NINA MAY: The Prime Minister has criticised Opposition tactics blaming the carbon tax for potential job losses in the aluminium sector.
LEIGH HATCHER: Alcoa has announced it’s reviewing the viability of its Victorian smelter, putting hundreds of jobs at risk. We’re live to Canberra now Sky News chief political reporter Kieran Gilbert. Morning, Kieran.
KIERAN GILBERT: Hi, Leigh. Good morning, Nina. The Alcoa chief yesterday said that this review of its Victorian smelter was due to the low metal prices, the high Australian dollar but the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, came out and said that the carbon tax is also going to make a difficult situation worse. That prompted the Prime Minister in the Parliament to accuse the Opposition of disgusting tactics and of fear mongering over the potential loss of 600 jobs at that Alcoa operations. With me now, I’ve got in the Canberra studio one of the Coalition’s climate change spokesmen, Senator Simon Birmingham. Senator, disgusting and fear mongering were the accusations from the Prime Minister about the Coalition’s tactics and what do you say to that when the Alcoa didn’t mention the carbon tax as one of the reasons for this review?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, the Prime Minister just seems to want to dodge reality and the reality is that the carbon tax makes every Australian industry and every Australian business less competitive. Alcoa and the aluminium sector is just one. They are massively emissions intensive but that also means they’re one of the few sectors that get some type of assistance. All of the others who miss out… they’re really under pressure and we’re seeing job losses after job losses, day after day under this Government.
KIERAN GILBERT: Did Mr Abbott jump the gun, though, given Alcoa said that the carbon tax was not… said it wasn’t one of the reasons for this review? It said it very, very clearly.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, it is indisputable that the carbon tax in the end will make the aluminium industry pay more in this country than they do elsewhere. That cannot help in terms of their business decisions. That’s a clear, indisputable fact.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Auditor-General, on another issue, has found that the $20 million advertising campaign around the carbon tax had breached financial regulations. It’s also found that Mr Abbott misled the public when he said that the ads were inaccurate, so neither side of politics comes out of this Auditor-General report entirely clear…
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, there were 52 claims, the Auditor-General found, that weren’t properly verified in the documentation the Climate Change department provided to them. The Auditor-General found that the Climate Change department and the Federal Government had breached their own Financial Management [and Accountability] Act, but perhaps most damning of all, the Auditor-General highlighted that the evaluation report into this Climate Change campaign found it didn’t even work, that it wasn’t actually convincing people, it wasn’t effectively delivering a message. $31.5 million, more planned to be spent… it’s time for the Government to bring an end to this wasteful spending on carbon tax advertising.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Auditor-General also had a go at Mr Abbott, though…
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I think the Auditor-General highlighted, as I say, there were 52 instances where the facts actually did not stack up. Now, the Auditor-General certainly did not have a go at Mr Abbott. The Auditor-General went through all of the fact claims that had been made by the department and found 52 occasions where the evidence provided by the department was not satisfactory to verify those claims. They then went through the claims in other ways but the reality of it is $31.5 million tipped down the drain on a campaign that the evaluation has been found not to be effective.
KIERAN GILBERT: And you say that the Auditor-General did not say Mr Abbott misled the public when he said that the carbon tax ads were inaccurate?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The Auditor-General doesn’t get into political commentary, as we know. He looks at the facts, and so he went through the facts of this campaign, looked at them, but in particular here he found or highlighted the evidence that this campaign was not even effective, didn’t get the message through, $31½ million of taxpayers’ money being wasted on political advertising effectively.
KIERAN GILBERT: Senator, thanks for your time.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: A pleasure.