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Sky News On The Hour 9am -

View in ParlView

Subjects: Renewable energy; Carbon price; Julian Assange

PM: I'm here this morning at the Australian National University with our Minister for Climate
Change and Energy Efficiency Greg Combet, and with our local Member Andrew Leigh.

I would like to thank the ANU for having us here today and you can see behind us a solar dish that
the ANU is working on, this is a way of collecting the power of the sun to make it into the clean
energy of the future.

I do also want to acknowledge that this is the last working day of Ian Chubb, the Vice-Chancellor
at ANU, who has announced his retirement. Ian Chubb has been a great leader of this university and
a very important voice in higher education in this country and I personally wish him very well for
his retirement and congratulate him on what he has achieved here at our Australian National
University.

Here today, looking at this solar dish, looking at the clean energy of the future, is one of the
important reasons why we yesterday announced pricing carbon. I want the Australia of the future to
be a clean energy low-pollution economy that has access to the jobs of the future. When our world
changes then we have to be on that wave of change, if you look at the information technology
revolution, the people who made money, who generated prosperity and jobs out of that revolution
were people who went with the wave of change like Bill Gates. I want the young Australians of the
future to have the clean energy jobs of the future. To be making their money from innovating and
bringing to the world new technology, and we see some of that on display today.

Yesterday the Government announced a mechanism to price carbon. We went to the last election saying
to the Australian people that climate change was real, that it was caused by human activity, that
we needed to cut carbon pollution. To do that efficiently we needed to price carbon and we needed
to do it through a market based mechanism and that is what was announced yesterday.

We announced yesterday carbon pricing will start on the 1st of July 2012, that it will be a market
based mechanism, that for the first few years there will be a fixed price and I don't want to mince
any words that works effectively like a tax. That we would, because we're a Labor Government,
assist Australians who need it, that we would provide assistance to Australian households to deal
with the change of pricing carbon, and we will also be working with Australian businesses.

Many Australians would have woken up this morning and seen figures used in today's newspapers
speculating about what the cost for Australians would be. Let me say to Australians those figures
are pure speculation, there is no factual base to the figures that are appearing in today's
newspapers.

The decision about the carbon price will be made in the months to come, as will the decision about
the assistance package for households. It is when those decisions are made that people will be able
to see the accurate figures; so no one should become concerned today about the figures in today's
newspapers, they are speculation and they are not taking into account the fact that as a Labor
Government, we are committed to assisting households, indeed, the biggest use of the revenue
generated from pricing carbon will go to assisting households.

We need, as a country, to make sure that we are not left behind, the world is moving to a cleaner
energy future, we need to do that to tackle climate change. That means the world is innovating,
economies are changing, and we need to make sure that we have a low pollution clean energy economy
for the future. We are very bit emitters of carbon pollution by world standards, per head of
population amongst the highest in the world. We cannot be stranded with a high pollution economy as
the world changes. That will cost Australian jobs, I want Australians in the future to have a clean
energy future with those jobs.

I'll turn now to the Minister for some comments and then we'll be very happy to take questions.

MINISTER COMBET: Thanks Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister's of course outlined the key issues for why it's important to price carbon in
the economy; I might just add a couple of words about the process from here.

The Prime Minister of course announced yesterday not only the proposed starting date but the broad
framework for a carbon price mechanism. That now enables the opportunity for the Government to
consult widely with stakeholders, particularly those within the business community, who wish to
have an input into the ultimate design of a carbon price mechanism, but also other stakeholders in
environment groups and other representatives in the community for example, who'd like to have a say
about how any household assistance package may be designed.

That is the purpose, we've got a lot of detailed work ahead of us, but it does enable us now to
have some further detailed consultations. We have set up a Business Roundtable for that purpose and
it is widely accepted at that roundtable and throughout the business community that a carbon price
is necessary so that we have a certain investment environment within our own economy, and that we
can start to cut pollution and can start to drive the investment in clean energy.

I think the CEO of Origin Energy has issued a statement this morning welcoming yesterday's
announcement and reaffirming Origin's belief that a carbon price is necessary. That's a view that
is shared, I think, widely in the business community but we will not have a period of consultation
about various detailed design issues and get our roller-skates on for the hard work that's ahead in
that coming four or five months.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister.

PM: Yes Kieran.

JOURNALIST: You confronted one of your biggest critics this morning, a fairly robust interview with
a Sydney broadcaster, is this a sign from you that you're going to butt heads on this?

PM: We will be out there advocating in this debate, we will be out there arguing for the
Government's position, and I expect that this will be a fairly fast and furious debate and at time
it'll be a little bit torrid, and in that debate I intend to give as good as I get, because in that
debate I want to be explaining to Australians why we need a clean energy future, and what
difference it will make for them and their families and the jobs of the future. I also don't want
Australians to be misled, which is why I am strongly making the point that the figures that people
have seen referred to in today's newspapers are speculation and they are not dealing with the
assistance that will be provided to households. So no one should be concerned about the figures
they've seen in today's newspapers.

