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Early Agenda -

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ASHLEIGH GILLON: Welcome back to AM Agenda we're going straight to our panel of politicians now;
joining me from Melbourne is Labor's Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry Richard
Marles, good morning.

RICHARD MARLES: Good morning, Ashley, how are you?

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Well, thank you and also here in Canberra the Liberal MP Jamie Briggs, good
morning to you.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Good morning, Ashley.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: I want to start on the polls, we've seen today that the Coalition is closing the
gap on Labor but the SMH says today that Tony Abbott's approval rating is among the third lowest
for a new opposition leader since these polls started, is it to premature for you to get excited
about these results, Jamie?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, polls will come and go throughout the year. They came and went last year and
they'll do the same this year, I'm sure, we see polls every week leading up to the federal
election. But, I think what's clear is that people have welcomed Tony Abbott as the Opposition
Leader since early December when he went into that position. I think they welcome his straight
talk, they welcome the fact that he tells them the truth, he's very open and very honest and tells
it like it is which is a complete contrast, of course, to the Prime Minister who is barely
understandable at times and doesn't take people in to his trust. Tony on the other hand is very
open, very clear with his language and I think people welcomed that.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Richard, this Neilsen poll today shows that when people were asked to say whether
they supported the ETS or Tony Abbott's new plan, well more people went with Tony Abbott's plan. Is
that surprising? It really is a massive shift in the politics we've seen over the past week.

RICHARD MARLES: Well, we're not governing from the point of view of opinion polls; we're making the
difficult decisions in the nation's interest ...

ASHLEIGH GILLON: But they are important though, the government needs to pay attention to public
opinion.

RICHARD MARLES: Oh of course, we take, we pay attention to public opinion and we are talking to
people across the country but first and foremost what we're doing is making the difficult decisions
to govern in the nation's interests. And we've come up with a serious policy when it comes to
climate change. We haven't come up with a con-job and it is addressing what is obviously one of the
great challenges of our time. Now, the Opposition on the other hand have come up with some serious
politics which is all about trying to govern from the point of view or attempt to put forward
policies from the point of view of the next opinion poll and that's really the big difference
between the two parties at the moment.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: But Richard, it does seem like senior ministers over the past week have really
failed to concisely tell us what the impact on household budgets will be. For example we've seen
Tony Abbott question what will be the increases to things like milk and bread and butter, do Labor
politicians need to know that stuff and do you think that the Australians want to be hearing it?
Why can't ministers explain it concisely?

RICHARD MARLES: Look, we have put forward to the Australian people what is actually a simple plan
in terms of its basic architecture. We put a cap on carbon emissions we use the power of the market
economy to deal with this issue. We make the big polluters the ones who have to pay and if there is
a small price in the cost of living, and it's projected to be about 1.1 per cent, we've put in
place a compensation scheme to cover that. Now, that's in its basic architecture that is a simple
plan that is being put forward, and it's a real plan, it's one which will actually make a
difference. It's not the con-job which is being put forward by the Opposition, one which is
unfunded, which will see the taxpayers actually have to foot the bill not the big polluters, which
will inevitably see tax rises but what most importantly, it's actually not going to work, it's
projected to see emissions increase by the year 2020 rather than decrease. It's not a serious
attempt at policy; it is a serious attempt at politics aimed at the next opinion poll.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Well, Jamie the government's been poking holes in your policy all week, of course,
firstly there was that analysis by the Department of Climate Change showing emissions would rise
under your plan not decrease, that is a significant problem if its right?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, you can get whatever results you like if you set different parameters and I
think what we've found ...

ASHLEIGH GILLON: So that's wrong?

