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Meet The Press -

View in ParlView


5 JUNE 2011



PAUL BONGIORNO, PRESENTER: Hello and welcome to Meet the Press on world environment day. The
science says the planet is warming, the political temperature certainly is as the Government and
its allies gather their weapons to fight the carbon tax war. In politics, words are bullets, the
Government seizing Professor Ross Garnaut's ammunition. His final report suggesting a $26-a-tonne
pollution tax.

ROSS GARNAUT, GOVERNMENT CLIMATE ADVISER (TUESDAY): Obviously, we don't, by our own decisions,
shape the world, but we do influence the world. I don't accept that my country is a piss-ant
country. All the evidence is against it.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER (THURSDAY): This tax is just toxic. This tax is beyond repair. It
just needs to be sent to the scrapyard. That's what needs to happen to this tax.

BOB HAWKE, FORMER PRIME MINISTER (THURSDAY): I don't mind Tony personally. He's not a bad bloke.
But as I said during the campaign, he's as mad as a cut snake.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Julia Gillard's campaign also boosted by another former prime minister, and a
Liberal leader who happens to be an economist.

JOHN HEWSON, FORMER LIBERAL LEADER (MONDAY): I'm an Australian first and a member of the Liberal
Party second, and this issue transcends all current politicians, as I said before.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Undeterred like a latter-day Don Quixote, the Opposition's climate spokesman found
something he liked.

GREG HUNT, SHADOW CLIMATE MINISTER (WEDNESDAY): Professor Garnaut quietly buries away, in his
report, a direct-action fund.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Greg Hunt is a guest. Later - Independent senator Nick Xenophon pressures the
Government on animal exports and gambling. But first, Frank Coletta has what's making news this
Sunday, June 5.

FRANK COLETTA, REPORTER: Thank you, Paul and here are the major stories this morning - the
asylum-seeker deal today has turned to the treatment of children. It's been revealed teenage girls
and other vulnerable minors may not be taken to Malaysia after all. It comes as the UN slams
Australia's policy, and the plan has led to claims many in detention may already be lying about
their age to try and get a better deal.

area, it ends up in farce and the reason for that is they have no consistent line of principle on
this issue, no consistent line of policy.

FRANK COLETTA: Scott Morrison there on 'The Bolt Report'. Living by the coastline is held dear my
many Australians, but a new report says that lifestyle there is under threat as sea levels rise.
Reports today show the Department of Climate Change leaves $226 billion of national coastal assets
are at risk of inundation and erosion by the turn of the century. Unions say they will support the
Government's controversial carbon tax, but only in exchange for a $1 billion fund for affected
workers and communities. Overseas - NATO combat helicopters have struck at Colonel Gaddafi's forces
for the first time with Britain releasing video of Apache choppers destroying a radar base and a
military checkpoint. And Aussie travellers beware - Europe is in the grip of a food-poisoning
outbreak which has killed up to 20 people and almost 2,000 others have fallen ill as a result of
the E coli crisis. There's been a lot of finger-pointing between Germany and Spain in particular,
and produce like cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce are on the list. That's all for the moment. Back
to you, Paul.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thanks, Frank. Welcome back to the program, Greg Hunt. Good morning, Mr Hunt.


PAUL BONGIORNO: It's world environment day. I believe you have something to offer other than a
carbon tax?

GREG HUNT: We do. The single best thing you can do right now to help reduce emissions on a grand
scale and to help protect the world's biodiversity is a global rainforest recovery program, and in
a bipartisan spirit, what I propose and what we're proposing is that Australia co-hosts, with
Indonesia, a global pledging conference to help with the great rainforests of the world. If you can
reduce the emissions by half from the destruction of rainforests by 2020 up to 4 billion tons of
emissions could be saved. It's about protecting the great rainforests and reducing emissions in a
practical way, and we would offer that approach in a bipartisan way with the Government. Let's look
for a global rainforest recovery program in agreement before the end of the year.

PAUL BONGIORNO: This was an initiative I remember of the Howard government, with Malcolm Turnbull,
I think, as Environment Minister. What's happened to it in the intervening years?

