612 ABC Morning with Steve Austin

15 October 2014

SUBJECT/S: Jarryd Hayne; Renewable Energy Target; Vladimir Putin; G20

STEVE AUSTIN: Let’s go inside Canberra – two Federal Parliamentarians – this morning. Jim Chalmers, welcome back I think for only the second time. Jim Chalmers is the Federal Labor Member for Rankin. Is this the second time Jim?

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It is the second time. What a loss to footy the “Hayne Train” will be, I think. He’s been terrorising us Queenslanders on the field playing for New South Wales, probably been their best player the last few years, so that is a real loss to footy.

AUSTIN: You think his pay grade is going to go up, Steve Ciobo, or down?

CIOBO: Well when we saw the headline as I said Steve, there’s probably a $50 million boost in it for him. I mean, they just seem to get - I remember reading a year or so ago that the best baseball player in the US is on a wicket of a hundred or something million.

AUSTIN: Australia’s national debt, or something isn’t it?

CIOBO: It’s just unbelievable, but you know good luck to them.

AUSTIN: These guys, apparently why they like the Australian Aussie Rules players and NRL players is because they can take a hit. I know that sounds odd, but it just seems that the game here they do take more hits.

CHALMERS: Yeah, I remember in 1984, Steve, they played a State of Origin game in Los Angeles. As the crowd was filing out from the stadium, they were doing vox pops and the Americans just couldn’t believe the lack of protective gear that these guys were wearing as they bashed each other up for eighty minutes. I think it made a real impact on the Americans.

AUSTIN: Yeah, and called it fun! Alright, now let me go to a couple of things. I want to get something out of the way if I can, Steve Ciobo, with you first, and that is policy certainty for the solar industry. I spoke with one particular Queensland company at the industrial end of the solar game. Solari Energy says, he’s got $100 million of solar energy projects on hold because he can’t get policy certainty over what’s happening to the Renewable Energy Target. We spoke with, we got a message from Greg Hunt’s office and they said, look, we’re negotiating with Labor over the RET, so I’ll ask you about that at the moment. But what is the Government’s position on this, what’s happening to the Renewable Energy Target?

CIOBO: Look there’s several things flying from your question, Steve. The first is that the review that was undertaken by an independent panel, Dick Warburton, was legislatively scheduled. So in other words, it was already going to happen, it was part of the legislation, it wasn’t some sort of kneejerk reaction by the Coalition or anything like that, it was a legislative review that was timed and so the review has been undertaken. Now that panel has reported to the Government with their findings in relation to the Renewable Energy Target, both the large scheme and the small scheme and so the Government was considering our response to that.

I can tell you that the Coalition is acutely aware of sovereign risk – that certainty you speak of – because we saw the consequences of policy changes on the run under the Labor Party. We saw what they did when they scrapped the solar scheme, for example, in relation to water – just scrapped it overnight. Left a crater in its wake as they changed policy. We don’t want to do that, so we said the review would take place, the Government would respond to it with policy settings in place and people can see the review’s findings. And when we provide that response, that will then give certainty and clarity to all, which is precisely the reason why we’re negotiating with the Labor Party now, because we want to be able to announce something and people say ‘okay, that’s the ground rules going forward’.

AUSTIN: Jim, it’s not your area, but do you know where your side is with those negotiations with the LNP?

CHALMERS: Yeah, just quickly on what Steve said if that’s okay. I mean, you’ve got a lot of nerve talking about certainty. Since the Government started interfering with the Renewable Energy Target, something like $18 billion of investment is now at risk. When the Government changed a little over a year ago, Australia was in the top four as renewable energy investment destinations, and now we’re number 10. When we were number four, we were in a club with the US, China and Germany, and now we’re number ten. That gives you an indication of what interfering with the Renewable Energy Target has done to Australia as an investment destination. If you were serious about providing certainty, you wouldn’t have done what you’ve done so far.

In terms of the discussions that we’re having with the Government, we do think that the Renewable Energy Target has to go back to being a bipartisan thing. So we’ve said that we’re prepared to discuss with the Government. But we’ve also said this so-called independent review done by Dick Warburton, we’ve said that we don’t accept the findings of that review, nor should the Government. If they’re serious about making this bipartisan again, which it should be.

We’ve also said that we’re prepared to support sensible things like exempting the aluminium industry in an effort to get to that bipartisan position that we need for the Renewable Energy Target so that we get the certainty back into investment.

AUSTIN: That was quite a concession on that point, so where are things at, Steve Ciobo?

CIOBO: Steve, look I mean -

AUSTIN: There are many who would argue that the aluminium industry shouldn’t be out of it, but anyhow.

