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Transcript 16756

Transcript of interview with Steve Price, Radio 2UE

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/08/2009

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 16756

PRICE: Thanks for your time, PM.

PM: Thanks for having me on the program, Steve.

PRICE: The pressure really is now on the Opposition and Malcolm Turnbull, because as you pointed out in Question Time over and over again yesterday, they don't have a policy on this.

PM: It's a big problem. We believe that the country as a whole just wants to get on with the business of acting on climate change. A big part of that is the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Very complex, we've worked on this for a year and a half, taken it through all stages very methodically, got to the stage where we got supportive statements from the BCA, from the Australian Industry Group, and then on the conservation side, with the major conservation groups as well.

It's about as balanced as we're going to get. But here we are, at 18 months into this Government's term, and we still have an Opposition which can't put forward its policy. And why is that relevant? Because they have the numbers in the Senate, they've blocked our legislation yesterday, without putting forward a single amendment. And that, in my view, is just bloody-minded.

PRICE: As you know, this program's on air through a lot of rural NSW. I get a lot of calls from farmers who feel that they are going to be the end line victims of your Emissions Trading Scheme. How are you going to carry the nation, when you say you've got a mandate to do this, how are you going to convince the rural sector that this is in their best interest?

PM: Well I fully accept Steve that this will be tough and controversial in many sectors of the economy. But let me just stand back from it all and say to all of our friends in rural and regional areas, if Australia stays out of global action on climate change, two things are going to happen. One, it lessens the likelihood of us being able to be a force for change globally, and if we don't get China, India, the United States and the big emitting economies and Europe to act, then frankly, the impact of climate change in rural and regional Australia, with soaring temperatures, reduced rainfall and the rest over time, has a huge impact on agricultural production.

The second thing is this. A number of economies are already beginning to talk around the world about taking punitive action against any other economy which refuses to act on climate change. That is, if in Australia we just said “all too hard, all too difficult, we're not going to do this”, then, what you can already see rolling down the railroad tracks towards us is a series of punitive tariffs against exports from countries like Australia if we refuse to act.

There are two solid reasons for doing it, but I don't underestimate the degree of difficulty in explaining the detail of what we're doing to regional and rural communities. It's hard and it's complex, but we believe that it's absolutely in the national interest.

PRICE: We all want to leave a better world for our children, but the pain that we're going to have go through it is a really hard political sell for you, because your critics are saying, ‘well, you're going to have to charge more for electricity', you've started getting questions from the Opposition about the price of a bottle of milk, how are you going to convince Australians that yet again you're going to have to dip in to their pocket for a long-term benefit?

PM: Well let's put it in these terms. Unfortunately, the Liberals and Nationals have resorted to a fear campaign, rather than showing policy leadership where we need to go for the future. Secondly, go to the actual price impacts themselves - the Government's White Paper on climate change put out at the end of last year went through these price impacts for electricity, gas, for food, over a couple of years. Take, for example, electricity. It projects that when the scheme starts in 2011/12, that the increase in electricity prices would be about 7%, that is about $1.50 in nominal dollars per week. Now that's not inexpensive, that's real, and that's going to happen and will flow through into the cost of goods and services in the economy, I grant you. But what we're doing also is providing household assistance to help low and middle income earners deal with those additional costs.

When it comes to low-income earners, 2.8 million households, either pensioners and others like that, will be eligible to assistance equal to 120% or more of any cost of living increase over the first two years of the scheme. And for middle income earners, they will also receive some direct cash assistance in order to help as well. So we're trying to soften the blow. We're trying to adjust the economy and households to what this scheme means, but we're not Robinson Crusoe, this is happening in economies right around the world.

PRICE: That's the question I keep getting from people, from listeners. What is Kevin Rudd going to do with the money he raises from this scheme?

PM: Well we've already committed, Steve, every dollar raised through the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme to go back into the scheme itself to either provide assistance directly to low and middle income families for adjustment, or any costs which flow from electricity, gas, and/or food, and secondly, also to provide assistance to industries we need to adjust as well - what's called, in the jargon, emissions-intensive, trade-exposed sectors of the economy, or industries in the economy. Because we don't want to suddenly place our businesses and industries at a huge competitive disadvantage relative to the rest of the world. So, in answer to your question, the money raised from the auctioning of pollution permits within this scheme called the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, gets funnelled back, either into households or into industry adjustment schemes.

PRICE: Your challenge is to keep Australians in work. You've identified that as your biggest challenge in this term and the next term of Government. Won't the ETS cost jobs?

PM: We've actually had the overall employment impact of this scheme modelled by the Australian Treasury, and what you will see right out to 2030 and beyond is an overall growth in employment in Australia and one of the generators of this new employment in Australia will be in the renewable energy sector. That's why we're so keen to see through the Parliament the increase to the Renewable Energy Target for Australia, whereby 20% of our electricity generation by 2020 will come from renewable energy sources. It will generate some 30,000-36,000 jobs I'm advised.

