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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 15 July 2008: Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme; Green Paper.



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PW 115/08 15 July 2008

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

SUBJECT: CARBON POLLUTION REDUCTION SCHEME; GREEN PAPER

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

WONG: I think we’ll probably keep this reasonably short. I can indicate to you that today Cabinet has met and signed off on the Green Paper for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and as you know I’ll be announcing details of that Green Paper at the National Press Club tomorrow. So this is a very important reform for the Government. It’s a very important form for the nation and for the future of the nation. And what is important is this: that we approached this with three things in mind. First, that we approach this in an economically responsible fashion; second that we are very conscious of the impact on families, pensioners, carers and seniors; and third, that we do this for the nation’s future. We know, from what Professor Garnaut and other scientists have told us, that we as a nation have a lot to lose from climate change. This is something we have to tackle for our current and for our future prosperity and we know that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the most economically responsible way of moving from a high-polluting economy to a low-polluting economy of the future. Happy to take your questions.

JOURNALIST: Does the Green Paper simply address emissions trading or does it canvass a whole lot of other measures to address climate change?

WONG: Well I think you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow to see what’s in the Green Paper, I’m certainly not going to go through it today. But we have made it clear what is needed is a whole of economy approach to reducing carbon pollution. Emissions trading is one part of that and we have also said that you need to look at assistance for households and also for those businesses which are affected. But we will canvass those issues in the Green Paper tomorrow. This is obviously a discussion paper: a paper which sets out a range of options to enable further consultation and discussion with the Australian community. We are very conscious as a Government that this is a significant reform, a substantial reform and it does require close consultation with the community as we move forward.

JOURNALIST: Where will we see some mid-term targets for emission reduction?

WONG: What I made clear in Bali, and the Prime Minister has also made clear, is that we will not be setting those mid-term targets until the end of the year. We’re undertaking, as you know, Treasury modelling � we need to consider that. We also want to consider the final Garnaut Report which is due to report in September/October. So the Green Paper tomorrow doesn’t go to the issue of what Australia’s targets would be. What this does is canvass the design of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and associated measures.

JOURNALIST: Will it tell us how much of the economy is likely to qualify for some form of compensation because it can’t pass the costs on to its consumers?

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WONG: Again I’m not going to go into the detail of the paper but, consistent with what I’ve already said, we are very conscious in terms of designing this Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme that we have to look at the impacts on households � also on two sectors in particular, the emissions-intensive trade-exposed and the strongly affected sectors, strongly affected industries. I’ve been consistently saying since February that we would ensure there are measures to address all three sectors and you can reasonably anticipate the Green Paper will consider those issues.

JOURNALIST: You’ve got a lock-up for the media tomorrow? What other groups have been invited to lock-ups?

WONG: I’ll have to check with my office but from memory we have asked a range of stakeholders � stakeholders who were involved in the roundtable consultation processes in the lead-up to the discussion to the Green Paper that is being issued.

JOURNALIST: But why have you excluded the Opposition.

WONG: I wasn’t aware the Opposition had asked to attend but I’ll find that out.

JOURNALIST: They did ask to attend yesterday, but why did they have to ask and why has a reply been so long in coming?

WONG: Well Laurie can I say this, I’m not clear what the Opposition’s view on this issue is. If they wish to approach…

JOURNALIST: Well none of us will be clear if they don’t know what’s in the paper, will we?

WONG: If the Opposition want to approach this on a genuinely bipartisan fashion, if the Opposition want to actually look at an issue that we consider to be important for the long-term future of the country, then obviously we’ll have a dialogue with them. But to date, can I say the Opposition’s views on this issue have been marked by disagreement and confusion.

JOURNALIST: But if you’re treating them like this, why should they be interested in bipartisan? Your attitude is not bipartisan, to exclude them from the lock-up.

WONG: Well can I say that the Opposition on this issue has been all at sea. The [interrupted]…

JOURNALIST: But you’re the Government though. Why have you excluded them from the lock-up? Why weren’t they automatically invited like other interest groups?

WONG: The Opposition on this issue has been all at sea, and the Opposition on this issue has put a range of positions. As I said if the Opposition wish to put, to approach this on bipartisan basis, so I’m certainly willing to have a dialogue with them. I’m certainly willing to have a dialogue with them. But can I say I’m not sure what the previous history when Mr Howard was in Government is in terms of lock-ups on these sorts of issues.

