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SUNDAY, 15 JUNE 2014
SUBJECT/S: Climate Change; Prime Ministers overseas trip.
PETER VAN ONSELEN Mark Butler is the Shadow Climate Change spokesperson,
thanks very much for your company.
AND WATER Morning Peter.
VAN ONSELEN Is it your view that the Prime Minister is in his discussions abroad,
with some of the way that some of the debates around climate change were being
discussed, that he has deprioritised it
BUTLER !ell, it was never a priority for "ony #bbott. I think that$s been clear for
many years now. I think what the Prime Minister received overseas was a reality
check. "he degree to which the rest of the world % maybe with the e&ception of
Stephen 'arper % but the rest of the world is moving forward, looking to the Paris
negotiations ne&t year for a very ambitious agreement( moving forward while "ony
#bbott is trying to take #ustralia backwards. I think it was a reality check for the
Prime Minister and I hope he$s reflecting on that.
VAN ONSELEN Should he focus more on climate change, in your opinion
BUTLER I think he should, it$s a very, very significant challenge, economically,
environmentally, socially, for #ustralia, as is it for the rest of the world. But #ustralia
is a very vulnerable place to climate change. !e$ve seen that over recent years with
an increase in the number of e&treme weather events and it$s e&actly what scientists
have been advising us for many years would happen. It$s happening over in the )S
as well. It$s happening in China. "hat$s why China has acted so dramatically over the
last *+ months because they are living with the impact of a carbon heavy economy.
VAN ONSELEN Is the ,abor Party in -pposition now trying to prioritise climate
change in a way that it perhaps in .overnment you didn$t. Because last September,
on the #BC, you said, /If you look at any of the research, the 0uestion of the carbon
ta&, or carbon pricing, or emissions trading ranks very low on the issues that people
are talking about.1 "hat was an admission barely eight months ago that climate
change is nowhere in the political agenda, yet now it seems like it may be
BUTLER !ell, people are very focused on day to day issues of running their
household budgets, making sure their children get an e&cellent education, making
sure there$s a good 0uality health care system available to them. But what the
research has shown is a couple things. 2irstly, that climate change is increasing in
terms of people$s importance. !e saw that with the recent ,owy Institute report and
research( and also that, even in spite of the very to&ic debate around carbon pricing
in the last few years, the CSI3- report that$s done regularly into climate change
attitudes shows that the #ustralian people remain very concerned about the threat of
climate change. So, this is a policy issue that$s not going away % the Prime Minister
might wish that it goes away % but, it$s not going away and it demands the attention
of any party that wants to govern #ustralia.
GERARD HENDERSON Mr Butler, you mentioned Stephen 'arper and Canada.
But, in a sense it$s no accident is it that Stephen 'arper and "ony #bbott are in line
on this issue, because both nations, both #ustralia and Canada have very similar
economic interests as e&porters of minerals So in a sense "ony #bbott seems to be
following what he perceives to be the national interest of #ustralia as Mr 'arper is
following what he perceives the national interest of Canada.
BUTLER !ell that might be the case, the similarities of the economies might be the
case, but there are provincial level arrangements in Canada around carbon pricing
including one province that has a carbon ta&. #nd even if that is the case looking
backwards, looking forwards it is 0uite clear4 if you look at the way in which China is
dealing with traditional energy sources, #merica$s gas revolution, and only in the last
couple of weeks South 5orea % our third largest e&port market for thermal coal %
introducing a 6789tonne ta& on thermal coal imports 4 things are going to change and
it$s important that #ustralia % and Canada for that matter, but that$s a matter for them
% it$s important that #ustralia be well positioned to ensure that we$re a leader in
future markets which will include a whole range of clean energy markets like wind
and solar which up until the election of the #bbott .overnment we were seen as a
world leader in.
