immigration man?”

ABBOTT: “And the interesting thing about the Howard government’s record in immigration, Laurie, is that public support for the programme increased at the same time as the numbers increased, and one of the reasons for that was because the Howard government stopped the boats. One of the problems at the present time is that public support for immigration is falling away, because the Rudd-Gillard government has not been able to control our borders.”

OAKES: “And you know that the asylum seeker boats don’t affect the population because refugees who arrive that way are taken off the top of our program, so it’s got no impact on population. Now, let me put this to you. In January, you said, ‘There’s no reason to think that Australia has a fixed carrying capacity. My instinct is to extend to as many people as possible the freedom and benefits of life in Australia.’”

ABBOTT: “Of course I said that, but the point is, Laurie, recent immigration numbers have been-”

OAKES: “But that was only January.”

ABBOTT: “Yes, but one can be in favour of an immigration program, I mean, I was born overseas myself, Laurie. I support an immigration program, I support migrants. The Liberal Party always has and always will be a pro-immigrant party, but it’s got to be a sustainable program. That’s the whole point of bringing the numbers down from the current unsustainable figures to a sustainable figure and unlike Julia Gillard, who tries to have a population debate without talking about immigration, I’m being upfront with people and I’m saying that if we are elected, immigration numbers will come down---”

OAKES: “You’ve done a total 180 degree turn since January.”

ABBOTT: “The point I make, Laurie, is that there’s got to be public support for the immigration program and with out of control borders, it’s very hard to have public support for the immigration program. If the people think that a component of our program has been sub-contracted out to people smugglers, they’re not going to be very supportive of immigration.”

OAKES: “On another weathervane issue, WorkChoices, your current policy is not to touch Julia Gillard’s industrial relations laws. You say that they deserve a fair trial and business deserves certainty. That wasn’t your view only, what, two months ago.”

ABBOTT: “The point is, I have been absolutely crystal clear-”

OAKES: “About changing your mind?”

ABBOTT: “-because I accept the verdict of the people in ’07 and over the last few months, in particular Laurie, I’ve been talking a great deal to the business people who live under these laws, to the people who work under these laws and they say they can live with imperfect laws. What they can’t live with is constant change and that’s why I say I am going to give them a period of certainty and stability.”

OAKES: “But as recently as your budget speech in May, you said these laws would destroy small business.”

ABBOTT: “That’s not quite what I said. What I said is I would like to see more flexibility and the interesting thing about the legislation is that it does provide for flexibility.”

OAKES: “You said a few months ago it was massively unfair to small business.”

ABBOTT: “And as I said to you Laurie, I’ve been talking to small business and they say, sure-”

OAKES: “But why didn’t you talk to them before you said it was massively unfair to them? Off the top of the head?”

ABBOTT: “They make the point, Laurie, that there are aspects of the legislation that they don’t like, but what they want above all else is a period of stability and certainty and that’s what they’ll get under me.”

OAKES: “So are you a weathervane?”

ABBOTT: “I’ll leave others to make their judgements.”

-Interviewed by Laurie Oakes, the 9 Network’s The Today Show, 2 August 2010


“I pride myself on being consistent.”

-12 August 2013


Many More Abbottisms 

Tony Speaks! The Wisdom of the Abbott

Russell Marks

Russell Marks is a lawyer and an adjunct research fellow at La Trobe University. He is the author of Crime and Punishment: Offenders and Victims in a Broken Justice System (Black Inc., 2015). 

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