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Media Releases

13-July-2011

Transcript - Joint Doorstop Interview with Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott MP - 12 July 2011

Transcript - Joint Doorstop Interview with Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott MP - 12 July 2011

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR,
JOINT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR MITCH FIFIELD, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISABILITIES, CARERS AND THE VOLUNTARY SECTOR,

DANDENONG SOUTH, VICTORIA

 

Subject: Julia Gillard’s carbon tax.

 

E&OE……………………….…………………………………………………………………

 

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s great to be here at HM GEM Engines. I want to thank Jim Conway and his team here for making me and Mitch Fifield so welcome. This is typical of the small and medium sized businesses which are going to be damaged by the carbon tax. Now, I think Australia needs a manufacturing industry. I think that if we don’t have manufacturing we are no longer a first world economy and the trouble with this carbon tax is that it's going to hit manufacturing industry and manufacturing jobs very hard indeed. We cannot continue to be a first class manufacturing country if we just keep adding to the burdens on manufacturers. We can't continue to be a first class manufacturing economy and Victoria can't continue to be the manufacturing heart of our country without affordable power, without affordable electricity and one of the first things that the carbon tax is designed to do is to close down the Latrobe Valley power stations which are the key to Victoria's success as a manufacturing centre and the key to manufacturing jobs in this state.

I've been travelling the country talking to workers ever since the Prime Minister first announced this carbon tax and I respectfully suggest to the Prime Minister that she should come and visit some of these workers and she should explain to them why she doesn't want manufacturing to continue to have access to reasonable supplies of affordable power. The other point I want to make is that the Prime Minister keeps saying that this tax won't hurt people. How can we be confident now that the Prime Minister is being straight with us when she wasn't straight with us before the election when she said, "there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead."

Even on the Government's own figures, single income families with children start to be worse off at below average weekly earnings. Then, of course, so many typical dual income households are clearly worse off under this package. A policeman married to a part-time nurse will be worse off. A school teacher married to a shop assistant will be worse off. The Prime Minister keeps telling us that her tax won't hurt us and yet much of it hasn't been modelled at all. Some of the modelling was at $20 a tonne. Some of the modelling is at $23 a tonne. We have senior ministers like the Treasurer and the Finance Minister who don't fully understand their own package, who can't answer simple questions about the package. If ministers can't understand it, how can we trust them when they tell us it won't hurt?

So, there are just so many questions about this. I think it's pretty clear that it's not fair, it won't work and you can't trust this government to get it right.

Mitch, over to you.

MITCH FIFIELD:


Tony and I are very grateful to GEM Engineering for having us here today. It's not only a terrific manufacturing business, but it's a business with a difference. GEM, since 1969 has a proud history of helping Australians with disability, people who face additional challenges. They've helped them get work and many of the staff have been here for 30-plus years so that is a terrific story. We are standing in the middle of the south-east of Melbourne. The south-east of Melbourne is the largest manufacturing area in Victoria. It employs 70,000 people in manufacturing and is responsible for producing 44 per cent of the manufactured goods in this state. So, the carbon tax would be a punch to the solar plexus for manufacturing in the south-east of Melbourne and for manufacturing here in Victoria. The carbon tax must be opposed and this business, which does such good work for its staff, we need to support it and one of the ways we can support it is by opposing this carbon tax.

TONY ABBOTT:


Jim?

JIM CONWAY:


HM GEM is a re-manufacturer, or I guess you could say a recycler of car and truck engines, and I guess what we try to do is to provide an economical option to car repairs rather than the tradesmen or whatever buying a new vehicle. We offer a lower cost option with a re-manufactured engine and any increase to our cost base is just going to make our job that bit harder trying to get a sale and I guess it's certainly at the moment, it's a challenge as it is, you know, with the economy and the way things are going. So yeah, we certainly oppose any increase to costs.

TONY ABBOTT:


Thanks, mate. Thanks, Jim. Ok, are there any questions?

QUESTION:


Peabody’s bid for Macarthur Coal is the biggest ever in Australian coal history. Do you still stand by your claim that the coal industry will die under this carbon tax?

TONY ABBOTT:


Look, I just make a couple of points in response. First of all, it's an overseas company bidding for an Australian company. It's an overseas company that is going to be less impacted by the carbon tax bidding for a local company that's going to be more impacted by the carbon tax, so I want to make that point.

The other point I make is that the whole purpose of a carbon tax is to close down the coal industry. The Labor Party is not being upfront with people about that but the Greens are. They admit that this is about closing down coal and the fact is it's the Greens that put this package together. One of the reasons why the caucus is so unhappy about what's been decided is that it's the Greens that put it together, not the caucus. It's the Greens that gave the tick off to this, not the caucus and one of the reasons why the Prime Minister was so anxious to avoid a parliamentary sitting week is precisely so she didn't have to face the caucus on this package.

