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Transcript of interview with Denis Scanlan: 94.7 The Pulse, Geelong: 24 August 2009: visit to Geelong; Labor Party's focus on gossip and smear; emissions trading; Renewable Energy Target; Labor's reckless spending; Rudd Government's lack of investment in water infrastructure; Liberal candidate for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson.



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Mon, 24th August 2009

Turnbull interview with Denis Scanlan (94.7 The Pulse) - Visit to Geelong, Labor Party’s focus on gossip and smear, emissions trading....

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP Leader of the Opposition

Subjects: Visit to Geelong; Labor Party’s focus on gossip and smear; emissions trading; Renewable Energy Target; Labor’s reckless spending; Rudd Government’s lack of investment in water infrastructure; Liberal candidate for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson.

E&OE

DENIS SCANLAN:

Mr Turnbull, good morning.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Good morning Denis.

DENIS SCANLAN:

So firstly, can I call you Malcolm?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Absolutely.

DENIS SCANLAN:

Thank you Malcolm.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

[inaudible]

DENIS SCANLAN:

Now first up, you’ll be happy to know, no jokes about the ALP.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Righto, fair enough.

DENIS SCANLAN:

Malcolm, I was just talking to Tony Wright, who you’d know from The Age’s Canberra bureau, about this and he and I were discussing this and generally he and I agree that I don’t think a lot of people care that you, I won’t even ask you did you approach the ALP or did they approach you but he says - and a pretty experienced political journalist as you would know - that most people don’t really care. I mean a lot of us

ten years ago might have been something else politically. So are you getting feedback about this whole ALP thing that the electorate doesn’t really care?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I don’t think the electorate are impressed with the Labor Party constantly focusing on political spin and smear as opposed to the real issues, which are getting the emissions trading scheme right so it doesn’t devastate Geelong, also ensuring that the Government doesn’t continue running up an unbelievable mountain of debt; to ensure that we maintain levels of high employment. These are all the issues people want to talk about and this latest outburst is obviously just a very concerted, well put together package of smear that the Labor Party has flung at me and the bizarre thing about it, Denis, is that I’ve never been a member of the Labor Party. Now there’d be no shame if I had been. There would be plenty of people on the Liberal side of politics who have been members of the ALP in the past and possibly people in the ALP side of politics who were in the Liberal Party.

DENIS SCANLAN:

Well Malcolm your predecessor immediately comes to mind. Dr Nelson, of course, was a proud member of the ALP and I don’t think anyone really cared much about that.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well that’s right because you see political parties seek to recruit supporters from the other side and they seek to recruit supporters from the undecided.

DENIS SCANLAN:

So have you got any idea why the ALP brought this up at this particular time?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I think they’re just trying to, it’s just part of their political ‘play the man, not the ball’ exercise. They don’t want to concentrate on the real issues. They’ve got an emissions trading scheme which is literally friendless. It’s supported by nobody. We were able last week to negotiate changes to the Renewable Energy Target legislation of the Government, which had the effect of protecting thousands of jobs around Australia including many in Geelong, in the electorate of Corangamite, particularly in the aluminium sector.

DENIS SCANLAN:

Malcolm, in regards to the emissions trading scheme, just talking to Tony Wright and other people have mentioned this, a lot of people are of the opinion that we should hold off on the emissions trading scheme until Copenhagen which is in December to see what the other nations are doing. What do you think about that, that we should hold off, do nothing about an emissions trading scheme until after Copenhagen?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Denis I certainly don’t think we should do nothing. I think we should keep working on a scheme but I have said and it’s our policy and I’ve said that if I was Prime Minister today I would not finalise the design of our scheme until after the Copenhagen Summit. That is absolute common sense. But clearly we should continue doing research and working on the design but you shouldn’t finalise it until you know two things, two things at least - one, what the shape of the Americans’ emissions trading scheme is going to be. Now at the moment, we have a law that has passed through one half of the US Congress, the House of Representatives, but is yet to pass through the Senate. So we’ve got an idea of where the Americans are heading and their scheme is already much more protective of American jobs and in particular of American trade-exposed emissions-intensive industries such as there are so many of in Geelong. They are much more protective of them than Mr Rudd’s scheme is and I think we need, ideally, you want to see, firstly, what the American scheme will look like because that will inevitably be the global benchmark and, secondly, you want to see what happens at Copenhagen. Now really Mr Rudd is for the sake of a few months, it’s not as though we’re saying to him pit this off for three years - we’re saying let’s finalise it in February rather than November. That’s literally all we’re talking about.

DENIS SCANLAN:

Malcolm, on the whole subject of emission trading schemes and the environment, is it an embarrassment to you that you have in your own party, the Liberals, some people who doubt climate change, climate change doubters and the Nationals, just about every National doesn’t want to know about it. Is that an Achilles heel for you?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Denis, let me just say this - this is not a theological issue. Some people try to treat it like that. It is perfectly reasonable for people to have doubts about science, question science. I mean, heaven’s sake, there are so many examples of received wisdom, scientific wisdom being proved to be wrong. So you’ve always got to be questioning and be prepared to challenge orthodoxy. So denigrating people because they are sceptical about the theory, the proposition that the earth is warming because of human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases, denigrating them is ridiculous. However, the question is, the real political question is what do we do about it.

