Abbott shrugs off protesters
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has laughed off a protest during an address to the Melbourne Institute today.
Mr Abbott was interrupted by two young men, who came up next to him at the lectern and made sarcastic comments, thanking him for attending the event.
''We're so happy you're here, it's really fantastic,'' one man said.
''We're really looking forward to when you take down the Prime Minister, coming up soon, it's going to be a great time for all of us.''
''Good stuff,'' Mr Abbott responded.
The pair were from Quit Coal, a Melbourne-based collective that campaigns against the expansion of the coal industry. They were briefly chased by security as they made comments about global warming being a ''bunch of crap'' but Mr Abbott did not appear to be fussed by the interruption.
''Isn't it fantastic, ladies and gentleman to see that undergraduate humour does not change,'' he said with a laugh.
Mr Abbott added that the protesters had come at a good time
''They've probably given me the punctuation point to stop adlibbing and start my scripted speech,'' he said.
One of the protesters, Dominic O'Dwyer, later explained that he had been "really excited" that Mr Abbott was in Melbourne and that he had wanted to thank him for his "unwavering" support for the fossil fuel industry.
He said the pair were "confused" when approached by security.
"We were just trying to congratulate Tony," Mr O'Dwyer said.
Mr Abbott was also mobbed by another small group of protesters as he reached his car to leave the conference. Security guards had to hold some protesters out of the path of the car so it could leave the University of Melbourne.
Mr Abbott told the Melbourne business forum that a Coalition government would convene a new business advisory council three times a year. He said former Australian Stock Exchange chairman Maurice Newman had agreed to be the inaugural chairman.
Mr Abbott said he wanted to end the ''bad blood'' between government and business ''that is damaging investment and employment and that's sapping the confidence that's so important for every Australia's prosperity''.
He also announced a productivity working group, chaired by Coalition MP Steve Ciobo, that will consult with business and the community on the Coalition's productivity agenda.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters on the Central Coast of NSW that Mr Abbott had "rehashed and recycled some old ideas" in his speech, including his previously announced plan to cut red tape.
The Prime Minister also questioned Mr Ciobo's appointment to the productivity working group, arguing his "answer for productivity" was bringing back WorkChoices.