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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 23 June 2014: repeal of the carbon tax; Senator George Brandis

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The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for the Environment


23 June 2014




Topics: Repeal of the carbon tax, Senator George Brandis.

GREG HUNT: Today the Australian Government will reintroduce the carbon tax repeal bills. We are not just fulfilling our election promise, we are taking steps to ensure that families have lower electricity prices, lower gas prices and a lower cost of living which on average will be $550 a year less than it would otherwise have been.

This is a tax which the Australian people voted to remove. They voted for lower electricity prices and they voted to get rid of a tax which isn’t doing the job.

In its first year it was $7.6 billion for a 0.1 per cent decrease in Australia’s emissions. On Friday we learnt that the total carbon tax bill has soared to $15.4 billion over the first two years.

So this is the moment when the Australian people expect the Parliament to fulfil the mandate they gave. It was a tax which was not authorised in 2010 and it was a tax for which the Australian people voted to remove in 2013.

We have said we will not stop until the carbon tax is repealed and that is precisely our position, and we hope and expect that within a month the carbon tax will be gone.

JOURNALIST: So not stopping presumably means also leaving open the option to go to a double dissolution election if required, Mr Hunt?

GREG HUNT: Well my hope and my belief and my expectation is that that will not be required. All six new Senators coming onto the crossbenches came on a position of repealing the carbon tax, and all of the signs are that they will fulfil their commitment.

I won’t presume their vote or presume the outcome but to this day and to this moment the indication has been that the carbon tax will be repealed and I trust and hope that the Senate will carry through with the platform of each of the new Senators.

JOURNALIST: Have you personally had discussions with each of the new Senators?

GREG HUNT: I have spoken with at different times Senators Madigan and Xenophon. I’ve also spoken with Mr Palmer and had contact through mail with two of the others. The additional Senators we’re dealing with at this stage though Mr Palmer and we’d be more than happy to talk and brief them at any stage, and I’ve also written to all Senators.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the evidence is in the carbon tax has been a wrecking ball through the economy?

GREG HUNT: I think it’s absolutely clear that $15.4 billion is a degree of cost which is extraordinary for the Australian economy.

We are seeing low metal prices internationally, a relatively high dollar, to add a carbon tax on top of that is a massive impost on Australian manufacturing. And this is also an impost on Australian families. We know that this is a $550 a year impact on families. We know that it’s an impact on small businesses. And most amazingly, we also know that in its first year there was but a 0.1 per cent decrease only in Australia’s emissions. In other words, unfair and ineffective - the worst double you can imagine.

JOURNALIST: Talking about that impact on families, though, that’s ignoring the compensation package, isn’t it?

GREG HUNT: Well, we are keeping the compensation but getting rid of the carbon tax, and I think that’s the difference.

JOURNALIST: But in terms of the impact of it (inaudible)...

GREG HUNT: We are keeping the compensation and getting rid of the carbon tax.

JOURNALIST: Would you describe George Brandis as “intellectually arrogant”?

GREG HUNT: No, I think that Senator Brandis is one of the broadest minded, most intelligent people and thoughtful people I know. It is a privilege to work with him.

JOURNALIST: So how come he made an error in this whole occupied debate? Cause that’s what some of your colleagues believe he’s done.

GREG HUNT: Look, I think that Senator Brandis is one of the finest intellects in the Parliament. And every discussion I have I come away having learnt something, having had my thinking lifted, and I don’t say that lightly. He really is a fine intellect and it’s an honour to work with him.

JOURNALIST: The Foreign Minister says only she or the Prime Minister will now speak on the issue. Has he been given a dressing down on this?

GREG HUNT: Look, I think that he’s in superb standing and I don’t want to add anything more to an issue which is really one for those who are dealing with it.

JOURNALIST: But surely it’s unhelpful when you’re trying to sell the repealing of the carbon tax, this very controversial budget and as a sideshow you’ve got Senator Brandis causing trouble in the Middle East. That’s not helpful, surely?

GREG HUNT: I think you’ll find that Governments have to deal with a multiplicity of issues on any day, at any time, and that’s why you have a range of Ministers and a range of Departments. There are literally hundreds of issues.

Today, the issue is about repealing the carbon tax. And today, the Prime Minister will introduce the primary repeal bill and the Government will introduce the remainder of the repeal bills, and we will work to deliver the Australian people the pledge we made to them. The mandate they gave to us and the relief which they expect in terms of $550 a year.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned your discussions with those Senators. Did Direct Action come up at all? Do you have any indication they’ll support it cause they didn’t campaign for that (inaudible).

GREG HUNT: Look, we’ve obviously raised it with different people at different times. We’ve also written to the crossbenchers and we’ll take it one step at a time.

But again, the Australian people voted to repeal the carbon tax, but to have genuine action to reduce emissions from power stations, from landfills, to encourage energy efficiency, to encourage reduction of emissions by improving our landscapes and our land and agricultural productivity.

So I am very confident that the carbon tax will be repealed and that our replacement will be successful. I presume nothing about individual Senators, but the overall direction I am hopeful of.

And at the end of the day the message is also to Bill Shorten - accept the election result. Mr Shorten remains in denial of the election result. He is running around, so we’re told, telling business that he believes the carbon tax is going to be repealed and ‘don’t worry’ he won’t try to bring it back.

If that’s his actual view, there’s a simple task - get out of the way in the House and allow your Senators to vote for repeal.

JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on the polling today suggesting more Australians are supportive of the carbon tax than those who oppose it?

JOURNALIST: I think you’ll find that 15 million Australians got to cast their verdict on this issue recently and there’ve been many polls over many years which indicate that Australians do not want higher electricity prices and do not want higher gas prices, and they want something which actually works.

Thanks very much.