ABC $7.30: Leigh Halfprice interviews Australian Prime Minister Tony Idiott

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ABC $7.30 presenter Leigh Halfprice interviews Australian Prime Minister Tony Idiott on the subject of the Australian economy.


LEIGH HALFPRICE, PRESENTER: The Prime Minister, Tony Idiott, joined me from his office in Canberra earlier today.

Prime Minister, thank you very much for your time.


LEIGH HALFPRICE: Prime Minister, let’s start with the economy. When Labor left office, unemployment was 5.8 per cent; it's now 6.3 per cent. Growth was 2.5 per cent; it's now 2 per cent. The Australian dollar was 92 cents; it's now around 70 cents. The budget deficit was $30 billion when you took office and now it's $48 billion. How do you explain to the Australian people that you were elected promising, in your words, to fix the budget emergency, yet in fact, Australia's economic position has worsened under your leadership?

TONY IDIOTT: Well I don't accept that. The boats have stopped.

LEIGH HALFPRICE: We're talking about the economy.

TONY IDIOTT: The boats have stopped, we axed the tax. If only the Labor Party and the CMFEU weren't engaged in rorts, rackets and ripoffs …

LEIGH HALFPRICE: Prime Minister, I just ran you through ...

TONY IDIOTT: And we've given 335,000 people jobs working on Government reviews, white papers, white elephants, inquiries into wind farms and royal commissions into previous Labor governments; along with associated QCs, senior counsels, barristers, solicitors and paralegals; and in our newly created Border Force and associated downstream uniform and flag production industries...

LEIGH HALFPRICE: I just ran you through a series ...

TONY IDIOTT: ... that is the one achievement of which I am most proud, if I may, the 335,000 mostly Liberal Party members placed into cushy jobs set up to attack, embarrass and wedge the Labor Party and the Greens.

LEIGH HALFPRICE: Yet unemployment is still going up.

TONY IDIOTT: Didn’t you hear me? We now have 335,000 more jobs no-one ever anticipated we would ever need. That we don’t need. Jobs growth now in totally unproductive industries is now at 400 times the rate it was in Labor's final year and all of the recent indicators of economic activity say that business conditions for major Liberal Party donors are stronger now than at any time since 2007.

LEIGH HALFPRICE: But Prime Minister, I just ran you through numerous independent statistics showing that the economy is in a weak position. I'm just wondering: why has the language changed so much that it was an emergency when the numbers were better than that, but now it's not an emergency?

TONY IDIOTT: Well, let me give you some irrelevant statistics. Bank profits at record highs, law business registrations at record highs, armoured car sales at near-record highs, unemployment for former high court judges at record lows. So, a lot of very good things are happening in our economy, and Leigh, I refuse to talk our country down. I refuse to talk our country down. I refuse to talk our country down and I hope the national broadcaster might join me in looking for the good too, so as to boost my slim re-election prospects. You have so much potential, Leigh; I could get you a safe seat. Just whose side are you on?

LEIGH HALFPRICE: Well ... it's those East Coast Twitterati… They may have noticed me savagely attacking Labor when they were in power every single time they came on even though their policies actually saved the country from the GFC…

TONY IDIOTT: Well, why can’t we get back to talking about the ALP spending all our money getting drunk with sailors, wasting billions and billions on those needless schools, leaving carbon tacks everywhere, putting vampire bats into people roofs and setting them on fire? I can work with you on those things, Leigh. North Sydney could be yours…

LEIGH HALFPRICE: I’ll think about it. At the start of the year, you promised a families package that was meant to boost growth and productivity. How do you explain the fact that all those months later, absolutely nothing’s been done and it still retains the status of yet another Liberal Party thought fart?

TONY IDIOTT: Well we also said when we brought it down on Budget night that it had to be paid for and, so far, the Senate has not been prepared to pass the savings measures that we think are absolutely necessary to further impoverish disadvantaged Australians.

LEIGH HALFPRICE: But it's your job to negotiate with the Senate, isn’t it?

TONY IDIOTT: And that's exactly what Minister Morrison is doing. He is stalking the Labor Party and the crossbenchers every day and, after cornering them, saying:

"If you want a better child care system, it has to be done responsibly and prudently. Here is the pot of money we can steal from grubby leaners so we can spend more on men and women of calibre."

LEIGH HALFPRICE: You were highly critical of Kevin Rudd for governing by review. Given that, why have you spent your first term in government commissioning white papers into things like tax and federation, yet you've not done anything on labour market reform? Why have you spent your time doing reviews rather than taking action?

TONY IDIOTT: Well, Leigh, with respect, we have done a very great deal on labour market reform. Or rather, we have sought to do a very great deal on labour market reform. We've sought to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which would help us gaol our enemies in the CFMEU and therefore damage the Labor Party. We've sought to impose the same standards on union officials typically used in the Catholic Church to beatify saints. We've got the Royal commission into trade union corruption going on right now, headed by my former law lecturer and bridge partner, Justice Heydon.

LEIGH HALFPRICE: And yet business is still unhappy with the pace of reform and what you've done.

TONY IDIOTT: And business is right to be very unhappy — with the Senate, with the Labor Party and with those dodgy unions. It’s simply not in our DNA to accept responsibility for anything. Anything at all.

LEIGH HALFPRICE: But you're the Government?

