TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop, Sydney, Friday 21 November 2014

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Subject/s: Julie Bishop’s attack on the United States, Peter Greste, Wayne Goss, the Great Barrier Reef, climate change, Palmer United, Martin Ferguson.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much for coming out. I just want to say a couple words first about Peter Greste and his family. There of course have been reports that there is a possibility of a presidential pardon for Peter Greste. Certainly those reports are encouraging, we hope for the sake of Peter and his family that those reports are accurate. I met with his parents just recently and of course his family are very concerned that Peter should be released from gaol in Egypt as soon as possible. Secondly, I wanted to mention that Wayne Goss’ funeral is on today. Wayne Goss was a great Premier of Queensland, he is a man who modernised Queensland after three decades of corrupt, conservative control. He will be sorely missed by his family of course but also by the broader Labor Party, his many supporters in Queensland and many friends and we’ll send him off today with all of our thanks for the incredible work he did in Queensland.

Turning now to international affairs, we heard Campbell Newman a few days ago criticising the US President Barack Obama for daring to say that he hoped that the Great Barrier Reef would still be there in 50 years’ time for his daughters and his grandchildren to be able to see. The Great Barrier Reef of course is one of the natural wonders of the world, it is an environmental treasure and also brings about $6 billion into the Australian community through tourism and so on. So you wouldn’t think that it would be such a controversial thing to say that we should protect and look after our beautiful Barrier Reef. But Campbell Newman took offence. Campbell Newman is no diplomat so I guess people might not be surprised that he’s gone the US President on this. What is more surprising is that the Abbott Government and our Foreign Minister are now also criticising the United States of America, our good and close friend, for daring to say that we should look after the Barrier Reef. This is an extraordinarily petulant performance that just shows how stung the Abbott Government is by the fact that they tried to keep climate change off the G20 agenda and they failed in that endeavour.

The whole world wanted to talk about climate change at the G20 because climate change is not just an environmental issue, it’s an economic issue. As the climate globally changes, we see more extreme weather events, we see degradation of our natural environments, we see drought and floods and these have economic as well as social consequences. During the G20 meeting when a number of global leaders were in Australia, we had all of them talking to each other and to the Australian people about the importance of taking action on climate change. Certainly President Obama's speech received a lot of attention but the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, talked about the importance of climate change, Prime Minister Modi talked about the importance of climate change. Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, talked to Tony Abbott, his friend, about climate change.

Australia is now behind the rest of the world. We're out on a limb. We're trailing behind. We're going in the wrong direction. We are on our own amongst developed countries in denying that climate change is real and reversing action that was actually having an effect. Carbon pricing in its first year saw the economy continue to grow, jobs continue to grow, but emissions from the national electricity market reduced by 7%. Since we got rid of carbon pricing we've seen carbon emissions rise again and they’re on a trajectory to rise by 2% in this year.  So we had a program that worked, we've replaced it with this so-called Direct Action which nobody thinks will work, we've made a change from taking money from big polluters and using it to reduce the effects of carbon pollution in our society and in our economy.  So instead of taking money from big polluters and spreading it through our community, we're actually taking taxpayers' dollars and giving those dollars to big polluters in the hope that something will change but with no clear plan for that change - no guarantee that pollution will actually reduce.

JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop obviously took a swipe at President Obama over his speech. Isn’t she right to stand up for Australia on any issue?

PLIBERSEK:  Julie Bishop's not standing up for Australia. She's berating the President of the United States, a very good friend to Australia, because she's responding to his quite reasonable comment that we should protect our beautiful Barrier Reef. What an absurd situation where the Foreign Minister of our nation is insulting one of our closest friends because that friend wants to talk about climate change and the effects on our natural environment. Actually defending the pollution that will degrade the Barrier Reef, that's not standing up for Australia.

JOURNALIST: Tanya, why did Labor not stop dredging and dumping material in the marine park when it was in Government?

PLIBERSEK: We've made a commitment that if we return to Government, we will prevent dumping in the Great Barrier Reef.


PLIBERSEK: We've made that commitment already. You can talk to Mark Butler more about that if you want more details.

JOURNALIST: Canada this morning pledged $300 million to the Green climate fund. Obviously there's been similarities between their leader and Tony Abbott. Are we on our own now?

PLIBERSEK: We are completely on our own. Now, Tony Abbott is completely out on a limb. The world leaders that he is closest to, including Stephen Harper in Canada, Prime Minister Modi.  The United States, China, all of these countries are taking action both domestically and globally to reduce dangerous climate change. We're the only ones who are going backwards.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the latest drama surrounding the Palmer United Party?

PLIBERSEK: The members of the Palmer United Party are delighted to talk to the media so I'll leave it for them to explain what's going on in their political party. What I would say is that I was very pleased to see the future of Financial Advice laws that Labor had introduced in government, that we had sought to protect, actually protected in the Senate with the support of a couple of Palmer United Party Senators so it's great to see those very good Labor initiatives defended.

JOURNALIST: So, how will it affect the workings of the Senate?

PLIBERSEK: Well, most governments have had to negotiate with Senates that they didn't control and usually that gives you an opportunity to fine-tune and strengthen legislation. I hope that that's the case now. We'll see.

JOURNALIST: A former colleague of yours, Martin Ferguson, appears prepared to take a swipe at the Opposition Leader John Robertson just today about the Baird Government’s privatisation plans for electricity assets. Is it appropriate for Mr Ferguson to be doing that four months out from the State election?

PLIBERSEK: I haven't seen Martin Ferguson's comments so I won't make any comment. Thank you.


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