SUBJECT/S: Putin attendance at the G20; action on climate change; national security legislation.

KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda. With me now, Liberal frontbencher Senator Simon Birmingham and also the Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism, Michelle Rowland. Good morning to you both. Simon Birmingham, to you; the Greens leader suggesting or questioning what did the government do to stop Putin from coming to the G20 and even suggesting, Senator Milne there, that the government is taking its lead from the US on this, copping the visit from Putin as part of the G20. Should the Government have done more?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, Kieran. The Greens love to believe in conspiracy theories and once again Senator Milne is demonstrating that. Let’s deal in a little bit of reality here. We’re hosting the G20, a major – one of the most important multilateral forums in the world. Now if you are going to host one of these multilateral events you have to take responsibility for the fact all of the parties are able to attend if they so choose. New York for nearly 70 years has played host to the permanent sitting of the general assembly of the United Nations. During that time all manner of despots and dictators have travelled to the United States to visit the UN general assembly. We are playing host, in a one off sense, to the G20 in Brisbane next month and of course it is full and proper that members are able to attend. We’re not exactly embracing President Putin. Tony Abbott has made it very, very clear that we think there are some appalling aspects to Russia’s foreign policy, their treatment of their smaller neighbour has been particularly appalling. We have stood up as a world leader in criticising Russia. Because of that, we expect them to fully cooperate and have been disappointed in some aspects of the early stages around the MH17 disaster and will continue to make sure that we hold Russia to account at every opportunity.

GILBERT: And isn’t it in that context Michelle Rowland better to have, Putin around the table to do just that? To put pressure on him and to make that criticism face to face?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM: Kieran, I take the point and I fully understand that there are some Australians who would be deeply concerned by President Putin’s participation in this conference. In fact, one of the victims of the MH17 disaster was a constituent of mine so I completely understand the reservations that many Australians will hold. I think the important thing to recognise is that this is an international forum and my understanding is that it’s not so much a question of invitation but it’s a question of participation of those people who are members of it. I also think that most Australians would want to get to the bottom of MH17 and would want to ensure that we get full accountability of this matter.

GILBERT: Let’s move on to the issue of a carbon price. Senator Birmingham, the Liberal party director Brian Loughnane sent a message to party supporters and others this morning saying Bill Shorten wants to return to the carbon tax. There was a similar theme from Greg Hunt at the weekend. I guess the question I put to you is a suggestion of a carbon price doesn’t necessarily mean a carbon tax, because if that was the case doesn’t the government support a carbon tax through the direct action mechanism which in itself is a carbon price?

BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, the Direct Action mechanism does not drive up electricity prices. It does not drive up gas prices, it does not drive up water prices or prices across the entire economy. It’s funded out of the budget and it will achieve our emissions reduction target by 2020 as we promised. The type of mechanism Bill Shorten seems to be talking about is indeed analogous to the carbon tax Julia Gillard introduced. The whole approach he’s taken is of course very similar to that. Julia Gillard stood there before the 2010 election promising there would be no carbon tax under a government she led. Bill Shorten was getting himself tied in knots yesterday trying to argue he won’t have a carbon tax but he will have a carbon price. Ultimately, it’s for him and the Labor party to detail exactly what it is they’re putting in place and the challenge to Michelle Rowland and all Labor MPs is to say will you be putting in place something that drives up electricity prices, that drives up the cost of living for all Australians, that drives up the cost of doing business in Australia and makes us a less competitive place and will hurt jobs growth in this country in the future. If you are, then be honest about it, be upfront about it and we’ll fight the next election campaign on it, just as we fought the last election campaign on it.

GILBERT: I’ll get Michelle Rowland’s response to that in a moment but I want to ask you about a challenge the Government faces now and that is the post 2020 targets, that’s where the world focus is moving in the lead up to the international talks in Paris at the end of next year. I guess the question I put to you; could this be a Copenhagen in reverse for the government where there actually is progress and the government is left flat foot?

BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop participated in the recent meeting convened by the US Secretary General to discuss the direction of future global climate negotiations. We’ll participate in all of the processes in the lead up to the Paris conference of the UN CCC, the United Nations framework convention on climate change in Paris later next year. And of course, in that process we’ll outline the conditions we see as being important for any future global agreement. We want to make sure of course that it’s a global agreement that creates a level playing field for countries that ensures that major emitters are taking the appropriate steps and so we’ll be looking very closely over the next 6 months or so to see what countries like the United States and China and India and the European Union have to say about their targets.

