Transcript of doorstop interview, Ulverstone
FRI 06 JULY 2012
Subject(s): Carbon price; Asylum seekers; Wikileaks; Super-trawler; Tasmanian health reform
PM: I’m here in Tasmania today. I’m with Sid Sidebottom, our Member for Braddon. It’s a picture perfect Tassie day – typical – and it is fantastic to be here. We’re here today specifically at Ulverstone High School.
We've had the opportunity of touring around, including having a look at the science centre that is just over there, built through the Building the Education Revolution program at a cost of almost $2 million, but helping teach the kids in this school about the world we live in and the science of our planet.
And we've had the opportunity to meet with student leaders, not only from this school but from a number of schools locally. They are really giving us an insight into the future – into the world that they will be the adults of.
They are very focussed on the environment and doing what we need to as a nation, as individuals, indeed as a whole planet, to address the challenge of climate change.
They were coming up with their own very practical ideas and they're going to take those ideas back to their own schools. They are seeking to achieve through their efforts what we are trying to achieve nationally through putting a price on carbon.
I want these students to live in an Australia that has an environment we can be proud of, that has cut carbon pollution and that has a strong economy that can offer them the benefits of lifetime opportunities. I want to see that for their future.
And putting a price on carbon is an important step to realising that future. It means we’ll cut carbon pollution, our economy will grow strongly, there will be more jobs and opportunities.
So it’s been a great delight to share their sense of excitement about acting on climate change. It’s what we’re seeking to do as a nation. So it’s been great to be here with Sid and his connections with this school are very strong indeed. His own children went here.
SIDEBOTTOM: They did, yes.
PM: And good achievements when they were here.
SIDEBOTTOM: Indeed. I think.
PM: Okay, we’re happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: If anyone was going to give a positive response to the carbon tax, you’d think it was Tasmania with Hydro Tasmania, but there’s a lot of fear about freight costs and things like that. Do you think the message is getting through?
PM: I think there’s been a lot of fear deliberately generated with a lot of false claims about what carbon pricing will mean.
You know, a lot of claims have been made about electricity prices and we know that here in Tasmania electricity prices for individuals will go up 5.6 per cent.
Nationally they’ll go up around 10 per cent.
It means the assistance that we’re providing here through pensions and tax cuts and family payment increases is going to go further. And for this state, this wonderful clean state with its hydro and its clean sources of energy, this is a net benefit for Tasmania.
So, a lot of fear been around but over the course of the last week we've seen a number of the myths generated being absolutely busted.
You know, you were told Whyalla would be wiped off the map. That hasn’t happened. You were told the coal industry would shut down. That hasn’t happened. You were told that there would be astronomical increases at the local shops. That hasn’t happened, and so the list goes on.
JOURNALIST: Have you been surprised, I guess, the build up to 1 July was so massive, have you been surprised at how quickly the discussion seems to have tapered off, even over the last 24 hours?
PM: In some ways I’m not surprised, because you've just had, run by the Opposition, the most ridiculous scare campaign. And it was very apparent that come 1 July, none of these doom and gloom prophecies were going to come true.
So the image had been created by the Opposition’s fear campaign that on 1 July our nation would enter a permanent depression. There would be a wrecking ball through the economy. The Sunday roast would cost you $100. And so the list went on.
And of course people went about their ordinary Sunday and they’re gone about their ordinary working week, but we as a nation are achieving a cleaner future because the price on carbon means we’ll be cutting carbon pollution.
So this week is the start of people’s opportunity to judge for themselves what all those reckless claims have been about.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on asylum seekers, do you need the Opposition to join your policy group for it to be effective?
PM: Thank you for that question. I am very disappointed that to date the Opposition has not nominated members to participate in the reference group. I want us as a nation to take effective action to deter people from risking their lives at sea and getting on leaky boats.
I want us to be able to have an offshore processing solution. Every step of the way we've been prepared to compromise to get this done for our nation.
I think it’s incredibly disappointing that Mr Abbott and the Coalition he leads have not taken the opportunity of working together in the nation’s interest for a compromise that we can all endorse and get on with putting in place.
JOURNALIST: The Liberals have made some sort of contribution to that today with former foreign minister Alexander Downer saying that if people smugglers were no longer able to guarantee that asylum seekers would be able to get to live in Australia, they might start heading elsewhere. Do you have a reaction to that?
