Sky Am Agenda 6 June 2011



Transcript - Sky News AM Agenda - 6 June 2011

8:40am

E & OE

 

Subjects: Carbon tax, live cattle exports, asylum seeker policy

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

Good morning and welcome to AM Agenda. Joining me from Melbourne is Shadow Minister for Disabilities Mitch Fifield, good morning Mitch.

MITCH FIFIELD:

Good morning Kieran.

GILBERT:

And with me here in the Canberra studio is Labor MP Andrew Leigh. Andrew, good morning to you.

ANDREW LEIGH:

G’day Kieran.
 

GILBERT:

I want to start with you, if I can, on the carbon tax poll. I touched on it briefly with Bob Katter, but let’s go through some of the numbers, and I’ll put them up on the screen for our viewers. 64% support an early election, and just over 20% believe that the Prime Minister has a mandate for the carbon tax. This is an overwhelming number here for Tony Abbott, supporting his call for an election on this issue.

LEIGH:

Well Kieran, we’ve spoken before on this program about the fact that polls two years out from the election have absolutely no predictive power. So I can understand why Mr Abbott is focussing on polls and running around the country doing a scare campaign, talking about an early election. Put yourself in Mr Abbott’s shoes, this is the problem that you have; you can’t talk about the past, because the past is Workchoices and ripping Australian jobs and conditions. You can’t talk about the future because you don’t have a plan for schools, for hospitals, for dealing with climate change. So all you can do is talk about elections and run around breathlessly fear mongering. And that’s all we’ve seen…

GILBERT:

But Andrew, what we saw there in the numbers is 58% opposing the tax. That was the number – nearly 60% oppose the tax as it stands. 46% believe it’s going to have a minor impact on the environment. You have an enormous task ahead of you, don’t you – the Government must prosecute this.
 

LEIGH:

Kieran it’s true, we’re up against a master of negative campaigning. But you’ve got to look at the policy here. This is a policy which will put a price on pollution for the thousand biggest polluters, and provide generous assistance to Australian households. And that stands in stark contrast to Mr Abbott’s policy, which, on the days that he has one at all, seems to be to subsidise big polluters. And we have to do this because it’s a core economic reform as well as being a core environmental reform. The Australian economy is a very carbon intensive one, so we need to make sure we’re not left behind by the rest of the world as we move towards putting a price on carbon pollution.

GILBERT:

Senator Fifield, this poll follows yesterday’s protests around the country in support of the carbon tax. There were thousands out at protests around the capital cities; Melbourne, Perth, Sydney – there were some big crowds there. And if you look at this poll, nearly thirty per cent support the carbon tax, even despite the Government’s poor sales effort thus far. So they’ve got a base there to work with.
 

FIFIELD:

Well there were massive crowds protesting the dismissal of the Whitlam Government, but it still didn’t stop people voting for the Coalition in overwhelming numbers. The most interesting thing about this poll is that two thirds of the respondents think that there should be an election before a carbon tax is considered. The Australian people feel betrayed. Julia Gillard went to the last election and said that there would be no carbon tax under a government that she led. The other interesting thing in the poll is that three quarters of respondents believe that they would be worse off under a carbon tax; that they wouldn’t be able to afford to pay the extra impost on their household budgets. I think the reason the voting public think that is they just don’t believe Julia Gillard. She says that they’ll be better off, but she’s lied to them before; she lied to them before saying she wouldn’t introduce a carbon tax. So the Government really does need to heed this survey. It doesn’t matter how many celebrities are deployed in the field, or how many actors or actresses try to explain this, the Australian public aren’t convinced. I think the Australian public are sick and tired - when they express their concerns about cost of living pressures, when they express their concerns about a carbon tax – they’re sick and tired of being labelled climate change sceptics. Australian households are doing it tough. They don’t need an added burden on their household budgets, and it’s time this Government started to listen.

GILBERT:

Senator Fifield, you know, though, that when these polls are done, and compensation is included, the support number goes well up. This poll doesn’t have that compensation question in there. When that’s asked, the number invariably does go up, according to the polls that we’ve seen.

   

FIFIELD:

When I move around the community talking to people, no one believes that the compensation is going to adequately recompense them for the increase in petrol prices, for the increase in electricity prices. People just don’t buy it.

 

GILBERT:

But what happens when the tax cuts are implemented? You’ve run this campaign against the tax and the compensation, but when the government can say, ‘there are the dollars in your pocket,’ then you’ve got to argue that you’re rolling that back. It’s a lot more difficult.

 

FIFIELD:

We’re conceding nothing. We’re still fighting to stop this tax being introduced, and we’re going to keep fighting to stop this tax from being introduced. I think that the Australian public are going to make their feelings known, not just through this poll, but to their local Labor MPs. I think that the message will get through, and I think the Government would be well advised to see a sign in front of them that says ‘wrong way, turn back.’

GILBERT:

 

Let’s look at a few other issues, if we can – the live cattle exports. Andrew Leigh, it looks like the Government is considering - according to the Herald today - restricting the exports to just a handful of abattoirs. There will be pressure remaining to ban this trade altogether, but would that be an encouraging start - to restrict it to just 10 or so abattoirs as opposed to the 100 where cattle are currently exported to?

LEIGH:

Well Kieran I’ve seen the reports as well, and we’ll have to wait and see what the Minister has to say about that. But certainly, like many of your viewers I’m sure, I was shocked to see those images of how Australian cattle are being so horrendously treated in Indonesian abattoirs. Having the independent reviewer is important, we’ve shut down immediately exports of Australian cattle to those abattoirs, and I’m looking forward to other moves…

 

GILBERT:

Does more need to be done?

