Greg Hunt

Federal Member for Flinders | Minister for Industry, Innovation & Science

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Transcript, Sky News PM Agenda, Interview with David Speers

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

E&OE….

Topics: Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target, marriage equality


DAVID SPEERS:
Greg Hunt, thank you for your time. Now, can I start by asking why have you gone with a less ambitious target for Australia than the United States and Canada in particular?

GREG HUNT:
Well in fact we've got a more ambitious target than Japan, Korea and China. We have the same headline figure as the United States at minus 26 to minus 28 but on a different timeframe, and we're just below...

DAVID SPEERS:
They are comparable economies though aren't they?

GREG HUNT:
...we're just below New Zealand and Canada. And what we did is we worked out what is the emissions reduction that Australia can realistically, feasibly and cost effectively achieve? We actually worked through the approach, and I presented that yesterday …

DAVID SPEERS:
So why has it...

GREG HUNT:
...and that came originally to minus 26, but there was some overhang and so we then brought it down - the range - to minus 28. And I couldn't be more delighted with the outcome because we've gone from minus five to minus 26 to minus 28 …

DAVID SPEERS:
Right, but you were...

GREG HUNT:
...we’re right in the pack internationally and we're doing out bit, and above all else of any developed country we have the highest per capita reductions of minus 50 per cent.

DAVID SPEERS:
I'll come back to that, but you were at no point urging a higher target than this yourself?

GREG HUNT:
No.

DAVID SPEERS:
Alright. So why then, again back to that original question, are we being less ambitious than Canada and the United States? They are comparable economies aren't they?

GREG HUNT:
Well we are being as ambitious as the United States in terms of the headline figure but on a different timeframe, I accept that. We are also coming from a position where we have had higher per capita emissions, that's the historical fact which I inherit. But what is tremendously uplifting here is of any country in the developed world we are doing the heaviest lifting per capita. So we are doing more per capita than any other country.

DAVID SPEERS:
Will we still have one of the highest per capita emissions though at the end of this in the developed world?

GREG HUNT:
Yes we will. That's an honest answer, and there's no surprise in that. But what's happening is we are coming down on per capita basis more than any other country. That means our effort is very significant.

And so it's about what is the impact, the effort and the ability of each country. And what we see is that we're looking at 900 million tonnes of reduction over the course of the period from 2020 to 2030, and we set out to achieve those.

DAVID SPEERS:
The sources of those quite a big one, and I know, I asked about this at the press conference yesterday and you spoke about the technological breakthroughs that are yet to come, and you referred to battery banking in particular. There's a lot of hope about this, but what are you as a government doing to ensure these breakthroughs happen?

GREG HUNT:
Sure well the first thing is that we have the Emissions Reduction Fund. And the Emissions Reduction Fund has already produced 47 million tonnes of emissions reduction at $13.95 per tonne, which is four times the reductions that occurred during the entire Carbon Tax experiment, so environmentally far more effective...

DAVID SPEERS:
That's not going to things like battery banking is it?

GREG HUNT:
...at a massively lower cost. The second thing is, we are using the existing opportunities of funds that are currently out there and we have put in place the Renewable Energy Target to 23.5 per cent.

And then the third thing is, and what's very exciting, is Ian MacFarlane is leading the work on a National Energy Productivity Plan, so national energy efficiency, national energy productivity, and that's a process which he’s beginning. It was outlined and established in the Energy White Paper.

And all of this without the alternative of a massive electricity tax, so we get emissions reduction without a massive electricity tax.

DAVID SPEERS:
But what's the cost to the budget going to be if you are relying heavily on the Emissions Reduction Fund in particular?

GREG HUNT:
So over the period from 2018 to 2030 it's $200 million a year or $2.4 billion. So that's a very manageable cost, it's not an insignificant cost but it's a manageable cost.

DAVID SPEERS:
That's if you can still get abatement at $14 a tonne, I appreciate you did in the first auction, but in the next one and the next one and the next one, will you get it that cheap?

GREG HUNT:
Well I won't speculate on price. We've worked out what we believe will be a long term, viable outcome. Remember last time most of the critics got it wrong, not just by a little bit but by orders of magnitude, the estimates were four or five million tonnes. We had some of the so-called experts saying it would be $60 a tonne, and yet here we are producing at about one per cent the cost per tonne of abatement outcomes at four times the scale of the entire Carbon Tax experiment.

DAVID SPEERS:
But you are confident you can still get abatement at around $14 a tonne in the future? Even after the first round have been gobbled up?

GREG HUNT:
Well let me put it this way. I've never put a future price because it's a commercial bidding process, so you can understand why of all people I have to be cautious on that. But let's put it this way. The budget we've got, I am exceptionally confident that it will, completely confident, deliver the outcomes.

DAVID SPEERS:
And if it doesn't will you spend more or miss the target?

GREG HUNT:
Well I think that you'll find that you're looking at a hypothetical for 2030. Everything we've done …

DAVID SPEERS:
Is that your priority here, is it to spend only that amount or is it to hit that target?

GREG HUNT:
Our expenditure is always done on a capped basis. When I said $2.5 billion for the first round of the Emissions Reduction Fund that's exactly what we've allocated, and it's producing more than anybody had expected at a lower cost, and then we have $2.4 billion …

DAVID SPEERS:
So you won't spend any more than you...

