Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Woodlawn Wind Farm - Renewable Energy Target; Confidence in Joe Hockey

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

WOODLAWN WIND FARM

FRIDAY, 5 DECEMBER 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: Renewable Energy Target; Confidence in Joe Hockey; The unfair Budget; Katy Gallagher; TPV

 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: …A prime example of Australia's renewable energy future. I'm here with Mark Butler and Mark Dreyfus, again hearing the case why the Abbott Government should stop breaking its promises this year, and in particular it shouldn't break its pre-election promise to be bipartisan on the Renewable Energy Target. Renewable energy is part of Australia's energy future, it's part of a sustainable future for Australia. There's tens of thousands of shareholders who have invested in this company and in the future of Australia who have their investment put at jeopardy. They face almost an existential crisis because the Abbott Government is trashing the renewable energy industry and breaking its pre-election promises. There are billions of dollars of investment at stake in Australia's future; there are thousands of jobs at stake, and a sustainable future at stake. We make it very clear to Tony Abbott - before Christmas, here is one barnacle you can remove from the Budget and from Australia - why not do a bipartisan deal with the Opposition about maintaining a Renewable Energy Target?

 

My colleagues Chris Bowen, Gary Gray and Mark Butler have been available for meetings with the Government. Tony Abbott, before Christmas, let's together save the Renewable Energy Target in Australia. We're prepared to negotiate within clear parameters, but one thing is for sure, thousands of job, billions of dollars of investment and a million-plus Australians who already voted with their feet to have solar power on their roof, deserve certainty around our renewable energy target. I might ask my colleague Mark Butler to say a couple of further words on this,  but just before I do I would also just like to make a comment, I suppose partly inspired by these wind farms. But at the end of a long Parliamentary year, six months after the Federal Budget, we have a Budget blowing in the breeze, and a Treasurer left hanging out to dry. This is now the time for Tony Abbott to start working with the Opposition, we're ready, we're up for the job. Tony Abbott swallow your pride and work with the Opposition for the best interests of the nation. Now Mark will say a few words in addition.

 

MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND WATER: Thank you Bill. Thank you to Infigen Energy  for inviting us here today at this wonderful wind farm producing clean energy, supporting many, many jobs in this regional area, this regional part of NSW and the ACT. And as we know from the Prime Minister's own handpicked panel, helping to keep down electricity prices for households and for businesses. That's why it's so utterly perplexing why Tony Abbott won't, as Bill Shorten said, swallow his pride, come to the table and strike a meaningful deal on the renewable energy target that will continue to allow billions of dollars of investment to flow into Australia creating thousands of jobs.

 

This is the wind farm that Joe Hockey has said is “utterly offensive”. What we know though is that it is helping to hold down power prices for Australian households, it created many, many jobs in this part of regional Australia and it's helping to bring down Australia's carbon pollution footprint. This is an incredibly irresponsible comment for the Treasurer of the nation to make. He should be focused not only on his Budget but also on ensuring there is a sound, stable investment climate and the Prime Minister walking away from the Renewable Energy Target in spite of his crystal clear promise not to change it, that he made before the election, is a very significant threat to investor confidence in Australia.

 

SHORTEN: Thanks Mark.  Are there any questions?

 

JOURNALIST:  What indications at all that the Government is still willing to negotiate on the RET?

 

SHORTEN: The Government's backed itself into a corner. It is their negotiating style. Do something unrealistic and unfair, then expect to be rescued. On this occasion Labor is willing to put out the hand and say, ‘Alright, back to the table please Government.’ What we say is we recognise that the aluminium and energy intensive trade exposed sector should be exempted from the Renewable Energy Target, so that deal is where I think any concern such as they may be. But what we also say to the Government is please don't trash a multibillion dollar industry where thousands of people make their livelihoods, where there's well over a million Australian households have solar panels on the roof. I wish this Government would stop turning its back on the future, trying to retreat to the past.

 

Tony Abbott needs to swallow his pride. If he really wants to have a reset on the year that he's had, it needs to be something tangible, not just words. Rescuing our Renewable Energy Target in a bipartisan spirit of Christmas would be, I think, a very sensible step. When Joe Hockey complains about these wind farms, I don't see what he sees, what I see is benign friends delivering cheaper energy to Australians,  providing jobs for farmers, jobs for the people maintaining and constructing them and the opportunity for Australia to be part of the future rather than stuck in the past.

 

JOURNALIST: Recently you and Mark Butler said that you had walked away from negotiations on the RET, and now has Labor come back to the table?

 

SHORTEN: No, what we made clear is that the Government - it's not negotiation when the Government fronts up with its position and says ‘take it or leave it’, that's not negotiation. I think we've seen this year that the Abbott Government is no good at negotiating, you just look at the Budget which they’ve failed to convince anyone on. ‘Take it or leave it’ is an arrogant way to negotiate, it’s not the way we believe this county should be run and I think Tony Abbott needs to learn some new tricks.

 

So what we’re saying to the Government very clearly is we have consulted with the industry, we have consulted with the environmental movement. We are here right on the ground talking to the real people who back their livelihoods on these public policy decisions. We say to Tony Abbott there is a deal here to be done, mate, but you are going to have to back out of the corner, we are willing to sit down and work it out with you, there is a deal to be done Tony Abbott. But what you can’t do is just stubbornly stand on your digs and refuse to ever budge because you have some sort of bizarre anti-science view that climate change isn't really the big issue that everyone else in the world knows it to be.

