Sky AM Agenda 20 June 2011 with Andrew Leigh and Mitch Fifield



Transcript – Sky News AM Agenda – 6 June 2011

8:40am

E & OE 

Subjects: Carbon pricing, live exports, immigration

KIERAN GILBERT:

Welcome back to AM Agenda. With me now is Liberal frontbencher Senator Mitch Fifield and Labor MP Andrew Leigh. Gentlemen, good morning to you both. Andrew first to you. Why not give the people a say with a plebiscite as Mr Abbott is proposing?

ANDREW LEIGH:

Well Kieran we had an election last year, and it was very clear that the majority of Australians voted for Parties that wanted to put a price on carbon. We’ve seen that of course in the 2007 election as well when both major political parties went to the election saying we should put a price on carbon. Tony Abbott, of course, is running more stunts than Jim Rose. He wants to do anything he can to distract himself from serious policy. He doesn’t want to talk about the different plans that are on the table. And there are two very different plans on the table.

GILBERT:

Why is a plebiscite a stunt, necessarily? You would think that giving the people a say on the specific issue - the Government didn’t say it would bring in a carbon tax before the poll, in fact Julia Gillard explicitly rejected the idea.

LEIGH:

Well Kieran, the differences between a carbon tax and an ETS are miniscule…

MITCH FIFIELD:

Tell that to the punters!

LEIGH:

…compared to the differences between pricing carbon and not pricing carbon. I mean, the real difference here is, are you going to use a market-based mechanism - the most efficient way of dealing with climate change. Tony Abbott during the period immediately after the election was asked by the independents whether he wanted another poll, and he said no, he didn’t. But of course, when things didn’t go his way, he’s now like a spoiled kid in the school yard trying everything he can to run a nasty, negative campaign to try and distract attention from the big economic reform, which is…

FIFIELD:

What’s nasty about a plebiscite?

GILBERT:

Senator Fifield, Senator Brown said this morning effectively what Andrew has said here – that Tony Abbott didn’t get what he wanted, ie Government, and now he wants to sideline Government with taxpayer’s money. This could cost tens of millions of dollars – this plebiscite.

FIFIELD:

We’re not wanting to revisit the last election, we’re not wanting to re-prosecute that. We just want to give the Australian people a say, for the first time, on this issue. Andrew and Julia Gillard are in denial and in a parallel universe. Julia Gillard went to the election - she said, “there will be no carbon tax under a Government I lead.” She lied. She also said before the election that she would seek a community consensus before seeking to price carbon. That was the whole genesis of the “people’s assembly.” She hasn’t sought a community consensus. She’s lied to the Australian people. They deserve to have a say. We’re not saying that the Government definitely has to have an election. We think that would be the right thing to do – to seek a mandate at the polls – but if they aren’t prepared to do that, then the right thing to do is to seek the people’s view through a plebiscite.

GILBERT:

Are you trying to get this through before the Greens take the balance of the power in the Senate as of July the first?

FIFIELD:

We’re seeking to expedite this through the Senate.

GILBERT:

Through the Senate that’s going to allow it through?

FIFIELD:

Sure, the Senate changes in composition, but we don’t know whether this Senate will allow the plebiscite bill through. We hope that it will. We’ll be making the case to the independents, we’ll be making the case to the minor parties. Who knows, maybe the Greens might suddenly embrace the concept of democracy and want to seek the people’s will on this. We’ll wait and see. There’s absolutely no reason why Julia Gillard shouldn’t support a plebiscite.

GILBERT:

Is the Government confident that they’ve got the numbers in the lower house with Andrew Wilkie and Mr Windsor, Mr Oakeshott and co?

LEIGH:

Well Kieran we’re obviously working it through the multi-party committee on climate change. There’s good faith negotiations occurring there…

GILBERT:

Andrew Wilkie’s not involved in that though, so are you confident that he will back you on this vote?

LEIGH:

Greg Combet and the Prime Minister are very actively involved in talking to all the independents. And of course we would be happy to talk to any member of the Coalition who is prepared to accept that climate change is real and we need to look at the most efficient way of dealing with…

FIFIELD:

But Andrew, what about talking to the Australian people? Forget the multi-party committee, have a plebiscite.

LEIGH:

Let’s look at what we’re doing, we’re backing the scientists based on the best science, and we’re backing the economists, who almost to a person say the most efficient way of tackling dangerous climate change…

GILBERT:

It must be very tough to hold your nerve though – for the Prime Minister and the Government to hold its nerve given the polls are so bad and given the polls show almost unanimously that people don’t back a carbon tax.

LEIGH:

Not at all Kieran, and let me give you the opposite argument. The opposite is – can you imagine if the Government looked at the front of the paper, saw that some poll had given some particular number, we walked away from good policy and went straight for populism? That’s not the Labor way. That’s not our tradition.

FIFIELD:

The Labor way is to lie to the Australian people – that’s the Labor way. That’s what Julia Gillard has done.

LEIGH:

We have backed putting a price on carbon, and I can go directly to what Mitch has said with the analogy the Prime Minister herself has used. If you find yourself driving home and your way is blocked, do you sit there at the roadblock? No. You drive around and you find another way home. And that’s exactly what we’re doing here. The fixed carbon price period will last three to five years and then we’ll move into an ETS. That’s the goal we’ve always sought, and the reason we’re doing that is the reason the British conservatives, the New Zealand conservatives, a whole host of sensible governments around the world support pricing carbon.

