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Meet The Press -

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23 August, 2009



'MEET THE PRESS' PRESENTER PAUL BONGIORNO: Good morning and welcome to 'Meet the Press'. Energy was
the key word during the week and plenty of it was expended in the political debate. The renewable
energy target was sidelined by a massive gas deal with China and claims relations with our giant
customer couldn't be worse. The Energy Minister Martin Ferguson flew to Beijing on Monday to
witness the signing of the deal. No Chinese ministers turned up and cameras were banned. That
didn't stop the Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER KEVIN RUDD: (Wednesday) Australia's largest ever export deal, a $50 billion contract
to supply liquefied natural gas to China.

OPPOSITION LEADER MALCOLM TURNBULL: (Thursday) These are national projects that have had bipartisan
support, and if Mr Rudd was more gracious - and he's not a very gracious Prime Minister - he would
have acknowledged that.

PAUL BONGIORNO: But the Opposition wasn't very gracious either, blaming Mr Rudd for China's fit of
pique over our refusal to ban a dissident from visiting and for demanding a fair trial for
businessman Stern Hu.

SHADOW FOREIGN MINISTER JULIE BISHOP: (Thursday) China is one of our most important trading
partners and this deteriorating relationship will affect our national interest.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Martin Ferguson is our guest. And later Professor Amin Saikal analyses the
Afghanistan elections. But first, what the nation's papers are reporting this Sunday, August 23.
The 'Sunday Telegraph' leads with, "Malcolm's Mates". Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull approached a
number of senior Labor figures, including Kim Beazley and Bob Hawke, as he actively pursued a
career in the ALP after the republican referendum defeat. The oil spill off Western Australia will
cost the operators of the rig millions of dollars for a clean-up. The 'Sunday Times' says the spill
is 8 nautical miles long and 30 metres wide. Two planes with chemical dispersant are on their way.
Authorities say it is too early to determine the environmental impact. The Nationals have taken a
tough line opposing the Emissions Trading Scheme, the 'Sunday Age' reports. Leader Warren Truss
says the paper won't buckle in negotiations, causing a headache for the Liberals. Despite that, the
Nationals endorsed a number of green policies including incentives for households to install solar
panels. The headline in the 'Sun Herald' is, "We're staring at defeat". Liberal staffers and MPs
are openly despairing about the prospects of winning the next election. The paper says a meeting
called to boost morale descended into a discussion on how to save the furniture. And welcome back
to the program, Martin Ferguson. Good morning.


PAUL BONGIORNO: Just going to those reports on Malcolm Turnbull, you've been around the Labor Party
a long time. Are you surprised by those reports?

MARTIN FERGUSON: I'm absolutely surprised. You know, it was only a matter of a short period ago he
was shopping around trying to find a Labor Party seat. You know, what does he really believe in? I
think that's going to be a question at my Liberal Party caucus this morning and perhaps more
importantly a major question in the mind of the Australian community. How can you believe this
bloke? What's he stand for? Where's he going for? It really looks as if he was shopping around for
the best available opportunity for himself, not Australia as a nation and nor the Liberal Party.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, he says Labor approached him.

MARTIN FERGUSON: Well, that's for Malcolm to suggest. All the reports are today it was Malcolm who
approached the Labor Party. Not one representative of the Labor Party but senior Labor Party
figures across the field, basically saying, "I'm out there. I'm a gun for hire. Really, if you want
me in the Labor Party, I'll say what want me to say. Alternatively, I can go to the Liberal Party."
And that's what's going to be in the mind of the Liberal Party caucus today - you know, what have
we ended up with as a leader? Where are we going? Perhaps more importantly, what's going to cross
their mind is how can the Australian community ever believe what Malcolm Turnbull says in the
lead-up to a key election, but perhaps more importantly, some key debates such as in the Carbon
Pollution Reduction Scheme?

PAUL BONGIORNO: It looks like the Labor Party wants to finish him off.

MARTIN FERGUSON: I think Malcolm will finish himself off. It's not for the Labor Party to worry
about those issues. We'll just get on with doing what's the right thing by Australia - confronting
the global financial crisis, doing everything we can to minimise unemployment whilst also making
progressive decisions about how we manage the environment, how we set up the Australian economy by
investing in skills and infrastructure for the future.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The other story that's around today is that oil spill off the coast of Western
Australia. As Energy Minister, have you got any latest news on that?

