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Transcript of doorstop interview: Hobart: 29 August 2013: Antarctic Program Funding, Expanding Hobart Airport, Solar Community announcement, Carbon Tax



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Transcript

The Hon Greg Hunt MP Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage

Thursday 29 August 2013

Doorstop - Hobart

Subjects: Antarctic Program Funding, Expanding Hobart Airport, Solar Community announcement, Carbon Tax

EO&E...........................................................................................................................................

GREG HUNT:

I would like to thank everyone for coming here today. We are joined by a number of our Coalition colleagues. We have Senators David Bushby and Steven Parry; our fantastic candidates, Sally Chandler for the Senate, Tanya Denison for Denison, Bernadette Black, who’s representing us in Franklin, Eric Hutchinson in Lyons and of course, Tony Press who is from the Antarctic CRC and our University of Tasmania representatives. Today the Coalition is announcing that if we are elected, we will develop a 20 year strategic vision for the Antarctic. This is about three things: it’s about extending Australia’s research capacity; it’s about extending Australia’s logistics capacity; and it’s about making Hobart and Tasmania a global gateway for the Antarctic. This airport is part of the plan. There are three funding commitments which we have made. All up it’s an $87 millon plan to make Hobart a global gateway for the Antarctic. First there is a re-commitment to the existing funding for the Antarctic CRC of $25million, there’s the additional $24million for the co-operative venture between the University of Tasmania, the CSIRO and the Australian Antarctic Division, to establish an Antarctic research centre, and this is all about, in the end, getting Australian researchers on the ice and on the waters off Antarctica to create some of the best science to make some of the deepest findings, and to have a long-term research presence to undo some of the damage which has been done by the Governments cuts to our Antarctic program. And thirdly it’s about extending the runway here. There’s a $38 million commitment to extending the runway at Hobart Airport - that serves domestic purposes, it serves commercial purposes, but it is the fundamental element if Hobart is to be a global gateway for the Antarctic. So I think that’s a tremendous outcome. I’ll also make some very

brief comments in relation to news this morning with regards to the Carbon Tax and the impact on aviation. This morning we’ve seen that Qantas reported a $6 million profit but a $106 million Carbon Tax bill; their income tax bill was $11 million. So in other words the Carbon Tax is almost ten times greater than Qantas’ bill for income tax and the Carbon Tax; is $100 million greater than the profit that Qantas made. So the Carbon Tax is affecting Tasmania, its affecting tourism, its affecting aviation and it is a real impost on one of Australia’s great companies: a $106 million bill, a $6 million profit. The numbers are evident for everybody, we will get rid of that Carbon Tax, and we will start on day one, if elected, and on day one of the Parliamentary sittings we will introduce the legislation to repeal.

On the Antarctic, I have one final announcement which I am delighted to make, and that is the lead author and the head of the strategic vision process, if we are elected, will be Tony Press. Tony has been since 2009 the CEO of the Antarctic CRC; he was before that, for a decade, the head of the Australian Antarctic Division, and his international experience is peerless in Australia. He of course will work with the University of Tasmania, the CSIRO, and the Antarctic Division, but no person in Australia and arguably there’s no one in the world who has a better geo-strategic understanding of the future of the Antarctic, the needs of the Antarctic and how we protect this majestic place; not just for our children, but for generations hence. I might invite either Senator David Bushby or Steven Perry if you wanted to say something. And Tony if you would like to say something about the role and this 20 year vision for Antarctic.

TONY PRESS:

Well thank you; I would be honoured to do this. If the Coalition is elected I think that our roll in Antarctica, Australia’s position in Antarctica is extremely important. It’s nationally strategically important, it’s scientifically important and the work we do down there and our presence there is of value to Australia, to the globe, in particular in a local sense to Tasmania. I think having a plan that outlines why we are involved in Antarctica, how we will be involved in Antarctica and how we support our Antarctic efforts, is a very important thing to do, and I’d be most pleased to head up your inquiry.

QUESTION:

Tony, how has the industry been affected by the Government cuts?

