Subjects: Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission; negative gearing
HOST: Do you think Christopher Pyne or Anthony Albanese have ever written poetry? I reckon they probably both would have in their day. We can ask them that and more as part of this segment. But good morning to both of you, Anthony and also Christopher. Poetry aside, we wanted to kick off by getting your views on the Nuclear Cycle Royal Commission. The recommendation has come out that we should look at setting up a nuclear waste dump. The figures in terms of revenue that it would bring in are enormous.
Starting with you if we can Anthony, because Labor’s had the most fraught policy position over the years on uranium mining and so forth, Bill Shorten yesterday seemed to say if it creates jobs and it can be done safely then it might be a good thing. Is that a view that the Left of the party would share?
ALBANESE: Well, I’m not a fan of the nuclear fuel cycle and I think interestingly the report yesterday ruled out as uneconomic Australia expanding into the nuclear industry. There are far more jobs and far better economic outcomes by doing what South Australia has been leading the nation on, which is in renewables. With regard to any proposal to take the world’s nuclear waste, I would be very cautious about it. We’ll examine the proposals. I haven’t had the opportunity to read the full report. I’ve just read the reports of it. But of course when someone – in this case a serious commission – makes findings, then you should examine it and all the implications and there should be a community debate about these issues.
HOST: Bill Shorten seemed to be sort of saying yesterday that, you know, it might actually be a good thing. But historically your faction the Left of the party has agitated most strongly on it. Bill Shorten seems to be sort of positioning the federal party so that you guys could almost run dead on this and say: Look let’s almost leave it to the states, let them thrash it out, let the community within that state have the discussion. But you seem to be saying well, you know, maybe you should be taking more of an interventionist approach.
ALBANESE: Well this of course has been a South Australian Royal Commission, not a national one and therefore it’s up to the South Australian Government in the first instance to respond. But the community will have a debate. One of the problems created by the nuclear fuel cycle is waste and something has to happen to that waste. That is part of the concern is the externalities if you like that are created as well as the process itself as we saw with Fukushima.
HOST: To you Chris Pyne, you were a member of the Howard Government when the Pangea proposal was kicking around in the late 90s and John Howard, initially at least, was looking upon that quite favourably. In this end it was steam rolled and Mike Rann played a pretty important part in killing that off as a don’t turn SA into a sort of dumping ground slogan that resonated with people. Do you think that times have changed and could you see the Coalition supporting this?
PYNE: Well good morning David and Will and Anthony and I think times have definitely changed. Kevin Scarce has done a great job with his Royal Commission report. Nobody could accuse Kevin Scarce of being a patsy for either side of politics whether it is Labor or Liberal. He has not ruled out, but said it’s not likely, that building nuclear power stations or enriching uranium would be economic. But he has said that South Australia is extremely well placed to be the world’s storage facility for nuclear waste because of our geology, our skills, our stable political situation, our climate, our very large spaces in the north and the mid-north of South Australia and he has put a figure on it which says we could be amongst the wealthiest people in Australia in terms of royalties and support for our state if we were to take up this opportunity.
So I think he has thrown out a challenge to the South Australian public and now is the opportunity to bring the community into this discussion and to bring them along. I must admit I am very open-minded about it. It is very difficult for Anthony because of course the Left of the Labor Party have a strong policy position against nuclear of any kind. But I was very disappointed with the Conservation Council of South Australia yesterday talking about how this would be the battle of a lifetime, the fight of a generation – all of this kind of nonsense they were talking in the 60s and 70s and 80s.
We have to have moved on from the flower power era of the 60s and 70s when people demonised this kind of energy because climate change is such that nuclear power is a very clean source of energy. The rest of the world has it. We have the capacity to make money out of storing the waste from it. And as South Australians, regardless of the fact that we have the highest unemployment in the country, we can do something for the world. It also earns us revenue and improves our standard of living and creates jobs for young people.
HOST: Chris Pyne, can we change the subject matter for a moment and talk about negative gearing and potential changes to it in the May Budget? Members of your backbench seem to be wavering in support. The Property Council has run a fairly sophisticated campaign targeting marginal seats and saying that so many of the people who would be affected by negative gearing changes live in those parts of Australia. Is your resolve being tested by that campaign?
PYNE: Well I don’t support Labor’s proposals for negative gearing because they want to only apply it only to new housing. And the danger in Labor’s proposals is that it will increase rents because people will need to increase their rent to get the same return that they would have had if they’d had negative gearing.
HOST: What about your position with regard to investment?
PYNE: Hang on. I haven’t finished.
ALBANESE: Remember, you are the government Christopher.
PYNE: Labor are the only people with a policy to change negative gearing.
PYNE: There is no policy from the Commonwealth Government to alter negative gearing. Let’s deal with the facts.
HOST: OK. So that won’t change in May then?
PYNE: Well it might. But I’m not talking about that.
ALBANESE: It could change at lunchtime.
PYNE: I am talking about the only policy that is on the table, which is Labor’s policy, which will push up rents and depress property prices because it will reduce demand for existing housing. Now, what the Treasurer has said and what he will outline today at the press club is that there probably are areas that we can tighten up negative gearing where it is being excessively used. But Labor are the only party that want to attack negative gearing and push up rents and push down property prices and I don’t support that.
ALBANESE: Get off talking points Christopher for goodness sake. You are the government and you have just said we have no plans until lunchtime until Scott Morrison addresses the National Press Club.
PYNE: You are the only party with a policy to attack negative gearing and that’s a fact.
ALBANESE: Scott Morrison will be announcing changes that he supports at lunchtime. I mean I hope he has something to say and doesn’t just stand there mute. You know you were elected to govern and on every issue – the GST we had months and months of you saying: Oh, we have no proposal until you did and then you didn’t. There is no leadership under Malcolm Turnbull. The issue of cost of affordability of housing is about supply. If you concentrate negative gearing on new homes you will have additional supply which will therefore put downward pressure on housing costs. It’s not rocket science. It’s about demand and supply.
PYNE: The Labor Party’s big policy is about new taxes and increased taxes. That’s always the Labor Party’s (inaudible) policy is.
ALBANESE: Get off the talking points Christopher.
PYNE: It’s a lot more sophisticated than that. Now if Labor’s policy comes into play …
ALBANESE: What’s your policy? What’s you policy?
PYNE: I’m talking about your policy.
ALBANESE: You are the government. You are the government right now.
PYNE: Your policy wants to increase rents because people have to get their return on their investment by increasing …
PYNE: … their rent on existing housing and secondly there will be less people buying existing housing so property prices will be depressed because there will be less demand for property.
HOST: We’ll be getting more clarity around this later today when Scott Morrison gives his first address to the National Press Club as Treasurer and the brawl can resume next Wednesday between the pair of you Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne. But look, we thank you both for joining us this morning.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.