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Transcript of interview with Lyndal Curtis: ABC News Capital Hill: 17 June 2014: discusses Environment One-Stop-Shop; Labor's climate policy; Emissions Trading Scheme; and Renewable Energy.



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THE HON MARK BUTLER MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND WATER MEMBER FOR PORT ADELAIDE

E&OE TRANSCRIPT TELEVISION INTERVIEW ABC 24 CAPITAL HILL WITH LYNDAL CURTIS TUESDAY, 17 JUNE 2014

SUBJECT/S: Environment One-Stop-Shop; Labor’s climate policy; Emissions Trading Scheme; Renewable Energy.

LYNDAL CURTIS: On the other side of politics the Federal Opposition is still planning to oppose the Government's move to scrap the carbon tax and replace it with its Direct Action plan but the commitment to a Emissions Trading Scheme may not be one Labor takes to the next election. I spoke to the Environment Minister Mark Butler a short time ago. If I could start by asking you, Caucus didn't pass a motion calling effectively for an end to Labor's support for offshore detention but passed another one. Is that settling Labor's policy on offshore detention?

MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND WATER: As you know we have a long standing convention not to talk about our internal debates within the Caucus. There's a briefing that's given to the media. As you know it was a respectful debate and I don't have anything to add to that.

CURTIS: We know from the briefing what happened, does that mean this issue is settled once and for all?

BUTLER: I say again, we have a long standing convention that there is a briefing about internal Caucus meetings and none of the rest of us add to that briefing.

CURTIS: If we could go to environment issues this week, what’s called the one stop shop for environmental approvals, trying to streamline the different layers of Commonwealth and State Government approvals, legislation has been debated in Parliament. The Minister said that the highest level of protection on environment issues would still apply, it wasn't watering down protection for the environment, is that how you see it?

BUTLER: No we don't at all. We see, as a matter of principle, environmental matters of national environmental significance should always be the province - the responsibility - of the national government. That's not a party political thing. Whether it's a Liberal or Labor, Federal or State Government we're talking about, matters of national environmental significance, World Heritage properties, nuclear matters, the water trigger that protects water resources from coal seam gas developments for example, they should always be the responsibility of the those Commonwealth parliament.

CURTIS: Don't those laws, the Commonwealth environment laws, still have to be adhered to?

BUTLER: It's about capacity. It's about having a national perspective. For example, around the protection of water, these issues cross state boundaries. The Great Artesian Basin is not conveniently located within one state, the Murray-Darling Basin is not conveniently located within one state. There are international dimensions to this, particularly in terms of our membership of the World Heritage system. These are all responsibilities that should be held by the national government, not handed over to state governments. But we also found out when this legislation was released, handed over to local councils so local councils along the Queensland coast might end up with legal responsibility to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

CURTIS: If I could ask you on an Emissions Trading Scheme, you gave an interview at the weekend. Is the upshot of your comments that Labor is no longer committed to emissions trading as the only option to deal with climate change?

BUTLER: The only upshot of my interview on the weekend was that we're not announcing our 2016 policy this week. I don’t think anyone would be surprised about that. We are in there in the parliament this week and next week arguing very strongly for an Emissions Trading Scheme because that’s the best way to drive down pollution.

CURTIS: You did say it's not the only option and you wouldn't lock yourself into the policies of past?

BUTLER: We're not going to announce our 2016 policy this week. People can be very confident that our policy in 2016 will be guided by the same principles, the same core principles that have framed Labor Party policy in this area now for years. There must be a legal cap on carbon pollution that reduces over time and is underpinned by a market mechanism or a market price, and there must also be strong support for renewable energy. Those principles will frame our policy in 2016 as they have previous policies for many years but beyond that I'm not going to get into the position of announcing our 2016 policy this week any more than we're announcing any other areas of policy.

CURTIS: But isn’t what you're trying to do, with your votes particularly in the Senate, trying to lock the Government into what you see as your current policy, lock the Government into having an Emissions Trading Scheme to replace the carbon tax when that might not be exactly the mechanism you plan to take to the next election?

BUTLER: As I’ve said, we've got core principles, a legal cap on pollution, a market based mechanism that underpins that cap and strong support for renewable energy. Those will always be the core principles Labor brings. On the debate in the parliament, there’s no question that an Emissions Trading Scheme is the best way to bring down pollution, that's why our position at the election remains our position now; we should terminate the carbon tax, and we should move as quickly as possible to an Emissions Trading Scheme that has that cap on pollution and then lets business work out the best, the cheapest, the most effective way to operate.

CURTIS: If it's the best way in 2014 why won't it be the best way in 2016?

BUTLER: There's a very good chance it will be. It's being adopted in our region in places like China this week, in South Korea in several months, it already operates in many markets in the northern hemisphere, the key principles I outlined will remain Labor principles; a cap, a market mechanism, support for renewable energy.

CURTIS: What other sort of market mechanism might there be other than an Emissions Trading Scheme?

BUTLER: That is clearly the scheme being adopted in most jurisdictions around the world. It is the position we’re adopting right now. I'm not going to get into the position of announcing the 2016 policy except to say that it will be framed by core principles that Labor has held for many, many years in the area of climate change policy.

CURTIS: I'm just curious because you seemed, to on the weekend, leave options open but it seems now the options are in fact relatively narrow for what you might take to the election?

BUTLER: The details around this, the scope of it, the way in which it interacts with international developments; for example, the Emissions Trading Scheme we're arguing now would link with some of our oldest trading partners like France and Germany and the UK. Quite what the international scene will be with China developing Emissions Trading Schemes, South Korea our third largest export partner; a very ambitious conference planned for next year being driven by the United States and China, against the resistance of Tony Abbott. These are all things that will move very, very quickly over the next couple of years, but Labor's core principles will remain utterly steadfast.

CURTIS: Does Labor remain committed to current the renewable energy targets, there is some debate in the Government about what it does?

BUTLER: This is a great area of policy success. It is putting downward pressure on wholesale power prices, it is allowing literally hundreds of thousands of households to get out of the power system, put rooftop solar panels that bring down their own power bills, it’s tripled the number of jobs in the sector, and last year we were - along with China, Germany and the US - one of the four most attractive places to invest in in the world in clean energy. So why this Government is attacking renewable energy policy, given that at the election this was a bipartisan position, is utterly beyond me. This is a great policy they should get behind.

CURTIS: Thank you very much for your time.

BUTLER: Thank you very much.

ENDS

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