The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Peter Costello

Peter Costello

Treasurer

11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

Transcript of 26/10/06

Interview with Melissa Doyle & David Koch
Sunrise

Thursday, 26 October 2006
7.05 am

SUBJECTS: Solar rebates, solar energy, Muslim cleric’s comments on women

DOYLE:

Treasurer Peter Costello, good morning to you.  Thank you for your time. 

TREASURER:

Good morning Mel, good to be with you.

DOYLE:

Great to have your company.  We would like a nice clear answer on this please.  Is the rebate staying or going?

TREASURER:

Well, the rebate was introduced for four years.  It was then extended for two years.  It is still existing while the program is being evaluated.  I think it is a good program and I think when the evaluation is finished, you will see the rebate in a very healthy condition.

DOYLE:

So does that mean a yes?  From July 1 next year, will the rebate still be in existence?

TREASURER:

Well I am supporting it. 

DOYLE:

Are you going to sign our petition?

TREASURER:

Oh yes, I would love to.

DOYLE:

Fantastic.

TREASURER:

I think it is a good programme. 

DOYLE:

So can you give me some assurance then, so it is going to stay, July 1 next year?  Because obviously a lot of people need to know, they need a little certainty on this.

TREASURER:

Sure.  I don’t know anybody who is proposing not to continue it.  We introduced it for four years, it went well, we extended it for two years and said we would see how it is going.  I am satisfied that over that two year extension it has been going well.  And so my own view is it should continue.

KOCH:

Well that is terrific.

DOYLE:

Great.

KOCH:

So, because you are the guy that puts the Budget together…

TREASURER:

Yes.

KOCH:

…has the big sway of putting it through, do you reckon it could be improved?  Do you reckon it could be made even more enticing and maybe the rebate increase?

TREASURER:

Well, that is the point that we are looking at at the moment.  You know it is $4,000 at the moment, the cost is between $10,000 and $15,000 to introduce it.  So that is a fair rebate.  But there are all sorts of other questions as to whether you can actually make the solar power cheaper and Ian Campbell has been looking at that.  And so what we do is we introduce these programmes and we have evaluations of them.  We have an evaluation to make sure it is going to the people that need it, you have an evaluation to make sure that it is operating properly.  That evaluation is going on and it may well be that it can be improved.  But I can assure you of this, that there is no intention to wipe out what is there already.

DOYLE:

So just to clarify for us, for our viewers, for us here, you will obviously notify the Environment Minister today, you will obviously then change the website that says that it will be phased out by June 30.  So I take it you will go along and hopefully change that today for any builders and new home buyers that want to know this, you will go and talk to the rest of your government department, obviously Joe Hockey as we showed you that grab a few moments ago, was still under the impression that it was to be phased out.  So everyone will be notified today that it is staying.  Is that correct?

TREASURER:

Well I spoke to the Environment Minister yesterday about this and he supports the continuation, I support the continuation, Joe supports the continuation.  As I said to you, I don't know of anybody who doesn't support the continuation.

DOYLE:

But we have just played a number of grabs from Ministers and various people that have said that they are not aware that it is continuing.  We just showed the website that it said it is going to be phased out.  So obviously, is it just that the message hasn’t got through?

TREASURER:

No, I don’t think you showed anyone who said they wanted to end it.  What we did is we introduced it for four years.  It went well, we extended it for two.  During the two year extension we are looking at whether or not it can be improved and when we have decided that, we will make our announcement because it may well be that it can be improved.  But I am certainly not supporting its abolition.  Joe is not and Ian Campbell is not. 

KOCH:

Well that is terrific, excellent.  And it won’t be any worse when it is extended which is…?

TREASURER:

It won’t be any worse…

KOCH:

Excellent.

TREASURER:

…but we ought to do the review to make sure that if there are ways that it can be enhanced we look at that but we certainly won't be ending it and at the time at which we normally announce the terms and conditions on which it continues is next year's Budget.  If we can do it earlier than that, we will, but that is normal timing in relation to (inaudible). 

KOCH:

How important do you reckon solar power is for Australia?  Because you know, we have got a big push for nuclear at the moment, John Howard in Fiji yesterday said look, solar power will be on the periphery of our sort of big picture on global warming, that he is really pushing for nuclear.  Do you reckon solar is on the periphery, or can it have a big impact?

