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Meet The Press -

View in ParlView


May 13th 2007


PAUL BONGIORNO: Good morning and welcome to Meet the Press. The Budget shells out $22 billion for
roads, no argument from the Opposition Labor Party but the Greens see red.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MARK VAILE (Thursday): The Labor Party's outsourced industrial relations
policy and some of their preselections to the union movement. We've seen the outsourcing of
budgetary and economic policy to the Democrats. Well, they've got it right at last because they've
outsourced their land transport policy to the Coalition government. Deputy PM and Transport
Minister Mark Vaile is a guest. And later the politics of climate change exposed in a new book. But
first - what the nation's papers are reporting this Sunday May 13. The 'Sunday Telegraph' leads
with "PM fights for seat." John Howard would lose his seat in a Federal election to Labor's star
recruit, Maxine McKew, if an election were held today. The Galaxy poll found a 6% swing to Labor
and a 52% to 48% vote against preferences. The 'Sunday Mail' has "Zimbabwe tour banned." The
Federal Government has banned the Australian cricket team from touring strife-torn Zimbabwe. The
paper says the Foreign Minister has told Cricket Australia he has the legal discretion to enforce
the ban. The Sunday 'Herald Sun' reports "Query over Rudd's wife." Therese Rein holds shares in
Origin Energy, which stands to benefit from her husband's policy on solar panels and hot water. A
spokesman for the Labor leader says Ms Rein is in the process of setting up a blind trust. The
'Sunday Age' reports "Tears, applause at church vigil for Maddie." Portugese villagers and
holidaymakers applaud the parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann when they attended a
church vigil. The show of solidarity came nine days after the 4-year-old vanished. Well, if dollar
signs are indicative of success, Deputy PM and Transport Minister Mark Vaile was one of the big
winners from Tuesday night's Budget. Billions into the future and millions in the meantime. Welcome
back to the program.

MARK VAILE: Thank you.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Just going to that Galaxy poll, that's showing the PM behind, that was taken after
the Budget, that wouldn't be good news would it?

MARK VAILE: The reality is we all understand the circumstances and the thinking in the electorate
across Australia, but what we never do is take it for granted and I'm sure the PM does not take his
electorate for granted as do any of the rest of the members of Government and we will be working
all the way through to election day to ensure that we get the trust and the support of the voters
in our communities. Unlike some other political leaders today that seem to be getting a little bit
heady about the levels of support around, I know the PM is very very mindful of looking after his
constituents and the fact that he needs to work for their vote.

PAUL BONGIORNO: So unlike some of the commentators this week you're not expecting a big bang out of
the Budget this week?

MARK VAILE: I think the Australian people will take their time. They'll measure up both sides and
look at what needs to be done. They'll reflect on the prosperity that has been generated in
Australia over the last 10 or 11 years and look to how that can be strategically locked into the
future and how that can be best invested and utilised in the future of Australia.

PAUL BONGIORNO: It would be a shock if John Howard lost his seat.

MARK VAILE: I think we'll wait till we get to election day to see what actually happens across
Australia and, as I say, we take nothing for granted. We don't presume anything from the
electorate. We know that we've got to continue to work hard in their interest and then convey that
message to them, and we certainly intend to do that.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Concerns were raised this week that the $250 million of supplementary funding for
local councils to be paid before June 30 was the National Party pork barrelling at its best.

MARK VAILE: Well, the Labor Party and other commentators continue to refer to investment in
strategic roads as pork barrelling and boon-doggling. The local authorities and the local
communities that will benefit from that funding because State governments haven't been able to
invest and local governments haven't been able to invest, they don't think it's pork barrelling,
they don't think it's boon-doggling, and this is a program that we've had running for a number of
years where we have an ability to scrutinise all those proposals, that have come in from across...

PAUL BONGIORNO: Will any Labor seats see some of the money?

MARK VAILE: Yes, Labor seats will receive some of the money and it is distributed across Australia
on the basis of need and these projects are prioritised on the basis of need, so yes, there will be
Liberal seats, National Party seats, Labor seats, receive funding out of this program.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Clearly, efficient transport is vital to our economic wellbeing but environmental
groups were scathing on Tuesday night for the Budget's failure to address climate change in a big
way. Here's a sample from Bob Brown.

