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Meet The Press -

View in ParlView


October 7th 2007-10-07


PAUL BONGIORNO: Hello and welcome to Meet the Press. The environment roars back to the top of the
election agenda. Decades of controversy over a pulp mill for Tasmania have ended in bipartisan
harmony as the $2 billion project in the Tamar Valley gets the green light.

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER MALCOLM TURNBULL (Thursday): This decision on the pulp mill is based on
science and science alone.

GET UP! ACTIVIST BRETT SOLOMAN (Thursday): Public comment categorically said to the minister that
we do not want the pulp mill to go ahead and, in fact, what we've seen here is the minister has
duly ignored the wishes of the Australian people.

PETER GARRETT (Thursday): The Chief Scientist has now provided him with a set of conditions which
mean that this mill can go ahead and we certainly support that decision. Shadow Environment
Minister Peter Garrett is our guest and his presence on our programme has got one of our MySpace
guests excited.


PAUL BONGIORNO: More on that later. Later also, the unions launch a new phase in their
anti-WorkChoices campaign. But first what the papers are reporting this Sunday, October 7. The
'Sunday Age' has Labour's tax relief for poor. Opposition leader Kevin Rudd will deliver generous
tax credits for low- and middle-income earners to encourage more into the workforce. The 'Sunday
Tasmanian' leads with vote bloc turns on candidates - more than 11,000 people in northern Tasmania
will work against candidates who support the controversial Gunns pulp mill. Tasmanians Against the
Pulp Mill is aiming for 15,000 signatories by the time of the election. In breaking news, the
'Guardian' in London has crisis for Brown as election ruled out. After encouraging speculation of a
snap poll, the British Prime Minister has ruled it out in the face of bad opinion polls. And the
'Sunday Mail' reports World Cup dreams smashed. Jonny Wilkinson has done it again, booting all of
England's points to defeat the Wallabies 12-10. Labor's support for the Tasmanian pulp mill project
was signalled by the party's environment spokesman. Some see it as conclusive proof that Peter
Garrett is no longer a green campaigner, but a mainstream politician. Welcome back to the
programme, Mr Garrett.

PETER GARRETT: Thanks, Paul.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Let's just go to that story. In Britain, Gordon Brown has been spooked by opinion
polls and he's called off an election. He's got two years, of course. John Howard has two months.
Do you think the opinion polls are spooking him off calling it sooner rather than later?

PETER GARRETT: I don't know the answer to that question, Paul. What I do know is the longer the
Prime Minister puts off holding the election and calling it, the more we're seeing of the $1
million a day of Government propaganda and the only way in which the Prime Minister, it seems, can
actually get his message out there is to spend taxpayers' money trying to convince us of the merits
of his policies. It hasn't worked up to now. I don't think it's going to work for the next week or
two. Given we've just had this devastating result in the football and we're all feeling it this
morning, why doesn't he get on with it and call the election?

PAUL BONGIORNO: We saw during the week, bipartisan support - both parties have agreed to the
Tasmanian pulp mill, with conditions. We did see, and this is a point some of the Green campaigners
are making, the Franklin Dam was also given the tick but opposition stymied it. Do you believe the
pulp mill will be built?

PETER GARRETT: Yes, I do, Paul. I don't think it's the same as the Franklin issue, even though I do
understand and accept that there are really strong feelings about this particular proposal. At the
end of the day, the decision that's been made is one which recognises that, if in fact you want to
have a proposal of this kind in a place like this, then have you to set very high standards, and
the Chief Scientist has set additional conditions which go to the pretty important issues that the
Commonwealth needed to consider, particularly the effluent discharge and the impact that might have
on marine ecosystems.

PAUL BONGIORNO: What about what the Commonwealth couldn't consider - the air quality and the trees?

PETER GARRETT: That's one of the difficulties we've got with the existing legislation. People
probably don't remember, but the Howard Government has actually contained the Environment
Protection Act in such a way as to leave the minister with a range of issues that he can consider
but other issues that actually don't come into it.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Would Labor change that?

PETER GARRETT: Certainly in the future we would look at amending the act to fix up what we think
are some of the deficiencies that it has. We wouldn't do it retrospectively, but we would look at
that legislation if we came into government, and we would say, in terms of Government has done in
the past, that have limited the impact that the decision-making can have in that act because of the
amendments they have made to the legislation.

