Prime Minister of Australia : Transcript of interview with Barry Cassidy
SUN 01 JULY 2012
Subject(s): Carbon pricing; Expert panel on asylum seekers;
Visit of Indonesian President; Minerals Resource Rent Tax;
Convergence Review; Peter Slipper
07/01/2012| 09:45pm US/Eastern
HOST: Prime Minister, good morning, welcome.
PM: Good morning, Barrie.
HOST: So that's what you face if Tony Abbott has his way,
a referendum on prime ministers who tell lies.
PM: Tony Abbott will have to look people in the eye at the
time of the next election and explain to them how he's
taking their tax cuts away, their family payment increases,
their pension increases.
He'll also have to look them in the eye and explain why he
spent so many months making false claims about the effect of
And the truth is, Barrie, even if Mr Abbott ever becomes
prime minister in this country he won't take carbon
pricing away. He'll engage in a little fiddle, a little fudge
to kind of pretend but carbon pricing will still be here.
HOST: That language that he uses though, and he does call you
a liar often, after a while you think it has to hurt
politically, if not personally?
PM: Well, I've explained the circumstances of the last
election campaign, and when I said those words about a carbon
tax I meant every one.
But our nation's been involved in a debate now for many
long years about putting a price on carbon and tackling
climate change and we have got this done.
Yes, with a fixed price, a carbon tax, if you like, for the
first three years and then an emissions trading scheme to
The kind of emissions trading scheme that Prime Minister
Howard stood for and Mr Abbott stool alongside him advocating
in the 2007 election.
HOST: Well you say he won't - there won't be a carbon
tax under Tony Abbott but that would be partly because in
opposition you will still support a carbon tax, you won't
allow him to repeal it?
PM: I'm saying something completely different, Barrie. Mr
Abbott will find a fiddle or a fudge and carbon pricing will
HOST: But you will vote against any move by him to repeal it?
PM: We believe in putting a price on carbon, in tackling
climate change, in protecting our environment, in
strengthening our economy. As a Labor Party, as a Labor
Government we haven't done all of this for no reason.
We've done it because we believe it's pivotal to
Australia's future. So of course we will seek to protect
it. But I am putting a broader point to you.
HOST: But that's why he won't need a fiddle or a fudge.
PM: No, I'm putting to you a different point which is:
carbon pricing starts today, tax cuts start today.
People have already seen pension increases and family payment
increases and this assistance to families around the country
will continue. Businesses have got themselves ready for
carbon pricing. New investments are being made.
Now against all of that backdrop Mr Abbott will find himself
in a position where he cannot go to the next election
pretending anything else than carbon pricing is going to
I've seen these debates before, Barrie, I was opposed to
the GST, but once it was in operation it was clear to all
that there was no going back.
And here we are, after all these years of the GST, a big
divisive debate and it's not something top of mind for
anyone in Australia's public debate today.
HOST: Were you wrong to oppose the GST?
PM: Look, in hindsight I was very concerned about the
circumstances of low-income Australians, I was very concerned
about it being a regressive tax.
I still consider that those kind of taxes are regressive
taxes, but the system changed and you had to accept the
reality of the new system.
HOST: And you wouldn't have it any other way now, would
PM: Well Barrie, we're not debating the GST today,
we're debating carbon pricing.
HOST: No, but there are parallels because oppositions oppose
and Tony Abbott is constantly accused of being a negative but
that's what Labor did during the GST?
PM: I think with Mr Abbott in particular, what we've seen
is false claims, reckless claims made day after day. And
today's the day that he's got to account for them. I
mean has the coal industry shut down today, Barrie?
Are your news rooms flashing up on their screens that coal is
no longer being mined in Australia? Are your news rooms
flashing up on their screens that everybody's Sunday
roast today is costing them $100 a roast?
Well of course that's not happening. And today and in the
days to come Mr Abbott must be held to account for every
false claim he has made about putting a price on carbon.
HOST: But even if a roast doesn't cost $100 people do
feel the squeeze at the moment, they feel as if, whether
it's true or not, that the cost of living is going up all
the time. So every time prices go up no matter how, but
whether it's at the margins or not they're going to
blame the carbon tax?
PM: I think Australians are pretty smart, pretty practical
people and they will judge it through their lived experience.
They'll see, millions of them, seven million of them in their
pay packet in the coming week the benefit of the tax cuts.
And the significance of that shouldn't be underestimated.
