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Transcript of interview with Ross Greenwood: Radio 2GB, Sydney : 9 September 2013: Carbon Tax repeal, Merger of the departments, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation

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Topics: Carbon Tax repeal, Merger of the departments, Clean Energy Finance Corporation

ROSS GREENWOOD: Many thanks for your time Greg.

GREG HUNT: It’s a pleasure Ross.

ROSS GREENWOOD: I know that you were called by Tony Abbott to Canberra yesterday to basically sit down and discuss the way in which you would go about repealing the Carbon Tax.

Is it as easy said as done?

GREG HUNT: We actually had a conference call, I just wanted to correct it. So he saved a lot of airfares and a lot of funds by having a conference call.

But it’s not difficult to repeal the Carbon Tax. We simply pass legislation. We’ve said that it will take effect from the 1st of July next year, Joe Hockey set that out before the National Press Club.

That means it has to pass two houses of parliament. Obviously with the numbers in the House of Representatives you would hope that we shouldn’t have too much difficulty but we want to do it carefully and appropriately. Then in the Senate, we’re not waiting for the first of July next year, this is an express, clear, absolute, fundamental election mandate.

Just as we did with Workchoices, we recognise that the public had spoken, that they believed we’d over-reached. The public has spoken and they believe that the Government has over-reached on an electricity tax and a gas tax.

We would expect them to honour the mandate, despite what they are saying now once they actually have a new leader.

ROSS GREENWOOD: Here’s the other thing as well. Are you concerned that once you get to the Senate, if you find that the ALP and also the Greens oppose it, and given the fact there is no change in the order in the Senate until July next year and even then you’ve got people coming in such as say the Palmer United Party’s candidate from Tasmania Jaqui Lambie. She basically said that Tony Abbott should not expect her support including on the scrapping of the Carbon Tax. Her quote is today, ‘from what I’ve seen the Liberal Party, it’s a very big boys club and there’s no room for boy’s clubs in politics, I think he’s got a very big ego and I imagine after my 10 years in the army, Tony Abbott and I will clash quite a bit.’

Now you’ve got people such as that coming in, fresh into our Parliament with those type of attitudes and sentiments. Is it really going to be as easily said as done?

GREG HUNT: Well I think the key thing is what was this election about? What was set up expressly, clearly and absolutely by Tony and the Coalition as the subject of the mandate?

We said that this election would be a referendum on the Carbon Tax. It was, with that as a central element.

Business has made it clear, let the Government govern.

How can it be that on day two the ALP’s really saying to the Australian people we want to vote for higher electricity prices and we want to go to the next election demanding and proposing higher electricity prices and we’ll stand in the way of a freshly elected Government carrying out its mandate?

Remember that more than half the ALP Senators, more than half the likely ALP Senators were elected at the last election on a no Carbon Tax pledge. That was their mandate.

There can be no excuse that they have argued for it, half of them were elected on a no Carbon Tax mandate. Beyond that, this election couldn’t have been clearer.

We heard the public on Workchoices, I cannot believe that they will defy the will of the Australian public no matter what they say now.

They’re going through a period of denial and I think they’re going to have to face reality and do the right thing by the economy and the right thing by the voting public.

ROSS GREENWOOD: Ok a couple of other questions for you.

How long is it before the Department of Climate Change will be dismantled?

GREG HUNT: What we’ve said is we will commence the merger as soon as the process of appointing the Ministry and swearing in the Ministry has been complete.

To be frank, during the course of the pre-election period, when we were allowed to consult with departments. We laid out the fact that there would be a merger. We were express and clear and absolute about that and we indicated we would like it to begin right from the outset.

I imagine that the public servants are preparing to do that, our agenda was clear and open and that is an official process through which we’ll go through as soon as possible.

ROSS GREENWOOD: How many jobs will that save you imagine?

GREG HUNT: Look I won’t speculate on that at this stage but we did set out savings of a considerable amount over the course of the forward estimates or the future budgets in the costings which came out last Thursday.

ROSS GREENWOOD: OK, another one, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, what the Gillard Government did when Julia Gillard was still in the Prime Minister’s chair was what was called at the time Abbott-proof that Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Now effectively what they did was they put $10 billion in a five year budget in the legislation which was passed through. What happens now to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation? Is it genuinely Abbott-proof?

