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Transcript of doorstop interview: 11 July 2008: Launceston: Petrol excise; emissions trading scheme; Tasmanian politics; interest rates.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP

11 July 2008

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP, DOORSTOP INTERVIEW LAUNCESTON

Subjects: Petrol excise; emissions trading scheme; Tasmanian politics; interest rates.

E&OE………………………………………………………………………………......

DR NELSON:

Well it’s terrific to be in Launceston. I spent the first 13 years of my life living in Newnham. Launnie is one of the best places in the country and it’s always wonderful to be back her in Launceston.

Today petrol is at $1.75 a litre in many parts of Australia and Mr Rudd says he can’t do anything about it. Last year Mr Rudd told Australians that he could do something about it and he would do something about it. But giving Australians a pair of binoculars and telling them to look at the price of petrol is not going to bring the price of petrol down.

There is one thing that Mr Rudd can do which he refuses to do and that’s to cut the tax; cut the excise on petrol. We believe in cutting the excise on petrol, give motorists at least five cents a litre off at the bowser. And Mr Rudd needs to stop giving Australians a whole lot of hot air and instead give us some action. I think Australians are increasingly tired of the fact Mr Rudd is all talk, he’s no action. He’s been overseas again. He hasn’t had any success in convincing the rest of the world to do anything about the price of petrol. The one thing that Mr Rudd can actually do is cut the excise and cut it now by five cents a litre.

QUESTION:

At the end of the day does that make much difference if people are paying $1.70, $1.80, maybe $2 by the end of the year?

DR NELSON:

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Every cent counts when it comes to buying petrol. And every cent counts for every Australian when they’re buying petrol, especially families with kids who are making decisions about whether they’re going to buy a leg of lamb or another ten litres of petrol. People today are making choices about whether they’re able to drive their kids to the footy, or whether they’re able to go out at the weekend. And anyone that thinks that five cents less at the bowser isn’t important is simply out of touch with the breaking point that Australians are at on petrol.

Mr Rudd is all backswing and no follow through, he’s all blow and no torch, he’s all talk and no action. He told Australians last year that he could something about the price of petrol, well Mr Rudd is now the Prime Minister of Australia, he’s got the opportunity and the responsibility to give Australians at leats a bit of relief. And the Coalition believes in cutting the excise by at least five cents a litre at the bowser. Every cent makes a difference. Anyone that thinks it doesn’t it simply out of touch.

Mr Rudd also has a new tax on petrol coming down the line. His chief adviser on the environment professor Ross Garnaut, he thinks the price of petrol should go up. Mr Rudd should rule out any increase in the price of petrol as a direct result of a new tax that’s coming down the pipeline from Mr Rudd’s climate change policies. Our very strong view is that Australians who are paying $1.75 a litre for petrol don’t need any more price signals. They’ve sure got the message when it comes to the price of petrol. And Mr Rudd needs to make it absolutely clear to Australians that they will not pay a cent more for petrol as a direct result of the introduction of his climate change policies.

QUESTION:

Well on that issue then can you clearly state what the Coalition’s policy is on the emissions trading scheme?

DR NELSON:

Well the Coalition believes that climate change is real. We need a rational, realistic, practical and sustainable approach to dealing with climate change. We believe very strongly that all of the countries of the world need to commit, especially the major emitters, to meaningfully dealing with climate change.

As Liberals we think that an emissions trading scheme is the best way to go for Australia. It should be introduced no later than 2012. We are very concerned that Mr Rudd has not thought this through. There’s a lot at stake here as far as jobs, the price of fuel, the price of electricity, Australia’s economic future. We believe very strongly that we’ve got to do everything we possibly can to see that the major emitters, the United States, China and India in particular, commit to meaningful action in relation to climate change. We believe in an emissions trading scheme, we believe in a cap and trade system and we also believe that it needs to be responsibly implemented at the earliest by 2011 and preferably by 2012.

We also believe that if the major emitters of the world do not commit to meaningful action in relation to climate change that when the emissions trading scheme

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commences, ideally in 2012 when it’s been carefully developed and thought through, then the price of carbon and the economic impacts on Australians and Australian families in particular, and Australian businesses should be kept to a bare minimum. We should not pay a heavier price from the introduction of an emissions trading scheme because the major emitters in the world have not agreed to act.

Our policy is we believe in an emissions trading scheme as the way to approach climate change from Australia’s perspective. It’s got to be very carefully thought through, responsibly implemented, and if we haven’t got the commitment from those big emitters throughout the world, then when it starts in 2012 it should start at a very low price that has minimal impact on Australian industry, Australian jobs and Australian families and motorists.

QUESTION:

Which model do you prefer?

DR NELSON:

Our policy is, in fact we strongly support a cap and trade system. And the uncertainty, there are different variations on the different models that are available. The concern we’ve got is that Mr Rudd has not made it clear with the emissions trading scheme that cap and trade that he intends to implement, how is he going to deal with the permits for Australian industries? Will he auction all of those permits or will he give some of them out for free? Will he have a transition period where he would actually fix the price of carbon or will he allow the market to understand and inform how the price of carbon is arrived at? How will his cap and trade emissions system interact with the rest of the world? Many of the countries that are looking at an emissions trading scheme have not yet decided what design and model they will follow.

