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Early Agenda -

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AM Agenda (Sky News)

Scott Morrison and Brendan O'Connor Discuss Climate Change and Emissions Trading

10 December 2008

KIERAN GILBERT: Good morning and welcome to AM Agenda. Our panel Liberal frontbencher, Scott
Morrison in Sydney, thanks for coming in, Scott.

SCOTT MORRISON: G'day, how are you?

KIERAN GILBERT: Yeah, very well thanks and in Melbourne, Labor frontbencher, Brendan O' Connor.
Brendan, thank you for coming in and first of all to you ...

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Good morning.

KIERAN GILBERT: ... there are reports today that the government, the Cabinet's only agreed to a 10
per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 based on 2000 levels. The Australian Financial
Review calls it 'emissions lite', that's a fair assessment isn't it, if it is that low?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, Kieran, I think, it's important for your viewers to understand and remember
that upon the election of the Rudd Government, the first decision made by the Prime Minister was to
sign the Kyoto Protocol and that was after 12 years of Coalition climate sceptics. So, we made this
decision very decisively to recognise that particular protocol and since then the Minister
responsible, Penny Wong, has been in complex and extensive consultations with affected
parties-industry, conservationists and others-about determining what is a very important area of
public policy for this country. But, as we know it's a global problem and it needs a global
solution and the Minister is in Poland today at the conference discussing those matters with other
nations in order to get the balance right between protecting the jobs in this country and, indeed,
protecting our environment.

KIERAN GILBERT: But, Brendan, the government made it clear and along with other nations back in
Bali late last year that it supported cuts of 25 to 40 per cent. It seems like it's backing away
from that pretty quickly right now.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, Kieran, there will be no speculation today by me on any decision made by
government. What we've made very clear is that we'll announce the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme
White Paper on Monday. That'll include medium targets that will be done at the appropriate time.
But, this government, after 12 years of neglect by the previous government in the area of climate
change, has responded quickly by the signing of the Kyoto Protocol. But it wants to ensure that not
only do we get the balance right between the needs of industry and creating and protecting jobs in
this country but also doing more for the environment. We want to make sure we get that right. And,
we also want to ensure that we do not go it alone; we need to make sure there is a global response
to the global problem and that's why as the Minister has said very clearly, she will continue to
discuss these major concerns with countries at the conference in Poland and, indeed, the time for
setting targets internationally will be at the Copenhagen conference later next year.

KIERAN GILBERT: Scott Morrison in Sydney.

SCOTT MORRISON: Yep.

KIERAN GILBERT: Malcolm Turnbull says he wants an ETS, an Emissions Trading Scheme up and running
by 2011 or 2012. Is he going to stand by that or are things going to change in the current economic
circumstance? Certainly, The Nationals Senate leader, Barnaby Joyce says he couldn't support an ETS
in the current economic climate.

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, I think, first point to make is that this is a government who's become very
good at over promising and under delivering. It was the government in Opposition that talked up
their book on this issue, they significantly raised expectations out there in the community about
what they are doing here and what you're reporting this morning I suppose shows an unravelling of
that.

The Coalition as an alternative though, I think, has taken a much more sober and a much more modest
approach. Our position has been the same all the way through this and it goes back to the time when
the report was handed down to the previous prime minister which said that the best opportunity to
bring in an ETS was around 2011 at the earliest-at the earliest-or 2012. And, since that time we've
reaffirmed that position in Opposition and we've gone further to say that the design elements of
this scheme are things that need to be framed after the Copenhagen conference at the end of next
year.

It's the government who's been flipping and flopping on this issue, talking up their book prior to
an election, coming into a government and realising the irresponsibility of their position and now
having to back track. By contrast the Coalition has been stable on this process and our position is
the same.

KIERAN GILBERT: But, Scott, it does look like there are divisions emerging on this front as well
with Barnaby Joyce saying that he doesn't support an ETS in the current economic climate. Now,
there's no caveat put on your timeline and Mr Turnbull's timeline of 2011/2012 for a kick-off for
an ETS.

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, the Coalition's policy is absolutely unchanged and I suspect at sometime this
morning we are going to discuss matters involving Barnaby Joyce and we can do that now if you like.
But, I think, the issue there is that the Coalition has a policy on this, it's the same policy we
took and confirmed in Opposition and that is we're moving forward with an ETS but not recklessly,
not irresponsibly, not according to some sort of bravado timetable that the Prime Minister
announced, but one that is based on sensible timeframes, one that enables us to look at what is
coming through from overseas and get the design elements right so we don't destroy our economy in
the process. And, I think that's what the Australian public expects.

