Topics: Prime Minister Turnbull, climate change policy, Environment portfolio, federal election, Direct Action
Mr Hunt thanks for your time.
And good afternoon Nick. I have to confess that I'm a member of the – well I'm a Richmond supporter and a member of the cheer squad – as it is for all of us now unfortunately. But there we go. We barrack for Richmond with hope and faith and belief that next year will be the year.
Okay, now talk me through your feelings, your emotions last Sunday.
Because it was well known that you actually supported Mr Abbott but then you did get the call from Mr Turnbull on the Sunday. So I can imagine it was a pretty tense time for you.
Look, oddly enough mine was a fairly sort of calm approach.
Because everybody knows that I stayed with Malcolm when he was the Opposition leader and was down to perhaps the last ten votes over the weekend before there was the leadership change then.
And similarly I was very with everybody here, and I said to both Malcolm and to Tony Abbott that on that same basis of being supportive of the leader as a member of Cabinet, my values for me meant that it would've been wrong to have changed my vote simply for personal advancement.
And so that was understood. And all of the discussions during the course of the week were that the sense was that the Emissions Reduction Fund, the work on climate, the work on the Reef was fundamental and that it was highly likely that I'd stay doing the job.
But we've expanded it to increase the role of renewables under Malcolm with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, renewable technology policy, something called ARENA which is the Renewable Energy Agency, all coming into Environment.
So I was in a fortunate position which I never ever take for granted.
But it is a terribly traumatic time. A lot of good friends lose their positions, many staff – and the staff are immensely important – that I know in other offices lose their positions.
And at the same time there are promotions. So really good friends like Josh Frydenberg and Mitch Fifield and Kelly O'Dwyer.
And so it's an emotional time, but at the same time we're running the Government of the country for the people of the country, and we never forget that.
Mr Hunt, would you have anticipated that the Newspoll bump that you got today which was illustrated in The Australian would have been more?
You're now in front 51 to 49, but it's not as dramatic as many of Mr Turnbull's supporters would've hoped.
Look it's pretty significant. I think last night there was also another poll which was at 55. I think that was a Morgan Poll, and that may have been taken after the new Cabinet was announced.
I think Australia has been surprised and very positive about a new Cabinet which brings these immensely capable younger people in – Simon Birmingham and Christian Porter, Kelly O'Dwyer and Mitch and Josh Frydenberg in Victoria, in bringing young people like Wyatt Roy up.
So that I think was the first real sign of ‘will there be change? Oh he's very serious, there's really going to be change.’
And the focus now is on this idea of innovation and opportunity and being a country that wants to be the leading country in the world for embracing the future.
Okay. Do you think it's going to be really hard now?
The conservative element of the party I think is very annoyed – and in many cases justifiably. How hard is going to be to control them?
Because they will become an opposition within the Government very quickly.
Look, I respectfully disagree and I say that with a fair amount of understanding.
I spent quite a bit of time with Tony Abbott last week talking to him – he always talked to us about being our best selves.
And I said ‘you've been Prime Minister of Australia and you've done extraordinary things in getting there, in transforming and securing the budget and doing the same thing with the borders and the same thing with environment policy, you can't allow yourself to be bitter’ – and I don't think he will.
And you can't allow yourself to be perceived as bitter – and I'm certain he won't – it's just not his nature.
What do I really think? Bob Hawke was able to be a fine Prime Minister in his early years because Bill Hayden gave him clear air.
John Howard was able to be a fine, outstanding Prime Minister through four terms because Alexander Downer didn't just give him clear air, he became his strongest supporter.
And I think that Tony Abbott is of that same ilk and quality where he will give clear air to Malcolm Turnbull.
And my best prediction and my genuine belief is that because of that, because of his belief in the party and in the need to have a stable government, Australia will have an opportunity to revert to the stable government that people want.
Okay, one more question before we go to calls – we've got a number of callers who want to have a chat to you.
Do you think it would legitimise the takeover if there was an early election? If you went to an election say in – you know, December – and said okay, use one of the double dissolution triggers, clear the Senate, make ourselves legitimate, the new regime as it were legitimate.
Do you think that is a fair assessment?
Oh look, I think it's a legitimate government. And the response of the people has clearly spoken to that.
My prediction and expectation is that the Government will run the full three years.
Of course, it's ultimately the call of the Prime Minister – but my genuine prediction and expectation – and not an uninformed one – is that a year from now, at the three year mark is when everybody should most expect the election.
And frankly, I know for myself I've got another year's worth of work in the Environment portfolio that I want to get done – to complete what we're doing with emissions reduction, to bring the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the renewable energy agency into a comprehensive policy and finish what we're doing on the Reef – and others are just the same.
They've got a year's worth of work and they want to give the Australian public full value for money.
And when I said one more question I lied, because I've got another question for you.
No, you didn't lie, you changed your mind.
Changed my – yeah, there's a politician for you.
So speaking of your portfolio, Mr Turnbull has in the past, has indicated he thinks the Direct Action policy on climate change is useless.
He didn't like it at all – he thought it was not worth the paper it was written on. How hard is it going to be for you and for he now to implement that, knowing – you knowing what he thinks of it, and the public knowing what he thinks of it?
Well actually Malcolm's been very upfront this week. So you've got a Prime Minister who's said look, originally I had my concerns. But what he's found is that the design and the policy have been much more advanced than he had ever imagined.
The World Bank has adopted an approach almost identical to the Australian Emissions Reduction Fund.
And so the design and the policy went much further than he had originally presumed. The results, even on that basis, were dramatically greater than anybody – perhaps other than myself – had presumed were possible.
Eight to ten times more emissions reduction – or tonnes of abatement – than the pundits had predicted.
And on that basis, he hasn't just accepted, but he has warmly and repeatedly embraced it.
And he and I have spent a lot of time in the last week talking about the Emissions Reduction Fund and talking about the success of it together, and looking at bringing renewables policy right into that fold – which is why he's made the decision to hugely beef up the Environment portfolio with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the renewable energy agency.
Okay, Simon is on the line, he's got a question for you Minister. Simon, yes, what's your question?
Good afternoon Nick, good afternoon Minister. I just wanted to bring the Minister's attention to an issue in Victoria here where we have the trout cod – which is a nationally protected species – but the Victorian Government have seen it necessary to open two lakes in Beechworth to allow the catching and taking of – so the killing – of a protected species.
What's your opinion of that, Mr Hunt?
So thanks Simon, I wasn't aware of that, that hadn't been brought to my attention. So could I ask if you call my office and ask – in Hastings, so just Greg Hunt, Hastings, Member for Flinders – ask for my Chief of Staff.
And if you give her the details, we'll follow that up immediately with the Victorian Government. Part of the value of a conversation like this is you always discover new things from talking to different people in the public.
Good on you. Thank you very much Simon, you hang on and we'll get your details Simon, and you make sure you contact Mr Hunt's office.
Greg Hunt, it is terrific to talk to you, thank you very much indeed for your time.
Hey thanks Nick, cheers.