Greens Greg Barber refuses to rule out $500 carbon tax
Joy 94.9'S Rainbow Report @ 12.49pm, Friday 20th May 2011
Rainbow Report host, Doug Pollard: On the line we have Greg Barber who is one of the elected Greens in the Upper House of the Victorian State Parliament representing the northern metropolitan region.
Victorian Greens MP, Greg Barber: Howdy.
Doug Pollard: And we have been discussing the environment here today and we've been trying to make some sense of this notion of a carbon tax.
Greg Barber: Yep.
Doug Pollard: What's your take on it? I mean is this really green policy or is this just something that the Green Party generally is going along with because it's all you can get out of the Gillard Government?
Greg Barber: Well we'll be hoping to get a lot more than just a carbon tax, and that includes things - they call them complementary measures but things like a renewable energy target and an energy efficiency target scheme, and those are the things that you can lock in and know you're delivering savings.
Carbon tax at various prices I admit is a bit more nebulous. There's an army of economic forecasters out there telling us what will happen at different prices.
Doug Pollard: Well I've got Tim Wilson from the IPA here in the studio and I'm watching his eyebrows climb as you say that. Tim.
IPA Director, Tim Wilson: [Laughs] Not at all, Greg I mean we've had a debate earlier this week between the Labor Party and some Green MPs including Bob Brown and Sarah Hanson-Young. What do you think is the optimum carbon tax rate to drive that transition to a low carbon economy?
Greg Barber: Well that's really my point is that the rate of the tax is not the main game, and the Greens said that from the beginning. 'Not a magic bullet' I think was Christine's words. It's those other measures which you and some of your mates, Tim have been fighting for years...
Doug Pollard: Yep.
Greg Barber: ...such as the renewable energy target, that when you pass that measure you know what you're going to get by way of clean energy.
Tim Wilson: It's also one of the more expensive ways to do it, and it's interesting because we don't like the idea of a Government picking winners but a lot of the Government's advisors have recommended if you introduce a carbon tax you need to get rid of things like MRET for certain - the mandatory renewable energy target, for certain types of end electricity production to make the tax work. So are you saying you want to keep all these things as well?
Greg Barber: Yeah it should be pretty clear that we've been arguing the exact opposite of that, and Julia Gillard I think said that everybody agrees that a carbon tax is the most efficient way to do it. Well in fact they don't.
Greg Barber: I'm a big fan - I'm a big fan of good old fashioned deregulation when it comes to certain parts of the economy and when it comes to the renewable energy target, that, as you know, then allows a whole bunch of entrepreneurs to go out and find the most efficient way to deliver that outcome.
Tim Wilson: So what do you think the maximum rate for either for a mandatory renewable energy target is, and also for a carbon tax to try and get that change?
Greg Barber: Well what change are you talking about...
Tim Wilson: Well I'm talking about the change you want. So if you want to get - you want to get I presume to 100 percent renewable energy so you would want an MRET of 100 percent what's the rate for the carbon tax to get there as well complemented by MRET?
Greg Barber: Yeah no but that's 100 percent of our energy demand, but what's our energy demand? In fact energy efficiency is probably going to do most of the heavy lifting. And it's gratifying to see the Liberal State Government just signed off yesterday on a doubling of Victoria's energy efficiency target. That's a win win win by the way, I mean as you know energy efficiency will pay for itself, and quite often pay back within six months to a year. That's an incredibly valuable rate of return and the State Government's recognised that.
Tim Wilson: But as households surely they would want to do that by themselves irrespective of whether there's a carbon tax or any other type of measure because surely people want to keep household budgets down?
Greg Barber: Amazing isn't it? And my electricity bill is a quarter of the Victorian average, but my house doesn't look any different to the houses either side.
Tim Wilson: [Laughs]
Greg Barber: That's why a carbon tax is a tax that we want you to avoid. Nobody need pay those electricity bills but there are a whole bunch of reasons why they don't know or don't understand or can't afford to make the right investment that would actually reduce their electricity bill ongoing.
Tim Wilson: Sure. But the one thing you haven't answered, I've asked it twice now so I'll ask it a third time, what do you think the optimum carbon tax rate is to drive direction towards a low carbon future?
Greg Barber: Well sorry, who said you're bowling and I'm batting?
Tim Wilson: I'm asking a question.
Greg Barber: I'm telling you, and you heard it from Christine Milne, that the carbon tax is not a magic bullet, it's those other so called complementary measures that in fact we say they're not complementary, we say they're the main game. A carbon tax may be complementary to them.
Tim Wilson: Right so is that $100 or is it more?
Greg Barber: Yes, like I said, energy efficiency's going to do half the heavy lifting when it comes to reducing our emissions.
Tim Wilson: So, what you're going to rule out $200 then a tax?
Greg Barber: Right. And...
Tim Wilson: Just asking.
Doug Pollard: I don't think we're going to get anywhere on that one, Tim.
Tim Wilson: Three hundred dollars?
Doug Pollard: I think we can leave it.
Tim Wilson: At what point are you going to rule it out? Just asking.
Doug Pollard: I don't think you can actually rule out anything there, and that's the whole point of the tax isn't it? You can bring it in at any level you like...
Tim Wilson: And keep going up every year and the Greens won't rule out...
Doug Pollard: And keep going up until it has an effect, until people learn.
Greg Barber: Like I said...
Tim Wilson: You certainly agree, Doug you do have have an effect in cutting carbon emissions when you shut down the economy.
Doug Pollard: Well I think...
Greg Barber: Like I said Mr Michael O'Brien, State Minister for Energy, not known for being a radical Leftist, sees what the Greens are now pushing for nationally which should be the biggest thing that comes out of this negotiation, which is a national energy efficiency target...
Tim Wilson: So I'm giving you right now a chance, Greg to rule out a $500 per tonne carbon tax.
Doug Pollard: [Laughs]
Greg Barber: Well I just told you you don't need to pay the energy bill that you're paying now, I've got a big screen TV and a big family sized fridge full of lasagne from my Italian in laws, but I pay a quarter of the energy bill. This is a tax we want you to avoid if you're a householder.
Doug Pollard: Indeed. All right...
Tim Wilson: No ruling out, I note. Well done.
Doug Pollard: ...Thanks for joining us, Greg especially at such short notice. And the best of luck with it all...
Greg Barber: Any time.
Doug Pollard: ..In Victoria and nationwide.
Greg Barber: Any time.
Tim Wilson: Thanks, Greg.
Doug Pollard: Greg Barber there, Victorian Parliamentary Member for the northern metropolitan region if I remember rightly.
Tim Wilson: Correct.