GREG HUNT:
...that's a capped allocation.

DAVID SPEERS:
So that's the priority rather than hitting the target? You're willing to miss the target as long as you don't spend any more?

GREG HUNT:
No I don't accept that hypothetical. We've had these discussions in the past, and we've beaten our Kyoto one targets. We're now on track, and when we were having these discussions a year ago nobody believed that we'd beat our Kyoto two targets. We'll beat them, we'll beat them easily, we'll have carryover which will help with Kyoto three.

DAVID SPEERS:
How negotiable is this 2030 target? When the Paris meeting is on is that the point at which there may be some movement on this or is it fixed?

GREG HUNT:
No this is very different to previous approaches. And to the deep credit of the French Government and negotiators, they've established a different process where each country puts in its commitment, so it's not a negotiation around the targets. The Paris meeting is a negotiation around the framework going forward. So Paris is not a one shot in the locker outcome, it's the start of what you might call the Paris framework for what could be the next 16 years.

DAVID SPEERS:
So part of that framework, if all the commitments are there and the IPCC says it's not enough to keep warming below 2 degrees, what happens then?

GREG HUNT:
Well nobody is expecting that Paris will achieve everything that is necessary for the 2 degrees. The French have never said that. It is going to make a significant step towards it. It will do the bulk, and hopefully the vast bulk, but the final commitments from other countries will determine that, and then there will be additional work. It could be in five years there's a further pledging round, or in seven years. Probably in five years, in 2020, and then in 2025, this is going to be an ongoing process for humanity.

DAVID SPEERS:
And that's the point at which our target might change.

GREG HUNT:
Well, yep. What the world is doing now is setting targets for individual countries, tallying that up collectively. I am very optimistic for Australia, we're in a very good place. We're doing this without an electricity tax, there's a major choice here for the country: good emissions reductions, the highest per capita outcome of any developed world country, but without a hit to family electricity and gas budgets.

DAVID SPEERS:
Alright, and finally the details yet to come is the safeguards mechanism.

GREG HUNT:
Yes.

DAVID SPEERS:
Now this is, correct me if I'm wrong, penalties that will apply to polluters who emit too much. Where are you at with the detail on this, what sort of penalties will apply?

GREG HUNT:
So this is due by 1 October. We'll have a paper out in the coming weeks. I've met with literally dozens of industry groups, CEOs, interested parties. I've just come from meetings on that front. Today I'll be meeting with IPCC representatives. And so our commitment to the 2 degrees is very clear, the commitment to working through the safeguards …

DAVID SPEERS:
But the safeguard mechanism, will there be meaningful penalties on industry?

GREG HUNT:
Well it's about meaningful baselines and safeguards. Our goal is not to raise any money, the budget is not budgeting money on this. Unlike the ALP we do not have a carbon tax, we are not putting in place electricity price rises.

DAVID SPEERS:
Unless you have some financial penalty there, there is nothing to stop the coal fired power generators.

GREG HUNT:
We have always said that there is provision to deal with rogue emitters.

DAVID SPEERS:
Through a financial penalty.

GREG HUNT:
Yes. That's always been the case...

DAVID SPEERS:
And that will be meaningful?

GREG HUNT:
...from day one, back in, I think it was 2 February 2010.

DAVID SPEERS:
What I'm getting at is...

GREG HUNT:
That's always been the... I won't speculate on compliance mechanisms.

DAVID SPEERS:
I just want to establish. Something they would care about, they would notice, not something they going to pay because it is petty change.

GREG HUNT:
Look, as I say, our goal, our objective, and our budgeting is zero revenue. The impression we have is that companies are not just willing but highly engaged in the process of using this as a chance to have best practice continually kick in. It's an approach where industry is a partner, not an enemy.

DAVID SPEERS:
But I'm asking you as a Government, you're willing to have a significant penalty in place?

GREG HUNT:
Look I'm not going to speculate on that. And it's your absolute right and duty to ask, but I don't want to pre-empt the outcomes.

DAVID SPEERS:
Okay. Well we'll stand by for that. Final question: what do you think about a plebiscite on same-sex marriage?

GREG HUNT:
Look, I think everybody's views are known from last night, I think it's all been tweeted out where everybody stood. And yes, I had a particular preference and that didn't come about.

But as a Member of Parliament, as somebody who is engaged in these public debates, I am actually deeply appreciative and genuinely delighted at the prospect that the Australian people, every Australian person will have a vote, and that this is in essence a national free vote. And I think this is a moment where Australians can be proud that they will all have a say. And we should embrace this notion.

It's an outcome which, frankly, in terms of a national free vote, a vote for every Australian, which should be embraced and about which I'm personally deeply pleased.

DAVID SPEERS:
So you don't share Malcolm Turnbull's concern that this means it’ll run through the election campaign into the next term, through a plebiscite campaign as well as a political problem that means you can't focus on the things you want to focus on?

GREG HUNT:
Look, for me, I like deeply the idea of Australians and every Australian having the opportunity to participate in a grand democratic action.

DAVID SPEERS:
Alright. Environment Minister Greg Hunt, thank you very much.

GREG HUNT:
Thanks a lot.

(ENDS)

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