GREENS LEADER BOB BROWN (Tuesday): The Treasurer began the speech by saying that this country of
Australia has changed a lot in the last 10 years. It's got hotter, it's got drier, and it's become
more threatened by the arrogant failure of this Government to address the environmental needs.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, the Democrats actually put out a press release after the Budget that
showed one way or the other, the diesel fuel rebate through roads, billions of dollars are going to
fossil fuels in one way or another but not much going to renewables.

MARK VAILE: Well, Paul, we didn't need to wait until this year's Budget to start doing things about
climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. For the last 10 years we've been spending billions of
dollars on a whole series of different measures that will work towards Australia meeting its
targets, but if I can - seeing as you've raised transport fuels - the most important thing we've
done in recent years is to support a production subsidy for the ethanol industry, to provide
support for retailers to be able to put infrastructure in their service stations to cope with
biofuels, and then at the end of last year with high petrol prices, we ran a campaign to ensure
that the petrol majors and resellers all reflected that saving at the bowser, so now you can buy
E10 fuel, 3 cents a litre cheaper, and most outlets around Australia where it is available - and
what we'll be doing in coming weeks is meet with the oil majors and others to make sure it is more
available and particularly from the major resellers like Coles and Woolworths - need to start
making biofuels available from their outlets so that consumers, without any cost to them - in fact
in a saving to them - can go and do something about climate change.

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're not worried that ethanol depends on crops, that the drought will severely
restrict its ability to produce?

MARK VAILE: We do have a severe drought with us at the moment and that's as a result of the
cyclical changes in our climate. It's been there in the past and will be there in the future, but
building a biofuels industry is about exactly that - building an industry so that there are a
varied and different sources of inputs as far as generating that biofuel through production,
whether it be sugar, wheat, other grains and so it does create some competitive pressures, yes, but
it's a very, very important component in what we need to do in reducing the greenhouse gas
emissions from transport industries where about 87,000 tonnes of CO2 each year from transport
industries is being emitted.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, the PM is waited for the emissions task force to report at the end of the
month. Do you as National Party leader, Deputy PM, support the need for targets to cut greenhouse
gas emissions?

MARK VAILE: We need to get that report in. We need to continue to do what we are doing in Australia
in terms of addressing the target, if you like, that that we've agreed to and that we believe we
will achieve.

PAUL BONGIORNO: We will see a target?

MARK VAILE: We will have - we already have a target. We participated in the negotiations

PAUL BONGIORNO: But beyond that?

MARK VAILE: Beyond that we do need to continue to set targets, yes, but we also need to ensure that
other major emitters across the world are doing their bit that commit as well, because unless they
do, then everything that we do and other nations do will amount to nothing.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Just briefly, have we got decades ahead of us, or should we be acting urgently,
should we be doing now?

MARK VAILE: We are already acting, we are already doing things now, but just remember, the very,
very small percentage of global emissions that come out of Australia, we need to do our bit, and we
are, but other major emitters need to do theirs as well, and unless you get that sort of overall
commitment across the world, then what we do might only just put industry and jobs at risk in
Australia and that's what as a Government we're not prepared to, do is to put jobs at risk in
Australia. We can achieve our goals without doing that.

PAUL BONGIORNO: When we return with the panel - where to now for the flying kangaroo? And the
bonfire of the vanities comes to Canberra.

LIBERAL MP DON RANDALL (Wednesday): I liken Mr Rudd to a sparkler - it's all glitz and fascinating
everybody, but eventually it goes out and you got a burnt stick in the end. But compare that with
John Howard, he's like the eternal flame, steady, constant.

TREASURER PETER COSTELLO: Well, what did he call me? A penny bugger?

PAUL BONGIRNO: You're on Meet the Press with Deputy PM Mark Vaile and welcome to the panel, Fran
Kelly from ABC Radio National Breakfast, good morning. And Clinton Porteous from the
'Courier-Mail'. Good morning. The fiasco of Airline Partners of Australia's $11 billion bid for
Qantas has raised more questions than answers. Mark Vaile has asked the company to please explain
if it is in fact Australian-owned and there's still the prospect of another raid on the Aussie

FRAN KELLY, RADIO NATIONAL 'BREAKFAST': Minister, have you heard back from Qantas yet on the whole
question of the ownership register?

MARK VAILE: In discussions that I've had with senior management from the company, they've given me
a clear undertaking that they intend to maintain the share register in such a way that it remains
compliant with the Qantas Sales Act. As the smoke clears, as it were, after the bid, and the
activity that's taken place on the share market, it will take a short period of time to ascertain
the structure of the register, but there is a process that's been in place since Qantas was
originally floated and privatised by the Labor Government in the early '90s where foreign
investors, the last ones on are the first ones off, if there's got to be an adjustment made, and
that's the action that the company will take.