Our very strong view is that we should have a cap and trade system. It must be very carefully and cautiously implemented. It should be with major commitments from the major emitters throughout the world. And the price of the carbon commencing in 2012 and that emissions trading scheme must be adjusted depending on what the rest of the world decided to do. The last thing that this country can afford to do is to sell our economic future down the river by shifting industries and jobs to other parts of the world by not getting the emissions trading scheme right.

I am not confident that Mr Rudd and his government are competent economic managers. I am not confident that Mr Rudd and his government is able to implement it in the way it should be implemented. There is a lot at risk here. Australian industries, Australian jobs, the price that people pay for petrol and their electricity bills. And most importantly our responsibility as political leaders of this nation is to make sure that we put Australia and Australia’s interests first in this. In implementing an emissions trading scheme to deal with climate change we must make absolutely certain that we look after our economy, our jobs, our industries, petrol for Australian motorists and electricity bills for Australian households.

QUESTION:

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You say the cap and trade scheme so can you specify exactly what type of cap and trade scheme the Opposition supports?

DR NELSON:

Well as I said our policy which we released in July last year has not changed. And we believe in a cap and trade system where the government obviously sets the total level of emissions that it believes that is appropriate. And then those permits, there is a combination of auctioning and also simply dispensing permits to different industries. What is important from our perspective and our policy is that we must look at the context of the international environment. We must set our emissions trading scheme to work that is able to take into account the commitments that have been made by the major emitters throughout the world. We have got to make absolutely certain that the price that we end up in Australia for carbon and the economic cost of complying with the emissions trading scheme does not put Australia at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the world.

It is important that Mr Rudd actually come clean with Australians and give Australians confidence and advice about the model for his cap and trade emissions trading scheme because how those permits are given to industry, how the price of carbon is set and the economic consequences of [inaudible] trajectory of meeting long term targets will be absolutely critical to Australia’s future.

QUESTION:

Have you discussed which type of scheme with your senior Liberal colleagues in recent days?

DR NELSON:

Yes, we speak about a whole variety of issues frequently. And as I’ve been saying for some time our policy was released in July last year and it remains our policy.

QUESTION:

You say it hasn’t changed since you released it but depending on which Liberal member you talk to there’s a public perception that you’re not reading from the same script.

DR NELSON:

Well that’s absolute nonsense. I mean, the policy is quite clear and that is that we believe that climate change is real, we give the planet the benefit of the doubt. We must act in the context of the major emitters throughout the world being committed to meaningful action in relation to climate change. And we believe as Liberals in a market approach which is an emissions trading scheme, a cap and trade system. We believe it’s very important that that be carefully and methodically developed. Mr Rudd doesn’t appreciate what’s at stake here in terms of electricity bills for families, petrol for motorists, jobs in Australian industries. He’s wanting to rush this through by 2010. It’s very important from our perspective that the scheme actually start

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preferably in 2012, and that when it starts, if the major emitters throughout the world have not committed then we should start with a very, very low economic impact in Australia which in plain language means a minimal impact on jobs, on electricity bills at home. And certainly we believe very strongly that there must be no increase in the price of petrol as a direct result of the implementation of an emissions trading scheme.

QUESTION:

The Australian suggests today that there is going to be change in the Coalition’s policy and this is setting it up for a leadership vote. How do you respond to that?

DR NELSON:

Well absolute nonsense.

QUESTION:

So the party is united on this issue?

DR NELSON:

Look our policy is very clear. And the policy was released in July last year and I’ve given you a very clear enunciation of it. Climate change is real, Australia needs to be part of a genuinely global response to it. We believe in an emissions trading scheme, a cap and trade system. There are various models within that cap and trade system which will be determined by what the rest of the world does and the importance and priority we place on Australian industries that are trade and carbon exposed. And we believe that if the rest of the world does not make meaningful commitments, that the last thing we will do is sell Australia’s interests down the river. And that means that when the emissions trading scheme starts the price of that carbon must be very, very low with a negligible impact on the Australian economy.

Why should we shift Australian jobs out of Australia into other parts of the world by taking the risk of Mr Rudd getting this wrong? Because at the moment Mr Rudd seems to have a plan for Asia, he seems to have a preoccupation with the rest of the world but no plan for Australia and he appears not to be interested in putting Australian jobs, Australian industries and the welfare of Australian motorists first. Because that is what we do.

QUESTION:

You say your policy is clear but you’re standing here having to clarify it again and again and again. Does it appear to the public that your party is not united and not reading from the same script?

DR NELSON:

Look, I’ll leave that to you guys…

QUESTION:

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[Inaudible] the process of forming Liberal policy that you set down the policy and then your members are free to discuss it until you rewrite one? Is that what’s going on here?