 

JOURNALIST: What do you make of Joe Hockey's suggestion that perhaps some of his own MPs are fuelling speculation that Malcolm Turnbull should replace him as Treasurer?

 

SHORTEN: I think Joe Hockey knows he doesn’t have the confidence of his colleagues. The bigger question is how can Australians have confidence in this Treasurer's Budget if his own colleagues don’t have confidence in the Treasurer?

 

JOURNALIST:  Would you support Malcolm Turnbull taking over that portfolio?

 

SHORTEN: The issue isn't which deck chair you shift on the Titanic. The issue is this is an unfair Budget. No amount of sacking the salesman or sacking the authors changes an unfair Budget into a good idea. What the Government needs to do is stop worrying about the politics, worry less about the personalities and instead focus on what's important. You don't make sick people well by charging them taxes to go to the doctor. You don't make students better educated by discouraging them with $100,000 degrees. You certainly don't have a sustainable future in our environment by wrecking the renewable energy industry. This Government needs to understand that life is not about politics, it is about the families of Australia and no amount of changing Joe Hockey or Malcolm Turnbull - that doesn't really deal with the real issue. It's a rotten Budget. In two weeks' time, this Government will bring down a mini-Budget. They should demonstrate how they are going for growth, not try to make election-breaking promises and cuts.

 

JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott said on radio this morning that he would be willing to cut a deal with the Greens to pass his paid parental leave scheme, what’s your reaction to that?

 

SHORTEN: I think Joe Hockey would cut a deal with a man on the moon to preserve his job. I think the real issue here is it is not about deal making, Joe, it is not about trying to make the unfair and the ridiculous and the election lies somehow legitimate and whitewash them. What Joe Hockey needs to do is start again. What he needs to do is drop his unfair Budget. He needs to rule out $100,000 university degrees. He needs to rule out the GP tax. He needs to rule out his cuts to pensions. They need to keep the Tony Abbott promises of no cuts to the ABC and SBS. They need to keep their promises. Tony Abbott's promises of no changes to pensions.

 

This Government thinks that everything can be substituted by some new talking points and media spin. This is a Government who is adrift at the end of 2014. Their Budget is unwelcome in Australia because it is killing confidence. Unemployment is up, even worse, youth unemployment is even higher than it has been for the last 13 years. This Government needs to put Australia first, not their own political needs.

 

JOURNALIST: Do you personally head hunt Katy Gallagher?

 

SHORTEN: I did ring Katy Gallagher when I became aware that Senator Lundy was going to retire. I think if she gets through the local process, and it is important that we give our local members a say in pre-elections but if Katy is successful, I suspect she probably will be because she is such a distinguished candidate, she is a great addition to our Senate team. So yes, I did encourage her to run and I do support her. I think it reflects well on Katy that she is willing to give up being Chief Minister to try her hand in the Senate because she wants to see a better Australia. I also take this as a sign of confidence that people want to be in the Federal Labor team that I lead because we have the plans for the future of Australia, and Katy will be a fantastic addition if she is successful in her pre-election efforts.

 

JOURNALIST: What guarantees did she get to get on the frontbench?

 

SHORTEN: No guarantees. Let’s be clear about Katy, she is a remarkable person. Whatever Katy does, she is good at it.

 

JOURNALIST: What do you make of suggestions she is trying to escape criticism of her policies ahead of the 2016 election?

 

SHORTEN: I don't think that's fair at all. Katy Gallagher would be, if she is successful in pre selection, a star recruit. She has great form in public policy. She has led the ACT well. She will be a valuable addition to Labor's Senate team and I'm really pleased that she has chosen to put her hand up.

 

JOURNALIST: What parallels, if any, are there between Joe Hockey's ‘highly offensive’ comment and his performance do you think as Treasurer?

 

SHORTEN: I think Joe Hockey speaks first and thinks second. I think Joe Hockey - well, his whole Budget, I don't want to make this about the man, the personalities are to some extent a second order issue. His Budget is based upon lies told at the election to the Australian people. It's now nearly Christmas. Joe Hockey's Budget has broken all records, for it is still being talked about in the Australian political debate. But, more importantly than the political debate, confidence has flat lined in the Australian economy since two weeks before the Budget. We see unemployment growing - 42,000 extra people unemployed since the Budget. Youth unemployment is at the highest in 13 years. We have got fewer people, people who are discouraged from working.

 

This is the real story of the Budget. It's done nothing to help Australia. It's scared our pensioners into not spending at Christmas. Joe Hockey says he has had an unfortunate year, I think. He says that poor people don't drive. He says the GP tax is the equivalent of a couple of beers. Then he says to people who he is cutting in terms of their budgets, that they should go and spend big at Christmas. I think he is out of touch and I think the mini Budget is a last chance for Joe Hockey to restore any of his limping authority, but the only way to pass that test is for them to rule out the GP tax, $100,000 degrees, cuts to the pension, cuts to schools and hospitals. What we really need in Australia is a government who has a plan for Australia, not this current sorry mob who don't even have the courage to take their ideas to an election.

 

JOURNALIST: Can I ask your response to the Government's migration laws passing the Senate?

 

SHORTEN: Well, the Government's introduced these visas. Labor was not convinced that the visas would do what Scott Morrison promised they would do. We will see if they become a pathway to citizenship or, if indeed, thousands of people are consigned to further limbo. Thanks everyone.

 

ENDS

 

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