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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 5 September 2008: climate change; Professor Garnaut's report.

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PW 165/08 5 September 2008




WONG: Thanks very much for coming. We welcome, the Government welcomes the release today of Professor Garnaut’s latest report, which sets out a whole range of economic data and other issues around climate change. We welcome Professor Garnaut’s contribution. Can I just say this latest report confirms yet again why this country must act on climate change. It confirms yet again that the costs of inaction are greater than the costs of action and it reminds us why it is so important that Australia acts - for ourselves, for our economy and for future generations. Professor Garnaut’s report also demonstrates that this is a substantial challenge. It’s a challenge the Australian Government is very aware of and it’s a challenge that the Australian people are very aware of. We know that tackling climate change will not be easy. Professor Garnaut's report demonstrates that but we know that it is the right thing to do. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

WONG: We will take into account the report from Professor Garnaut. We will take into account our Treasury modelling and our consultation with stakeholders. And as we have previously indicated, we will set our mid-term target range at the end of this year. So I am certainly not going to pre-empt that decision. We have a timetable for decision-making on that, that we have laid out.

JOURNALIST: Is 10 per cent in the ball park?

WONG: Well, I think that’s the same question, actually.

JOURNALIST: Does the fixed price permits for the first couple of years, does that concept have any merit?

WONG: As the Prime Minister made clear this morning, and as I have previously said, we’re very conscious of a measured start to the scheme. We recognise the scale of the challenge here. We have to put in place a scheme that turns a very highly intensive carbon economy to a low carbon economy over time and we’re conscious of the importance of that. This is a policy suggestion that Professor Garnaut raised in his draft report - his previous report - and certainly it’s one of the contributions from Professor Garnaut. We will certainly consider that along with a range of other matters that have been put to us through the stakeholder consultation process.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of Professor Garnaut’s claim, that 550 parts per million is more acceptable or likely to get up at the international level, than 450 even though he’s saying that you need really 400 to save the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo?

WONG: What we know when it comes to the Great Barrier Reef, when it comes to the Australian economy - what we know is that we have to address climate change and that’s why the

Government is acting. We have a very substantial mid-century target of 2050, that’s why we’re putting in a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme because it is extremely important that this country, along with the rest of the world, addresses climate change.

JOURNALIST: What about the question of what’s achievable internationally? Is 550 parts per million the best we can hope for internationally?

WONG: Look we’ve said all along - and I think those of you who were at Bali would recognise this - we do have a lot of work to do as a community of nations on the global agreement. But what I can say is this: Professor Garnaut is right when he says Australia matters. In his report he says Australia matters and what we do matters. The Government does believe that. The Australian people believe that and the best chance of getting a global agreement from Australia’s perspective is to ensure we continue to play a strong and constructive role in the international negotiations.

JOURNALIST: Is it more important to get an agreement, any agreement, as a starting point and then perhaps improve on that agreement as time goes by which is what Professor Garnaut is suggesting?

WONG: Oh look, there are a range of ways in which we can seek to progress international negotiations. But what I will say is this: we’ve never underestimated as a Government how challenging these international negotiations are. But what we know is this: this is essentially a global problem, we need a global solution and Australia must play its part in the community of nations tackling climate change.

JOURNALIST: Do you reserve the right to not accept all of Professor Garnaut’s advice?

WONG: I think we’ve made it clear that Professor Garnaut is a contribution to Government consideration of this matter. We respect his advice, we’ll listen to his advice, but ultimately it is for Government to make its decisions on these matters.

JOURNALIST: Are you open to the possibility of the Government setting a target for 80 per cent by 2050 rather than 60?

WONG: We’ve been very clear that our commitment is to a 60 per cent reduction by 2050 and I think what Professor Garnaut’s report today confirms is that is a significant target. And we will continue to put forward our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, continue to work on that as the

way in which Australia can achieve that very substantial reduction by mid-century.

JOURNALIST: But that won’t change even after Treasury modelling, after you consider Treasury modelling and make a decision, you won’t waver from that.

WONG: We have been clear what our target is and can I say it is a very substantial target.

JOURNALIST: Minister hasn’t Professor Garnaut already belled the cat on your 2020 thing because he’s said a 60 per cent...

WONG: Sorry, belled …? [inaudible]

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

WONG: I think this is the same question I answered before. In relation to the 2020 or mid-range - a mid-term target range - we’ve laid out a timetable for indication, indicating that for the

Government decision on that. Obviously Professor Garnaut’s put out his economic modelling on that and as I said previously, next month we’ll release the Treasury modelling which will also deal with these issues. That will enable consultation with the Australian community before we make a decision at the end of the year. Thank you.