GREG HUNT: No not at all.

First and foremost to be fair the board is comprised of very serious, very professional people…

ROSS GREENWOOD: …The Reserve Bank board member Jillian Broadbent is the chair of that.

GREG HUNT: Yeah, very serious, very professional people and to Ms Broadbent’s deep and underlying credit we wrote at the commencement of the election campaign requesting that they cease and desist from any loans during what’s called the caretaker period. They responded saying they would adopt that position and they look forward to working with an incoming Government on its priorities.

There was no games, they were very professional and I think that’s a very heartening response. We will work with the board, they know what the mandate of the new Government is, they know what the intention of the new Government is. I don’t anticipate there will be any difficulties.

ROSS GREENWOOD: So in other words just for spelling it out for people, the intention is to close it down?

GREG HUNT: Absolutely, we’re not going to be proceeding with new loans and we’re not going to be maintaining the organisation for the simple reason, it was going to borrow $10 billion of taxpayers money to invest in speculative ventures which the taxpayer would have to fund and which the private sector would not fund.

In the end it was a giant green hedge fund. Not the problem of the board, they didn’t set it up, it is the problem expressly of the Gillard and Rudd Governments. Their baby and it was in the tradition of pink batts and green loans and cash for clunkers.

ROSS GREENWOOD: So for example I see on their site, anybody can go and have a look at this, there’s an egg producer that’s turning chicken manure into energy, that was one of them. They thought that they could do that.

There’s a beef producer cutting their costs using solar energy, there was a for example an Adelaide lighting upgrade using on bill finance whatever that means and an ice cream maker saves on energy costs.

The question here was if those ideas were so good in terms of saving costs then why wouldn’t they go and borrow the money from their bank at commercial rates?

GREG HUNT: Exactly and perhaps the most significant one is there was a multi-million dollar figure which was borrowed by the taxpayer without the taxpayer having a say advanced to a New Zealand state owned enterprise to finance a wind farm which had already been built in Victoria.

The whole thing was meant to create new amounts of renewable energy, well that was for a wind farm that had already been built and it doesn’t matter where you stand on the renewable energy question they spend $10 billion and there’s exactly the same amount of renewable energy at the end as at the start. It just replaces lower cost forms of renewable energy with higher costs of forms.

ROSS GREENWOOD: Just one thing, given the fact that the Australian Sports Party which is a famous one people are talking about now appears to be likely to gain a Senate seat with maybe as few as 2000 votes. They’ve only got five or six objectives to promote a healthy and balanced lifestyle, to educate and motivate Australians to live healthier lifestyles, to increase sporting participation.

I mean this is hardly a mandate to go into our Senate and make decisions about the sorts of schemes that you and I are talking about.

Is our Parliamentary system to allow this type of representation, is it still wrong?

GREG HUNT: We’ll deal with the Senate which the people elect and I know the ALP intends to rail against the media and rail against the public. If the public delivers a certain outcome then that’s their democratic right and I think we have to be deeply respectful of that and deeply respectful of the parties.

It may produce some surprise results but we’ll deal with that. But in the meantime the real point is the ALP can allow the Government of the day to carry out the will of the people. And that’s what we should be doing, we should be abolishing the CEFC, we should be abolishing the Mining Tax and abolishing the Carbon Tax. And on central fundamental questions of the election in which the Carbon Tax was the most central, there’s just no excuse in the modern era for a political party to pretend there’s no mandate.

It was right at the heart of the election and if the ALP wants to vote for higher electricity prices then I don’t think they’ve listened to the people.

ROSS GREENWOOD: Do you want a good bottle of wine as a bet on the fact they won’t support it?

GREG HUNT: No, we’re against live betting odds during sporting events (inaudible)…

ROSS GREENWOOD: …Because you’re with me on that, you think they’ll oppose as well.

Greg Hunt is, well was formerly the Shadow Environment Minister but is let’s call him at the moment the likely Environment Minister of the new Government. We appreciate your time here on Money News.

GREG HUNT: Thanks Ross, Cheers.