FRAN KELLY: That's up to Qantas. The board is planning to meet later this week. We've already heard
from the chairwoman Margaret Jackson signalling she thinks she should stay in place and senior
executive management should stay in place. Are you happy with that? Do you have confidence in that?

MARK VAILE: There's a couple of points to make, Fran. The first is that really the future of the
board is a matter for the shareholders and I'm not going to run a commentary on that, and the
management of Qantas, I think, you would arguably say it is one of the best run and certainly one
of the safest airlines in the world and a very fierce competitor globally, so to us and to the
Australian community it's important that we see a maintenance of regional services and the
competition in the domestic network as well as the competition in the international network and
forecasts of growth in terms of their strategy. That's what the plan of Qantas management was
before this equity bid came on to the scene and presumably it will still be the case. The Qantas
board, historically, whether it's this one or its predecessors, have always been made up of highly
respected and well qualified corporate operators in Australia and I understand that's certainly the
case at the moment, so I'm sure that shareholders will reflect on those things as they go forward.

CLINTON PORTEOUS, 'COURIER-MAIL': Mr Vaile, can I just ask - was the Government or yourself deep
down, were you relieved that this APA equity bid failed? Isn't this better for regional services
that we've got it in its old hands?

MARK VAILE: Through the whole process obviously we took an interest in the things that we should,
and that is the level of service and the status of that in the country and a major icon Australian
company and how it operates within Australia, since it was privatised back in the early '90s, we
don't have an influence over its day to day commercial operations ...

CLINTON PORTEOUS: But the door's now open, isn't it? There will be another raid like this come

MARK VAILE: Well we don't know that. There may be and again that is a matter for the market place,
we need to be very clear about that. What we've also been very clear about to both shareholders and
to the board and to the equity bidders in this, is our determination to ensure compliance with the
Qantas Sales Act, the Airport Sales Act and the deed of agreement that we actually had negotiated,
the Treasurer and I negotiated, with the bidding outfit.

CLINTON PORTEOUS: As the leader of the Nationals, how happy are you that crucial regional services
are apparently up in the air in some ways?

MARK VAILE: Crucial regional services post the collapse of Ansett, have been underpinned by
Government policy and again in the Budget this year we announced a continuing assistance to small
airlines with their on-route charges to ensure that the sustainability and growth of regional air
services. The most important thing that's happened quite frankly is the development of a second
major regional provider and that's in Rex Airlines where there is now some serious competition in
those regional markets.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister on Thursday your colleague Senator Barnaby Joyce wasn't exactly happy with
the Treasurer lifting the caps on full fee-paying students at universities. Here's what he said.

SENATOR BARNABY JOYCE (Thursday): If they work hard enough at school and get into medicine, can get
through medicine, I would never want the position where these people can't actually go to
university because they can't afford it.

FRAN KELLY: The issue of full fee paying places in a sensitive one in regional Australia. People
are concerned about the impact lifting the cap might have on regional universities. We might end up
very quickly with a two tier system. Does that worry you?

MARK VAILE: We need to look at this on balance on the supply side and the demand side. One simple
response is that why shouldn't more Australians have the opportunity to go to university and pay a
full fee just as we allow foreigners to come in and pay a full fee?

FRAN KELLY: But what does that do to the regional universities?

MARK VAILE: But the other side of it is we continue to fund, if you like, subsidised places where
HECS applies and where the Government assists in those university places and to do that in a way
that assists the development of regional universities. The most important thing we can do for
students aspiring to go to university in regional Australia is make sure there are opportunities on
campuses in regional Australia just as we've done in announcing the dental program with dental
clinical school going right through the central west and the south-west of NSW in the Charles Sturt

CLINTON PORTEOUS: Another senator, Ron Boswell, a bit unlike Barnaby Joyce there, you support him
strongly in the preselection bid there. He's turning 66. Do you seriously think he will run out
those six years if he gets elected?

MARK VAILE: I certainly do. I know that Ron is an enigma in Federal politics but I've never seen a
man his age - well, I have - the PM - has the amount of energy - but I talk to Ron Boswell all the
time when the parliament is not sitting. He's all over Queensland and he's loaded with energy.

