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Transcript of interview with David Speers: Sky News: 23 June 2014: repeal of the carbon tax and Clean Energy Finance Corporation



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The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for the Environment

TRANSCRIPT

23 June 2014

SKY NEWS

INTERVIEW WITH DAVID SPEERS

E&OE….

Topics: Repeal of the carbon tax and Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

DAVID SPEERS: Minister, thank you for your time.

GREG HUNT:

Pleasure.

DAVID SPEERS: You’ve introduced now, again, the repeal of the carbon tax. It will presumably be passed by the lower house later this week, but are you confident it will also be passed by the Senate?

GREG HUNT:

Well, our hope and our expectation is that the Senate will respect the will of the Australian people. All six incoming crossbench Senators campaigned for and were elected on a platform of repealing the carbon tax.

We’ve seen no signs that they are anything other than committed to repealing the carbon tax and they’ve shown very good faith and we appreciate that. So I don’t presume the votes of individual Senators. However, we were elected to repeal the carbon tax and to reduce emissions without a massive electricity hit and so were the crossbench Senators.

DAVID SPEERS: Is it a little concerning to you though that you’re not absolutely sure they will vote for the repeal? You’ve had plenty of time since that last election to lock this in.

GREG HUNT:

I think calmness is the order of the day. With a new Senate - many of them haven’t even set foot in the chamber. And so I think it is reasonable to expect them to be able to set foot in the chamber to declare their position.

But I have heard clear and categorical assurances from people such as Bob Day and future Senator Leyonhjelm, plus others. So we are quietly confident. We don’t presume on individuals…

DAVID SPEERS: But Clive Palmer’s - the Palmer United Party Senators?

GREG HUNT:

Well, Mr Palmer has, on many occasions, made it clear that he supports repeal of the carbon tax. I will let him speak for himself. But only in the West Australian Senate by-election, his party could not have been clearer that they stood fair, square for repeal of the tax.

DAVID SPEERS: Now, you say calmness is needed; give them time to look at this. Of course, they don’t take their Senate seat until a couple of weeks. How long will they have before they have to vote on this? How much time will you give them to actually look at the legislation?

GREG HUNT:

Well, we have sat the Senate specifically to allow for the repeal of the carbon tax bills in the first two weeks of July.

DAVID SPEERS: Is that enough time for the…

GREG HUNT:

There will be time between now and then for review. The bills, of course, have been on the table and Mr Palmer voted, I recollect, for repeal of the carbon tax first time - sorry, I apologise - he expressed his support but then stood aside because of any personal conflict of interest.

But he expressed the support of the party for repeal of the carbon tax the first time around. And so these bills have been around for many, many months. They are unchanged in all material respects.

DAVID SPEERS: One of his demands has been that there be a guarantee in the legislation that price reductions are passed on to consumers. Can you do that in the legislation?

GREG HUNT:

The legislation, in fact, provides that guarantee. The ACCC is empowered in the primary legislation. It’s to ensure that there is no price gouging, that payments are passed on in full to consumers.

DAVID SPEERS: I mean, you can empower the ACCC, but is that the same as a guarantee that prices will definitely be dropped?

GREG HUNT:

Well, I can actually go further because in recent days we have seen four different regulators in Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT, and only on Friday, Tasmania guarantee that there will be a separate tariff without the carbon tax, as opposed to with.

So, in other words, the moment the repeal comes through, state regulators have already put in place legally binding determinations that the full extent of the carbon tax will be passed through. In the case of the ACT, that’s 11.5 per cent…

DAVID SPEERS: What happens though…

GREG HUNT:

…in Queensland it is over eight per cent.

DAVID SPEERS: What happens though if the repeal doesn’t happen in those first two weeks? Does it become then a lot more difficult for those energy retailers to keep that price locked in?

GREG HUNT:

Well, the Business Council and Electricity Supply Association have made it absolutely crystal clear that it is far preferable to have the repeal passed within that fortnight. That’s why we have configured the entire Parliament of Australia around this moment in history.

DAVID SPEERS: But if that doesn’t happen in those two weeks, if they want more time, need more time, it does become difficult to backdate it to 1 July, doesn’t it?

GREG HUNT:

Well, it is absolutely preferable for this to happen. Now, we can manage it either way but it is far preferable for business, for families, for small businesses to have it done now and we expect that the Senate will deal with it and I am confident that we will repeal the carbon tax bills, lock, stock and barrel.

