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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts

Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research (AUSCCER); polls; climate change; Opposition comments; Opposition plans for nuclear power plebiscites

E&OE Transcript
Doorstop Interview
Launch of the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research, University of Wollongong
12 July 2010

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GARRETT: I am well aware of the fact that we are at the University of Wollongong to launch this important centre which will make a real contribution, not only in the region but also nationally, as we bring together all the disciplines and the knowledge that we need to have better solutions to protect our environment. Whether it is climate change, whether it is natural resource management, whether it is coastal issues, whether it is about land degradation, or whether it is about recycling, Australians have got a great appetite to do the right thing by the environment. But we need better information and better knowledge to guide our actions, and so do governments in terms of building policy.

So I am really pleased to be here to launch AUSCCER today at the University of Wollongong. I wish this very important research institution all the best. This is a mark of new environmental thinking in the 21st century and I think the contribution that will make in terms of delivering research for us will be a substantial one.

JOURNALIST: What do you expect AUSCCER to bring though?

GARRETT: Well, I think up to this point in time, we have tended to have issues dealt with sometimes on a silo-by-silo basis. Here is an organisation and an institution at a very, very good university which can draw together different strains of knowledge and make it work as a package for both the public, for politicians and for others to act on.

JOURNALIST: Will the Government be commissioning research from this centre?

GARRETT: I look forward to any proposals that the centre brings forward. I think the fact that we have had a contribution here from a range of disciplines means that there will be plenty of opportunity, in the longer term, for research projects to be considered.

JOURNALIST: What programs do you hope to initiate?

GARRETT: I had a look at some of the things that have already been contemplated, the work that they have been doing in Murray Darling Basin, issues around behavioural change in terms of consumer patterns and the like. That is pretty important to us, really, as a government. And I think it is useful information which not only policy makers need but also, frankly, communities and companies and others who are bringing through a new suite of green products for people to purchase, green ways of living, which neighbourhoods, communities and towns, and cities like Wollongong, are very committed to.

JOURNALIST: Why here in Illawarra?

GARRETT: This Wollongong University has got a great reputation for research. This is an area which has traditionally relied very strongly on its natural resource base but it knows that, in the future, it has to diversify and that one of those diversifications is going to be around building new green and sustainable industries.

And you have got a very engaged community here that works co-operatively, whether it is with BlueScope Steel, the university, and my colleagues in Labor, Jennie George in particular, who I want to commend for her great efforts over the last number of years. Or whether it is drawing together activities that are already underway in the Illawarra, this is the right place for a centre of this kind. I think it will work well for the local community but I also think it will broadcast good work further afield.

JOURNALIST: Just on another matter. The latest Nielsen poll shows that the green vote has risen from 8 percent to 13 percent since Julia Gillard was made leader of the ALP. What do you read into that?

GARRETT: I am not going to spend a great deal of time trying to discern the tea leaves of polls as they come round and round like merry-go-rounds. What I can say is that substantial investment in renewable energy, a commitment to continue to bring forward policy which basically deals seriously with a range of environment issues we face, is the commitment that this Government has. It is something which we don’t see, to any degree of seriousness, from the Opposition. And people will judge us by those policies as we go up into an election - whenever that may be held.

JOURNALIST: It must be disturbing to you to see the green vote rising?

GARRETT: Well again, polls will go up and down. They bounce around, that is a fact of political life, even more as we are coming into an election. But, at the end of the day, a conviction on climate change, a commitment on renewable energy, a willingness to stand up say that we think that the environment is worth protecting, are the hallmarks of this Government. And we will take policies to the election and people will judge us on them.

JOURNALIST: The Climate Institute says that Australians will pay up to $2 billion extra for energy by 2020 because the Government has failed to put a price on carbon. What do you make of that?

GARRETT: Well again, we will have more to say about policy development generally over time. But the point is this, the Government remains committed to bringing a price for carbon into the market at an appropriate time. It has to be done in a way which is consistent with providing the certainty that the community desires on this issue, over the medium and longer term. And it must be done in a way which partners up those investments that we already have in place and those commitments that we have on renewable energy. Now, the Prime Minister has made that clear in her previous comments. That will continue to be the case as we work these issues up in the run-up to the election.

JOURNALIST: The Shadow Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, says that Julia Gillard should rule you out of the ministry after the election, that you shouldn’t reward failure over the insulation scheme.

GARRETT: Well look, Mr Hunt is out on the radio today saying that we should have plebiscites on the location of nuclear power in Australia. He wants to bring back John Howard’s 25 nuclear reactors for the people in the suburbs of Australia. And he needs to explain why he is trying to sneak in a discussion about nuclear energy which was comprehensively rebutted at the last election.

I am going to concentrate on bringing forward policies which I think are better for the environment. The glib one-liners, you know sort of the mosquito that is all buzz and no bite, from Mr Hunt is not, basically, of any account in this debate.

What this is about is who will have the best policies to deliver the protection of the environment and real action on climate change in the run-up to the election. The Opposition’s cupboard is bare. If they want to resort to cheap political point scoring that is their business. We will get on with the serious business (a) of governing and (b) of bringing through good, strong pro-environment, pro-climate change policies.

JOURNALIST: Will you be standing at the election?

GARRETT: Of course I will.

JOURNALIST: Will you be environment minister after the election?

GARRETT: I am not going to spend any time speculating on what will happen after an election. Of course I am fully involved in my role as Member for Kingsford Smith and Environment Protection Minister. I will continue to do that job.


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