SUNDAY, 26 JULY 2015

SUBJECT/S: ETS, Renewables; Refugees, Boat turnbacks.
ANDREW BOLT: Bill Shorten told Labor's national conference he'd love to fight the next election on global warming - on his promise for a new emissions trading scheme, which is a kind of carbon tax.

CLIP: BILL SHORTEN - An ETS is not a tax. And if Mr Abbott wants to make the next election a contest about who has the best policy solution for climate change I've got a three word slogan for him; bring it on. (APPLAUSE)

BOLT: Oh dear, come in the spinner. Joining me is Labor's agriculture spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, who represents the Hunter Valley, proud home of 40 per cent of New South Wales’ coal reserves and more than 15,000 workers in the coal mining industry. Thanks for your time.


BOLT: Joel, you're a key member of the New South Wales right, the sensible part of Labor. Bill Shorten's just caved into the left. Why didn't you stop him?

FITZGIBBON: What does that mean? "Come in, Spinner"?

BOLT:  Because, mate, you do not want another election on global warming.

FITZGIBBON: What that means, Andrew, is that we’re falling for Tony Abbott's trick, is that what that means? His mischievous campaign.

BOLT: You lost the last election on the carbon tax. You're fighting a new one. What does it take to learn?

FITZGIBBON: Andrew, you pointed out I represent a coal electorate and I believe in acting on a change in climate. The Labor Party has been preaching that gospel for more than 20 years now and of course we are going to maintain the position that, with the rest of the world, we need to do something on carbon. It's as simple as that. People can call it a tax if they like, but, you know.

BOLT: They can call it a tax if they like? You’re right!

FITZGIBBON: Ross Garnaut pointed out this week that if Abbott had left our legislation in place, we would have now moved from the carbon tax to a floating mechanism and the price of carbon in Australia now, would be $10. And that would have virtually no impact on consumers.

BOLT: And no impact on anything else. But, listen, you do accept, then, that it's a tax?

FITZGIBBON: What do you mean no impact on anything else?

BOLT: Like global warming. What do you think the effect on the temperature would be? What do you think?

FITZGIBBON: Andrew, I'm now also as you pointed out, the Shadow Minister –

BOLT: Is that no answer?

FITZGIBBON: Well, what do I think? I think it will have an impact.

BOLT:  Like what? To the nearest one thousandth of a degree.

FITZGIBBON: You’re not a believer in the precautionary principle, if in doubt, do something about it?

BOLT: Yeah!

FITZGIBBON: We can't wait for another 10 years and say we were wrong, we should’ve done something about that.

BOLT: Can I go back to what you already alluded to? You said you can call it a tax.

FITZGIBBON: You can call it a tax if you like.

BOLT:  Because it is, isn't it?

FITZGIBBON: It's a trading system.

BOLT:  But it’s a tax.

FITZGIBBON: Is the ASX a tax?

BOLT: It's effectively a tax, isn’t it?

FITZGIBBON: It's a price. I don’t care if people call it a tax. If they want to run a scare campaign, fine. As you pointed out, I'm also the Shadow Minister for Agriculture and since I've been in that portfolio, I've been more alert than ever before to the fact that it's the land sector that's most affected by a changing climate. And farmers themselves know that the climate is changing. It's affecting their productivity and even most of them, including the NSW farmers last week are calling upon action on carbon.

BOLT: Crops have actually gone up.

FITZGIBBON: You now disagree with –  

BOLT: Crops have actually gone up.

FITZGIBBON: Excuse me? Our productivity is falling.

BOLT: Our crops, worldwide, in fact, have been record crops.

FITZGIBBON: Given population growth, thank God for that. But it's productivity that matters, Andrew.

BOLT: Shorten is not just promising an ETS, a carbon tax. He's also promising to double our renewable energy by 2030. How much will it cost?

FITZGIBBON: Well, no-one knows. That's the truth of it. No-one knows because we don't know where technology is heading.

BOLT: So you've promised - I mean, you've seen in the papers estimates that just building the extra wind towers for this promise would cost $65 billion. Ball park? With figures like that, I just wonder how you cannot actually cost it?

FITZGIBBON: No, no, hang on a minute, Andrew. It's not a policy. It's an announcement of an aspiration. You have to have goals in life. The Labor Party is saying as we develop our policy, we're going to do so in the prism of a goal of getting to 50 per cent –

BOLT:  So don't hold you to it?

FITZGIBBON: No, I didn't say that at all. I heard one of the op-eds one in the think-tanks – because I will answer your question this week, he says it's about three cents per kilowatt hour. Now, I don't know if that's right or not, but it's very modest. But technology is changing so rapidly, battery technology, for example, and large-scale solar, that we don't know how cheaply you might get to 50 per cent. But what we do know is that, on the - on a do-nothing basis, that is, change no policy settings, we will be creeping towards that figure anyway, because the consumer is - the consumer is making their own decision.

BOLT:  Yeah but that's only because the government’s subsidising solar. If it's near free, I'd use it too, if I didn't have a principle on it.

FITZGIBBON: I haven't noticed that’s destroy the economy, Andrew.

BOLT: It's destroyed the budget.


BOLT: That's why the New South Wales Government, that’s why the Queensland Government have reduced their subsidies to solar power. You know that. That's why it's been done in Germany.

FITZGIBBON: You are now making a connection between the budget deficit and renewable energy.

