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Subjects: Emissions trading scheme; Direct Action.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Mark Butler, welcome to ABC News 24. Has Labor taken the decision to back the carbon tax repeal legislation?

MARK BUTLER: Well we haven’t yet had a full Shadow Cabinet discussion about the eight pieces of legislation that Tony Abbott has said they will introduce into the Parliament, but we stated very clearly what our policy propositions around this question are. We took to the election a commitment to terminate the carbon tax, as it happens on the same date that Tony Abbott intends to terminate the carbon tax on the 1st of July next year. But we also took a very strong commitment that in

place of the carbon tax we would put an emissions trading scheme, a scheme that has legal limit on carbon pollution and then lets business work out the cheapest and most effective way to operate.

And that’s really the problem with Tony Abbott’s position here. They are two sides of the same coin. You can’t say you’re terminating the carbon tax on the one hand without explaining very clearly to the community what you intend to do to take action on climate change on the other hand.

CURTIS: Are the discussions in Labor essentially over the tactics, what you do with the carbon tax repeal legislation and also what you do with the legislation on the Coalition’s Direct Action plan?

BUTLER: Well, that’s right. We’ve got eight pieces of legislation we’re still looking through, and there’s the House of Representatives where the Government has a very significant majority obviously, but there’s also then the question of how this is

dealt with in the Senate. And we need to talk to other parties, the Greens Party for example, about tactics up there. But the fundamental problem with Tony Abbott’s legislation is not that it terminates the carbon tax on the 1st of July next year, but it throws the baby out with the bathwater. It also, for example, gets rid of the idea of there being a legal limit on carbon pollution. This is an utterly critical element of starting to reduce our carbon pollution as a country, yet it goes under their legislation. We’re simply not going to support that.

CURTIS: Is it though a live option, one of the options being discussed, that you back the repeal of the carbon tax and then seek to amend the Direct Action legislation to put in place what you would like to happen?

BUTLER: Well, I’m not going to get into a public discussion about our tactics because we haven’t yet had that discussion at Shadow Cabinet and at Caucus, and those are the appropriate forums within which to have those discussions. But I have tried to be as clear as I possibly can that we’re not going to buy a pig in a poke. Although we support the termination of the carbon tax, we insist that there must be a legal limit on carbon pollution and there must be a proper mechanism to get to that point.

All of the experts that have been interviewed for three years now - we only saw the latest example of this yesterday - have said that they don’t think Direct Action will achieve the reductions in carbon pollution that Tony Abbott says it will. And it certainly won’t do it at the price that Tony Abbott says it will.

CURTIS: But there are obviously quite a few options available to you, the one I put forward before - backing the legislation to scrap the carbon tax but amending Direct Action , trying to amend the carbon tax repeal legislation, or even putting in your own private members bill to achieve what you took to the last election, which is scrapping the carbon tax and moving to a floating price on an emissions trading scheme. They are all potentially options for you, aren’t they?

BUTLER: Well, they are and there are probably more, Lyndal. There are a number of different tactical positions we can adopt, but the fundamental position won’t be changing for Labor. That is that we support strong and sensible action on climate change, we insist there must be a legal limit on carbon pollution, and there’s got to be a reasonable mechanism to get there. We say that’s an emissions trading scheme, the same policy John Howard took to the 2007 election, a policy that has been picked up in not just North America and Europe, but increasingly in our own region. The Direct Action policy has no supporters, it has not friends, and it’s not going to get the job done. We won’t be supporting it.

CURTIS: Given though that you essentially agree with the Government on axing the carbon tax, the fixed price period for what was then going to move to, under Labor, a floating emissions trading scheme, is there a concern within the party at all that if you do not agree to that bit, it may muddy, or indeed pollute your argument against Direct Action?

BUTLER: Well, we think the arguments against Direct Action are very easy to make. All of the climate scientists, all of the economists who’ve had a close look at this policy have found it to be a fantasy, have found it to be a policy that’s not going to achieve significant reductions in carbon pollution, if any. And if it does do so, it’s going to cost taxpayers billions and billions of dollars.

CURTIS: But are they …

BUTLER: So making that argument, we don’t think it’s a particularly difficult one.

CURTIS: But is it politically more difficult if the Government continues to be able to criticise Labor for blocking or attempting to block the repeal of the carbon tax?

BUTLER: Well, I think that the community understands that we are as one on the termination of the carbon tax. Indeed, we agree on the date of the termination, the 1st of July next year. But you can’t separate that question out from the question of what will replace it. We wanted to replace it with an emissions trading scheme with a legal limit on carbon pollution and a mechanism that’s been shown around the world to be the cheapest and most effective way of getting those reductions happening. They want to replace it with a system that’s not supported by any serious observer of climate change policy, not just here in Australia, but around the world. And we won’t be supporting that.

CURTIS: But the legislative reality is that the Government will be putting those things as two different legislative proposals to the Parliament.

BUTLER: Well the proposal that goes to the Parliament , for example, in the first weeks we sit, in the couple of weeks in the House of Representatives, has a proposition to abolish the legal limit on carbon pollution. Now that is something we’ve said very clearly - before the election and since the election on many occasions - must be kept in place. We are not going to vote for a proposition to remove a legal limit on carbon pollution. Now, quite how we deal with this in the Parliament, as I said, needs further discussion in Shadow Cabinet and further discussion in Caucus. But there is much more than the simple termination of the carbon tax included in the bills that Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt are bringing before the Parliament. And, as I said before, they really do, in these bills, look like they’re trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater and Labor can’t support that.

CURTIS: When will Shadow Cabinet .. when will Caucus be making a decision about this, and is there the prospect that you could effectively make two decisions - how you approach it in the House of Representatives and how you approach it in the Senate?

BUTLER: Well, as I’ve said, I’m not going to get into the position of canvassing what our positions will be in either chamber, but we’ll be discussing this over the coming couple of weeks. I think it’s two weeks today that the House of Representatives reconvenes, so obviously we’ll be having to have that discussion up to that point in time. But I want to be clear that those discussions will be framed by very clear policy positions that we took to the election that Bill Shorten, Tanya

Plibersek, I and others, have re-emphasised since the election and since the leadership ballot in the Labor Party. We do intend to support a position that takes strong and sensible action on climate change.

CURTIS: Mark Butler, thank you very much for your time.

BUTLER: Thanks, Lyndal.