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Transcript of interview with Ian Henschke: ABC Adelaide: 20 June 2011: the Coalition's plan to hold a plebiscite on the carbon tax



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THE HON GREG HUNT MP Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage

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GREG HUNT

INTERVIEW WITH IAN HENSCHKE ABC ADELAIDE MONDAY 20 JUNE 2011

Topic: The Coalition’s plan to hold a plebiscite on the carbon tax.

E & OE…

HENSCHKE:

A plebiscite. Is it a referendum?

HUNT:

No, a plebiscite is an expression of the will of the people, and what we’re doing this

week is moving in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in two stages, a

notice of motion calling on a Private Members’ Bill and then a Private Members’ Bill.

If the Bill is passed then it is binding, the Government has to hold a plebiscite. If the

plebiscite is passed, then it is a powerful national expression which it would be hard for

the Prime Minister to overlook.

HENSCHKE:

But when you say it would be hard to overlook, so you’d be spending tens of millions of

dollars going to the people to ask them to vote on something which the Government

could in the end simply say, ‘Look, let’s wait till the next election’.

HUNT:

Well, the….

HENSCHKE:

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That’s correct, isn’t it?

HUNT:

The Government ignored the expression of (inaudible) will of the Australian people at

the last election where they went, and the Prime Minister went, with a pledge of, ‘no

carbon tax under a Government I lead’.

So, this Prime Minister can avoid any expression from anybody, but I think that there

would be overwhelming public - that rejection of and opposition to - the Government’s

legitimacy if the Prime Minister of the day ignored the result of a plebiscite.

HENSCHKE:

But at the end of the political day today, this is actually a political move, a political

stunt. This is what it’s being called, isn’t it?

HUNT:

Look, the Prime Minister calls the idea of a democratic expression of will by the

Australian people a stunt. That is obviously what she considered the last election to have

been because, on the last day before the election she used the phrase, ‘I rule out a carbon

tax’, as her final pitch and pledge to the Australian people.

It’s a very serious democratic offence to go to the election with a misleading platform,

and this is a chance to right that wrong, to give the Australian people a vote, and she

should have nothing to be afraid of if she believes in her carbon tax.

HENSCHKE:

This is going to cost, according to some reports, around $70 million dollars. That’s a lot

of money to spend on something which ultimately doesn’t force the Government to go

back on a carbon tax.

HUNT:

Well, I can find $25 million dollars immediately, simply by cancelling the carbon tax

advertising campaign. At the moment they’re about to spend, not just 12 as was reported

last week, but $25 million dollars on a carbon tax advertising campaign using taxpayer

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funding to argue for a policy which they weren’t willing to spend ALP funds on prior to

the election.

So, it is less than 0.5 per cent of the first year’s revenue, let alone the second, the third,

the fourth and the fifths years’ revenue under a carbon tax. And a basic expression of

democratic will is something which the Australian people would want which they are

owed, and which the Prime Minister should not be afraid.

HENSCHKE:

Look, Greg Hunt, when you were speaking about taking action on climate change before

this talk of the carbon tax came along, you didn’t rule out the idea of a carbon tax did

you? I mean, The Liberal Party has also thought that this is a measure of taking action.

In fact, Tony Abbott was recently requoted, they found him talking about this a couple

of years ago. So, it is politics at the end of the day, isn’t it, it’s politics?

HUNT:

Look, I respectfully disagree. We went to the election with as clear and categorical an

election platform as you could imagine. We made it clear in our policy, in our

pronouncements, in our advertising - paid for by ourselves, not the public - that there

would be no carbon tax under a Coalition, and the Prime Minister also said there would

be no carbon tax.

That was a breach of democratic faith and we went with the most clear, express, absolute

position, and so did the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, she reversed that after the

election, and this is a chance to give the Australian people a say, and no Prime Minster

should be afraid of that.

HENSCHKE:

But that statement that she made which said that, ‘Under a Government that I lead’, I

mean, that was clearly talking about a complete Labor Government. In fact, she’s in a

very odd situation, isn’t she? She’s in a Coalition if you like with Greens and

Independents. So, she’s been through this, she’s explained this. It’s just what she

inherited, isn’t it? So… and now you’re continually saying that she’s a liar and that she’s

got to go to the people.

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HUNT:

Well, that’s incorrect because prior to the election it was an electoral certainty that the

Greens would hold the balance of power in the Senate, and she knew that, we knew that.

every observer of Australian democracy knew that the Greens would hold the balance of

power in the Senate, which was why we were saying that as sure as night follows day,

after the election there will be a carbon tax.

And so, that was a given, and even on election night Adam Bandt pledged his support to

the Prime Minister, so there was no need to make that deal according to post-election

events, but it was inevitable that she was going to have to work with them in the Senate.

And that’s why we said there would be a carbon tax, and that’s why she was

unfortunately misleading the Australian people and….

HENSCHKE:

Well, what….

HUNT:

…this is the chance to right that wrong.

HENSCHKE:

Well, Greg Hunt, you’ve already pointed out that the Greens hold the balance of power;

in fact, the Greens and Senator Nick Xenophon hold the balance of power. They’re not

likely to support this plebiscite, so really I get back to the original point. This is just

playing politics by Tony Abbot, isn’t it, and your party?

HUNT:

Well, I’ll let Senator Xenophon and Senator Fielding speak for themselves, but we are

hopeful, in fact, that they could support this Private Members’ Bill. And if it then passes

the Senate, it’s up to those Independents in the House as to whether or not they would

support a free expression of will. But this is a democratic choice which we are offering

the Australian people, and I would hope the Independents in both the Senate and the

House could support that proposition irrespective of where they stand on the carbon tax.

HENSCHKE:

Thank very much for your time, Greg Hunt.

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HUNT:

It’s a pleasure.

[Ends]