GREG HUNT: Look, unfortunately, the Government has dropped the ball. We put $200 million on the
table. That money has been maintained, but effectively very little additional has been done. And
right now, whether it's in Indonesia or Brazil, in parts of Central Africa, the ability to protect
the great rainforests is both vital for biodiversity, but it's also the single biggest, fastest
thing that the world could do to reduce emissions over the coming five years. And I think that's a
constructive thing, which hopefully everybody can agree to, and which hopefully the Government will
adopt. And if they don't do it, then we will do it if we're in Government.

PAUL BONGIORNO: OK. Trees are the key here. Why is it, then, that our Opposition here, in our
Federal Parliament - the Coalition - is wanting to defer the carbon-farm initiative, which will
plant trees in Australia and pay farmers to do it?

GREG HUNT: Well, we support the principle. We support the legislation of capturing carbon in our
trees and our soils and in our re-vegetation. Unfortunately...

PAUL BONGIORNO: Your National partners are on the record - they went public. They claim that this
will take up farmland that could be used to grow crops, and it may even encourage shonks.

GREG HUNT: Unfortunately, the legislation, as it's designed at the moment, is not filled out. It
doesn't have the protections that the National Farmers' Federation has called for in terms of...

PAUL BONGIORNO: I saw a press release from them on that, and they do support it.

GREG HUNT: They have called for a very important amendment. The critical thing here is, having
lived through the home insulation program, the green loans program, the Cash for Clunkers
non-start, we won't take any blank cheques from the Government. They've put legislation up which is
a blank cheque. So support for the principle - we'd like to get it through. We've said to the
Government we will work with them. At the moment, they've simply put up a shell and it's the same
problem as the home-insulation program and other programs where they haven't got the detail right,
and they don't have the credit to be taken on trust.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, the Government was quick to pick up on your colleague, Barnaby Joyce,
committing to scrapping tax cuts and pension rises along with the carbon tax. Here's Minister

GREG COMBET, CLIMATE CHANGE MINISTER (THURSDAY): Senator Joyce has confirmed that the Coalition
would, in effect, impose a double-whammy on pensioners and on families and ordinary householders.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, I think we should go to base here. Do you believe the carbon tax will, in
fact, get up? Will we have a carbon tax by July in 12 months?

GREG HUNT: Well, I won't pre-empt what the Independents may decide, but I do believe that we
shouldn't have a carbon tax because it's going to drive up the cost of electricity -

PAUL BONGIORNO: OK, we've made those arguments. Barnaby Joyce has committed, as is your leader, to
repealing the carbon tax, and along with it, the compensation it's offered. That's going to be hard
if there's a tax cut out there already, and pensioners have seen a rise.

GREG HUNT: Let me make this point and be absolutely categorical - there will be no broad-based tax
cuts under a government that Julia Gillard leads. There will not be broad-based tax cuts. The tax
cuts, as they have been talked about, are phantom tax cuts. For people over $80,000, they will
effectively face, to use Greg Combet's words, 'a double-whammy' of increasing petrol and
electricity, and now, potentially, on Professor Garnaut's words, an increase in tax rates.

PAUL BONGIORNO: That's right.

GREG HUNT: This is a huge issue about phantom tax cuts. And what we're facing now -

PAUL BONGIORNO: The issue is that, whoever doesn't get those tax cuts, are you going to take them
away from the wage earners that do?

GREG HUNT: Our principle has been clear since day one that if there is no tax, then you don't need
the compensation. As to whatever tax cuts they may or may not throw up, but at the moment they're
phantom tax cuts and there will never be broad-based tax cuts. We'll deal with an overall tax
package at the next election.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Time for a break. When we return with the panel - John Howard's Environment
Minister assesses the Opposition's direct action. And the hold-your-breath moment of the week, when
the hung parliament briefly lost confidence in the Speaker, sparking the prospect of an instant

division is Ayes, 71, No's, 72. The question is therefore negative and after Question Time, I will
be taking the time to consider my position.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER (WEDNESDAY): Please, Mr Speaker, do not add to the difficulties of
this day by feeling that you cannot continue in the chair.

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet the Press with the Opposition's Climate Spokesman, Greg Hunt.
Welcome to the panel, Lauren Wilson from 'The Australian', and political commentator Glenn Milne.
Good morning. Last month, your colleague Malcolm Turnbull accurately described, he said, "your
direct-action policy". Here he is.

