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Tony Abbott interview with Alan Jones - Julia Gillard’s Carbon Tax

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR,

INTERVIEW WITH ALAN JONES,

RADIO 2GB, SYDNEY

Subjects: Julia Gillard’s carbon tax.

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

ALAN JONES:

Tony Abbott, good morning.

TONY ABBOTT:

Morning Alan.

ALAN JONES:

Can I just, in relation to this carbon business, come back to the very beginning because Julia Gillard yesterday talked about an avalanche of science – that’s what she said – supporting the notion that the climate was changing. It used to be called global warming. Can I just share with you though before we begin what Professor Richard Lindzen has said and I should say that yesterday, again, Professor Lindzen said yesterday, and I quote ‘there’s no disagreement in the scientific community that this will have no impact on climate. It would do nothing for practical purposes. It would do nothing if the whole world did the same.’ Professor Lindzen whom is one of the many scientists I have spoken to over the last many months. He’s an internationally eminent meteorologist. He’s a distinguished member of many scientific societies. He’s written over 230 scientific books and papers. He’s regarded as one of the foremost meteorologists in the world and this is what he had to say when I interviewed him on this programme.

Professor Richard Lindzen:

Australia could sink into the sea without affecting the CO 2 balance significantly. Why your politicians have gotten so wrapped up in this – I would assume that they are desperate for taxation and they’re hopeful that this will be something that people will willingly assent to but I would suppose, I hope, that they are underestimating the intelligence of the electorate.

ALAN JONES:

Can I ask you that if they weren’t just interested in taxation, surely therefore this programme would have taxed something like petrol or the farmers or all the coal mines – if you really believed in this whole global warming/climate change scenario?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I think they’re fair points to make Alan. The thing that struck me yesterday though was that the Government, even on its own figures, even after all the time and trouble of this great big new tax, our emissions are still going increase. I mean we are going to put in place this massive tax that’s going to leave 3 million households worse off even on the Government’s own figures and that’s before the price just goes up and up and up and even with all of this we’re going to have significant increase in our emissions and the only way we can meet our emissions reduction targets is to spend about $3 billion buying carbon credits from overseas and that’s money that really should be invested in Australia. It’s money that shouldn’t be going offshore into dodgy carbon farms in Equatorial Guinea and Kazakhstan and all the other places that Kevin Rudd visits.

ALAN JONES:

But the Government obviously assumes that the people you’re speaking to now are pretty stupid so let me confirm that by asking a pretty stupid question – why are emissions from petrol that’s used in cars evil? Why are emissions from diesel… Sorry, why are emissions from petrol not evil and why are emissions from vehicles that use diesel evil? We’re going to tax one and not the other. Can you work that out?

TONY ABBOTT:

No I can’t work it out, Alan. I think…

ALAN JONES:

Well, let me ask you another question you might be able to work out…

TONY ABBOTT:

But what I do think is that the exemptions for petrol are a pre-election fix because Bob Brown, who’s driving so much of this, says it’s inevitable that all fuels, including petrol, should come in to the carbon tax regime.

ALAN JONES:

But let me ask you this, I mean, that confirms that it’s a tax really. It’s not anything about climate is it? That’s why petrol’s been exempted but a tonne of coal which goes into a power station here in Australia is so evil that we’ve got to tax it with a carbon tax and use taxpayers’ money to close it down or buy it out of existence, but a tonne of coal that goes into a Chinese power station is so wonderful that we want to sell hundreds of millions more tonnes of coal to Chinese power stations and Chinese steel mills. How is the taxpayer meant to make sense of that?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, I don’t think anyone can make sense of it and I think it illustrates the absurdity of what the Government is trying to do. Look, I’m all in favour, Alan, of taking sensible measures to reduce emissions and that’s what our direct action policy does and you know planting trees, getting better soil, using smarter technology, these are all things that make sense to everyone…

ALAN JONES:

Yeah, we’re all in favour of a cleaner environment. We’re in favour of peace rather than war, aren’t we?

