KIERAN GILBERT: And with me on First Edition this morning, the Manager of Opposition Business, Tony Burke. Mr Burke, thanks for your time.


GILBERT: We look back at the week and it was a remarkable duo, Palmer and Gore. Did you ever think you’d see that?

BURKE: Well I think we started the week with the Prime Minister wanting to talk about anything but the Budget and last night he got that. Regardless of the detail of anything that was announced last night, the one thing that Tony Abbott will be very happy about at the moment, is right at the moment people aren’t talking about his Budget.

GILBERT: And well they’ll be happy as well that they’ll get to repeal the Carbon Tax because despite all of the fanfare and having the environmental crusader next to him, Al Gore, Clive Palmer said he’s going to support the repeal of the Carbon Tax, that’s the bottom line, so that’s a win for Mr Abbott.

BURKE: Oh in terms of, and we’ve always said when the new Senate came in, that sort of outcome was what we expected would happen. From Labor’s perspective the bills will be before the Parliament again today and we’ll do what we did last time, which was to move to abolish it as a tax and implement an emissions trading scheme in its place. We did that last time it went to the Senate, it’ll be before the Reps today, we’ll vote the same way when it goes to the Senate again.

GILBERT: So does that mean that Labor would be open to this idea of a doormat emissions trading scheme as put forward by Mr Palmer?

BURKE: I don’t think anyone quite understands what that part of the proposal means. Let’s - for example, how do you actually have a limit and a trading system with a zero value? I don’t think anyone quite understands what that in fact means, so let’s see what it means. But our position hasn’t changed. You can only abolish it as a tax if you put something credible in its place and what we’ve always supported is you have a limit on the amount of pollution and then you have a market mechanism underneath that. You allow the trading to happen and the price signal to happen under that, but your first point is that you have a limit on pollution and since 2012 that’s worked. You know, you look at your electricity emissions going down against business as usual in the order of 7 per cent, at the exact same time that you’ve got economic growth running at the moment at 3.5. You know this is something where what we’ve put in place has been reducing emissions and has been, you’ve seen an economy growing, that’s why we support it. If you’re going to get rid of it as a tax the question is what do you put in its place?

GILBERT: Well at the moment there is going to be nothing in its place really because you’ve Clive Palmer saying he’s going to line up with the Greens and Labor in blocking the Direct Action Plan so the Government isn’t able to put in its carbon abatement plan in place. Yet the Carbon Tax is going to be repealed, so it, you know, for all intents and purposes, Australia has no Carbon abatement plan beyond the repeal. 

BURKE: There’s a presumption here that everything that was announced last night is what will now happen. I don’t know whether Tony Abbott wants to do a deal with Clive Palmer or not and change his position on a range of issues, I don’t know. But we’ll be voting in the Parliament today and in the Senate the same way as we have and our position hasn’t changed.

GILBERT: There was some good news I guess for the Labor approach with the Clean Investment Scheme and also the Renewable Energy Target guaranteed at least for the foreseeable future because Clive Palmer says he’s not going to support the their repeal or the abolishment of the Climate Change Authority.

BURKE: I think the starting point problem that Tony Abbott has in this entire debate is if your starting point is you have the view of the science that he has, then everything else unfolds as a series of bad policy decisions when you don’t accept what the science is telling you. You know examples like that where they’ve ended up in a world where they haven’t wanted to support renewables, if we end up with continuing to support renewables that’s a good thing. But on each issue the frame and what’s really important for us here, is the frame of what Labor believes and what Labor stands for doesn’t shift and if Tony Abbott goes off and does a deal to lock in things that are the opposite of what he’s been saying for four years, that’s a matter for him.

GILBERT: But you know Labor’s position has shifted in recent times from a Carbon Tax to, you know saying you’re going to terminate the Carbon Tax. I guess the question to Labor is with this proposal from Palmer for an emissions trading scheme that would kick in when the rest of the world does, could this be the perfect plan for Labor to take to the next election? You’ve still got a commitment to an Emissions Trading Scheme but without all the hip pocket pain for people without any other international action being taken.  

BURKE: Yeah well, as I say how you have a zero rated carbon trading scheme is something that I can’t understand how that can happen, it’s for Clive Palmer to explain the detail, it’s for Tony Abbott to determine if he wants to shift position. From our perspective we’ll be voting the same way that we have in the past, to get rid of it as a tax, to shift to it as an Emissions Trading Scheme and then let’s not forget there’s going to be a whole lot of other Budget bills and budget pain that have a much bigger impact on cost of living than anything that was being spoken about last night. I mean Tony Abbott’s wanted to use this $550 figure again and again with respect to impact of the Carbon Price, at the same time that you’ve got families losing $6000 in the budget. So, let’s not, because this is a debate that’s been going on for a lot of years, in the cost of living part of it, not pretend that there are issues at stake right now that are nearly 12 times higher.

GILBERT: Is that what, how Labor sees this Budget, you know, debate being framed now, alongside the Carbon Tax as a cost of living debate? You will say that the Carbon Tax cost of living impact is dwarfed essentially as you’re arguing now by the Budget?

BURKE: Well we’ve had Tony Abbott effectively argue in the Parliament this week that $550 is a bigger figure than $6000, it’s ridiculous. The cost of living impact we’ve been talking about all week in the Parliament, we’ve been talking about the $6000 impact on a family, we’ve been talking about the $4000 impact on a pensioner, we’ve been talking about self-funded retirees losing their senior supplement payments. Issue after issue where, and for that the supplement is in the order of $800. Now these are payments, all of which are bigger than what the Prime Minister’s wanting to claim as the biggest cost of living issue. He’s wrong, and it’s one thing to spend years talking about the cost of living, it’s another thing all together, first chance you got, to give the Australian people and Australian families a whack on cost of living that just eclipses every media conference he gave for the last three years.

GILBERT: Given the way Mr Palmer has responded in relation to this issue it appears his commitments on other fronts could be unpredictable, will be unpredictable, as well I guess therefore the Budget measures and some of the more controversial ones that Labor opposes, still have a chance of getting through with Mr Palmer’s support?

BURKE:  Well there’s a Budget change that we debated yesterday that’s up before the Senate today for example, as to whether there are pay cuts for cleaners employed by the Commonwealth when the next round of tenders come through. Now on Monday the Prime Minister gave us a guarantee there’d be no cuts for cleaners, on Tuesday they introduced legislation that would cut wages for cleaners, yesterday we moved amendments to carve that out, the Government voted against them, we’ll move those amendments again in the Senate today. There a people being hurt in every bill that we’re dealing with at the moment in this Budget, and it all hits take home pay for cleaners for example, it hits cost of living for families, for pensioners, for seniors and while the climate change debate is making sure that we do the right thing by the next generation, Tony Abbott has wanted to frame it purely as a cost of living issue and the lie that’s being shown this week is for each group you look at the biggest cost of living challenge that people face right now is Tony Abbott’s Budget.    

GILBERT: But when you’ve got $25 billion in a possible revenue hole from this Budget how much is that going to hurt Labor’s economic credibility? 

BURKE: Well hang on, this is a Government that as soon as they got into office doubled the deficit, added in the order of $68 billion to Australia’s deficit in the first few months that they came in. To then talk about something being a hole when it’s a fraction of what they added to the deficit the moment they got in, just beggars belief as an argument, it’s got no credibility at all.

GILBERT: Tony Burke thanks for your time.

BURKE: See you again.   



Tony Burke