MALCOLM TURNBULL, FORMER LIBERAL LEADER (THURSDAY): A direct-action policy where the Government -
where industry was able to freely pollute, if you like, and the Government was just spending more
and more taxpayers' money to offset it - that would become a very expensive charge on the budget in
the years ahead.

LAUREN WILSON, THE AUSTRALIAN: TRUenergy says you can't move from brown coal to gas without a 20%
hike in electricity prices. Given your direct-action policy isn't revenue-generating, isn't Mr
Turnbull correct that this will become a very expensive way to cut emissions?

GREG HUNT: We've actually set out very clear costings of $300 million in our first year, $500
million in our second year, $750 million in our third year. Our costs are capped, and this compares
with a Government which is about to drive up electricity prices, drive up petrol prices - just this
week we saw a new petrol tax mooted as part of the Garnaut report. And today, I would call on the
Prime Minister to rule out a new petrol tax. Our costs are capped. The Government is going to try
and drive up electricity and petrol prices as the means of forcing ordinary Australians to bear the
cost of this carbon tax.

GLENN MILNE, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Mr Hunt, when you say it's capped, obviously if you're going to
continue to reduce emissions, the scheme can't remain capped. I mean, it is going to accelerate. It
is an escalator, isn't it? Where's the money going to come from - hospitals, schools?

GREG HUNT: No. We've set out a very clear set of costs. It's approximately the same size as the
Murray-Darling Basin plan, which I believe the vast majority of people in Australia support. It's
paid for through savings. We've set out $50 billion of savings over the first four years of a
Coalition Government. Of that, it would involve $3.2 billion of the $50 billion in savings. We've
made the savings to keep taxes low. The Government - the ALP - will drive up electricity, drive up
petrol, drive up gas, and drive up groceries. And contrary to what they say, it's not the
Government or business that pays - it will be mums and dads, pensioners and seniors, small
businesses and farmers. That is precisely what was said by Professor Garnaut this week.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Your colleague, Barnaby Joyce is a real sceptic. He clearly doesn't believe
Australia can or should do anything about global warming. Here's a taste of his views.

BARNABY JOYCE, NATIONALS SENATOR (WEDNESDAY): They invent the idea of a carbon tax to support a
proposition or to cure something they can't affect, which is the temperature of the globe and they
make you pay.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Barnaby Joyce says both direct action and a carbon tax are meaningless gestures. Is
he right, or can Australia actually do something to affect climate change?

GREG HUNT: I think what Barnaby said is precisely in line with what the Climate Commission said -
that is, acting alone, Australia will have minimal impact...

GLENN MILNE: So it is a gesture?

GREG HUNT: Only if China and India and Indonesia, Russia, the United States and Canada all play
their part. And what is very interesting is that the United States, Canada, Japan, China, India,
Indonesia have all rejected the carbon-tax approach and that's what punches a hole in the
Government's idea, because it will simply send jobs and emissions offshore, and what we're seeing
now increasingly in Australia is a fight between the Labor Party as the party of elites and the
Liberal Party as the party of the mainstream that says, "We don't want to send jobs offshore, and
we don't want massively higher electricity prices. We think there must be a better way." And there

GLENN MILNE: You've got a review of your policy scheduled for 2015. That's your carbon policy.

GREG HUNT: That's correct.

GLENN MILNE: Are you able, at this point, to rule out not introducing a carbon tax as a result of
that 2015 review?

GREG HUNT: We said, and we will, we will review international circumstances at 2015. My judgment at
this point in time is that the United States, Canada, China, Japan and Indonesia are all moving
away from a carbon tax. I think it is almost improbable that the United States will head there at
any time in the next decade. I think it takes that prospect further and further away. And the test
for the Prime Minister is this - if the United States and Canada are not about to adopt a carbon
tax, why is she, and will she use that as a test for whether to jump to an emissions-trading
scheme, which will lead to a doubling of electricity prices by 2020 or soon thereafter?

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, Mr Hunt we have a Facebook and Twitter question from Cameron Foster. "What
percentage of the Liberal Party personally believe that anthropogenic or human induced climate
change is an issue that is pressing and worthy of a big policy change?"

