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Early Agenda -

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Transcript of Sky News Australia with Kieran Gilbert

Main topics: Carbon tax, regional development, WA mining royalty, Caucus.

KIERAN GILBERT: The Greens leader, Bob Brown, has launched a stinging attack against a senior
government minister as negotiations over the carbon tax intensify. Senator Brown said that Martin
Ferguson, the Resources Minister, has his head in the last century, that he's a shameful part of
Australian politics and a purveyor of dirty new coal mines that will damage the planet. With us now
on the program, the Minister for Regional Australia, Simon Crean. It sounds like the negotiations
aren't going that well if that's the sort of response that we get from the Greens leader about one
of your colleagues. That was scathing this morning.

SIMON CREAN: Well, two things. They're not the negotiations, they're public comments, and we see a
lot of things said publicly. I don't agree with any of those descriptions of Martin. I think Martin
has a very firm hand on the potential of the resources industry. He's done great work in developing
more fully that resource potential but the reality is, even recognised by the Prime Minister's own
Climate Commission, that coal is going to be a fundamental source of our energy for some time to
come. That's the reality. What we have to do is to try and transition to a lower carbon economy...

KIERAN GILBERT: So are the Greens being reckless then? Are the Greens being reckless about jobs and
economic security?

SIMON CREAN: I think all of us are trying to find - well, certainly we in the Government are trying
to find - the path forward that lowers the carbon footprint but, rather than treat it as a threat
to the nation, see the opportunities in it. There are green job opportunities in it. There are
opportunities in renewables. There are opportunities in going to a cleaner version of the coal;
that is coal seam gas.

KIERAN GILBERT: But do you agree with Martin Ferguson that the Greens are threatening to undermine
and destroy jobs?

SIMON CREAN: I don't think it helps, attacking individuals in these debates. I think what we need
is sound, reasoned heads but stating the facts and stating them graphically - I just want the truth
in this debate. We are going to be reliant on coal. We are going to have to lower the carbon
footprint. The science is there. It says that we have to face up to the challenges of climate
change. Now, what I'm saying though is don't just look through the prism of this challenge as being
on the downside. There are upside opportunities and I've travelled extensively in the regions and
I've visited 16 since the Budget. Practically every region out there, through its strategic vision,
knows it is having to face up to this challenge of a lower carbon footprint. Some are even
committing to carbon neutrality. Others are looking for and seeking, opportunities to embrace new
job opportunities in renewable - in more energy efficient operations. Let's capture the
opportunity. And let's capture that endorsement, Kieran, because here in Canberra the only focus is
on the divisions. What I think people need to do is to travel the regions, and out there people get
it. They're confused in the debate but they get the need to do something.

KIERAN GILBERT: You've travelled to Queensland recently, in the last week or so, a number of
resources towns, is this - was part of your message to reassure them that the Government does not
agree with the Greens, that coal mines not be extended or that new ones not be built? Is that part
of the message though, to those resources communities that you've been sending?

SIMON CREAN: The message in all the resources communities is we have enormous potential. How do we
best realise that potential? But, more importantly, to understand that we're an economy in
transition and we have to take the proceeds of the resources boom now and really diversify our
economic base so we've got a much more sustainable economy in the future.

KIERAN GILBERT: But you wanted to reassure them as well that you don't agree with the Greens,
obviously, that new ones - new coal mines not be built or old ones not be extended.

SIMON CREAN: This issue did not come up in the discussions with regions about the challenge of
climate change. They were looking for the opportunities. They expect us, as politicians, to develop
the framework to do it. They know the circumstances that the Government is in, they welcome the
climate change committee, they're telling us to get on with the task.

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, the Greens blocked the CPRS under Kevin Rudd. Do you think that they've
learnt their lesson? The Financial Review today quotes Christine Milne as saying that she knows
that a price south of $40 per tonne will not be enough to drive transformation but she says, quote,
it will get things started. Do you think that they're being more pragmatic, they realise this is
their last chance to get a price in?

SIMON CREAN: Well, let's see what the negotiations produce, Kieran. It's a different ballgame but
let me just say it wasn't just the Greens that blocked the CPRS, it was the Liberal Party, a
Liberal Party that was divided and changed its leader as a consequence of it.

KIERAN GILBERT: But the Greens need to be more pragmatic, don't they?

SIMON CREAN: No, no, hang on. So too do the Liberal Party, because let's understand where there is
common ground. The common ground is that we have an unconditional commitment to get to a five per
cent reduction target. Now, if the globe moves further, we're prepared to look at a further
commitment but both sides of the Parliament have committed to this five per cent reduction. The
problem for the Liberal Party is their direct action won't get them there and if you saw Greg Hunt
on television last night, he was hopeless in explaining how direct action would get them there. His
proposals they can't cost, they can't demonstrate how they would get to the five per cent. Now what
we therefore need is a negotiation of the parties with intent to try and find the solution, but we
need some honesty from the Coalition, that their proposal won't work and we need a solution that

KIERAN GILBERT: A Liberal frontbencher yesterday said that privately that you aren't the strongest
believer in the science of climate change, you and Martin Ferguson...

SIMON CREAN: Who's this frontbencher?

KIERAN GILBERT: Well, it was on this program yesterday, Peter Dutton said...

SIMON CREAN: Well, it's nonsense.

KIERAN GILBERT:...privately you're not a - you're not a strong believer. Is that correct or not?

