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Transcript of joint doorstop interview with Anthony Albanese and Peter Garrett: Glengalla, via Hall, ACT: 5 February 2007: Drought; Climate Change; WA Carbon Tax; Defence pact with Japan; ACTU-Qantas Survey; Costing of Howard's $10 billion water package.

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Subjects: Drought; Climate Change; WA Carbon Tax; Defence Pact with Japan; ACTU/Qantas Survey; Costing of Howard’s $10 Billion Water Package

RUDD: First of all, I’d just like to thank Willo and Joy for allowing us on their property out here and to look first hand at what’s been a really ugly event for this farm and family. They’ve had below average rains now for 10 years and in the time that Willow’s lived on this property, which is some 40 years now, in the 40 years that he’s lived on this property he’s never seen this down here as low as it is and getting close to the bottom.

Of course, this creates real pressures for men and women on the land. This normally is a property which sustains about 500 head of beef, and they’re fantastic Angus, the ones that are left here, but they’re down to about 100. This is a picture we see emerging right across rural and regional Australia and it’s really tough.

When it comes to this drought, we don’t know the exact impact which climate change is having on this drought now. It could be having some. What we’re concerned about is the impact which climate change has in the decades ahead on the water resources for this nation of ours. We’ve got to prepare for it.

One of the things that we want to have considered at our National Summit on Climate Change is the exact impact which climate change will have on this nation’s water resources into the future. It’s one of the pieces of science and one of the pieces of policy we want to be dealing with when we gather together the nation’s best brains on this subject in a month or two’s time.

The other thing, of course, that we’ve got to look towards is how do we deal right across the nation with the impacts which climate change will have in the future on our natural disaster management plans. This is a very important area.

If you look at the impact of climate change on natural disasters, we’re going to see more extreme weather events. We’re going to see more intense and severe droughts. We’re going to see more intense and severe cyclones across northern Australia. We’re going to see more intense fires. The critical thing we need to do now is, because of climate change, is overhaul our national plan for disaster

management. This is critical.

A couple of years ago there was a risk study done by the national government about the impact of climate change on these sorts of events and it recommended a change to our nation’s guidelines for handling this. We haven’t seen much activity on that so far. This is now a matter of urgency. It has to be done. The guidelines have to be overhauled. Why? So that better information can now be provided right across the country to local authorities about the impacts in their areas which is likely to emerge from rising temperatures and the greater risk of inundation.

Secondly, so that when it comes to the practical plans which State Governments, Territory Governments and local authorities have for meeting natural disasters on the ground, that they are better prepared to deal with those disasters, given the new information which is at hand.

And finally, we need also to make sure that our local authorities have available to them the best information to deal with local land planning decisions as well. There’s a real risk of coastal inundation, if you read the data.

So, what I’m suggesting is a practical way forward on this. When we have our National Summit on Climate Change we’re going to be looking at the long term impact on water. We’re looking at practical policies that will work. But we must also deal right now with how we respond to our natural disasters which will become more intense and more severe with climate change.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, the farmers standing behind you don’t seem to be convinced of a link between climate change and the drought. Why do you believe there’s a link, and what is it?

RUDD: I think what I just said before is that it’s an open question as to whether climate change is affecting this drought, or what we do know from the panel of experts report was that the unfolding impact of climate change that it’s going to affect the intensity and length of droughts in the future. That’s the information which has come out from the Intergovernmental Panel.

What we’re concerned about is the long term - how do we best prepare the nation for this? The other reason for being here today also is to look at what we can do by way of better preparation for natural disasters.

JOURNALIST: And Mr Garrett, do you concede that the issue of a link between climate change and the drought is an open question?