GREG HUNT: I can't speak for individual numbers, but I can say that our policy is absolutely clear
- that we support -

PAUL BONGIORNO: Do you agree with Nick Minchin? Three years ago, Nick Minchin thought over half of
your colleagues didn't believe it.

GREG HUNT: We support the science and we support the targets. We just disagree on the idea of an
electricity and petrol tax as the means of achieving it. Let me say this - that there are about 11
million Australians who believe in climate change with a human cause and I am one of them and there
are about 4-5 million Australians who disbelieve. All parties have representatives and members with
differing views, and they have a right to those views. But our policy is clear. The difference with
the Government is about a means, and it's about an electricity and petrol tax. It's not about how
we take -- not about whether we take action, but how we take action.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for being with us on world environment - I can't even say it -
World Environment Day. Thanks very much, Greg Hunt. Coming up - Independent Senator Nick Xenophon.
And the catcall that turned into a fur ball for Liberal senator David Bushby caught cartoonist's
Kudelka's eye in 'The Australian'. He gets his own cat door -- "It's for Senator Bushby."

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet the Press. Rarely have pictures stirred such widespread revulsion as
the cruel slaughter of Australian livestock in Indonesia. At first, the Government tried to hide
behind an inquiry. But it soon caved into anger and the obvious failure of our meat export
authority to do its job.

JOE LUDWIG, AGRICULTURE MINISTER (TUESDAY): I already know that I have the option, and which I've
exercised, to ensure that 11 - we won't be sending cattle into and I haven't ruled out ruling out
any further that come to light.

PAUL BONGIORNO: That didn't satisfy our next guest - Independent Senator Nick Xenophon. Welcome
back to the program, senator.


PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, you and Andrew Wilkie, the Independent in the House of Reps, are going to put
up a bill to ban live export. There will be three years for the ban to come into effect. Will you
have the support of the parliament, do you believe, for that?

NICK XENOPHON: Look, I think both parties haven't understood or didn't get the idea of the massive
public reaction to this. My office had over 1,000 emails and phone calls. Andrew Wilkie's office -
a similar number. GetUp had 200,000 people signing their petition - enough to fill the MCG and the
SCG within two or three days. I don't think the major parties have understood the ferocity of the
public response to this. Can I say, the images on television earlier this last week in terms of
live exports is not as bad as the stuff I've seen from Animals Australia - stuff that is so
harrowing, even more revolting than what has been broadcast this week.

PAUL BONGIORNO: There's no doubt in the Labor Caucus there's something of a revolt going on.
Melissa Parke in WA - for one. Do you think that this has the capacity to split the parties if they
don't come to it on the floor of the House?

NICK XENOPHON: Such is the public reaction that I think it's inevitable that decisive action needs
to be taken. Given what the Government announced earlier this week - 11 abattoirs out of 730 -
that's a 1.5% solution, effectively. When you consider that two of those abattoirs, according to
recent reports in 'The Australian' yesterday, was that they weren't even abattoirs Australian
cattle were going to. The Australian Government needs take the same approach as the Coalition
Government did in 2006 in relation to Egypt - to ban live exports, at least to suspend them. That's
what the Australian Meat Industry Council is saying. They've very concerned about this.

LAUREN WILSON: The live-export industry is a $1.8 billion industry. It employs some 13,000 people.
What economic effect do you expect this bill is going to have?

NICK XENOPHON: I think let's look at what happened to Egypt. In 2006, when there was a suspension
of live exports, there was an uptake in chilled meat being sold. Clearly this is a difficult issue,
but it is untenable that Australia participates in a failed system where, in Indonesia, the system
is broken down systemically. There is no guarantee in terms of what the Government has done in
terms of solving the problem. So, clearly, these are issues that need to be dealt with. The
Indonesian export market is significant. But it is untenable that we continue a trade where the
system is so fundamentally broken.

PAUL BONGIORNO: We have a Facebook and Twitter question from Andrew Gunnyon on this - "Have you
personally raised the issue of banning live animal exports with Prime Minister Gillard?"

