Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of doorstop interview: 23 August 2009: Labor Party's focus on gossip and smear; the Coalition; emissions trading; nuclear power.



Download PDFDownload PDF

Sun, 23rd August 2009

Turnbull Doorstop - Labor Party's focus on gossip and smear, the Coalition, emissions trading, nuclear power

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP Leader of the Opposition

E&OE

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well it says a lot about the Labor Party’s spin machine, that a time when Australians are coping with rising unemployment, with government debt heading to over $300 billion, with all of the challenges of getting an emissions trading scheme designed that won’t send thousands and thousands of jobs offshore, when we are dealing with those real issues what do we see this morning but the Labor Party again spinning away with gossip and smear.

So we are going to remain focused on the real issues that confront Australia, issues of economic management, ensuring that the environment is protected without destroying our economy, with ensuring that Australia is well governed and well managed. Labor is failing in government - it is failing in government and is trying to make up for that with lots of spin.

QUESTION:

So are you saying the meeting didn’t happen? We have confirmed that it did with at least one person.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, look, can I just say this to you, I know many people in the Labor Party as indeed everybody does. I was in business with Neville Wran for 10 years. So I have got plenty of friends in the Labor Party and over the years plenty of them, many of them, have sought to encourage me to join their side of politics. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating - actions speak louder than words. I have never joined the Labor Party. I don’t disrespect the Labor Party; I disagree with the Labor Party. I think they are doing a bad job at running Australia. And since you have just had Barry O’Farrell here, as you well know, they are doing an especially bad job running New South Wales. But the suggestion that I was asking the Labor Party officials for permission to join the Labor Party is ridiculous. Anyone can join the Labor Party. If I had wanted to join the Labor Party I would have done so.

QUESTION:

Or were you trying to join it to get a seat?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look, the only - and this is has been on the record for many years - the only concrete discussion I have ever had to my recollection with anybody in the Labor Party about becoming a member of parliament was many years ago when Paul Keating was Prime Minister. He raised with me the idea of joining the ALP and replacing, I think it was Senator Richardson, when he created a casual vacancy by retiring from the Senate.

Now I thanked Mr Keating for that offer, or that suggestion, which was very flattering. I said it was very kind of him to think of me in that respect but I said I wouldn’t be comfortable in the Labor Party and it wouldn’t be comfortable with me. And, again, the proof of the pudding is in the results. I did not join the ALP, I have never joined the ALP and the only political party, parliamentary political party I’ve been a member of is the Liberal Party.

QUESTION:

So you didn’t say to Bob Hawke that you were bloody pissed off with John Howard?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Listen, I told the nation he had broken the nation’s heart, so obviously I wasn’t feeling very positive… on the night of the election, you know, of course John had been my opponent. And, look, can I just say a little bit about John Howard here too. You know, John Howard and I fought tooth and nail over the republic issue for several years. And I was very unhappy when we lost, as were a lot of people who had been republicans. And after I had stepped down as chairman of the Republican Movement, after we had paid off all the debts after the campaign and sorted the affairs of the ARM out, I rejoined the Liberal Party - the party I had been a member of previously, before I had been involved as chairman of the ARM. And I went to see John - and, again, this is on the public record - and I said, ‘well, look, I’ve been encouraged to do this, how do you feel about it?’ And he said, ‘I think that’s great’, and he had no hard feelings and we then went on to work together in parliament and of course in government. And I mean together we delivered the biggest reform to the management of Australian water, Australia’s waters, in our history in the National Plan for Water Security. So, you know, John Howard proved that he was a big man in the way he dealt with that and welcomed me back into the Liberal Party.

QUESTION:

Even if there’s nothing in it, even if it’s just smear, are you not concerned there will be some affect on the joint party room in terms of your position?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, I actually find it rather comical to be quite honest with you. I mean, Kevin Rudd stands up in parliament, foaming at the mouth, accusing me of being a neo-liberal, free market extremist determined to unleash all of the dangers, that he describes, of unbridled capitalism on the Australian public and on the other hand they are saying

that I really ought to be in the Labor Party. So they have got to make up their mind. They are the ones that are sixes and sevens.

QUESTION:

What do you make of Barnaby Joyce’s comments this morning that you’re not his leader? Are you, as Leader of the Opposition, leader of the Coalition?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, of course I’m leader of the Coalition. I’m the Leader of the Opposition. But I assume Barnaby is just making the point that in the federal parliament the Nationals are a separate party and they elect their own leader and because we are in coalition with them the Leader of the Liberal Party - which is the larger member of the Coalition - is the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Coalition. But Barnaby is there in our leadership group meetings every morning, so he’s part of the team.

QUESTION:

So unhelpful is that, though? Doesn’t it just tell the electorate there’s disunity?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look, I saw Warren Truss’s interview this morning on Insiders and I thought Warren really dealt with it in a very similar way that I had earlier in the week and that is this - that we work together as a Coalition, as a team. I mean, as Barnaby himself has said, we vote together 99.999 per cent of the time and we always seek to come to an agreement. Now occasionally, particularly when we’re in Opposition, there will be issues upon which we will vote differently if we can’t reach a common position. The best recent example was wheat, obviously. There may be others. But we always endeavour to reach a common view but if we determine that we can’t do that and it’s one of those rare occasions where we will take a different course of action, then we do so.