GARRETT: It is but I think the thing that will be on Australian’s minds is this drought has been so tough and so hard on us, what will future droughts be like with climate change, and what do we need to do now to make sure that we can withstand some of the ferocity of those droughts? The Inter Panel report says very clearly that for southern Australia, will have more days which are hot and dry and will have less rain. Now, if that coincides with an extreme El Nino cycle or a period of drought that means we’ve basically got mega droughts. I’ve got to say, having spent a bit of time on this place and other parts of the country up to this point in time, I would seriously, seriously hate to see what a mega drought for Australia would look like.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, were you disappointed by Malcolm Turnbull’s remark that Labor’s Climate Change Summit will be just a gabfest?

RUDD: We want a positive plan for the nation’s future on how to deal with what is an emerging national emergency - and that’s climate change. You can’t deal with water without dealing long term with climate change. We need to deal with these things together. We’ve put forward a positive plan and I would appeal to Mr Howard’s Environment Minister to get on board. We want the best ideas, the brightest ideas from all sides of politics on how we shape a national consensus for dealing with this major national challenge. That’s what I want and I hope Mr Howard’s team will get on board as well.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, last week the Prime Minister said you were softening your position on IR. Today he seems to be softening his position on putting a price on carbon. Do you think he is or do you think he’s playing games with words?

RUDD: Well, I notice Mr Howard’s language today. Can I say this: that a year ago, or more, Labor put forward a positive plan for national emissions trading and a scheme for that and now Mr Howard seems to be indicating he

may embrace a similar proposal. What I also note is that we’re now about six months before a federal election is due and having been a climate change sceptic for many, many years now, Mr Howard is now saying he’s going to be part of the climate change solution. People are going to form their own judgements on that.

JOURNALIST: Mr Howard says that he has a balanced approach, ensuring that Australian jobs are protected, particularly in the energy industry. What’s your reaction to the charge that you might put Australian jobs at risk with your policies?

RUDD: The reason we’re having a National Summit on Climate Change is to bring together business, mining, farmers, right across the business and economic spectrum, together with the best scientists the country’s got. You know why? We need to get all the heads together to form a national policy consensus so that we don’t unnecessarily damage our economy. But let me tell you, there is an economic cost to be paid by pursuing business-as-usual


JOURNALIST: What about the $25.00 a tonne tax that has been raised in this report in WA? Surely that would hurt the economy?

RUDD: I haven’t seen a full briefing on the WA report. I’d like to study it more carefully before I provide any substantive comment on it.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, if Thursday’s water summit, called by Mr Howard, doesn’t end in agreement, do you still support the State Leaders’ rights to ultimately tell Mr Howard (inaudible)?

RUDD: I want a national solution to Australia’s water problems as it presents itself across the Murray-Darling Basin. There’s going to be a debate about how that is best done. I’ve been talking myself with the State Premiers about how that is best done and I’m encouraging all to work as positively and constructively with the Commonwealth Government on bringing that (inaudible). Does that mean the Commonwealth Government may need to amend or modify some of its positions? Possibly. But I think the mood of the Australian people is this. They want positive national outcomes on water and beyond the three million people affected by the Murray-Darling system, they also want the national government to roll up its sleeves and help with the water crisis which confronts the 17 million other Australians who live in our other cities.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, surely you’re big enough and mean enough to have a view, in principle, on the notion of this sort of tax?

RUDD: Big enough and mean enough but I know that when it comes to commenting on detailed policy, you wait till you’re fully briefed and I haven’t got the document out of the West yet. Once we’ve done so, we’ll respond.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, there’s been a lot of announcements about what you’ll do in the future but there still doesn’t seem to be any announcements on recovery funding, (inaudible) of replanting and resoftening, at a State or Federal level?

RUDD: Willo and Joy were talking to me before about practical proposals about how to deal with income effects now. I know there are various forms of assistance on offer and I’ve provided bipartisan support for them. In the future we’ve got to look at how we better offer appropriate tax and financial

incentives for farmers to better drought-proof their properties. Now, drought-proofing sounds as if you’re saying that you can be fully protected from future droughts but what I’m saying is the measure that you can put on the farm in terms of fodder storage and other water retention devices, we should look carefully and in detail at the sort of incentives we can provide to our farmers, our hardworking farmers, to make that easier for them. I think that’s a practical way forward. And having spoken to Willow and Joy about that this morning, I’ll be speaking to our Primary Industries spokesman about how we take that work forward.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) restocking problem for coming into next spring?

