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Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for Employment
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
Liberal Senator for Tasmania


11 July 2014

Transcript of Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz
Interview with Nick McCallum,
3AW Mornings
Subjects: New Senate, Carbon Tax repeal

Presenter: Were joined now by the governments leader in the Senate, Senator Eric Abetz,
good morning and thanks for your time.

Minister Abetz: Good morning Nick and good to be on the program.

Presenter: Did you double cross Clive Palmer?

Minister Abetz: The circumstances in the Senate are there for all to see, and basically what
occurred was that, Mr Palmer and Palmer United put certain propositions to us, all of which we
agreed with, and then when it came time to move the Palmer amendments, the leader of
Palmer United in the Senate withdrew the amendments and I believe that was done on the
advice of the Senate Clerk because there was a technical difficultly, and the technical difficulty
can easily be resolved by introducing those amendments in the House of Representatives
which we hope to be able to do on Monday.

Presenter: Well Mr Palmer accused you, well accused the government and also you I presume
as well as double crossing him, is that true?

Minister Abetz: Well look Ill allow Mr Palmer and Palmer United to explain why they said
certain things, my concern is to achieve for the Australian people what they voted for. Namely,
to get rid of the carbon tax which is costing the average household $550 a year or $11 million a
day. Its destroying our jobs and not doing a single thing for the environment. So Palmer United
were elected to get rid of the carbon tax, as were we. So were Bill Shortens Senators but all 25
of them voted to maintain the carbon tax, which they claimed at the last election had already
been abolished by Kevin Rudd. So lets not put all the blame on Palmer United. Labor Senators
could have voted to abolish the carbon tax as well. I was surprised to hear Mr Shorten today
say that he was absolutely adamant that the Abbott Government should abide by election
promises yet he lines up each one of his Senators to vote in the Senate so that we cant keep
our election promises.

Presenter: Getting back on to what is now going to happen Senator. So you will now have to
reintroduce this legislation via the House of Representatives on Monday, so when do you think
it will go to the Senate again and can you be confident it will get passed next week?

Minister Abetz: Look Ive been in the Senate for 20 years and whenever anybody asks me
about the confidence I put in a vote, I always tell them Ill tell you after the vote has been
counted. But look, the procedure is as youve outlined. Introduced into the House of
Representatives on Monday. That should then enable the legislation to come back to the
Senate late Monday, hopefully for discussion for Tuesday, with resolution hopefully Tuesday or
Wednesday. But Ive been in the Senate long enough not to predict outcomes.

Presenter: Ok Senator, if you could listen to this please, this was Jacquie Lambie, a PUP
Senator, who spoke to our drive time host Sally Cockburn yesterday, just have a quick listen it
doesnt last very long, I want your reaction.

Senator Lambie: This is Eric Abetz behind this, and I really think he has absolute made
mincemeat out of that this week in the Senate. And I can tell you now the PM should
sack him. Should sack him for being the Leader of the Senate for the Coalition, because
hes absolutely been disgraceful his performance in there this week.

Presenter: Okay, Senator whats your reaction to that and can you work with someone like
Jacqui Lambie after she says something like that?

Minister Abetz: I can work with anybody. One thing Ive always said about public life is there is
one fringe benefit of being in public life and that is that you get free character assessments by
the dozen and Jacquie Lambie is entitled to give me her free character assessment but Im not
going to reciprocate. The important thing here is not name calling but achieving the result and
the policy outcome that the Australian people want.

Presenter: But clearly shes going to have difficulty working with you, if she thinks youre no
good and should be sacked, shes going to have real problems working with you.

Minister Abetz: Well look, Senator Lambie can explain what she said and why she said it. It
seems to me what the Australian people want is an outcome on policy issues and I have, if I
might say, established a good working relationship around the Senate and I trust that as the
days go by Senator Lambie might come to a different conclusion but Im not going to be drawn
into a personal dispute with name calling Im focussed on policy issues.

Presenter: When you do go in and negotiate with the PUP Senators, can you trust them? Given
all this toing and froing and changing the whole time. Do you find it hard to trust them?

Minister Abetz: Look in fairness these are new Senators theyve only been in the Senate since
the 1st of July. This past sitting week was the first sitting week. I know what it was like for myself
and I had the benefit of more seasoned Senators to assist me to go through. So Im more than
willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that they have some issues with
coming to grips with all the procedures and I dont want to hold anything against them in that
regard. I believe they are committed to the repeal of the carbon tax and thats what Im
dedicated to and Im sure Senator Lambie is as well.

Presenter: Senator, this must be killing you because Ive seen you in the Senate before and I
admire the way you get on your feet and you are a head kicker, as is Mr Abbott in parliament as
well, you are finding yourself having to be so nice to people who normally you would get up in
the Senate and kick their heads. This must be killing you?

Minister Abetz: What it shows is that theres another side to my character that youve now

Presenter: No, what it shows is that youre in a political situation where you have to be nice to
people, normally you wouldnt have to be nice to.

Minister Abetz: Look at the end of the day, the imperative here is, and lets be very clear, is the
removal of the carbon tax. It is a blot on the economy, does nothing for the environment, its
destroying jobs, exporting wealth and its sabotaging family budgets. Its bad all around. That is
why Labor promised wed never have a carbon tax. Thats why Labor said in 2013 they had got
rid of the carbon tax when they hadnt. Every Senator, other than the 10 Greens, were all
elected on abolishing the carbon tax. So it is a bit frustrating when you look around the chamber
at 76 Senators and see only 10 Senators that were committed to the carbon tax yet we cant get
the numbers together to repeal it. Having said that we will continue to work on behalf of the
Australian people to achieve the outcome.

Presenter: But Senator, companies have come out, Woolworths was one of them, that said
hang on the carbon tax didnt push up prices for us that much, so this legislation about making
sure that the savings are passed on to the consumer, they think is quite dangerous because for
them they didnt increase their prices.

Minister Abetz: Well that is where the ACCC will come in to ensure that the appropriate
judgment is made. Its quite clear that the power and energy producers have had the carbon tax
applied to them as a result of which the cost or that impost needs to come down. But how that
trickles down through the economy will be a matter for the ACCC.

Presenter: But lets cut through it here, you really dont believe the extra legislation to ensure
that is necessary do you. Its just been foisted on you?

Minister: Well I said in the Senate that this is a belt and braces type of situation. The Coalition
had a policy that would allow a $1.1 million maximum fine for each breach in our initial
legislation. We believed that was sufficient. Palmer United said well we want braces as well to
make absolutely doubly sure. And we said if its all about consumer protection, we as a
government are in to consumer protection, so we are happy for that if it means that the huge
impost of the carbon tax can be removed and thats our imperative, thats what the Australian
people want, and thats what well be seeking to deliver.

Presenter: Have you, as in the government and even elements of the media and Im one of
them, have we underestimated the PUP Senators. And are you also concerned that a renowned
Green political backroom man is now advising them?

Minister: I would advise anybody not to underestimate anybody in the Parliament, in the
Senate. Ive always been of the view that you underestimate other people at your peril. So I
personally havent underestimated the influence of any Senator, party, or grouping in the
Senate and it would be unwise for anybody to do so. As for the staff component that Palmer
United have, that is a matter for them, but it would be fair to say that Ben Oquist, the Greens
adviser to Senator Bob Brown and Senator Christine Milne, wouldnt be on my staff component
but thats a matter for Palmer United to determine.

Presenter: Okay, Senator Eric Abetz, the governments Leader in the Senate, thanks indeed for
your time.


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