AM Agenda 23 May 2011


Transcript (courtesy of JB)

GILBERT: Welcome back to AM Agenda, with me now is Jamie Briggs and Labor MP Andrew Leigh. Guys, thanks for being here. Jamie, first to you. The Climate Change Commission report has said that the science is done, the debate has been had. Yet you still have some Liberals this morning, Dennis Jensen on the doors this morning said that temperatures are actually levelling out. You do have a number of climate sceptics, is that damaging for the Coalition?

BRIGGS: Our policy is that we accept the science and we have got a bipartisan target with the Labor party. Both parties agree that their needs to be action on climate change. Both parties have agreed to a five per cent reduction by 2020. And all we disagree on is the method on which we get there. We have a policy which is about direct action carbon, green carbon so speak, and the soil, about cleaning up the dirtiest of power stations to reduce our emissions by 5 percent.

GILBERT: So you obviously believe that the science, although a number of your colleagues don’t?

BRIGGS: Oh look well it’s a free country still Kieran, last time I checked, people are entitled to a view. But ultimately it is the policy that matters. Now we have had the same policy for about 18 months now. When we first announced the policy we took it to an election and we stuck with it after the election. I know that is an unusual concept and I know that the Labor Party aren’t that finding that something that they do, because of course at the election the Labor Party announced one hundred and fifty people from a phone book to tell them what your climate change policy is. They said they would not have a carbon tax. Just after the election they announced a carbon tax and today we hear that that is going to put up electricity prices by double, from the electricity industries. So the story here is that we both have a target, it is five percent reductions by 2020. We just have a different method of getting there.

GILBERT: Andrew, I spoke to Professor Steffen earlier who worked for the ANU, he is the lead author of the Climate Commission. He was not at all scathing of the direct action approach, he said it needs to be part of the solution, but he was not critical at all of this idea of taking direct action.

LEIGH: Well Kieran you have got to recognise where this report is coming from. It is very clearly stating that there is overwhelming scientific consensus that the world is warming and humans are causing it and yet we have this frightening situation where every other seat in the Coalition Party Room is taken by a climate change denier, somebody who doesn’t believe that global warming is happening. That is incredibly dangerous because it means that Tony Abbott has now put in place a policy that is designed to be easily repealed as Malcolm Turnbull pointed out last week. The thing is, if you look across economists the consensus is as strong as it is across scientists. Economists almost universally back the idea that you should use a market based mechanism pricing carbon. I will be curious if the Jamie can name one, even two economists who would back a direct action plan. I have not been able to find any and frankly Tony Abbott has had the same problem.

GILBERT: Well if it is such a compelling case, why has the Government struggled to prosecute it, so badly to this point?

LEIGH: Well look Tony Abbott is very good at doing one thing and that is saying no, he is running a small target strategy at the moment. He is running a strategy as saying no, no, no to absolute everything and he has been prosecuting that very strongly. You see him at weetbix factories talking about climate change; I mean this is frankly ludicrous. Where by contrast, we have Tony Abbott’s colleagues in the UK, the British conservatives, to Margaret Thatcher, who are entirely comfortable with the idea that you would have an emissions trading scheme.

GILBERT: There are a lot of people who seem like they have stopped listening though;

LEIGH: Use the market to price carbon.

GILBERT: A lot of people have seemed to stop listening to you and your government. What, how do you turn them around? I mean that’s a compelling and a very easily argument to prosecute and one which Mr Abbott has been very successful at thus far.

LEIGH: Well Kieran, somebody said to me last week ‘good policy is good politics’. And I think frankly that is exactly the right way to go. We have to be absolutely clear that this is going to be a tax on the thousand biggest polluters. At the moment they can put as much pollution into the atmosphere as they want to. We are saying that if they are putting carbon pollution into the atmosphere, they should pay for it. We should provide assistance.

BRIGGS: That’s interesting.

GILBERT: Jamie, you can respond to that as well, but Will Steffen said that on its own, direct action is not enough to deal with this. Now what do you say to your kids and the next generations, that’s two generations apparently this report says, unless there is action now in the next ten years…

BRIGGS: Well let’s get to basis here, five percent target, bipartisan. Five percent reduction by 2020 that is the bipartisan target. We can get there with direct action by cleaning up the dirtiest of power stations, by investing in soil carbon, the Labor Party want to have it with a tax. Now I would say to Andrew, who is compelling in his argument, he seems convinced by his own arguments that if they are so convinced, take it to an election, do the right thing. I mean the problem here is good policy is good politics. And I think it is being told in the story at the moment about how people are receiving this. About how good of policy this is. If they are so convinced about this policy and about how people are receiving this about how good of policy this is, if they are so convinced, if they are so convinced that this is the way to go, do the right thing and take it to the election.

