Topics: Labor’s new electricity tax, Australian Antarctic Strategy, Manus Island
Greg Hunt, thanks so much for coming back on the show.
It's a pleasure Tom.
Before we get into Labor's climate plan, there's big news out of PNG. Their Prime Minister Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has said he welcomed yesterday's Supreme Court ruling against the Manus Island Detention Centre and expects Australia to close it down.
Now if we do keep it open we'll be defying the PNG Prime Minister and their Supreme Court. Does that mean we'll have to close it down?
Obviously PNG is a great friend and neighbour and a sovereign nation. The Prime Minister and Peter Dutton will be responding in due course – I'll leave that for them.
But the real point here is we'll continue to take steps and implement policies that are going to protect and save lives at sea.
We saw 1200 tragedies under the previous approach. That was just a humanitarian disaster and to the extent that we have to make difficult decisions, we'll do that.
We'll always be respectful of the sovereignty of our neighbours, that's fundamental. But the broad policy of protecting and ensuring that lives at sea are not lost, that will be fundamental going forwards.
Alright, sounds like it might be a little tricky to keep that going just for the moment. Let's talk about climate policy.
On the text line one person says we're losing the Great Barrier Reef because of climate change, we don't deserve it if we don't do more.
Someone else says let's see how Mr Hunt wriggles his way into convincing us that the direct action plan beats a trading scheme that is sensitive to the world economy and can even create jobs.
Someone else says nice to see Labor selling their idea properly this time.
Now Greg Hunt while you were in opposition your party said that Labor's Government climate policy would be absolutely catastrophic.
Tony Abbott said the carbon tax would act as a wrecking ball across the economy. Joe Hockey said a carbon tax was going to rip the heart and soul out of small business and families. And as we heard before, Barnaby Joyce was talking about a $100 roast.
Now none of that turned out to be true. So how do you expect people to take you seriously when you jump up and down about the impact of Labor's climate policy this time around?
Well we said it would drive up electricity and gas and fertiliser prices, refrigerant costs, all of the above, and it did.
It drove up electricity prices by exactly what we said – 10 per cent. When we took the carbon tax off they fell by the full amount. Your introduction…
It's not a catastrophe though is it?
For people who faced those issues it was incredibly hard.
And if it had stayed and continued to go up and up and up, that simply means that you have more pressure on families.
Electricity prices and gas prices are fundamental to the way people are able to live.
But also when you look at firms such as Arrium under pressure – in South Australia, in the very areas you were talking about earlier – adding additional cost in terms of higher electricity prices, higher manufacturing costs – for a stable economy that couldn't come at a worse time.
And for the environment the simple answer is that we saw about 12 million tonnes of reduction under the Carbon Tax, we've seen 92 million tonnes under the first two Emissions Reduction Fund auctions alone, with many more to come.
Okay but back to the question, there were some drastically exaggerated claims made about Labor's previous policy. Do you think you lost some credibility with the electorate there?
I think the Australian people voted for us on the basis that the last election was in many respects a referendum on the carbon tax. It was a referendum on electricity prices.
They elected us, we abolished it – as of the exact day we said the abolition would come into force.
The ACCC confirmed that the full amount that we said would come off did come off – and family budgets were improved by that amount.
And the latest modelling that we've seen of Labor's policy – when they were last in government, they had the Treasury model it and the Treasury said that a target range such as this would have a 78 per cent increase in wholesale electricity prices.
That was based on very high carbon prices.
Exactly. And they said in order to achieve that target you would need a $209 carbon price.
So it's not a case of they based it on a high carbon price – they said what would you need using this mechanism to achieve the very targets that Labor has now said they will achieve.
And not at 20 cents as the sort of things that were being discussed today – just absurd insults to the intelligence and lived experience of the Australian people.
$209 was Treasury's modelling of Labor's policy for the same ranges.
