Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Sunrise with Mel and Kochie, Big Guns of Politics

29 June 2012

MEL: Gents good morning to both of you.  Joe I want to start with you and ask you about this. Do you think households are getting off more lightly than what was expected initially.

HOCKEY: No Mel look this is a tax that is going to be passed through. Inevitably it is a tax on energy and the more energy that’s used in the production of something, the higher the tax component. So the more manufactured a good, the more energy you use during your daily life, be it over time over time using more electricity during the course of the day, you will pay more of the tax because it’s trying to penalise the major electricity producers which rely on coal. Now the impact on people is going to be such that if you value ad in Australia you are going to pay more tax where as if you value ad in China you are not. So that’s simple.

KOCHIE: Tony that’s the issue for me. It’s so high 23 bucks it just seems extraordinary to me that we can start off so high, but if you were an Australian manufacture in say fridges that need a lot of energy, you are going to cop this and have to put your prices up and a consumer will more likely buy a fridge from China which doesn’t have such a big carbon tax.

BURKE: The extra part of the protection that’s there for Australian manufactures if they are in one of those really export sensitive markets. Is 94.5 per cent of their permits initially come to them for free so that’s the way you make sure you don’t end up with that export problem. But for industry generally you get a situation at the moment where it does cost more for a company to run a clean operation than an operation that’s highly polluting. Pollution shouldn’t be free, it shouldn’t be free to just pump whatever you want in the atmosphere. And this gives a situation where you narrow that gap, you make it much more competitive for clean energy and it’s been done in a way with a package where households don’t end up behind.

MEL: Joe you have said you want to get rid of it. Is it really going to be possible now to undo all this if you get in at the next election.

HOCKEY: Absolutely Mel we will get rid of it and we will get rid of it in the first month.

MEL: So where will that leave businesses I guess it’s going to be really really hard. You will have to absorb costs at this point in time and then it’s going to change. Like you say small business are the ones you feel sorry for.

HOCKEY: Well they are it is small businesses. There is no compensation at all for around 2 million small business in Australia and they are going to face higher electricity prices, they are going to face higher embedded costs in everything they do. There is no compensation for them and frankly they are some of the businesses that compete with others off shore. China and Vietnam and Indonesia they are miles away from ever having anything like this.

BURKE: Can I just come in quickly on that, you are also then Joe undo the household package what Kochie just put up the people get more compensation than the price impacts. That actually means what you are promising is to have a cut in real income for people on the pension, that’s the outcome of what you have described.

KOCHIE: We have to move on because we don’t want you guys to ramble on and get off without discussing this asylum seeker debate. I think all of Australians are really annoyed with all sides of politics after this. The offshore processing bill defeated in the Senate, you guys are going to go off on your winter holidays. You have handballed it as usual to Anugs Houston to lead an expert group to resolve the crisis. That’s the greatest handball that you politicians do Tony. Assure me that whatever Anugs Houston comes up with, you will stick by. Let’s make him the umpire. Will you stick by him rather than say ‘we thank Anugs Houston for his report but we don’t agree with it’.

BURKE: I don’t think you go down this process without an intention that what they come back with is going to make a very big difference.

KOCHIE: We want someone to make a decision. Will you let him make a decision? Will you guarantee you will follow his decision.

BURKE: Kochie what we want to make sure of is that we can get something through the parliament. Now we went on the best expert advice. We then made some extraordinary compromises. And don’t overestimate ...

KOCHIE: We don’t want to get into the politics. We know all of this.

BURKE: If I answer your question in the way you are wanting to frame it and I say that whatever they say  we put up. If they put up something that we still can’t get through the Senate, that we still ...

MEL: No we are not worried about them, we are worried about you. Will you abide by it as a Government, Will you?

BURKE: It’s going to be highly influential on any position. We just don’t want to miss the next opportunity. We keep missing opportunities. We shouldn’t have missed the opportunity that we missed this week. We don’t want to see that happen again.

MEL: We are with you. Joe would the Coalition accept it.  

HOCKEY: 4 O’clock this morning and people haven’t reported this. 4 O’clock this morning the house of Representatives passed a motion to bring on our bill which would have facilitated offshore processing in over 140 different countries. Now on a technicality it didn’t get up but it was passed by a majority of the house, it was initiated by Andrew Wilkie the independent. We didn’t know it was coming n at this time. At 4 oclock this morning, the house decided to go ahead with a plan b and the Government shut it down and we have offered plan B.

KOCHIE: That wasn’t the question. All of you guys have spoken a lot about this too much and no decision. The question is. Will you accept Anugs Houston’s report and abide by it? Can we make him the independent arbiter because you guys can’t agree.

HOCKEY: Well can I just say this. That’s an important point. The Prime Minister announced the committee last night. She said it has three members and she only announced two members of it. We don’t know who the other member is. We don't know what the role of the committee is. We want decisions. We offered decisions. We offered legislation in the House. Mate, it's easy for you to criticise the process.

KOCHIE: We are. We want you guys to make a decision. You flick past it as usual like everyone in politics, to an Independent, and we don't want that buried. If you set up an independent committee, we want you to abide by it.

HOCKEY: It’s not our committee, this is the Prime Minster that’s called this. She is contracting out her role as Prime Minister to another committee. How many times has this Government done it? We put legislation into the parliament to facilitate offshore processing in over 140 countries and the Government won't even let us bring it on for proper debate and decision making. So please when they talk about setting up another committee, this government, we are highly cynical of it.

MEL: Thankyou both for your time this morning.