Skynews AM Agenda


KIERAN GILBERT:

Welcome back. Joining me this morning in the Canberra studio is Labor MP Andrew Leigh, good morning Andrew.

ANDREW LEIGH:

Good morning, Kieran.

GILBERT:

And we’ve got Senator Mitch Fifield, Liberal frontbencher, joining us from Melbourne. Senator Fifield, first to you. What do you make of the Government’s response in the wake of this Japanese quake? Has it been appropriate as far as the Coalition can tell?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Well, I think it’s important at a time of crisis like this to not nitpick. Our focus should be on making sure that we can render whatever assistance to Japan that we possibly can and that we also focus on Australians who are in Japan. There’s a very important job to keep families in Australia in touch with what’s happening with their loved ones back in Japan. But I think that the time for reviewing the Australian response is after the immediate crisis has passed.

GILBERT:

Andrew Leigh, your thoughts on what has been the latest in a long series of disasters over the last few months? It’s been remarkable.

LEIGH:

It’s been an awful period, hasn’t it Kieran. I, like many Australians was in touch with a friend of mine who lives in Tokyo, just to check that she was alright. And there’s been those 70 Search and Rescue Officers who have just arrived in Tokyo, and a couple of Sniffer Dog Teams. So Australia is certainly doing what we can to assist in this.

GILBERT:

OK. Senator Fifield, let’s look at some domestic politics before we go – obviously most of our focus this morning has been appropriately on the quake. But on the Nielsen Poll back at home – Julia Gillard’s disapproval rating is up, and her approval rating is down. But I suppose a concern for the Coalition is that Tony Abbott’s approval rating is also down. Why do you think that’s the case?

FIFIELD:

With these polls there’s always a beauty contest element in the preferred leader stakes so I don’t pay too much attention to that. I just focus on the fact that Tony Abbott is doing a great job holding Julia Gillard to account, and I think what the polls essentially reflect today is that the Australian public know that Julia Gillard lied. She put her hand on her heart before the last election, and she solemnly swore that no government she led would introduce a carbon tax. She fibbed, she is now going to introduce one, and the Australian people are not happy.

GILBERT:

And the disapproval rate shows it, doesn’t it Andrew Leigh? This has been a clear rebuke of the Prime Minister’s broken promise.

LEIGH:

Kieran I don’t agree with that at all. We’ve spoken on the program before about the fact that polls this far out from an election have no predictive power. And I think that it’s important that we try and spend less time on polls and more time on ideas. Two of my favourite journalists, Annabel Crabb and George Megalogenis, have made a promise not to mention a single opinion poll for 2011, and Kieran I’d like to use this chance to encourage you to join them. I think it’s - go cold turkey and dive into the ideas. And you’ll find there’s a rich vein there. This is a big economic reform.

GILBERT:

Well let’s move on from the poll – I’ll try to go cold turkey at least for today. But it’s a broken promise, isn’t it? And this reaction we’ve seen through talk-back – it’s right across the board that we’ve seen this reaction. Mitch Fifield and the rest of the Coalition are making a lot of ground on this because it’s a clear, unequivocal, broken promise.

LEIGH:

Kieran we’ve been absolutely clear for years now that we want to implement carbon pricing. That means using the magic of the market in order to move us to a clean, green carbon economy. And we’ve recognised…

FIFIELD:

It’s an artificial market.

LEIGH:

…that a clear way of doing that is to set a fixed carbon price for a three to five year period and then move to an Emissions Trading Scheme. And that’s the same scheme that the Coalition took to the 2007 election. It’s the same scheme that British Conservatives have backed. This is mainstream policy and what’s striking about the Coalition is they’re disappearing into a kind of Dada land in which some of them are sceptics, some of them are market-averse. They’re really moving away from what I would regard as fundamental free-market principles.

GILBERT:

Senator Fifield, it doesn’t help the argument when you’ve got the likes of Senator Minchin questioning whether or not the world is warming, when Tony Abbott wants the focus on the tax?

FIFIELD:

Well the Coalition accepts that man makes a contribution to warming, and we have a policy to address that. Colleagues have a range of views – there are a range of views in both political parties. But our policy is that we have a practical plan of action to reduce emissions. The Labor Party’s plan is based on a lie. Labor’s plan will see prices go up for petrol by 6.5 cents a litre. Labor’s plan will see the average household pay $300 more a year for their electricity. Before the election Julia Gillard said ‘no way, no carbon tax.’ She lied. We’ve got a practical plan – that’s what we want to introduce. And I’ve got to say, I’m happy that in defence of Labor’s position Andrew is talking about the Philosophy of Dada. If that’s the best the Labor Party can do in seeking to defend their position, then good luck to them.

LEIGH:

Well Mitch what you’ve got is a Party at the moment which is backing away from using the market in order to bring us to a clean, green economy. Carbon pricing is a mainstream approach. It recognises that when you price carbon, you allow businesses and households to make the decisions that move us most efficiently to a cleaner economy.

GILBERT:

Andrew Leigh you’ve said that it should be…

FIFIELD:

It’s an artificial market.

GILBERT:

Yes, that’s the point I was going to make. We’re almost out of time, but just quickly, as Senator Fifield says, it’s an artificial market. Why not move to the ETS sooner as well if you believe so firmly in the market rather than have this tax in the first place?

LEIGH:

Well Kieran you can do two ways of carbon pricing. You can – the government can set the price and the market sets the quantity, or you set the quantity and the market sets the price. Either way it’s a market mechanism. So let’s be clear about that. What we’re doing is we’re setting the price in the initial period, because that provides certainty for business – certainty of the impact of the scheme. Not the kind of scare-campaign numbers that are coming up but real certainty.

GILBERT:

OK, Senator Fifield, just very quickly.

FIFIELD:

Two questions the Government has to answer are, what will this carbon tax cost, and will it achieve anything. The truth is, it’s a tax on everything that will achieve nothing.

GILBERT:

Gentlemen, we will continue this debate no doubt when we speak again in a couple of weeks. Andrew Leigh and Senator Fifield, thanks for that. I’m Kieran Gilbert, thanks for your company.

ENDS

[Thanks to Mitch for transcribing.]

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