The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Acting Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
Transcript of interview with Marius Benson
Subjects: Carbon price, Holden, Qantas
Marius Benson: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.
Tanya Plibersek: Hi Marius.
Benson: There’s a fair shopping list of things to get through for Parliament in the last four scheduled sitting days. At the top of the list for the Government is the Carbon Tax, and on the Carbon Tax, the abolition there of. The Government says the people have spoken they don’t want the Carbon Tax, “get out of the way” is the remark directed to you and the Greens. And the Government says “by the way, it doesn’t work anyway, it only reduced emissions by one tenth of one per cent”.
Plibersek: Well one tenth of one per cent is 300,000 tonnes, that’s a lot of pollution taken out of the atmosphere. It is actually more than what was anticipated in its first year of operation. And at the same time as reducing pollution very substantially, we’ve seen around 150,000 new jobs created across the economy. The economy’s continued to grow despite all the claims that the then Opposition, the now Government, made about how this would bring economic destruction. We’ve seen pollution through the national electricity market decrease by seven per cent. We’ve seen renewable power up as a share of our national electricity market by around twenty five per cent. We’ve seen our power from wind triple in the time that we are talking about. More than a million households have got solar panels installed, and this has been a very successful effort to reduce pollution in our atmosphere.
Benson: Nonetheless it is going to go, the Carbon Tax, in July when the Senate numbers change, if not before, why not let it go now?
Plibersek: Well we would support getting rid of a fixed price per tonne on carbon pollution if we had something effective to replace it. What the Government is proposing is getting rid of the Carbon Tax and replacing it with what they like to call “Direct Action”. A program which no serious economist or environmentalist believes will do anything to reduce pollution being pumped into our atmosphere. So if the Government were prepared to keep a market based solution, if they were prepared to replace the fixed price per tonne on carbon pollution with something that was actually going to protect the environment in some way, reduce pollution being pumped into the atmosphere, then we’d be happy to talk. But, at the moment, that’s not the proposal.
Benson: To another issue, which is the future of Holden, or the lack of future for Holden. There are a lot of reports around saying that Detroit has already decided that Holden is going to close here, do you this it can be saved?
Plibersek: Well I think it can be and it must be. We’re talking about 200,000 jobs related to the car industry in Australia, and a million jobs across the manufacturing sector if we keep losing these big important manufacturing sector employers. The car industry in Australia does get Government support, but it does get support at a much lower rate than comparable countries. Per person the United States subsidises its car industry fourteen times per person more than we do, and even the German car industry, which most people would say is considered a very effective one, they subsidise at a rate five times per person higher than Australia does. We invest in the car industry, we get a nine times return on that investment, so for every dollar we put in we get nine dollars back. And you think about those people who are sitting at Holden today wondering whether they are going to have a job after Christmas. It is absolutely unacceptable for the Government to be sitting on its hands saying “we’ll wait for the Productivity Commission Report”. Holden is making this decision now and without some indication from the Government that they believe manufacturing, and in particular car industry manufacturing have a future in Australia, they’ll make a decision to withdraw.
Benson: To another national brand Qantas, which is in doubt at the moment, Chris Bowen at the weekend the Shadow Treasurer said it is too important to fail, is that the Labor position? Qantas is too important to fail and Government money should be put in to buy a share in it?
Plibersek: Well I think most Australians would say that we need a national airline. There’s a very strong attachment by Australian’s to the Qantas brand. Again, we’ve …
Benson: But that’s a sentimental attachment rather than a purchasing attachment, I mean only a small fraction of international travel goes to Qantas now, eighteen per cent.
Plibersek: Well I think most countries, most developed nations, have a national airline, and Qantas has always been an important employer in Australia. We’ve just lost a thousand jobs over the next twelve months, again a very significant effect on those workers and those families. I think it is important to consider how we can back Qantas but that needs to be based on a proposal that they come forward with. We are happy to examine and discuss what they would suggest. It is very important for us, as a first step however, to look at the thousand workers who have just lost their jobs or been told that they’re no longer employed; we need to make sure they get all the support they can get to find new work. We have had packages in the past where we have supported industries in transition and I think the Government should be looking at what they can do to support to get these workers back into employment as quickly as possible.
Benson: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.
Plibersek: It’s a pleasure Marius.
9 DECEMBER 2013