MONDAY, 27 JULY 2015

  SUBJECT/S: Emissions Trading Scheme; Boat turnbacks; Renewable Energy Targets; Country Labor.
PATRICIA KARVELAS:  The Coalition Government has seized on comments by Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon saying he’s confirmed that the ALP will reintroduce a carbon tax. Joel Fitzgibbon told Channel Ten that he didn’t care if an emissions trading scheme was called a tax. The Shadow Agriculture Minister says the Government is trying to run the same scare campaign as it did in the 2013 Election and it’s time Australia had a mature debate about how to tackle climate change. Joel Fitzgibbon joins us now from his home in Cessnock NSW. Good evening. 


KARVELAS:  You say the Government is playing semantics with your comments but isn’t political home truth here that an idea of a carbon tax is electorally poisonous, and that was part of the downfall of Labor at the last election.  So ultimately the language is important. 
FITZGIBBON:  And I said nothing to suggest that I approve of the use of the word tax in describing an ETS.  I was simply frustrated because Andrew Bolt wasn’t letting me get a word in basically and I was just trying to dismiss his false claims so that I could get on with saying what I was trying to say and that is that the agriculture community, our farmers, desperately need the Government to act on the impact of a changing climate on conditions in Australian agriculture. An ETS is not a tax but it is a tool for lifting Australian agricultural productivity.

KARVELAS:  Even if the debate is unsophisticated and Andrew Bolt interrupted you a lot, haven’t you made Labor’s job of selling an alternative climate change policy harder buy saying you know you don’t care if an ETS is called a tax given there is, it’s such a loaded word ?

FITZGIBBON:  Well I called Andrew Bolt’s continuing use of the word tax for what it was and that was a scare campaign.

KARVELAS:  And are you scared?

FITZGIBBON:  Well he is trying not to scare me, he is trying, with the Prime Minister -

KARVELAS:  But it has been scaring the Labor Party-

FITZGIBBON:  Scare the Australian -

KARVELAS:  Scary when it is used in campaigns against you isn’t it?

FITZGIBBON:  Well we will just stick to the facts Patricia and the facts are that an emissions trading system is a system which allows us to work with the international community in a global effort to reduce carbon emissions at the lowest possible cost. I don’t see why we should let Tony Abbott and others and including Andrew Bolt get away with calling that a tax when it’s clearly not.  And I think Malcolm Turnbull who himself today made that position quite clear and absolutely agreed with what I was saying in that sense.

KARVELAS:  So ultimately what are you saying to your colleagues who think you’ve slipped up that you need to be you know having this debate and saying we don’t care what you say, we’re not scared?

FITZGIBBON:  Well I’ve had a look at the transcript of what I said and I think it’s a fairly poor construct of what I said because what I was saying was I don’t care what words Andrew Bolt uses in his naked attempt to scare the Australian community and if you ever look at the transcript that exactly my target was Andrew Bolt and his absolute misrepresentation of what an emissions trading scheme is. 

KARVELAS:  So you don’t regret the way you framed it in retrospect?

FITZGIBBON:  Well the 6 o’clock news that night used it in a certain way so I’m happy to concede that maybe I should have gone a bit harder on Andrew Bolt but I was making the obvious point that I wasn’t going to use his misrepresentation of an ETS as a means of scaring the Australian community. I  wanted to get on and talk the facts in particular how a changing climate is impacting on Australian productivity and Australian farmers so many of whom are facing protracted drought.

KARVELAS:  Now you were, moving onto another issue, you were one of the first opposition front benchers to back a vote for boat tow-backs. Will this issue come back again and again to taunt and haunt Labor given your divisions on this are very deep. You’ve got the Deputy Leader, the Leader of the Senate Penny Wong, really senior people who clearly don’t think it is a very good idea.

FITZGIBBON:  Well it’s very clear that Tony Abbott and others in the Coalition want this to be an ongoing issue.  Unlike them we are only focused on doing one thing and that is making sure Australia takes the most humanitarian approach to the problem with refugees and in particular to ensure that flow of boats never commences again and we decided at Conference that given the system seems to be working at the moment we have no intentions of making any changes to that system which would cause the flow of boats to come again.

KARVELAS:  On renewables, going back to climate change, what is Labor’s position? Is it a 50% target by 2030 or is it an ambition to reach 50%?

FITZGIBBON:  It’s an ambition -

KARVELAS:  But isn’t that just flying a kite, I mean we all have aspirations to either reach -

FITZGIBBON:  No, just -

KARVELAS: Something or you don’t - 

FITZGIBBON:  Just the opposite.  This is exactly what Barnaby Joyce’s Agriculture White Paper should have been doing. It should have set goals and ambitions out to 2050.  Maybe put targets on where we wanted agriculture to be in both volume and value times.  The New Zealanders do this by the way and from there what you do is you use that as a guide in every policy decision you make.  So the Labor Party is saying well in everything we do over the next 15 years we want to create policy in a way or lean policy in the direction which will ensure – along with changing technologies, we’ve got far more renewables in the system then we have today.  I think that is a very very astute thing to do and a very responsible thing to do.