GILBERT:

Including the New Zealand leader who’s here today to address the Parliament, who does, as Andrew said, back a similar initiative.

FIFIELD:

John Key is responsible to the Parliament and people of New Zealand. Julia Gillard is responsible to the Parliament and people of Australia. Andy was talking about the multi-party climate committee – how many people are on that? Eight or ten? They’re giving eight or ten people a say. What about giving the Australian people a say for the very first time? The Australian people have not had the chance to have a say on a carbon tax. Julia Gillard said, no, she wasn’t going to introduce one. The Government’s explanation is, ‘well, we’re driving a different way.’ That’s just garbage! You can’t fib, fudge and slide.

LEIGH:

Mitch, you’re a sensible conservative, so I’m sure it pains you to come out with lines like these.

FIFIELD:

It doesn’t pain me at all.

LEIGH:

You must know that in 2007 all major parties went to the election supporting a price on carbon. You must know that the consensus across all serious economists is that pricing carbon is more efficient. You must also know that your policy is going to extremely inefficient. Direct action is…

GILBERT:

Senator Fifield…

FIFIELD:

Just on that point, all bar two or three serving members of the Australian House of Representatives went to the election vowing not to introduce a carbon tax. We certainly weren’t going to introduce a carbon tax. We said we weren’t, the Labor Party said they weren’t. So, the majority of people in the Australian Parliament are there on the basis of not introducing a carbon tax.

GILBERT:

OK, I’ve got to move on. I want to talk about the Labor Party at the moment. Friday is the anniversary of Kevin Rudd being ousted. Andrew, the former Prime Minister has had to delay, postpone a party he was going to have with former staff because it begun a media circus apparently – that was the message from his wife. Peter Beattie has urged Kevin Rudd to bury the hatchet and in fact to leave Parliament. It’s pretty messy at the moment.

LEIGH:

Well Kieran this party really characterises some of the sideshow nature of some of the commentary on this. I mean, you see column inches being spilt on this, but frankly, that’s not what this Government is about. When I speak to caucus colleagues and Ministerial colleagues, they’re focused on the big reforms. Reforms like helping disabled kids in schools, reforms like trying to close the gaps, making sure the Australian economy has the productive capacity to compete in a new economy…

GILBERT:

Can Julia Gillard convince people to listen to her once again? When you look at the number in the Nielsen poll on Saturday, over 60% believing that Kevin Rudd should be leader, compared to 30% for Julia Gillard.

LEIGH:

Kieran, you can look back to the media sideshow that was going on under the Hawke and Keating Governments, and there’s column inches being spilled on leadership tensions and polls. But what do we look back to? We look back to the major economic reforms of that time. The transition to a more productive economy, throwing off those shackles of tarrifs, engaging with Asia. Those big, long-run reforms were what those Governments focussed on then, and that’s what our Government is focussed on now.

GILBERT:

Senator Fifield, given the state of the polls, it looks in that context unlikely that the Coalition will secure the support of the crossbenches. They’re not going to want to go to an election now, are they? They would get wiped out, they would lose their seats as well. So how can you get people across the line on this plebiscite, for example, when it just seems that all the politics and the polls suggest that it would be suicide to do it?

FIFIELD:

Well a plebiscite wouldn’t be suicide. We’re not expecting the independents are going to call an election or put pressure on the Government to call an election. But what we are hopeful is that they will see the plebiscite as a way of the Australian people expressing their view. The independents talk a lot about the true will of the Australian people being expressed, and I think that this is a very good way for that to happen.

I’ve got to say, just coming back to Kevin Rudd’s party, it does go to show just how fragile Julia Gillard’s leadership is. A Member of Parliament can’t even get a group of former staffers together for a party without it being seen as some direct challenge to the Prime Minister’s authority. This is extraordinary.

GILBERT:

Everything that he’s doing at the moment is being interpreted in that context. You’re talking about that being a sideshow, but isn’t it largely being driven by a Foreign Minister who is continually popping his head up one way or another?

LEIGH:

I’m really proud of our Foreign Minister. I think it’s terrific to have a foreign minister that sits in the Evatt/Evans tradition of being an activist, who is out there in the world’s councils. Who was, a week ago, sharing a stage with Bob Geldoff and Bill Gates at the global alliance against vaccines initiative in London, pledging that Australia would make a difference towards making the number of kids who die before their fifth birthday through preventable diseases, pledging …

GILBERT:

Is there any chance of him making a comeback to the leadership, do you think?

LEIGH:

Kevin Rudd’s doing a great job as Foreign Minister, and that’s what he’s going to continue to do. He will be there in the world’s councils, he’s actively engaged in Libya he’s actively engaged in the local…

GILBERT:

So there’s no chance of return to the top job?

LEIGH:

We’ve got a - he’s doing a terrific job as Foreign Minister, Kieran, and that is what he will continue to do. We have a mandarin speaking Foreign Minister. How good is this, for Australia in the Asian Century….

FIFIELD:

And Julia Gillard’s face lights up every time she sees Kevin on TV. I’m sure she shares your view.

GILBERT:

Senator Fifield and Andrew Leigh, gentlemen have a great day. Thanks for that.

ENDShttp://www.youtube.com/v/LA1STtRRFug?version=3&hl=en_US

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