PRICE: But what about the blokes in their cars on their way to work this morning in the Hunter Valley?

PM: Well, can I say the overall economy impact of this is that it will be increases in employment in certain areas, there'll be some negative effects in other areas. I don't wish to mislead people about that, that is true. But economies around the world are constantly in a process of adjustment. I can go back however just to the Treasury, which has modelled this across the whole economy - employment will continue to grow in Australia, and one of the big growth generators will be in the renewable energy sector.

PRICE: Frontier Economics handed Malcolm Turnbull a document that says it would be cheaper, cleaner, greener - you called that a magic pudding. Is it not worth looking at that Frontier Economics report?

PM: I think what I'd say in response to that Steve is, if it was so seriously contemplated by the Liberal Party, why couldn't Mr Turnbull say in response to a simple question, “is this Liberal Party policy?” And he said no. Why couldn't they simply say, clearly, well we're putting this to the public debate, we've owned it as policy. Goes back to my point before - so much of the politics of the Liberal Party at the moment have been consumed by their internal divisions, and the reason they haven't voted for this Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in the Senate yesterday is to paper over the terminal divisions which are currently racking their party, and that other reason as well.

On the magic pudding argument, can I just say this - what the Liberals, or the proponents of this Frontier Economics model are saying, effectively, is that they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions more by asking the electricity industry to do less, and by providing greater assistance than we currently foreshadow to other sectors of the economy, it magically would also cost the overall scheme less. That's what magic puddings are all about and this is, frankly, the biggest Liberal Party magic pudding we've seen in some time. No wonder they haven't got the courage to actually own it as policy.

PRICE: I know you've got to go and inspect a hospital, but just two quick ones - do you think some of your Ministers' language has been too divisive on this? Penny Wong saying “we will get this through no matter what it takes”? I mean, given how important it is, shouldn't the nation be working together if we all believe that this is so important?

PM: I think what I'd say on that Steve is Penny, the Minister, has done a fantastic job, together with Greg Combet, her Minister Assisting, in negotiating through this massively complex piece of legislation, which all countries around the world are having to deal with right now, as far as the developed economies are concerned. And secondly, as of May this year, we've got to a point where we had substantial agreement from major industry groups on the one hand, and major conservation groups on the other. We've got to a stage where, the Greens in the Senate think our position isn't radical enough. The Opposition in the Senate, well, who knows what they think at the moment.

We think we've got the balance right, and what Penny is trying to do is unite the country around this, and with the major groups, she's achieved enormous success, as has Greg Combet. But again, rather than having a serious, considered position by the Liberals and the Nationals whereby they'll say ‘we'll accept this subject to change a, b and c, and here's our amendment', they didn't even put forward a single amendment, and that's why I just described it as political bloody mindedness.

And if we're looking around at our kids, and the sort of Australia they want to live in in 20, 30, and 50 years' time, the sort of things kids will be discussing in schools across the country in the weeks ahead is ‘what sort of future am I inheriting?' This was a day, yesterday, for Australia to embrace the future. Instead, Mr Turnbull and the Liberals and the Nationals decided to leave Australia well anchored in the past. Frankly, their attitude on climate change is a bit like that of the dinosaurs, and the dinosaurs became extinct.

PRICE: Happy to fight an election on it?

PM: Well, as I said earlier today in Melbourne, Steve, bottom line is this - I believe I am elected to serve a full term. My intention is to run a full term. I just want to get this thing through. We've got a major- for two reasons. The business community wants certainty of rules for the future, and that is a fair ask. I was talking to senior executives from the resources sector this week. They want certainty and predictability, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years out, because these are the lengths of some of the major investment decisions that they have to make. The other reason is we've got this major global opportunity in Copenhagen in December to reach global agreements on the future of bringing down greenhouse gas emissions, and what Mr Turnbull seems to be saying is, he doesn't want for Australia to be at that table, being able to clearly say, ‘this is how we intend to meet our targets'. That, I think, is a complete abandonment of leadership.

PRICE: I appreciate your time. Is there any update you can give us out of Papua New Guinea from this morning? Have you heard anymore?

PM: Steve, I spoke this morning to Australia's High Commissioner in Port Moresby, Chris Moraitis, on the very, very difficult question of the recovery exercise which is currently underway up there. The weather in the crash site was appalling yesterday, he advises me. Nonetheless, as of about an hour or so ago, one of the Australian Defence Force's Black Hawk helicopters was able to winch in a second recovery team. They are now hard at work. They are applying the standard Interpol protocols which go to handling very difficult and delicate situations like this, in terms of proper identification and recovery procedures. This is going to be a matter of great delicacy and difficulty for the families concerned. We understand that, and we're seeking to do this with as great a speed and with all the dignity that is necessary in these tragic circumstances.

PRICE: It's a very tough rescue operation as you say. Appreciate your time Prime Minister, thanks a lot.

PM: Thanks Steve.

Transcript 16756