KARVELAS: On RN Drive my guest is Joel Fitzgibbon the Shadow Agriculture Minister.  What do you make of the comments that Joel has made on the Bolt Program?  Have they been taken out of context or is it fair enough that the Prime Minister and others including the Treasurer raise this? 0418 226 576 is our number you can also tweet us at RN Drive.
Tony Abbott says it will cost $60 billion or more.  Is that right?  What are your figures, because part of the problem here isn’t that you haven’t actually modelled it, it was a policy announced without the necessary figures attached.

FITZGIBBON:  Well Tony Abbott’s claim is just rubbish and you know the scare campaign-

KARVELAS:  But isn’t the problem that you can make a claim –

FITZGIBBON:  Going into a frenzy already.

KARVELAS:  Isn’t the problem that you can make that claim because you haven’t modelled it properly and you haven’t provided the figures that you would provide with a big policy announcement like this.

FITZGIBBON:  Well this is the bloke who wants to increase the GST by 50 per cent not by 1 or 2 or 3 per cent but by 50 per cent so let’s see him model what impact that is going to have on the Australian community and more particularly on Australian households. Ours is an aspirational target.  He has been very mischievous today.  I think what he has done is thrown out a model suggesting what it would look like if we were increasing the Renewable Energy Target to 50 per cent which is not what we’ve said at all so again it’s a complete misrepresentation of Labor’s position.

KARVELAS:  Will the figures be provided on how much it will cost?

FITZGIBBON:  Well obviously as I’ve said we’ve set ourselves goals and objectives and therefore a strategic direction which is the best way, that’s the best place to start with public policy.  And now over the course of the next month and in the lead up to the election, we will need to get some idea how we might over that 15 years meet those aspirations and of course as always anything we do will be fully costed and will be upfront as we were last time around when we introduced an emissions trading scheme, which by the way, according to the experts would have carbon part permits trading at about $10 today and that would have a miniscule impact on consumer prices.

KARVELAS:  Part of the National Conference for you was the first country issues caucus and panel.  Who spoke and what’s so significant about the ALP doing this?

FITZGIBBON:  Well, I’ve been working very hard along with many of my colleagues to redouble Labor’s efforts in rural and regional Australia for two reasons:  I don’t hide our political objective we want to represent in the Parliament more rural and regional seats but I also feel that many of the National Party MPs in particular and Liberal MPs representing country seats do take those electorates for granted and I’m determined that we start putting more competitive tension into those seats and in doing so we create winners in the communities that are within those electorates.  So it’s a win win and at Conference for the first time we formalised Country Labor in the National Platform.  We had a Fringe Event there around Country Labor, we’ve now got a Country Caucus in Canberra which allows like-minded MPs from the bush to work together and think together to develop policies and strategies together and working with the Labor Party at state level to further build their infrastructure in each of those States. So Country Labor is on the march, we like to think that there is a dividend in that for the Party but we also think that there is a dividend in that for people who live in rural and regional Australia.

KARVELAS:  Labor lost a lot of trust in rural Australia when the live cattle trade with Indonesia was banned.  Have you any concrete evidence that the ALP is able to capitalise on rural satisfaction with the Nationals because this is becoming an increasing issue in some of those seats or is it just Independents that are going to end up benefitting again?

FITZGIBBON:  Well there is plenty of evidence; I mean Tony Abbott’s dislike for windfarms is one example.  You know I’ve travelled the country and met with a number of farmers who are now receiving good income because they’ve allowed wind turbines to be built on their property.  There were no better buffer against drought or other unpredictable weather changes than that.  You know you have the Shenhua mine in the Liverpool Plains causing a lot of grief.  At the moment you’ve got desperate people in the beef industry and in the grains industry because Barnaby Joyce has failed to show any leadership and of course we’ve got growing, what the experts call, spacial inequality and that means that the gap between the haves and the have-nots in rural and regional Australia is growing larger and more quickly than the gap between the haves and the have-nots in our capital cities.

KARVELAS:  Malcolm Turnbull has said that those who say that an ETS is a tax are wrong saying all measures which reduce emissions cost the taxpayer and could be classed as a tax.  It seems that the Communications Minister is backing your position.

FITZGIBBON:  Well I said I thank him for his support today, it’s very welcome –

KARVELAS:  But do you think -

FITZGIBBON:  Malcom has been very responsible –

KARVELAS:  What do you think of that tension within the Liberal Party?

FITZGIBBON:  Oh well I find it disappointing -

KARVELAS:  Will you exploit it just, will you just –

FITZGIBBON:  But look, people in the Labor Party just want to act on this problem and you know we had Malcom Turnbull - we had John Howard, Malcolm Turnbull and Brendan Nelson all on the same page for an emissions trading scheme and if any one of those had remained in place we would today have an emissions trading system up and operating.  Now Tony Abbott - and of course Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard now Bill Shorten all support it, Tony Abbott is the only leader since 2006 that hasn’t agreed that this country needs to act on carbon and needs to introduce and emissions trading scheme.  He is always looking back never looking forward.

KARVELAS:  I want to thank you for joining us Joel Fitzgibbon.

FITZGIBBON:  It’s a pleasure.



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