PM: Well I do have a reaction. Those words are a ringing endorsement of the Government’s arrangement with Malaysia. Unfortunately Mr Abbott is so negative he won’t endorse that arrangement.
Our arrangement with Malaysia would enable us to take people who are striving to reach Australia and to transfer them to Malaysia. We would be able to do that to send a powerful message of deterrence to people smugglers.
But every step of the way we’ve been met with negativity. Today the former Chief of the Defence Force, Chris Barrie, has come out and said effectively that Tony Abbott’s plans for towing back boats will put naval personnel at risk; that they won’t work.
So, one element of Mr Abbott’s plan keeps running into the wisdom from senior Defence Force personnel who say it will put the lives of Australians at risk. So given this, it’s clear Mr Abbott needs to think again.
We are wanting to see the Opposition work for a compromise in the national interest and that’s why it’s so disappointing that they haven’t as yet taken up their positions on the group that will be working in this debate to try and get the nation a solution.
JOURNALIST: In the past the Indonesian Government has expressed concerns about the Opposition’s plan to tow back boats or to turn them away. Did they express that in Darwin when you met with the Indonesian President
PM: I’m not going to go to private discussions, but every time the Indonesian Government has been asked about this question they've said the same thing: that they will not accept towed back boats.
Mr Abbott had the opportunity publicly in front of President Yudhoyono to raise this if he’d chosen to do so, and he did not. So he goes around the nation thumping his chest about towbacks, but when he’s in public in front of the President of Indonesia, he says not one word.
And that’s because he knows that Indonesia is not going to agree with this, and he must accept the force of the words of people like Chris Barrie, former Chief of the Defence Force, that this would put Australian lives at risk.
This is an area not for sloganeering. It’s for getting effective action done. We’re prepared to work and compromise to get effective action. We’re calling on Mr Abbott still to act in the national interest rather than play the negative politics.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Coalition is deliberately snubbing this panel?
PM: Well you’d have to put that question to Mr Abbott. What I know to date is every step of the way, we as a Government have been prepared to compromise to get an outcome for our nation. Every step of the way to date, Mr Abbott has said no and played politics.
He’s got a new opportunity now to show that he’s capable of acting in the nation’s interest, and I’d urge him to seize it.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you think some good might come from the Wikileaks release of two million emails from Syrian political figures, including Syria’s relationships with some of its allies, particularly a story’s come out about Italy providing communications support to the regime?
PM: Look, I’m not going to comment on documents by definition I haven’t seen. I have made my concerns about Wikileaks known in the past.
JOURNALIST: Do you support Seafish Tasmania’s plans to bring a super-trawler and operate it out of Devonport?
PM: Look, on this question of the super-trawler, there’s been some media speculation about this but it continues to be the case that no application has been received by our fisheries authority for the super-trawler, no application’s been received.
And if one were ever received, then it would be dealt with by our fisheries authority on the basis that they would consider all of the questions about sustainability of the catch and the environment, and only issue a permit if they were satisfied and with the relevant conditions.
So what drives them isn’t the size of the boat – the boat isn’t the relevant consideration – what drives them is what’s in the best interests of sustainability for our fisheries.
We’ll just take the last two and then we’ll go.
JOURNALIST: Tasmania’s set to lose $80 million under the new health reform, which comes in in 2014-
PM: That’s not the case. Tasmania is hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars better off as a result of our health reform arrangements, and on top of that we have committed a new $325 million of expenditure. This health reform deal is particularly good for Tasmania. Tasmania is an area with growing health costs.
The Federal Government is stepping up to being an equal partner in funding that growth, and on top of all of that, we have committed to an extra $325 million.
JOURNALIST: But the Independent Pricing Authority says that we will lose 16 per cent of Tasmania’s budgets.
PM: There’s no version of life that has Tasmania anything other than hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars better off. This is a multi-billion dollar deal in Tasmania’s interests.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on a much lighter note, your rise through Parliament has been very inspiring to women right across the nation. In regard to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, in an artist’s war, who would you pick as the favourite?
PM: Look, I’ll leave that to Sid! He’s the artist in the group!
Okay, thank you very much.
SIDEBOTTOM: Great, thank you.