KIERAN GILBERT: Welcome back to AM Agenda. With me now from Adelaide, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change [Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment], Simon Birmingham, and from our Sky News Centre I have Labor MP Ed Husic. Gentleman, good morning to you both…
ED HUSIC: G’day.
KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Birmingham…
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: G’day.
KIERAN GILBERT: … first to you. I want to go to you on the Ross Garnaut suggestion yesterday. His final update says it’s only going to be about $5 a week on electricity prices for the average family, that that will all be compensated under the Government’s scheme and prices are going to go up anyway.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, good morning, and g’day to Ed and viewers as well. Ross Garnaut’s statement confirms, of course, what the Coalition’s been saying all along, that there will be significant price rises. Ross Garnaut is talking about the starting point, the starting price, and what we will see is a continued escalation in prices from there so consumers will, under the carbon tax that Julia Gillard promised we would never have, feel an immediate price impact, an ongoing and escalating price impact and that’s just the reality of it. It’s misleading to say all households or all families will be compensated. We know that’s not the case. We heard…
KIERAN GILBERT: But can you say there’s going to be a price impact if there is that compensation that will be in place? I mean, we haven’t seen the detail yet so obviously it makes it a bit problematic but, Senator Birmingham, we do know that the Government’s not going to deliver this without some sort of compensation to ease the edges, soften the edges of it.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, I’d make a couple of points there. Firstly, the Prime Minister’s made it clear that she expects this to change behaviour. She wants this tax to change behaviours and it will only do that, of course, if there is a price impact. If there’s not, then it’s all being done at great expense and money churning machine for no particular outcome but the second point is, and we heard Greg Combet use this formula before he says 100 per cent of the income from the carbon tax will be used for compensation to households or support to industry or for new climate change measures. Well, of course what that means is that, far from what Simon Crean and other Government ministers have said previously that 100 per cent will go back to households, 50 per cent or less will go back to households because others will be diverted to the Greens’ pet projects around other climate change measures or to industry measures so we will see only a fraction go back to households yet all of the price impact will be passed through to households. There is no way households will be compensated 100 per cent for this. Households will feel a cost pressure and it’s an unnecessary cost pressure when there is a better and an alternative way.
KIERAN GILBERT: Alright, gents, we’ve got a few other issues we need to get through today so excuse me but we do need to move on. Paul Keating says that John Robertson isn’t the man for the job [of New South Wales Opposition Leader], Ed Husic. He says that he’d be a lead weight in the saddle bags of the Gillard Government. What’s your response to that?
ED HUSIC: Well, you know, what Paul Keating gave us last night was analysis that is effectively equivalent of political junk food. I mean, it’s all… you know, people grab it in handfuls and it makes the papers today and I’ve seen the front page of the [Sydney Morning] Herald but what, in substance, does it do to advance the show? I mean, I… so many elements of last night’s interview [on 7.30, ABC TV] had me steamed, particularly this comment about ‘dead candidates’. I mean, I sat with ‘dead candidates’ post ’96 and I’m dealing with candidates who are adjusting from the loss on the weekend and, you know, my issue with Mr Keating is, you know, he’s always here after the event, you know, picking holes in what’s gone on. I never see him, you know, with shoe leather on the ground like others and let me just make the point, I accept that, you know, the Party needs to deal with criticism and needs to deal with advice but, you know, if it was Mr Hawke, for example, who’s out there with candidates all the time, trying to help out giving us advice, I’d accept that but if Mr Keating wants to continue the way he does and get his jollies, you know, chortling into his Twinings in whichever Labor heartland seat he’s in these days, all well and good. I don’t think it actually helps us.
KIERAN GILBERT: But in terms of the criticisms that Robertson was part of the problem initially with the electricity privatisation, wasn’t he part of the fight that, you know, caused all the crumbling of the New South Wales Government?
