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Transcript of interview with Barrie Cassidy: ABC1 Insiders: 9 August 2009: Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme; tracking to Kyoto and 2020 report; Renewable Energy Target; Pacific Islands Forum; fake email scandal.



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PW 217/09 9 August 2009 TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW - ABC1 INSIDERS WITH BARRIE CASSIDY SUBJECT: CARBON POLLUTION REDUCTION SCHEME, TRACKING TO KYOTO AND 2020 REPORT, RENEWABLE ENERGY TARGET, PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM, FAKE EMAIL SCANDAL E & O E - PROOF ONLY JOURNALIST: Penny Wong welcome to the program. WONG: Good morning. JOURNALIST: It’s now quite a familiar line from Christine Milne, but is the Government locking in failure? WONG: Well locking in failure would be if the Senate refuses to pass the scheme this week. We have the chance in the Senate this week, for the first time in the nation’s history, to turn around the growth in our emissions and to start to reduce them. So locking in failure would be for the Senate to reject the legislation and to reject the election commitment that was put to the people of Australia at the last election. JOURNALIST: Barnaby Joyce there raised a question; suggested that the question should be put to you: Will this scheme change the temperature of the planet? WONG: What this scheme will do, will be to ensure that Australia’s contribution to climate change starts to reduce. The report I released today shows that without the CPRS, Australia’s emissions will grow to 2020 to 120% of what they were in the year 2000; that’s what it shows. So without this scheme, Australia’s contribution to climate change will simply continue to rise, and that’s the issue that the Senate will be confronted with. JOURNALIST: Will it change the temperature of the planet? WONG: Well we’ve always said climate change is a global challenge, we have to be part of a global solution, but what you do at home matters. Australia can’t sit on the sidelines and tell the rest of the world that we want a global agreement to combat climate change but we don’t want to have to do our share. JOURNALIST: So you’re saying without your legislation, it’d be 20% above 2000 levels by 2020... because of your legislation, with the help of your legislation, how far above 2020 levels? WONG: Well that will depend on the final shape of the agreement at Copenhagen. What we have said is we want to be part of a global solution but we want to make sure we do something at home that can make a fair and important contribution to that global solution. The actual target for 2020 will depend on how ambitious the Copenhagen agreement is. It’s in Australia’s national interest to have the most ambitious agreement possible. We’ve said we’re prepared to do up to 25% of 2000

levels, a reduction of 25% off 2000 levels; so that’s around 45% below business as usual, if the rest of the world is up for an ambitious agreement. That’s what we’re pressing for, and we’re pressing for it because we know it’s in our national interest.

JOURNALIST: And what about that point that Glenn Milne has raised that a double dissolution election would be pointless in this sense because the ETS relies on regulations, then no matter what the joint sitting does it’s then still open for the Senate to reject those regulations.

WONG: I think Mr Turnbull needs to be very clear with the Australian people if this really is the Opposition strategy. I mean this is the latest in a long line of manoeuvres to get them out of supporting action on climate change. But this has to really be one of the biggest manoeuvres because it’s essentially saying that even if we did have an election on this issue we’d try and out manoeuvre the Australian people. So I think Mr Turnbull should to be very clear whether his shadow Attorney General is actually exploring this tactic as a genuine policy response to the issue of climate change.

JOURNALIST: But is this something that you have thought through? You’re quite conscious of the fact that this can be done, that the Senate can reject the regulations?

WONG: And you will see in the legislation for example that the fixed price for the first year is in the legislation. I mean what’s really being suggested here is that you’d have legislation which would set up a scheme but a hostile opposition would not listen to what the Australian people have said - I think it’s an extraordinary proposition.

JOURNALIST: So what are you saying, it’d take a brave Senate to do that?

WONG: What I’m saying is that the Opposition now should pass the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. This is a trading scheme such as they went to the Australian people with at the last election. People seem to have forgotten John Howard also had a policy for a trading scheme such as what is being put forward. What we’ve seen in the last months is division and disarray within the Coalition who clearly, clearly still have too many people in their party room who simply don’t believe climate change is a problem.

JOURNALIST: But whatever the divisions it does seem almost certain that they will reject it first time around. Are you just going through the motions this week or do you seriously sit down with them and try to negotiate an outcome?

WONG: Well Barrie if there’s anybody going through the motions it’s the Opposition. I mean Mr Turnbull and other senior members of the Coalition have effectively said, ‘we’ll probably do it next time round but we’re gonna vote it down this time around because of our party room’. I mean if there’s anybody going through the motions it’s the Opposition, and they’re doing it not because of what is in the national interest, not because this is good for Australia, but because they’re trying to get a number of people in their party room who don’t believe climate change is real to the starting plate. I don’t think that’s a responsible path.

JOURNALIST: But there’s only 4 days to go so what is going on, is there any dialogue between you and the Opposition and you at the moment?

WONG: I have said publicly over and over again, if Mr Turnbull has credible amendments that have the support of his party room, we will consider them and I am prepared to sit down and discuss them with them. He has not put those amendments forward.

JOURNALIST: Is there any suggestion that he will? Have you heard that he will?

WONG: Barrie you’ll have to ask him that. We see so many different positions form Liberal Party shadow ministers and backbenchers in the media. It’s important I think to remember it is Mr Turnbull’s responsibility to come to a position that represents the Opposition’s official position. So far not a single amendment put forward to the Government for consideration.

