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Greg Hunt MP - Federal Member for Flinders

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Transcript - Interview Fran Kelly, Radio National - Plan for Direct Action on Climate Change

Transcript - Interview Fran Kelly, Radio National - Plan for Direct Action on Climate Change

FRAN KELLY

Well a priority for the Coalition is developing its new policy on climate change or climate action.

Tony Abbott says it will be ready for Parliament’s resumption in February.

The Climate Action Shadow Minister is Greg Hunt and he’s been tasked with coming up with a blueprint which will satisfy both the conservatives and the moderates within the Coalition, not to mention the electorate.

Greg Hunt, good morning.

GREG HUNT

Good morning Fran.

FRAN KELLY

Why don’t you support an emissions trading scheme anymore?

GREG HUNT

I think the position is very clear and that is that this emissions trading scheme is $120 billion of enormous taxation with virtually not a dollar actually being spent on real climate action. Not on solar or geothermal or wind or tidal. It’s an enormous money-go-round. And mums and dads who might be in the western suburbs of Sydney or in the outer suburbs of Geelong or elsewhere, it’s $1100 per family per annum with no effect. That’s a deep problem. For many years I have been writing about, dictating, working on, direct action responses, such as solar and geothermal and tidal. I’ve been working in recent months with people such as Sarah Henderson who’s our candidate for Corangamite on a Clean Energy Coasts initiative for the Bellarine Peninsula.

FRAN KELLY

You’ve also been supporting the notion of an ETS. In a speech earlier this year, you said there is a place for a balanced and careful carbon emissions trading scheme. Now that’s no longer your view? What’s changed?

GREG HUNT

No the basis of that speech, the heft, the weight, the grunt, the emphasis was on direct action, with great respect. It was about green carbon, or using our landscapes for natural carbon sinks, about energy efficiency and about real climate action through a clean energy program. What I have said and what I have maintained is the view that if you have a global agreement and in particular if you have the United States with a system which I don’t believe will be in place for four or five years, if it comes in, then you can look at these things for Australia. That’s the context.

FRAN KELLY

With respect, Greg Hunt, it has been your position that you had been defending an emissions trading scheme. You sounded convincing on that. I accept you’ve also been talking about, vehemently, about the need for green carbon solutions and more energy efficiency, but you have been a supporter of an ETS and now you’re arguing that it’s not needed. How do you expect people to swallow that?

GREG HUNT

No, no, I think two things are consistent and two things have changed. The consistency is the emphasis on direct action which has been historical, which I’ve written about, which I’ve spoken about, which I’ve worked on for many years. Secondly, the view that we must achieve bipartisan support on targets. And Tony has embraced that. He has committed to that. What’s changed is this. The United States has pushed back its system. It’s got much further away than we had anticipated and we have always focused on aligning with the US. So that has changed. Secondly, the party has made a decision and I agree with this, that the current form proposed by Mr Rudd will simply be an enormous diversion of funds. When you think of $120 billion and virtually not a cent going in to solar or geothermal or wind or tidal out of that, and $1100 for outer suburban families, that’s why it’s not an effective system and I think and I believe and I am passionate about the fact that we can deliver the same savings at a much reduced cost through energy efficiency, direct action in terms of our farms, our trees and our soils and also through the great process of cleaning up our power sources.

FRAN KELLY

I’m still perplexed by the fact that a week or two ago as I understood it your position was no emissions scheme before Copenhagen, that was your position, now it’s no emissions trading scheme before the US has one in practice which you say would be four or five years away. We spoke to a senior United States climate scientist earlier, who said it could be earlier than that but nevertheless if it has changed….

GREG HUNT

As a party there is no question that we have made a policy position, absolutely. Let me be absolutely upfront about that. But the next thing here is this, that the planet only knows one thing. The planet only knows parts per million of CO2 which is about the total level of emissions. If our targets are the same then we’re having a legitimate debate around the mechanisms. This isn’t about climate change or no climate change. It’s about whether you take action which will have an enormous burden on outer suburban families, on battlers and strugglers or whether you take direct action which will actually, as in the case of for example, Sarah Henderson’s Clean Energy Coasts initiative, deliver real emissions reductions in areas that need it and at a lower cost.

FRAN KELLY

So how do you do that without a carbon signal, without a carbon price in there? Of course we can lower emissions if we are more energy efficient and that’s a good thing if we employ a better use of carbon sinks we can soak up some of the emissions in the atmosphere. But how do you change the behaviour of some of our biggest emitters, some of our coal fired electricity generators, our aluminium smelters, our manufacturing factories to cut our industrial emissions?

GREG HUNT

I think that’s exactly the right question to ask. And what you have to do is you have to look at the history of the last 15 years in Australia. Treasury and the Department of Climate Change’s own modelling shows that for an Australia which has 600 million tonnes of CO2 which against business as usual was on track to be about 814 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2020, 150 million tonnes will have been reduced against that business as usual by completely non price signal measures. That means the clean energy target, the land clearance measures, the incentives. So the way you do this is through direct action and incentives. These incentives are things that we are working on over the summer. But the areas for action will be through the principle of incentives, achieving outcomes in clean energy, green carbon and energy efficiency. 

Let me give you some examples. We’ve looked at the renewable energy target which we led, and pushed this year.  The Prime Minister is now saying he’s completely against anything like that. 

Here’s a question for the Prime Minister: Is he now against his own renewable energy target? Because that’s a non price mechanism.

FRAN KELLY

Just finally, yesterday Tony Abbott said on radio the planet seemed to have stopped warmed. The World Meteorological Organisation has just issued a report that says the latest current decade is the hottest on record. Do you believe the world is warming or cooling?

GREG HUNT

My view has been for many, many years that irrespective of any fluctuations, the long term trend is about climate change. I believe in climate change. I believe that there will be an impact and I have no doubt or question about that myself. 

But two points here. One, we should not be in a situation where people are pilloried for raising questions. And two, he was looking at a time frame issue. But his commitment – and it’s been profoundly strong in all my discussions with him - his commitment is for real and direct action which will produce real emissions results, rather than an impact on families in Geelong, on families in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane.

FRAN KELLY

Just to be clear, you say you believe the world is warming?

GREG HUNT

Absolutely, the long term climate impact is a science that I accept. There can be debate about individual timeframes. No question about that. But that is my long term view. I’ve believed it for over 20 years and nobody would believe me if I walked away from it.

(Ends.)

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