HENDERSON :o you really believe that President -bama will get his energy
policies through in the )nited States and that China will do what it says it will do
BUTLER !ell, look, I$m not well positioned to say what the likelihood of a
successful court challenge to President -bama$s ;P# initiative is. I mean this is a %
as you would know .erard % this is a body that has had clean air powers now since
President <i&on was around, so that$s really a matter for them. But one can$t doubt
the will of President -bama. It$s very clear that he intends over the ne&t couple of
years, particularly leading into Paris, to make sure that #merica does important work
domestically but is also a leader in international negotiations and I$m very confident
that China is in the same position. China is very, very concerned about its air 0uality,
particularly in the north. -ver the last *+ months they have made very significant
initiatives in the area of carbon trading for e&ample but also starting to look to
alternative energy sources. "hey, only a couple of months ago, signed a statement
with the )S % ,i 5e0iang and )S Secretary of State =ohn 5erry % that recognised in
their words >the urgent need for action on climate change$ and their ?oint commitment
to making sure that Paris was ambitious agreement ne&t year. <ow this is language
you ?ust never hear from our Prime Minister.
TROY BRAMSTON Mark Butler, to talking about the Prime Minister for a second,
do you accept that the government$s proposed increase to petrol e&cise could
actually act as a price mechanism and help to reduce carbon emissions in the long
BUTLER !ell, I think an increase in petrol ta& has to be very severe, very dramatic
to start to impact on behaviour. #t the end of the day, people have to drop their kids
at school, people have to take their kids to footy, people have to get to work and
public transport in #ustralia is still limited in many communities. So, this is a price
mechanism, what "ony #bbott admitted in #merica is effectively a carbon ta& 4 but
one I don$t think is very effective, which is why I don$t support it 4 but one which is
also incredibly regressive 4people on lower incomes, living in rural and regional
#ustralia, living in our outer suburbs end up paying more than people who happen to
live in inner cities. #nd that$s why we don$t support the .overnment$s increase in
petrol ta&es. It$s not an effective way to deal with a very serious problem.
BRAMSTON I mean, Mark Butler, isn$t that the e&act point of any price mechanism
to deal with climate change, in that it$s got to have an impact broadly across the
community and it$s got to change consumer behaviours. So, if it works, as you ?ust
said, and will stop family driving their car as regularly as they perhaps do now. "hat
itself will change consumer behaviour and have an impact on climate change. Isn$t
that the e&act purpose of government trying to deal with global climate change
BUTLER "hat$s one way and that might be "ony #bbott$s preference. !e made it
very clear in the election and we$ve been arguing in the Parliament since that we
think the most effective way to deal with carbon pollution % to bring it down % is to put
in place a legal cap and then let business work out the best way to operate rather
than imposing carbon ta& style arrangements in the motor vehicle sector, for
e&ample, that ?ust seek to impose pain on ordinary #ustralian households. !e$ve
made that position very clear, since the lead in to the election.
VAN ONSELEN But not much pain Mr Butler, because as you were saying before
it$s a pretty nominal impact. Surely, it$s either a limited impact that doesn$t really
cause much pain or it causes pain and therefore acts as a price mechanism.
BUTLER !ell it will build over time. 3ather than that sort of price signal which
seeks simply to impose pain % which is "ony #bbott$s avenue % we$ve said what we
want to do is put a cap on carbon pollution. "he sort of arrangement that is beginning
in China, that will begin in South 5orea in the ne&t si& months, that operates in many,
many markets in the <orth 'emisphere. "hat$s the sort of arrangement we$re
arguing for in Parliament. It ensures that business works out the best way to operate
within an ambition % within a pathway 4 of reducing #ustralia$s carbon pollution,
rather than slugging #ustralian motorists.
VAN ONSELEN I want to ask you about ,abor$s position in the wake of the new
Senate which is likely, it would appear from some of the comments coming from
Clive Palmer and his team, that the carbon ta& will be repealed and will be removed,
despite ,abor$s opposition to that. !here do you go, as an -pposition, after that
!ith that reality likely, do you plan to campaign at the ne&t election for the
introduction of an emissions trading scheme, which is what you$re arguing for now as
your reason obviously for blocking the repeal of the carbon ta&.