JOURNALIST: But we’re not talking about the Howard Government. We’re talking about the Rudd Government. Will you now invite them to the lock up?

WONG: If the Opposition want a briefing on this issue we will certainly arrange it.

JOURNALIST: They can come to the lock-up.

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WONG: If the Opposition wish for a briefing on this issue we can certainly arrange it.

JOURNALIST: It isn’t quite the same is it?

WONG: Well, I think I’ve answered the question Laurie.

JOURNALIST: Is the Green Paper limited to the carbon trade system or will it look at a range of problems?

WONG: We made clear, prior to the election, that we would be proceeding down the path of a cap-and-trade scheme. Can I say that is the same approach that Prime Minister Howard came to. There obviously has been a debate in this country and internationally over some time as to what is the most effective way to reduce carbon pollution. We determined prior to the election as did Prime Minister Howard, that a cap and trade scheme was the most cost-effective way of reducing carbon pollution within the Australian economy. That was our election commitment and that is the approach we will be taking.

JOURNALIST: Has the Treasury advised anyone in the Government that geo-sequestration is probably going to be too expensive?

WONG: Well I understand the Treasurer has already made some comment on the report to which you are referring and I understand what he’s indicated is that report is incorrect.

JOURNALIST: Minister at the weekend, you said about 1,000 companies would be included but under the NGER Act, only 700 will have to report by 2010-2011. Why is there a discrepancy there?

WONG: Well that sort of detail which really goes to coverage issues, I will leave that until tomorrow. The advice I have is that approximately 1,000 companies would be directly liable within this scheme. Broader issues as to coverage will be dealt with tomorrow.

JOURNALIST: Will it cover issues like that… [inaudible]

WONG: I’m sorry I didn’t hear the question.

JOURNALIST: … reducing the emissions, like geo-sequestration… [inaudible]

WONG: Well the content of the Green Paper, as I said, will be released tomorrow.

JOURNALIST: …rather than just the content… [inaudible].

WONG: Well the content of the Green Paper will be clear tomorrow. We’ve made clear what we do need is a whole of economy approach to reducing carbon pollution. At the heart of that is emissions trading, but there are obviously a range of matters which the Government will need to progress.

JOURNALIST: You say that you can’t address targets and trajectories tomorrow because you don’t have the modelling. Is there any other areas of the Green Paper that the Government is not equipped to cover at the moment� that you simply don’t have the information to address in the Green Paper?

WONG: We’ve made clear from I think December last year, the timeline for indicating the trajectory, the targets. So we have been consistent with that since we were elected. We don’t resile

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from the fact this is a complex reform. We are seeking through this process to move the Australian economy from a high carbon polluting economy to a lower carbon polluting economy - a cleaner, greener economy of the future. That is a very substantial economic transition. It requires a careful and methodical approach to design. That’s why we are releasing a Green Paper which sets our options for consultation to enable further discussion with stakeholders and the Australian community. We will take a careful approach and responsible approach to designing this scheme.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]… what’s your advice on the way the system in Europe is working and has it actually reduced carbon pollution?

WONG: Well look obviously in determining the various design options in the scheme, we were conscious of the international experience to date and the lessons that can be learnt from looking at what has occurred in the European Union. And we’ve taken those into account in terms of what is included in the Green Paper.

JOURNALIST: What’s wrong with the term ‘emissions trading scheme’ that you’ve felt the need to re badge it as a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme?

WONG: Well the focus of this reform is to reduce the amount of carbon we put into the atmosphere. I’ve consistently spoken about that and the reality is all of us are now paying the price for the fact that, over many years, we have put carbon into the atmosphere and� as a result we now have climate change. We have to deal with the costs of that. And that is why we do have to focus on reducing carbon dioxide, we have to reduce these emissions into the atmosphere. That’s the way you tackle climate change.

JOURNALIST: Senator Wong, if you are trying to reduce carbon emissions, what is your reaction to Queensland going down the path of possibly boosting the production of coal by 40%. Are more coal plants in line with that as long as it’s clean coal or what’s your position?

WONG: Well look a couple of points. We know as a Government that it’s extremely important to address the issue of clean coal, that’s why we have a half-billion dollar election commitment which is being delivered through our clean coal fund, that Minister Ferguson has carriage of. We do need to work out how it is we can reduce our emissions from coal and the Government is committed through our clean coal fund to addressing that. Thank you.