TONY IDIOTT: And it's important to know who the villains are here. The nasty, horrid, slavering, blood-thirsty, murderous, evil villains, Leigh, are the Labor politicians who are protecting dodgy, smelly, union officials who have been ripping off workers blind for years, led by none other than the Opposition Leader himself, who is the nastiest, horridest, smelliest and ripping offed-nest of all! Fair dinkum, they make my skin crawl underneath my human over-skin. [Tongue darts to lick lips.]

LEIGH HALFPRICE: In February, you said at a press conference that, of your Government:

"I think we're getting our message across clearly and I think that, over time, the public will respond more appreciatively than they seem to be now."

The polls show that they're not. Why?

TONY IDIOTT: Well I'm not obsessive about polls. I don’t really understand them, to be honest — too many numbers. Obviously people in the press gallery like to hyperventilate about polls, particularly those hysterical reporter-things. My job, Leigh, every day, is to get on with difficult job of saving my sorry arse from angry, rebellious backbenchers, and trying to manipulate public opinion through security scares and new wars to secure this Government's unlikely re-election.

LEIGH HALFPRICE: But do you think … do you really think … that anyone with half a brain − Prime Minister, apologies to you − really think that politicians don't care about polls?

TONY IDIOTT: Well, what I'm on about is about jobs – primarily my own – that's what I'm on about. And the policies that I'm on about, that I want to bring about, are lower taxes and more roads because I think they might save my job. That's what I'm focused on every day. Sure, the Labor Party wants to play politics with my future and sabotage my re-election prospects, but we're just getting on ...

LEIGH HALFPRICE: But let's talk about … let's not talk about Labor. Lefties make my lips purse.

TONY IDIOTT: Well, Leigh, all I want to say is that we're just getting on with the things that we know will benefit big Liberal Party donors.

LEIGH HALFPRICE: Of recent times, we've seen your cabinet repeatedly leak and we've seen open displays of disagreement between cabinet members. Is that a sign of a dyspeptic government?

TONY IDIOTT: Look, this is a government that is getting on with the job of saving my job. And, you know, I'm not going to tell you that from time to time there haven't been things that lefties and females hyperventilate and get hysterical over.

LEIGH HALFPRICE: But does the degree of dysfunction ...

TONY IDIOTT: Leigh! I told you, that was a once only thing… But look, we have got on with the job. We’ve got on with the job. The job, indeed, is what, we have got on with. We've axed taxes, we've stopped the boats, we've talked about building roads.

LEIGH HALFPRICE: Well, you've also introduced taxes.

TONY IDIOTT: And right now, this very day − this very day, Leigh − we're doing the right thing by Australia. We're honouring our traditions of being a country which steps up to the mark when people are in trouble around the world, just as soon as it becomes politically uncomfortable to do anything else.

LEIGH HALFPRICE: Just finally, Prime Minister, you were considered one of the most effective opposition leaders in Australian history. Do you ever stop to wonder why that hasn't translated into being one of the most effective prime ministers?

TONY IDIOTT: Well, I think this has been a very, very effective government, Leigh, a very, very effective government. A very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very effective government, Leigh. An effective government. Very effective.

And I even had a Labor person say the other day that if they in government had done half the things that we have achieved in government, they would be patting themselves on the back every night. God, I love Martin Ferguson. [Wipes away stray tear.]

LEIGH HALFPRICE: But I just wonder ...

TONY IDIOTT: Now I am extremely proud of what's been achieved. I'm very proud of the fact that all the major slogans we made prior to pre-election have been honoured. We stopped the boats, Leigh, and we axed the tax...

LEIGH HALFPRICE: You made those points earlier…

TONY IDIOTT: ... the roads are building … Yes and I'm gonna keep making them, because Peta made me learn all the talking points off by heart all day yesterday. It made my head hurt…

Wait a minute, what are the roads building? Is that right?


TONY IDIOTT: The … er … roads are building and the budget is coming back under control.

The budget getting back under control thing is a relief, but who’s controlling the roads? What are the roads up to? I’m scared, Leigh, can you call Peta?

LEIGH HALFPRICE: Hmm... When you say that this is a very effective government, are you not saying to Australian voters who are unhappy with your performance that they've got it wrong? Are you being dismissive of their concerns?

TONY IDIOTT: Well no. Obviously we can always do better. Any fool can see we are totally incompetent stumblebums. And every day, believe it or not, even though it may look like it, we are striving to do better. As examples, Peta has Joe doing remedial maths now and we’re trying to keep Peter Dutton out of the country as much as possible. But it is really hard, Leigh. Running a country is really, really hard and, to be perfectly honest, I’m pretty much just a grog monster.

But if you take, for argument's sake, the by-election which is coming up in WA in a couple of weeks' time, we have Fine Outstanding Canning Candidate Andrew Hastie standing who, as you may or may not know, was until very recently an officer in the SAS and is so good looking he could quite easily be a department store model.

I’m impressed, are you impressed? Indeed, I tried to impress myself upon him on the campaign trail in WA recently, but he gave me a short, swift upper-cut and I haven’t been over to WA since. Still, I have high hopes for him.

LEIGH HALFPRICE: I'm sure you do. Prime Minister, we appreciate your time very much today. Thank you.

TONY IDIOTT: Thank you, Leigh.

You can follow managing editor Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz.

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