Australian Government coat of arms

Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Tony Abbott MP

Interview with Lisa Wilkinson, Today, Nine Network

05 May 2014

Prime Minister

Subjects:

Reform and action on intercountry adoption; Budget 2014; political fundraising.

E&OE

LISA WILKINSON:

Now to some good news for families who are looking to adopt.

By 2015 Australia will finally have national guidelines for adoption and for more we're joined now from Canberra by the Prime Minister and in New York, Deborra-Lee Furness, who has campaigned tirelessly for these changes for years.

Good morning to both of you.

PRIME MINISTER:

`Morning, Lisa.

DEBORRA-LEE FURNESS:

Hi there.

LISA WILKINSON:

Prime Minister, if I can start with you, can you tell us about what these changes would mean and what you're hoping to implement?

PRIME MINISTER:

What happened was, Lisa, that last Friday the Commonwealth and the states all agreed that there would be a new Commonwealth agency to look after overseas adoption and the idea is that we will make it easier and significantly less costly for Australians to adopt from overseas and as of today, there is a new programme with South Africa.

So, without pretending that everything is going to be simple and straightforward immediately, I hope this is significant new hope for parents without children and significant new hope for children without parents.

LISA WILKINSON:

Because at the moment there's a complete lack of consistency, all the states deal with it differently and there's very long waiting times. So, do you think this will change that?

PRIME MINISTER:

That's what it's all about. It's about having consistent rules right around Australia and it's about reducing the current average of about five years’ waiting time between going forward for adoption and actually being able to adopt.

LISA WILKINSON:

And what will this new relationship with South Africa mean?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, what it means is that, as of today, there is the possibility of adopting from South Africa. This is a new programme, we haven't had it before and, obviously, this means that the potential for overseas adoption is somewhat greater today than it was yesterday.

LISA WILKINSON:

Which is fantastic news and I know that you were completely caught by the passion of Deborra-Lee – let’s cross to Deborra-Lee now. Deborra-Lee, you must be absolutely thrilled. This is what you've been campaigning for for years.

DEBORRA-LEE FURNESS:

Absolutely, and I commend this Government for taking this on because for decades this issue just wasn't on the table, it wasn’t on the agenda and as Mr Abbott says, it’s not straight forward and it’s not simple. It's going to take a lot of work and it’s going to take a lot of energy and passion from the people who are going to make this issue work. But it's fantastic already that they've started new relationships, because that's what we needed: to start speaking to other countries, like we've started with South Africa. Hopefully we'll move to Cambodia, Vietnam – wherever there is need for these kids.

So, I'm just thrilled that they are re-energising all their efforts to make a system work that supports the children. We're all about the children finding families.

LISA WILKINSON:

So, this is all meant to be up and running by next year. What is it going to mean for Australian families who are looking to adopt?

DEBORRA-LEE FURNESS:

It means they're not going to have to wait, as Mr Abbott says, five years, even 10 years. I'm hoping that we'll have systems in place that these families will be supported as they go through and there will be a pre-adoption service that prepares them for this process going forward. So, they'll be supported, the times won't be as lengthy and also, hopefully, the costs won't be as costly.

LISA WILKINSON:

That is fantastic news. Deborra-Lee, we are absolutely thrilled for you. We've had you on the show many times talking about this. It's hard to believe it's finally happening.

DEBORRA-LEE FURNESS:

Yes, it is hard to believe, I’m thrilled, but we’ve always held fast this is what we wanted and I just say this to anyone: if you believe in something, it shows that if you keep at something it really can pay off. Our board, the community, everyone is so thrilled.

LISA WILKINSON:

Well, the Prime Minister has been a great supporter. So Deborra-Lee Furness thanks very much, great to chat to you.

DEBORRA-LEE FURNESS:

You too. Thanks for your support over the years, too.

LISA WILKINSON:

Our absolute pleasure. We’re all in this together. Thank you for that.

Now, Prime Minister just before you go, I know you kindly agreed to stay on and talk politics for just a moment. Now, if the latest Galaxy poll is anything to do by, you're facing serious backlash on this debt tax that's tipped to be introduced in next week’s Budget. Surely you're not going to break an election promise and introduce this tax?

PRIME MINISTER:

The most fundamental commitment of all was to get Labor's debt and deficit disaster under control. Now, Lisa, no-one ever said that it would be easy to tackle $123 billion worth of prospective deficit and $667 billion worth of projected debt. No-one ever said it would be easy, but the voters elected a Government to do what was necessary, not just to do what’s easy, but we are going to do it in ways that are fair and that’s what I want to stress to people: we will do it in ways which are fair.

LISA WILKINSON:

But Prime Minister, you were voted in on an absolute guarantee of no new taxes. This debt levy, by any name you want to call it, is a tax.

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not going to deny for a second that there will be people who are disappointed…

LISA WILKINSON:

72 per cent of voters are disappointed.

PRIME MINISTER:

…Lisa, 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 a time like this, otherwise our country is doomed to years of economic stagnation 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.

LISA WILKINSON:

So this debt tax is going ahead?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I’m not going to comment on the detail of the Budget, but I want to assure the people of Australia – I want to assure you all – that this is a Government which is going to bring down a Budget which is fair. It will be a difficult Budget, I absolutely accept that and I know many people will be disappointed, but in the end, we’re all in this together and we’re only going to tackle Labor’s debt and deficit disaster if we do it together.

LISA WILKINSON:

Just quickly, Prime Minister, Fairfax Media are reporting this morning that the Liberal Party’s offering access to Treasurer Joe Hockey in return for donations of up to $22,000. There was even a donation from an Eddie Obeid-linked company of $30,000. Are you comfortable for that to happen, especially against the backdrop of what’s been happening in the ICAC inquiry in New South Wales?

PRIME MINISTER:

Lisa, I haven’t actually seen the story, but I do want to make the point that all political parties have to raise money and typically you raise money by having events where senior members of the Party go, and obviously, they meet people at these events. The alternative to fundraising in this time-honoured way is taxpayer funding and at a time when we’re talking about a very tough Budget indeed, the idea that we should scrap private fundraising and fund political parties through the taxpayer I think would be very, very odd.

LISA WILKINSON:

But the problem is, I mean, the ICAC inquiry is showing extraordinary revelations – there’s been resignations, there’s been alleged corruptions, shonky dealings, fumbling of funds on all sides of politics. Would you consider a federal ICAC?

PRIME MINISTER:

What we’re going to do is ensure that lobbyists have no role in the running of political parties. We’re going to maintain the absolute transparency of any gifts that are given to politicians. If we keep lobbyists out of political parties and we ensure that anything which is given to an individual in Parliament is properly declared – and you can’t actually accept a gift over $500 if you’re a member of a government – that’s the best way to ensure that we stay a clean polity.

LISA WILKINSON:

So, no federal ICAC?

PRIME MINISTER:

The thing is that we’re going to keep the lobbyists out and the problem that ICAC is exposing is a problem of lobbying essentially; it’s influence pedaling and that’s the real problem and we’re going to make sure that that has no place whatsoever, federally.

LISA WILKINSON:

It seems fairly firmly entrenched, Prime Minister, so we wish you good luck with that. We thank you very much for your time this morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I think here in Canberra we have a pretty clean polity, Lisa. If people have got evidence of wrongdoing, let it come forward, but please, let’s not be in the business of, as it were, casual smearing of the system because for all its faults, if we are a great country – and I believe we are – the system can’t be that bad.

LISA WILKINSON:

Ok, Prime Minister. Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks, Lisa.

[ends]