ED HUSIC: Well, again, I mean, Mr Keating’s analysis is convenient. I mean, what he’s trying to do is dress up the fact, you know, by making references to, as others have, ‘the machine’ [in] inverted commas. You know, the  Labor conference, through the reforms that were undertaken by Simon Crean, had a 50-50 balance between unions and the ‘rank and file’. I was at that conference and there wasn’t necessarily uniform views within the union movement. The ‘rank and file’, you know, the general voters, the members of the Party, were opposed to the proposition and now we’re getting this argument that’s being dressed up that it was the ‘machine’ that did this when in actual fact we were being democratic and listening to what members of the ALP felt in terms of electricity privatisation.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, let’s move on, again. Simon Birmingham, is the Coalition going to support the tax cuts that would be offered for companies that flow on from the mining tax, given that the Greens and some of the crossbenchers look like they’re going to block them?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: And there I was hoping you’d ask me to defend Paul Keating, Kieran, from that outrageous attack… those outrageous attacks of Ed’s. Kieran, this is a very hypothetical question because the Government has had umpteen different incarnations of its mining tax proposal, it is yet to present legislation, we don’t know how it’s going to be structured, what we’ll see in the legislative package, so in terms of what we will or won’t do in the Parliament, we’ll make our mind up on that when we actually see the colour of the Government’s money, when we see their legislation, but what I would say is the Coalition went to the last election proposing a 1½ per cent cut to the company tax rate but we did it the responsible way. We were proposing to achieve that through tighter fiscal restraint, through budget cutbacks that would deliver greater efficiency in government, not by imposing a new tax on the economy. Labor seems to just believe new taxes are the solution to everything. Their buddies, the Greens, like that so much that they want to oppose any tax cuts that may come alongside new taxes. This is a bit of a confected dispute between Labor and the Greens and they can have their dispute. We will stand very clearly, on the Opposition side, for lower taxes, full stop, no questions asked.
KIERAN GILBERT: Yeah, okay, so that means you won’t block them, doesn’t it?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Kieran, we as I said…
KIERAN GILBERT: ’Full stop, no questions asked.’ That means that you won’t block them.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, as I said, we would have delivered a company tax cut. That’s what we would have implemented had we won the last election. We would have done it, of course, in a fiscally responsible way by reducing wasteful spending. That’s what Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan should do if they’re fair dinkum about wanting to cut the company tax rate.
KIERAN GILBERT: One last issue Ed Husic, the East Timor solution looks like it’s not getting very far with this Bali conference [Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime] that Minister Bowen and Mr Rudd are at. There’s no mention of it in the formal agenda.
ED HUSIC: Well, the big issue in terms of Bali is setting up a regional framework for an exceptionally complex and difficult issue. I mean, we’ve been saying all along there are no easy fixes but the way to get people working together is going to go offer some sort of solution to this problem and that’s what it’s all about.
KIERAN GILBERT: Well, does that satisfy you, Senator Birmingham? We’ve only got a minute left but it is obviously a complex issue that [unclear]…
ED HUSIC: I’m sure he’ll answer ‘yes’. I’m sure he’ll answer ‘yes’.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It’s easy to deal with this issue in a minute. Julia Gillard should accept that, like her broken carbon tax promise, the East Timor processing centre was never going to come to fruition. It was a thought bubble for an election campaign. It’s not working out. She should bury it quietly and get on the phone to the President of Nauru and do something that might actually happen. This is just proving to be a farce and it’s such a farce we’ve even seen the East Timorese foreign minister snub the Government by going off to Fiji rather than attending the Bali conference so that goes to show how seriously they’re taking it.
ED HUSIC: Thanks, Birmo. You just made all the milk in my flat white curdle so I appreciate your efforts this morning.
KIERAN GILBERT: Gentlemen, thank you very much.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Ed, I just hope Kieran’s going to have Paul Keating on later today to respond to your attacks on him.
ED HUSIC: So be it. Let him do what he has to do.
KIERAN GILBERT: Gentlemen, good morning. Thank you very much for that, appreciated. That’s all we’ve got time for this morning on AM Agenda.