QUESTION:


Where are getting your information that the caucus is so unhappy, because they have come out and flatly denied that?

TONY ABBOTT:


Well, I suggest that you people should be ringing up caucus members in coal seats, in steel seats, in manufacturing seats and talking to them because I can tell you they are not at all happy.

QUESTION:


Are you still committed to subsidising conversion from coal to gas at the Hazelwood power station under the direct action plan?

TONY ABBOTT:


Under the direct action plan people can come to us with proposals to reduce emissions and, look, we would be more than happy to clean up the Latrobe Valley power stations, not to close them down, to clean them up, not to close them down. But it's got to be cost effective, it can't cost jobs and it can't produce higher prices for consumers.

QUESTION:


In the course of this debate are you planning to visit the Latrobe Valley and will you spell out your plan to clean it up and what will it cost and whether there will be any job implications?

TONY ABBOTT:


I can’t guarantee that I am going to be in any particular place at any particular time but what you can be absolutely confident is that I am not going to run away from the workers of Australia. These will not be choreographed, stage-managed visits. As you've seen twice today, as you saw yesterday, I'm available for people to put their points to me. Now, if they want to agree, that's great. If they want to disagree, that's great. I am trying to be as open and as accessible to the Australian people as I possible can be and I suggest the Prime Minister should do the same.

QUESTION:


[inaudible] coal industry, surely that destroys your argument [inaudible]?

TONY ABBOTT:


I just make the point that the whole purpose of the carbon tax is to phase out the coal industry. I mean, the whole point of the carbon tax is to reduce our emissions and the biggest single source of emissions on Earth is the coal industry. Now, I think that the coal industry is the foundation of a modern economy. I think that affordable power is essential to Australia's economic future. I don't want to close down the coal industry. That's why I want to find ways of reducing emissions that don't involve putting a great big new tax on coal and a great big new tax on everything that uses a lot of energy.

QUESTION:


[inaudible]

TONY ABBOTT:


The point is that the coal industry is directly in the firing line of the carbon tax. There is no point having a carbon tax if it doesn’t drastically reduce the use of coal and if you look at the Government's own figures they say that coal will go from 80 per cent of our power generation to 10 per cent or 25 per cent, if you include clean coal using various forms of sequestration. So, the Government's own figures involve a radical downsizing and ultimate demise of the coal industry.

QUESTION:


But if they thought the future was so bleak surely they would not have bid for a company?

TONY ABBOTT:


Now, I think I've fully answered that question. Are there other issues that people want to raise?

QUESTION:


You say that you are waging a truth campaign with this, not a scare campaign but with this talk about the coal is that not a scare campaign?

TONY ABBOTT:


Look at the Government's own figures. Go to the package that the Government released on the weekend and look at what happens to coal. It goes from 80 per cent of our power generation to at best 25 per cent of our power generation and more likely 10 per cent of our power generation. So, on the Government's own figures, coal is a goner. On the Government's own figures the coal industry is going to radically downsize in this country. That's why I say to Labor members in coalmining seats stop making excuses for a bad government and its toxic tax and start standing up for jobs and your local economy.

QUESTION:


You've been saying what we do here and what the Government does in Australia won't have any real impact on what happens with carbon emissions in the climate around the world, particularly with what’s happening in China, why then do you have a target of five per cent reduction by 2020?

TONY ABBOTT:


I think it’s important that we do what we can to rest lightly on the planet and I believe that by spending money from our direct action fund, our emissions reduction fund, we can actually get our emissions down. The interesting feature of the Government's package, and again this is on the Government's own figures, is that our emissions go up. I mean, we're going to go to all the effort and trouble and churn of this carbon tax emissions trading scheme and despite that, on the Government's own figures, our emissions go up from 578 million tonnes to 621 million tonnes and these are on the Government's own figures and just to achieve their abatement targets they’ve got to buy about 100 million tonnes of carbon credits from overseas. Now, this is a very important point. Under the Government's package, Australian business is going to be sending about $3.5 billion a year, and that's just for starters, overseas. It looks a lot more like a get-rich-quick scheme for foreign carbon traders than it does a realistic attempt to reduce emissions here in Australia.

QUESTION:


What’s your position on a campaign by retailers to place a tax on goods purchased from overseas on the internet?

TONY ABBOTT:


Well look, I can understand why the retailers are concerned but on the other hand I have no desire to see consumers' costs raised. So I think that's an issue obviously for the retailing sector and I look forward to the way the retailers are proposing to actually address this issue.

QUESTION:


So you’d support that position, you’d be rock solid on it?

TONY ABBOTT:


Look, I can understand why the retailers are concerned and I think that this is an issue which does deserve further study but the last thing I want to do is to put further pressure on the cost of living of hard-pressed Australian families.

[ends]