TONY PRESS:

It’s really been a fairly long process of death by a thousand cuts. We’re on the verge at the moment of losing the capacity to take a large number of scientists to do important science in Antarctica. It hasn’t happened yet but right on the cusp of that. There has been a re-commitment to fund the CRC, but that’s not enough. The infrastructure that supports Antarctic science is getting to the end of its life, the Aurora Australis of course needs replacing in the next few years. But the scientific infrastructure and the ability to have scientists on the water and on the ice is also being affected and the gradual diminishing of the flexibility in the Antarctic budget will have a very big impact in the next few years.

QUESTION:

And do you think that the extension to the airport, or the proposed extension, will that help getting scientists out to Antarctica?

TONY PRESS:

When we did the feasibility study back in the early 2000’s about flying to Antarctica, then ultimately were able to fly to Antarctica, one of the things we looked at was the capacity of the airport to take large transport planes for instance, and at the moment there are certain classes of aircraft that can’t take off loaded from Hobart Airport. So any extension to the Hobart Airport that allows for larger transport planes to fly to Antarctica would be welcome. It would, in fact, provide an alternate airport to Christchurch for instance, if there was ever another earthquake at Christchurch. Some of the planes that currently fly for the America program, could for instance fly out of Hobart rather than Christchurch. It increases the flexibility for using heavy logistics, heavy air logistics, to and from Antarctica.

QUESTION:

Mr Hunt do you see a potential for future Antarctic tourism through Hobart?

GREG HUNT:

Look I’d be very cautious on Antarctic tourism. I’ll let those who have the history and the experience determine through this process, whether or not that is appropriate. I think that our first responsibility, our overwhelming responsibility is to protect one of the world’s great, unique, global environments. So that trumps everything else. What’s happening in Antarctica though is tremendous research, but it can be better; good global co-operation, but it can be better. So the purpose of the strategic vision is to look at extending the research capacity and to look at extending our ability to be a global gateway for the logistics and co-operation. The tourism can be looked at, but I want to be very cautious, and to downplay that because the environment comes first.

QUESTION:

What sort of funding would you be thinking would be needed for Dr. Press to conduct his review?

GREG HUNT:

Look we are in a position where we will be able to deal with that internally, from existing resources. We’ll make a further statement after the election, but all up we don’t think that this is an expensive process at all, we are looking to complete it by the 1st July 2014.

QUESTION:

Would you be able to quantify as well the kind of financial turnaround that is needed from the current situation?

GREG HUNT:

Well I think we’ve started with the $38 million commitment to the runway, and the $24 million commitment to the Antarctic Research Centre. So the next step is about the strategic review; that’s precisely why we’re having a review from one of the world’s great Antarctic policy experts.

QUESTION:

Would you believe that Australia fundamentally needs to maintain its presence over its entire Antarctic claim?

GREG HUNT:

Absolutely. We support the claim, we will never deviate from that claim, and we also completely and utterly support a total permanent prohibition on mining in Antarctica. Fortunately there is not any real pressure on that, but you have to maintain vigilance.

QUESTION:

So without a Carbon Tax, what will you be doing in relation to reduce Australia’s carbon footprint?

GREG HUNT:

Sure, look our approach is a very simple approach, its direct incentives on a competitive basis to clean things up. Let me give you an example: whether it’s cleaning up waste coal mine gas or waste landfill gas, supporting energy efficiency, cleaning up power stations or closing them down, supporting revegetation in our landscape; direct real things. The sad thing about the Carbon Tax is not only is it a hit to our electricity prices, so it’s essentially an electricity tax, it also sees Australia’s emissions go up not down. On the Government’s figures they go from 560-637million tonnes of domestic emissions between 2010-2020.

QUESTION:

You’re making an announcement about New Norfolk on solar. Are we able to get a sneak peek there?