TONY ABBOTT:

Absolutely but what this Government is doing – it’s doing something that no other country on earth is doing, as the Productivity Commission pointed out just the other day. It’s putting a massive, massive hobble on our economy and for what? It’s not actually going to reduce emissions. I mean, that’s the whole point, it’s not actually going to reduce emissions but it’s going to be grievously damaging to our economy and very unfair to households which are going to be slugged by this and…

ALAN JONES:

But 80 per cent of our power comes from coal-fired power – 80 per cent of it. Renewable energy is never ever going to be able to fill that breach. So, when Christine Milne says she wants all coal-fired power stations closed down or we’re going to tax coal fired power stations – who’s going to step into the breach or how much is it going to cost the people that you’re broadcasting to now?

TONY ABBOTT:

This is a very interesting point, Alan. At the moment, 80 per cent of our power comes from coal. According to the Government’s own figures yesterday, by 2050, just 40 years time, only ten per cent of it is going to come from coal. At the moment, about 2 per cent comes from renewables. The Government says that in 40 years time 40 per cent of it is going to come from renewables. We know that renewables are vastly more expensive than coal. You know, the carbon price to bring about this change, even on the Government’s own figures has got to be $131 a tonne, and that’s in current dollars. I mean this is an absolutely savage impost which is going to do enormous damage to our economy over time…

ALAN JONES:

And we’re going to save the world when half of its inhabitants live in China, India and the United States and they’ve got nothing like this…

TONY ABBOTT:

And, you know, we are supposed to get a five per cent reduction in our emissions under this scheme by 2020. China is increasing its emissions by 500 per cent.

ALAN JONES:

Six billion tonnes. It’ll increase emissions by six billion tonnes by 2020. We’ll actually cut ours by 50 million.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, our actual emissions will go up. We are only going to achieve the reduction by buying carbon credits from abroad. I mean, that’s the crazy thing.

ALAN JONES:

So, let me just ask this, you’ve moved around the country, this divisive debate is going to go on for months and months. I mean, this thing’s not meant to… There’s no legislation at all at this stage and this is having a dramatic effect on consumer confidence. Consumers will be cautious. That will affect the retail sector – the amount that people spend. You’ve been to outfits like BlueScope Steel and OneSteel. Now, already with the concern about a carbon tax their share price, and many of the people listening to you now have got shares in those companies, their share prices are under heavy pressure. There’s talk that BlueScope may close down the Port Kembla steelworks at Wollongong. What is going to happen to these people?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well Alan look, I desperately hope that that doesn’t happen. I note that the Government after a lot of prompting from me, and perhaps a little bit of prompting from the Australian Workers’ Union, has put in place some protections for the steel industry. I think it’s more like a stay of execution than anything else. I think that any carbon tax regime is going to be very bad for the steel industry in the medium term, and yes, I fear very much for those jobs in Port Kembla and those jobs in Whyalla and in the other steel places…

ALAN JONES:

Take businesses that weren’t touched with everyday – say QANTAS and Virgin Australia – just take them. They’ll face higher fuel costs due to their use of high emission jet fuel. Now, obviously you could say they’ve got significant pricing power. Well, if that’s the case they’ll pass that on, have to, to the consumer but the passenger will reach a point where they’ll say ‘I can’t afford this extra stuff’.

TONY ABBOTT:

And we all know that the tourism industry in particular is under great pressure and the last thing we need is a significant increase in the price of air tickets but, you know, this is the problem. I mean, this is a completely unnecessary tax. It’s not necessary to bring about environmental protection. It will very seriously damage our cost of living. It will damage our industry. In the end it just looks like a giant exercise in redistribution. A great big new tax, a great big new slug…

ALAN JONES:

Because if you really believed, if you believed in all this rubbish about carbon dioxide being a polluter and you got to do something about that otherwise the whole Barrier Reef’s going to fall apart then you would tax petrol, you would tax the farmers, you would tax the coal mines, you’d tax the smelters. They’re not doing that so obviously even those people believe in it. Christine Milne said that $23 a tonne quote “will not be high enough to drive the transition to renewable energy’.

