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Transcript of interview with Jason Morrison: Radio 2UE, Sydney: 20 June 2011: plebiscite on Julia Gillard's carbon tax



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WARRINGAH

20 June 2011

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR INTERVIEW WITH JASON MORRISON, RADIO 2UE, SYDNEY

Subjects: Plebiscite on Julia Gillard’s carbon tax.

E&OE……………………….…………………………………………………………………

JASON MORRISON:

Mr Abbott, g’day.

TONY ABBOTT:

`Morning, Jason.

JASON MORRISON:

Explain to us, firstly, how this works.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, first of all you’ve got to get the bill through both houses of parliament and hopefully the Senate will deal with it this week before the Greens take control after the first of July. If it goes through both houses of parliament, well then within 90 days it will be put to the people in the ordinary way of a referendum and everyone would have their say. The Government would not be bound by the result because this isn’t, strictly speaking, a referendum to change the Constitution, but plainly if the Government lost this vote it would be politically impossible for them to go ahead with the carbon tax.

JASON MORRISON:

So a once-and-for-all opinion poll?

TONY ABBOTT:

Essentially, that’s right. It would be the whole of the Australian people getting their say on whether or not we want a carbon tax. Now, this is an opportunity for the public to have the vote that the Prime Minister denied us at the last election. Remember, the last election could’ve been a vote about a carbon tax but the Prime Minister insisted that it wasn’t. Six days before the election she said “there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead” so she denied us the chance to turn the last election into a referendum on the carbon tax. This is our chance to have that vote that the Prime Minister denied us.

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JASON MORRISON:

It’s an interesting point. I mean, it’s true. There are 150 members of the lower house, the House of Representatives. People voted for 146 of them that went to the voters saying there would not be a carbon tax. That includes you, that includes Labor, that includes the National Party and arguably some of the independents. So you’re dependent on the independents and their ultra-commitment to democracy to make this happen, essentially?

TONY ABBOTT:

That’s right, Jason and look, I know that the independents don’t want an election because for understandable reasons, they don’t want to lose their balance of power and the influence that that gives them. But this is an opportunity for the independents to have a vote without having an election; for the independents to put the carbon tax to the people without actually risking changing the Government. Now, I think that ought to be appealing to them because in the end, what can be wrong, what can possibly be wrong with allowing the people to have a say on something as important as this?

JASON MORRISON:

I imagine that the cop-out will be on this, because I agree with you, there’s nothing wrong with asking the public to have a say on this, but the cop-out will be, well, it’s non-binding so what’s the point?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, it’s very important that the public have a say on something as important as a carbon tax because let’s face it Jason, this is far bigger than the GST. I mean, the GST was just a revenue measure but this is a new tax which is supposed to dramatically change the way we live, dramatically change the way we work, all in the name of saving the planet. Now, we all want to do the right thing by our environment but I think there are much smarter ways of reducing emissions and helping the environment than this enormous tax which is just going to go up and up and up every year.

JASON MORRISON:

The obvious question to ask, if it comes back that in fact more people support the tax than don’t - which would go against all the polls - but if it comes back that way, would you change your party’s position on it?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, obviously, that would be a very powerful message but I don’t want to speculate on what might happen. I just think that it’s very, very important Jason that the public have their say on this. We could’ve had our say at the last election but the Prime Minister insisted that the last election wasn’t about a carbon tax. I mean, let’s never forget, this is the Prime Minister who said six days before the election “there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead” so…

JASON MORRISON:

I don’t think anyone’s forgotten that, don’t worry. But if we ask the question, are you in favour of a carbon tax and it comes back and says majority yes, that snookers you as much. I mean, it’s a bit to put on the line here. So, you’re pretty confident by the sounds of it that it’s going to go the other way?

TONY ABBOTT:

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Look, I think that something as important as this ought to be voted upon by the people before it becomes law and that’s the problem. As you mentioned a few moments ago, Jason, just about every member of this parliament got elected promising no carbon tax. Now the Prime Minister wants to sneak a carbon tax through a parliament that has no mandate for it and that’s why it’s absolutely critical that we give the public a chance to vote before it becomes law. What could be more democratic than that? What could be fairer than that and, look, let the supporters of a carbon tax put their arguments. Let the opponents of a carbon tax put their arguments and let us abide by the people’s verdict.

JASON MORRISON:

Would it be fair to say that you’re putting this out there in the hope that the independents will move or have there been discussions with the independents so far as to whether they’ll support this?

TONY ABBOTT:

Jason, I’m putting it out there because I think the people should have a say. I think it’s self-evidently right that the people should have a say. In the end it will be up to the independents to decide which way they want to vote. I think it would be unusual for independents, genuine independents, not to support the idea of a people’s vote on something as important as this, but look, I’m not going to pre-empt their judgement. I’ll let them make their judgement when the bill comes before the parliament.

JASON MORRISON:

And just from a practical perspective, would the vote by compulsory?

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, it’s my intention, the bill will provide that it’s the normal Australian system, which is compulsory voting.

JASON MORRISON:

And so we will get for this first time, I guess, a real indicator as to what the support is for the tax, as opposed to the lip service and the opinion polls and the political views.

TONY ABBOTT:

Exactly right. We will have a proper debate. There will be a campaign. All the arguments, pro and con, will be put to the Australian people and then the Australian people will have their say and one way or another, this carbon tax will stand or fall. Now, given the importance of this carbon tax, given the fact that it is supposed to change the way every single Australian lives, change the way every single Australian works, surely it will be utterly unconscionable to sneak this tax through the parliament without having a vote about it of the people.

JASON MORRISON:

I appreciate you coming in so early to talk to us. Thank you.

TONY ABBOTT:

Thanks, Jason.

[ends]