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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 19 June 2014:Green Army, repeal of the carbon and mining taxes.



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The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for the Environment

TRANSCRIPT

19 June 2014

DOORSTOP

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

E&OE….

Topics: Green Army, repeal of the carbon and mining taxes.

GREG HUNT: I am delighted that the Green Army legislation has passed through the Senate.

This is one of the most significant legislative outcomes since the change of Government. It is one of the Government’s signature environmental programmes and it has done so with bipartisan support.

I just want to repeat that the Green Army has passed through the Senate with bipartisan support.

What does this mean for young people? It’s about giving them an opportunity to work in the environment, to be engaged in revegetation, land rehabilitation, regeneration of mangroves and sand dunes, threatened species habitat recovery - practical things.

And it’s also about giving them work experience, training, and all the while doing it with a very significant training wage under the guidance of experienced trainers. And in many, many cases giving them the opportunity to earn a certificate I, or certificate II in horticulture or land management.

The Green Army will grow to be 15,000 strong. It starts off with 2,500 people between the ages of 17 and 24 in year one, and then 5,000 and then 7,500, 11,500 and 15,000 young people.

It’s a tremendous opportunity for landcare groups, for friends groups, for local environment groups to be engaged with young people in regenerating their bushland, in creating boardwalks, in doing practical projects.

This programme started under the Howard Government and it worked under the Howard Government. It was a success. Sadly, it was allowed to lapse under the previous government. But I am really pleased that there’s bipartisan support now and the Green Army is a significant legislative achievement.

Much more importantly, it’s an opportunity for young Australians to get training, to work in the field, in the environment doing practical things that can be there in ten, and twenty, and thirty years time.

JOURNALIST: Are there any guarantees that the Green Army - those in the Green Army - won’t be replacing existing conservation workers?

GREG HUNT: Yes. What we are doing in terms of the project specifications is ensuring that these are additional works over and above what’s already occurring.

So it’s the sort of thing where you might have a group which is engaged in revegetation or rehabilitation but there are steps which they simply can’t do - they don’t have the horsepower to deliver those projects.

And so this is about taking teams of ten - a coordinator plus nine - they might do a boardwalk, they might do a large mangrove rehabilitation program, to assist with Landcare groups and friends groups, in sorts of work that they otherwise might not be able to do. To work with councils and communities - it’s a really exciting programme.

JOURNALIST: Clive Palmer has indicated that by Wednesday next week the Government will know his final position on repealing the carbon and mining taxes. Is that helpful that we have a deadline, given some of the statements he’s made recently about these decisions?

GREG HUNT: Look, I am very hopeful that Mr Palmer will support the repeal of the carbon tax and mining tax. It’s obviously a matter for him, but the Australian people gave us a mandate and most significantly he indicated that he would like to see a guarantee that the electricity price reductions will flow through to the Australian people.

We aren’t just giving that guarantee; we are including it in legislation. The ACCC is being empowered to enforce the ruling that the full value of the carbon tax removal must flow through in electricity and gas bills to consumers.

I think that that’s a very important guarantee. It’s something we were doing in any event, but I hope that the fact that it’s there in legislation, which will be re-introduced into the House next week, can provide additional confidence to all Members of the House.

JOURNALIST: Just going back to the Green Army, I know Labor supported the Bill, but they did voice concerns about participants not being classified as ‘workers’ and therefore not having the same rights. What do you say to those concerns?

GREG HUNT: Well, we’re paying young people more than they received on average under Green Corp, under Green Jobs Corp, under Newstart or under Youth Allowance. It’s an average wage of between $600 and almost $1000 over the course of a fortnight, depending on your age and your educational attainments.

What that means is that it is a very significant figure. But it’s not just the funding. It comes with the training and so that promise of training I think is very, very important.

So, it’s a bigger, broader package than what was already in place under the Green Corps and there is additional training and additional funds for young participants. Plus, I think you’ll find that the overall programme will have the absolutely highest possible standards of occupational work health and safety.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) Julie Bishop has assured them that all policy will now come from either Julie Bishop or the Prime Minister. Is George Brandis being sidelined, do you think?

GREG HUNT: Look, I will leave this entirely for the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister, but we couldn’t have a stronger, better Attorney-General than we currently do. Absolutely first class.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that his interjection in the occupied debate has caused damage to Australia’s relations in the Middle East?

GREG HUNT: No.

JOURNALIST: Why not?

GREG HUNT: I’ll leave that for the Foreign Minister and the Attorney and the Prime Minister. But honestly, we have a tremendous team in those three.

JOURNALIST: Regarding the double dissolution trigger that the Greens have provided the Abbott Government, it seems clear that you’re not going to be pulling this particular trigger. But what are the chances of you exploiting this, I suppose, opportunity that the Greens have given you regarding the CEFC?

GREG HUNT: Well we’ll be bringing back the CEFC legislation as part of the carbon tax package next week. So we will be reintroducing the carbon tax repeal bills, which includes the CEFC bill. And we will be doing that in the Parliament next week.

This is the moment when the ALP can give Australians a $550 a year break. It’s a moment when they can help reduce what are effectively taxes on electricity and gas.

We expect that the House and the Senate will honour the most fundamental of mandates from the last election - something that we took to the Australian people - and they’ll do it not just because it’s a mandate, not just because it’s a tax break for Australians, but also because the current policy doesn’t do the job. It just fails abysmally to have any significant impact on emissions whatsoever.

JOURNALIST: So the months and months of threats that we heard that you would be prepared to go to an election, that you had a mandate on this, they were empty threats you were making because you knew that by July 1 you wouldn’t have to do this?

GREG HUNT: Well, I think you’ll find that we’ve always said that we will work with the new Senate. We have that new Senate literally 11 days away. So I think Australians would look at us as being completed ridiculous if we took up the Greens’ proposal.

The Greens are literally off their rocker. We’re about to have a new Senate in 11 days. Why would we do anything other than take these policies to the new Senate, take the legislation to the new Senate, and I am very hopeful that we will have the carbon tax repealed in the coming weeks.

Alright, thank you very much. (ENDS)