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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert: Sky News AM Agenda: 13 November 2013: carbon tax repeal; emission reductions; Direct Action; Renewable Energy Target

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The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for the Environment




Topics: Carbon tax repeal, emission reductions, Direct Action, Renewable Energy Target,

KIERAN GILBERT: First though, to the Environment Minister Greg Hunt. I spoke to him a bit earlier this morning and I began by asking him - doesn’t Labor have a point?

Isn’t it reasonable for Labor to say they want to see the detail of the Coalition’s alternative Direct Action plan before a vote is held on the carbon tax?

GREG HUNT: This is just an excuse. Today’s the day that Australians voted for. Today’s the day that Australia’s four largest business groups have been calling for.

This is the chance to reduce family costs by $550 a year by repealing the carbon tax and to take the pressure off firms that employ millions of Australians through reducing electricity and gas and business input costs.

There’s no reason for delay. There should be no excuse. This is the ALP that says the carbon tax should be terminated. In reality they’re not terminating it, they just want to change its name and keep it.

It’s a great big con, the ALP approach.

KIERAN GILBERT: But you haven’t had your green paper on your policy yet. You’re going to have a green paper, then a white paper, so the detail is not out there yet. Aren’t the Australian people, isn’t the Parliament still in the dark when it comes to your alternative?

GREG HUNT: No, these are two completely different issues.

The ALP knows that the Australian people voted to repeal the carbon tax. They are themselves saying that the tax is too high, but then on the other hand they’re doing everything to keep the tax.

13 November 2013

So you have a tax which by global standards is broader, according to the Productivity Commission, than anything else. It’s high and there is no comparable economy-wide tax anywhere in the world. And it’s not even working- emissions go up, not down, domestically between 2010 and 2020, according to the ALP’s own modelling.

It doesn’t do the job, it’s doing massive damage and just this morning we’ve seen Australia’s four major business groups- the Business Council, Minerals Council, The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Industry Group say the tax must go now.

KIERAN GILBERT: Is the Coalition still committed to the bi-partisan consensus of emission reduction targets up to 15 to 25 per cent and the same conditions which have been agreed to up until this point in terms of international progress? Are you still committed to that?

GREG HUNT: There’s always been a two stage process.

Stage one is the unconditional commitment to the five per cent which Tony Abbott not only reconfirmed yesterday, but strengthened.

The second thing is in 2015 there’s a review, so that remains exactly the same that in 2015 there’s a review and what Mr Abbott said yesterday, what the Prime Minister said yesterday is further action will depend on comparable activity, comparable binding activity from the major economies, the major trading partners from the largest players in the world.

KIERAN GILBERT: So are they the same conditions that have been agreed to since 2009 from both sides of politics? Are they the same conditions?

GREG HUNT: Nothing has changed.

KIERAN GILBERT: Nothing’s changed? Ok.

Just on Direct Action because I just want to drill down on some of the detail. One of the things you are going to do is have a mechanism for penalising companies over business as usual baseline- a baseline and credit mechanism. What will those penalties be?

GREG HUNT: Well what we’re doing at the moment is going through a white paper process and that will come through. We’re engaging with business. We’re engaging with the community, but we have booked and we expect zero revenue.

The budget is not expecting a single dollar of revenue. There is a difference here. There’s a difference between what’s at least an $8 billion a year tax and a zero tax. So there’s a very clear choice, but that choice has already been made by the Australian people.

I think the ALP believes that there was no election. It appears as if they’re in denial. The Australian people voted on this question and they voted to remove the carbon tax and in fact the

ALP went with this position where they were giving lip service to removing the carbon tax but just changing its name and they’re proposing a tax which goes up, according to their modelling to $38 from $24 now over the next half a decade.

KIERAN GILBERT: On your policy though, on the business as usual baselines, how are they going to be established for industry emissions?

GREG HUNT: Well we’ve always said we’d look at the historic average and we’re working through that through a green paper process and a white paper process.

We are very different to them. They had radical changes of policy. They had chaos and their carbon tax which was so critical and introduced on the 1st July 2012, no-one believes in. They don’t even believe in their own system.

We’re working through it methodically as we should do .

KIERAN GILBERT: You’re in power now, so I suppose that’s where we want the focus, so on the Renewable Energy Target is the Coalition still committed to that 20 per cent use of renewable energies by 2020?

GREG HUNT: Sure, again, no change here. We’ve always talked about the Renewable Energy Target and the 20 per cent. There’ll be a review next year, again as we’ve always said.

What is all of this about right now? This is about lower electricity prices, lower gas prices, $550...

KIERAN GILBERT: ...You might revise that 20 per cent down?

GREG HUNT: That’s not something which we are reconsidering at all.

KIERAN GILBERT: Because Tony Abbott has compared the impact on power prices of Renewable Energy Target to that of the carbon tax. That seems to suggest he’s not a big fan of the RET as it’s known, the renewable target.

GREG HUNT: No what’s happening now is that we are doing everything we can to reduce the cost of living for Australians whilst the ALP is doing everything it can to increase the cost of living.

The focus right now is to repeal the carbon tax. We’ve said that we will review the Renewable Energy Target against...

KIERAN GILBERT: It doesn’t sound encouraging then. If you’re doing that on the framework of power prices...

GREG HUNT: ...We’re doing that against the framework that we have already set out. But also, the 20 per cent and none of that has changed. What has changed is the Australian people voted and they have a right to have their election result implemented and they also have a right to have $550...

KIERAN GILBERT: What if the vote is delayed until next year?

GREG HUNT: Well that would be Bill Shorten’s doing and there’s no reason, no justification, there’s no excuse for delaying what has been the most foreseen and forewarned legislation in Australian history arguably.

This is the moment when Australians have a chance to see the election result fulfilled and the ALP should step aside, get out of the way, and allow lower electricity prices because that’s what we’ll deliver.

KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Hunt, thanks for your time.

GREG HUNT: Thanks Kieran.