PAUL BONGIORNO: It seems to be getting personal with Bob Brown. He says he's not your friend any
more and he threw out this challenge.

GREENS LEADER BOB BROWN (Thursday): Peter Garrett, will you save Tasmania's forest? Will you say no
to this pulp mill? Will you save the vineyards? Will you save the organic farmers? Will you save
the marine ecosystem? Peter Garrett, will you make a stand for Australia's environment today?

PETER GARRETT: Look, Bob is always coming up with very strong and provocative comments. He's always
personalising this debate. He comes out with stuff that is factually inaccurate as well at times.
He's playing the politics of it. If we go to the substance of it, what I will do is, if I'm in a
position to, ensure the that the best possible standards are met with a proposal of this kind, that
the conditions that have been identified by the Chief Scientist are rigorously and scrupulously
observed and that there isn't a significant impact on matters of national environment significance.
That would be the responsibility one would have in this position.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Many people believe that you've had to compromise long-held beliefs, long-held
views, to take the stand that you are.

PETER GARRETT: Paul, you know, when I joined the Labor Party, I joined in. I intend to take the
best set of environment policies that we've ever seen in an election campaign up to the Australian
people as we head toward this election. I'm also very conscious of the fantastic environment record
that Labor has. If we look at world heritage areas, if we look at the protection of the wet tropics
rain forest, if we look at Antarctica, if we look at the Great Barrier Reef, all of those things
done by good, strong, Labor governments advocating for the environment and all of them opposed in
one way or another by the Coalition and by Mr Howard.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Do you believe you will be environment minister in a Rudd government?

PETER GARRETT: That's a decision that Kevin will take.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Do you want to be?

PETER GARRETT: It's a decision that he will take but obviously it's a position that I would love to
do it but I'll do whatever I'm asked.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Here's a question from Mark Matthews on the pulp mill from our MeetthePeople site

MARK MATTHEWS ( It seems that the Government has come to recognise that climate change
is a massive issue in today's society. Don't you think that the go-ahead of the pulp mill in
Tasmania is a backwards step?

PETER GARRETT: Look, climate change is critically important. His question's absolutely right in
that regard. Is it a backwards step? I don't believe so. What is a backward step, Paul, is the fact
we haven't set a target under the Howard Government for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We've
had 11.5 years of scepticism, denial and delay. We haven't had any real, conscious awakening by
senior Government ministers to the urgency of the climate change challenge, whether it's in
relation to international negotiations, whether it's in relation to the impact that drought is
likely to have on our agricultural communities, whether it's in relation to getting on with the job
of setting up an emissions trading scheme or supporting renewable energy. All of those components
are absolutely necessary and vital in dealing with climate change. That's what we're committed to
on this side of the House.

PAUL BONGIORNO: When we come back with the panel, is Labor coasting on its climate credentials?

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet the Press with Peter Garrett. Welcome to our panel, Michelle Grattan
from the 'Age'. Good morning, Michelle.


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


PAUL BONGIORNO: On Tuesday, the CSIRO gave its updated assessment of climate changes in Australia.
It was sobering. Using advanced computer modelling, the scientists warn, at best, temperatures will
rise 1 degree by 2030, at worst, 5 degrees by 2070. The effects would be devastating droughts,
bushfires and storms. The Greens want a 30% cut in emissions by 2020 to forestall the disaster.

GREENS SENATOR CHRISTINE MILNE (Tuesday): More disasters from one end of the country to the other
and it needs more than an Akubra hat and a band-aid cheque. What it needs strategic planning and
deep cuts.


MICHELLE GRATTAN: Mr Garrett, you do of course have a long-term target but isn't the big hole in
your policy that you don't have any medium-term target for cuts?

PETER GARRETT: Michelle, I think the big hole in policy on climate change comes about because the
Government never took climate change seriously. It knocked back a series of reports that
specifically came to Cabinet and Treasurer Costello never really did the detailed modelling that's
necessary to make prudent and sensible decisions about things like interim cuts. Kevin has
commissioned Professor Ross Garnaut along with the State premiers to come back with a report,
effectively an Australian Stern Report, will provide us with the sort of information base that we
need to consider things like interim cuts. And that's what we'll certainly look at some time into
next year, if we're in a position to do that.