The idea of an ETS with the right design parameters that don't destroy our economy is something
that is totally achievable. What the government has done has gone out there and talked up
expectations significantly, and not just on this issues but on a raft of issues, and in government
have found that those expectations cannot be achieved and, I think, the Australian public has a
right to feel pretty duped by that.

KIERAN GILBERT: Brendan O'Connor, the Climate Minister, Penny Wong is in Poland as you know at the
moment for those global talks on climate change. Now, some environmental groups at that summit have
said it's like groundhog day, that the Rudd Government is acting like the Howard Government and
that their backing away from the previous commitments that we've spoken about this morning. How
sensitive do you have to be in the context of the financial crisis, but sensitive does the
government have to be to people's concerns about climate change given it was one of the key issues
upon which you were elected?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, Scott just put the contrary view that we're being too ... we're moving in the
other direction from ... compared with what the critics are saying today in relation to the
government's stance. The fact is we'll draw criticism, no doubt, from all sides of this particular
debate because we are ensuring that we get the balance right between protecting jobs on one hand
and preserving the environment. Now, what we do know is that for more than a decade the Howard
Government did nothing, denied there was an issue in relation to climate change ...

SCOTT MORRISON: Time to move on, Brendan.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: ... refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol and for that reason, Kieran, the government
is being deliberately consultative and, indeed, ensuring that we bring other nations with us. This
is a global problem, it needs a global solution and we cannot do it on our own. And, I think your
viewers understand that.

KIERAN GILBERT: But, of course, climate change remains and was one of the key platforms upon which
Labor was elected. Should those ... has the Cabinet negotiations ... do you think the government's
recalibrated its position given the economic circumstances? Is that a fair assessment?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Look, I think, the government has always ensured that we would find a balance.
We've never said that we would make a decision in relation to climate change at the expense of
jobs. We've said we need to find the right balance and, I think, we've continued to pursue that
particular balance and that decision in terms of the White Paper and the medium targets will be
announced on Monday, so you'll have to wait until then, Kieran.

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay Scott, you spoke before about Barnaby Joyce and the broader issue of the
Coalition and sensitivities within the Coalition. Shane Stone, the former Liberal president has
written a letter, an open letter calling for The Nats, The Nationals, to be kicked out. That The
Nationals should be taught a lesson by the Liberals that they should see how hard it is to exist on
their own two feet. Do other Liberals agree with Shane Stone or is he a lone wolf on this?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, I think, a couple of points to make. One is Shane Stone is very respected
party elder within the Liberal Party. You know, he's been around a long time. The other point to
make is ...

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: We remember his memo.

SCOTT MORRISON: I think the other point to make is that, you know, everyone in the Coalition wants
there to be a Coalition but as we saw in Western Australia ... as we saw in Western Australia that
these things aren't necessarily absolute rules of politics. I think the point that's being made
and, I think, the issue here ... it all goes back to Barnaby. Barnaby's the Leader of the Senate for
The Nationals; Barnaby is a member of the Coalition. And, The Nationals, if their going to be in a
constructive Coalition, then there are issues of Coalition policy that I think there's an
expectation that everybody will work together on. And I think Shane's simply making the point if
some in The Nationals-and I certainly don't believe all-but if some in The Nationals wish to take a
different path well that's ultimately their prerogative. But everybody wants the Coalition to work
well but if there a .... I mean, there are responsibilities that go with leadership and these
leadership responsibilities, I think, I mean being there to support a Coalition position. And if
Barnaby wants to take a different view on that and lead his party in the Senate in a different path
then-I think Shane is simply making the point-then that may well lead them down another decision
making process.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: (inaudible) ...

KIERAN GILBERT: So, you don't think Barnaby Joyce is showing that leadership now, Scott? You don't
think Barnaby Joyce is showing the right attitude as Senate leader; he should either quit or renege
from the Coalition?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, I think, what we saw recently is The Nationals in the Senate under Barnaby's
leadership deciding to take a different position to the Coalition. Now, you know, we ... there are
always going to be some disagreements within Coalitions from time to time and it's how you handle
those that I think is the issue. Earlier in the year we had a difference of view between The
Nationals and the Liberals over wheat marketing and that was handled extremely well and we're able
to take different positions on that issue and there was no threat to the Coalition as a result of
that. It's all how you handle them. But, with leadership and, I think, Malcolm's suggestion of
Barnaby actually coming into the Shadow Cabinet where you do have a much bigger opportunity to
discuss these issues through and the fact that we have none of those National Party members in the
Senate who are part of that process in the Senate by their own choice, then I think that makes it a
little bit more difficult for those full discussions to be had in that way. But, look, everyone in
the Coalition's side, I think, is very supportive of the Coalition, but being in a Coalition has
some responsibilities, particularly those in leadership positions.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, can I say ...

