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Transcript
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

Doorstop Interview

2 November 2006

Climate change


HUNT

I want to comment on what Kim Beazley is saying about climate change.  And I want to start by going straight to the point.  It's a critical issue.  It's a fundamental issue.  But there's a right way to deal with it and a wrong way to deal with it.  And the wrong way is the Beazley way of petrol taxes and energy taxes.  If you unpack what Kim Beazley is saying, what it means for farmers, for low income families, ordinary Australians and in particular for pensioners, if he proposes to tax carbon and that is what he is proposing, then it means in real terms is a massive rise in petrol prices and for pensioners' heating taxes.  That is the reality of what he is proposing and it is time to compare that, the Beazley way, of petrol taxes and of pensioners' heating tax, with the Howard way of investing directly in cleaning up the power stations.   That's the choice.  We make no apology for cleaning up the power stations.  You never stop.  There is always more that you can do.  But let's focus on precisely what Kim Beazley is proposing and when you unpack what he is proposing and you look at it, because these are essential services, what occurs is a very simple thing.  A massive increase in petrol prices.  A massive increase in power prices for pensioners, low income families and for farmers.

JOURNALIST

You're saying massive - (inaudible) - what's massive?  What are we talking about?

HUNT

It's up to Kim Beazley to explain precisely what the costs will be.

JOURNALIST

But you're the one saying there will be a massive cost to consumers.  What's the cost?

HUNT

It's likely under Kim Beazley, that if you're really going to drive down emissions by driving down demand, then a very simple thing happens.  It's probably going to take on the Beazley plan a doubling or tripling of petrol or energy prices to make the sort of changes in emissions that he wants.  We do have to change emissions but there are two ways of doing it.  Either the Beazley way of driving down demand through driving up petrol and energy prices, or the Howard way of investing directly in cleaning up the power stations.

JOURNALIST

Greg, (inaudible) in Luxemburg per capita of emissions in the industrialised world according to the latest UN position.  Is that an indictment on our (inaudible)?

HUNT

Between 1990 and now Australia's economy has increased by 50 per cent.  Our emissions are almost completely static.  So what that shows is that you can make dramatic cuts through making serious investments directly in cleaning up energy.  So we are doing that and we've got an absolutely clear plan.  But our point is also clear that the way to do this is to directly invest in cleaning up the power stations not to punish the pensioners.  Those are the two plans on offer.  You have to clean things up.

JOURNALIST

(Inaudible) when per capita we are second on the industrialised world (inaudible) won't even ratify the one measure supposed to combat that?

HUNT

I'd like to address the question about ratifying Kyoto.  And there's a very simple point here.  And that is, of all the countries in the world, of all the developed countries in the world, there's only a handful who are meeting their targets.  In sport, we don't praise the person who promises to makes 100, we praise the person who actually makes 100.  Why is Beazley praising all those countries from Europe who have signed but aren't delivering on their targets, whereas we are one of the only countries in the world that is actually delivering.  We didn't promise, but we are delivering.  The Europeans made all the promises in the world, are self-congratulating and Beazley is applauding them while punishing us for actually achieving our targets.

JOURNALIST

The United Nations seems to questions the claims you've just made on meeting the Kyoto targets.  But nevertheless, do you think the language and policies of your government are becoming more out of touch when you see polls like today?

HUNT

You never stop. You never stop.  There's always more that you can do.  That's my job.  That's our job.  You keep going.  But I think it's important that we explain that there's a right way and a wrong way.  The wrong way is driving up petrol taxes for pensioners, for farmers, for low income families.  Because 1) it hurts and is punitive.  2) It's an incredibly inefficient way of cleaning up our energy.  The right way is to directly invest.  Directly invest in cleaning up the power stations.  We can do that.  That's why in the last week we've announced $250m of direct investment in cleaning up power stations and creating renewable energy.  It's also why only yesterday we announced $60m to work globally.

JOURNALIST

Aren't scare campaigns on petrol bills and that sort of thing just a desperation tactic?  Aren't you really looking at a country against world opinion and public opinion?

HUNT

No I think that there are two ways and I think that it's really important, fundamentally important that we understand precisely what Kim Beazley is actually saying.  Let's ask them, can they guarantee that there'll be no change to petrol prices?  Can Kim Beazley guarantee that there'll be no change to pensioners' heating bills?  Will he set out a special plan to protect pensioners and others from energy rises?  Because that is what carbon taxing in their way is about.  Our way, the Howard way, says, he gets up every morning and burns, and burns, and burns about protecting ordinary families.  Beazley gets up and he saunters in and wonders how he can please the latte set.  What's the difference?  It's a real go at dramatically slashing emissions, by cleaning up the power stations directly.  There will be a fight over this.  There will be a battle.  But the battle isn't going to be between action and inaction.  The battle is going to be between two players.  One, which directly punishes the pensioners, the other one which cleans up the power stations.

JOURNALIST

(inaudible)

HUNT

My answer to that is that you never stop.  You never stop.  You always do more and this is going to be a battle between two plans.  It's going to be a battle between a plan which punishes the pensioners and pushes up energy taxes and petrol taxes and a plan which directly cleans up the power stations. 

JOURNALIST

Warwick McGibbon in the Financial Review says the way you're going about it is wrong.  He says if you try to do something from the top down you are always going to fail.   You need to start at a national level (inaudible) and that is why he is advocating national carbon trading.

HUNT

There are two things that you have to do.  You have to work internationally and you have to work nationally.  So McKibbon is right in the sense that you have to work nationally and that is what we are doing.  We are aiming to dramatically slash emissions from power stations but by investing in power stations.  I know Warwick McKibbon and that's not at odds with what he is saying. The question is how do you clean up not whether you clean up and we've got a very clear approach on that.  Thank you.

(ends.)

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