BILLY: 8.15 with your Sea Morning Crew, Billy and Cath. And all this talk lately Cath about the carbon tax. What does it mean? What does it mean for yourself? What does it mean for families? And in particular, the Central Queensland (CQ) region have wanted to know what’s going on.
CATH: Well that’s right. We are a big mining area and a lot of carbon talk in the town, so we’ve gone to the source. We have Greg Combet on the line. Good morning Sir.
COMBET: How are you?
CATH: Not too bad. How are things going for you?
COMBET: Oh not too bad, I’m fighting pretty hard, but yeah pretty busy.
BILLY: I can imagine at the moment. Now Greg obviously being up in CQ, being such a large mining community, a lot of people are concerned. What is it, how is it going to affect the community?
COMBET: Well it’s a good reform for us to make and I know there has being a lot of apprehension about two things in particular. One is, what’s its impact on the cost of living for their household budget? And the other is, what’s its impact on jobs? And in particular areas like aluminium smelting or coal mining that are important for Central Queensland. And on both fronts, you know, it’s been a completely overhyped fear campaign that’s been run against this carbon pricing thing. Firstly on the prices front – it’s a very modest price impact that passes through into household budgets. Only 0.7 percent increase in consumer prices. That’s less than ten dollars a week for households on average across the board. And the Government will be providing, on average, more than ten dollars a week to households across the board through tax cuts or increases in pensions and family tax benefits and other payments. So there’s a strong household assistance package the Government has announced, which means that nine out of ten households will receive some assistance with those price impacts, which are pretty modest at the end of the day anyway.
And on the jobs front – it’s very important for Central Queensland, the Bowen Basin region and the like, in coal and what not – the fact of the matter is that the coal industry is going to remain very strong. And in fact, there’s seventy billion dollars of investment committed and coming into the industry in new mines opening up. Jobs will grow in coal is the truth of it. The average cost per tonne of coal produced across Australia, of bringing in a carbon price, is a dollar ninety a tonne. And this is in circumstances where coking coal is selling for well over three hundred dollars a tonne.
It’s a modest cost and all this forecasting of doom and gloom is nothing but rubbish. And in the aluminium smelting area as well, the Government’s providing very significant assistance to the smelters and the aluminary refineries and other industries like cement manufacturing or steel making, to the extent that many of those industries get ninety five percent of their carbon liability offset by the Government through giving them free permits, it’s going to be fine.
BILLY: Now obviously the fear campaign that is being driven, as you said, by I guess the Liberal Party at the moment, as the Opposition. But we’ve also seen a slump in the polls for Julia Gillard from I guess, her backing down from her first comment that there wouldn’t be a carbon tax imposed. I guess, how do people react to that, considering they feel like they’ve been lied to these days?
COMBET: Well, certainly that’s been controversial, but as the Prime Minister said when circumstances change you’ve sometimes got to change with them. And I know that’s being a difficult issue. But she is standing up for what she believes in. You would have to say that it’s not necessarily been a very popular move doing this but...
BILLY & CATH: No, not in the slightest.
COMBET:... But she’s been very committed. And I know her very well and she knows that as a country we’ve got to tackle climate change. And we are not acting on our own other countries are doing the same. And we are putting in place we think the best most efficient way of cutting pollution and driving investment in cleaner energies sources. So I think Julia Gillard deserves credit for that.
On the other side of politics, I know you’d expect me to say this, but Tony Abbott has been running the most deceitful fear campaign. I mean he did say that the coal industry would be destroyed and all the jobs would go and he is totally wrong. It’s unnecessary fear that’s been put into people. He said petrol prices will go up, he’s total wrong, they’re not going up as a result of the carbon pricing. He said the steel industry will be destroyed, he’s total wrong. The steel companies have even come out and thanked the Government for listening to their concerns and dealing with them constructively. But there’s been a lot of fear mongering. I’d like to see Tony Abbott held to account for the deceit he has engaged in actually.
BILLY: Well Greg, we’ve got to wrap it up, but thank you for taking time out of your day to chat with us this morning and hopefully the people from CQ can take something out of this and hopefully going forward as a country reforms it will be a great change.
COMBET: Yeah, it will be a good thing for the country and really – there’s no need for people to have the apprehension that has been around.
BILLY: Thanks for the chat this morning Greg.
COMBET: Thanks Billy.