JOURNALIST: It could be very last minute; they have a party room meeting on Tuesday.

WONG: I look forward to hearing what their decision is, as I’m sure the rest of the population is.

JOURNALIST: I just want to clarify one thing, as it stands is your legislation more or less generous to the big polluting industries than the US climate bill?

WONG: Well this is one of the furphies that has been thrown out by the Opposition where they’ve claimed that the US bill is more generous. Certainly to the trade exposed sector, so Australian firms who export, in fact the Australian bill is more generous. We provide some 25% of free permits to those industries, recognising they trade in markets where their competitors may not face a carbon price. So certainly for that sector the Australian legislation is more generous. But I think there’s a broader proposition here which is this: We should design a scheme for Australia’s national interest, that suits Australia’s domestic economy and our international focus. It’s not appropriate for us simply to photocopy another country’s legislation, even if that does get Mr Turnbull out of having to make a difficult decision on Tuesday.

JOURNALIST: So if your bill is more generous to the big polluters is it any wonder that the Greens are unimpressed?

WONG: Well I don’t think there’s anything wrong with recognising that industries where we export and we trade in markets where competitors may not have a carbon price, for us to recognise it’s important to provide these industries with transitional assistance; that is ahead of the world moving to a comprehensive agreement. But can I say on the Greens, I mean today we see Senator Milne on television basically talking up the Greens’ prospects of a success were there to be a double dissolution. So if we want to talk about people playing politics, are we seriously suggesting that it’s a good thing for the planet to vote to ensure Australia’s emissions continue to rise but then talk up your electoral prospects if there is an election as a result of that?

JOURNALIST: One other thing she did raise this morning on television was this suggestion that you should decouple the legislation; that the renewable energy legislation should be separate from the broader bill. Why haven’t you done that when clearly industry want that? They want it and they want to get started.

WONG: We put forward legislation that’s in the national interest Barrie and...

JOURNALIST: But how is it in the national interest to link the two so the renewable energy thing can’t get started?

WONG: Well a couple of points about that. Australia needs both, we need renewable energy legislation which will drive investment in the renewable sector. That’s very important, it was our election commitment and we’re committed to it, and we will continue to press for it. But even with that legislation, even with the increase in renewable energy, Australia’s emissions will continue to rise. Our carbon pollution will continue to rise. So you need the CPRS, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, if you actually want to turn emissions around, if you actually want to turn

Australia’s carbon pollution around. We need both pieces of legislation. I await the Liberal Party’s position on this issue, because as yet we do not have any amendments being moved by them that have the support of their party room. The Government’s position is that it is best for Australia; it’s in our national interest to have both pieces of legislation.

JOURNALIST: But you might consider if they come up with an amendment putting the renewable energy legislation through now, rather than wait 3 months until November or whenever...

WONG: Well on waiting can I say the reason this legislation was deferred last time around was the Liberal Party deferred the consideration of this pending a Senate inquiry with the support of Senator Fielding. We’re committed to getting both pieces of legislation through.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about the South Pacific Forum that was held during the week; clearly it’s a major concern to a lot of the island nations about the rising sea levels. It does seem through that Australia is reluctant to adopt environmental refugees.

WONG: Can I say I was at that Forum and had a very good discussion with a number of people from our Pacific island neighbours, and there are a range of views about what they’re priorities are. So some Pacific island nations have a very strong priority on other adaptation measures, so water supply, agriculture, changing planning zones, those sorts of things, and that’s what they want assistance with. No country at that Forum was arguing for refugee status, even Kiribati. And you might have seen a representative from Kiribati at the press conference with the Prime Minister. She made the point that what they were asking for was skills based migration. These are issues that need to be worked through in the years to come. There is no doubt however that just as Australia is vulnerable to climate change, we see a very stark example of the reality of climate change in our Pacific island neighbours.

JOURNALIST: OK and just on another matter, but certainly impacting on the Senate, the Godwin Grech and the fallout from the fake email. What is your expectation now, will there be a referral to the privileges committee; is that something the Government is pushing hard for?

WONG: Well I think there are certainly very serious questions here and certainly I think Mr Turnbull’s judgment has really been called into question. On the issue of a Senate inquiry, I understand that Senator Evans will be seeking that this matter be referred to the privileges committee, that will obviously be something ultimately for the Senate to consider how to approach this issue. But I think there certainly are issues that need to be considered by the Senate about the handling of this matter in the context of the Senate Committee hearing.

JOURNALIST: Is there any anxiety within the Government about that though, given that Godwin Grech will be called as a witness and you really can’t... I guess you can’t predict what he might say and what he might do?

WONG: Look I’m not going to get into sort of ‘what might happen if’, there is an issue, the Senate will determine what it will do in the context of any privileges inquiry, if that’s determined to be the way forward.

JOURNALIST: But given the political potency on this issue where will your efforts be this week, will it be on that politically or will you focus on the climate change legislation?

WONG: Well I’ve been working, and the Government’s been working on getting this Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme up and running. That’s certainly going to be my focus this week because that clearly is what is needed. We need to give Australian business the certainty they are

seeking; people want to get on with it, we’ve been talking about this issue in this country for just about a decade now. There’s been an enormous amount of work, an enormous amount of consultation, and the result of that will be voted on in the Senate on Thursday, and Senators will have the opportunity for the first time to do the right thing and turn Australia’s carbon pollution around.

JOURNALIST: Thanks for joining us this morning.

WONG: Good to speak with you.

ENDS