MARTIN FERGUSON: The oil spill is not as big as first thought. It's on the Montaro fill. The
Maritime Safety Authority is on the job. They're in charge of the clean-up and the company itself
has flown in the necessary technical advice to work out how they cap the well as quickly as

PAUL BONGIORNO: So there's no threat to the Australian coast?

MARTIN FERGUSON: There is no threat to the Australian coast and, perhaps more importantly, it is
evaporating naturally and the work of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority will merely assist
in that evaporation.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Going to that massive Gorgon gas deal, environmentalists still have a lot of
concerns and this oil spill - even though it looks like it may be contained - reinforces those
fears. Can you ensure the Australian public that we're not going to put our environment up for

MARTIN FERGUSON: Look, there's no way the environment is at risk. Perhaps more importantly, I
remind you the environmental considerations are not my considerations as the Minister for Energy
and Resources. It is an entirely separate process in the hands of the Minister for the Environment,
Peter Garrett, and he will make a decision in due course. My responsibility is to work with
government at a State level and businesses to set up the projects.

PAUL BONGIORNO: It can't be a serious proposition that at this time when you've gone to Beijing,
the Prime Minister's raised it in the Parliament, that Peter Garrett could do anything else except
give it a tick.

MARTIN FERGUSON: These environmental processes don't occur overnight. They have occurred over an
extended period and Pete has been involved in deliberate consideration of these matters at
arm's-length over an extended period. They will make a determination in due course but a hell of a
lot of work has been done environmentally and from a development perspective to get the project to
this point.

PAUL BONGIORNO: So there'll be no last-minute veto from the Environment Minister?

MARTIN FERGUSON: That's a matter for Peter to determine, not me.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, Minister, the Communist Party's mouthpiece, the 'China Daily', says Australia
has only itself to blame for souring relations. It says our Sino-phobic politicians are leading an
international anti-China chorus.

SHADOW TREASURER JOE HOCKEY: (Wednesday) At first Kevin Rudd was fawning all over the Chinese
Government and now the Chinese Government has grown impatient with the little dog that yaps.

PAUL BONGIORNO: It was a terrific deal, but we have no photographic evidence that you witnessed the
signing. They obviously are pretty PO'd with us, aren't they?

MARTIN FERGUSON: I'm told it was on the all the televisions here in Australia on Thursday evening.
I was a guest of ExxonMobil and PetroChina. There was a $50 billion export deal signed on behalf of
ExxonMobil and PetroChina. $50 billion exports for Australia - potentially a project worth $50
billion. If China is not open for business with Australia, then I don't know what is going on up

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, open for business, but obviously very unhappy with us. This has potential for
damaging us down the track.

MARTIN FERGUSON: In terms of our relationship with China, it's business as usual. We are a
resources and energy-rich nation. China wants to do business with us but, look, in any diplomatic
relationship there are going to be tensions from time to time. As the Prime Minister said, for
example, with respect to Mrs Kadeer this week, "We will determine who comes to Australia." We're
not going to be told by China or any other nation how we conduct ourselves from time to time with
respect to those issues. That is going to mean tension but it's also a maturity of the relationship
that we can have those tensions and get on with our commercial activities.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, in light of the affront, really, that Beijing took to us, maybe we should
rethink on whether the Dalai Lama should get a visa?

MARTIN FERGUSON: Not at all. The Dalai Lama has been here in the past. If he applies for a visa,
he'll be granted again. The Prime Minister has met him in the past, as, I might say, has the former
Prime Minister John Howard and the former Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer.

PAUL BONGIORNO: After the break when we're joined by the panel - are big polluters the big winners
out of the Government's climate change compromises? And rivalry between the minor parties is every
bit as fierce as the slug-fest between the big boys and girls.

FAMILY FIRST SENATOR STEVE FIELDING: (Thursday) I think the Nationals should probably consider
joining Family First because, frankly, they're not comfortable with the Liberal Party. That
Coalition is just a sham.

NATIONALS SENATOR BARNABY JOYCE: (Thursday) What I like about Family First is that even though
they've got one member sometimes they've got two positions so there's a place in there for all of

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on 'Meet the Press' with Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, and welcome to our
panel, Alison Carabine, ABC Radio National 'Breakfast'. Good morning, Alison.


