Topics: Labor’s new electricity tax, Great Barrier Reef
Now, the Federal Environment Minister is Greg Hunt. Hello Minister.
And hello Emma.
So you heard Mark Butler there saying that this does not amount to another tax, and that what we've heard from the Prime Minister today and seen in your statement is another old scare campaign.
Look, sadly that's not the case.
What happens here is there's a task to have serious climate policy, but that means it's about reducing emissions.
What we have from Labor is something which doesn't reduce emissions but does drive up the price of electricity.
It's designed, it's intended, it's constructed to drive up the price of electricity.
That's the only way it works. That's the theory, that's the reality, that's the only mechanism here which is at the centre of what they're proposing, and that is higher electricity prices.
And I understand if that's their approach, but it's important to be honest with the Australian people.
We've been here, we've seen that electricity prices went up.
Julia Gillard and Joel Fitzgibbon have said that whether you call it an ETS, it's the same thing as a carbon tax. He asked for examples – let's start perhaps with his own team, and indeed one of his own co-frontbenchers now.
And so electricity prices soared under the last Labor carbon tax, and they're designed and intended to do that…
Minister, I'll just pick up on something you said a bit earlier where it's not going to reduce emissions, but the target under Labor's policy is a 45 per cent reduction in emissions compared to the current target, 26 to 28 per cent. So they are promising 48 per cent cut in emissions.
Well I think what you find is they can promise anything. Remember they promised Pink Batts, Green Loans, Cash for Clunkers.
They're very big on promises, but how do you actually get there?
If they say it's not going to hurt a bit that's not true, it's going to hurt an enormous amount if you're going to use this mechanism to achieve that outcome.
We're actually reducing emissions.
We've closed a 750 million tonne gap – we have now met and beaten our 2020 targets by 78 million tonnes, as I informed the United Nations when we signed the Paris Agreement.
But by contrast, what you see here is a sort of a non-serious promise with a mechanism which can only work if it has a massive electricity price impact.
And Labor's own modelling of Labor's current target range when they were in government – and this was Treasury modelling – said that it would be a 78 per cent increase in wholesale electricity prices and a more than $200 a tonne carbon tax – their modelling of their policy.
Mark Butler says this is a very different policy, and that that modelling doesn't apply.
Well, of course it applies. It was their modelling, and if…
Of a different policy though.
What's interesting is on Victorian radio this morning he was asked eight times would it impact electricity prices, and refused eight times to provide an answer.
He wouldn't say no and he wouldn't say yes.
And the reason why is because we all know it's designed and intended to drive up electricity prices.
That's what it will do.
And because their own modelling has now proved to be inconvenient, they have airbrushed the Treasury of Australia, but won't provide any new modelling.
I would say – you had a lot of time, here's the chance to be upfront with the Australian people, if you do have modelling, please provide it.
Greg Hunt, is there any chance of bipartisanship on this do you think? The Business Council of Australia has looked at the policy and doesn't seem too troubled by it, said that the document has promised to provide a platform for bipartisanship. Why not negotiate?
Well I think you'll find that the last paragraph of the Business Council's release expressed extreme concern at a vague target with its impact on business – and the idea that this is the worst possible time has been talked about today in terms of jobs and the vulnerability of families and the Australian economy. So how do we go forwards here?
So it doesn't sound like bipartisanship is the path forward?
Well we actually have a legislated policy which is working.
The ALP, remember, pledged that they would not have a carbon tax at each of the last two elections, and now they're pledging that they're not going to have a carbon tax again, except they've just put out a policy for one.
We've got a working policy – a Renewable Energy Target at 23.5 per cent, we have an Emissions Reduction Fund which is now being copied around the world by the World Bank, by the International Civil Aviation Organisation which is looking at a very similar model, which has been replicated in reverse auctions in renewable energy structures in other countries.
So we've got a policy that's working, and they want to tear apart a policy that's working and they want to replace it with a massive new electricity tax. So our offer is there.
When you say it's working, what is the policy doing to emissions?
We've just had – we've seen 92 million tonnes of emissions reduction under the Emissions Reduction Fund.
Our 2020 projections are 116 million tonnes lower than Labor projected for 2020 when they left office, so a dramatic reduction in emissions compared with Labor's last projections before they left office.
So we're reducing emissions. They reduced 12 million tonnes, we've reduced 92 million tonnes from our first two auctions, with a third auction next week.
And we're doing it after having brought down electricity prices.
And for every one of your listeners, they'll be thinking – my electricity bills are really pushing our family budget, our small business budget, but we know their own modelling says a 78 per cent increase in wholesale electricity prices.
Minister, do you have any changes to announce with your climate change policy, I suppose, when the campaign proper starts, or is it all the way with direct action?
Look, we've got a very effective market mechanism in terms of the reverse auction. It's a classic mechanism which works around the world.
It's succeeding – the extent of the auctions is producing far greater volumes at far lower prices than any of the critics had ever acknowledged or predicted.
As I say, the World Bank is now using a similar mechanism, the international aviation sector is looking at a very similar mechanism, countries are using reverse auctions.
Put that together with the Renewable Energy Target and then what we're developing with regards to vehicle emissions, energy efficiency and ozone protection – that suite is achieving our targets and will put us on a path to achieve our 2030 targets. So it's a pretty good set of policies and we're committed to them.
And do you feel that you are doing your best in terms of emissions to help the Reef?
Yes, every single day I wake up with a passion both about the Reef and about emissions reductions.
The pledge I make to myself is not just to talk about it, but to actually do things.
So yesterday we announced $50 million of additional funding for the first time allocated under the Reef Trust to reduce run-off, reduce sediment, to do things which would actually help the reef's resilience.
On Friday we were part of the global Paris Agreement and I had the honour to sign it on behalf of Australia.
And we were helping to drive the process of another 90 billion tonnes of emissions reduction through the side agreement of the Montreal Protocol.
So we're really taking that global lead on emissions reduction and the local lead on reef resilience.
Greg Hunt, thank you so much for your time this afternoon.
Thanks Emma, I really appreciate it.