Now, as you go right back to Margaret Thatcher who was really one of the leading politicians in terms of picking up this problem many years ago, nearly 20 years ago. Margaret Thatcher made the point that you had to act prudently or indeed, as Rupert Murdoch famously once said, you’ve got to give the planet the benefit of the doubt. And what that means is that even though some people entertain doubts, grave doubts about the theory of climate change, there is so much scientific evidence for it and so much scientific opinion in favour of the theory that in my view it would be irresponsible not to take action. And of course, I’m not aware of any government in

the world that isn’t seeking to take some form of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

DENIS SCANLAN:

But it does give the Government a lot of ammunition though, Malcolm, doesn’t it? The fact that you do have doubters in your own party. I mean I watch Question Time virtually, well, every time Question Time is on and they have…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

[inaudible]

DENIS SCANLAN:

Sorry?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

You’re a masochist if you do that.

DENIS SCANLAN:

I know, I know, but at times it’s good comedy acts.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

You get 20 questions and no answers.

DENIS SCANLAN:

You get a lot of laughs, Malcolm. You do.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well that’s good.

DENIS SCANLAN:

They do have fun with it, don’t they. Let’s put it this way, wouldn’t you prefer that every member of your Party - let’s exclude the Nats for the moment - every member of your Party, you’d prefer no climate change doubters there?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Again, Denis, the issue of whether people are doubters or have got varying degrees of acceptance or scepticism about any particular scientific proposition is really beside the point. The issue is are you in favour of doing anything about it. Now, you could be very sceptical about the scientific theory but nonetheless say, as a matter of prudence, as a risk management exercise, I believe we should be part of concerted global action to reduce CO2 emissions.

DENIS SCANLAN:

Malcolm, on the subject of the Nationals and there was a conference in Queensland where some Nationals up there at the grassroots level talked about breaking away from the Liberal Party. They seem to be, well, are they a problem and where do you see the Coalition’s agreement with the Nationals going? Are you concerned? I mean they’re making some noises that you would rather not hear, Malcolm.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well Denis, the Nationals are very committed to the Coalition and they’ve reaffirmed that at their conference over the weekend. That’s the first thing. The second thing is there will from time to time be issues on which we differ, where we take a different approach. It’s very, very rare; very rare indeed. It may be, it may be - it’s not necessarily the case - it may be that we will vote in the Senate differently on the emissions trading scheme. But it’s far too early to say. The approach that we are taking is this - just as we did with the Renewable Energy Target - we are going to seek to amend the emissions trading scheme so as to protect jobs, in particular jobs in energy intensive regions such as Geelong. Geelong is a very, very good example of an area that will be, if Labor’s ETS were to go into operation now, would suffer very heavy disproportionate job losses. So we’re going to focus on improving the scheme.

We will argue with Mr Rudd that he should not finalise the legislation until early next year, after Copenhagen and after we see what the Americans do. If he refuses to do that and forces it to a vote in November we will then have to make a decision whether we vote for it or not and that will depend on the circumstances at the time but in particular on whether and to what extent the amendments that we’ve proposed have been accepted.

Now if we can get satisfactory amendments it may be that we will vote for it, notwithstanding that it is being introduced some months earlier than we believe is ideal. We have to make a pragmatic decision there. But what the Australian people want to see the Opposition doing is seeking to improve Labor’s emissions trading scheme, seeking to rectify the errors in it, the job destroying mistakes and flaws in the scheme. And that’s exactly what we did with the Renewable Energy Target legislation. We are going to play a constructive role and seek to protect the industries and the jobs that are so important, particularly in regional Australia.

DENIS SCANLAN:

Malcolm, I think we all agree that climate change of course is very, very important and all issues associated with it, but just talking to Tony Wright an hour or so ago and he said something which I think most people I’ve spoken to agree with - the big issue at the next election will be the economy. And Malcolm as most people see it the economy is going alright. We have a great banking system - the four tier bank system seems to be working. When you look at other countries which have been a disaster like America, England, we’ve got a great banking system, which I know the present Government didn’t put there of course but…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

The great banking system and the great banking regulation is entirely the creation of the previous Coalition Government.

DENIS SCANLAN:

I did say that Malcolm.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I know, I’ll just repeat - it was such a wise observation that you made, Denis, I repeated it.