JAMIE BRIGGS: ... well, what we've found with the Department of Climate Change who are, you would
have to question the independence of the Department of Climate Change's advice given they're
responsible to a Minister of the Crown who is trying push a different policy perspective on the
Australian people. The problem that we've got here is that the Labor Party, the senior members of
the Labor Party refused to explain how their big new tax on everything will work. We asked genuine
questions last week of the Prime Minister and other ministers and they don't know the increase
costs or they're not telling the Australian people what the increase costs are, add to that the
great money-go-round, as Tony Abbott describes it, of the reimbursement, if you like, of the money
spent by people on this great big new tax. And you don't really know how this system will work
where as our plan's very direct, it's just over $3 billion, we know; we've said very clearly what
we'll spend it on. So, there's a real contrast here, direct action versus a great big new tax which
has this great money-go-round effect in the Australian economy.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Well, no doubt we'll hear more on the climate debate and in Question Time today
but Richard Marles we are running out of time and I do want to cover another issue with you. Today,
very shortly indeed, the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans will be announcing some pretty serious
changes to immigration policy, taking away visas for 20, 000 foreigners wanting to come here and
workers in jobs like as cooks and hair dressers and accountants for example, what's the reasoning
behind this shift?

RICHARD MARLES: Well, first of all we're talking not about visas but visa applications and that's
different in terms of where they are in the process. But, what we're trying to do is put together a
program which will be far more targeted on the skills that this country needs. So, we're looking at
having, providing visas to people who have the skills that our economy needs in areas such as
health, in the resources sector, nurses, GPs, teachers, engineers. It's those kinds of skills that
we need, far more than the system that we have at the moment where there is a broad range of skills
which qualify where essentially you place yourself in a queue and where people are coming in with
skills such as cooks or hair dressers are gaining entry under this, under the program where, you
know, there are plenty of people in Australia who have those skills and can perform that role in
the economy. So, really what it is is a much more targeted program, it's one which is being
welcomed by industry and its one which meets the skills needs that our economy has.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Richard, are you worried though that this could dampen demand for Australian
education institutions? It could potentially lead to job losses in that sector here.

RICHARD MARLES: Oh I don't think that's right, I think that those institutions that are addressing
the needs of the country has, will obviously do well and the reputable institutions will do well. I
think it is important to understand there are a number of students who are here who may not
otherwise qualify and for them we are putting in place a transitionary period where they will be
given an 18 month temporary visa which will allow them to work, gain work experience and hopefully
find an employer who will sponsor them into the country. So, there is a transitionary phase here, I
don't think this is going to affect the educational institutions but what it is going to do is
ensure that we have people coming to this country, under this program with the skills that this
country needs.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Jamie, the Opposition's already raising doubts about the need for the shake up,
why, what's wrong with it?

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, firstly we haven't seen the plan yet so let's wait and see the detail. But
there's a couple of issues, of course, with the management of the immigration system by the Labor
Party. Firstly, we've seen the border security system just fall apart under the Labor Party's
changes they made in August 2008, so we have genuine concerns any time that Labor touches the
immigration program. Secondly, we saw last time they were in government a change in the structure
of the immigration program which focused on family reunions rather than the skilled visa program.
It appears again that that may be part of what Senator Evans is trying to achieve here. As I say,
we need to see the details but I think there's some significant questions in around that.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Well, apparently the un-sponsored migrant situation is quite difficult because
only half end up actually working in the field that they commit to at the start, a third end up as
unemployed or in low skilled jobs, so it seems like there is a need for change.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Well, look, I think in the, government, the figures indicate that in our time in
government we reduced the unemployment of that cohort down to about 3 per cent. So there was a
significant change because the way that we'd manage a system, as I say there are questions, we
haven't seen the detail yet, the only change we've seen Labor make to the immigration policies of
this country seen this massive flood of boats out in our north, we hope that these changes aren't
as bad as what the changes to the border protection laws have been but anything Labor touches on
immigration generally turns to custard so we want to see how these changes are going work and if
they're actually going to be to benefit or to the negative of our country.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Okay, Jamie Briggs Richard Marles thank you so much for your time this morning we
appreciate it.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Thanks Ashleigh thanks Richard.

RICHARD MARLES: Thanks Ashleigh.