BUTLER !ell let me ?ust correct one point first Peter. !e do support the abolition of
the carbon ta&. !e voted to abolish the carbon ta& in the Senate and replace it with
an emissions trading scheme % a cap and trade scheme % and we were
unsuccessful in the Senate because the .overnment voted with the .reens to
defeat our amendment. So, we$re not voting to support the carbon ta&. !e$re voting
to try and bring in an ;"S. But if you$re right and if the reports are correct that Clive
Palmer and his party are going to support the abolition of everything, the
replacement of everything % every model possible, either a carbon ta& or an
emissions trading scheme model, replaced simply by :irect #ction, which is a
dressed up slush fund 4nothing really more than that 4 and an increased petrol ta&,
then we$ll obviously as an -pposition have to take stock and over the ne&t year or
two build an alternative policy arrangement to take to the #ustralian people.
VAN ONSELEN So, it wouldn$t necessarily be an emissions trading scheme I
mean, I sort of in a sense there gave you a chance to clarify that for us. But, is
,abor$s position that you are, as you say, going to take stock and perhaps come up
with some sort of alternative that$s a little bit different to an ;"S
BUTLER !ell, I$m not going to indicate one way or the other what we$re going to do
because we will do that in a deliberative way. !e will talk to the community, we will
talk to stakeholders, to business, to environmental organisations, to the renewable
energy sector, we$ll also have a look at what the conte&t is, what the international
background is, depending on how negotiations proceed in the lead in to Paris. But
that will be a deliberative policy process, as all of our policies will be reviewed in the
lead in to the 78*@ election and also into our national conference in the middle part
of 78*A.
VAN ONSELEN But what sort of other options are on the table -ther than an ;"S,
a return to a carbon ta&, or indeed a version of :irect #ction, beyond "ony #bbott$s
version. #re there any other options that are in the mi& that I$m not aware of
BUTLER !e$ll look at all policy options. !e want to have a really broad ranging
free discussion with stakeholders and with the community. !hat people can be
assured of is that the ,abor Party is committed to taking action on climate change %
strong and sensible action on climate change % but we want to look at a range of
different options. !e$re very interested in what other countries are doing to deal with
this. <ow, an emissions trading scheme is a very popular approach by other
countries, including countries in our region, but it$s not the only one. So we want to
have a very broad ranging discussion and not lock ourselves into what might have
been policies in the past for the future.
BRAMSTON Mark Butler, you ?ust mentioned the popularity of emissions trading
schemes, but as Climate Change Minister in the previous government, you would be
well aware of the ,abor polling that showed the carbon ta& and ,abor$s policies on
climate change were a vote loser for the government. It was one of the key reasons
why ,abor lost the last election, that$s the verdict of the Party$s pollster. Could you
ever see yourself walking away from an emissions trading scheme. It$s still part of
the ,abor platform, and I suspect at the Party$s conference ne&t year there will be
resistance to any attempt to water down that platform. So, if you accept that, are you
effectively saying that emissions trading scheme will remain part of ,abor$s platform
in the lead up to the ne&t election
BUTLER <o, I$m not. I$m not "roy. Can I also ?ust say that there$s been research
published on a number of occasions since the election that puts an emissions trading
scheme at the top of the list of #ustralian$s choices for actions on climate change,
well ahead of :irect #ction and as you say well ahead of the carbon ta&. So, an
emissions trading scheme does have resonance out in the #ustralian community. It$s
the position we took to the election and that$s why we$re continuing to argue it in the
Senate and more broadly in the Parliament and in the community. But look, there will
be discussion in the lead in to the national conference, I know that there$s a strong
view within the party that ,abor should always be committed to taking strong action,
sensible action, on climate change, but 0uite what the detailed policy is that we end
up taking to the 78*@ election, I don$t want to pre4empt that. I want to make sure that
there$s a good broad ranging discussion within the Party but also in the broader
community about that.
HENDERSON But Mr Butler, I thought there$d been a broad ranging discussion
within the party for the last *8 years, and certainly for the last seven years, but now
you$re talking about going out and having yet more discussions with various groups
and individuals and members of the party, but I thought you$d done that over many
years both under 5evin 3udd and =ulia .illard and then again under 5evin 3udd.