TREASURER:

I announced yesterday a $75 million grant which hopefully will build the biggest solar generating plant in Australia, in northern Victoria.  And I spoke to Solar Systems, the company doing that and here are the mathematics:  the cost of power from a solar generator is you know, that is $300 or $400 a megawatt hour, I think.  The plan of this plant is to get it to $50.  Once you get it to $50, it is starting to get competitive.  So solar power can be done, it is a question of cost.  The cost of solar power at the moment is much higher than coal fired power stations for example.  So we are now doing this technology to see whether we can bring it down.  Now, why are we are doing it?  Because if you flipped everybody from coal to solar tomorrow, your power bill could go up five times.  Now obviously people don’t want that.  But if you can bring the price of solar energy down by a fifth, and technology is improving all the time, and you could flip people across at a comparative price, then who wouldn't want to go on it?

KOCH:

Absolutely.  Do you reckon we should be spending more money on research in this area?  Because, don’t get me wrong, the $75 million grant is terrific but yesterday we spent what, $150 million building a new TAFE in Fiji.  It sort of seems a bit out of whack with global warming, if we can spend money on research to bring solar power down, that is going to be terrific.  Shouldn’t we be spending a lot more? 

TREASURER:

Well I think you are right.  I think there is a lot that is going on, don’t forget, in the universities, CSIRO.  The announcement yesterday, $75 million, will bring, or leverage in, the private sector to build a $420 million plant.  So you have got to remember that the private sector is out there too and wants to do these things.  Now, the point I made yesterday, is if we can make this plant work and the technology improves, you could see this being duplicated across Australia or even going internationally.

KOCH:

Great.

TREASURER:

But the important thing is that price.  We can make solar power, the problem is the price at which we can make it is too high for households generally at the moment, and it is a question of getting that price down. 

DOYLE:

Absolutely.  And that is what everyone is so confident of happening eventually and of course the more people that take it up and look in to it hopefully the cheaper it will get.  So, great news and thank you for sharing that with us this morning.  Before you go, can I just ask you another question?  I would just like to get your thoughts this morning on those comments by Australia’s most senior Muslim cleric.  You probably would have heard earlier in the news Sheik Taj el-din Al-Hilali has blamed women who don’t cover up for being preyed on by men.  Now, I know that you have had a little bit to say about these sorts of comments in the past, you have said things that radical Muslim clerics who put Islamic law above Australia law probably are best to leave the country, if they are dual citizens.  Is that your response today?  I mean, what can we do about these sorts of comments? 

TREASURER:

Well Australian law is that rape is unacceptable and the victim is not responsible for her own rape.  And if you read the stories about that poor person that was raped and gang raped in Sydney you wouldn’t have any consideration at all for the gang rapists that did it.  The gang rapists treated her in a de-humanised way and nobody should be trying to justify, even to the slightest degree, what they did.  That poor victim was humiliated and brutalised and the men that did it deserved the sentence that they got and no one should be speaking up and suggesting to the contrary.

KOCH:

What should we do about this bloke though because you know, this is part of what he said.  He said, ‘if you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street or in the garden or in the park or in the backyard without a cover and the cats come and eat it, whose fault is it?  The cat’s or the uncovered meat?  It is the uncovered meat that is the problem.’ And that was a comment about Australian women. 

TREASURER:

See this is the problem.  If you want to compare women to uncovered meat, it will be no surprise that that people will treat them in a degrading and de-humanising way.

DOYLE:

But can we do anything about him making these sorts of comments?  I mean I guess the thing that probably is the most offensive is there so many Muslims out there who would not agree with what he is saying and he is their most senior cleric in this country and he is saying things like that. 

KOCH:

Like if George Pell or Peter Jenson said this, they would be railroaded out of town, quite rightly. 

TREASURER:

Yes, well they wouldn’t say it, that is the point, because they don’t have that view of women.  But you see, the point here is that this is totally unacceptable.  This is comparing women to uncovered meat and we really need your political leaders to speak out against it but you know, I hope that the moderate Muslim leaders will speak out today and condemn these comments and make it clear to Muslims that this is not the view of Islam and that they will really take some kind of action to disassociate themselves from the comments that Sheik Al-Hilali has made and indeed take some kind of action to try and pull him into line.  Because if you have a significant religious leader like this preaching to a flock in a situation where we have had gang rapes, in a way that seems to make it justifiable or at least lighten the de-humanising and degrading extent of the offence, then people that listen to that kind of comment can get the wrong idea and they can actually think that it is not as bad as it is.

KOCH:

Absolutely.

DOYLE:

All right, Treasurer Peter Costello, we really appreciate your time this morning.  Thanks for your wonderful news on the earlier on the solar panels and there are 170,000 viewers who signed our petition who are out there cheering with joy this morning, so thank you and we will talk to you again soon.

TREASURER:

Well done and congratulations to you too.  Thank you.

DOYLE:

Thank you.