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Turnbull discusses emissions trading deadline -

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The Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull is currently visiting London for a range of activities,
including a meeting with his British counterpart David Cameron. Mr Turnbull joins Lateline live
from London.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull is currently visiting London for a
range of activities, including a meeting with his British counterpart David Cameron.

Mr Turnbull joins me now live from our London studio.

Mr Turnbull, good to have your company.

MALCOLM TURNBULL, OPPOSITION LEADER: Yeah, good to be with you.

LEIGH SALES: Let's begin with your letter to the Rudd Government in response to its letter.

What have you said to its deadline and offer to negotiate?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, Penny Wong's letter really was just a stunt. Penny knows full well that we
are committed to negotiate over the design of the ETS, just as we negotiated over the renewable
energy target and the result of which was we got agreement and the legislation was passed.

So she knows exactly what we're planning to. I've been very public and open about it. We're
finalising our amendments now. We've been consulting widely. They will be approved by the Shadow
Cabinet and taken to the party room when Parliament comes back in October.

And once they're approved by the party room, we will sit down with the Government and negotiate. So
she knows ... this letter really is just a stunt and it's a tribute to the media-spinning skills of
the Government that it's taken up so much time in the news because it's just a stunt.

LEIGH SALES: So basically, though, you would anticipate that you will have your amendments ready to
put forward by the end of October?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Certainly. That's absolutely right. The approach - look, this is our position on
the ETS. We believe the Prime Minister is playing politics by forcing a vote on it in November.
Common sense and prudence dictate that we should not finalise the design of our emissions trading
scheme until after we know the results of the Copenhagen summit. Which means we would do it in the
normal course of events in February rather than in November. Now, so for 60 days, Mr Rudd wants to
make a decision where we are less well informed than we would be in February.

So that is purely politics. There is nothing there but pure politics and gamesmanship on his part.

LEIGH SALES: That may be so and your argument about Copenhagen may be perfectly valid. But is it
time for you to accept the reality that the Government is determined to put this to a vote in
November and that's what you going to be having to deal with?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Look, he's in charge of the process. So he's apparently going to persist with
having this voted on this November, and on that basis we have been - we've set out the principles
which underpin the amendments we will be seeking to the legislation. We published them in July. So
the Government knows exactly where we're coming from, and we will provide detailed amendments in
October, just as we've planned to do.

So really Penny Wong's letter was nothing more than a stunt. I've been very open and very
transparent and very reasonable about what we're doing, and we will have the amendments there in
October and we look forward, hopefully, to some constructive engagement with the Government.

LEIGH SALES: You mentioned the nine concerns that you aired in July. Given that and given that the
ETS legislation has been before the Parliament since May, why is it taking the Coalition so long to
come up with amendments?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: You really should be asking Mr Rudd the question: why is he unable to finalise
his own scheme? The design of the scheme itself is actually contained in the regulations rather
than the legislation, which the Parliament's voted on. Most of those regulations have not been
published. There are major sectors - coal, aluminium, for example - where the Government is in
intense negotiations with those industries trying to work out changes to its own scheme.

So the Rudd Government ETS is not a fixed state of affairs. It is been worked on, now it's a work
in progress and it just underlines the indecent haste and the politics between Mr Rudd's ... behind
Mr Rudd's actions.

He does not have an environment agenda. He's got a political agenda. It's all about politics.
Somebody that was committed to the environment and committed to effective global action on climate
change would proceed more prudently and more cautiously and finalise the design of our scheme after
Copenhagen, when we will know what the other countries are going to do.

LEIGH SALES: We've made that point, so let's move on. How are you going to come up with amendments
that will suit everybody from Wilson Tuckey at one end to Greg Hunt at the other?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Do you think they're polar opposites do you? I am sure they have a lot in common.
Look, we will put our - the Shadow Cabinet will approve the amendments and we will present them to
the party room, and we will get if agreement of the party room.