JOURNALIST: You've not got a price yet and you haven't got a compensation package sorted, is this
getting out early because you know it's going to be one hell of a fight that you've got on your
hands to win this debate?

PM: Well this is a process that we've determined to work through the decisions that we need to
make, the Government decision making and the work through the Multi Party Climate Change Committee,
and we've determined to explain to the community every step of the way. So yesterday we announced
the mechanism for pricing carbon, today we're here explaining that mechanism and how it will drive
a clean energy future. The purpose of pricing carbon is to have price impacts, it means that things
that are generated with more carbon pollution will be more costly, things that are generated with
less carbon pollution will be cheaper, people will choose to buy the lower pollution cheaper
alternatives, and that's good, because it drives innovation and it drives change.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister you've said that the period of the fixed price is effectively like a
carbon tax, but this is essentially the right policy direction to head into, is this a concession
that the imperative to put a price on carbon and the imperative to take action trumps that election
commitment when you said that there wouldn't be a carbon tax?

PM: Well let's be clear about what I said and what the Labor Party stood for at the last election.
At the last election we said we believed climate change is real, that it's induced by human
activity, that you've got to cut carbon pollution if you're going to tackle climate change. We said
consistently that we believed in the power of markets and the best way of pricing carbon in our
market economy is through a market based mechanism, and that's what we announced yesterday, a
market based mechanism where businesses will need to pay for permits when they are generating
carbon pollution, that's what puts the price on carbon.

There is a fixed period at the start, it is still a market based mechanism, a permit system where
businesses will need to buy permits; they will be at a fixed price.

Now I wasn't going to get involved in a semantic and ultimately sterile debate about you call that
fixed price period, that's why I was upfront and said it's effectively like a tax and it will take
us through to a cap and trade emissions trading scheme, a market mechanism to price carbon, that's
what Labor was talking about in Government and working on between 2007 and 2010, it's what we spoke
to the Australian community about during the 2010 election

JOURNALIST: Are you worried about a people's revolt as Tony Abbott says there will be?

PM: Look Mr Abbott is someone who believes in scare campaigns, he came into politics not to create
anything, not to do any good for the Australian community, he came into politics to make his
reputation around what he could wreck. He sought to wreck the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in
the lead up to the last election, and he's just recycling the same old fear campaign now. Well I
think it's growing pretty tired, and I think Australians are also starting to look at Mr Abbott and
say 'why is it that the only thing he ever talks about is ending things, stopping things,
destroying things? Why doesn't he ever talk about positive things for Australia's future?'

Now this is a political campaign from a man with no real solutions to climate change and carbon
pollution. He's had every position on this it is possible to have, including saying to the
Australian community that the most simple way of pricing carbon is a tax, a Tony Abbott statement,
and yet despite having made that statement he's out today with this hysterical fear campaign. Well
we will have the discussion with the Australian people calmly, methodically, patiently. We will
contest every wrong proposition and every bit of fear campaign that comes from Tony Abbott and I
believe Australians will come to come to understand the way in which we are pricing carbon and
they'll view it as the right thing to do to get on with the job.

Latika.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister I followed you on the election campaign and your climate policy was
about a citizen's assembly and (inaudible) for electricity transmission lines, why don't you just
say that yes you did say there would be no carbon under the government you lead, you changed your
mind, what's wrong with sorry or that you have a different plan now?

PM: Well Latika I remember the election campaign, I was there too, and I'll refer you to all of the
statements during the election campaign. What was having a process to involve the community about?
It was about talking to people about pricing carbon through a market based mechanism, that is what
it was for, that was why we were discussing it during the election campaign. The whole foundation
stone was saying to the Australian community 'climate change is real, it's human induced, we've got
to take action, we've got to price carbon, a market based mechanism is the most important way to do
that, the most efficient way to do that.'

If you look at the political debate between 2007 and 2010, does anybody seriously contend that at
the end of that political debate people didn't understand that the Labor Party believed in pricing
carbon and wanted to see a carbon price in this country? So I'm not going to get hung up on word
games about how you describe various pricing mechanisms; and I've been very upfront with people,
with a fixed price it's effectively like a tax taking you to an emissions trading scheme. People
would have heard those words before, they were words used every second day between 2007 and
election day in 2010, people heard Labor speak about that consistently.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister was a carbon tax a core or non-core promise?

PM: Well I've just explained that.

JOURNALIST: But how do you relate the two (inaudible) then, there will be no carbon and this
morning you're telling us that for the first three to five years it will act exactly like that?

PM: Well I've just explained it to you, I knew yesterday when we announced a market based
mechanism, a permit scheme with prices where businesses would buy permits and because carbon was
priced they would have the incentive to reduce carbon pollution. I knew when we announced that
yesterday that we would be explaining to the Australian people a fixed price period and then a full
cap and trade emissions trading scheme, and I knew, because Mr Abbott opposes everything, he
doesn't want to see any positive change in this nation, he doesn't want to see us tackle climate
change, he doesn't want a clean energy future, he wants to make political hay out these issues. I
knew immediately he would be playing word games about this. Well I'm not into that kind of spin,
I'm into the substance, I'm into doing the right thing for the Australian economy and the right
thing for Australians and I am not going to stand by as Prime Minister and let some semantic word
game stop me delivering to the Australian people the clean energy economy they need for the future,
so Australian kids today have the jobs of the future and they aren't falling behind the standards
of the rest of the world.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister what about people who question your conviction given you advised Kevin
Rudd to put the ETS on ice?

