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Transcript of doorstop interview: 20 August 2009: Labor's secret plans for new taxes; RET and emissions trading; LNG projects.



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Thu, 20th August 2009 TURNBULL DOORSTOP - LABOR'S SECRET PLANS FOR NEW TAXES, RET AND EMISSIONS TRADING, LNG PROJECTS

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP Leader of the Opposition

E&OE

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Wayne Swan has to come clean about Labor’s secret plans for new taxes. They can’t keep on hiding behind the Henry Review. We now know, based on his admissions in Question Time yesterday, that the Cabinet considered but did not adopt an increase in income tax. That was a secret plan to raise taxes. What other plans do they have?

They talk about having an informed debate about tax. We welcome that. But what they’ve got to do is tell the public what their plans are. What taxes, higher taxes, new taxes are on the table? We know they were planning to raise income tax but backed away from it. We know they’d been considering taxing the family home. What else is there? Mr Swan has to come clean with his secret plans to raise taxes.

QUESTION:

Are you embarrassed about revelations that the Nationals had their own secret discussions about possibly moving away from the Coalition?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well I think Warren Truss has dealt with that. The Coalition is very strong. We’re very united. And, as you saw yesterday, despite some of the predications in the media, the party room, the joint party room, Nationals and Liberals were unanimously supportive of the recommendation I brought to the party room, the Shadow Cabinet brought to the party room on the arrangements, the agreement with the Government to get the Renewable Energy Target legislation passed. So that showed the degree of unity and single purpose in the Coalition.

QUESTION:

But nevertheless the very fact that they had a discussion is damaging for you, isn’t it?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look, people talk about all sorts of things but the reality is, yes we are two parties and sometimes we take different approaches, as we did on wheat. That’s understood. But we are a very solid Coalition. We work very closely together and I know Warren has been out here and assured you of that again. So the fact is there is no move to do anything other than work closely together, but recognising that from time to time issues will come up on which we will take a different view.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull, are you having fun at the moment?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Plenty of fun, particularly out here talking with you.

QUESTION:

John Key is in town, a friend of yours, he was asked what advice he would give you and his only advice was that being in opposition isn’t fun and being Prime Minister is a lot more fun. Do you take that on board?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

That sounds a bit miserable, doesn’t it? Look I think its great fun and it’s wonderful to be here and a great privilege to represent the people of Australia and the people of my electorate. This is important work we’re doing here in Canberra.

QUESTION:

Are you hoping to meet with him while he’s here?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yes, yes, I will. Yes, I know John. He’s a good man.

QUESTION:

Pick his brain a bit?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

We always try to get as much help from everywhere we can. We pick all the brains we can.

QUESTION:

Just on tax, you want an informed debate. Wouldn’t it be then better to wait for the Henry review to be finished?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, look, I think the Henry review is very important and it is a big comprehensive review and we welcome it. But, you know, tax is so central. I mean, after all, it’s one of the most important things governments do - many people would say it’s probably the most thing governments do - and so a debate on tax has to be ongoing and I think the way the Government is trying to shut this down is really incredible.

I mean, how can they justify saying that a simple question about whether they have a plan to impose a higher tax or to put a tax on the family home is a fear campaign? How can you say that’s a fear campaign? It’s a straight forward question. Aren’t the people of Australia entitled to know if the Government is planning to raise taxes? It’s their money after all. So they’re entitled to know if Wayne Swan is planning to reach deeper and deeper into their pocket. I mean Labor has got form on this. State Labor governments have imposed taxes on the family home. The Labor Party is a party of

high taxes. Australians know that and they’ve got a right to be suspicious and we have an obligation to ask the questions.

QUESTION:

Just on renewable energy …sorry, the ETS - the Government says it’s now prepared to negotiate as…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, that’s great.

QUESTION:

…as they have all along, they say.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Oh, yes, I’m sure. Right, just like they were prepared to negotiate on the RET. They did a backflip on that last week. But we welcomed it; it was very good. They were prepared to sit down and negotiate with us, and what did we get? We got an agreement. And the fact is that we can get an agreement on emissions trading if they are prepared to negotiate with us in good faith, and we’ve always held out the opportunity to do that. So if they’re ready to talk, they’ve got to make that decision. We’ve always been ready to negotiate.

QUESTION:

Can you guarantee then that any agreement that you’d reach would get the support of all Coalition MPs, National and Liberal?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, any agreement that we reach will have the support of the party room and I can assure you of that. I mean, if you’re asking me about the Nationals, let’s be quite frank about that. It may be that the Nationals, or particularly the Nationals in the Senate, choose to take a different approach. But that’s up to them.

The reality is that the vast majority of the party room want to see a good faith negotiation. We strongly counsel Mr Rudd not to finalise the legislation until after the Copenhagen summit and that’s common sense. Hopefully he’ll come to his senses on that, just as they did on the RET, on decoupling the RET from the ETS. But if he insists on the legislation being voted on in November, we will seek to amend it and amend it obviously, ideally, with the agreement of the Government, just as we did with the RET.

I mean, the Renewable Energy Target in the form it is today is the consequence of cooperation between the Government and the Opposition, cooperation that we called for, that the Government rejected and then the Government changed its mind and we say good on them for changing their mind and becoming reasonable and negotiable, and as a result we got an agreement. It’s amazing what sitting down with people and trying to come an agreement can give you.

QUESTION:

Mr Turnbull, how [inaudible] is it for your leadership to have a number of backbenchers walk out in the middle of Question Time?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well look, there was a spontaneous protest against Mr Rudd claiming all of the credit for the Gorgon gas deal and of course the gas sale in China. A lot of us and I think a lot of Australians are increasingly tired of the way Mr Rudd tries to create a version of history where the world began with the election of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. And it didn’t.

The fact is that the Gorgon deal, the Pluto deal, all of these big gas projects in Western Australia, have been the work of many, many years and, in particular, from a governmental point of view have involved enormous work by the West Australian Government and of course by the previous Coalition federal government, the Howard Government. Ian Macfarlane, in particular, as the Howard Government energy minister, played a vital role in getting those projects underway, as did all of the environment ministers under the Howard Government, including myself.

So, really, these are national projects that have had bipartisan support and if Mr Rudd was more gracious - and he’s not a very gracious Prime Minister - he would have acknowledged that and recognised the enormous contribution that had been made over time. So you can understand why some of our West Australian colleagues find his reinvention of history, his rewriting of history, a bit hard to stomach.

QUESTION:

So you endorse that behaviour?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I don’t endorse it and I was very pleased when they returned to the Chamber.

QUESTION:

Just to clarify your earlier comments about the ETS. Would you be then comfortable if the Nationals decided to vote differently from the Liberals on a negotiated ETS outcome in the Senate?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

We always prefer to vote together and we meet as a joint party room, we meet as our separate parties, but we also meet as a joint party room, just as we did yesterday on the Renewable Energy Target and our aim will be to achieve the support of both sides, both sides of the Coalition party room, National and Liberal. But if the Nationals in the Senate, for example, choose to vote a different way on the ETS or on some amendments to the ETS, then that’s less than ideal but that’s their right. I mean, they’ve done that on other issues such as wheat and, you know, we remember that so you’ve got to remember that the Liberal Party and the National Party rooms are separate party rooms. We work together, I think as one of the

Nationals said, 99.9 per cent of the time. Sometimes we take a different approach but that’s fair enough. Okay, thanks.