MARK PARTON: We are joined at this time on a Wednesday morning by the man who’s known as the Federal Trade Minister. He’s also known on Twitter this morning as ‘Dr Pompous Arse’. It’s Dr Craig Emerson. Well, you got yourself into a bit of a scuffle on social media this morning, Craig.
CRAIG EMERSON: It gets a bit willing on Twitter, I must say; a lot of Young Libs swearing. I’m not saying that Young Labor people or anyone else don’t do it. And someone who seemed rather older, I just suggested that perhaps we could have conversations without the vulgarity, and he described me as a ‘pompous arse’. So I said ‘it’s Dr Pompous Arse to you’. Where’s the respect, Parto?
PARTON: Craig, I was talking to Malcolm Farr earlier this hour that your Leader’s speech yesterday to the ACTU get-together. Didn’t she deliver it well?
EMERSON: Yeah, she did. And, again, I must say on Twitter, in the Twittersphere, there was a lot of positive feedback — obviously from Labor-supporting people. But, no, she seemed to get her views across there and it got pretty good coverage on television news last night.
PARTON: And to some extent a landmark speech in that she very, very clearly — for the first time — identified the electoral woes and the massive battle which is facing your Government to survive, which I think is a … I mean you can’t ignore it, can you? You can’t ignore these polls.
EMERSON: No you can’t. And even when I was asked yesterday, with some reluctance, to psychoanalyse polls, I pointed out that we have a lot of work to do. We do know that. The carbon price comes in on the first of July — the carbon tax if you like. There’s been controversy about the mining tax but — and I know you have a different view on the carbon pricing — we’re not doing it for the heck of it; we’re not doing it just because we think it’s fun. We’re doing it because we think it sets up Australia for the future. And we wouldn’t want to be looking back in 10 years’ time saying ‘gee, we should have moved at the right time rather than desperately late.’
PARTON: It’ll be the thing that loses you the election, though, more than anything else — won’t it?
EMERSON: Well, let’s see. As I might have said with you before, Parto, come 1 July, it’s in and it will not have anything like the impact that Tony Abbott has been claiming in this monster scare campaign. But the onus of questioning will start to shift towards him, because the first payments went out today, are going out today. And what Tony Abbott is saying that he will withdraw those payments, he will increase taxes, he’ll cut benefits — because under him electricity prices will fall! This is “Gospel truth Tony”, hand on heart, ‘I promise you electricity prices will fall when I remove the carbon price’. Well, there’s no lived experience of falling electricity prices. And I think it would be very difficult for the Australian people to accept that they should have a reduction in their pensions, and an increase in their taxes under an Abbott-led government.
PARTON: So you’re genuinely hoping that when July 1 rolls around, the sky doesn’t fall in, that the electorate takes stock and says ‘well, maybe it’s not going to be as bad’ and come flocking back to you in terms of their primary electoral support.
EMERSON: Well I think that’s a possibility, and there’s some evidence of this going back to 2000 and 2001 — and that is the introduction of the GST. Now, the carbon price has nothing like the price impact of the GST. And the carbon price for many people, certainly the battlers, is more than fully compensated. But even when the GST came in — you might recall that Labor in Opposition was promising to roll back the GST, or parts of it — and it had no effect on people. Once it was in, it was in. They didn’t really want it rolled back; they wanted to just get on with it. And from their point of view it didn’t have a calamitous effect. Now, as I say, the carbon price, in terms of price effects, is less than one-third of the price effect of the GST. But the compensation is very generous. And Tony Abbott is saying he’s going to yank it out and start all over again with Direct Action costing $1,300 per household.
PARTON: Let’s hope that Craig Thomson can hang in there long enough then for you to get to the point where the sky hasn’t fallen in, because I’m still thinking that house of cards might fall over in the next few months.
EMERSON: There’s barely a day gone past, I think you’d agree, when there hasn’t been suggestions or anxieties expressed in the media or public that the Government won’t last. And we have, and we will continue to. We will continue to. Christopher Pyne actually volunteered a few weeks ago that this is a stable Government; that effectively it’s not a minority government because it is being supported by Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott and others, and that the Coalition needs to accept that. Well, 350 plus pieces of legislation have gone through the Parliament under the numbers in the House of Representatives. And I’d make this point, Parto: there’s always, almost always been in one House — namely the Senate — a lack of a majority. Now in this case there’s a lack of majority in the House of Representatives. We find it more feasible to get legislation through the Senate. But governments have always had to negotiate legislation through the Parliament, whether it be the House of Representatives or the Senate. But the one modern exception is from 2004 to 2007, when the Coalition had a majority of both and brought in WorkChoices.
PARTON: Emmo. I’ve got to go, but thanks for coming on.
EMERSON: Okay. Thanks, Parto. All the best.
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