BOLT: The coal mine at Leigh Creek, right?

FITZGIBBON: Which creek?

BOLT:  The coal mine at Leigh Creek? South Australia?

FITZGIBBON: Leigh Creek, OK.

BOLT: OK, has already been closed because it can't compete with solar and wind and because they are subsidised by government and government forces us to use their power. If Labor doubles the renewable energy, how many more coal mines will close? How many more coal miners will lose their jobs?

FITZGIBBON: None. No. After 2030, the whole market will be changing.

BOLT: Leigh Creek just closed.

FITZGIBBON: Well, really?

BOLT: Yes.

FITZGIBBON: Well none of the coal mines in my electorate –

BOLT: Alinta Energy owns Leigh Creek, its boss Jeff Dimery says there's been a rapid roll-out of large-scale solar and the large-scale renewable energy target that has been driving the development of wind farms. That’s what he blames.

FITZGIBBON: Well I have read that, but I know nothing about Leigh Creek, but can I say, Andrew, none of the coal mines – 

BOLT: You're representing a coal mining area!

FITZGIBBON: And none of the coal mines in my electorate have closed. Now, if a coal mine is so marginal –

BOLT: They've been putting off workers in the Hunter Valley.

FITZGIBBON: It was obviously a very marginal mine, Andrew, and sometimes –

BOLT: Yeah, that's what I'm asking you. How many more marginal mines will close?


BOLT: How many mar…?

FITZGIBBON: I don't know. Which marginal mines? I don't think any of the mines in my electorate are necessarily classified as marginal. But the whole market’s going to change. China for example, a lot of our coal goes to China of course. Now, their steel-making is winding down because they've sort of gone through that industrial period of development, so they're going to be demanding less coke coal from us. They have their own aspiration –

BOLT: Hey, hey, hey, Joel, actually, the International Energy Association, in December, said world demand for coal around the world, right, will go up 10 per cent over the next five years.

FITZGIBBON: Which is much less than it would rise if countries like China and many others - we're not trying to shift their dependence on fossil fuels.

BOLT: No but, manufacturing has gone down. That's why. So listen, you don't know how much this will cost. You're not sure about what job losses there are. You're not even sure about whether –

FITZGIBBON: Well, when we announced –

BOLT:  How can you pretend this is a policy?

FITZGIBBON: When we announced the policies which we would hope to get us to the as operational target, well, we'd give you some idea of what it might cost, but it’s an aspirational target. People have to have goals – 

BOLT: How much would doubling the refugee intake cost?

FITZGIBBON: Doubling the refugee –

BOLT:  Doubling the refugee intake, policy announced yesterday. How much will that cost?

FITZGIBBON: That's going to blow the budget deficit out too, is it?

BOLT:  I’m just asking you! How much will it cost?

FITZGIBBON: I don't know what it costs.

BOLT:  So you don’t know what that would cost either? Does Labor know what anything it’s promising costs?

FITZGIBBON: Andrew, I'm not the Shadow Treasurer. I’m not the Shadow Minister for Finance.

BOLT: You voted on it. You voted on it yesterday.

FITZGIBBON: Labor announced it would double its intake, would strive to double its intake and you want me this morning to tell you to the dollar what it would cost? I have no idea what it would cost.

BOLT: I suggest billions.

FITZGIBBON: Suggesting that it’s going to be billions?

BOLT: Yes.

FITZGIBBON: That's ridiculous.

BOLT: No it’s not.

FITZGIBBON: It's ridiculous.

BOLT: You think bringing in refugees is free?

FITZGIBBON: Some of them are highly skilled, by the way. They might add to our workforce.

BOLT:  You've got to be kidding. The latest Department of Immigration survey on refugees shows that, for example, more than 90 per cent of Afghan refugees in the first five years here are on Centrelink. You're trying to tell me they're all highly skilled solar engineers?

FITZGIBBON: You don't think refugees come with skills often?

BOLT: Very few do. Otherwise they’d probably come in as genuine immigrants.

FITZGIBBON: Andrew, if your strongest argument on refugees is the cost, it's a pretty weak one –

BOLT:  No, no, I was just asking you what it would cost.

FITZGIBBON: The cost is not substantial. I don't know.

BOLT:  You don’t know. OK, no, that's fine.

FITZGIBBON: You're trying to suggest it’s in the billions, which is a ridiculous proposition.

BOLT: Over the forward estimates, yes.

FITZGIBBON: Let's do it over 10 years now.

BOLT:  No, forward estimates are four years. But listen, with the doubling of - with the turning-back of boats that Bill Shorten promised and you voted for. Bill Shorten keeps saying it's only an option. Will he actually turn back the boats? Can you say, "We will turn back the boats"?

FITZGIBBON: Well, they're not coming, Andrew. This is the whole point of this exercise - I don't understand the rationale. I respect the views of others at the conference, but having a boat turn back policy can - you can hardly argue it's lacking in compassion when they're not coming and there are no boats to turn back. So it's all hypothetical, surely. What we've said that we've accepted the current package works and the lion's share of that package of course is Labor's Pacific Solution, if you want to call it that, in Nauru and Manus. But turn backs has played a role so let's leave the package in one piece and ensure they don't start coming again. So this is all hypothetical.

BOLT: Joel Fitzgibbon, may the right triumph in Labor one day. Thank you so much for your time.




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