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Transcript of interview with Sabra Lane: ABC, AM: 11 October 2011: Clean Energy legislation

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THE HON GREG COMBET AM MP Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency


GC 296/11

11 October 2011




LANE: Greg Combet, good morning and welcome. This is a big day for the Government but has Julia Gillard and the Government lost too much skin in its fight?

COMBET: Oh look any hard reform is going to be pretty gruelling and this has been a tough political issue let alone you know difficult and complex economic reform but it is one that the country needs to make.

It is in our long term national interest to bring about reductions in the emissions intensity of our economy by cutting pollution and driving innovation and investment in low emissions technology and clean energy and renewable energy.

We've got to play our part internationally in tackling climate change and this is a really important way of contributing.

LANE: Given that the amount of opposition by big business especially this week, the last minute lobbying, will their opposition actually be an impediment to the way this scheme works?

COMBET: No, it won't and I think we have just seen a couple of last minute commentaries (coughs) excuse me, yesterday from Mr Warburton and the Coal Association but broadly now it is three months since the detailed policy was announced by the Government, our Clean Energy Future package.

And it represents months and in some cases years of hard complex work done in consultation with individual businesses and the business community generally to get the design of this policy right.

And I'll think you'll notice over the last three months really there has not been a lot of business commentary and that is because we have done the hard work to make sure we've got the policy as fine turned and well calibrated as we can.

LANE: The Opposition will try to amend this today to delay a vote until after the next election.

What do you put that down to and how hard will this be for a Coalition government to unpick?

COMBET: Well, it is just the latest in another silly set of stunts by Tony Abbott. We've had, you know, silly proposals for referenda and now we have got this proposed amendment. What it actually demonstrates when you think about it is that there is only politics in Tony Abbott's position and they have done no detailed policy work.

Never at any point since Tony Abbott obtained the leadership of the Liberal Party has he done any detailed work on one of the most important environmental, economic and social challenges that the country faces in the form of climate change.

What can you actually point to that he has contributed constructively to the debate and here again, here we are now in the detailed consideration phase of these bills and he's got one amendment, you know, to try and stop it.

LANE: How hard will it be for a Coalition government to unpick the scheme?

COMBET: Look, we've not designed the scheme in order to prevent it being unpicked. We have designed the scheme to be the best piece of public policy that we can formulate so that we reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our economy at the least cost to businesses and households and of course, within it is very important assistance for Australian households.

Nine out of 10 households will receive some assistance in the form of tax cuts or increases in the pension or other benefit payments in order to help them meet the modest cost impacts of bringing a carbon price into the economy.

So we've done very detailed design work to achieve environmental effectiveness, economic efficiency and social equity and that's what driven us - not trying to respond to Tony Abbott's silliness.

LANE: Okay, Labor convenor Graham Perrett has taken a fairly dramatic stand today saying that he'll quit if there is another leadership change. What do you make of this? Is it an ultimatum?

COMBET: Well, I think everyone ought to just calm down. We have got some serious work to be done here and it is no more graphically in evidence than this week.

We've got the clean energy legislation before the House of Representatives - a reform that this country has been debating for years and its time we got on and did it. That is before the House of Reps this week. That is the priority.

We've also got debate resuming on the amendments to the Migration Act - another extremely important public policy issue for this country. All of my colleagues and everyone else including in the gallery and elsewhere, I think we ought to just focus a little bit on these matters that are of somewhat importance to the national interest and diminish our fascination with politics.

It's a stable government. We've got a big program. We are rolling out the NBN, health reform changes, improvements to workforce participation, tackling important tax issues, supporting the manufacturing sector. We've got the steel transformation plan legislation before the house this week too.

That is a pretty important issue for thousands and thousands of people in areas like the Illawarra and Whyalla. We ought to just focus on getting these things done I think.

LANE: Okay Mr Combet, thanks for your time.

COMBET: Thank you Sabra.

EASTLEY: The Climate Change Minister Greg Combet with Sabra Lane.