Interview with Jon Vertigan, ACE Regional Radio Network Victoria
Posted on Wednesday, 4 July 2012
Subjects: Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; infrastructure; Craig Emerson.
I am joined by the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott. Good morning, Mr Abbott.
Jon, nice to be with you.
Nice to speak with you as well. You’re actually going to air right across Victoria so you’re speaking to the heart of rural Victoria today and an issue that affects us as it affects all of the country is the carbon tax. It’s been in play for four days now. You’ve been on the campaign trial. You’ve been all over the place. You have been in regional Victoria, you’ve been in Darwin and you’re flying off to Adelaide today. It’s a long journey this campaign for you, isn’t it?
Look, it is Jon, but it’s an important one because this is a bad tax based on a lie. It’s going to hurt every family's cost of living, it’s going to make every job less secure and it’s not actually going to reduce our emissions. That’s why it’s very important that I reassure the country that there is a better way and if the Coalition is elected, on day one of an incoming government the public service will be instructed to prepare the relevant legislation and on day one of a new Parliament, the carbon tax repeal legislation will be introduced.
In 18 months' time, should you win the next election, don’t you think we will be used to this tax and the systems that will be in place, just like we got used to the GST?
Well, a few differences between this and the GST. First of all, John Howard had a mandate for the GST. Julia Gillard has a mandate not to introduce the carbon tax. Second, the GST was orthodox economic policy. Australia really was one of the last countries to adopt a broad-based goods and services tax and third, look, this carbon tax is an international orphan. It’s been absolutely obvious ever since Copenhagen that the carbon tax was not the way the rest of the world was going and the carbon tax is just going to go up and up and up, unlike the GST, Jon, which has been at ten per cent for the last decade. If you look at the Government’s own figures, it’ll be $37 a tonne in 2020 and, would you believe it, $350 a tonne in 2050.
Mr Abbott, if you do gain government and you do repeal the carbon tax, how does your Coalition government reduce CO2 emissions without a tax?
Well, we want to do more of what sensible Australian businesses have been doing for years now. Australia has reduced its emissions intensity by about 50 per cent over the last two decades, not because we’ve had a carbon tax but because intelligent businesses want to get their power bills down, their fuel bills down and that’s what they’ve been doing. If you take a company like Linfox, for instance, whose trucks would be a common enough sight on Victoria’s regional roads, they’ve reduced their emissions by 35 per cent since 2007 through the simple expedient of training the drivers to go easy on the accelerator. So, there are smart ways of getting emissions down down - that's what the Coalition will fund through our direct action policy - and there are dumb ways and that’s this great big new tax which remarkably is not actually going to reduce emissions. If you look at the Government’s own figures, with the carbon tax at $37 a tonne, our emissions will be eight per cent higher, not five per cent lower, in 2020.
Some questions from regional Victorians that tune into this show each day, Mr Abbott. Firstly, Vicky would like to know if you win the election next year, will you fund an integrated cancer care and radiotherapy centre for south west Victoria? They need federal support and money.
Well, when I was the Health Minister I certainly did fund a number of these integrated cancer centres in regional areas. The Howard Government was the first Commonwealth Government to go down this path. The short answer is I’m very happy to look at it, Jon, and if you look at my record as Health Minister, I think you’d want to be pretty encouraged.
Ron asks about rural infrastructure. We’ve seen buckets poured in metropolitan roads. Why is it that the Western Highway - the main road between Adelaide and Melbourne - resembles a goat track and railways are in such a poor state? Surely money needs to be sent in these vital areas as well?
I completely agree with you, Jon, and I completely agree with your questioner. I think it’s very important that we boost our infrastructure. I think that federal and state Labor governments have left us with a serious infrastructure deficit and one of the reasons why I’m so hostile to the National Broadband Network is because it’s a $50 billion investment with borrowed money that we don’t need. What we do need is much more money being spent on our roads, our rail and our ports and that’s what will happen under the Coalition.
Mr Abbott, one of the most amazing stunts we’ve seen in Australian politics in quite some time was the other day Trade Minister Craig Emerson singing to the tune of Skyhooks' Horror Movie in response to your claims that Whyalla will be blown away by a carbon tax. If you didn’t hear it:
No Whyalla wipe-out, there on my TV. No Whyalla wipe-out, there on my TV. No Whyalla wipe-out there on my TV, shocking me right out of my brain!
Now, Tony, you helped me get to the starting line in last year’s Melbourne Marathon and I was forever thankful for that, but could you please let me return the favour to you by me shining some of my expertise upon you?
I want to pass on to you my gift that I was born with, Mr Abbott, and that is the gift of musical brilliance. I’m actually suggesting that you reply to Craig Emerson in the same way that he addressed you. I would like you to bastardise another fine Australian 1970s composition. He used Skyhooks' Horror Movie. I would like you to use Sherbet’s Howzat and you will sing it like this…
[Carbon tax song played]
Would you be up for that? I’d love to see that song performed!
Please don’t tempt me, Jon! I fear I’d then be just as puerile as the Minister! So, I’m going to pass on that one but good try, Jon. Well done.
Mr Abbott, thank you for your time.
A pleasure, Jon. Thank you.