Transcript of interview with John Burgess, 6iX
TUE 17 JULY 2012
Subject(s): Carbon price; Electricity prices; Asylum seekers
HOST: The Prime Minister of Australia, and I’m delighted to have her on the program this morning, Julia Gillard. Good morning Prime Minister.
PM: Good morning John.
HOST: How are you today?
PM: I’m really well.
HOST: And welcome to Perth.
PM: Thank you very much. It’s good to be here.
HOST: Now the forum last night, how do you reckon it went?
PM: I really enjoyed it. It was an opportunity to talk to more than 200 people from Perth about carbon pricing and a whole lot of other issues as well. People were free to raise whatever was on their mind. And I think what it showed is that we can change views about carbon pricing.
There’s been a lot of false claims out there, a lot of things that have scared people. And the Opposition’s been claiming things like, Whyalla’s going to be wiped off the map. So it’s good to be able to talk it through with people and present all of the facts of carbon pricing.
HOST: Yes, I asked people this morning to give me a call and give me a question that I should ask you, and you wouldn’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to realise that the most topics that people want is boat people and of course the carbon tax and the mining tax here in WA.
But one fella called and said he’s a low income earner, he’s a self-employed tradie. And he said that the Government’s been telling him that lots of the costs will be offset when the carbon tax comes in but he said it doesn’t seem to be helping them, Prime Minister.
PM: Well it’s hard without knowing exactly what business he’s in. But if he’s a self-employed tradie, so going around from house to house, fixing things for people for example, he’s really going to be pretty unaffected in his business by carbon pricing.
We’ve got to remember that the carbon price is paid by the big businesses that generate a lot of carbon pollution – less than 500 of them in Australia.
Now they will pass some of the costs that they’re now paying for carbon pollution through, and that means that we’ll see things like an increase in electricity prices in WA of 9 percent.
But that’s why we’ve provided people with tax cuts and pension increases and family payment increases, and literally around the country millions of people will come out better off.
HOST: The last time we spoke, which was in your office, and I had a camera crew in tow you may remember, talking about the pensioners and how they were surviving on the pension each week. We were hoping to follow up that story, which I haven’t been able to do Prime Minister, I’m disappointed.
But everybody seems to be now concerned with electricity prices. I know you’ve brought that up here, not only in Western Australia but across the country. These are the people who keep telling me that they can’t turn their heater on at night, they’re turning their lights off and going to bed, they can’t turn their television on because the electricity prices keep going up and up and up.
In other countries, and I’ve brought this up with the Leader of the Opposition last week as well, in other countries they seem to look after people with a pro rata charge. High income earners pay more than low income earners. Couldn’t the Government do something about that here?
PM: Well this is really a question for Premier Barnett so I’m not surprised you asked the Opposition Leader about it. What’s happened here in WA with electricity prices is people have had to live with a 57 per cent increase as a result of state government actions.
That’s more than $500 per household.
So I’m not surprised, John, that you’re getting calls from people on low and fixed incomes who are telling you that it’s very tough for them with their electricity bills when they’ve seen such huge increases from the state government, with no real assistance.
With carbon pricing, we’ve taken a different approach. Putting a price on carbon is about cutting the amount of carbon pollution we’re putting up in the atmosphere, because we know that that’s causing climate change.
We knew putting a price on carbon would put electricity prices up by 9 per cent, and so we have provided assistance to people. So rather than Premier Barnett’s approach, a more than 50 per cent increase and no real assistance, carbon pricing; a 9 per cent increase and there’s tax cuts and more money for pensioners, more money for people with kids.
HOST: Yes I understand you’ve done some work on that. But the point I was making is, I’m talking to you federally now, not necessarily just in Western Australia, about the fact that in other countries as I said, low income earners only pay a smaller amount than someone that’s earning a lot.
Because we seem to be, not only pensioners affected here, but middle class people as well.
PM: The structure of electricity charging is a question for the state government, it’s their asset. So you’d need to put that question to Premier Barnett.
But I’ve just been really mindful as we’ve done this big job to tackle climate change, that we’ve looked after the people that you’re most concerned about.
HOST: I spoke to you in the office about some of the things and you said, wait til the Budget comes out, and then we’ll talk again, John. But I mean, the set-top box issue was in the Budget, we’ve had pink batts and solar panels costing millions of dollars that haven’t really worked, Prime Minister.
I mean that’s where people are looking at this money that the Government’s spending but they’re not getting anything for themselves.
PM: Well we’ve delivered an historic increase in the pension; the biggest single increase in the pension since we’ve effectively had the pension.
And on top of that historic increase and regular indexation, through putting a price on carbon, we’re delivering $338 more to single pensioners and $510 more to pensioner couples and we know that they will end up in front. That is, that amount of money is more than the average impact they will see from carbon pricing.
And we did want to make sure, for people who are on those fixed incomes, who do it tough, that we figured it all out so that they would end up in front.
HOST: This is a topic we could talk about for a long time. And I would love to once again sit down with you if I could Prime Minister and have a chat.
But the boat people of course, refugees, a lot of people are very concerned about this, and the first report is being released today from the former Chief of Defence, Angus Houston. Are you confident that some resolution is going to be found?
PM: John, I can understand that Australians are very frustrated about this. They want to see action, they want to see something done. I can really understand that frustration.
I’ve been prepared to compromise in order to get action. I’ve been prepared to give a tick to Nauru, which is the central element of the Opposition’s policy and to combine that with the central piece of the Government’s policy, the transfer arrangement with Malaysia.
So I’ve wanted to compromise in order to get change here. Unfortunately in the face of that what we’ve seen from the Opposition is them finding every way they can to just say no.
That’s why I asked Angus Houston, a very eminent Australian, a former Chief of the Defence Force, to lead an expert process. It’s not a report that he’s releasing today, John. But it’s a meeting that he’s conducting in Canberra.
But we will receive a report from Angus and his team before the Parliament resumes in August. And I certainly believe that what comes from that expert panel should be used to guide our nation to action and to addressing this issue, which I know is on the minds of so many Australians, and they’re very frustrated that they haven’t been able to see the Parliament get new legislation through.
HOST: Prime Minister, I’ve got to go to the news unfortunately, but it’s great to talk to you and as I said, if we could arrange another time, I’d really appreciate it.
PM: Sure John, I’ll look to do that and thank you for talking this morning.