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Transcript of interview: ABC 2: 10 June 2009: Solar rebate and Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

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PW 152/09 10 June 2009




JOURNALIST: Minister Good morning.

WONG: Good morning to you.

JOURNALIST: Now we might turn first of all to this solar panel rebate cancellation it seems like a pretty nasty and sneaky move doesn’t?

WONG: Not at all. This Government has provided unprecedented support to the solar industry. In fact the support that we’ll provide just in this program alone is about four times that which we promised at the election. What we are providing is a smooth transition. We are saying we’re ending this program we going to transition to the Renewable Energy Target and the solar credit scheme that will be under that legislation.

JOURNALIST: But retailers are saying it was anything but a smooth transition yesterday. You had thousands of orders to try and be finalised within hours to get through. You were basically cheating some people out of this weren’t you?

WONG: No I don’t agree with that, it is a smooth transition because we are ensuring that there will always be support for solar panels. We are changing the nature of the support as we said we would. We have flagged this before and remember also that in the pipeline is some 60,000 applications which the Government will honour. That’s about almost a year’s more work for the solar installation industry so we are providing as I said unprecedented support. It’s about four times what we said we would provide prior to the last election. We will continue that support through our Renewable Energy Target legislation which will be introduced into the Parliament this week. We will back date the regulations on that to enable solar credits which will be the new program, to start from the date of the announcement.

JOURNALIST: You say you flagged this before but when you flagged it, it was going to be three weeks from today, why did you bring it forward and only give people eight hours notice?

WONG: Well obviously when you are ending a grants based program you do have to be aware that once you flag it people are going to apply. We also have to manage this program sustainably and that’s what we are doing. What we are doing is saying to the industry, look we given the industry around four times what we said we would do before the election, we transitioning to solar credits, we are doing it with the knowledge that the industry will have funded almost a year’s work around 60,000 applications that the Government will honour.

JOURNALIST: Now have you convinced Steve Fielding that solar flares don’t cause climate change?

WONG: I am meeting with Steve as he said next week. But I want to make some very simple facts clear. We have had 13 of the 14 hottest years in history in the last 15 years. Solar flares does not explain the phenomenon that we are seeing. We are currently already seeing the impacts of climate change, and what we know from what the best scientists tell us and what the consensus scientist tells us, is that climate change will accelerate and will intensify in the lives of our children and our grandchildren. And that is what all Senators will be confronting when we put this legislation into the Senate in the next sitting fortnight. This is a vote that is about taking action on climate change and recognising that we need to take responsibility now and not simply leave it to our children and our grandchildren to deal with.

JOURNALIST: You keep on saying that business wants certainty and that’s why this legislation needs to be put through urgently, but businesses are saying that regulations needs to be clarified before this legislation is put through the House. Issues like which steel making process will qualify for compensation. Are you going to clarify those things before you put this legislation through?

WONG: Let’s just take a step back and understand what the Government is doing. We are providing an enormous amount of detail ahead of the Senate debate. We are providing draft activity statements which is the basis of regulations. This is the sort of detail that never saw when the previous government introduced the GST or introduced Workchoices. We are providing information ahead of the legislation being debated in the Parliament because we understand people do want to see that detail. We will continue to work with the steel industry on the technical issues just as we said we would, and we will do that.

But can I say this is also a position that Malcolm Turnbull is arguing because he is seeking yet another reason for delay because he doesn’t want to have to take responsibility and doesn’t want to have to vote on this legislation because he can’t yet get a position in his party room. And I want to just remind Mr Turnbull and the Opposition of this; they keep referring to the United States to the American bill. Under the American legislation the sort of detail that you just asked me about would not be available until mid 2011. That is, June 2011. That gives you some sense of how much further ahead Australia is in providing the detail we know is important, but it also shows the nature of Mr Turnbull’s argument. Is he seriously saying that Australia should wait until June 2011 before we decide to do something that we have been talking about for a decade?

JOURNALIST: He will be a hard man to convince. Very briefly any chance of getting it passed in the next two weeks, any chance at all?

WONG: Well obviously as you said in your introduction this is tough and because the Liberal Party has walked out of the room, has refused to deal with this issue and to tackle the issue of climate change head on. We are in the situation as a government of discussing this issue with the crossbenchers, we will continue to do that, but as I said every Senator, every Senator is going to have to front up to their electorate and to tell people if they vote no, why they voted to ensure Australia’s emissions keeps rising, voted to ensure that our carbon pollution keeps increasing, voted

to ensure that we continue to contribute to climate change.

JOURNALIST: Senator Penny Wong in Canberra thanks very much for that.

WONG: Good to speak with you