KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s go to our panel now and joining me from Adelaide we have the Liberal frontbencher Senator Simon Birmingham and in Sydney we have the Member for Moreton, Labor MP Graham Perrett. Gentlemen, good morning to you both. Senator Birmingham, first, what’s the Coalition’s response to this? Do you welcome this suspension of all live cattle exports to Indonesia?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, good morning, Kieran, and good morning, Graham. Look, the Coalition, of course, when we were in Government did something similar in relation to sheep exports to Egypt. We suspended those sheep exports until we could get the industry and get the export industry cleaned up in that regard. We would expect that this needs to be a suspension that is as short a time as possible to make sure that we actually get safeguards in place – safeguards that ensure that all Australian animals are treated humanely and fairly and that’s of course what everyone wants to see out of this. What we’ve seen was absolutely unacceptable. We want to see the industry and the abattoirs in Indonesia cleaned up and we hope that can happen as swiftly as humanly possible.
KIERAN GILBERT: There’s a couple of other issues I want to get to so let’s try and keep it as brief as we can. On the tax on coal, Simon, the Centre for International Economics has shown – this is a report, in The Australian newspaper today, commissioned by the Coal Association – that no other major coal exporting countries either currently or has concrete plans to impose a direct or indirect constraint on emissions from coal mining. Now, this was released from the Coal Association obviously to pre-empt the Productivity Commission but the Productivity Commission report has found, as the Treasurer said yesterday, that substantial action is being taken by seven out of our top ten trading partners. Isn’t this association, and the Opposition for that matter, clutching at straws on this?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Kieran, firstly Wayne Swan needs to be held to account for what he’s doing at present. He’s drip fed one little granule out of the Productivity Commission report into the public arena today. Yesterday he drip fed a couple of little bits of the Treasury modelling. If he’s got all of this evidence, he should do what he’s promised to do and that is publicly release it so the whole lot can be analysed, not just feed little titbits out that suit his political agenda. Now, what we have today is a report – yes, openly commissioned by the coal industry, nobody’s shied away from that, that’s been disclosed from day one, but undertaken by a reputable think tank, by the Centre for International Economics, and they have shown that not one other major coal exporting country has a carbon price or a carbon tax like the one Julia Gillard is proposing imposed upon it. Not one, nada, zip, nil. You know, this is pretty comprehensive evidence to say that Australia’s coal industry – one of our major export earners, a major employer in this country – will obviously be at a competitive disadvantage if this carbon tax goes through and you’ve got evidence to show that, indeed, of the top 13 commodities that Australia exports in a minerals sense none of our four major competitors in any of those 13 commodities has a carbon tax in place. Obviously this evidence shows there’s a competitive disadvantage there for Australia and that can only be to the…
KIERAN GILBERT: But, Senator Birmingham, do you know that the… well, you know, we haven’t seen the Productivity Commission report yet but the Treasurer did say the findings yesterday show that there are substantial steps being taken, maybe not explicitly the same as a carbon tax but other measures – some of them more cumbersome than a carbon price or a mechanism – are being undertaken by the international community.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, let’s see exactly what the Productivity Commission report says. ’Substantial measures’ is a pretty sweeping term. I mean, you could argue that Australia through its Renewable Energy Target – 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020, a bipartisan commitment – is a substantial measure. It is substantial, it is major and, indeed, if you were sitting in another country doing an analysis you’d probably point to that as something that Australia was doing that had flow on cost implications and so let’s see the evidence.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, just one minute left on our discussion, gents. Just a quick one each on the Nauru option. The Opposition Leader’s going there tomorrow with his Immigration spokesman. Simon Birmingham, would the Coalition send unaccompanied minors to Nauru? Would that be on the table and can the Coalition be that critical of the Government on the Malaysia deal when Scott Morrison last year proposed a transfer agreement with Iran of all countries?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Kieran, it’s very clear, the difference between Malaysia and Nauru and that is Nauru is controlled by Australia in terms of the immigration processing centre, it was overseen and approved by the UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], Malaysia’s deal is being disputed by UNHCR, Australia won’t be able to guarantee the safety of people there. You can’t compare the handling of children in those two circumstances and the Government should really stop its embarrassing run from country to country, from East Timor to PNG [Papua New Guinea] to Malaysia. Nauru is there, it can work, it worked before, that’s where they should go.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, Graham Perrett, the Opposition Leader’s going to continue his push on this tomorrow, heading to Nauru, showing that it is a very real option that exists, the facility already in place.
GRAHAM PERRETT: Well, look, interesting, I think Simon just made a sovereign claim for Nauru and maybe Tony Abbott’s going to put an Australian flag down there…
GRAHAM PERRETT: I think it’s a waste of jet fuel, a waste of taxpayers’ dollars. You know, it’s just a stunt.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: A waste of jet fuel? As against Malaysia?
GRAHAM PERRETT: Yes. You know, a stunt. Why would the Opposition Leader have to go to Nauru for a bit of a television grab? It’s beyond me. You know, he needs to get serious and talk to… have a regional strategy that breaks… you know, I’ve just come back from Christmas Island. I think this is a much more serious thing than just a stunt from Mr Abbott.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Julia Gillard should pick the phone up…
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, Graham Perrett, Senator Simon Birmingham. Gentlemen, thank you. I’m sorry to interrupt, mate, I’ve got to go…
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: No worries, thank you guys.
KIERAN GILBERT: … we’ve got to take a break. We’ll chat to you both soon.