LEIGH SALES: And you're confident of that, that everyone in the party room will sign up to what the
leadership recommends?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: The reality, Leigh as you know, is that in a political party, individuals will
have different views. But then we have to agree on one position, and so we come together and that
may represent for many people a compromise or something less than their ideal position. But as you
know you cannot allow your conception of the perfect to be the enemy of the good. And we will come
to a common position, which we will then sit down and negotiate with the Government.

LEIGH SALES: And you're confident that your team will wear that and will go along with it? Because
there have been quite a few public rumblings along the way thus far?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: I am very confident of it and if I can just remind you and your viewers we have
done it before. We did this with the renewable energy target legislation, where we insisted on some
changes. We set them out. We negotiated with the Government. And we reached agreement. And the
process worked perfectly well.

I've had many discussions with government ministers in the context of the renewable energy target
and we will have discussions with them about the CPRS or the emissions trading scheme, and I am
hopeful that we will be able to reach an agreement. But time will tell. It depends how flexible the
Government wants to be.

LEIGH SALES: Your efforts to get your party room to sign up to the amendments are already being
billed as a test of your leadership. Do you accept that it will be a leadership failure if you
can't unite your team on this?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Look, there is no question that we will reach agreement, Leigh, and I am not
going to engage in speculation about that. And as far as tests of leadership, leaders are tested
every day. So every day is a leadership test whether you're the Leader of the Opposition or the
Prime Minister.

LEIGH SALES: You mentioned earlier there are always a range of views in any political party. That
was the case for the Coalition under John Howard, it's undoubtedly the case for the Labor Party
under Kevin Rudd. But neither Rudd nor Howard have had the same problems with their backbench that
you have had. Is your problem not a range of opinion but a lack of discipline?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well Leigh, I'll allow others to run the commentary on that. But obviously it's
always important for Oppositions to keep their focus on the Government. Our job is to hold the
Government to account and to put forward policies and a critique that will persuade people to make
us the Government at the next election.

So that's where we should always be focused.

LEIGH SALES: On that front, Ian McFarlane told ABC Radio yesterday that the Coalition's chances of
winning an early double dissolution election were significantly diminished. Do you share his
assessment?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well look, I think you've only got to look at the polls to see that we're well
behind. If there was an election held in the near future and the polls remained where they were, we
obviously wouldn't win. But the real point that I think Ian was making - which is the same point
I've made, and we're both pretty hard-headed practical people, is that, if the Rudd ETS is knocked
back by the Senate a second time and if Mr Rudd then goes to a double dissolution election and if
he were to win, he would then be able to get his legislation passed without any input from us
whatsoever at a joint sitting.

So we have important interests to protect. We want to see an emissions trading scheme that does not
sacrifice thousand of Australian jobs for no environmental gain. We want to see an emissions
trading scheme that is more effective in terms of reduce emissions. We have proposed changes which
would make an emissions trading scheme in Australia greener, cheaper and smarter.

This is not a well designed scheme. Its treatment of agriculture is very unjust and ineffective.
Its treatment of some of our major export industries is very dangerous. So there are a lot of
changes that could be made and should be made and we will be putting them up to the Government and
seeking to engage them, just as we did on the renewable energy target legislation.

LEIGH SALES: Let me come at this idea of an early election from a different perspective. You could
vote against the ETS in November, calling Kevin Rudd's bluff and putting the ball into his court as
to whether or not he does go to an early election. We know from a recent Newspoll that four out of
five Australians wouldn't support that. We know that early elections have backfired on leaders
before. The ETS is going to be a very complicated sell for the Government in an election campaign.

Could going to an early election be your best course of action?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, Leigh, again, that's something the commentariat can comment on and
speculate on. It is not for me to run a political commentary for, you know, the benefit of Mr Rudd
and the Labor Party.

Basically, our approach is, as we've set out. We believe the more prudent and responsible approach
is to finalise the scheme after Copenhagen, when we're fully informed about the intentions of the
other countries, in particular China and America. I mean, that is basically what the whole show is
about, you know. If China and America can come to an agreement, everything will fall into place. If
they don't, it won't. So we should wait until after Copenhagen. But if Mr Rudd insists on
proceeding in November, we will engage with the Government and present amendments and seek to reach
agreement with them on those amendments. And then depending on how much of our amendments they
agree to, and the political situation and the developments both in Australia and internationally at
the time, we will then make a decision whether to vote for bill or not.

