Transcript: Morning Doorstop, 29/11/16

Subjects: importance of coal industry; Great Barrier Reef; Parliament House security; Australian Building and Construction Commission

E&OE

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Today I think it's very important as we go into Christmas, as we go into summertime when electricity demand will be at its highest, when the proportion of electricity produced in this building and all around the country will be well over 60 percent from coal, that we realise the fundamental truth of our electricity market. That is, we still rely on coal, and still will for many years to come, to keep the lights on at home, to make sure we have jobs in our economy, and to be competitive as an economy in the world.

Now yesterday, unfortunately, we have a number of Senators who don't understand these basic facts. I don't know how they're going to power their homes over Christmas, but they want to shut down coal fired power. It's not just the usual suspects in The Greens. A couple of Labor Senators, Anthony Chisholm from Queensland and Sam Dastyari from New South Wales, two of the states that rely most heavily on coal, want to shut down our coal fired power stations, with no idea about how they are going to replace more than 60 percent of our electricity produced with something else.

Bill Shorten might say he's no greenie. But his Labor Senators have another plan for our economy. To shut down thousands of jobs in our coal fired power sector. They have another plan, to lose our competitiveness as an economy. What we should have is cheap baseload power, to drive growth, drive productivity, drive aluminum smelters, to drive steel making facilities in towns and cities all around our country. But people want to deny reality at the moment. They deny the basic facts of our economy and have a dreamland like scenario where we can all move away from coal and still run our economy now.

There's also in this report, no recognition of the fact that coal is our second largest export. And there is no discussion of what happens there, so what is going to happen? Are we going to shut down our coal fired power stations here, but still send the coal on boats to other countries for them to burn? It doesn't get dirty on the boat. It's either dirty here or it's dirty there. And it would be absolutely economically insane to send such an important resource to other countries to power their power stations, to take our jobs and not use the very same resource here to create jobs in our economy. Coal is something that we have built this country on. We rely on it, we will for decades to come, and any serious political party that wants to manage the Australian economy must realise that fact and not walk away from it. The Labor Party are trying to walk both sides of the street at the moment. We've got Bill Shorten down at Hazelwood with crocodile tears for the workers there, while he actually has a plan with his Labor Senators to shut their jobs down and shut more of their jobs down at other coal fired power stations across Australia.

Can I also say, it's great to see progress on the Australian Building and Construction Commission Bill. We were here late again last night. I'm happy to sit as late as we need to do this week, to make sure we get this bill through. It's very important to clean up the conduct on our construction sites. Not so much for the construction site itself, but for all those people that want to own their own home, that want to see things built in this country like I do, particularly in Northern Australia. We need a well functioning construction market to make sure that this infrastructure is built at a reasonable cost and not subjected to unreasonable bullying.

REPORTER:
Do you think it will go beyond this week to get it through?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Well look, that's a matter for the Senate. As I say, I'm willing to stay here, live here, be here as long as possible. With the one proviso that my wife is due in a couple of weeks, so I probably need to get home for that at some point. But this is a very, very important. Almost as important as my fifth child being born.

REPORTER:
As a Queensland Senator, are you concerned about the Great Barrier Reef with the latest report presented overnight? The science presented in that, and are you concerned about Pauline Hanson touching coral without a permit?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Look I think the Great Barrier Reef is in good health. It is facing a number of threats. It's very important to be clear what those threats are. The biggest threat it faces is from a pest called crown-of-thorns starfish. And this Government has made huge strides in making progress to eradicate the crown-of-thorns starfish. Another big threat it's faced in recent years is that we've had a number of major cyclones in the last decade through the Great Barrier Reef and the storms do enormous damage to the reef. But the reef also grows back after those storms, it's a natural process and in the last few years the reef has grown around 20 percent in size. Now this year we also had a coral bleaching event which did affect a number of reefs. Most of that was concentrated in the north of the area where there is obviously warmer temperatures and there wasn’t a lot of rain or wind which lets the ocean heat up. But the reef is a great thing to come and visit. It's great that Senator Hanson got up there. I wish most people got up there.