We are tripling the tax free threshold. That is we're
putting a price on something we want to see less of, carbon
pollution, and rewarding people for something we value, work.
A million Australians won't have their pay packet touched
by the taxman. They will get to keep every dollar they earn
and people earning less than $80,000 a year will all see a
tax cut. Many of them a tax cut of around $300.
So they'll get their pay packet, they'll see the tax cut,
they'll go to the shops, they will do the weekly shop,
they'll ask themselves 'Does that cost me more than last
They will look at the tax cut and they will work it through
the weeks and months ahead.
HOST: No doubt you've got your members right around the
country sending that message this week but do you think they
will be pulled up in the street a lot of them and given a bit
of a serve over asylum seekers and the lack of action?
PM: I think people will be talking about carbon pricing. Yes,
they'll be talking about asylum seekers too.
But in the period ahead, Barrie, whether it's today or in
the weeks or months ahead, I think Australians will judge
carbon pricing from the experience that they live.
And I believe when the dust settles in the months ahead
people will come to see it as the right move for
HOST: And on asylum seekers?
PM: That's where I think carbon pricing will take us to.
HOST: And on asylum seekers, there is no policy. That has to
be embarrassing for you as a Prime Minister?
PM: I have been prepared every step of the way to work to get
a solution here and I am still prepared to do so. In terms
of, you know, the Labor Party's policy and plans; we with
the benefit of expert advice designed the arrangement with
We were very careful about the human rights protections that
went with it, so the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees has been involved in the discussions.
The central tenet of the refugee convention that you
don't return someone to a place where they would be
persecuted or at risk will be upheld, and people smugglers
would be sent the strongest message that they cannot
represent to desperate people that they can get them to
Now that's what the Government wants to see. I
HOST: The Parliament didn't accept it any of it.
PM: I understand.
HOST: The Parliament didn't accept any of it.
PM: Yep, I understand Mr Abbott wants to see Nauru opened,
and we said we would do that too.
So, we have been prepared to compromise every step of the
way. To that, we have seen Mr Abbott and the Coalition join
with the Greens to just say no to any effective action here.
HOST: So what do you tell president Yudhoyono when you meet
him this week, that you have no policy?
PM: I talk frequently to the president of Indonesia.
We've got a strong and robust relationship between our
two countries; and it's not fair, Barrie, to see it
through the prism of people smuggling.
Our relationship is a deep one on the economy and trade, on
education links, on development links within the G20, in the
East Asia Summit and the list goes on.
Indonesia is a very important partner to us and we do
cooperate very strongly with Indonesia on people smuggling.
And they have seen some success for their efforts in the past
They've disrupted around 300 people smuggling ventures,
they've made arrests so Indonesia has been active working
with Australia to try and combat this very evil trade.
HOST: They have been active and they would have been paying
attention to what happened in Parliament last week as well.
And now you have to sit opposite him this week, what do you
say to him?
PM: President Yudhoyono, I'm sure, will be aware of
events in Australia.
I will say to him that the Government is still working and
working hard to get an outcome here, and now we have asked
three very eminent Australians to assist us with getting that
HOST: And that's called outsourcing, as Tony Abbott has
described it as outsourcing?
PM: Well I think this says something very interesting about
Mr Abbott actually.
I mean the essence of modern government is that you do need
expert advice, whether it's from the Treasury on your
budget, whether it's from education experts on what we
can do to lift kids out of disadvantage, whether it's
from indigenous leaders about what we can do to close the gap
for, say, life expectancies between indigenous and non
Mr Abbott is basically saying he will not listen to advice,
he won't listen to eminent Australians, he won't
listen to anyone.
He thinks it's satisfactory to just say no in the way
that he did in the last week, where he basically voted
against stopping the boats despite his sloganeering.
HOST: He said they're good people but I've got a
policy thanks very much. So what's the point? He
won't change his mind no matter what they come up with?
PM: Barrie, the point is of course that our nation should
have the benefit of the most expert advice that we can.
And I think these three Australians, Angus Houston, Michael
L'Estrange, Paris Aristotle cannot be questioned on their
credentials to provide such advice.
HOST: But you must know that Tony Abbott and the Greens are
absolutely serious on this. They're not going to change
their minds no matter what they come up with. So it makes it
a pointless exercise, doesn't it?
PM: No, it makes it a question for them. As people drown at
sea, as we see people risking their lives on leaky boats, as
three eminent Australians deliver advice, what kind of person
would you be?
