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ABC News Breakfast -

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COMBET: We understand it is going to take some time to get the message through to people. But I'm
finding as I'm going around the country and explaining the facts to people, they start to
appreciate that it will be an environmentally effective scheme, it will cut pollution, it will
drive investment in clean energy and at the same time will provide support to households to meet
modest price impacts and there will be strong support for jobs in the key industries like steel or
coal or aluminium. People come to understand that, albeit a comprehensive and complex piece of
policy, it's an important one for the country's future. We will continue to argue that week after
week after week, month after month, because it is the right thing for the country in the long term.

ROWLAND: And indeed you and the Prime Minister have been arguing that uphill and down dale, across
the country over the past week, but still the Essential Media poll shows that close to 70 per cent
of people believe the carbon tax will adversely affect them.

COMBET: Well we know we have got a message to get through, but it's actually a good message. The
price impacts across the economy will be very modest, only 0.7 per cent increase in the CPI, which
is much, much less than when the GST was introduced. And the Government has got a significant
household assistance package and, in particular, we are delivering that through tax cuts, and
through increases in pensions and other government payments. And, for example, for a single
pensioner facing a couple of hundred dollars a year extra in costs, the Government will be
providing $338 a year additional in the pension, a 1.7 per cent pension increase. And couple
pensioners, many self-funded retirees and many other people will be better off. All up, nine out of
ten households will receive some assistance from the Government. So we've just got to continue
getting that message through.

ROWLAND: Well that indeed is the message as you espouse, but is the message getting through? You
would be aware that Paul Howes, one of the key members of the labour movement, the head of the
Australian Workers Union, has said that Blind Freddy, his words, could see that the Government is
doing a bad job selling this carbon tax. What needs to change to switch through to those voters?

COMBET: Well you just have to keep explaining things. We are only one week into this. I noticed in
[your] earlier report that some people have got carbon price fatigue, but nonetheless this is a
very important reform and the Government will continue to explain the facts. The Prime Minister is
up here in the Hunter region today with me, this is my local region that I represent, coal mining
for example, is a very important industry here and the Government is strongly supportive of it.
Tony Abbott has been running around up here in the past claiming the coal industry will be
destroyed and all the jobs will be lost, all of which is complete rubbish, but it has engendered
apprehension in people's minds. The Prime Minister and I will be explaining to people that the coal
industry has a very strong, positive future. There is $70 billion of investment coming in, 19 new
mines committed or under construction. Jobs are going to grow in the coal industry, so we just have
the responsibility as a government to get around and explain to people what the facts are. Tony
Abbott's just been running around for months now in a very deceitful way, one of the most
unprincipled performances in Australian politics ever seen, misrepresenting things, instilling fear
into people that's completely unjustified and all for what? Just to get people to support him - I
mean it is totally opportunistic.

ROWLAND: Can you and the Prime Minister assure the coal workers you will be meeting there in
Newcastle today that their jobs will be safe once the carbon tax is implemented?

COMBET: Well we have got a $1.3 billion package targeted at some of the most gassy coal mines - and
we will be visiting one of those today - to support the jobs in them. I've made a few comments in
the media over the past week about the actual impact of the carbon price on the coal industry and
that is that it is very small. In fact it is less than $2 per tonne of coal in circumstances where
coal prices have doubled over the last couple of years. Coking coal exported out of the Newcastle
port behind me is currently selling for $320 or $330 a tonne. This industry has a really good
future. The Government has addressed the job security concerns in the package for the coal
industry, just as we have addressed it for important industries like the steel industry or the
aluminium industry or the glass industry and a whole host of others. This is a good package. It
will be environmentally effective, it will cut pollution, it will see us invest a lot more in
cleaner energy sources like gas, wind and solar power in the years to come, it will support
households through the transition with additional assistance through tax cuts and pension and other
benefit increases and it supports jobs. And we will keep explaining it because it is the right
thing to do for the long-term future of our country. Reforms are never easy but the Government is
very committed to explaining this to the Australian people and trying to seek their support for it.

ROWLAND: Well you argue the carbon price and the ETS will be good for the Australian economy but
certainly, according to the opinion polls, not in the short term at least very good for the Labor
Government. How determined is the Government to press ahead with the carbon tax if the opinion
polls keep sinking for Labor?

COMBET: Well if we have run into a position in Australian politics where public policy can't be
made because every couple of days an opinion poll comes out then we are not getting anywhere very
good. You know, Governments have a responsibility to do the right thing by the long-term future of
the country and that is what the Gillard Government is doing in this respect. We need to play our
part internationally in tackling climate change. This is a comprehensive package that puts
Australia in a position to do so. But, very importantly, it is an important economic reform that
will stand our economy in good stead in the decades to come because it will drive innovation, it
will create new jobs, it will support new technologies, it will establish a clean energy future for
the country and that is what is important for our long-term competitiveness. You've always got to
keep on the move. If you think back to the 1980s, some of the important reforms like the floating
of the dollar, the liberalisation of the financial sector, the bringing down of tariffs, the
opening up of the economy, there were a lot of similar concerns at that time. Economic reforms are
not easy to bring off, but nonetheless you have got to stick to your guns, you can't be swayed by
opinion polls that are published every couple of days, and we will do that. The Government is very
committed to making this reform and I think when it is implemented from the 1st of July next year,
people will wonder what all the fuss was all about.

ROWLAND: And just quickly before you go Minister if I could ask you in your capacity as a former
Defence Personnel Minister to comment on some fairly strident comments made to this program by the
former Army Chief Peter Leahy where he basically described the Government's strategy in Afghanistan
as half-baked, criticising the Government for not putting more civilian attention towards
nation-building in that country. Are his criticisms on the mark?

COMBET: Well I haven't seen his criticisms in detail but of course he is a well-respected former
Chief of the Army and I worked with him at the time so I will have a good look at what he has had
to say. But it is important to state that Afghanistan is a very important theatre for Australia to
be involved in along with other NATO countries. It has bipartisan support. We are very determined
to play our part internationally with our partners in Afghanistan, but I will have a look at
General Leahy's comments later today.