LEIGH SALES: Your approval rating as the Coalition's position in the polls are the same as when
Brendan Nelson was ousted from the leadership 12 months ago. How is the Opposition in a better
under your leadership than it was under Brendan Nelson's?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well we've advanced a lot in the last year. We've held the Government to account
over the wastefulness of its stimulus. We've taken the Government on. We've taken some tough
decision. It was a very unpopular decision to propose a less expensive, less costly and better
targeted stimulus. And then when Mr Rudd refused to engage or negotiate on that, to vote against
his package.

That was courageous decision but it was taken on principle and obviously it had a political price.

LEIGH SALES: The G20 as we know is meeting later this week. You've been saying for while thaw Niue
the Government needs to wind back its stimulus spending so you must think we're moving forwards a
recovery. Give me your assessment of how you see the pace of that recovery. Do you agree, for
example, with Paul Keating who said on the 7.30 Report earlier that we're out of the woods?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well look, I just work on the figures. I think the economy is starting to grow
again. The reality is that the forecasts that everyone was working on at the beginning of the year
have proved to be overly pessimistic. And the real question that one should be putting to the
Government is this: if you had known in February that the Australian economy was going to be as
resilient to this global downturn has it has turned out to be, would you have borrowed and spent so
much money?

Now the honest answer to that would be no, because they panicked. They looked into over the edge of
what Kevin Rudd describes as the abyss, and they were terrified by the implications of this global
financial crisis and they rushed out and borrowed billions of dollars and started spending it very
quickly. Now we proposed a better targeted and less expensive stimulus package. There's no question
about this proposition that Kevin Rudd likes to put up saying the Opposition were against any
stimulus. It is just nonsense.

For example, with schools, we said in February that to spend $14 billion on primary school assembly
halls in two years, to do that effectively was not possible. And we propositioned instead $3
billion over three years in a way that would be very carefully targeted and would ensure schools
got the infrastructure they needed.

LEIGH SALES: We're getting off the track as to whether or not you think we're out of the woods and
well on our way to recovery.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well I think the signs are very promising. I don't like to use these metaphors,
Leigh. The fact is that we've seen our economy grow. We've only had one quarter of negative growth,
so we didn't ever go into a technical recession, which surprised a lot of people. We have got very
strong signs coming out of our resources sector. If you look at the billions of dollars that are
going to be invested into the resources sector in WA in particular, all of the big signs for
Australia are very promising indeed.

But there's no reason to be complacent and that's why governments should always be very careful to
be prudent in the way they spend money and to adjust spending, if it's been spent for the purpose
of stimulating economic activity, to adjust that spending in line with economic developments. And
if the economy is strengthening more than they had imagined in February, then that makes a powerful
case for throttling back on the Government's stimulus because there is the risk that you will end
up with the spending being ineffective from a cost-benefit point of view. Look at that situation
with some of these schools where you have got millions being spent to knock down class rooms only
to build new class rooms if their place. It's pointless expenditure.

LEIGH SALES: We've gone through that. Let me ask you one final question before you go. Your
predecessor, Brendan Nelson, recently offered a less than flattening diagnosis of your personality.
Now last week we in his farewell speech he urged the Opposition to vote down the ETS, the very next
day he took a job in which he would be required to push the Government's climate change policy. And
then on the weekend he said that in the Bradfield by-election he would be campaigning against the
ETS.

Do you care to offer a diagnosis of his personality?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: No, I don't. I care not to.

LEIGH SALES: You know you want to.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: No, no, no. I have no - I have no desire to offer any sort of commentary on that.
I think people will form their own judgment.

LEIGH SALES: Malcolm Turnbull, thank you very much for joining us. Very diplomatic.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Thanks so much, Leigh.