CLINTON PORTEOUS: Can you seriously tell us there's not a succession plan in place for Senator Ron

MARK VAILE: The only succession plan in place is to get Ron Boswell elected as a Senator again at
the election this year and we have some very good others on the ticket coming behind him. David
Goodwin for example is our number two on the ticket and a very very good senator, but Ron Boswell
is absolutely focused on delivering and continuing to deliver for Queensland.

FRAN KELLY: It does seem a strange party that you're running when a candidate like James Baker,
people might not know him - he worked for the National Party leader for a long time, was in the
army, a well qualified guy committed to the National Party, he'll be running against you at the
next election? Seems like a bad mistake.

MARK VAILE: A process and a party that runs probably the most democratic preselection processes, I
wouldn't call a strange party because this was a totally democratic process, a vote...

FRAN KELLY: Is that the best outcome to have a candidate like this outside your camp?

MARK VAILE: It happens in all parties. Often you'll get candidates that are not successful in a
preselection process, who get a little bit concerned about that, if not disgruntled, and want to
have their say elsewhere. You can't help that, but that's the competitive process inside of
political parties, for the future, if they're going to be members or senators, they need to be
competitive. Every now and again you get someone that might not absolutely believe in the core
philosophies of the party and will do something like this.

FRAN KELLY: Minister, just before we let you go, the whole meeting you talked about earlier with
the majors, Coles and Woolworths about petrol prices over $1.35 in Sydney this week. What pressure
can you bring to bear on them to do more, say, on E10? Apart from talk to them, do you have a big
stick here?

MARK VAILE: The biggest stick, Fran, is consumers. And consumers need to vote with their feet, and
they are. At the end of late last year when petrol prices were spiking, through public and moral
persuasion we pushed the oil companies into making sure they discounted E10 fuel by 3 cents a litre
and that's become a permanent part of the landscape if you like and in my own electorate there's a
service station there that's selling unleaded petrol for $1.23 and E10 for for $1.19. There's four
cents a litre difference. And the important point is that we need to see this more available across
Australia. There's about 500 sites now, mostly independent sites, but as Coles and Woolworths now
have the majority of the retail outlets across Australia, they should be doing their bit to assist
consumers and the environment.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The consumers in Canberra will be happy to get them to do that! Thanks for being
with us, today, Mark Vaile and enjoy your mothers day with all the mums at your place.

MARK VAILE: Thank you, and I'd like to wish all the mothers across Australia a happy mothers day.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Coming up, author Clive Hamilton comes up to join about his views - there's been a
decade of climate change sabotage. And Nicholson's cartoon from the "Australian" newspaper's
website sees the Treasurer as a frontend loader driver.

JOHN HOWARD CHARACTER: Ha ha, this mining boom is fantastic. We can do all kinds of good works.

PETER COSTELLO CHARACTER: Climate change, the drought, education, poverty.

JOHN HOWARD: No, like hand out money to swinging voters so we don't get our arses kicked in the
next election. Here, take this pocket full of selectively targeted money. Still need convincing?

MAN: Another pocket full of responsible budgeting please.

JOHN HOWARD: No worries.

MAN: (Whistles)

KEVIN RUDD CHARACTER: Here, take this.

MAN: You got my vote, mate.

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet the Press. Clive Hamilton is the Director of the Australia Institute
and economist and author. His latest book 'Scorcher' is described as a damning political chiller
documenting 10 years of the dirty politics of climate change denial and manipulation. And good
morning, Clive Hamilton.


PAUL BONGIORNO: One of the things that struck me reading your book was the remarkable symmetry
between Labor PM Bob Hawke's treatment of this issue and John Howard's. Mr Hawke may have talked
the talk but, like John Howard, he didn't walk the walk.

CLIVE HAMILTON: Well, no indeed. I guess there was a bit more of an excuse for Bob Hawke and that
was that the world hadn't quite moved as far and the science wasn't quite as frightening in his
day, but by the time Mr Howard became PM and sent Robert Hill off to Kyoto to agree to the Kyoto
protocol, you know, the international momentum and the scientific evidence was so overwhelming
that, it behoved any Government to really act and take serious action.

PAUL BONGIORNO: But the issue I guess for Bob Hawke was Australia's immense reliance on fossil
fuels, especially for exports. It's the same issue that's running now?

CLIVE HAMILTON: We're still suffering from Australia as giant quarry syndrome. I think few people
understand just how important to the Howard Government is this idea that Australia's prosperity
depends on continued exports of energy to Asia. The PM last year talked about Australia becoming an
energy superpower and he's really talking about coal at a time when we know over the next couple of
decades we need to shift away from that form of energy, and yet this commitment to continuing coal
exports seems to underpin the whole approach to climate change policy in the country.

