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Transcript of doorstop interview: Traralgon, Gippsland: 27 June 2008: Gippsland by-election; petrol excise; emissions trading scheme; Ken Henry; nuclear power.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP

27 June 2008

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH ROHAN FITZGERALD TRARALGON, GIPPSLAND

Subjects: Gippsland by-election; petrol excise; emissions trading scheme; Ken Henry; nuclear power.

EO&E………………………………………………………………………………......

DR NELSON:

Good morning everybody.

Today is obviously the day before the by-election here in Gippsland and the most important issues of course are the local issues. But there is no issue more important than the price of petrol. Rohan Fitzgerald stands for lower petrol, at least five cents off at the bowser. Whatever happens with petrol over the period of time, Rohan Fitzgerald when he goes to Canberra will make absolutely sure that we cut the price of petrol by at least five cents a litre. Every cent counts for every Australian, every family that’s trying to juggle family finances with interest rates and grocery pressures and cost of living expenses. Every Aussie knows that every cent at the bowser counts. At least five cents a litre off at the pump, that’s what Rohan Fitzgerald stands for and that’s what when people in Gippsland decide to cast their vote tomorrow, voting for Rohan Fitzgerald means voting for lower petrol prices.

Mr Rudd and the Labor candidate, they just want you to have a pair of binoculars and look at the price of petrol. Watching the price of petrol does not bring it down. Anyone knows that. Rohan Fitzgerald will stand for lower petrol prices, stand up for the people of Gippsland, stand up on petrol, stand up on roads, stand up on hospitals, and make sure the people of Gippsland get a real voice in Canberra and not just another Labor apparatchik in Labor’s choir.

QUESTION:

It’s very important for your leadership, yes?

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DR NELSON:

Well what’s important is the people of Gippsland have got to make absolutely certain that they send someone like Rohan Fitzgerald to Canberra. Rohan Fitzgerald is a man who is going to stand up for the people of Gippsland, stand up on local issues, save the Traralgon Post Office, make sure we get duplication of the Princes Highway, support the Maffra Hospital and also of course make sure we get lower petrol prices. That’s what counts.

QUESTION:

You mentioned at least five cents a litre off petrol. Is there active consideration being given to cutting the excise by more than five cents?

DR NELSON:

Well the Liberal Party and Rohan Fitzgerald stand for lower taxes. We stand for lower petrol prices. Five cents off the excise when you include the GST is five and a half cents off at the bowser. And we are obviously determined to make sure we have lower petrol prices. That’s what we stand for. So five cents off the excise is five and a half cents off at the bowser.

QUESTION:

There’s no reference to you in that how-to-vote card Brendan. Is there a reason for that?

DR NELSON:

Well Rohan Fitzgerald stands on his own two feet. The people of Gippsland are making absolutely sure that they have got to choose the person that’s going to best represent the people of Gippsland in Canberra. And the Labor candidate on the other hand has got no choice because he’s so hopeless but to throw his arms around Mr Rudd.

QUESTION:

There’s been a lot of talk about local issues of course in this campaign but doesn’t the federal situation resonate here also?

DR NELSON:

Well one of the things that does resonate very much here federally of course are the 2,000 or so jobs that rely on power generation in the Latrobe Valley. And we know the Labor candidate is very close to Mr Garrett. The Labor candidate has also made some comments which suggest that he like Mr Rudd is really not going to stand up and protect the jobs of people in the Latrobe Valley. We know Mr Rudd’s climate change policies are going to have a very serious and negative impact on the Latrobe Valley and the workers in it for Australia’s coal industry and Gippsland’s power generation it is very, very important.

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As I said yesterday we are seven months into a new Federal Government and you would expect that this is going to be a very, very tight contest, which it is. But the people of Gippsland tomorrow need to know that every single vote counts. It’s very important that we send Rohan Fitzgerald to Canberra and make absolutely sure that Gippsland has a strong voice in Canberra and also that it has another person in Canberra that actually believes in cutting the price of petrol, not just watching it.

QUESTION:

You mention emissions trading and climate change and obviously this electorate has a lot of those issues confronting it. When are we going to see your policy on emissions trading and how it should work and whether or not petrol ought to be included and all the rest of those sorts of questions that really you haven’t answered for a long time?

DR NELSON:

Well as the locals here know in my last visit to Gippsland I announced the clean energy technology plan that Rohan Fitzgerald and the Liberal Party has for the Latrobe Valley. We’ve got to make sure that this is a model as far as world class clean energy technology for coal powered energy generation for the world.

What we’re doing in relation to climate change Tony is, it’s important that we give the planet the benefit of the doubt, that we are part of a genuinely global solution when it comes to addressing climate change. That whatever Mr Rudd signs this country up to that we go into it with our economic eyes wide open. That we should not be party to any agreement which is going to export jobs and industries from Australia into other countries in other parts of the world. That’s why it’s very important that the people of Gippsland understand that Mr Rudd and Mr Garrett have failed to explain policies that are going protect the jobs of people in the Latrobe Valley.

What we will do is we will wait until we have seen Professor Garnaut’s report. We will also examine closely the green paper which is going to be released as a result of it. But the other thing that’s very important that we stand for is guaranteeing that we will protect Australian motorists and Australian families from the direct introduction of climate change policies that would put upward pressure and increase the price of petrol and indeed protect people, pensioners and low income families when it comes to electricity generation.

Australia has got a train coming down the track that’s got Mr Rudd’s face on it and it is going to run everybody down if he doesn’t get this right. And we’re in an environment now where Mr Rudd with one of the most complex and important policies that this country will ever see in relation to climate change is on the cusp of being developed and the head of Treasury is heading off for a five week break.