PAUL BONGIORNO: And Peter Hartcher from the 'Sydney Morning Herald'. Good morning, Peter.


PAUL BONGIORNO: The Greens described Thursday as a big day for polluters. Though they voted for the
20% renewable energy target, they say too much ground was given to the big polluters and fear the
same will happen in negotiations over emissions trading.

SHADOW ENVIRONMENT MINISTER GREG HUNT: (Wednesday) All of the key things that we really wanted to
meet have been dealt with.

OPPOSITION SPOKESMAN ANDREW ROBB: (Wednesday) I think if we could now implore the Government to
apply the same common sense to the negotiation of an Emissions Trading Scheme, you know, I think we
can move forward.

ALISON CARABINE: Well, Minister, the Government has had to agree to more compensation for polluters
to cut a deal on the renewable energy target. It seems almost certain that you will also have to
boost the compo arrangements for industry to get your emissions trading legislation through the
Parliament. It does seem that, uh, polluters will be under very little price pressure to reduce
their carbon output. Doesn't that make the whole exercise rather pointless?

MARTIN FERGUSON: I don't accept that argument at all. As Minister for Energy, I know the potential
impact because of the operation of electricity generators. This is a very fine balancing act - a
price on carbon which means we make change environmentally, whilst keeping jobs in Australia. It's
not about lining the pockets of big business. It's about making real progress and when it comes to
real progress, renewable energy legislation of this week is a major stimulus package for the
Australian economy. It means that by 2020, we have got 20% of our energy supply coming from
renewable energy. That is going to be a major challenge to us as a nation.

ALISON CARABINE: Well, with regards to what you say is a major challenge, you now have the
legislation through Parliament to source 20% of electricity generation from renewables, but you did
recently say that, uh, clean, affordable base load power from solar and wind sources will be
several years away. So is the 2020 target achievable?

MARTIN FERGUSON: Look, there's going to be huge growth in wind power. Where the Government is
focused on is actually technological change to actually get in place solar thermal, geothermal and
wave power as base load power. We've not only got a renewable energy target, we've got a clean
energy strategy - for example, $1.4 billion on solar flagships and also over half a billion in
terms of trying to develop the technology such as storage capacity for solar thermal or geothermal.
You know, technology created this problem. Technology will be the solution. We're absolutely
committed, not just to a target, but bringing on all sectors of the renewable energy community.

PETER HARTCHER: Mr Ferguson, the Government is demanding that the Opposition vote for the ETS bill,
but at the same time, the treatment of the coal producers has been left hanging. There have been
talks going on for months. There's a Government $750 million compensation offer on the table and it
seems to be stalled. What do you do with this sector? Do you increase the offer of compensation or
do you railroad Australia's biggest export sector?

MARTIN FERGUSON: Look, the Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, has and continues to be
involved in discussions with the Assistant Minister Greg Combet. We're now staring at a further
discussion in the Senate and as a result of the renewable energy legislation this week, the
Coalition has signed up the ETS assistance package under renewable energy legislation because it's
linked to the CPRS. Between now and the final Senate debate we've said to the Opposition, "Put your
amendments on the table in a practical way and sit down and negotiate. Then we'll seek to work our
way through these issues, in the same way in which we're seeking to finalise our consideration of a
range of other industries because of proper requirements to actually assess them under the

PETER HARTCHER: So by the time this comes to the Senate for the next vote, you can guarantee
there'll be an agreement with the coal sector?

MARTIN FERGUSON: What I'm suggesting is that there has been and will continue to be further
discussions with a number of industry sectors. But it's also about the Opposition - if they are
serious about this - putting their amendments on the table. That's where it's ended up. We always
knew the National Party and the Greens would end up in the same corner. They don't want a
settlement because it doesn't suit their political needs. It's now a question of the Coalition
negotiating in good faith.

PETER HARTCHER: Forget about the Coalition. I mean, one of the arguments for this entire bill is to
give investor certainty. Where is certainty for the coal industry and for investors if you can't
make a guarantee?