QUESTION:

One of those issues is the emissions trading scheme. He said today that he would like to see it dismantled if there was a Coalition Government… Mr Joyce. In government, if you were the leader of a Coalition government, would you dismantle the ETS?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look, let me just say, let me just remind you that when we were in government, which was a Liberal-National Party Government, the deputy prime minister of which government was the leader of the National Party, we started the legislation for an emissions trading scheme.

We not only went to the last election in 2007 with a proposal for an emissions trading scheme, very differently designed to the one Mr Rudd apparently has on offer I might add, but we went to the election with a proposal for an emissions trading scheme and the legislative framework for that was started by a law that I introduced into the House of Representatives as John Howard’s Environment Minister, as part of that Liberal-National Party Government.

So Senator Joyce is free to express his opinions on an emissions trading scheme but the fact is we were committed to an emissions trading scheme when we were in government - and that’s just a historic fact.

QUESTION:

So is the answer to that no, that you…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, look, you are asking a lot of hypothetical questions, but if we assume that an emissions trading scheme is legislated by the Labor Government then we will consider it. We may well, as the conservatives did in New Zealand, as John Key’s party, the National Party in New Zealand did, we may well go to the election with proposals to amend it or change it. But at this stage we don’t even know the final details of Mr Rudd’s emissions trading scheme.

You know, pick a big issue: agriculture - very much up in the air; coal - very much up in the air and under negotiation. I mean, don’t let’s kid ourselves. The Rudd Government’s emissions trading scheme is far from settled. Now we are prepared to sit down and negotiate with them in good faith with the intention of coming to an agreed position. We were able to do that over the Renewable Energy Target last week and if the Government is prepared to deal constructively and openly with us then we may well reach an agreement, but we’ll see.

QUESTION:

If you don’t like it then, why negotiate? Why not just say this is a dumb idea, we don’t like it let’s…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, I think an emissions trading scheme…

QUESTION:

No, the Government’s scheme?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

But you see the point is, look, everybody knows that if you want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions you have to put a price on carbon, okay. Now there are a number of ways you can do that. The general view that certainly we came to in government and the general view around the world is the most efficient way to do that is through

what is called an emissions trading scheme rather than just a flat carbon tax. And the reason for that is because it enables you to get the efficiencies from trade. That is both trade inside Australia and inside and outside Australia.

So that’s why people are opting for emission trading schemes around the world but of course getting the design right - you saw a few weeks back we produced, or we didn’t produce we published a report that had been prepared for us by Frontier Economics which demonstrated that with some design changes dealing with the electricity generation sector, with the power stations, you could achieve a greater reduction in emissions at a much lower cost. Now that’s just being greener, cheaper and smarter. So obviously we are focused on getting the best outcome from the scheme.

QUESTION:

On the oil spill, can we ask you about the Government’s response to this? Greg Hunt has been saying the Government sat on its hands; has not moved quickly enough. The West Australian Premier last night was saying everything was at hand…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I will leave the commentary on that to Greg.

QUESTION:

On another environmental issue; [inaudible] today about embracing nuclear power and…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Sorry, who did?

QUESTION:

Mr Joyce.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Senator Joyce, right.

QUESTION:

He said about embracing nuclear power and having councils hold referendums on the issue and so forth - your position?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well our position is the same as it always was, always has been, which is that nuclear power is obviously a near zero emission option for base load power and that is why Australia is selling a lot more uranium and why a lot more nuclear power stations are being built around the world. However, until such time as there is bipartisan political support for nuclear power and broad community support in

Australia, it isn’t going to happen. These projects, nuclear power stations, require many, many years - a decade or more - of planning and construction so they are simply not going to happen unless there is strong community support for it. In some countries there is. For example, in France, as we all know, about 80 per cent of the electricity is generated by nuclear power and has been for a long time but in Australia that is not the case. But I encourage everybody to study it and debate the merits and the pros and cons of nuclear power. It is certainly going to play a larger role in the world’s electricity generation. Right now around the world nuclear power generates about 14 or 15 per cent of the world’s electricity and that share will grow.

QUESTION:

To gauge or to clarify where people do stand on it, are referendums such a bad idea?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look, I think we are a long, long way away from that. I don’t think that would be a productive course of action. If a local council wants to do that, it’s up to them but we are a long way from getting that degree of community support before it would be a realistic possibility in Australia.

QUESTION:

Can we just clarify your talks with the ALP? Can you categorically deny ever approaching the Labor Party about a seat?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I have never approached the Labor Party about running for a seat in parliament. I have had many discussions with ALP figures over the years and I have been courted, if you like, and encouraged to join the ALP, which is hardly surprising. Look, the reality is political parties are like football clubs, you know, they seek to recruit people they think might be good players. And during the years, particularly when I was chairing the republican movement and I wasn’t a member of any political party, other than the Australian Republican Movement of course, I had plenty of encouragement from people in the ALP. I have got a lot of good friends in the Australian Labor Party. And if I had wanted to join the ALP I can assure you I would have done so. I have never been known for being timid and if I had wanted to be a member of the Australian Labor Party, I would have been one.

It’s as easy to join the ALP as it is to join the Liberal Party. And I would encourage all of you who are thinking about a career in politics to join the Liberal Party.

Thank you very much.