BUTLER I think you$d agree .erard it would be unusual if a party that has lost
government simply dusted off its 78*B election platform across a whole range of
policy areas and took it to 78*@ without having reviewed it, without having talked to
the community about what it liked about those policies and what it didn$t like about
those policies. "his is also a very fast changing area of policy, particularly during this
term of the Parliament. #s I$ve said before there are going to be very significant
developments internationally, one way or the other, I think they$ll be positive, I think
they$ll be ambitious, but one way or the other the international background to this
policy in this area will be very different in 78*@ to the position that we faced in the
last Parliament. I think it would be utterly negligent of us not to engage in a very
broad ranging discussion with the community about this.
HENDERSON But this is what 5evin 3udd said about the Copenhagen conference,
he was highly optimistic, but it came to naught. !hat makes you think that Paris will
be more successful than Copenhagen
BUTLER !hat makes me think that is a very clear commitment made by the )S
and China. I think what Copenhagen taught us was two things. -ne, you need to do
a lot of preparation for this, you can$t ?ust fly into a city and assume that a very
substantial agreement can be locked down in a matter of days. But it also taught us
that in the modern world, in the 7*
century, if the )S and China aren$t on board,
aren$t leading and driving momentum towards an international agreement then
nothing will happen, and what we have seen over recent months, including that ?oint
statement I talked about, is a very clear commitment by the two biggest economies,
the two ma?or powers, the two biggest polluters of carbon dio&ide, we$ve seen a very
clear commitment from them to drive a strong agreement. <ow, whether that
happens remains to be seen, but I think that the position that we have now is very
different from the position we had in the lead in to Copenhagen in 788C.
BRAMSTON Mark Butler, given that the Prime Minister is almost about to make his
return trip to #ustralia, and he has been meeting with heads of government in #sia
and in <orth #merica, do you believe that he is a /<igel no friends1
BUTLER ,ook, everyone has friends, and I think it will be for others to provide
commentary on the success or otherwise of "ony #bbott$s trip. I think certainly in my
portfolio area I hope it was a significant wake4up call to "ony #bbott about the sense
of resolve there is internationally, not everywhere %
BRAMSTON But, Mr Butler, if I can stop you there for a second, you say it$s up to
others to make commentary about the Prime Minister$s trip. Dou had ,abor$s foreign
spokesman, "anya Plibersek, did e&actly that by calling him a /<igel no friends1 and
this has attracted a lot of criticism inside the Shadow Cabinet, Shadow Ministers that
I$ve spoken to in the last week. :o you share that criticism that it was a silly
comment and given the evidence of Mr #bbott$s trip no one could make that claim
BUTLER I think that comment was made a time when there were reports, including
from your newspaper "roy, that there were 0uestion marks over "ony #bbott$s diary
and whether or not he was going to follow through with a range of very important
meetings. "hat was a comment made then and in the conte&t of the information %
VAN ONSELEN So she ?umped the gun
BUTLER !ell there were reports made in the newspapers that there were a range
of very important meetings, meetings in #ustraliaEs national interest, that might not
be going ahead and I think that was 0uite a reasonable comment to make in light of
the reports that we had in front of us at the time.
HENDERSON Mr Butler, as a former minister, you will understand that meetings are
finalised very close to the event when busy people are meeting other busy people.
"his was not unusual. In fact, it seemed to me that "ony #bbott$s diary, even at that
stage, was very e&tensive and indeed became more e&tensive on the #merican visit.

BUTLER !ell those weren$t the character of the reports that we were reading at the
time .erard. "he reports we were reading were that those meetings were not going
to be proceeded with.
HENDERSON !ell that was a report from a ?ournalist.
BUTLER "hat$s right, and that was the comment made in response by "anya
Plibersek in response to that. "he recognition of the importance of those meetings, if
the Prime Minster was going to go overseas that it was important that he meet with
as many people as possible in positions of importance in allies like the )S.