GREG HUNT:

Sure. In New Norfolk we will be announcing that there will be a solar community project in Lyons, so this will cover Central Tasmania, New Norfolk, and a series of other towns will be a part of that. This is part of the vision of trying to assist our community groups with their electricity bills, through supporting community renewable energy, and that means it could be sports clubs, it could be senior citizen centres, it may be ethnic community centres. Whatever is a not-for-profit organization, we’re looking to assist them with solar hot water, with solar PV, with reducing electricity costs, and in particular reducing greenhouse emissions through supporting local renewable energy. I have got to say Eric has been relentless in fighting for this, he really is relentless. And he has set out a very comprehensive package of local community groups that have spoken with him, about reducing their electricity bills, and doing something good for the environment.

QUESTION:

Your Direct Action plan, what would that cost Qantas when you gave some figures earlier; would it cost them anything?

GREG HUNT:

No, zero.

QUESTION:

The Legislative Council here today is debating the forestry agreement, there’s still money that industry wants to see come to them that is contingent on that passing, separate to the jobs package. What’s your message to them?

GREG HUNT:

Look I’ll let the Tasmanian Government, and the Tasmanian Parliament battle that issue out. I’d be happy for either of the senators to make comment on it. I think the last thing you need is for someone from interstate to come in, trample on a legislative process that’s occurring in the Upper House today.

QUESTION:

In the World Heritage listing there’s forests, Mr Abbott has said, that a Coalition Government would seek to have that new listing removed. Isn’t this a false promise, it’s an irrevocable decision isn’t it?

GREG HUNT:

No.

QUESTION:

So how would you seek to have it removed?

GREG HUNT:

Look we have deep concerns with the lack of community consultation. We’ve had considerable concerns from people throughout Tasmania, in particular brought through our candidates and our senators, and their problem, their issue, is that there is no real consultation and of course we can work with the international community on something like this. It’s not difficult, that’s what governments do all of the time.

QUESTION:

It’s never happened before in the history of World Heritage listing as far as I know.

GREG HUNT:

Look we have concerns. We think that there were inappropriate processes, inappropriate decisions, and I respect the views of people on both sides, but we’ve come to a very clear and common policy and position.

ERIC HUTCHINSON:

I would be happy to make a couple comments, if you’re interested. There is a process there, this was never a minor adjustment. As Greg has said there was no community consultation, this went from 130,000 hectares initially to 172,000 hectares when Dr. Brown was consulted. Those private land owners that border this now new boundary, which hasn’t been finalised as yet, which includes plantations, which includes in fact pine forests within the World Heritage boundaries, didn’t involve community consultation, and is not a minor adjustment, in excess of 10%. There is an obligation, I think it was ICOMOS that has highlighted there was the recommendation to, in fact the World Heritage committee said that there was no consultation with the Aboriginal community in the process and recommended the nomination not be accepted until that had occurred. And this was a very inappropriate and rushed decision by, at the time, Minister Burke.

QUESTION:

Were you aware of any precedent for it?

ERIC HUTCHINSON:

I’m not aware of any precedent for it, but it is a fundamental thing. There was no consultation with the local community, and that’s been highlighted by the advisory bodies to the World Heritage list.

BERNADETTE BLACK:

Can I make a comment also? It’s certainly something, and what you’ve said is absolutely right, and in the Huon Valley we’ve seen firsthand the lack of consultation to stake-holders and the flow on effect, for instance, one of those being a road house in the Huon Valley was making 120 egg and bacon rolls a day, is now making under 20. We’re seeing more fly in fly out from that area than ever has seen before. So this is the consultation that has not been done.

QUESTION:

Mr Hunt, you’ve spoken about global rainforests mentioned at the G20. One of the largest temperate rainforests in the southern hemisphere is in the Tarkine, how would that fit in for your plan to revitalise rainforests around the world?

GREG HUNT:

Look, I want to say something about this. We are the party that negotiated protection of much of the Tarkine. It was John Howard and Ian Campbell that did that. They had a long term vision as to what was the appropriate balance and the challenge has been a lack of balance, where people coming in from outside Tasmania are making decisions for Tasmania, without balance. And our approach is to restore the balance. We think we got it right on the Tarkine,

that that has protected the most significant areas in the best possible way. And I think that people should be very proud of that balance, because it protects the high conservation areas in a way which I think will have a lasting and enduring legacy. It recognises that there are parts which have been mixed use.

[ENDS]

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