PM: Well I'm not accepting the premise of your question and as for the past, people can debate what
they like about the past, I'm for the future, and making very clear my intentions for this economy
and this nation in that future.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister can you give us an update on the situation in New Zealand and the
Australians in Libya?

I can give a quick update, it's been a harrowing and very tragic night in New Zealand and people
will have seen that the death toll has continued to rise there, and people are going about the grim
and trying work of search and rescue and are finding more bodies. This does continue to be a search
and rescue mission and our search and rescue teams are there with our medical teams and they are
being joined by around 300 police to assist with community policing, but this is a tough time for
our New Zealand family and we are working with them shoulder to shoulder. And I would remind what I
said to the Parliament yesterday, we'll be demonstrating that through the cricketing community and
through a cricket match between Australia and New Zealand where the players will literally stand
shoulder to shoulder for a minute's silence, and people will have the opportunity to contribute
their money to the Red Cross earthquake 2011 appeal for our New Zealand family.

On Libya we continue to assist Australians to leave Libya, there are 37 Australians registered,
there are some 12 Australians who have been aboard a ferry to leave Libya and we will continue
working with them. This has been a very difficult set of circumstances on the ground to assist
people, but our consular staff have been working through. We had one consular person on the ground
in Libya, we've been trying to bring more in to assist; we've had problems getting visas and
getting them into the country but that's now been resolved and there will be more people there
working to assist the Australians who remain in Libya. Our message clearly is: do not travel to
Libya, and we continue to raise our voice in absolute condemnation of the vile threats and
continuing violence that Colonel Qaddafi and his regime have engaged in against the Libyan people,
he needs to listen to the voice of the Libyan people.

JOURNALIST: PM can we just get comment on Julian Assange, he and his mother say that it's a
conspiracy, a British court as ordered that he can be extradited to Sweden, what do you make of the
claims that it's a conspiracy?

PM: Ok well we'll take this question, you've got one for Minister Combet and then we'll have to go.

On Julian Assange, Julian Assange is involved in legal proceedings in the United Kingdom, Mr
Assange has indicated his intention to appeal the decision that has just come down, in those
circumstances I'm not going to make any comments about his legal case as legal proceedings are
ongoing. But I certainly can confirm that at every stage of these legal proceedings Mr Assange has
received the same degree of assistance that any Australian overseas faced with such legal
proceedings would receive. He has received consular visits, our staff have been there to visit him,
they've been there present during the trial to assist and to provide support. Mr Assange has
received exactly the same assistance package as someone named John Smith would in comparable
circumstances, there is not one iota worth of difference.

JOURNALIST: Mr Combet just back on climate change, how much responsibility do you think the Greens
have now in ensuring this process is implemented successfully, do they have a greater deal of
responsibility than they did before and what are you expecting from them?

COMBET: Well (inaudible) not making judgments about relative responsibilities other than the fact
that we are all approaching these discussions in good faith in the Multi Party Climate Change
Committee and certainly I think Senator Milne and Senator Brown have been doing so, along with Mr
Oakeshott and Mr Windsor and the Government, and so far it's produced two important results.
Firstly being an agreed set of principles that will underpin the design of a carbon price, and
secondly now a broad framework for carbon pricing. What we've now got ahead of us, as I said
earlier, is a lot of detailed work on all the elements of the design, clearly I don't think we're
giving any secrets away to indicate that there are going to be some tough decisions ahead and there
are policy differences that exist between Labor and the Greens and Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor have
got their ideas about issues too, but if you approach these issues in good faith, we all have the
objective of trying to get a well designed carbon price mechanism, I'm sure we'll succeed.

JOURNALIST: Mr Combet business says now they just have long uncertainty instead of certainty, did
you announce too little too early?

COMBET: Well I don't think business says that generally, in fact quite the opposite, many business
leaders are indicating what they are looking for is a resolution of this carbon price issue. Now
Tony Abbott has actually generated the greatest uncertainty about carbon pricing in our economy of
anyone. He usurped Mr Turnbull's leadership of the Liberal Party over this issue just 14 months ago
when there was agreement between the Coalition and the Government on carbon pricing. He's an
opportunist in that respect, prepared to overthrow certainty about carbon pricing for his own
political gain, he's going to run a scare campaign as the Prime Minister has said, but we will meet
that scare campaign and stare it down. What we've got to do is to continue to do the detailed work
to resolve this issue and that will provide the greatest certainty for the business community and
that's why I indicated earlier it will be important for us to now engage over this broad framework
and get the detailed design work done.

PM: Thank you.