KIERAN GILBERT: You saying that everyone supportive ... yeah, yeah Brendan, I'll let you have a go.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Can I just say, yeah sure, thank Kieran with respect. Look, I have to say that it
seems to me that Shane Stone and Scott have missed the point. This is not just a division in The
Nationals and the Liberal Party; this is a division within the Liberal Party. Liberal senators
crossed the floor as well and what we have here is too many positions being taken by the Opposition
and I don't blame those individual senators. That's a reflection, I think, upon the Leader of the
Opposition who had ... who does not keep to one position; he doesn't know where he stands. Quiet
frankly it's Malcolm in a muddle and for that reason the Opposition is ...

SCOTT MORRISON: Keep trying, keep trying, Brendan.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: ... in disarray, it's in disarray and that's the reality and until they are able to
... I mean, they cannot even be called a Coalition, it's a misnomer to call the Opposition at the
moment a Coalition because they are not working together. And I think that does reflect upon the
failure by the Leader of the Opposition to put a position clearly to his party room and ensure that
people stick together. And it is a concern, I guess, for the public when they know they cannot
reply upon the Opposition to have one view...

KIERAN GILBERT: Alright, okay ...

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: ... on any public policy area.

SCOTT MORRISON: On the contrary, if you allow me to respond, Kieran ...

KIERAN GILBERT: Scott, we've got to go ... Scott, we've got to go to a break,

SCOTT MORRISON: Okay.

KIERAN GILBERT: ... we've got a few other issues we've got to.

SCOTT MORRISON: Okay.

KIERAN GILBERT: Stay with us after the break on AM Agenda. We're going to look at the comments
overnight from the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Glenn Stevens.

Welcome back to AM Agenda and our panel Scott Morrison and Brendan O'Connor. Last night the Reserve
Bank Governor, Glenn Stevens made it clear that further interest rate cuts are on the cards and
could be as early as January.

GLENN STEVENS: We have not at this point scheduled a meeting. I have their phone numbers, I can get
them if need be but we haven't scheduled anything.

KIERAN GILBERT: So, the Governor there, Scott, is keeping very much open here the option of a cut
as early as next month and as well as the monetary flexibility. There's flexibility in the fiscal
side of things as well, according to the Governor, that the government still got scope to spend
more.

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, it sounds like Glenn Stevens will be holidaying at home, Kieran in the shire
in my electorate of course and a better choice he couldn't make I'm sure. But, beyond that though

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Fair enough.

KIERAN GILBERT: I think, what we've seen with the Reserve Bank is, you know, some very clear
warnings about what's happening in China and obviously that's, I think, that's very concerning and
everyone would be concerned about that. And the prospect for further rate cuts, I think, would be
welcomed and as I think this is probably the best way-without doubt, the best way-in order to try
and continue to stimulate the economy moving forward. And, the reason for that is because it is
something that people can factor in over many months just as tax cuts can be factored in over many
months and with the stimulus package which the Coalition voted for and supported in both houses
unequivocally, we voted for that.

But, I think, the evidence we've seen from the United States which is something Malcolm raised in a
speech earlier this week in Sydney and there was a professor from Stanford University who's put
together some information which showed what the impact of the stimulus was in the United States and
there's a chart that was in a report that he put together which showed that while there was an
income spike in disposable income-and I think the chart's on the screen there- the impact on
spending actually didn't follow through. Now, we all hope that that won't be the experience here in
Australia.

We hope that it will have the affect that the government has designed but what we're seeing here is
the government's response to the financial crisis, this is the package they've put out there, we
hope it works but the experience from the US is a little concerning. And so that's why tax cuts and
things like rate cuts, I think, provide something that tax payers and that people out there in the
economy can bank on month to month and give them the increased confidence that we need to pull
through this crisis. Because at the end of the day this is all about confidence and the confidence
people have in government policy, confidence people have in their ability to go out and spend and
at the end of the day confidence that they're going to keep their jobs. And, these are the
challenges that we have over the next few months and, you know I think the fact that Glenn Stevens
is holidaying at home and staying close to the phone and to the board table I think is a good thing
for Australia.

KIERAN GILBERT: And, in your neck of the woods as well you say, The Shire, the Sutherland Shire ...

SCOTT MORRISON: Absolutely.

KIERAN GILBERT: Brendan, to you ...

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Yeah.

KIERAN GILBERT: ... it was a sort of a mixed message from Glenn Stevens in many ways, as you'd expect
in the current circumstance. He says that the banks have turned the corner, their lending more to
households and business ...

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Yes.