TONY ABBOTT:

That’s right and that’s why to bring about this great new big shift by 2050 the carbon price has got to be, even on the Government’s own figures, $131 a tonne. Alan, look, there’s one point that I probably should make, there’s been a lot of talk about this now sailing through the parliament. There are a lot of Labor members of parliament who are very, very unhappy about this in steel seats, in coal seats, in manufacturing seats. They know that this package was essentially put together by the Greens. It’s not a Labor package at all in a true sense. It’s something that’s been foisted on that, they feel, by the Greens and by a Prime Minister who hasn’t been able to stand up to the Greens. I think one of the reasons why the Prime Minister chose to avoid a parliamentary sitting week is because she did not want to face the caucus with this package.

ALAN JONES:

Well, she only briefed the caucus on the eleventh hour, didn’t she?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, there was this teleconference of 103 people and, as I said, I suspect of you were a Labor member of parliament ringing in you would have got the recorded message and if you were a Green member of parliament ringing in you would have been put straight through to the Prime Minister.

ALAN JONES:

Answer this. Why is it bad for Australians to have cheap power from our coal but it’s great for the Chinese to have cheap power from our coal?

TONY ABBOTT:

This is an incredibly good question and if the Prime Minister ever comes back on the programme…

ALAN JONES:

She was invited to appear today…

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s one that she should answer because there is no logic in what is being done. I mean, we are the only country in the world which is inflicting this on ourselves. It is an act of economic self-harm. It is something that Australian industry needs like a hole in the head and the Prime Minister is trying to tell us that it won’t hurt us. Well, this is as believable as her promise before the last election that “there’ll be no carbon tax under the government I lead”.

ALAN JONES:

And if you were seduced by the compensation the point needs to be made, surely, that that’s one off. The carbon dioxide tax will increase every year.

TONY ABBOTT:

That’s right. On the Government’s own figures it’s going to go up by two and a half per cent above inflation and then it’s going to become a market price and they think it’s going to be $29 a tonne and then in 40 years time they say it’s going to be $131 a tonne. Now, I think what we can draw from this is that it just going to go up and up and up. The tax will be permanent and increasing. The compensation will be temporary and reducing and that’s a pretty bad deal in anyone’s language.

ALAN JONES:

You made reference recently to the 2009 Copenhagen Consensus Panel which includes a trade economist, Jagdish Bhagwati, and three Nobel peace prize winning economists. Now that panel has ranked investment in technology, and this is what just some of the people on my staff were saying this morning, and versions of what you are calling the direct action plan are way above carbon pricing as the best way to tackle climate change even if you believed in climate change.

TONY ABBOTT:

That’s right, Alan. Carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes were ranked bottom of the list by these three Nobel laureate economists and we also have a whole lot of very distinguished European economists come out the other day in criticising the European Emissions Trading Scheme which they say hasn’t reduced emissions but has been widely scammed and it’s been, they say, an economic own goal because it’s driven industry offshore without reducing emissions and there’s been all this opportunity for fraud. So, this is, alas, the world that the Prime Minister is begging to enter.

ALAN JONES:

And the Government’s own 2008 fact sheet. I mean, it’s flying in the face of its own advice – its own fact sheet says and I quote ‘excluding petrol will not lead to lower costs for households. To the contrary, any abatement that would otherwise have come from the transport sector will have to occur elsewhere and at a higher cost.’ So, public transport will be more expensive.

TONY ABBOTT:

That’s right because whenever you are imposing a new tax the more exemptions there are the more heavily the burdens fall on the included sectors, and then of course there’s the additional costs in the bureaucracy needed to make these kinds of fine distinctions. So, look Alan, in a nutshell it’s not fair, it won’t work and you can’t trust them.

ALAN JONES:

Good on you. Good to talk to you and I thank you for your time.