CIOBO: Look, I would like to take Jim more seriously, but I mean Jim comes in here and he says that we’ve seen this massive decrease in investment in renewable energy since the Coalition interfered – his words – interfered with the Renewable Energy Target -

AUSTIN: What word would you prefer? What word would you prefer?

CIOBO: Well, hang on. What is this interference? The interference is a legislatively required review of the sector. So apparently because we are doing what the legislation requires us to do, that’s us interfering? I mean, you know this is the problem.

CHALMERS: It’s not just me saying it though, is it?

CIOBO: This is the problem. We get base politics from blokes like you in the Labor Party who run around saying the sky’s falling in, we’re losing investment, because you interfered. Interfered, rubbish. We did what the legislation required us to do which is to undertake a review.

The second point is the review has come forward with findings. We’re trying to negotiate with the Opposition to get concrete action going forward and Jim’s turning around saying, oh well we reject the findings of the review. So I mean, if you want to talk about uncertainty -

CHALMERS: The review said to abolish the Renewable Energy Target

CIOBO: How much more uncertainty could you get than to undertake a review and then have the Opposition saying, oh well, we reject the findings of the review.

AUSTIN: So where are we at? Where are solar businesses at?

CIOBO: I’ll tell you where we’re at.

AUSTIN: They’re waiting to hear.

CIOBO: And what we want to do is to get the Opposition to pull up their socks, to be responsible, to say that we as a Government have commissioned this independent review, they’ve come back with findings, this is what we propose going forward. We’re not dictating terms, we’re wanting to have a discussion – a mature, rational conversation with the Opposition – so we can get a concrete bipartisan pathway going forward instead of the kind of political games that Jim has just demonstrated.

CHALMERS: Well Jim Chalmers just pointed out that the Labor Party conceded on the area of aluminium smelters, so where is it at? Is your side accepting that, saying okay you’ve conceded something, we’ll concede something.

CIOBO: Sure, that’s a valid question Steven and I’m not in a position to answer that because I’m not Greg Hunt who is the Minister, but I’d be very happy to come back to you on that detail.

AUSTIN: I’d love to know because I get a lot of calls from people in the solar business in this state, who are going what the heck is going on, they’re just waiting to hear.

CIOBO: Well we want to provide certainty, we just need the Opposition to help.

CHALMERS: I just want to say something about the solar industry more broadly, not a political point, but just more broadly. It’s not that well-understood that the growth in solar technology is happening predominantly in areas like mine, areas that are traditionally low SES areas. I’ll give you a couple of quick facts. Forty-two percent of the people in my electorate, just in the southern suburbs of Brisbane and northern suburbs of Logan, forty-two percent have solar technology installed. The Queensland average is thirty-two percent, the national average is twenty-two percent, that gives you a sense -

AUSTIN: So you’re not the champagne and latte set that Tim Nicholls said a few months back.

CHALMERS: No, and that’s the point I’m trying to make Steve, it’s that this is really for people who are living fortnight to fortnight. Solar energy and renewable energy is really the way forward. They understand something that I think the Government does not which is that this is the way in the medium- and long-term to actually get your power bills down – to invest at home in renewable energy, just like we should be investing nationally in renewable energy.

AUSTIN: This is 612 ABC Brisbane. Jim Chalmers is the Federal Labor Member for Rankin, Steve Ciobo is the Federal Liberal Member for Moncrieff and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer – Joe Hockey. Quarter to ten. Steve Ciobo, can you assist me understand what the Prime Minister is doing or what he means when he says that he will shirtfront the Russian President Vladimir Putin. What does he mean?

CIOBO: Well what he means Steve is that he’s going to have a very robust conversation with the Russian President. The anger that is across the Australian community after Russian-backed rebels used Russian technology, i.e. missiles, to shoot down a civilian passenger plane filled with innocents has caused international affront. Australians are understandably very angry about this. Our concern is that it appears that Russia is doing frankly somewhere next to nothing in relation to assisting with the investigation of the downing of that aircraft, helping to put forward the rebels that were associated with murdering those innocent people. And so, I think understandably that the Prime Minister’s making it clear that he intends to have a very robust conversation with Vladimir Putin to do two things. The first is to underscore national anger and national hurt. And the second is to elicit, we hope a response from Vladimir Putin that Russia will actually be much more engaged in two things – one assisting with the investigation, and two bringing those responsible forward for justice.

AUSTIN: So the Government believes that it’s not getting any help on the ground in what’s, as I understand it, Ukrainian territory, in investigating the forensic process of the downing of MH17?

CIOBO: Well the Ukrainians are assisting. The problem is that the territory -

AUSTIN: And it’s their territory. What can Vladimir Putin do in their territory?