RUDD: Well, when it comes to restocking next spring, and those practical on-the-ground decisions, hardworking farmers know this industry far better than politicians who visit their properties. I’m not going to provide advice on that. What I can provide advice on is, what can we do in a practical sense to assist farmers with huge capital costs when it comes to the best systems

available to improve water storage on farm, as well as improve fodder storage on farm as well. These are practical measures which we should be looking at for the nation’s future. Farmers are doing it tough across the country because of the drought and also because of the continued impact of corrupted markets and I think we need to be doing better by way of the assistance we provide them.

JOURNALIST: It looks like Australia’s going to be signing a Defence pact with Japan. Is this something that Labor will support?

RUDD: When it comes to the proposal for Japanese soldiers to have training opportunities in Australia, I am fully supportive of that. When it comes to any broader security pact with Japan, I don’t believe in writing a blank cheque to anybody. I’ll be studying any such proposal in great detail. And when it’s prepared, if it’s prepared, we will then make an appropriate response.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, on Qantas, the ACTU survey today, does that come as a surprise to you or should the Government take note of it?

RUDD: Well, I think the Australian people are deeply concerned about Qantas’ future. They want to make sure that this, the national flag carrier, is preserved. They want to make sure that jobs remain in Australia. They want

to make sure that there is proper delivery of regional airline services. They want to make sure that this airline remains a viable business into the future, particularly given the new debt load which will be incorporated into the company, should this purchase proceed. For those sorts of reasons, we need to be looking very carefully at the detail of this proposal.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, given that you’re so concerned about climate change, and Labor is, will you encourage Labor Party members to adopt any other form of transport when they’re in Canberra, maybe taking the bus to work?

RUDD: Well, on the practical question of personal responsibility - and did you take the bus out here, by the way? How did you get out here?

JOURNALIST: The air conditioning was very nice.

RUDD: I’ll just say this. When it comes to climate change, action needs to be taken by government, and there are many things which could have been done over the last decade which haven’t been done because we’re filled with a government of climate sceptics. But beyond what government does, personal action, corporate action, is also important when it comes down to the use of water tanks at home on the water front, when it comes to reducing electricity consumption at home, that’s important. When it comes to how we as individual Members of Parliament contribute to taking the pressure off climate change, we’ll be having something further to say about that in the days ahead. But everyone’s got a responsibility.

On government, though, that’s where the buck stops. You can’t have a climate change solution from a government which is still filled with climate change sceptics and an Industry Minister who, only six months ago, said that Al Gore’s movie was good entertainment and nothing else.

JOURNALIST: Were you surprised by the report in today’s Financial Review that so many government departments were kept out of the loop and didn’t even cost all Mr Howard’s $10 billion water package?

RUDD: I’ve written to Mr Howard for a full briefing and, to the best of my knowledge, we don’t have a reply yet. I stand corrected if one has come in this morning. One of the things I’ll be testing in my meeting with officials from Mr Howard’s Government is how this plan has been prepared, what are the detailed costing elements of it, what use will the money be put to when it comes to the acquisition of water rights up and down the Murray-Darling system? These practical questions don’t seem to have detailed answers at this stage. But I’m giving Mr Howard the benefit of the doubt until I have that briefing. But today’s report in the Financial Review is concerning.

JOURNALIST: And just on David Hicks, Mr Rudd, the Attorney-General has said that the laws under which he’s been charged were not retrospective because they represent the codification of existing provisions. Is that retrospective or is that not retrospective?

RUDD: Retrospective, prospective, the bottom line is this. I am no defender of Mr Hicks. I am a defender of his legal rights and his human rights and under these circumstances he will not be getting a fair trial.