CLINTON PORTEOUS: In the Budget, there was I think $740 million set aside for greenhouse gas
lowering and for the environment. That included the $200 million for the global tree fund and with
the hints of more to come. Were you impressed about parts of Budget?

CLIVE HAMILTON: Not at all. It's just more window dressing. One assumes that they're going to get
serious after the Budget. They didn't want the cash handouts overshadowed by big new climate change
policies because there certainly weren't any in there, but it seems to be a continuation to date at
least of the idea that we can solve this problem by handing out more cash. And we saw Mr Vaile just
pursuing that. He said that it needs to be up to consumers. It's actually not up to consumers -
it's up to government - and the Howard Government has been very keen over the years to shift
responsibility for reducing Australia's emissions from government to consumers and it hasn't

CLINTON PORTEOUS: On the Budget, though, there was I think $150 million for solar plans, there was
that $200 million forest fund, they're good things, aren't they?

CLIVE HAMILTON: Well, yeah, I noticed one of the environment leaders saying "Yes, we welcome these"
But actually, I think they're actually worse than nothing. Because they give the impression the
Government is doing something when they're not. This forest fund is just a joke. I spent a couple
of years working on forestry issues in Indonesia, there are all the international institutions -
the World Bank and so on - have spent a decade or 15 years pumping huge amounts of money into
trying to reduce deforestation in tropical countries and for Australia to come along with a piddly
$200 million and say we're going to solve the problem for greenhouse and then to claim as Mr
Turnbull does that maybe we can halve deforestation in Australia, people working on this
internationally must be laughing themselves sick.

FRAN KELLY: Clive Hamilton, the Government - and Mark Vaile did it today again - keeps making the
point that whatever Australia does will have very limited impact on the rest of the world because
we're such a small contributor in global amounts. What is your answer to a that, because it seems
undeniably but where does that fit in?

CLIVE HAMILTON: Well it's interesting because the Government in every other context is really keen
to brag about how we, to use the horrible cliche, we punch above our weight. But now when it comes
to climate change, we're just puny sort of lightweights and we can't fight in this battle. In fact,
Australia, as Al Gore said, if we changed our position, that would put tremendous pressure on the
US to shift theirs, and that really could shift the international momentum forward once again. But
bear in mind, Australia's totally emissions are greater than those of France, of Italy, they're
nearly as big as those of Britain, so if we don't do anything, then nor should Britain, France or
Italy, so of course the whole structure of that, the whole purpose of the Australian Government's
position is not to try to create a new international momentum but to destroy efforts to reduce
global greenhouse gas emissions.

CLINTON PORTEOUS: On the issue of the Labor Party, are you happy with what they're doing? Are you
hoping for a short-term target, say, by 2020 a 30% cut in emissions, is that what you're looking

CLIVE HAMILTON: We have to have that and we should distinguish between a long-term target such as
the 60% one the Labor Party has committed to and short to medium term caps which would come about
as legally binding caps which would have to go with an emissions trading system. Labor will have to
develop that idea, and indeed when the Government announces an emissions trading system which we
all expect them do in June, that will involve them setting a target, a legally binding cap which
will probably be over 5 to 10 years, so really the Government is heading towards that as well, so
the 60% long-term target is really a sort of aspirational goal to indicate where we have to go.

PAUL BONGIORNO: What sort of cap are you looking for the Government to set, that in your view would
be meaningful?

CLIVE HAMILTON: Well, the first thing that the Government has to do is to set a peak in the next
year or two so that emissions stop growing and then they have to start coming down so that by 2020
you'd want Australia's emissions to fall by about 20% from, say, year 2000 levels. That would set
us on the path to that 60% emission reduction which the scientists say we have to reach. Senior
ministers in the Government believe that this debate has decades to run. Have we got decades to
meet this challenge? Well, all of the scientists are saying and the IPCC's Nicholas Stern and from
NASA, for instance, they're saying we don't have decades to deal with this. We must start cutting
our emissions within 10 years in order to stop a dire situation turning catastrophic. I don't think
the Government grasps the seriousness of it. Mr Howard, although he's shifted his rhetoric for
political reasons, it's quite clear that he really doesn't accept climate change and that's very
alarming. Thank you very much for being with us today, author Clive Hamilton and thanks to our
panel, Fran Kelly and Clinton Porteous. Until next week, goodbye.