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Transcript of interview with David Lipson: Sky AM Agenda: 16 October 2013: Discussing the Government's draft legislation to repeal the carbon tax

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LIPSON: Mark Butler thanks for your time this morning. The draft legislation was only released yesterday. Has Labor made any decisions on whether it will try and block this repeal legislation?

BUTLER: Well I read the legislation over the course of yesterday afternoon and yesterday evening and I think as Bill Shorten said yesterday, we’ll be considering the matter at Shadow Ministry and Caucus in due course but our position was put very clearly during the election campaign. We agree with Tony Abbott on the repeal of the carbon tax, the question is what is put in its place? And on that point, there is nothing in this legislation. All we have to go on is the policy they took to the election campaign which was not supported by a single credible climate scientist or economist. And if that is going to continue to be Tony Abbott’s position then we don’t agree on that.

LIPSON: So, does that mean that you’ll block on that point, that you’ll block this legislation?

BUTLER: Look, we haven’t considered that yet in the Shadow Ministry or in the Caucus but as I said, our position on this could not have been clearer. Kevin Rudd and I and others said in the lead in to the election campaign that it was our intention to terminate the carbon tax. So, on that point we do agree with Tony Abbott.

But this is only a couple of weeks now after international climate scientists have redoubled their calls for strong action on climate change and across the world we are seeing countries, great trading nations like China, the US, already Germany and the UK have done a lot of things in this area. They’re moving forward on climate change but it appears Tony Abbott wants to continue to take Australia backwards, and we can’t agree on that point.

LIPSON: But what’s really to consider, you knew this was what Tony Abbott was going to do before the election. He made it very clear after the election as well. Why does Caucus need to discuss this further.

BUTLER: We’ve not understood until yesterday whether Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt were simply going to put up half of their policy or all of their policy. I mean you look at yesterday’s legislation and you are an Australian who is deeply passionate about taking action on climate change, it’s a pretty depressing read because in the nature of Tony Abbott’s opposition all he does is tear something down, he doesn’t put anything in its place.

So we didn’t quite know what approach Tony Abbott was going to take on this, we now do know. So we’re going to have to work through parliamentary tactics and quite what approach we take to examining this legislation in the Parliament, in the Shadow Ministry process and in the Caucus.

LIPSON: Your position, before the election as you point out was to support a price on carbon, but you’ve lost that election. Aren’t the voters sending you a message on that, that it’s time to change your position?

BUTLER: Well, we had millions of people support our policy on climate change, and our policy on a range of other matters and this new theory of supposed mandate where by an opposition is supposed to lie down and gladly wave through any piece of legislation the Government brings to parliament is completely new, its never been that way.

Tony Abbott’s opposition, or then not Tony Abbott’s opposition, Brendan Nelson’s opposition certainly didn’t take that approach in the first week of Parliament after the 2007 election when the first thing they did was to vote against a proposal to get rid of individual workplace contracts, perhaps the most contentious thing in the 2007


I mean I think it’s important to have a vibrant democracy to test parliament, or test the Government in the parliament on policies they bring to the parliament. Tony Abbott obviously has a mandate to bring this legislation to the parliament but it’s not a proper analysis of parliamentary democracy to say that we should just turn our back on a



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policy that we’ve advocated for years and gladly wave through something we fundamentally disagree with.

LIPSON: So you’d be happy to fight this at another election?

BUTLER: Well, that’s a matter for Tony Abbott ultimately and that also assumes a range of things about how this matter progresses through the parliament. What I am saying is that we’ve stated a very clear position, it could not be clearer in the election campaign that we agree with the termination of the carbon tax but for there to be a credible climate change policy in its place. One which has a legal limit on carbon pollution, one which supported the ongoing expansion of renewable energy, one which is consistent with action being taken by our great trading partners like China, the US, Germany, the UK and many, many others. And the legislation that was presented yesterday does not come close to complying with that sort of policy that we took very clearly to the people.

LIPSON: Is the party united on this? Can you guarantee that no one will cross the floor or abstain from voting against this legislation?

BUTLER: I am very, very confident that there’s a strong view in the Labor party Caucus, in the Shadow Ministry and beyond the parliament, in the Labor party members and supporters across the country know that it is more important now than ever, after only receiving the report we received from international climate scientists a couple of weeks ago.

It is more important than ever that Australia stands up and takes strong sensible action on climate change. And the legislation presented by Tony Abbott yesterday does not come close to that.

LIPSON: Sure, a ‘strong view’, but is it a complete consensus of everyone in in the Labor party on the same page in regards to this. I suppose what I’m trying to say is can you give a categorical guarantee that no one will abstain on this, miss the vote or cross the floor?

BUTLER: This will be a view of the Labor Caucus, and every member of the Labor Caucus whether they be in the House of Reps or the Senate will be bound by whatever decision we take in terms of how we deal with this matter, but we could not have been clearer about this. Bill Shorten, the new leader of the Labor party has been clear only in the last couple of days in the importance he attaches in how we deal with climate change and that’s a very common view across the Caucus.

LIPSON: Kevin Rudd, of course, just before the election acknowledged just before the election that there is pressure on families as a result of the fixed price on carbon and that is when he promised to terminate the carbon tax. So are you happy for Tony Abbott to continue to run the line that Labor supports higher electricity and gas prices for gas bills?

BUTLER: Well he may well continue to run that line but it’s simply not true. We took the clearest possible policy to the election that was properly costed, accommodated for in the Commonwealth budget and it would have been a reduction in power prices of about 7% and a reduction in gas prices of about 6% while households, pensioners and low to middle income households were able to keep all of the compensation which was put in place a couple of years ago. So we were very attuned to the idea of the cost of living pressures households across the country were feeling as a result of the carbon tax.

But also, we knew it was important and we knew it was important in the minds of millions of Australians that while we deal with these cost of livings pressures we also put in place a credible climate change policy and really that’s where we part company

with the Government.

LIPSON: The Labor portfolios will be announced on Friday, are you going to be staying in your current role as responsible for climate change?

BUTLER: Well, that’s a matter for Bill Shorten and his leadership team and I will serve in whatever capacity Bill Shorten asks me to serve. But until Friday I am the shadow spokesperson for climate change and I am enjoying that, but I would relish the opportunity to serve in whatever capacity Bill Shorten chooses.

LIPSON: But you’re happy to stay in the role now?

BUTLER: Well that really is a matter for Bill, as someone who has been lucky enough to be elected to the shadow ministry I will be happy to serve in whatever capacity Bill chooses.

LIPSON: Mark Butler, thank you for your time this morning.

BUTLER: Thanks David.


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