Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Interview, Marius Benson, ABC Newsradio: Super trawler – Kevin Rudd
13 September 2012
MARIUS BENSON: The Minister leading that drive is the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, and he joins me now. Tony Burke, good morning.
TONY BURKE: Good morning Marius.
MARIUS BENSON: Now, how are the numbers going? You’ve been presumably talking to those cross benchers. Do you have the numbers for your legislation?
TONY BURKE: I don’t take any votes for granted, I’m not going to speak on behalf of cross benchers. I still remain very surprised if we end up in a situation where every objection that has been raised by the Opposition has now been fixed by amendment. I would be amazed if the Opposition still feel they could walk into that Chamber and vote against this.
MARIUS BENSON: Well we were speaking to John Cobb, the Opposition Agriculture spokesman on ABC Newsradio half an hour ago or a little more. He is resolute that the Opposition is voting against it.
TONY BURKE: Well he no longer has a reason. Every reason they put forward: they said it could affect recreational fishers, that’s now fixed; they said it could have an impact on current commercial operations, that’s fixed. We put social and economic in because in discussions with them on the Water Act they had constantly said everything had to be environmental, social and economic. That was the only reason we added it to the bill. They don’t want it, that’s gone out.
Every objection that they have raised is now not there. If they’re desperate that either they want there to be no barriers or no extra checks at all on this vessel, that’s their call. Or if they have no word in their lexicon other than no then that’s their call too. But there is not a single argument left that the Opposition have put forward.
MARIUS BENSON: When will the vote be?
TONY BURKE: Those issues are dealt with by Anthony Albanese but when I looked at it last there was still a long list of speakers wanting to speak on this issue.
MARIUS BENSON: So maybe today, maybe not?
TONY BURKE: That’s correct, there’s a long list of speakers who want to speak on the issue.
MARIUS BENSON: So it could go to next week?
TONY BURKE: Not impossible, no.
MARIUS BENSON: The Dutch Government doesn’t appear to be happy about this. They’ve complained to you or expressed concerns?
TONY BURKE: Not to me, I understand they’ve asked some questions of the Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, and asking those questions is not unreasonable. Some of the international reporting would have led them to believe that they were dealing with some sort of permanent ban.
Whereas what we’re dealing with is making sure we do the proper scientific assessment and fill the gaps that are currently not there. We’re not the only Government in the world that wants to take a highly cautious view of making sure you get the science right before you deal with something significantly new particularly in the oceans.
MARIUS BENSON: Mr Burke, can I go to another major talking point in politics this morning.
TONY BURKE: I thought you might.
MARIUS BENSON: You would have seen Kevin Rudd on 7:30 last night?
TONY BURKE: Yeah I did actually; I got home in time for it.
MARIUS BENSON: What did you make of it?
TONY BURKE: The comments he made about China, I thought were encouraging in terms of the economy there but I suspect that’s not the question you are wanting me to answer.
MARIUS BENSON: The question was, what do you make of Kevin Rudd’s new prominence?
TONY BURKE: Well, Kevin Rudd did an interview. The reason for it, as it was reported, was to be able to talk about what was happening in China and I found the information that he put forward pretty interesting.
MARIUS BENSON: But he wasn’t just talking about China, he was talking about how to defeat Tony Abbott?
TONY BURKE: Well when he was asked those questions yeah he did that and referred to that. The arguments he put, I thought, were pretty consistent with what the Government is doing.
MARIUS BENSON: But he spoke on this broad range of issues, he was talking about China, he was talking about Tony Abbott, he was talking about economic issues. It’s not your typical backbencher who is there at an international forum on world events in China and discussing these on the 7:30 Report. He’s not your typical back bencher.
TONY BURKE: Well, two things on that. One, no a former Prime Minister is not a typical backbencher and I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Secondly, when you say he talked about all these other issues – he was invited on to talk about China, he was then asked other questions and he answered them. You’ve asked me to be on your program this morning to talk about legislation before the Parliament, not unreasonably you’ve gone to other questions and I’m answering them.
MARIUS BENSON: Yeah but in the past Kevin Rudd has declined to do that, like when he has done those sleep-outs for the homeless or something like that. He said, nope, not talking about anything else when asked about those things. Now suddenly he’s let himself come in off the long run. That changes things. Do you see it, as other commentators are this morning as significant in terms of his leadership ambitions?
TONY BURKE: It’s always easier for commentators to spend their time on these sorts of issues rather than policy issues. I really think this is overanalysing it.
MARIUS BENSON: Well we’ve been spending a lot of time on policy issues, let’s just dwell on leadership for a moment. Could you work with Kevin Rudd again, were he leader?
TONY BURKE: I’ve made some very strong comments earlier in the year, I don’t resile from what I said but I don’t see any point in continuing to trawl over that.
MARIUS BENSON: Do you think he is actively seeking the leadership?
TONY BURKE: No, I don’t.
MARIUS BENSON: Why do you say that?
TONY BURKE: Because that’s my view, I’ve seen no evidence at all that he is and if the most that we’re going on is the fact that he gave an interview which was going to be on China and he gave it and answered questions about the economy of China then went to other issues when he was asked to, I can’t see that there is a whole lot in it.
MARIUS BENSON: What did you think of the enormously reluctant and unringing endorsement of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard?
TONY BURKE: I think, knowing the history, what we saw was a human reaction and nothing more.
MARIUS BENSON: Do you think Kevin Rudd is going to cause trouble for Labor?
TONY BURKE: No I don’t, no I don’t.
MARIUS BENSON: Tony Burke, many thanks.
TONY BURKE: Thanks