GRANT GOLDMAN: Climate Change Minister Greg Combet says the review from Labor climate change advisor Ross Garnaut is not the sole factor in deciding the price on carbon and its related handouts. You get the feeling that they’re not quite happy with him right now. Professor Garnaut released his final update to the 2008 Climate Change Review yesterday. Mr Combet said Professor Garnaut’s suggestion of setting funds from the carbon tax aside for innovation was important but the review’s proposed breakdown of the proceeds from the carbon tax 10 per cent for innovation, 55 per cent for households and 35 per cent for industry was Professor Garnaut’s point of view, not the Government’s is what Mr Combet said. A carbon tax of $26 a tonne would raise about $11.5 billion in 2012-13. What Professor Garnaut was referring to there is support for business in their effort to drive innovation through research and development of low emissions technologies and the like. Ah now there seems to be a lot of competing demands from all sectors of the economy for some share of the carbon price revenue and we’re taking that into account, he says. But I would not rely on Professor Garnaut’s percentages on divisions of revenue. Mr Combet said there were three key areas related to a carbon price within the Australian economy. Now, we’ve talked about this magic $80,000 a year. Australians earning less than $80,000 a year could receive two rounds of tax cuts as compensation for any price rises under the Government’s proposed carbon tax. I think it’s interesting times ahead because I think in many ways that Ross Garnaut has revealed a little more than the Government would hope that he would. We do have on the line the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, Senator Simon Birmingham. Morning, Simon.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, Grant, and good morning to your listeners.
GRANT GOLDMAN: Morning. So, has Ross Garnaut in a way given the game away, ’cause he’s admitted, even though the big polluters will be charged the carbon tax, they will pass it onto the public, and the Government would then, of course, give tax cuts to compensate low income earners, so who will it cost? The middle income earners, of course, and what’s the net cost to the big polluters? Absolutely nothing!
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well that’s right, Grant, indeed and he has made an absolute mockery of claims by Julia Gillard and Greg Combet that it will just be the 1000 big polluters as they like to say will pay this tax. Ross Garnaut’s report made it very clear, and to quote specifically from it, ‘Australian households will ultimately bear the full cost of the carbon price.’ He couldn’t be any more clear than that and of course it will be every Australian household, when they switch the power on at home and have to pay the electricity bill, fill the car up at the petrol pump or go down to the supermarket to buy the week’s essentials they’ll pay more.
GRANT GOLDMAN: What did he say last night? I don’t want my country to be known as a weak country or a pissy country for not having a go? At the end of the day this has to be a world tax if it’s going to be instituted otherwise the ones who do institute it are going to be left behind by the ones that don’t.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Grant, indeed. I think Garnaut’s words were he didn’t want us to be a country of pissants and…
GRANT GOLDMAN: Whatever that means.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: … indeed, whatever that means but I’m quite confident we’re not. We are a country that has a proud record internationally of doing our fair share and you only need to look at the sacrifice we’re making in Afghanistan at present to show that we are a country that stands up and does our fair share. We will on this issue as well. We need to do it sensibly and unfortunately what you have is Ross Garnaut and others looking very much at the theoretical economists’ world where when all of our competing economies were doing exactly the same thing in exactly the same way it would work marvellously.
GRANT GOLDMAN: But there are other countries now backing out at an alarming rate. There’s even four European countries, major ones, saying they’re not going into the next round of the deal with the Kyoto agreement and the United States of America says we’re not going to continue, either, for that matter. So, I mean, you’ve got countries backing out of the whole thing and we’re surging forward if you like ‘moving forward’ as the Prime Minster would like to say.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The Gillard Government is proposing the most economy-wide … scope of industry captured, scale of the price measure than anybody else in the world and we really do need to understand that, whilst the Government likes to prattle off lists of other countries who are doing things, they’re all doing relatively small things by comparison to what is being proposed here in terms of the industries that will be hit and areas of the economy that will be hit and the types of prices we’re talking about. It’s easy to let these figures roll of the tongue but this is an 11½ billion dollar tax in its first year of operation and then it will go up each and every year by about 7 per cent once you… if you include cost inflationary effects. It will go up at least 4 per cent in real terms.
GRANT GOLDMAN: Speaking to Tony Abbott yesterday, of course, and he did confirm that he would overturn any tax upon finding government which is well and good but some damage can be done in between.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, a lot of damage can be done, especially to Australian jobs. I mean, householders will bear the pain, of course, in paying more and that’s a real concern. You have to understand that Ross Garnaut took an absolute meat axe to the way industry will be treated in this proposal he released yesterday.
GRANT GOLDMAN: Do you agree with me that he might be a bit offside with the Gillard Government right now?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, the Gillard Government, of course, have wanted to have a debate without details since Julia Gillard made her grand announcement.
GRANT GOLDMAN: They don’t even do that in year 6 at primary school when they have a debate.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: [laughs] And Ross Garnaut has now put a lot of facts, figures and details and some truth into the debate and he’s at least honest and willing to say that households will bear the full cost of a carbon price.
GRANT GOLDMAN: Well, that should be enough to set it on its backside at the end of the day.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, I would have thought every Australian who wants to do something for the environment wants to in a sensible way that doesn’t … Australian jobs and put extra pressure on already strained household budgets should be getting onto their Labor MP today and saying there is a better way. We can focus action in areas where we can get large gains in terms of reducing carbon emissions without making everybody pay more and creating this great big ‘money go round’. We’re talking about 11½ billion dollars coming into Government coffers and then Government, through lots of bureaucrats, handing it out all over the place in subsidies, cuts and otherwise all it does is it makes the bureaucracy in Canberra just that bit more bloated.
GRANT GOLDMAN: That’s very interesting so there are Labor Members who are not very happy about the whole carbon tax but thank you for your time this morning. Thanks, Simon.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Always a pleasure.
GRANT GOLDMAN: Simon Birmingham.