DENIS SCANLAN:

Okay, now on the subject of the stimulus. If we look at places like JB Hi-Fi, a big electrical retailer that came out with a great profit result and it said a lot of their result was due to the stimulus. Wesfarmers and Coles of course have come out with their results saying that they did think the stimulus helped their result, although they did say they would say to Mr Rudd, no more. So you’ve got business, public companies like JB Hi-Fi, Malcolm, like Wesfarmers, saying the stimulus was good and it worked. How can you say it’s wrong?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, our view was back in February that the stimulus was too much, there was too much money being spent and it wasn’t being spent well enough. So we certainly supported a stimulus but we were really arguing about, or we were arguing about the size of the stimulus and the targeting of it. So that’s really the issue. So it’s not a question of whether the stimulus, you know, whether there should or should not have been a stimulus - we certainly supported a stimulus - but we would have just composed it or designed it differently. We certainly wouldn’t have had so much money being handed out in cash handouts; we opposed those.

DENIS SCANLAN:

Malcolm, could I ask you - just butting in here - do you believe that these stimuluses that the economy or the stimulus that the Government put into the economy will come back to bite us or come back to bite the Government?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, of course it comes back to bite you in the sense that it’s all borrowed money and this is really the issue, Denis. I mean, it’s no different to the decisions all of us make in our own lives. You can borrow money and you can use it very wisely and build up your business or improve your farm or improve your house - you can add value by using borrowed money wisely. Or you can borrow money and you can use it ineffectively. You know, you can borrow $100,000 and spend it on something and

end up with only $25,000 worth of investment, so you’ve lost $75,000. It’s a question of how you use it.

Now our point simply is that the stimulus has not been well targeted. Of course if you sent everybody a cheque for $900 it’s going to have some impact on retail sales but a large part of that stimulus money was saved, so it didn’t go back into the economy. It simply reduced debt, household debt. And, again, you’ve got to ask yourself, I mean, here were are in Victoria which has been so short of water - and we think of the dire straits the irrigation districts in Victoria face - instead of spending so much money on Julia Gillard Memorial Assembly Halls and schools, why not divert that money to repairing the very leaky and inefficient irrigation systems of Australia? I mean we allocated a lot of money towards that when we were in government. That was part of our vision, our National Plan for Water Security, and the Rudd Government has done practically nothing with it.

DENIS SCANLAN:

Malcolm, would you agree that the…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

[Inaudible]…responsibility.

DENIS SCANLAN:

…the big issue at the next election will be the economy and if the economy…

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

There’s no doubt the economy and the management of the economy is always the big issue and it will be a very big issue at the next election - you are absolutely right.

DENIS SCANLAN:

So if the economy stays in pretty good shape or improves - and there’s every chance of that happening - do you believe that if people look at the economy and they say, well, the Government seems to be going alright, that you’ll suffer a pretty devastating defeat Malcolm? To be on the pessimistic side.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

You would hardly expect me to agree with that! Look, let me just say this to you…

DENIS SCANLAN:

Well, let’s put it this way, it’s going to make it very hard for you.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

No, Denis, let me put this to you; the Rudd Government is running up debt at an unprecedented level. Australians are smart enough to know that the higher the level

of government debt, the higher the level of taxes and interest rates have to be. That follows as night follows day.

Now a government can say, you know, we borrowed money and we spent it on some very important infrastructure and that’s increased economic activity and so our tax revenues have gone up, so it’s all paying for itself. But if you’ve borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars and you have got very little to show for it, then all you’ve left people with is the heavy burden of that debt and so the economy has not been strengthened and you are going to have to pay higher taxes and higher interest rates. And it doesn’t matter, you know, the Government can talk about, you know, can identify any sort of idealistic objectives it wants to in terms of tax reform but if it has imposed on the community, on the taxpayer, a heavy burden of debt then it follows that taxes are going to have to be higher to pay it off.

DENIS SCANLAN:

Malcolm, just one more question. I know you’ve got to get away to the function there at Grovedale. Now the seat of Corangamite - and I must say you’ve got an excellent candidate there in Sarah Henderson, she’s like you and she’s like me.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

A great candidate.

DENIS SCANLAN:

She’s also like you and me - she’s a journalist, so she’s an excellent candidate. Now, at the last election Corangamite went Labor for the first time in history, do you believe that Sarah Henderson and the Liberals can win Corangamite back?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Absolutely. Sarah Henderson is an outstanding candidate. She will give Corangamite the representation that it deserves. She will stand up for Corangamite. Darren Cheeseman, the current Labor member, what has he done to seek to protect the industries of Geelong in the face of the Rudd Government’s emissions trading proposals? He wasn’t there seeking amendments to the Renewable Energy Target - it was the Liberals. He’s not there proposing to change the emission trading scheme to protect the jobs at Alcoa or Shell or Ford.

And what about the student Youth Allowance? He hasn’t put his hand up to defend the interests of regional students there. Sarah Henderson, on the other hand, will be a strong voice for Corangamite and she is the type of representative, the type of parliamentarian that every electorate would seek to have. And Corangamite I think will have a very great member of the House of Representatives in Sarah.

DENIS SCANLAN:

Malcolm, have a good day in Geelong. You’re there at Grovedale and then you’re down on the coast to Torquay this afternoon. I appreciate your time this morning Malcolm.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Great to be with you.

DENIS SCANLAN:

Thanks Malcolm.