MARTIN FERGUSON: Certainty will come out of the final resolution of these matters in the Senate.
That's exceptionally important to me as Minister for Energy because I need an investment horizon.
I've got it this week in renewable energy. I want the price in carbon determined because I need to
bring forward investment which goes to base load energy in Australia so as to ensure energy
security. We have to negotiate and resolve these issues.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, a viewer, Melanie from Meadowbank in NSW asks: "Do you believe the
Government's global warming strategies will have any serious effect on our region's environment or
will they just make industry moguls richer?"

MARTIN FERGUSON: They certainly won't make industry moguls richer. We will do what we can in terms
of our own emissions but, more importantly, we are part of a major debate internationally at the
moment on technology, such as the establishment of the global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute
which is very important not only for coal-fired power stations but also the development of the
energy industry. Putting in place technology is not only important to Australia. Take the issue of
the growth in coal-fired power stations in China. If we resolve this issue, then we are making a
major impact internationally, in the same way in which we are putting a real, significant amount of
money into R&D on renewable energy.

ALISON CARABINE: Minister, on the Gorgon gas deal, the Government has recognised the bountiful
value of exporting gas to the rest of the world. Will there be enough gas for the domestic sector?
Will Australian consumers also benefit from the resource?

MARTIN FERGUSON: The Gorgon gas development also includes a commitment to additional domestic gas
in Australia. So in each one of these projects, we're not only looking at our export opportunities
but also domestic opportunities. By way of information, I'm also working closely with BHP Billiton
and the Western Australian Government on a domestic gas opportunity called the Macedon Field.
That's a $1 billion investment and I hope to achieve that in the next 6 to 12 months.

PETER HARTCHER: There's another energy sector of course which can contribute to the solution and
you've said that the nuclear industry will be part of the global low carbon future. So where will
be its part in Australia's low carbon future?

MARTIN FERGUSON: Well, in Australia's low carbon future, we are an energy-rich nation. Coal, LNG
and renewables.


MARTIN FERGUSON: And we are a major uranium-exporting nation and it's my intention to actually
increase our uranium exports because other countries, unlike Australia, are not energy rich. They
want nuclear power. It is part of the clean energy mix beyond Australia.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, Mr Ferguson, on Wednesday, the Liberal member for Kalgoorlie was thrown out
of Parliament for being disruptive after he was fed-up with Labor's boasting about the Gorgon gas
deal, although he was a little confused over who was responsible for the outcome.

LIBERAL MP BARRY HAASE: (Wednesday) Ian Macpherson. Ian... Um... Oh, my God... Member for Broome...
Ian Macfarlane! Ian Macfarlane! He would never forgive me for that, would he?

PAUL BONGIORNO: He might have forgotten Ian Macfarlane's name but he does have a point. This is
such a huge deal that the Rudd Government was a Johnny-come-lately, wasn't it?

MARTIN FERGUSON: I think you'll find we've actually sat down and pushed the joint venture partners
very hard. I've been very rigorous about the concept of use it or lose it but perhaps more
importantly, we not only work with business, we've also worked closely with the current Premier,
Colin Barnett, and the previous Premier and Deputy Premier, Eric Ripper. All I know is, I know Ian
Macfarlane. I work extremely closely with him because I work with the Liberal Party to get my
legislation through the House and the Senate and it's now a challenge to the Liberal Party to sit
down with the Government and resolve the CPRS.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for being with us today, Martin Ferguson. And coming up - where
now for Afghanistan? Professor Amin Saikal joins us. And Moir in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' had a
feminist-eye view of the Afghanistan elections. "Afghans vote today." "We must get out and express
our basic right, if our husbands let us."

PAUL BONGIORNO: On Thursday, Afghanistan went to the polls to elect a president. There was sporadic
Taliban violence during the voting and despite 17 million eligible voters, turnout was lower than
past elections. The United Nations, though, says it's satisfied with the validity of the ballot,
while condemning insurgent attempts to disrupt the poll. And welcome to the program Professor Amin
Saikal from the ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies. Good morning, Professor.


PAUL BONGIORNO: If I can ask - an early reaction to the election? Has it taken democracy forward
or, in fact, backwards?

