Joanna Heath and Adam Rollason
Tony Abbott took to the stage at the National Press Club on Monday to effectively plead the case for him to remain as Prime Minister, as the Coalition reels after the weekend’s shock election result in Queensland. Here’s how the event unfolded.
1.34pm: Meanwhile, Phillip Coorey, who’s at the NPC, notes that Nationals Leader Warren Truss is also among those at the room’s top table, while Attorney-General George Brandis and Victorian Senator Michael Ronaldson are in crowd.
A question from Paul Osborne of AAP: Can you explain how you would improve the system of multiple childcare payments, and doesn’t that run the risk of leaving you open to the same line of attack from Labor as you saw on Medicare?
Abbott says: “Now, what we have in mind will be very much based on the work of the Productivity Commission and the recommendations that the Productivity Commission has made, and Scott Morrison, the Minister for Social Services, is about to engage on a detailed process of consultation, on a detail piece of work and within the next couple of months you will see the result, but what we are determined to ensure is that we have a more productive economy, we have more fulfilled people, we are better and more prosperous families.”
And that’s a wrap. You can find full coverage and reaction to Abbott’s speech on afr.com this afternoon.
Thanks for joining us.
1.33pm: Lenore Taylor of Guardian Australia asks: How long do you persist with budget measures still stuck in the Senate? What lessons do you take from the 2014 budget?
Abbott replies: “As for last year’s budget measure, they’re in the Senate or coming before the Senate and we will deal with them in the way we always deal with legislation before the Senate. By courteously and constructively discussing them with the crossbench and indeed the Labor Party”
“I am very concerned for fairness. I wouldn’t be in public life if I wasn’t very concerned for fairness, but what’s fair about saddling our children and our grandchildren with debt and deficit as far as the eye can see?”
“If you don’t get it quite right the first time, you have another go. And you get it as right as you can.”
1.30pm: Speaking of Bishop, a question from Kieran Gilbert of Sky News: Yesterday you spoke to some of your closest supporters and conceded there are serious threats to your leadership. Also you met with Julie Bishop last night and asked her for a commitment she would not challenge you – what did she say?
Abbott says: “She’s a friend of mine, Julie’s my deputy, she’s been a terrific deputy, been a terrific Minister, I believe I have her full support and I certainly look forward to continuing to have that.”
He also says John Howard faced difficult times too.
“I can remember John Howard from time to time standing up in the party room and saying things could get worse before they get better and he said this will be a test of character. I’ve said much the same thing myself in the party room on different occasions. This will be a test of character.”
“Sure, we’ve had a bad patch, what do you do when you have a bad patch? You can buckle down to business or not, but failing to buckle down to business always makes a bad situation worse.”
1.25pm: Back to questions:
Question from Kerrie Yaxley of Channel 9 asks, “Why are you so unpopular?”
Abbott says: “I never came into politics to be popular. And anyone who does come into politics to be popular will either be a very bad politician or a very disappointed politician.”
Question from Michelle Grattan of The Conversation: Given you broke so many pre-election promises last time, how can you persuade the electorate you will keep any new ones in the 2016 campaign?
“I accept that there are some commitments that we gave in the campaign that we have not been able to keep. But I also say – and I think the public understands this – that the situation that we thought we were facing at the time of the election turned out to be different.”
He says he accepts that his promises not to cut the ABC or SBS turned out to be incorrect.
1.22pm: Meanwhile Julie Bishop, mentioned as a possible contender for the leadership, has just tweeted:
1.20pm: Abbott continues to be grilled on his leadership.
Question from Mark Riley of Channel 7: You have said many times in the past you would be a consultative and collegial leader. Why have you not kept any of those promises? Why should your backbench have any faith in you keeping them now?
Abbott says: I accept the PPL scheme was a captain’s call, as was the restoration of knighthoods. They are both the captain’s calls I have made, and I have listened and learned.
“I support better paid parental leave but I accept that this is not the right time for that policy. I accept that. And it’s not going to happen. I accept that I probably overdid it on awards and that’s why as of today I make it crystal clear that all awards in the Order of Australia will be wholly and solely the province of the Council of the Order of Australia.”
From Mark Kenny of Fairfax Media:
You said “there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead” – was that a reference to Malcolm Turnbull?
Abbott responds: “That’s a very cheeky question and obviously we’ve already got Bill Shorten saying that if Labor were to be re-elected the carbon tax comes back.”
1.15pm: A question from Andrew Probyn of the West Australian:
Do you still have the confidence of the party room? And if you were offered a knighthood, would you take it?
Abbott says: Yes and no.
“I think it’s highly unlikely that I’m likely to be offered any particular gong just at this time.”
He says he recently visited a pub in Colac and got a good reception.
“I was thrilled with the response, without dobbing any of them in I can say that they were warm, generous, genial and like Australians everywhere, they want the government to succeed.”
On the backbench, Abbott says he accepted the government has had a rough couple of months. He berates some of his fellow MPs for not giving “the correct answer” to journalists:
“We’ve had a couple of months where if journalists ring up and ask about some element of Government policy, the correct answer which is ‘I support is government and the poll is a good one’ has not always been given. I accept that we’ve had a couple of months where if journalists ring up and ask about individuals and personal personality in the government the correct answer, ‘a great person doing a great job’ has not been given.”
1.13pm: Catherine McGrath of SBS asks: Do you need to do more to bring the political debate forward? Do you have the right skills to lead a government, rather than lead an opposition?
Abbott says he’s not going to buy in to speculation on himself.
“Our country’s been on a journey, every one of us are on a journey, and at every stage we do the best we can and I am confident that all of news the room are more than capable of growing into the various roles that we’ve got.”
1.10pm: A question from our own Laura Tingle:
How will you address unemployment, and how will the changeovers of government in Victoria and Queensland affect your infrastructure plans?
Abbott says: Jobs growth was three times as fast in 2014 as it was in 2013.
On infrastructure: “I accept that to achieve that it’s necessary to work with the states and obviously we’ve had a change in Victoria, who knows where things will ultimately fall in Queensland?”
A question from news.com.au’s Malcolm Farr:
Have you seen any evidence that cutting the minimum wage creates more jobs?
Abbott says: It’s not something the government is interested in.
“Our position is that we want more jobs and we want better paid jobs, that’s what we want.”
Abbott gets his first laugh of the day, in reference to the Victorian Labor government and their decision not to proceed with building the East-West link:
“it’s a classic example of what goes wrong when in a fit of absent-mindedness people elect Labor … governments.”