DI COVENY GARLAND:  On the line, Simon Birmingham, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and the Environment. Good Morning, Simon.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  Good morning, Dianne. How are you?
DI COVENY GARLAND:  Oh well, It’s Monday. Things have got to look up, haven’t they?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  I can hear you now.
DI COVENY GARLAND:  So listen, Simon, the carbon tax, how are things looking at this stage of the game?  I mean, obviously Labor is reeling because of this proposal.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  Look, indeed. Australians are realising that this carbon tax is going to impact them at every stage of their lives. When they turn on a power point, when they start the car, or when they go to the kitchen pantry or supermarket, they are going to be paying an increased price because of this carbon tax. And yet it is a tax that comes with absolutely no guarantee of reducing emissions. It is just a big tax on Australians’ cost of living, with no guarantee of return to the environment.
DI COVENY GARLAND:  Now, I understand that Julia Gillard did come out last week and said ‘look, there will be compensation’, but if you have to pay out something just in order to be compensated, is it worth paying out that money in the first instance?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  Well, this is an incredibly complex way in which to try to tackle emissions. The Coalition has a simple way and our simple way is to provide incentives to places where we know emissions can be reduced. The Government’s complex way is to put a tax on – a tax that will increase every single year, with no guarantee though that it will actually reduce emissions. And what we’re seeing today is that some 19 food and grocery manufacturers have added their names to the growing list of concerns, in writing to the Government, saying ‘we’ll be having to pay this tax and what will happen if we pay it is we’ll have to pass the cost onto consumers’. That means Australians’ food goes up and imported food starts to look cheaper and that, of course, is something that nobody wants.
DI COVENY GARLAND:  Well, that’s going to devastate the food bowl.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  This has real impacts for food producers and food manufacturers and Australians – I know and I hear it loud and clear – want to see, as much as possible, Australian produce grown for Australians by Australians and they’ll be very concerned to learn that the carbon tax will have a direct impact on food prices and push up the price of Australian food comparative to imported food.
DI COVENY GARLAND:  So what should happen now? I mean, is it too late? And I know from politicians sometimes they just stand their ground because they don’t want to back down. But is it too late for the Prime Minister to back away from this plan and say ‘I was wrong, we’re going to try a different approach’?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  This is a bad tax and it’s a bad tax that has no guarantee of benefits for the environment but absolutely guaranteed impacts on the cost of living for all Australians. The Prime Minister should be big enough to ditch her carbon tax and to acknowledge it’s the wrong way to go and adopt far more sensible polices that can achieve emissions reductions for Australians without having to pay through the hip pocket through increased food prices, fuel prices or power prices.
DI COVENY GARLAND:  So what does the future look like financially for people if this carbon tax as planned is introduced?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  We’ve seen from Treasury documents that had to be extracted from the Government under ‘Freedom of Information’ requests that the initial cost of living impact could be more than $800 a week. Sorry, more than $800 a year for Australians. That is a big price for households to have to bear and the key thing to remember is that it will go up every single year. We don’t know by how much but we do know it will go up by more than the CPI. The Government should come out this week and reveal what the starting price of this carbon tax will be and how much they propose to jack it up by every single year so that Australians can have a really informed debate about the impact of it and of course understand just how it is going to flow through to fuel, to petrol, to groceries, to goods that we all rely upon.
DI COVENY GARLAND:  Why do you think it is that Julia Gillard is forging ahead with this plan even though, first of all, it’s hugely unpopular and you just have to look at the Nielsen poll today to see that obviously something Labor is doing is not… is going against the grain of what the bulk of people would like and I understand that support for a carbon tax is at about roughly 34 per cent, but then I don’t see other countries standing up saying ‘look, we’re going to introduce a carbon tax’ so why is Julia Gillard doing this, do you think?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  Well, Dianne, other countries certainly are not doing this. If Australia goes down the path proposed by the Labor Government, we will be imposing the most comprehensive, widespread and highest carbon price on our economy of anywhere in the world. That, of course, will be a real impact on the cost of living on all Australians. Why does Julia Gillard and the Labor Party persevere with it? Well, they persevere with it because, frankly, in their DNA they’re addicted to taxes, it seems. They’re persevering with their new mining tax, they persevered with imposing a levy to pay for reconstruction in Queensland – a new tax, a Queensland flood tax – and they’re persevering with this carbon tax. We will quickly see a government dragging in many, many billions of dollars of extra income on their new taxes when in fact, of course, we’ve seen so much waste from this Government in Pink Batts and school halls and the like. We should be able to run the Australian economy, particularly the Government budget, far more shrewdly, far more efficiently and without the need for these big new taxes.
DI COVENY GARLAND:  Simon, thank you very much for your time this morning.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  Always a pleasure, Dianne.
DI COVENY GARLAND:  Thank you and good luck with the battle, I think it’s going to be a long one.