MICHELLE GRATTAN: Worthy as that is, surely that's a bit of a cop-out. There's a lot of information
out there and you've got more detailed policies in other areas. Surely you would be in a position
to have - to go to the people with a short-term target.

PETER GARRETT: Look, I think it would be a real mistake for us to not take advantage of the
necessary depth of information that you would need to have in government if you were making a
decision of this kind. Certainly we've set the long-term target - that's a target based in science
- and certainly we've got a number of other important policies out there, and we'll have more to
announce before the election. But it would be absolutely folly to try and make a decision of this
importance and magnitude on the basis of not having a full suite of information and data available
to you. And Professor Garnaut's remit is specifically to provide that information to us. It will be
comprehensive in terms of the recommendations that he brings forward. He's a respected economist.
He's travelling widely, not only in Australia, but overseas as well. And, on the basis of his
recommendations, if we are in government, we will be able to make those kinds of decisions in a
timely fashion.

PETER HARTCHER: Mr Garrett, in the context of the pulp mill decision in Tasmania, you said a moment
ago that Labor would consider - would in fact broaden the scope of the matters that the
Commonwealth could consider under the Environmental Protection Act. How? What areas would you
specifically include in the scope of the act?

PETER GARRETT: We think that there needs to be a climate change trigger in the act. We think some
of the amendments that were brought forward by the Government over the last term or two of the
Parliament, where they've basically allowed for a great deal of ministerial discretion in
decision-making, needs to be looked at again. They're obviously two important areas. The other
thing I would say is that, um, we've already brought forward a number of extremely good policies to
deal with climate change. I mean, we've brought forward policies about $10,000 low-interest loans,
the capacity to really leverage a significant amount of investment in climate change, improving
technology through people's homes. We've looked at a fairly considerable commitment - just on
Friday, as I was saying before we came in - to Indigenous protected areas and indigenous ranges,
looking at protecting biodiversity in the north and giving Indigenous communities an opportunity to
participate in the climate market. We've got a lot of policies out there already, Peter, and we'll
certainly have more before we go to election.

PETER HARTCHER: On the question of good policy, do you think it's good policy for the Commonwealth
and State governments to subsidise the creation of major new carbon emitters like the pulp mill in
Tasmania, which also happens to be planning to destroy a carbon sink, a native forest? Is that good
policy for subsidising new carbon emitters?

PETER GARRETT: Look, there are subsidies that operate right across the national economy. We know
that. The task is to make sure that you bring your greenhouse emissions trajectories down, that you
set a target which is clear, that you provide the certainty to enable business and governments to
make informed decisions about it, that you have an emissions trading scheme that enables you to do
that job. We're in a delay moment because the Howard Government just hasn't taken climate change
seriously at all. We are so far behind the eight-ball because of Mr Howard's intransigence on this
issue that until we have those measures in place, including considering the issues you've raised,
we'll have the sorts of decision questions that you're talking about now. that we have these

MICHELLE GRATTAN: Isn't one of your problems though, that while the Howard Government has come late
to this issue, it's now appearing to be extremely active, so, in the public mind - and surveys
suggest in the minds of swinging voters - the difference is being blurred? You haven't been able to
sharpen this debate. It's a bit like what happened with health before the last election. Isn't this
a problem for you?

PETER GARRETT: Well, I don't see the Government getting great traction on its so-called climate
change credentials. I mean, what better example did you need than their announcement of a so-called
clean energy target, which was basically bundling existing State targets into a national target -
no additional capacity for renewables.

MICHELLE GRATTAN: They got a lot of coverage and people would have thought they were doing

PETER GARRETT: Well, it lasted about a day, Michelle, and the next day we had the Prime Minister
took over the debate and bringing out a sort of recycled paper about abatement policies and now
we've got them in the process of loading up the population with additional propaganda, sending out
their so-called climate-clever propaganda messages into the public domain. Look, the Government
doesn't have credibility on climate change. That shows up consistently in the polls. Clearly, we
have showed ourselves to be serious about it. Kevin has identified it as one of the most important
issues we've got to deal with and I'm absolutely confident that when you match up the policies,
both now and also in the run-up to the election, people will very clearly see the differences
between us. We've had Minister Downer running around in other parts of the world talking about
aspirational targets and not being prepared to commit to binding targets. We've had the Agriculture
Minister saying, "Well, I'm not really sure about the climate change-drought connection. They are
stuck in an old paradigm with old rhetoric that is all about trying to mask their inaction and I
think people see through that.