LEIGH:

Look I think it’s important to work through it with the assistance of the independent reviewer, having that independent outside eye on this is absolutely critical, making sure we set in place a solution that isn’t just some short term fix but actually is a substantive solution for the long-term.

 

GILBERT:

Senator Fifield, do you think that it would be enough to restrict exports to only those that are guaranteed? I think the number was 10 or so, the Herald reported this morning?

 

FIFIELD:

We don’t want to make this an area of partisanship. Those images on Four Corners were truly horrific. No one wants to see that suffering by animals. We also have to consider the livelihood of Australian producers who rely on exports. I think the producers have shown themselves to be extremely responsible; they care equally about animal welfare. So look, we’re willing to work with the Government in this area. We don’t want to take pot shots. We want to see a situation where we have animals not suffering, but where we can also see a continued export industry.


GILBERT:

One area where there isn’t bipartisan support is asylum seekers. The deal with Malaysia is facing a lot of criticism, Andrew Leigh, now within your own Party. Melissa Parke, the Member for Fremantle, says she’s not going to back a plan if unaccompanied minors are being sent back to Malaysia. She wants a full endorsement from the United Nations, as a former UN lawyer herself. This is being criticised right across the board. Julian Burnside, Marion Le – people are now saying that Nauru is a better option than what your Government is trotting out.

LEIGH:

Well Kieran I think there’s been a lot of misinformation around about unaccompanied minors. So let me just try to be absolutely clear about where the Government is coming from on this. We have said that there shouldn’t be a blanket exemption. If you set up a blanket exemption – you say that some category of people are automatically going to be exempted – that just encourages people smugglers to put that category of people on the boat. A boatful of unaccompanied minors – we could imagine the tragedy that occurred in Christmas Island being repeated in that circumstance. The UNHCR agrees with us on this, there shouldn’t be a blanket exemption. That doesn’t mean the Minister doesn’t retain his powers on a case by case basis to allow individual unaccompanied minors into the country. But the blanket ban is just a recipe for trouble. It fails to break the business model of the people smugglers…

GILBERT:

You say you want to clear it up for us, but to be honest, it’s been as clear as mud for the first few days. Because the Minister said unaccompanied minors will be sent to Malaysia, and then he said the next day that it would be case by case. It seems like your changing your position on a daily basis.

LEIGH:

No, that’s not right Kieran. What the Minister has said is that there cannot be a blanket exemption. The UNHCR agrees with this. If you want to break the business model of the people smugglers, you want to make sure that they don’t send kids to Australia and see a repeat of burying young children as we had to do after Christmas Island, then it’s important you don’t have a blanket exemption. But you can be compassionate….

GILBERT:

Well let’s talk about compassionate. Julian Burnside, Marion Le - these refugee advocates – even Melissa Parke, one of your own MPs, they don’t think you’ve got it right.


LEIGH:

Well Kieran I’m proud of what we’ve done as a Government on refugees. We’re increasing the refugee intake by 4000 – the biggest increase since the Keating Government. We’ve stopped temporary protection visas, we’ve taken kids out from behind razor wire. And this is about trying to break the business model of the people smugglers. It’s not straightforward, no one thinks that this is an easy problem to solve. There are 15 million refugees around the world, and so Australia needs to be part of finding a regional solution to a global problem.


GILBERT:

OK, Senator Fifield – this issue looks like it’s going to be finalised within a couple of weeks – the deal with Malaysia. If it does slow the boats, as the Government is hoping it will, will you continue to oppose this as an option?


FIFIELD:

Well Kieran, you’re more optimistic than I am. We heard a lot about the East Timorese solution. Nothing eventuated. The Government continued in that fantasy that that was going to eventuate. We heard a little bit about a PNG solution for a while, but nothing came from that. I’m yet to be convinced that the Malaysian solution will actually be signed in ink.

But Kieran, I’ve got to say, if I hear a Labor Member of Parliament say one more time, ‘we’ve got to break the business model,’ I’ll scream. It’s the Australian Labor Party that designed this business model. It’s the Australian Labor Party that gave the people smugglers the product that they are currently selling. It’s the Australian Labor Party who - through the abolition of temporary protection visas and through their refusal to continue the Nauru processing centre - have given the people smugglers the product that they are selling. So when the Labor Party say that they want to break the business model, it’s their own model that they’re looking to break.

The only way they can break this business model is by adopting the Coalition’s policies. Re-opening Nauru – pick up the phone, call the President of Nauru. Re-introduce temporary protection visas. Let’s stop this absolute farce that even Robert Manne recognises is a farce. That even Julian Burnside recognises is a farce. That even Marion Le recognises is a farce. This Government is operating in a parallel universe. They’re talking to themselves. No one is listening to them. No one believes them. It’s time to end this ridiculous situation and introduce temporary protection visas and pick up the phone, call the President of Nauru. Let’s get over this ridiculous situation.


GILBERT:

OK gentlemen, unfortunately we’re out of time. Senator Fifield and Andrew Leigh, good to see you both, appreciate it.


LEIGH:

Thanks Kieran.


FIFIELD:

Thanks Kieran.

GILBERT:

That’s all for this edition of AM Agenda.http://www.youtube.com/v/2CEYPyR_-Jg?version=3&hl=en_US

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