WEDNESDAY, 8 APRIL 2015
SUBJECT/S: Taskforce on the drug Ice; Abbott Government’s unfair Budget; Abbott Government’s broken promise on the Renewable Energy Target
SARAH GILLMAN: Speaking of visitors, the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten is currently visiting in our state and he joins us now, good morning.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning Sarah.
GILLMAN: They are a couple of things I’d like to talk to you about and I guess a lot of them touch on Tasmania. First up though because it’s a developing story as we speak, the Prime Minster and the Health Minister have just announced a national taskforce on the ice epidemic. What’s your reaction to that?
SHORTEN: Ice is a real problem in our communities, I'm very supportive of the Government's initiative here. We’ll certainly work with the Government. Ice has dreadful effects on its users and of course though ice users get caught up in a lot of criminal activity and it really undermines the confidence a lot of people have in their own suburbs. So Labor will be very supportive of this Government initiative to have a national taskforce to see what we can do to crackdown on the scourge of ice in our communities.
GILLMAN: The Prime Minister says there needs to be a stocktake just of what’s going on with ice around the country, when you talk to people working on the ground in places like Tasmania they say they know what’s going on, they need resources to deal with it.
SHORTEN: Well I’m sure those people you’ve spoken to Sarah are right, it is about resources, but if you talk to police as I do and you talk to experts as I have, clearly the impact of ice on people is dreadful and it is leading to greater crime in our suburbs, in our communities so we’ll go with what the best policing advice is in terms of the best steps forward for this taskforce. I notice that Ken Lay’s been encouraged to come and do this, he was the former, he’s the newly retried Victorian police commissioner, very well respected. So I’m confident that this won’t just be a matter of a headline or a press conference, but with people like Ken Lay involved I’m sure we’ll see a lot more coordination between police at all levels and other experts, health experts and people working in the community with this problem.
GILLMAN: Now you are in the state, and we’ll come to that in a moment about why you are here, but if I could also take you to the letter that was signed yesterday by nine peak business bodies calling on all politicians to be bolder in their reform efforts and they particularly called on you as an opposition party to perhaps redefine what you mean by “fair” when you block the Government moves.
SHORTEN: Well I share businesses frustration that the Abbott Government’s first Budget has been bungled beyond all hope of rescue. Labor’s always up for reform and making the economy better and making the economy work better for ordinary people. But I do think you can have a test of fairness. I think the idea that - some would say that - you’ve got to have growth but you don’t need to have fairness misses the point. Only when you’ve got a functioning education system, a really sustainable health system, a good safety net of minimum wages, and a pension and compulsory superannuation, can you have consumers in your community, who’ve got the money in the pocket to spend, can you have you confidence in the high street.
So Labor believes what the Government proposed with its $100,000 degrees, what they proposed about cutting the pension indexation rate, what they proposed about a GP tax at the door of the surgery on sick people, Labor thinks they’re just horribly unfair ideas and there’s no way we’ll ever support them. But as we’ve said to business, we share their frustration that the Government’s first Budget’s gone so badly and we are up for reform so long as it’s fair. And I think you can define what fair means, certainly if you’re a Labor person.
GILLMAN: Kate Carnell for the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has just said this morning on AM that there are always going to be winners and losers and she said that even when you look back at the Hawke/Keating reforms over things like tariffs for example, there were winners and losers but it’s about Labor looking at the broader national benefit.
SHORTEN: Well, I didn’t interpret yesterday as business attacking Labor, what I did take though was business saying they want to see more progress being made and Labor says we believe in progress as long as it’s fair. Kate Carnell’s quoting the Hawke era, I’ll tell you something about the Hawke/Keating era is they were Prime Ministers who could bring people together and unite people. Tony Abbott has neither the capability nor the capacity to unite people. He seems to think that the way you have change is by lecturing people, by dividing the community.
He has no mandate to cut the pension, he’s got no mandate to put a GP tax on the sick, he has no mandate to make it harder for working class kids to go to university. The problem with this Government is that they think that multinational taxation doesn’t need to be reformed in the way Labor suggested because we believe that large multinationals shouldn’t go forum shopping around the world as to where they pay tax. But yet at the same time they’re happy to have a debate about increasing the GST.
Now the problem with increasing the GST is the bottom 20 per cent of income earners in this country don’t save a cent, all their money goes in consumption. The top 20 per cent save the most. Now I don’t mind if people are able to save money but I’m just concerned that the Federal Government, the Abbott Government has got a view that they won’t take up Labor’s ideas for multinationals to pay their fair share but they’ve got a clear idea about cutting pensions or making people who earn less income pay a higher proportion of GST than they currently are.
