14 October 2011




WONG: Thanks very much for coming.

Today, Tony Abbott told Australians what he was going to do on tax policy. He gave a speech about tax policy. Well what did we see? He promised Australians a tax policy. What he delivered was a barrage of slogans and a truckload of negativity.

Mr Abbott is a man who knows what he doesn’t stand for, but he never seems to know what he does stand for. He only knows what he opposes, and what he wants to tear away. Mr Abbott today said that he stands for lower taxes. What his policy really means is that he wants miners to pay less tax, and small business and manufacturers to pay more tax. He says he believes in fair taxes, but he is opposed to less tax on working Australians. What we saw again from Tony Abbott today is that he is all opposition, and no leader. Instead of a policy, we got a barrage of slogans and a truckload of negativity yet again.

Thank you. I’m happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: One of the things that Mr Abbott did say was that he‘s going to be telling businesses not to, basically, buy into the carbon tax. Not to buy any permits, because as soon as they get into power – if they get into power – the whole carbon tax is going to be repealed. What can you do to reassure businesses that this isn’t going to happen?

WONG: This shows just how negative Mr Abbott is. It also shows just how irresponsible he is. Because what he’s doing is trying to foster uncertainty. We know this is an important reform. This is a reform Tony Abbott used to support, and John Howard used to support. And now what he’s trying to do is to tell businesses not to take notice of what the Parliament is doing, and what the Government is doing.

This is the right reform for the country. And really, I think today’s speech shows the difference between Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Gillard.

We have a Prime Minister who is supporting policies that are about what’s good for the next generation of Australians, what’s good for the country today, but more importantly, in the future. And all we have from Tony Abbott is yet more wrecking, yet more opposition, and even more negativity.

JOURNALIST: But is there anything that you can do in this situation to actually reassure businesses? What kind of practical steps can you guys take to do that?

WONG: The first thing we’ll do is this: we will pass this legislation through the Senate, and it will become the law of the land. And it will give a clear signal to business and investors that we want to invest in the clean energy economy of tomorrow, we want the clean energy jobs developed, and we need to reduce our pollution. A very clear signal.

JOURNALIST: Minister, have you had a look at what the financial implications of yesterday’s policy change on asylum seeking are in terms of the cost of offshore, and how that might impact the bottom line?

WONG: What I would say about what’s occurred on asylum seeker policy is this. Tony Abbott is so intent on opposing everything he’s actually destroying something he supports. He says he supports offshore processing, and yet he’s intentionally destroyed it. He’s intentionally destroyed it, because he wants to play politics. He intentionally destroyed something he supports.

Now, we will obviously look at where we’ve got to as a result of Tony Abbott refusing to look to the national interest, and we will, as always, look at that, and other matters, when we update the budget figures in the next review.

JOURNALIST: So it’s not possible to say at the moment, though, whether you think it will put more pressure on the budget by having to have onshore processing?

WONG: What we know is that offshore processing has been very important in terms of deterrence. We know that Tony Abbott has destroyed offshore processing, because he is intent on trying to damage the Government. And we know that Tony Abbott’s position does mean that we do see a likelihood, or a risk, of more boats coming. That’s what we know.

JOURNALIST: Just one last question as well, we’re hearing that the Prime Minister may allow a conscience vote on gay marriage. Are you expecting any sort of announcement on that any time soon?

WONG: There’s been so much commentary on this issue. I’m looking forward to the discussion and the debate at National Conference.

JOURNALIST: Will the Government consider setting a $1 limit on pokies, and a $500 limit on jackpots, as per the Green’s proposal?

WONG: I haven’t seen the detail of that; Minister Macklin is doing very good work in this space, progressing the Government’s policy in that area.

But I would say this: there’s a lot of noise about this reform, I think it’s very important that we remember what we’re trying to do.

This is about protecting vulnerable Australians, those people who do have an addiction, who spend money on that addiction which is not spent on their families, not spent on putting food on the table and a roof over people’s heads. That’s what’s important.

JOURNALIST: Thank you very much.

WONG: Thank you guys.