REPORTER:
But touching it?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
That is something you are told not to do. I've been out to the reefs that Senator Hanson was at, indeed I live right next door to those reefs, so I know what you have to do. But I don't think you should be drawn, hung and executed for touching a piece of coral. I'll let that pass. It's not going to cause the death of the entire reef. It's great to see people up there. I wish more politicians would come up there and see for themselves because they'll realise that it is fantastic. There is a lot to see. And I think it's something you need to keep in mind. A lot of tourist operators at the moment, won't even have a Greens politician on their boat because they're sick and tired of the rubbish that is sprouted about the reef down here from people who live thousands of kilometres from it, that are doing enormous damage to the tourism industry through the rubbish that they're creating down in this place.

REPORTER:
Do you feel safe in Parliament? Are you happy to see security being expanded?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Yeah I was surprised. I thought the hills were already blocked off. I remember rolling down there as a kid and then a few years later you couldn't. So apparently they're back in action. I suppose you see people running up. But look, that's a matter for the experts. I feel very confident in the security that we have here and our security services looking after us. So any decisions on the security of this place and its surrounds, I'll leave to them.

REPORTER:
Going back to the ABCC, what message do you think it sends to the Australian public if the Coalition can't get it passed this week?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Well what it sends to the Australian public is that Senators in this building need to be accountable for why they haven't respected the Government's mandate, why they haven't taken action to ensure to get rid of the rampant bullying we see on construction sites. The objectionable behavior that is commonly reported in our media. That will be a question for those Senators who vote against the ABCC Bill.

Obviously we know some of them will vote against, the Labor Party and The Greens, in hock to the CFMEU, they've taken millions of dollars from them for the last 10 or 15 years. And they'll have to work answer those questions. Our position has always been clear. We have won two elections on this issue. I'm hopeful that we can have this resolved. But obviously that is in the hands of the Senate and all I can do is implore them to respect the mandate of the Goverment, to respect the fact that there is a problem here, and we can reasonably talk about how we pass this bill and what the precise provisions are. But we need to do something. We need a solution. And the ABCC offers a solution.

REPORTER:
Do you think it reflects badly on the Government's ability to negotiate with the rest of the Senate?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Well I think we've had a great couple of months here in the Senate. We passed an omnibus savings bill. We passed last week our Registered Organisations Bill, a very important piece of legislation to bring proper governance to trade unions in this country. And we have now an arrangement to resolve the backpacker tax issue. So look, I am hopeful that we can have the ABCC through, but the Government has got most of its agenda through from the election. As John Howard used to say, I'll take 80 percent over 100 percent (of nothing) any time.

REPORTER:
If it passes, do you think it will open up a new era of industrial turmoil?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Well no. In fact, from what we can tell, when the ABCC was around, the number of days lost to strikes, the number of industrial accidents actually fell during that period. I'm hopeful that would be what we return to. That's what our intent is and our objective with this bill. That in fact we would remove both the incentive and the ability for certain elements of the trade union movement to abuse their position and unnecessarily delay construction in this country. So I think we'll have greater industrial harmony as a result of this bill if it is passed. But that is now a matter for the Senate and all we can go on is what the record was before, which was that more harmonious relationship.

REPORTER:
George Brandis has courted controversy several times as the Attorney-General now, a role traditionally seen as being more above the fray of politics. Could he do better?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
I think all of our Ministers are doing a great job. The Government is racking up lots of successes. I think too much attention at times is devoted to this minutia and not the bigger issues. I think George's statement yesterday to the Parliament was very comprehensive and explained things in a way which unfortunately weren't there in the press over the weekend. That's understandable given they were going on reports, but I think George Brandis is an excellent Attorney-General. He has a very in-depth knowledge of the law and is a well respected contributor to our government on those matters.

REPORTER:
It's not a serious issue to wave away $300 million of Commonwealth revenue?

MINISTER CANAVAN:
Well that's not what I said. What I said is that sometimes too much is focused on the minutia of reporting what he said and she said and not the actual facts here. I think those people that have looked at the facts, and of course necessarily these facts are quite complex, it involves litigation that's gone on for decades, it goes back to the time of WA Inc and the Labor Party being involved in all of that in Western Australia. You can tell why they're reticent to go to some of those facts. But the facts are complex and the facts show that Senator Brandis has acted in my view with complete propriety.

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