AMIN SAIKAL: Well, I think it's taken democracy forward but, of course, democracy can also produce
unpredictable results in a country like Afghanistan and I think at the moment we are entering
somewhat unchartered waters in the sense that both sides have claimed a victory, although it was
President Karzai's camp which made the initial claim of victory and his leading opponent, that's Dr
Abdullah's camp, has responded to it and I think these sort of premature claims of victory can only
complicate the situation and make the waters more muddy than could have been expected.

PETER HARTCHER: Professor Saikal, it's abhorrent to us that Afghanistan has introduced laws that
support the right of men to rape their wives. Should Australia be supplying troops to support a
regime like this?

AMIN SAIKAL: I think Australia should object to this very seriously. President Karzai has ratified
this law, mainly to please a section of the Shi'ite population under the leadership of a man by the
name of Musani. He wanted to buy the support of Mr Musani and his supporters during this election,
and that is the main reason that he's passed that law and from my point of view, I think Australia
and, for that matter, the international community should seriously object to this law and should do
whatever, really, it takes to remove it from the books.

PETER HARTCHER: Whatever it takes - does that include the option of threatening to withdraw troops?

AMIN SAIKAL: I think at this stage, the withdrawal of troops may not really help Afghanistan as a
whole and therefore I think we have to be concerned about the population of the country in general,
not just the particular segment. What President Karzai has been trying to do in terms of his own
politics are personalisation and tribalisation of the country, but we should really exert enough
pressure on whoever is going to win this election to rescind this law.

ALISON CARABINE: Professor Saikal, US military planners seem to be looking at a 10-year strategy
for Afghanistan. Angus Houston recently estimated the Afghanistan commitment at five years. Who do
you think is the more realistic?

AMIN SAIKAL: I think, um, Angus Houston basically tried to say that, um, it might take three to
five years to train the Afghan forces to take over. I don't think it necessarily meant that
Australia will definitely withdraw within the next three to five years. My feeling at this stage is
that probably this conflict is going to take much longer than even 10 years and the incoming head
of the British Army has already said that Britain may be involved in Afghanistan for the next four
decades and I think his prediction might come, really, more true than perhaps some of other

PAUL BONGIORNO: Professor Saikal, from what you're saying there and what the other experts are
saying, it seems that a military solution isn't the answer. I mean - perish the thought - but
should we be talking to the Taliban?

AMIN SAIKAL: I think at this stage it's going to be very difficult to talk to the Taliban and to
try to get an agreement or some sort of power-sharing arrangement which could really benefit
Afghanistan as a whole. Until such time as the Taliban is not persuaded that military is not an
option for them, they are not really going to give in to any demands for a type of agreement which
could be sold to the Afghan population as a whole. I think, first of all, it is important for a
government and international community to make sure that the Taliban insurgency is contained and to
reduce the level whereby they would be able to enter negotiation with the Taliban and pursuit of an
agreement which could be really sold to a cross section of the Afghan community and, of course,
that community is very mosaic and is - there are various forces involved in the country and they
don't see eye to eye on a number of issues and, from my point of view, the government and the
international community could negotiate with elements of the Taliban only from a position of
strength and they have not reached that point yet.

ALISON CARABINE: Does Hamid Karzai remain the West's best hope in Afghanistan? The country is
riddled with corruption. The opium barons are flourishing. There's the mistreatment of women. Is he
the right person to lead Afghanistan? Or does it not really matter who wins the election? They're
all as bad as each other? That's a bleak view.

AMIN SAIKAL: Well, I think whoever is going to win the election is going to face a daunting task in
terms of putting Afghanistan back together and rebuilding the country as well as bringing security
to a majority of the Afghan people. But at the same time, I think that President Karzai has been in
power for eight years and he has proved to be quite, really, ineffective. He has not really built a
very credible and functional administration and I think it will be an enormous boost to the process
of gradual democratisation of Afghanistan if President Karzai loses this election and he uses his
connections as well as his experience over the last year - the last eight years - to form a
credible opposition in the country. I think in that way he could really help the process of
democratisation in the country, rather than remaining in power, doing the same sort of thing that
he's been doing thus far and therefore impeding the process of democratisation and stabilisation in
the country.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Many problems still before us. Thank you very much for joining us today, Professor
Amin Saikal and thanks to our panel, Alison Carabine and Peter Hartcher. A transcript of this
program will be on our website. Until next week, goodbye.