NICK XENOPHON: I've raised it with Joe Ludwig, the Agriculture Minister and Andrew Wilkie and I are
doing a bit of a tag-team on this and he's raised the issue with the Prime Minister. The Government
knows my position on this clearly. I'm working closely with Andrew Wilkie and we'll be introducing
a bill at the same time, the week after next.

GLENN MILNE: It's World Environment Day, Senator, today. Having closely watched then-tax debate to
date, what's your verdict on where it's at?

NICK XENOPHON: It's a pretty abysmal debate, actually. When you consider the Coalition's program of
direct action is a pretty clunky scheme, it's about picking winners, which itself is always a bit
problematic. But also the Government's scheme - the carbon tax - not only is a broken promise - I
think the Government's got a mandate not to introduce it - but fundamentally there are better
alternatives. That's why I'm unapologetically in favour of the frontier scheme, which will be
cleaner, it will be cheaper, it will be greener - where you don't have the same degree of revenue
churn. The problem with the Government's scheme is that it will involve an incredible amount of
recycling in the economy. It will involve a huge amount of tax redistribution, which itself is
incredibly inefficient. You need to have a much more efficient mechanism. The questions I ask of
the Treasury Secretary and people from his department in estimates a few days ago really left a lot
more questions to be open about how the scheme would be implemented. I think it will be a disaster.

GLENN MILNE: You're very keen to be on the Government's multi-party climate change committee. After
July 1, your vote's not going to count in the Senate, so why should the Government bother to invite
you on?

NICK XENOPHON: Well - (LAUGHS) There was room at the table. If you're going to call it a
multi-party committee, then I think it should be inclusive. It wasn't. The Government, for its own
reasons, decided not to have me on there. After July 1, I can still be a pesky, persistent bastard.
There's a whole range of things you can do to keep the issues going. It's just about the way you
can influence public opinion and work with the community on issues. So I'm looking forward to July
1. In fact, all of you are on the panel are invited to my 'Smashing the Plates' party in Canberra.

LAUREN WILSON: Senator, on to poker-machine reform. Do you think the Prime Minister is going to
have to use strong-arm tactics with the states? And if so, will she win?

NICK XENOPHON: What's clear is that the Commonwealth does have the constitutional power to take on
the states in this. You can't trust the states with gambling reform. They rake in $4 billion a year
in gambling taxes. Apart from window-dressing they've failed on gambling reform. We still have
hundreds of thousands of people affected by poker-machine addiction. The Commonwealth does have the
power. It's got the corporations power, taxation powers, banking and telecommunications powers.
It's a question of political will.

LAUREN WILSON: Andrew Wilkie has said he will withdraw his support for the Gillard Government if
these reforms fail. Do you believe him?

NICK XENOPHON: Absolutely. Don't underestimate Andrew Wilkie. This is a man that had a very
comfortable career with the Office of National Assessment. He threw it away because he blew the
whistle on so-called weapons of mass destruction in relation to the Iraq conflict. If anyone - and
he went back to selling Persian rugs - he can always go back to selling Persian rugs, which is what
he did after he left his ONA career. I'll be one of his first customers. Don't underestimate Andrew
Wilkie's resolve on this.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Just finally, you were on the Senate committee when the 'cat's meow' rang out. How
did it affect you at the time? What was your reaction?

NICK XENOPHON: I was too busy reading a frontier economics report. I got the reaction from Penny
Wong. I could understand why she was annoyed. Honestly, if this was going to be turned into a
movie, I think the sequel would have to be called 'Apocalypse Meow'. When you consider the remarks
of Julia Gillard and Christopher Pyne, I think the movie sequel for that would have to be called 'I
can Jump Poodles'.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Do you think it was just a diversion, or was there a point to Minister Penny Wong's

NICK XENOPHON: Look, I was only a couple of metres away from Penny Wong where I was sitting in the
committee room. She was understandably aggrieved. David Bushby did the wrong thing. Then he did the
right thing by apologising. I guess it's the sequel that you wonder whether that was overblown. In
terms of Penny Wong's reaction, I accept that it was quite genuine, and it was unnecessary in terms
of what was said to her.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you for being with us today, Senator Nick Xenophon. Thank you to our panel,
Lauren Wilson and Glenn Milne. A transcript and replay of this program will be on our webpage and
Facebook site. Until next week, goodbye.