GILLMAN: Just on that then, I mean one the areas where people do complain about having to spend a lot of their income is on energy. The Government’s going to release an national paper on energy reform today as well and what do you want to see to come out of that, particularly in regards to the Renewable Energy Target?
SHORTEN: Renewable energy’s really important to Tasmanian and mainland indeed Australia as well. It should be part of our future going forward having a strong commitment to renewable energy. Before the last election both sides of politics, Labor and Tony Abbott’s Liberals, said that they would commit to a Renewable Energy Target of a certain amount. Since Tony Abbott got in he’s broken that promise and they want to cut it in half. And the importance of having a Renewable Energy Target is that that provides the marketplace where by people can invest.
Currently there is over a million households have got solar power on their rooftops. Currently there’s tens of thousands of people working in renewable energy and billions of dollars’ of investment. But in the last 12 to 18 months since Tony Abbott’s got elected the renewable energy industry’s been thrown into chaos and uncertainty. So today we’ll be calling upon the Government to commit to a proper Renewable Energy Target which allows Australia to be part of the future. In a smart 21st century Australia a commitment to renewable energy as part of our energy mix is really important, that’s what Australians want to see. I’m worried that under Tony Abbott we’re just going to miss the boat when it comes to renewable energy unless we get a deal on a target which works.
GILLMAN: What is that level of a target then, what is for Labor, what is the target that you would accept?
SHORTEN: Well we’re certainly guided by the Clean Energy Council and we’ll be taking to them again today but we believe that a target has to be above what the Government’s said of 32,000 gigawatt hours. The Clean Energy Council’s made a call about what they want to see and we’re talking to them this morning and Mark Butler, who’s my Shadow Minister, and I will be visiting Hayward Steels where they currently build wind power turbines and, you know, that’s like many businesses in Australia, it’s a good business but it’s really suffering from the uncertainty.
We think it is time for the Government to listen to the Clean Energy Council. These are the people who put their dollars on the line, they invest, they employ people, they’re committed to the long term renewable energy future in Australia. In Germany, and before people think oh well maybe renewable energy’s not really party of the mainstream, from Germany to India to China they’re all moving to renewable energy production, manufacturing, the setting of clear targets. There’s a big conference at the end of the year in Paris about the future of sustainable climate change and government policies post 2020.
The Abbott Governments’ taking us back on climate change and the renewable energy industry which has been very profitable and very important for places like Tasmania has an unnecessary cloud of uncertainty over its future. So today and talking to you Sarah and visiting Hayward Steels we’ll be very clear that we want to see the Government commit to a higher target then what they currently are, which is called for by Clean Energy Council.
GILLMAN: Just finally, there have also been calls, particularly in places like Tasmanian for some exemptions on that to do with the aluminium industry, do you support those exemptions?
SHORTEN: Yes I do. Labor’s proposition on renewable energy is that the energy extensive, trade exposed sector should be exempted from the Renewable Energy Target and we’ve managed to garner quite a lot of support for that which is important. We believe that the federal Abbott Government shouldn’t touch the smaller solar scheme which goes to all our people to put, encourages people to put solar power on their rooftops. We certainly believe that the Abbott Government needs to commit though to a target which the Clean Energy Council believes is sustainable for investment. What we have here is literally a multibillion dollar industry employing tens of thousands of people, providing an important part of our energy mix in the future, jeopardised because for the last 12 to 18 months the Abbott Liberals can’t keep a promise and I think because also a lot of them are fundamentally climate change sceptics and don’t believe in the science of climate change.
GILLMAN: Just finally then on that, I mean, as you say the clean energy industry is looking for some resolution to things like the Renewable Energy Target. How much longer will Labor negotiate and not give way or not perhaps reach a compromise with the Government?
SHORTEN: Well the way you characterised that, it’s as if Labor’s been the issue or the problem. Labor went to the last election, along with the Liberals, committing to the existing target. Tony Abbott’s ripped up the deal. Keeping an election promise to him, it doesn’t count for much, so he’s created the uncertainty. Labor’s said that we’re willing to come down from that original target because we accept that the Clean Energy Council, the investors, the people working in the sector, the people who believe in sustainable energy, renewable energy have said that’s probably a good idea. We’ll be guided by the science, we’ll be guided by the people who work in the industry. We just wish the Abbott Government would take the same strategy.
GILLMAN: Good to talk to you, thanks very much for your time this morning.
SHORTEN: Lovely to chat, cheers.
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