Sunday, 31 December 2017


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Geoff Seidner <>
Date: Sun, Dec 31, 2017 at 9:25 AM

Sent: Sunday, July 21, 2013 5:36 PM
The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Climate Change
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Water


21 July 2013
Topics: Asylum Seekers, Climate Change, FBT

PETER VAN ONSELEN:    To discuss the issue of climate change first up, we're joined now out of Adelaide by the Climate Change Minister Mark Butler. Mr Butler, welcome to the program.
MARK BUTLER:                 Morning, Peter.
PETER VAN ONSELEN:    We are going to focus, obviously, on climate change, but just a quick question to start if I can, on this announcement from Friday in relation to the boats. You're a senior factional member of the Labor Party left. There has to be some disquiet, doesn't there, within the broad Labor movement - but certainly within the left you would think - about a policy that appears to be as harsh as this, as Paul Kelly talks about?
MARK BUTLER:                 Well I think the Prime Minister was pretty frank at the announcement on Friday - there would be people within the Labor movement and the Labor Party, and the broader community, who would feel uncomfortable with this. But in my discussions with some people over the last couple of days, although you know, there is a level of discomfort about some aspects of this, there is also a very strong and clear recognition that something very different needs to be done.
                                             The numbers, the ruthlessness with which people smugglers are putting people - including very young children - on these leaky boats, the number of people we're losing on the seas means that business as usual is simply unacceptable. So yes there is a level of discomfort I'm sure in parts of the Labor Party and the Labor movement, but there's a very strong recognition that this sort of game-changer is needed to start to arrest the numbers of people coming over from Indonesia in particular.
PAUL KELLY:                      Just on that point Minister, given the appalling nature of the detention conditions in Papua New Guinea, are you prepared to live with the idea that women, and children and family groups will be sent there to those conditions?
MARK BUTLER:                 Well I think a range of these details will be fleshed out, and I know you're talking to Bob Carr who's had much more involvement in these arrangements than I have. But the Prime Minister again made clear on Friday that there'd be very strong supports put in place for these resettlement arrangements in PNG in terms of health services, education services and the like. Over coming days and weeks I'm sure we'll see details of that fleshed out. But I know there's a very broad recognition, including by the Prime Minister and Minister Burke and I'm sure Minister Carr, that PNG is going to need - and deserves - some assistance from Australia in some of those services.
PETER VAN ONSELEN:    We will pass that political hot potato on to Bob Carr after the break where we'll talk to him about it. Let's move on if we can, to your portfolio area of climate change. It's rhetoric gone over the top, isn't it, for Kevin Rudd to describe himself as the terminator of the carbon tax? At the end of the day, all that's happening here is the floating price is being brought forward by twelve months, and that's only happening if the Government actually changes legislation, and that's unlikely to happen before the election. We're just talking about an election promise here, rather than any actual change, aren't we?
MARK BUTLER:                 Well I'm not sure I've ever heard Kevin Rudd call himself The Terminator. We have said we're terminating the carbon tax, that is the description given to the fixed-price arrangement by many in the community, and most in the media, Peter and Paul. And to be very clear, that arrangement under a Labor Government will be terminated and we'll be moving more quickly than otherwise would have been the case to an emissions trading scheme. A scheme that for the first time, introduces an actual cap on the amount of carbon pollution that can be dumped into the atmosphere, and allows businesses to work out the proper price.
PETER VAN ONSELEN:    Don't you need to go to Parliament before the election to show voters that you're fair dinkum about this? I mean recalling Parliament, and trying to get this through the Senate, whether you succeed or fail depending on what the Greens and the Coalition did, wouldn't that be a real strong gesture that this is more than just an election promise?
MARK BUTLER:                 Well that question's obviously very much tied up with the question of election timing, and I'm not privy to that and Kevin Rudd, as Prime Minister, has a range of issues he needs to factor in that decision. But I've made it clear I think before, that I see it as my responsibility to be ready to do either. Either to take legislation to the Parliament in the event that Parliament does sit again before the next election, or if not, then at least to have very, very clear draft legislation out - which I hope will be out in coming days or at the most the next couple of weeks - so that no one could be under any ambiguity or any uncertainly about what the Labor Party's commitment is around climate change.
                                             We'll have draft legislation out, we already have costings out, we'll be very clear what the impact to households and business will be. And if - before or after the election - the Greens Party or the Opposition for that matter, turn their back on emissions trading again, for a second time, as they did in 2009, then I think the people will judge them very, very harshly. This is a model that has been accepted very broadly around the world, overwhelmingly around the world as the right model to deal with the threat of carbon pollution, and resulting climate change. And I think the time has come for the Opposition to get off the political posturing, for the Greens to get off their far-left political posturing as well, and adopt the model that is increasingly being adopted around the world.
PETER VAN ONSELEN:    I'm sure we'll get to some of those details about the model in a moment. But you mention there about the Government being very clear about the cost of pricing carbon and so on. There's a bit of unclarity though isn't there, or a lack of clarity. Because initially I recall for years during the life of this Parliament, your side of politics saying that the Coalition is overstating the impact on cost of living, they're overstating the impact of the carbon tax on for example electricity prices. Yet part of your pitch for bringing the floating price forward, is to fix cost of living problems - indeed to fix the difficulties that people face in terms of their power bills. That's inconsistent.