GILBERT: Isn’t that, Michelle Rowland, what the electorate is really… that was their concern about Labor that Labor went well ahead of the rest of the world where the government is saying it’s going to look at what the rest of the world does and then act upon it?

ROWLAND: I think times have moved on somewhat Kieran and I think the challenge for this Government is to say why it suddenly supports subsidies for polluters rather than a market-based mechanism. Labor has always supported a marked-based mechanism as a means to addressing climate change and as a means to assuring our economy can change and grow and can adapt as the world does. Now I take Simon’s challenge on board; well I would challenge his party to explain why giving subsidies to polluters…

BIRMINGHAM: So Michelle, taking that on board does that mean you’ll be putting electricity prices up?

ROWLAND: Don’t interrupt. Explaining why subsidies for polluters would actually be in the best interest, and I wouldn’t be so cocky if I was Simon considering that in his maiden speech to Parliament he acknowledged the reality of climate change and one would have thought he also, as a member of the Liberal party, once supported markets as the best way of addressing needs in our economy.

BIRMINGHAM: Michelle, you say you take my challenge on board; give a straight answer to it. Will your policy that you take to the next election drive up electricity prices?

ROWLAND: No you give a straight answer and explain how your subsidies for polluters will actually result in any meaningful…

BIRMINGHAM: So you’re not taking the challenge on board at all.

ROWLAND: I don’t need any challenge from you. I rely on markets to deliver the best outcomes and you need to explain – I still haven’t heard anyone on your side of the parliament prosecute the case effectively as to why giving subsidies to polluters is actually the better result or, why indeed suddenly you have changed your position in your maiden speech to the parliament and are suddenly supporting that position.

BIRMINGHAM: You’re verballing me a lot there Michelle. The fact that I acknowledged climate change needs tackling is indeed a reason to support our policies which will achieve reductions in emissions and abatement here in Australia.

ROWLAND: Do you guarantee that? Do you guarantee that?

BIRMINGHAM: Modelling from your government shows that emissions would continue to go up.

ROWLAND: No, take this challenge. Do you guarantee that?

BIRMINGHAM: We will meet the 5 per cent reduction targets by achieving abatement in Australia.

ROWLAND: Utter rubbish, utter rubbish.

GILBERT: Thank you. If I could just interrupt – let’s finish up on our last issue, only a minute and a half left. Anthony Albanese is saying that the security laws need to be looked at again because the issue he had is about the potential for journalists to be gaoled for 10 years for reporting on special intelligence operations. Has he gone out on his own here because he hasn’t had a lot of support from others including Tanya Plibersek, one of his fellow members of the Left.

ROWLAND: I think the important thing to recognise here Kieran is we’re talking about the first Bill that has already gone through the Parliament. And Labor participated in that Committee, and actually got in place as a result of that Committee review process some important exemptions for the specific issue that Anthony Albanese was raising. I think it’s important also to distinguish this from the second Bill that is currently the subject of scrutiny, and within that Bill contains some measures which I believe need to be very properly scrutinised. Things like data retention, also issues going to travelling to certain parts of the world and how that is going to operate in practice. The community has every right to expect that not only will their national security interests be served, but also that this is done properly, that this is done fairly and with proper scrutiny. And on that point I would also go to the fact that this is a government which abolished, as part of so-called red tape reduction, the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor which will now be kept as a result of that process and will be able to oversee those very issues that were a concern in the first Bill.

GILBERT: Senator Birmingham, to wrap up with you, you have to agree that Labor has been pretty constructive on these issues and that national security has been the driving focus despite some disagreement on some of the measures. Do you accept that?

BIRMINGHAM: Yes Kieran of course we’ve welcomed the bipartisan spirit in which Labor has worked with us in relation to many of the national security matters. I’d simply make two quick points in relation to Mr Albanese’s comments. The first is that the provisions in place mirror very much something that the Labor party introduced in 2010 around controlled operations in the Australian Federal Police, puts in place similar provisions for protection of ASIO, special intelligence ops. The other point I’d say on this 12 month anniversary of Mr Shorten’s leadership because you have to wonder whether Mr Albanese is positioning himself and it shows the leadership tensions continue to simmer in the Labor party.

GILBERT: Nice dig to finish. Simon Birmingham and Michelle Rowland, have a good day.

ROWLAND: Thank you.

BIRMINGHAM: You too. Cheers.