TOM TILLEY: Simon Birmingham is the acting Opposition spokesman on Climate Change and I spoke to him about today’s story, the mounting opposition to Labor’s carbon tax, just a moment ago. Simon, we’re seeing a growing number of voices joining the chorus of complaint about the Government’s carbon tax. Is the Opposition just another voice in that chorus or do you actually have a plan to reduce carbon emissions?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Tom, the Opposition has a genuine plan to reduce carbon emissions and it’s a plan that was released back in February of last year. So it’s stood the test of time while Labor has flip flopped around in favour of an emissions trading scheme, abandoning an ETS, abandoning Kevin Rudd, adopting Julia Gillard, ruling out a carbon tax and now wanting a carbon tax. Our Direct Action Plan has stood the test of time. We have a program and a plan that will provide incentives targeted at the 5 per cent of emissions reductions that both sides of politics are committed to rather than Labor’s approach, which is to tax effectively 100 per cent of major emissions in the hope that somehow through that taxation you will set us on the path to achieving the reduction. We think incentives are a better way to go. They’re more targeted, they’re less costly overall and in particular they don’t pass costs on to Australian households or families.
TOM TILLEY: Where will the money for those costings come from? And… sorry, where will the money for those incentives come from? And how much will that be, do you think?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The Coalition’s policy is fully costed. It’s a $10.5 billion fund over the period to 2020 to achieve the 5 per cent reduction. It’s fully costed, it’s costed through budget savings. We intend to run a leaner, more efficient government. We want to ensure that the waste we’ve seen in areas like Pink Batts and school halls doesn’t occur under a Coalition Government. We’re confident that, in the areas outlined in last year’s election, we can achieve savings that can allow us to deliver this sort of program.
TOM TILLEY: Do you have any plans to reduce our reliance on coal-fired power generation?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We certainly highlighted in the policy document that there was potential to make our electricity generation sector more efficient. So we will certainly be open to the possibility of retiring earlier than would have otherwise been the case some of our older, less efficient coal fired power station and assisting them to make a transformation to a cleaner fuel source
TOM TILLEY: Simon, would that mean losing jobs in the process? Because Paul Howes from the Australian Workers’ Union came out late last week saying he wouldn’t support the Labor plan if a single job was lost. You’re saying that the Opposition plans to look at making coal fired power generation more efficient. Would that cost a few jobs at least?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It should not cost any jobs in terms of the approach that we would be taking and we would simply be ensuring that if companies saw it to be feasible they would provide the tender to us of how much they could abate by either making a coal fired power station more efficient or by potentially shifting to a cleaner fuel source. Now, in any of those transitions what we’re looking at is a situation where the Government, through the incentives provided under the Emissions Reduction Fund of the Coalition, will simply be able to make a transition to that cleaner power generating source without an impact on prices, without an impact on jobs.
TOM TILLEY: Under a Liberal Government, would that transition to clean power not cost one single job? Can you commit to that?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We will be making sure, and this will be a key criteria in terms of the actual tendering process, that jobs and prices are not negatively impacted during the transition.
TOM TILLEY: Simon Birmingham, thanks for joining us on Hack today.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It’s been an absolute pleasure, Tom.