MARK BUTLER:                 Well fix is your language Peter, I don't think Kevin Rudd used that language at all last week. He said that there would be a modest but important impact on cost of living for households, and also an impact on input costs for business, which ultimately will flow onto households. This will be important relief, but the modelling we put out there, the estimates - for example - on electricity prices when the fixed carbon price, or the carbon tax was introduced, was absolutely spot on in, I think, every jurisdiction around the country.
                                             Tony Abbott was talking about $100 roasts, and towns getting wiped off the map. He was the one overstating, our modelling was spot on. And what we're saying this week though, or said last week, is that we'll be able to provide even more relief to households, so that during what is a difficult time for everyone - with ongoing uncertainty in the global economy - households, businesses for that matter, will have just a little bit more relief than we would otherwise have been able to deliver them in 2014-15.
PETER KELLY:                   Minister do you accept that the emissions trading scheme, which is being adopted, is in fact Julia Gillard's scheme?
MARK BUTLER:                 Well, it's clear that the scheme introduced and passed, essentially under the prime ministership of Julia Gillard, was going to move to an emissions trading scheme in 2015-16. It has been the policy of the Labor Party for years now, the 2007 election and 10 election, to have an emissions trading scheme - a scheme that caps carbon pollution and allows business to work out the cheapest possible way to work within that limit on carbon pollution in our economy. So yes, Julia Gillard, all members of the Labor caucus, have been committed to emissions trading.
PETER VAN ONSELEN:    [Interrupts] So Kevin Rudd is still selling Julia Gillard's scheme, that's the bottom line. He's just brought forward the date of the floating price.
MARK BUTLER:                 That's right. We've been able to terminate the fixed price, or the carbon tax, what ever language you want to use, twelve months earlier, so that we can move more quickly to the emissions trading scheme, which has always been the ambition of all Labor Party members since well before the 2007 election. We also remember of course, last week is six years to the date that John Howard announced that the Liberal Government then was committed to introducing precisely the emissions trading scheme model that we're moving to introduce in 2014-15. This is not an unusual model to be used in response to this very significant challenge.
PAUL KELLY:                      Now Minister, the Shadow Minister Greg Hunt argues that over the next eight years the revenue raised through your carbon pricing arrangements, as announced by Kevin Rudd, will be 58 billion as opposed to 64 before. Do you agree with those numbers?
MARK BUTLER:                 Well no I don't. Look it's important to recognise what happened with Treasury's modelling on this. Treasury, as is appropriate, modelled a price in 2020 that would reflect, I guess, the implementation of the international commitment - so not just here in Australia but across the world - the international commitment to keep carbon pollution to 450 parts per million, which ultimately would mean that the increase in global temperatures would be kept to below two degrees Celsius. And what Treasury has done is essentially drawn a straight line from the floating price date, which will now be 2014-15, up to that price in 2020.
                                             Now over time of course, this is going to be a market where business ultimately sets the price, and Treasury will have to update its modelling, and it's forecast in the same way it does in response to fluctuations in the currency market, or in the commodities market. But that was entirely the appropriate thing for Treasury to do, but being a market, over time Treasury will have to review quite what the market is doing.
PETER VAN ONSELEN:    One of the issues though, isn't it, is that people look at the projections by Treasury for where the floating price will move to, versus the reality of where it's going start now that it's tied into the European scheme. And they look at that and wonder how the budget is going to be anything other than massively in the red, if we are less likely to bring in the kind of revenue through the floating price than Treasury has earmarked, given the amount of compensation that's being handed back to voters at the same time.
MARK BUTLER:                 But this is not unusual. We don't operate a command and control economy. We operate a private economy, effectively, and Government revenue is always subject to fluctuations in the market as I've said, in response to fluctuations in the currency market. And very significant fluctuations in commodity prices that we've seen, hit revenues very hard. They hit them in a good way in the mid part of the last decade, they're hitting them on the downside, and have been for the last few years. So this is not unusual. It makes Treasury's job very difficult, they're very talented bunch, but over the next coming years they'll have to monitor that market in the same way they monitor all other markets.
PETER VAN ONSELEN:    But as uncertain as things like the iron ore price might be if we're seeing a shift from $100 to $70 in percentage terms that's nothing like what we're seeing with the carbon price moving from around $24 a ton down to $6 a ton. I mean that's got to gut the budget, doesn't it?
MARK BUTLER:                 Which is why we've had to make some pretty responsible but difficult savings over the last week that we've announced. And I guess that is the commitment ultimately particularly the Treasurer and Minister Wong as Finance Minister, they do have a difficult job in a time where revenue is being depressed through the ongoing impact of the GFC and the issue we have with nominal GDP growth being lower than real GDP growth. We have a very strong commitment to fiscal responsibility and as these different markets fluctuate including in the future the carbon market, it is the job of the Expenditure Review Committee to make sure that we cut our cloth accordingly.
PAUL KELLY:                      Minister, our 2020 reduction target is five per cent. Given the ongoing warnings about the nature of the climate change problem, to what extent would you like to look at a more ambitious target?
