PM off to France, North America

Prime Minister Tony Abbott had talks with some of the crossbenchers who will be vital for him in the new Senate, last week. AAP/Paul Miller

Tony Abbott leaves this week for an extensive trip that will include joining the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day in France before visiting Canada and the United States.

His departure on Wednesday, during the parliamentary week, comes as the domestic debate about the budget continues to rage, with particular controversy around the $7 Medicare co-payment and the deregulation of university fees, and doubt about the fate of key measures in the Senate.

Abbott will be joined for the D-Day commemoration by seven Australians who were there. More than 3000 Australians were involved, including 2500 airforce personnel who provided air support for the Allied Landings.

In Canada and the US Abbott will be joined by business leaders, as he was during his North Asia trip. And he will carry the same message as then – “that Australia is open for business”.

“We welcome new investment and we are making investment more attractive by scrapping the carbon tax and the mining tax, cutting 50,000 pages of red tape and ending the ‘analysis paralysis’ on major projects,” he said today.

He said that with Australia as host of the G20 summit later in the year he would be advancing the cause of economic growth during this trip.

This will be the first time since becoming PM that Abbott has met Barack Obama. The two previously met when Abbott was opposition leader.

The talks will cover a wide range of economic and political issues, with some interest focusing on whether climate change gets attention given the leaders’ different views.

Abbott today played down a dinner that cabinet minister Malcolm Turnbull had last week with Clive Palmer, who will soon control a key block of votes in the Senate.

It was “perfectly reasonable” for senior members of the Coalition to talk with crossbenchers, Abbott told Ten.

“We have a budget to get through the Parliament, but even before that we’ve got the carbon tax abolition to get through, the mining tax abolition to get through. I am utterly determined to deliver on the fundamental commitments we took to the people and the abolition of the carbon tax and the mining tax are central to that.”

Abbott last week had talks with some of those crossbenchers who will be vital for him in the new Senate. But the PUP senators-elect won’t deal with the government at the moment because of a dispute over staffing and Ricky Muir of the Motoring Enthusiast Party, who is aligned with PUP, also declined – giving the excuse that he could not get off work.

Abbott described these discussions as courtesy calls.

“Obviously I’m stressing to all of them the government’s absolute determination to repeal the carbon tax, to repeal the mining tax, deliver on our commitments.

"I don’t pretend that any of this process will be easy.” Abbott said that over time he was confident Palmer would have a constructive relationship with the government.

Asked whether Palmer was an honest man Abbott said: “It’s not my job to give a character reference for my political competitors and I’m not going to. But on the other hand, it’s also not my job to impugn the integrity of people who may well be our negotiating partners. I expect him to deal openly and honestly with this government and we’ll be open and honest with him.”

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