PETER HARTCHER: Mr Garrett, you suggested recently an audit of Australian farmland to work out,
with drought and climate change, what might be marginal farmland and what might not be. What
criteria would you use in judging what's marginal and what's not? And what would you propose in
terms of some sort of structural adjustment perhaps to help farmers off the land?

PETER GARRETT: Look, Peter, we did say following the announcement and the research that came
through, which showed the linkages between likely impact of climate change on drought and what's
going to happen to agricultural communities, that a lot more needs to be done, and we need a better
knowledge base to make any kinds of decisions. We've also announced a $130 million package. That
includes providing rural communities with the additional counselling needs that they have. It's got
a specific component to provide us with more data and more information. I mean, on the basis that
we are now going to see a great increase in the number of drought-affected days in southern parts
of the continent, that we're going to see probably 15% less water availabilities in the
Murray-Darling system itself - this is a system that's already at its lowest level of water flowing
down the river system ever since records were kept - so it's absolutely critical for us to have a
decent information base, to work closely with those agricultural institutions that do that work,
and with the Bureau of Meteorology, and to finance and support that, so that planning for dealing
with the effects of drought and considering the kinds of land use that's appropriate for farming in
these areas can actually be determined with a sensible basis of knowledge.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, Mr Garrett, here's another question from our MySpace MeetthePeople site.

ADAM FINNEY ( If you and the Labor government were voted into power, would you reduce
the coal exports coming out of Australia, which are contributing to so much of our greenhouse

PETER GARRETT: We wouldn't. What we've said is we need a $500 million investment pool in a national
clean coal initiative.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Peter, can I just come in on that? Can there be such a thing as clean coal? Is it
an oxymoron?

PETER GARRETT: Well, the challenge for the scientists and the challenge for the industry and the
challenge for us, is to invest in it to make it work. It's very clear that we are going to be
meeting a significant amount of our future energy needs, particularly in the short term, by coal.
It's clear that our trading partners - including China - is going to be doing the same thing, and
Australian coal is clean. Yes, it is producing greenhouse gas emissions, and it's a significant
issue for us, but every bit of report that you see, including the intergovernment panel on climate
change, says pretty clearly that you must apply a necessary capital and intellectual investment to
make coal clean. And our scientists tell us, if they get the support, they can get the job done.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for being with us today, Peter Garrett. Coming up, Unions NSW
secretary, John Robertson. From the Courier-Mail's website, Brett Lethbridge and Joel Rea two men
team up to produce Peter Costello as you've never heard him.

CARTOON PETER COSTELLO (Sings): Get pushed around, knocked to the ground, I get to my feet and I
say what about me? It isn't fair, I've had enough, now I want my chair, can't you see I want to
lead? But you take more than you give. What about me?

WOMAN: Hey, look, it's John Howard.

CARTOON JOHN HOWARD: Come on, don't cry, Peter. We can be a team.




PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet the Press. The unions today will release a new batch of TV
advertisements featuring real workers and their experiences with the WorkChoices laws. Here's a

WOMAN: Under my AWA, if the restaurant wasn't busy, I didn't get paid.

MAN: The company want us on individual contracts but we want the union to represent us.

WOMAN: If a customer left without paying, it came out of my wages.

MAN: We've been told if we don't like the contract, don't show up for work.

WOMAN: Just 'cause you're young doesn't mean they should be able to do this.

MAN: The laws have taken away our right to choose.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, good morning and welcome to the program, Unions NSW secretary, John
Robertson. Were the examples in that ad of people before the Federal Government brought in the
fairness test?

NSW UNIONS SECRETARY JOHN ROBERTSON: One example was and the Cochlear workers are currently
experiencing a situation where on November 5 their collective agreement will expire. If they don't
sign individual contracts that they've already rejected, they'll move on to the Government's five
minimum standards, so those workers effectively are going to lose out quite significantly.

PAUL BONGIORNO: We've seen reports in recent times that the fairness test has caught something like
30,000 AWAs that were unfair. The Minister says it's clearly working.