MARK BUTLER:                 Well, in the time I've been the Climate Change Minister, a number of environmental groups have talked to me about their ambition for government to increase the target. As you'll remember we have a range of targets that we've announced. The five per cent minimum and then potentially higher targets depending on progress in international negotiations. My response to them and to the community more broadly is we put in place I think a system that deals with this properly. It's a system overseen by the Climate Change Authority chaired by Bernie Fraser, the former Reserve Bank governor, and he is doing a report along with the rest of his board and the authority staff that will be looking at the 2020 reduction target of five per cent as a minimum and also the caps year on year between 2014 and 2020 to ensure that we to that ultimate end point.
                                             I think that's the appropriate thing to do, a draft report from Bernie Fraser's board will be out I think in around October and legislatively they're required to produce a final report by the end of February to give us a very clear view about what that minimum target should be. So my inclination is to let the Climate Change Authority do its work. I know it's an authority that has a high level of confidence in the environmental group sector and in the business sector. I think instead of me stomping around and nominating other figures, it's best to let the authority do its work over the coming months.
PAUL KELLY:                      To what extent to you think the Australian public is still concerned about climate change? A number of people would argue the issue has gone off the boil. What's your view of that and to what extent do you think climate change will be an issue front and centre at the coming election?
MARK BUTLER:                 Well, look I think community views about climate change have moderated to some degree since the middle part of the last decade. I think the impact of the drought particularly in my part of Australia and some other weather events were very much accentuating the sense of immediacy around climate change but also in a zero sum game way after the global financial crisis, there was more of a focus on the immediate, I guess economic health of the country and household security and suchlike. But against all that I think there is still a very deep underlying concern about climate change. I mean some of the research the Climate Institute released last week for example shows that the vast majority of people still think climate change is a reality and a very worrying reality at that. And that human activity is a very significant cause of that climate change.
                                             They want their governments to act but I think it is true that the I guess the smoke and the heat over the carbon tax debate over the last couple of years has I think blunted the sense in the community that government is serious about this. Not just our government but Parliaments are serious about this. That's why I think it's so important that we made the decision that we did last week. We give the opportunity to the community to have a confidence that we are going to move to the best possible model as quickly as we can, the Emissions Trading Scheme. We are going to have a cap on carbon pollution for the first time that reduces over the years. And we are going to continue to have a very, very strong commitment to renewable energy.
                                             So that we can continue to see solar and wind-power and suchlike grow into the future. And I think that will respond to the very deep underlying sense the community has that they do want serious action from their governments about what is going to be a very enduring challenge for years and decades to come.
PAUL KELLY:                      What I'd like to ask you is do you believe that the Australian public has got to make financial sacrifices in this cause? I mean as Minister, is that your message or not? And the reason I ask the question is because the degree of compensation provided for these arrangements now is simply over the top. So what's your view, what's your message about this point of financial sacrifice?
MARK BUTLER:                 Well, look, we make no apology, Paul, for the support that we've particularly given to low and middle income households. Households on fixed incomes like pensions to ensure that they are protected during this transition in the economy. There does have to be a very significant transition in the economy and government is supporting that. For example, through supporting small-scale renewable energy projects. People putting solar and solar water heaters on their roof. Right up to the sort of support that we need to give to very large-scale renewable energy projects. I mean to that extent the broader community is making a sacrifice through government making financial commitments and giving financial support to that transition.
                                             But we make no apology for ensuring particularly that low to middle income households are protected during this transition period. As we did in the 1980s when there was a very significant transition in the economy under the Hawke and Keating governments.
PETER VAN ONSELEN:    Minister, do you see how it looks like it doesn't make sense? That if you're compensating people indeed overcompensating people for increases in electricity prices attached to measures to try to address climate change, then you're not changing their habits necessarily because they've got the extra money in their pocket to pay for the price rise. The whole point of an Emissions Trading Scheme isn't it to deter people from being in a position where they choose these high emissions intensive forms of energy, why would they do that when they've got the money in their pocket to pay for it?
MARK BUTLER:                 Well, because and this is the crucial element of an Emissions Trading Scheme, you introduce a cap on carbon pollution so that there is an effective limit on the amount of carbon pollution that can be dumped into the atmosphere. That forces business to start to find cleaner ways to operate. They start trading those obligations through an Emissions Trading Scheme in permit so that they can find the cheapest way to do it. But there is no choice. Under a system that has a cap on carbon pollution, the community simply must move to a cleaner way of operating. But also I've seen a very strong willingness on the part of households to do this.
                                             When we came to government there were around 7000 households that had solar rooftop panels on their rooves. There are now more than one million. People are willing to make this change. They want to make a change for the better of the environment into the future. But the really critical element is putting this cap on carbon pollution. A cap or a legal limit on carbon pollution that is the central element to the Emissions Trading Scheme.
PETER VAN ONSELEN:    Mark Butler, we appreciate your time on Australian Agenda.

Media contact:          Tim O’Halloran            0409 059 617

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Geoff Seidner
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