CIOBO: Well the problem is that the area that’s effectively ground zero for the downing of this aircraft is controlled by Russian-backed rebels. So, yes if you look at a map, it’s on the Ukrainian side of the border. But the actual territory itself is controlled by Russian-backed rebels.

AUSTIN: Was he impolite or intemperate in the language he used? You’ve heard I’m sure today the sort-of commentary in Russian media. Now no one would call the Russian media the paragon of impartiality and objectivity, yet nevertheless, the more Vladimir Putin gets attacked, the more his popularity ratings go up at home. In fact, he’s got popularity ratings that any of us would kill for – 82 per cent or something – and it’s real, he’s incredibly popular in Russia. Was the Prime Minister in politic impolite or intemperate in his remarks?

CIOBO: Steve, part of me remembers Saddam Hussein running around saying that he was popular with 95 per cent or 99 per cent of his electorate too. Who knows! But the point is this

AUSTIN: No one really disputes this. One of the odd features of Vladimir Putin is that he is popular at home

CIOBO: I don’t think it’s actually about domestic Russian politics. I think as Prime Minister of our country, as the man who has spoken to effected families who have lost loved ones. At the end of the day, Tony Abbott is an average Australian in the sense that he’s got a family, he’s from Sydney, he understands the pain that was inflicted on Australian families with the downing of this aircraft. I don’t believe it is intemperate for him to use a term of phrase – shirtfronting – basically just underscoring that he intends to have a very robust conversation with the Russian president.

AUSTIN: The Russians are trying to understand what shirtfronting means, can you give us your definition or Tony Abbott’s definition of shirtfronting?

CIOBO: Well I think the definition in the context that the Prime Minister used it, which is perhaps the only meaningful one, was as I said to have a robust conversation – robust, obviously he’s not going to use the AFL term and front-chest the guy – it means a robust conversation with Vladimir Putin.

AUSTIN: Is he going to shake his hand when he arrives here in Brisbane, hops off the plane, Australia’s Prime Minister – I assume the protocol says he has to be there and greet the various world leaders. Is he going to shake his hand when he gets off the aircraft?

CIOBO: Look, I can’t answer that. I don’t know that Steve I haven’t discussed that with him. And there will be a number of state leaders that will be arriving who won’t be met by the Prime Minister. The official meet and greet so to speak will take place at the Convention Centre around the G20 not at the airport. So I can’t answer that question in terms of the Prime Minister’s intentions.

AUSTIN: Jim Chalmers, how does the Labor Party interpret the Prime Minister’s words? Is the Labor Party concerned about the language that the Prime Minister has used about Vladimir Putin?

CHALMERS: Well I think first of all Steve we can sign up to how Steve Ciobo began his answer in that a lot of Australians would shudder at the thought of having this guy on Australian soil. It is something that concerns people and you know, his behaviour around the downing of MH17 was nothing short of disgraceful. We can agree on that.

But I do think that Australians do expect a slightly higher standard from their national leader, from their Prime Minister, than this kind of sandpit diplomacy. It hasn’t been a particularly edifying couple of days in the national conversation about a pretty important issue which is getting answers and getting justice for the families of the victims of MH17.

AUSTIN: What language would the ALP have used? What would be a better form of language if we don’t like the term shirtfronting? How do you say to a very popular, but not terribly democratic leader like Vladimir Putin – mate, we think that what you’ve done is a breach of international law, a breach of human rights and you are directly connected to the supplying of weapons to the rebels that shot down a civilian aircraft?

CHALMERS: Yeah, look the sentiment is not that far off. But I think that Australians would expect from their national leader a slightly more edifying conversation for this reason. The most important things is that we get answers for families of victims and it’s also important that we have a successful G20 conference and that means not using language that dominates the national conversation for three days and distracts us from those two important tasks.

AUSTIN: Steve Ciobo, are the Australian Federal Police still over there, do you know?

CIOBO: Last I had -

AUSTIN: Sorry, that’s a question without notice, I know.

CIOBO: Sure, so last I was aware they are. They’re obviously working out of the Netherlands which is really the centre of the investigation that’s taking place and the identification of bodies which is still ongoing. So this has been a prolonged investigation and as I said it’s in part drawn out because of the fact that it is rebel-controlled territory. We had unarmed police as you know Steve, that were actually venturing forward to the crash site. I don’t want to use crash site – the site where the aircraft had been shot down. So there is still a very strong Australian presence on the ground and Australia is up there if not leading, certainly alongside Dutch authorities, in terms of the investigation.

AUSTIN: It’s eight minutes to 10. This is 612 ABC Brisbane. Two federal parliamentarians taking time out of their busy lives to work through some of the issues that are around in terms of Federal politics. Steve Ciobo is the Federal Liberal Member for Moncrieff based on the Gold Coast and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer. Jim Chalmers filling in for Bernie Ripoll. Jim is the Federal Labor Member for Rankin based on the eastern side of Brisbane.

