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ABC Radio Gold Coast Mornings 24 May 2012

24 May 2012

ABC Radio Gold Coast Mornings 24 May 2012

Subject: response to Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tates proposal to overturn carbon price on council landfill waste through the High Court

NICOLE DYER: Mark Dreyfus, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency on the line now.

Mr Dreyfus, good morning.

MARK DREYFUS: Morning, Nicole.

NICOLE DYER: Do you plan to back off?

MARK DREYFUS: No. We've legislated for this carbon price and I think we need to keep in mind why we're doing this, Nicole. There's thousands of tonnes of dangerous methane gas coming out landfills around Australia - twenty times more potent that carbon dioxide - and councils around Australia have already acted - even without a carbon price - to start cutting this pollution by capturing the gas.

This carbon price is an incentive for councils that have not already acted to cut pollution, to get on, do the right thing and do it. Councils which put in gas capture equipment can earn money for their communities by selling carbon credits and by generating electricity. And I think Tom Tate needs to have a look at what councils are doing right around Australia.

NICOLE DYER: But it's not just Mayor Tate. We - he's one of seven South East Queensland mayors who are heading to Canberra. So you think that they're wasting their time?

MARK DREYFUS: Oh, they're very welcome to come to Canberra and speak to the National Government. And, in fact, I'm meeting with a group of South Australian councils on Wednesday. They arranged some time ago to come and see me, and they're going to come to talk about climate change issues, about working on energy efficiency, on cutting dangerous pollution, because they're a group of councils which are getting on with the job, doing the right thing.

NICOLE DYER: And what about the South East Queensland contingent coming your way? Have there been any moves to meet with them.

MARK DREYFUS: They actually - to my knowledge - haven't arranged any meetings, but I'm very happy to see them if they come. And we can talk through
why they should be cutting dangerous pollution from their landfills, how to go about it if they haven't already done so, how they can benefit their communities by selling carbon credits and by generating electricity.

NICOLE DYER: So what do you make of threatened legal action; that they're prepared to take this to court to fight for their right not to put a carbon tax on landfill?

MARK DREYFUS: I seem to recall Campbell Newman said that he was going to take legal action, and he dropped that. And we've had a few other threats of
legal action. They've all been dropped, I think. We'll wait and see what happens.

What Tom Tate needs to bear in mind is that there's Treasury modelling which shows very clearly that councils which have to pay the carbon price - and that's not very many, but some across Australia - should be expecting a rate rise of about 13 cents to 40 cents per household per week. And that is amply covered by the Commonwealth Government's household assistance going to the vast majority of households of $10.10 per week.

NICOLE DYER: See, this is where it gets very confusing, because Tom Tate's saying that it will cost ratepayers five million dollars a year. And you're saying that there are suitable incentives in place where that won't happen.

MARK DREYFUS: I'm saying not only are there incentives - and that's what the carbon price is - to get councils to cut this dangerous pollution, I'm saying that, as well, that 13 to 40 cents per household per week is amply covered by the Commonwealth Government's average household assistance of $10.10 a week.

And I'd also say this Nicole, now that the carbon price has been in since 1 July we've seen from the reactions across Australia of councils - and setting of new rates for the coming year - that most councils have either attributed no part of their rate rise to the carbon price or it's a much smaller amount than what Tom Tate's talking about or the Brisbane City Council's been talking about. And that's a concern too.

Any false attribution of rises in rates to the carbon price is something that concerns me. I think that councils that are saying that sort of thing should a very long hard look at why they think those costs have gone up so much and, perhaps, be talking to their landfill operators about the amounts that they're being charged.

NICOLE DYER: So when should councils be collecting their carbon tax on landfill? When does that officially start, because there was a lead in time, wasn't there?

MARK DREYFUS: Of course. There's only, at the moment, 32 councils out of the 559 councils across Australia that have got landfills big enough to get past the threshold of twenty-five thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year and pay the carbon price. So it's not every council.

But of those 32, they won't be paying the carbon price in respect of any waste this year. It's not until next year - so the first year it's deemed that there's no carbon pollution coming from waste that's going in. They do have to start collecting because they will be paying, come 2014. But there's a big question about how they calculate, and they need to think very, very carefully when they're negotiating, if they've got a negotiation with a private landfill or if they're setting their own prices.

NICOLE DYER: And what if we have a change of government? Would it have been better to start collecting after next year's federal election, given that there'd be a bit of red tape involved here in setting it up and we've got an Opposition leader who's saying that he'd repeal, you know, the carbon tax, if, indeed, if he's elected?

MARK DREYFUS: He's not to be believed on that, Nicole. He's going to keep this carbon price, sure as anything. But, more to the point, we need to get on with this task, Nicole. We need to get on with cutting dangerous pollution that's coming not just from landfills, but from industrial processes as well. The carbon price is the least cost, most effective way of doing this. It's the best way that we can protect our environment, and any suggestion that we should have delayed is wrong.

NICOLE DYER: And just...

MARK DREYFUS: ...need to get on with it.

NICOLE DYER: Sure. Just a final clarification - there is no reason, according to Treasury's calculations, that this should cost ratepayers any more.

MARK DREYFUS: Oh, it shouldn't cost any more than thirteen to forty cents per household per week. And that's covered amply by the household assistance from the Commonwealth Government. I'd be calling on these councils to stop playing politics and to start doing the right thing.

NICOLE DYER: Mark Dreyfus, thank you.

MARK DREYFUS: Thanks very much, Nicole.

NICOLE DYER: Mark Dreyfus, Parliamentary Secretary for the Climate Change and Energy Efficiency there. And so it continues.