Well it ended up being nowhere near that, but yeah. On the text lines…
No no, this was to achieve their current targets if you continue out to 2030. So…
Right, well let's talk about targets because Labor has a much more ambitious carbon reduction goal – much more ambitious long-range renewable energy targets than the Coalition.
So for people that want a government that really is ambitious about reducing our carbon footprint and the impact of climate change, are they best off voting for Labor?
No they should be supporting the Coalition because we'll actually…
But their goal is way more ambitious than yours.
But they don't actually have a means of getting there, that's the critical thing.
There's no policy for their Renewable Energy Target – they say they will work out in government what they will do. So they're pretending…
They'll continue to support the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA, which your Government tried to get rid of as part of the policy.
Well with respect, we have announced that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is a long-term part of what we're doing.
We announced a $1 billion dollar Clean Energy Innovation fund for ARENA.
I would be very interested to know, because they previously indicated they were going to abolish it.
If they do that with the current suite of policies, that actually represents an $800 million cut to the funding for ARENA.
So one question for them to answer – will they or won't they keep the Clean Energy Innovation Fund – the $1 billion dollar fund?
They had previously attacked it and indicated they were going to abolish it. If they do, that will represent a net $800 million reduction from ARENA.
You're listening to Greg Hunt, the Environment Minister, we are talking about Labor's climate plan, which was announced today.
Blake from Melbourne says correcting climate change requires expense. Hunt's scare campaign will not work. Someone else says I was happy to pay the carbon tax because of my solar panels and using appliances mainly during the day, it barely affected me. Bring it back, it encourages and rewards investment in clean energy.
Now at this point Greg Hunt your climate change policies, quite similar to the one you and Tony Abbott devised and took to the last election – the direct action plan. Now Labor's plan involves new ideas that reach further into the future. Is your direct action plan looking a bit tired?
No, it' actually working. And what we've seen is the World Bank adopt a model very similar to Australia's with their Pilot Auction Facility, we've seen the international aviation sector look at the success of the Australian model and now we're seeing reverse auctions in renewable energy in many countries around the world.
Indeed the International Renewable Energy Agency has done a book on successful reverse auctions in the renewable energy space.
So in other words, what we have done is lay down what I think is arguably the most successful model in the world.
We inherited from Labor a gap of 750 million tonnes to close to achieve our 2020 target. We closed the full 750 million tonnes, we're now – as we announced to the United Nations when we signed and committed Australia to ratifying the Paris agreement in New York on Friday – we're now 78 million tonnes ahead of the target.
So all up we've improved our national carbon budget by 838 million tonnes…
One last question…
…it's a phenomenal effort.
One last question Greg Hunt. It comes from a point Dillon is making on the text line. Dillon from the Central Coast says it's difficult to take the Coalition seriously on climate change policy when members of the party are vocal deniers of the climate science with no scientific backing to their claims. What do you say to that?
Our position as a government couldn't be clearer – climate change is real. And I made this statement before the United Nations only a few days ago…
Does everyone in your party feel the same way?
…it’s significant and it's important.
I think around the country the party position is crystal clear, we believe in climate science, we believe in the reality of climate change.
We also believe that doing is more important than talking.
Remember we had these great moral arguments as to why last time Labor said you have to have a Pink Batts program, a Green Loan program, a Cash for Clunkers program and also gave $5.5 billion to brown coal generators, believe it or not.
So catastrophically bad policy all dressed up in a moral virtue but which failed to reduce emissions.
And the same is happening again. Electricity prices go up, but emissions don't go down.
Alright Greg Hunt, great to have you on the show again. And we will keep speaking to you about the Coalition's plan for our low carbon future and our renewable energy future as we get closer to the election.
And just whilst we are on, I am in Hobart and we have committed about $255 million today to Antarctic scientific research.
Really the biggest addition to Australia's Antarctic future over the last 50 years.
Alright Greg Hunt, thanks so much for joining us.
Hey thanks Tom, cheers.