LEIGH: Well Jamie it is very clear why you would make that argument because when the carbon price comes in next year, then this scare campaign that Tony Abbott has been running around the country will be exposed as hollow.

BRIGGS: That’s complete rubbish.

LEIGH: It will be very clear that the sky has not fallen.

BRIGGS: Do the right thing.

LEIGH: Carbon pricing has modest price impacts. We can see that, I mean the Labor Party has been consistent…

BRIGGS: Why was the Prime Minister not honest at the last election? Why did she not tell the Australian people that this is what she wanted to do?

LEIGH: We have been consistently pointing out that Tony Abbott scare campaign is entirely overblown. The impact of the CPRS on a weetbix, is a tiny fraction of one cent. This negativity that we see relentlessly from the Opposition is now starting to have blow back. I mean we can see first Malcolm Turnbull, now Joe Hockey, deeply concerned that the Coalition is nothing but negativity. Just driving a small target.

BRIGGS: I think this sums up the desperation of the Labor Party. The really personal vicious attacks on Tony Abbott, I think it sums up exactly where the Labor Party is at.

GILBERT: Asylum seekers. Scott Morrison is calling for another enquiry. Why not have another inquiry into the broad system because it is obviously enormous pressure if not dysfunctional right now?

LEIGH: Well Kieran, we have had particular enquiries into the Christmas Island affair and into the Villawood affair, but if we are going to look at the broad inquiry, I suppose you would want it to encompass the entire range of issues that have been faced in the detention centre. The Cornelia Rau affair, the children over board affair, the break outs from Baxter and Woomera, all of which occurred under the Coalition. The fact is that at the moment you have isolated incidents, the rate of those incidents is not tangibly higher than it has been in previous years, the Government is pursuing a very clear policy which is to send a tough message to people smugglers to make sure that they don’t put little kids on boats to come to Australia and also an humane way to slightly expand our refugee intake by about a thousand a year.

GILBERT: Jamie, as Andrew said a number of inquires already under way, is this not a stunt? As Chris Bowen says it is.

BRIGGS: No, not at all.

GILBERT: As Chris Bowen says it is.

BRIGGS: No, this is a very serious issue and I respect Andrew doesn’t have a detention facility in his electorate like I do, and the stories coming out in the media last week in Adelaide about allegations that SERCO officers have been rough with young people, allegations that SERCO officers have been having violence against them. It is a detention facility remember in which the Labor Party claims is their family friendly facility. Now if this is true and reports are true that are coming out, we really do need an inquiry into this. I think it reflects on the consequences of the mismanagement of Australia’s borders what is happening within these centres and from what we hear I think it is very disturbing, I think it is very concerning and I think Scott Morrison yet again is on the money with this call.

GILBERT: Okay, well one last, one last issue before we wrap up, you have got a big day ahead with Parliament back. Joe Hockey and Tony Abbot apparently had a clash over the phone. Jamie, Joe Hockey was angry at being hung out to dry over the tax treatment of trust. Is this just healthy robust discussion among the leadership or is there something more here?

BRIGGS: Well look I don’t have the benefit of being patched into conversations between our senior colleagues. As a very junior, you know insignificant back bencher, I don’t get to play part of the broader debates. Look at you know I think there is a big difference between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party at the moment, we are getting along and getting on with the job very well. We have of course from time to time, debates about policy issues, that is normal for anyone. We don’t have the Foreign Minister running around the world, making prime ministerial visits day after day, meeting with world leaders week after week, not turning up to community cabinets, acting like he is some sort of lone wolf leader of the Labor Party while building his rankings. I noticed the Galaxy Poll on the weekend had him about five lengths clear, sort of a black caviar of the political industry of the Labor Party at the moment. That far clear, so I think there is only one party at the moment that has got some leadership.

GILBERT: In terms of the PM’s position at the moment, obviously there has got to be a few nerves on the back bench with the polls as Jamie said looking so bad as they are.

LEIGH: Look Kieran, I think the Prime Minister is getting on with the job that focusing on long term reforms that is long term reform in the area of education, long term reform in the area of climate change. It is an extraordinary comment that the successor to Alexander Downer has just made, that the Australian Foreign Minister shouldn’t be meeting with foreign leaders.

BRIGGS: Foreign leaders?

LEIGH: I mean this is deeply concerning. That our foreign minister should some how just be confined to staying in Australia, I don’t understand that one.

BRIGGS: Alexander loved the Adelaide Hills.

LEIGH: We certainly talk about that. But certainly the Opposition is really having a debate at the moment as to whether it is going to small target negativity or whether it will actually come up with ideas.

BRIGGS: I think the obsession that the Labor Party has with us is quite profound.

GILBERT: I am sure it is. I am sure it will continue throughout the day and throughout the week.

LEIGH: There's a difference between Opposition and opportunism.

ENDS

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