QUESTION:

You have predicted a Labor win in Gippsland. Do you stand by that?

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DR NELSON:

What I have said in fact is you would expect in this national environment, seven months into a new government, looking at the national political scene you would expect that the Government would be successful in the by-election. But this is very, very tight, and it’s very important that every person in Gippsland realises that his or her vote is really going to count and the person that’s going to make that vote count most, particularly when it comes to cutting the price of petrol, is Rohan Fitzgerald.

QUESTION:

Are you pleased with how Rohan has run the campaign so far?

DR NELSON:

Yes. Rohan Fitzgerald is one of the best blokes, hardest working candidates, decent guys you’d ever meet. He’s a fair dinkum bloke. What you see is what you get. He’s got a wife and four kids, he lives in Traralgon and he works in Sale. He coaches the local basketball, he plays basketball. He’s of the community, he’s for the community, and he stand for Liberal values of lower taxes and families and lower petrol.

QUESTION:

But if Labor wins this by-election doesn’t that mean that your message to your colleagues and also nationally has failed?

DR NELSON:

Well tomorrow is the by-election. We’ll just wait and see what happens.

FITZGERALD:

I’d just like to say that this has been a hard fought battle and that’s the way I like to do business. I like to fight for the things that matter to our community and I have certainly fought hard on the Traralgon Post Office. I have fought hard because I wanted to show the people of Gippsland that I am there to represent them. And that I am there to put in the hard yards when it matters. On petrol people are telling me that petrol prices are really hurting them and they want action. They don’t want the Prime Minister sitting on his hands doing nothing. They want leadership. Five cents a litre cut to the excise is leadership. It’s showing that we care and that we’re going to cut it.

I’m also about job creation. Job creation in the power industry, in the agricultural sector, and in terms of our plans we’ve got plans for not only the Latrobe Valley but we’ve got plans for central Gippsland and east Gippsland as well.

So in terms of my campaign we have fought very hard, we’ve fought hard on local issues. We’ve fought hard to cut the petrol tax, but we’ve also fought hard to get our plans out to the community as well. So it has been very important to me to have the great support of Brendan Nelson and I must say thank you very much for coming down and supporting me again today Brendan. Thank you.

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QUESTION:

Brendan can I just ask you about your thoughts on the wombat holiday?

DR NELSON:

Well look I think we all love the hairy-nosed wombat but I am very concerned about who is actually looking after our muddle-headed Treasurer when this country is in the process of going through one of the most challenging economic periods that we have seen in recent history. We know that the most complex and significant economic policy in the form of climate change is in the process of being considered by government. We’re supposed to be having a root and branch review of the taxation system. Pensioners have been told they have got to wait for Mr Henry to finish his work. Every time I raise the issue of the Liberal belief in cutting the price of petrol Mr Rudd says that we have got to refer all of these sorts of things to the so-called Henry review. It just reflects the fact that the Government is lacking direction; it’s clearly not giving direction to its key officials and public servants.

And what sort of thing are we getting from Mr Rudd? Tony Wright is here from the Canberra press gallery, he hears this stuff every day. We’re in a situation where it wasn’t so long ago Mr Rudd, having had a Treasury official work a 36 hour shift to deal with Mr Rudd’s stunt called FuelWatch, then said if public servants don’t like it they had better get used to it and work harder. And then only a few weeks later the head of Treasury no less goes off for a five week break. What most concerns me about this is that every Australian is entitled to and indeed should have a break. But what concerns me about this is that it suggests to me that the Government is lacking direction. What we have got is a Government that lacks strategy, it lacks a sense of priority, it certainly lacks a sense of urgency when it comes to the real issues that are worrying and concerning everyday Australians.

And today we read on the front page of the Australian Financial Review for example that the average Australian family, even after Peter Costello’s tax cuts are going to be delivered on the first of July, is on average $30 a week worse off than they were in November last year. And Mr Rudd’s response to that is to send the head of Treasury off for a five week holiday.

QUESTION:

Can I ask you, there seem to be rumblings within Labor about the question of nuclear? Has the Opposition devised a position on that issue?

DR NELSON:

Look the reality in terms of nuclear power is the Labor Party can’t even work out whether it really wants to sell uranium to the rest of the world let alone have a nuclear power industry in Australia. One of the first things the new Rudd Government did for example was to tell the Indians it wouldn’t sell uranium to them even though India has a growing appetite for energy and has a significant carbon footprint throughout the world.

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If Australia is going to return to a nuclear power debate and a nuclear power industry it will require bipartisan support and I’ll be interested to hear what Mr Rudd has got to say in response to the push within his own party for a nuclear power industry.

QUESTION:

What are you saying? If you’re talking about bipartisan support obviously bipartisanship requires two different conversations. What is your party going to do about it?

DR NELSON:

Well again Tony we’ll wait to see Ross Garnaut’s report. We’ll wait to see what the green paper looks like. But importantly people need to know it is the Labor Party that has scuttled any sane discussion in Australia about a nuclear power industry for Australia. My first concern at the moment is to see that Mr Rudd does not destroy the jobs of workers in work in Australia’s coal-fired power industry. It’s about clean energy technology, clean coal technology, carbon sequestration and all of those things that are important to preserving jobs in this country.

Australia’s base load power energy requirements for the foreseeable future will continue to be driven by coal. We need renewable energies; we need alternative sources of energy. Those are things that we all support, but Mr Rudd needs to explain to Australians whether he thinks that there is a future for a nuclear power industry.

[ends]

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