CHALMERS: Southern side, and Logan City – proudly!

AUSTIN: Sorry, Southern side, my apologies. Steve Ciobo, what does Australia in our national interest want out of the G20? It’s only four weeks away now. What do we want? What’s in Australia’s national interest from this global event being held in this town?

CIOBO: So Steve, in terms of the G20, I think a couple of things. All the focus tends usually to be on the leaders’ summit which is as you said happening just across the road from here in about four weeks’ time. But the fact is that the G20 process itself is actually a yearlong event and the bulk of it is in relation to Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors who undertake decisions around economic policy settings and discussion on things like tax evasion and profit-shifting, those types of events, to look at what we can do to generate more harmony across the world from a global economic perspective.

Now Joe Hockey has done an outstanding job this year as the year of the presidency for Australia in terms of driving an agenda. Now the single biggest outcome in my view is the agreement that was reached back in February for the G20 nation states to sign up to an additional 2 per cent growth over the next five years – 2 per cent global growth. So what does that mean Steve? If we achieve that outcome, that’s an additional $2 trillion of global growth and it is literally tens of millions of additional jobs globally.

Now of course that additional growth is going to lead and feed straight back into Australia with more jobs locally, more investment locally and the important point is this. There were nearly 900 propositions put forward by G20 member states as part of that process. And the IMF modelling shows that we’re already at 1.8 per cent additional growth. So to answer your question, we are talking about trillions of additional dollars of global growth, tens of millions of extra jobs and this is fantastic news for Australia.

AUSTIN: So, growth which is on track with an outcome of more jobs at the end of the process?

CIOBO: To boost growth by an additional 2 per cent, and as I said with $2 trillion of additional global growth and tens of millions of jobs.

AUSTIN: Jim Chalmers, what does the Labor Party think we should get out of the G20 event?

CHALMERS: Well, Australia is very heavily invested in the G20. Not just this year of our presidency, but has been for some time. The G20 was crucial to coordinated global efforts to see off the global financial crisis and it’s important now as we’re going forward for some of the reasons that Steve mentioned before. From Labor’s perspective, we think there are some really important issues on the agenda for this conference in Brisbane – proudly in Brisbane. Issues like infrastructure, issues like tax evasion, profit-shifting, those sorts of things are very important. But there are also some very important issues missing from the agenda.

AUSTIN: Which are?

CHALMERS: Two of those which I think are very important is this notion of inclusive growth. So not just growth, but growth that is inclusive so that we don’t have even faster widening of inequality in the big countries of the world. And the second one is climate change. Climate change is a glaring omission from this agenda. It really should be discussed. The world wants to discuss climate change in advance of the Paris Conference in the middle of next year.

AUSTIN: I read that Barack Obama is trying to force it on to the agenda, is that right?

CHALMERS: And so he should.

CIOBO: No, I mean Steve, all the countries got together. There’s a million things you could put down -

AUSTIN: So that’s just spin and messaging from The White House? Is it on the agenda or not?

CIOBO: No, it’s not.

AUSTIN: And Barack Obama doesn’t want it on there?

CIOBO: But that doesn’t mean that it’s not. The United States has not put it forward as an agenda item for this year.

AUSTIN: Right, sorry.

CIOBO: My point is that there’s a million worthy things, but you can’t do everything. So you’re better to focus on several achievable outcomes, which is exactly what we’ve done.

AUSTIN: Okay, my apologies. I’ll let you finish Jim Chalmers. Sorry about that.

CHALMERS: No, I think it’s important that climate change be on the agenda and inclusive growth as well. We’re not talking about adding a million things of course, as Steve was trying to claim.

AUSTIN: But if Barack Obama’s saying it overseas, but he didn’t actually put forward it on the agenda, he’s being a bit duplicitous isn’t he?

CHALMERS: The Americans definitely want it.

AUSTIN: If he didn’t put it forward for the agenda, then how can he say he wants it on the agenda?

CHALMERS: There are a lot of diplomatic niceties involved in the shaping of an agenda for a G20 meeting.

AUSTIN: So Barack Obama doesn’t shirtfront?

CHALMERS: That’s right, he doesn’t shirtfront, no. The global community wants to discuss climate change. It was discussed at a lot of the G20 meetings that I’ve been to in previous roles and it is something that the world needs to deal with. It is embarrassing that we are the only country to go backwards on emissions trading. It’s particularly embarrassing in our presidency that we won’t have it discussed here in Brisbane.

AUSTIN: Gentlemen, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much for coming in.

CHALMERS: Thanks Steve.