What kind of person is it who watches that misery, watches
that pain, sees that death, hears the advice from experts and
won't change their minds one millimetre, won't accept
that advice at all? What kind of person does that, Barrie?
HOST: If they come out against the Malaysian solution will
you accept that?
PM: I've said we will take with the utmost significance
in terms of Government deliberations the advice of the expert
panel. I wouldn't have done it, Barrie, if I wasn't
in the business of taking the greatest regard possible for
what they come out with.
HOST: So that puts Temporary Protection Visas back on the
table as well?
PM: Well, Barrie, you need to be very clear about what's
happened already to date.
We had the High Court case, unexpected, prevented the nation
from offshore processing, put this Government in a different
position to governments in the past. We could remedy that by
going to the Parliament.
We went to the Parliament and said let's put governments
in the same position that they've been in the past to
make appropriate decisions as executive government about
offshore processing. Mr Abbott said no.
We said okay, what about, we combine elements of what we are
pushing and what you believe, Mr Abbott; so Malaysia, Nauru
and an expert led process on Temporary Protection Visas. Mr
Abbott said no.
Now I think that says more about Mr Abbott's outlook and
character than it says about anything else.
HOST: Geoff Kitney wrote in the 'Financial Review'
that Australians who hated this parliament hate it even more.
Are politicians conscious of that sort of feeling out there?
PM: I'm conscious of the need to be providing solutions
to the problems that our nation faces. That's why
I've been so determined to deliver nation changing
reforms like carbon pricing. And I saw you had the little bit
with Gary Gray.
I mean today is a Sunday where Australians will go about
their ordinary lives, but today is a day too when we seize
the future. We seize a clean energy future.
The Minerals Resource Rent Tax come into operation, we seize
a future of better sharing of the benefits of the mining
These reforms stand alongside our other reforms: improving
education, improving health, making sure we've got the
benefits of new technology like the National Broadband
People elect governments to get the big things done and that
is what my Government is doing and will continue to do.
HOST: Just in the time left I want to ask you about media
policy. Your Government is apparently considering a public
interest test for media ownership. What sort of test? What
will they be tested on?
PM: What the Government's considering is the Convergence
Review and the work done by Mr Finkelstein. And when
we're in a position to respond to both, Barrie, we will.
HOST: There could be a public interest test?
PM: Barrie, I'm not going to get into rule-in, rule-out
games or speculation. We've received two reviews which we
thought were important in this changing age for the media
where all of the platforms are converging; so newspapers
aren't just newspapers anymore, they're online sites,
they're applications on your iPad.
We thought it was important to look again at media policy.
And when we can respond to all of that we will.
HOST: And the revelations that Steve Lewis and News Limited
might have had some involvement in the James Ashby, Peter
Slipper matter. In conversations you've had with your
colleagues, has that had an impact on their thinking?
PM: You would be aware, Barrie, that we set out on the
Convergence Review and on the work done by Mr Finkelstein
well before any of these events.
HOST: Yes, but do you think it's hardened up their
PM: Look I think my colleagues have been conscious that we
live in a rapidly changing age for the media, that in the
past it was appropriate to say you regulate TV and radio over
here, you regulate to some extent, and obviously we have a
very free press, but government's engagement with newspapers
is over here.
Now of course the whole lot is coming together and that is
what is required us to look again.
HOST: Just finally, do you think Peter Slipper will be back
in the chair when Parliament resumes in August?
PM: Look, I'm not making predictions about any of that.
Mr Slipper, of course, faced some allegations from Mr Ashby
and that matter is still being dealt with in the appropriate
HOST: And there's no question, if he is cleared of these
matters he will be back in the chair?
PM: Look, Barrie, I'm not going to speculate beyond
noting, of course, that there is a legal proceeding in train
here. Of course it's had a lot of spectacular coverage
and you've been referring to some of it today.
HOST: But if he is cleared of all those matters why are you
not able to say he won't be automatically cleared to go
back into the chair?
PM: Look I don't want to prejudge circumstances-
HOST: But this is not prejudging. If he was to be cleared-
PM: Where there is a legal case involved. So Barrie, I'm
not going to take it further than Mr Slipper is dealing with
the legal matters in front of him.
Yes, they have been the subject of a lot of publicity because
of not only Mr Ashby releasing his legal case to the media, I
think it's true to say even before he filed it, but at
least around the same time as he filed it, and subsequently
the nature of the response from Mr Slipper and the
Commonwealth becoming clear too.
HOST: Thanks for your time this morning, appreciate it.
PM: Thank you.