DAVID SPEERS: I will let you take some water. I want to ask you about the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. As part of the legislation introduced today, also repealing this $10 billion fund for green energy - for clean energy projects set up by Labor - you want to do away with.

My understanding is incoming Senator Ricky Muir, as well as the DLP Senator John Madigan do have reservations about getting rid of this. What if they want to split this away from the rest of the bills?

GREG HUNT:

Sure. Look, I obviously - and you can understand this - won’t deal with hypotheticals. We’ve introduced the bills as a package today in the House only literally half an hour ago and I’ve come straight from the House to here. It has been presented as a package.

The Senate, of course, has the power to take such steps as they need. But our intention is to repeal all of the elements of the carbon tax and our position hasn’t changed on that.

DAVID SPEERS: But are you willing to repeal the carbon tax without repealing this?

GREG HUNT:

Look, we have a very clear view that we want the carbon tax gone and we believe that the associated bureaucracies are unnecessary and so we will proceed to ensure that all of those elements are repealed.

DAVID SPEERS: But what I’m getting at is this Clean Energy Finance Corporation isn’t going to hold up the repeal of the carbon tax. You will still proceed with repealing the carbon tax, even if you have to keep this fund.

GREG HUNT:

Look, I respect the question. You can understand that I wouldn’t want to pre-empt discussions or to give any sense that we are other than completely committed to the full package of repeal.

DAVID SPEERS: Can I ask why you need to repeal this fund? Because even some of those crossbenchers say it’s making money, it’s making a profit and investing in the sort of the things that we should be investing in.

GREG HUNT:

Look, the critical first point here is that before the Clean Energy Finance Corporation there was a 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target. After you spend another 10 billion dollars, there’s still only a 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target. In other words, $10 billion is expended but there’s no net additional renewable energy.

DAVID SPEERS: Well, you say expended, but it’s invested and there’s a return to taxpayers and, indeed, a profit for taxpayers.

GREG HUNT:

This is presuming a one hundred per cent perfect execution and a one hundred per cent perfect payment…

DAVID SPEERS: But hasn’t the record so far shown they’re on track?

GREG HUNT:

Well, the history of the previous government’s environment programs - whether it’s Pink Batts, Green Loans, Green Start, Cash for Clunkers, Citizens Assembly hasn’t been of perfect execution and delivery.

DAVID SPEERS: Isn’t that an argument against Direct Action, too?

GREG HUNT:

Well, no. There’s a difference between the two different governments here. One of the things the Australian people elected us for was that we can manage. For example, we have set out a pathway to eliminating the annual deficits that this country inherited.

We have funded, for example, in my own portfolio, previously unfunded liabilities for an icebreaker and for Australia’s Antarctic program and a supercomputer for the Bureau of Meteorology…

DAVID SPEERS: Okay. But I’m asking about the…

GREG HUNT:

…critical national infrastructure not managed and we get things right.

DAVID SPEERS: But I’m asking about Direct Action, which similar to this Clean Energy Finance Corporation, involves government money being spent to lower emissions with direct market intervention.

GREG HUNT:

Well, let me give you an example. We ran the Green Corps project under the pre... when we were last in government. It’s almost impossible to find any substantive criticism of that. It was a well executed programme because we gave ourselves…

DAVID SPEERS: (inaudible)

GREG HUNT:

We gave ourselves time to prepare, we went through the process and it was based on sound policy. Our primary concern with the CEFC is even if it is perfectly executed - perfectly executed - you spend $10 billion and at the end of the day, there’s no net additional energy.

DAVID SPEERS:

But there might be additional money in the Budget.

GREG HUNT:

Well, at the end of the…

DAVID SPEERS: If it keeps making money, as it is. And so you seem to be saying that…

GREG HUNT:

I think you have to…

DAVID SPEERS: …you’re not sure this will be perfect but you are sure your Direct Action plan will be perfect.

GREG HUNT:

Well, what I’m saying here is that the fundamental design, even under the extraordinary proposition of completely perfect execution is - no net additional energy. Why would you put $10 billion into something and get no change from what would otherwise have been the case? And I think that’s the design concern.

Nevertheless, it’s part of the debate going forward. We have set out our position and individual Senators will bring theirs. But we are committed to abolishing the carbon tax. And remembering this - so is the Labor Party committed to terminating the carbon tax but they continue to vote against it and it will be a fascinating thing that - if we are successful, to discover whether or not they will want to bring back the carbon tax.

DAVID SPEERS: Environment Minister Greg Hunt, thank you.

GREG HUNT: Thanks, David.

(ENDS)