KIERAN GILBERT: ... but as Scott referred to there, the outlook in China isn't good, quoting Glenn
Stevens, he says: the most striking fact that China's ... of recent times, was that china's economy
has slowed much more quickly than anyone had forecast. That does not bode well for our economy.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, I agree with Scott that it is about confidence and, indeed, that's why the
government responded quickly to firstly secure depositors and also ensure that we protected out
financial institutions and then of course announced an economic security strategy which include
$10.4 billion. That's very important. And, can I say in relation to tax cuts, the Leader of the
Opposition has made claims that tax cuts are important but can I remind your viewers, Kieran that
on Budget night the Treasurer announced a $47 billion dollar tax cut ...

SCOTT MORRISON: He wasn't the author of that though, Brendan.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: ... and can I say that was done and at the same time we managed to maintain a
surplus which we are now using to ensure that we stimulate the economy fiscally. Now, the Reserve
Bank have already made some decisions which have cut interest rates, I think those decisions were
welcomed and, indeed, those decisions are working well and working in tandem with the government's
fiscal decision to stimulate the economy. But, it is true to say that we are not out of the woods.
There are some major challenges ahead for this country, indeed, for economies across the world. And
therefore whilst we are very happy to see the tax cuts announced in the Budget and, indeed, the
fiscal package provide much needed relief to pensioners, families, carers, veterans and others, we
know that if there are challenges going into the new year and the government will make further
decisions in the national interest. So ...

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay ...

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: it would be wrong to say we're at the end of a difficult period, we're going
into, certainly, a very challenging time.

KIERAN GILBERT: Alright, on another issue to wrap up, Scott. The Attorney General, Robert
McClelland, is going to announce details of a panel to look at the possibility of a charter of
human rights today, to be headed by the intellectual Jesuit priest, Frank Brennan. What are your
thoughts on all of this? Do you think its worthwhile having as look at or are you worried about
giving the judiciary too much power as I say compared to the Parliament?

SCOTT MORRISON: Well, I'm one of those who believes as you try to define theses rights all you end
up doing is actually taking rights away and, I think there is a high level of scepticism about this
proposal. I am baffled as to why the government wants to proceed with this. It's one of those
things that sounds very good on paper talking about human rights and charters of human rights but
the experience is you effectively hand over the powers from your elected parliaments to unelected
judiciaries. And when I move around my electorate, you know, I don't find too many people who would
like to, you know, put more powers in the hands of judges and magistrates. So, look I think it's a
proposal that is, really, there is no value in proceeding with it at present. If they want to have
a discussion, form a panel and, you know, I noticed that the former premier Bob Carr has come out
quite outspokenly against this. I don't think there is a big pool of people out there who are
calling for this and I'm a little puzzled to why the government seems to think this is a priority
when there are much more pressing issues out there. So, look they can have their review panel, it's
one of over 160 reviews that are going on at the moment, we're still waiting for the 2020 report to
be delivered by the government which they said they'd do by Christmas, that's clearly not going to
happen just like the broadband.

KIERAN GILBERT: Brendan O'Connor, any thoughts on the idea of a charter of human rights at all?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Look, I think, it's always worthy to discuss human rights. I think there are
constantly under challenge. We live in very difficult times, we live under terrorist threats and
therefore we're always seeking to find the balance between individual rights, civil liberties and,
indeed, protecting our borders and ensuring that we have laws in place that secure people's future,
secure peoples safety.

But, I think that's always a very difficult balance to strike and if we can have a debate around
those matters, I think that's a good thing for this country. We're a democracy, we should be
debating these matters and therefore, of course, it's only going to add to a better public policy
in the future.

KIERAN GILBERT: Brendan, the Prime Minister is in Bali today ...

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Yeah.

KIERAN GILBERT: ... for a democracy forum. He's only there for six hours and he's back tonight but
interestingly attending that forum are representatives of Myanmar, Laos and China ...

SCOTT MORRISON: Where's Zimbabwe?

KIERAN GILBERT: ... it sounds like they've got a fair bit of work to do on the democracy front at
this forum.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, I mean and I think that's exactly the point. Can I say that the Prime
Minister has arrived at this conference on the invitation of the President of Indonesia, a very
important neighbour; they've done a lot in recent times to improve democracy in their country. It
seems to me that we should be leading the way in helping and assisting and furthering democracy in
our region. We all know, and I'm sure Scott would agree ...

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: that providing democracy ... furthering democracy in the region would of course
improve stability and therefore we play a very important role in that regard.

KIERAN GILBERT: Absolutely. Well, gentleman unfortunately we're out of time. So much to get across,
so little time but Brendan O'Connor, Scott Morrison appreciate it today.

SCOTT MORRISON: Thanks, Kieran and have a good Christmas.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Thanks, thanks Kieran, yeah, good to see you, merry Christmas.