SIMON CREAN: It is absolutely incorrect. I have never had a private conversation with Peter Dutton
about this and had I had he would know my commitment to it. When I just became Trade Minister, I
went to the Bali Trade Ministers' conference and advocating the fact that from a trade perspective
we needed to understand the implications of embracing the challenge of climate change. But let me
just go back to this point about the Liberal Party. Tony Abbott is only the leader because Malcolm
Turnbull and Joe Hockey couldn't work out between themselves who it should be. Malcolm Turnbull
says direct action won't work and Joe Hockey is critical of Abbott for having no constructive
policy. Now, you want to focus on the Greens, fine. I'm saying in this debate where the focus has
to also appear is with the Liberal Party because they have the ability to take this nation forward.
They can't go round simply saying Labor's captive to the Greens and we're out of it. If they want
to make that criticism they've got to stump up and so far their stumping up has been pathetic. It
doesn't produce a result.

KIERAN GILBERT: But you've got to win over the independents to get this through and that's the
reality of this situation. Rob Oakeshott says he's after tax measures, incentives to boost carbon
in soil initiatives. As the Minister for Regional Australia is that something that would help sell
this initiative in regional Australia?

SIMON CREAN: I think these are all constructive initiatives, all of which are on the table Kieran.
They are subject to the negotiations.

KIERAN GILBERT: Would you back that idea?

SIMON CREAN: I think the soil sequestration is terribly important. I look at it, again, from the
regional perspective. I was in the Eyre Peninsula recently, where they're doing a lot in terms of
soil sequestration that actually produces - increases agricultural productivity. That's a win-win.
This is what I'm saying. There are smart solutions for mitigation, there are programs that we're
going to be developing that help do that. So it isn't just the tax regime. The tax regime may be
part of it but, you know, the compensation measures that we're talking about, Kieran.

Understand this. It's a pretty simple proposition. If what we're doing when we set the price is
then introduce the compensation package, if people change their behaviour, which is what we want,
because that's how you lower the carbon footprint, if they reduce their energy dependency because
they do more efficient things, they do things smarter, they will actually be better off.

KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, let's look at a couple issues before I let you go. Karl Bitar, the former
national secretary, should he be working for Crown Casino? Is that a conflict? Nick Xenophon says
the rules need to be tougher not just for politicians leaving politics but staffers, advisors as

SIMON CREAN: Well, this is an interesting issue in the corporate world. I don't know what the codes
of practice are. They vary somewhat in the corporate world but I'm strongly of the view that the
code of practice in the political world, that you know, when I was Leader I advocated, should be
adhered to.

KIERAN GILBERT: So he should not be working for Crown?

SIMON CREAN: Well, he wasn't a politician so again this is a grey area but I do believe and, you
know if we look at the previous Liberal Government, where, you know, they were appointing all sorts
of people, or people soon after they left Parliament were getting into occupations that directly
related to their portfolios, and I don't think that's appropriate.

KIERAN GILBERT: A grey area but what's your sense? Should Karl Bitar go from running the party to
lobbying it, as Nick Xenophon says he's doing?

SIMON CREAN: He's got an entitlement to make a career. The lobbying issue is not the question. The
issue may arise dependent upon the issue he's engaged to do and, quite frankly, I don't know what
that is.


SIMON CREAN: I have not seen those facts.

KIERAN GILBERT: What about Wayne Swan on the royalty increase in WA? The Coalition - Joe Hockey
yesterday released a number of documents, details of correspondence that showed the Government had
a lot of warning that the WA Government was going to increase royalties.

SIMON CREAN: What, a minute to midnight? A minute to midnight. A lot of warning.

But in - this is another interesting dimension. When we tried to introduce a tax on mining profits,
we were hounded by the Liberal Party and the Western Australian Government and the miners in WA,
that this would be the end of the industry.

KIERAN GILBERT: But why did Wayne Swan say...

SIMON CREAN: No, no...

KIERAN GILBERT:...the Government had no notice when it did?

SIMON CREAN: Why is the Liberal Party not attacking the Barnett Government for introducing a tax on
production before any profits are made when they were saying the sky was going to fall in when we
introduced one on profits?

KIERAN GILBERT: So does Wayne Swan not have a case to answer on this? Why would he say the
Government had no notice when Joe Hockey has provided evidence that it did?

SIMON CREAN: Evidence? What? A minute to midnight when Colin Barnett, late last year, was
guaranteeing on the public record there would be no increase in royalty? Why isn't Joe Hockey
attacking Colin Barnett and where are the miners that were so scathing of Labor's mining tax in WA,
where are they? The silence is deafening from them, Kieran. And, by the way, this tax, this
increase in royalties that Colin Barnett has introduced, is a tax upfront and so miners who have
made no profits are going to have to increase. I wonder why they're deafening - their silence is so

KIERAN GILBERT: Just one last question. The Prime Minister told the Caucus yesterday that she's
fighting a long game. Can you understand why many Labor MPs, newer MPs, are nervous? Things are
pretty dire right now, aren't they?

SIMON CREAN: No, I don't believe they are dire. I think that we've got important challenges, but in
any term of office, and I've been through a few governments, you go through difficult patches. Why?
Because you've got to make hard decisions that set the country up for the future. The best time to
make those hard decisions is early in the term. I have every confidence that this Government will
run the full distance of its term because our relations are built around the integrity of the
packages and agreements that we've undertaken.

So the length of time that we're in office I don't question. I do accept the fact that we have to
face up to these tough decisions now and climate change is as big a structural challenge for this
economy as the reforms of the 80s and 90s, which I was also part of. What that requires is a
comprehensive approach not simplistic solutions. It also requires the Opposition to come on board
and back what they are already on the public record supporting. This is the unilateral commitment,
if you like, to an emissions reduction. We're going to come forward with a proposal that lays the
foundation for that and then the ability to build on it. We want the Opposition playing a
constructive role instead of this constant whinging and carping and it's not just me critical of
Abbott for that. So too is Joe Hockey, so too is Malcolm Turnbull, and I would suggest a lot of
people in the Liberal Party.

KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Crean, thanks for your time.

SIMON CREAN: Thank you.