VAN ONSELEN Mr Butler, you$re a very senior member of the -pposition, a senior
factional leader of the ,eft as well. 'ow important is it to you that in the lead up to
the ne&t election % I realise we have well over two years before it is potentially upon
us % but how important is it to you that from -pposition that ,abor chooses to go in
to the ne&t election with a serious alternative manifesto. <o one can deny that the
polls indicate that Bill Shorten has done a very good ?ob politically of holding the
.overnment to account. Dou$re ahead in the polls, his personal ratings are strong,
but two years is a long time and I think that one of the things the public may be
crying out for is, indeed ,abor$s supporters may well be crying out for, is a strong
alternative platform beyond the natural opposition of policy measures that you don$t
like. 'ow important is that to you
BUTLER I$d say a couple of things. 2irstly, we$re in the 78*@ election to win it.
!e$re not talking about a two term strategy or a three term strategy. !e$ll be going
into that campaign to win it. "he other thing I$d say, is that ,abor has never won
government from the conservatives with a small target strategy, whether it was
3udd, 'awke, !hitlam, going way back even beyond that. ,abor only wins
government if it presents a strong, alternative vision to the #ustralian people and I
know that Bill Shorten and "anya Plibersek will be committed to doing ?ust that in the
lead in to 78*@.
VAN ONSELEN So is that a banner call by you for e&actly that "here$s a lot of
debate and discussion to be had between now and the 78*@ election internally for
the ,abor Party, it sounds like you$re very strongly committed both or historical
reasons and for personal ideological reasons in a strong alternative platform.
BUTLER !ell I think it$s a reflection of the reality of #ustralian politics. ,abor wins
government from the conservatives when the #ustralian people see a vision that is
replete with ,abor values that it thinks will change the country for the better and I
think the #ustralian people, particularly in light of the Budget that "ony #bbott and
=oe 'ockey have handed down, are hungry for that vision, and I know that Bill
Shorten and "anya Plibersek will be working very, very hard over the ne&t two years
to build that agenda and put it s0uarely before the #ustralian people.
BRAMSTON Mark Butler, your counterpart .reg 'unt internally within the
.overnment for announcing a policy that was taken to the 78*8 election about a
solar rebate program. !here do you stand on that program !ould you support it
even if the .overnment Ministers don$t
BUTLER !ell, this is a bit of a debacle really. I$ve read these reports this morning
and they seem to indicate, by the person who$s leaking against .reg 'unt, that this
was a policy that wasn$t talked about since the 78*8 election campaign. "he problem
is that .reg 'unt talked about this policy incessantly. # million solar roofs on
households, solar towns, solar schools, it would be 6@88 million of e&penditure, and
what we ended up with in the Budget was 67 million, another broken promise by the
.overnment. #nd this needs to be seen in the broader conte&t of renewable energy
policy. "his is policy that needs to be % the solar roofs policy % needs to be seen in
the conte&t of other broken promises from this .overnment around solar and wind
BRAMSTON Is it a policy that ,abor would support I mean even the other day you
were out there supporting the .reen #rmy proposal, so there are a number of
elements of the .overnment$s program that you$re supporting( other elements of
course that you$re not. Is this another one that you think you$ll give .reg 'unt
support for
BUTLER !ell, first of all "roy, can I ?ust say, what I$ve said is that there are
certainly issues that I want to work through on .reen #rmy, workplace rights, about
training obligations and such like, but we$re continuing to work through that and we$ll
make a final decision about the .reen #rmy program in due course, once we$ve had
all of those 0uestions addressed.
But in terms of this policy, it$s really important to look at the background. Dou can$t
isolate the solar roofs policy from the broader renewable energy target. !hen .reg
'unt talked about this, the #ustralian people, the solar industry was of the view that
the 3enewable ;nergy "arget was a completely bipartisan position because that$s
e&actly what the -pposition, the now .overnment, had said, as late as the election
campaign back in September. "hey said, for e&ample, that they would continue to
support the role of the renewable energy agency, #3;<#, which it then abolished in
the recent Budget. "his is ?ust one of a series of broken promises in the area of
renewable energy and you can$t take one in isolation from the other.
VAN ONSELEN #lright, Mark Butler, Shadow Climate Change Spokesperson, we
appreciate your time on #ustralian #genda, thanks very much.
BUTLER "hank you.