JOHN ROBERTSON: Well, the reality is, we've travelled round NSW for the last two years on the
Rights at Work bus, and everywhere we go, we hear of workers telling us of situations where,
pre-fairness test - there's over a million of these AWAs - those workers have been ripped off.
We're seeing situations, particularly in regional areas, where workers are being affected 'cause
it's hard to get a job and it's really take-it-or-leave-it AWAs, where things like redundancy pay
are removed, young kids working in fast food outlets or video shops and those sorts of things are
being ripped off quite significantly and the reality is that the fairness test, whilst the
Government might like to say it's working, there are a lot of workers out there who are
fundamentally much worse off.

PETER HARTCHER: Mr Robertson, you've been reported as advocating a vote for the Greens in the
Senate in NSW. Is that correct? If so, what's the political logic of that?

JOHN ROBERTSON: It's not correct. We've been having a debate about how to vote for Rights at Work,
and certainly there's been some discussion about what that might look like with regards to the
Senate but I haven't been advocating a vote for the Greens in the Senate.

PETER HARTCHER: Is it something you'd consider?

JOHN ROBERTSON: No. Look, I think the reality is we're campaigning for Rights at Work and we're
saying to people at this election you've got to vote to protect your rights at work. The reality
is, in the Lower House, only Labor can form the alternate government. They've advocated policies
that clearly are a significant step forward from where we are under John Howard's and his
industrial relations laws. In the Senate, there is an issue about balance of power. We have unions
that aren't affiliated to the Labor Party who affiliate to Unions NSW and it's in the context of
that that we've been having that discussion but I've not been advocating a vote for the Greens.

MICHELLE GRATTAN: You've had your moments with Kevin Rudd. At one stage you said you'd take on
Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard in government and were accused by Mr Rudd of bullying tactics. How do
you think - what sort of relationship would you have in government?

JOHN ROBERTSON: I expect, like all Labor governments in the past, that there will be a relationship
with business and the union movement. In reality, it's been Labor that's brought the interests of
working families and of business together and been able to develop policies that deliver outcomes
that actually strike the right balance. I would think under a Rudd Labor government, there will be
that sort of relationship - that is business and unions and other community organisations will have
an opportunity to sit at the table to develop the policies that matter for working families.

MICHELLE GRATTAN: Mr Rudd's never been particularly close to the unions. Don't you think that in
government he might be rather tougher on the unions than he would be now when he needs you so much?

JOHN ROBERTSON: Well, I expect that Kevin Rudd will be a strong advocate for the things that he
believes are important. Likewise, I'm a strong advocate for working people and I expect that we'll
have our differences from time to time. The one thing I'm confident of is that a Labor government
is much more interested in listening to the views of working families than John Howard. With
WorkChoices when it was introduced, there was only one group that got a briefing - that was
business. They were flown down on a Sunday, got their secret briefing, and on the Monday, the laws
were introduced into Parliament.

PETER HARTCHER: As you know, the Government portrays the Labor relationship with the trade unions
as a liability, using it as the basis for a scare campaign. In particular, there's the prospect of
a fight with unions, or unions running the Labor Party. Given all of that, in the interests of
Labor, shouldn't you repudiate your threat to bring it on and have a fight with Kevin Rudd?
Shouldn't you acknowledge his right to make policy and his right to lead?

JOHN ROBERTSON: Kevin Rudd has a right to develop policy. For three years, we've been campaigning
for working families. The point I made was that, in the end, if Kevin Rudd gets there and doesn't
deliver on the things he says he will deliver on, we'll continue to campaign around issues that
matter to working families. We haven't been campaigning about the survival of the union movement.
It's been about campaigning for the interests of working families. That's what we've done for three
years and we'll continue to do that after the federal election.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Mr Robertson, just clarifying something you said before - you may not be advocating
that the unions have a how-to-vote card for the Greens. What do you think will be happening? Will
there be an open card in the Senate from the unions? Will they advocate a vote for Labor?

JOHN ROBERTSON: I think in the end what you'll see is a Rights at Work how-to-vote. I think there's
some work to be done in regards to what the Senate ticket will look like. In the end, what we are
saying to people, at this election, you've got to vote to protect your rights at work and that is
that all working people have to stick together. You haven't ruled out the possibility that you
could go for the Greens in the Senate - not you, but Unions NSW?

JOHN ROBERTSON: I don't think it will be an advocation of a vote for the Greens. I think there will
be something there that deals with this whole issue of how important the Senate is.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for joining us today, John Robertson, and thanks to our farm,
Michelle Grattan and Peter Hartcher. Don't forget you can send video questions for our guests
through Until next week, goodbye.