DR NELSON:

Well basically this, this is a very, very important issue for us as Australians. It’s about making sure that we are global citizens and make our contribution to preserving our environment. But it’s also about standing up for Australia. Standing up for our jobs, standing up for Australian families, Australian industry and making darn sure that we don’t sell this country down the river by proceeding faster than we should when the rest of the world and the major emitters have not committed. Because if the major emitters throughout the world have not committed we must make sure that in introducing an emissions trading scheme that we get the prices of that carbon right and we minimise the economic impact on Australia.

Why should Australians pay a higher price for facing the challenge of climate change than others in other parts of the world? We must pay our fair share, we must play our fair role, we must pay our fare share but we’ve got to make sure that in starting the emissions trading scheme that we don’t disadvantage Australia more than other countries in other parts of the world.

QUESTION:

Is there any plan to review that 2007 policy? I mean are you going to develop that?

DR NELSON:

I think the key thing at the moment is that Mr Rudd, has his key adviser Professor Garnaut advocating an increase in the price of petrol. It’s $1.75 a litre today, Mr Rudd needs to make it very clear that whether or not he is actually going to put another tax on the price of petrol, that’s what Australians are really interested in at the moment. And our policy, as I say, was released in July last year, it remains our policy and we’re very determined to make sure that Mr Rudd puts Australia’s interest first in this.

QUESTION:

Can we just ask you about the Liberals conference tomorrow? You’re here to address the conference tomorrow, the Libs lost all their seats in Tasmania at the last election so what’s your message?

DR NELSON:

Well the most important thing for us is we believe in protecting and supporting individuals. We believe in choice, lower taxes, support for strong economic management, and the most important message for Liberals in Tasmania is that we can do this. Australians and Tasmanians are working out that Mr Rudd is not the same person they got in the catalogue and the letter box in 2007. It’s obvious Mr Rudd has

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no clear strategy or sense of priority for Australia. It’s also obvious that our interest rates, the price of petrol and groceries and worrying about our jobs is a big issue now in 2008 and Mr Rudd appears to have no answers for it. And for Tasmanian Liberals in particular, I thought the New South Wales Government was pretty ordinary until I got back to Tassie, and I think that Will Hodgman and his team are really going to shake things up at the next election.

QUESTION:

Have you got your eye on Bass and Braddon?

DR NELSON:

Well every voter is important. We’ve got our eye on every seat in Tasmania, obviously in the north we’re focused on Bass and Braddon. I’ve got to say that Jodie Campbell has not actually set Canberra on fire if she stands for anything on behalf of the people of Bass, I don’t know what it is. I haven’t heard her make a peep up in Canberra and I noticed today in The Examiner she’s criticising me for suggesting that we should take five cents a litre off the price of petrol. I suggest to Jodie Campbell she go out to any service station in Launceston, or Bridport, or Scottsdale and ask motorists lining up at the servo whether they’d like another five cents a litre off their petrol. I’m just suspicious that they reckon that’s a good idea. And basically if you want cheaper petrol you’ve only got one choice, you vote for the Coalition.

QUESTION:

Can I just get you on the Commonwealth Bank moves today to increase its interest rates, what effect do you think that will have on working families, dare I say it, and should other banks hold off or follow suit?

DR NELSON:

Well look, after seven months, Australians are asking themselves why it is that every time we get a Labor government interest rates, petrol and groceries all increase. Mr Rudd’s budgeting for 134,000 people to be out of work over the next year. I mean why is it that Mr Rudd comes into government, we get higher interest rates, higher petrol, higher groceries, it’s getting harder for Australians to make ends meet. Mr Rudd’s travelling around the world, he’s got a plan for Asia and all sorts of big ideas. All backswing, no follow through.

As far the banks are concerned, we’ve had two official rates rises from the Reserve Bank of Australia, the banks are increasing interest rates under Mr Rudd. I don’t remember them doing that under Mr Swan…in fact I do remember them doing it under Mr Swan. But the banks are increasing their interest rates under Mr Rudd but I don’t remember them doing that under Mr Costello. And the most important thing is the banks have got to explain to Australians, Mr Rudd’s got to put the blowtorch on them to do this, explain to Australians why, with such huge profits, are they further increasing interest rates. Why is it that the people who are always at the bottom end of the economic food chain, and that’s people with mortgages, credit cards and small businesses with overdrafts have to pay the price for all of this?

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Mr Rudd get back to Australia, start talking to Australians in plain language that we all understand and start making decisions. And Mr Rudd, earlier in the year when he was after a lot of photo opportunities, toddled along to the Reserve Bank of Australia with Mr Swan to have a photo opportunity. Well can I suggest to Mr Rudd and Mr Swan now, why don’t you just pay a visit to the Commonwealth Bank on behalf of those Australians that have got a home loan with them and find out why on earth they put interest rates up again and explain it to Australians not in Mandarin but in plain English, plain language that we all understand. We need a prime minister that stands up for Australia and stands up for Australians. It’s about time Mr Rudd actually got on the job.

[ends]

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