Topics: Environment portfolio, water reform, Prime Minister Turnbull, Direct Action
Were you consulted by this decision by Malcolm Turnbull to give Water to Agriculture?
Yes, actually. I had extended discussions with Malcolm. We've just had the two greatest years of water reform in Australia's history.
My job – which I didn't seek because water was rightly and appropriately with Barnaby up to the election – at the election I was then asked to do a job which was to complete the reforms to the Basin Plan, to the National Water Commission, to infrastructure of $2.5 million dollars a day.
That was all done. And then we went further. We achieved the 1,500 gigalitre cap which is about security for the environment, security for communities and security for farmers.
And by serendipity that was completed on Monday morning. My water reform task was done and completed.
And I said to the Prime Minister only yesterday morning I would be very happy with this because it's about confidence for rural communities that these reforms – which now move to the implementation phase – will have the ear and understanding of the Basin community and somebody who lives within the Basin.
Minister, are you willing to say who you backed in Monday's leadership spill?
Look I think it's well known and I've actually been very upfront. When Malcolm Turnbull was leader and there were only a few votes left at the last minute, I – as a member of the shadow Cabinet – felt it was my duty to remain with Malcolm Turnbull and I always stood by him there.
And I applied the same principle here and told both parties that as my values – for me, and I don't apply this to anybody else – were that as a member of the Cabinet I should stay with the Prime Minister.
And so I was upfront when Malcolm Turnbull was leader that I was staying with him. And I was completely upfront here that my values felt that as a member of the Cabinet my duty was to the Prime Minister of the day.
You and Malcolm Turnbull share similar views when it comes to climate change. He's ruled out moving or changing any of the Government’s policy.
But do you anticipate any tinkering with Direct Action – perhaps upscaling it – because that is within the provisions of Direct Action, isn't it?
Well the first thing is that Malcolm and I are friends. We go back a long way. We did the Renewable Energy Target reforms together in 2009.
We have worked together with a shared passionate belief about outcomes – outcomes for emissions reduction.
And what the new Prime Minister said – what Malcolm said yesterday – is Direct Action is working.
Unlike Pink Batts, Green Loans or Cash for Clunkers, unlike the carbon tax which drove up electricity prices but didn't drive down emissions, the Emissions Reduction Fund has been a spectacular success.
So the policy is continuing. I am always open to further improvements but we have a capped policy.
We have a long-term commitment out to 2030 and he is very passionate about renewable energy. I am passionate about renewable energy.
He is passionate about reducing emissions. I am passionate about reducing emissions.
So I am very, very comfortable about where we're at. And in fact we have the possibility for innovation and taking our message – of meeting our targets – to the world.
Mr Hunt, on your safeguard mechanisms, one of the things about that is if you wanted to be a bit more ambitious then you could tighten those.
Is that the flexibility that you are going to need in future if you do achieve – or want to achieve – more ambitious targets?
So there are two halves to Direct Action. There's the Emission Reduction Fund which has been a spectacular success.
The critics were wrong, the doubters were wrong. 47 million tonnes of emissions reduction, Andrew. We've had many discussions on this.
And that was an outcome that nobody predicted. Although we had always quietly believed that it would not just succeed but would outperform – well in fact it's been a spectacular success.
The second half is in relation to the safeguard mechanism. That's always been designed as a flexible, long-term mechanism – not to 2020 but to 2030, and I hope beyond.
So by definition it's been designed in a flexible way. But it sets out safeguards – it does it in a way that doesn't impose an electricity tax on Australians.
And there will be a choice at the next election between a policy that is working without increasing the cost of electricity for Australians and Mr Shorten’s policy which is a $633 billion dollar hit to the economy – on their own modelling of their own policy when they were in Government.
Mr Hunt, sorry if you've already been asked this – do you expect to remain in Cabinet?
Look I am very comfortable and confident about my position. I am always optimistic but never presumptive.
And who did you vote for? Did you vote for Malcolm Turnbull?
Look, I have already answered that question.
Sorry I wasn't here – can you just say again?
I've already been through it.
Look, just on the water decision, would you characterise it as a captain's call? And isn't there a conflict of interest by moving Water into Agriculture as some in the community do genuinely fear?
Well no, everybody has interests in water. Having a portfolio which actually represents the people of the Basin – the people who actually have to work with the water – is precisely how a Government should operate.
Ministries are meant to represent the communities that are affected. And so this was in that portfolio on our arrangements right up until election day. The task of reform was then given to me.
By pure serendipity, it was completed at 11am on Monday morning. And I think we also need to understand that there is a legislative regime which sets out support for the environment, support for communities and support for agriculture.
So it's going into very, very good hands. The job is done – of reform. The greatest two year period of water reform in Australian history has just been completed.
Now, it's about implementation and about rolling out $2.5 million dollars a day of water infrastructure reform. I will take one more, and then I’d better go.
Mr Hunt, is the job done in Environment then? You have managed to get through some pretty key policies here. Do you want a new challenge or would you like to stay in Environment?
Look, I love my portfolio. And so I would be delighted if I were offered the opportunity to continue. All up, I feel very confident about the future, personally.
But this actually is about something much more. What is the country doing now? We have the ability to build on the last two years and to focus on compassion and opportunity and innovation.
These are the values of Malcolm Turnbull and these are the values with which he will shape his Government – compassion and opportunity and innovation.
Somebody who is going to give Australians the confidence to invest, and the confidence in their own jobs, and the confidence that we can be a major 21st century nation. So I will…
Are you suggesting those qualities weren't there under the former Prime Minister?
No. What I'm saying is these are the qualities that come with somebody who has been an enormous success in building businesses, in embracing the future, in preparing his work and his life for the challenges that face Australians.
Alright, thank you very much.