The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

20 August 2008

Doorstop Interview

Cairns, Queensland

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

SUBJECTS: Visit to James Cook University, Tourism, Liberal's Raid on Surplus, Banks/Interest Rates

TREASURER:

It’s great to be out here with Jim Turnour this morning to look at the very important work that the University is doing in tackling dangerous climate change.  The facility out here is receiving considerable federal funding, upwards towards $20 million.

And why is this research important?  Because tackling dangerous climate change is fundamentally not only an issue of the environment but an issue of economic prosperity and the Rudd Government and Jim Turnour are absolutely committed to tackling dangerous climate change.  And part and parcel of doing that is the important research that is done here, looking at the impact of climate change on the reef and also on the rainforests, understanding the implications for vital industries such as tourism, looking at its impact on our built environment.  All of these things are critical.  It’s all part and parcel of putting together a plan to tackle dangerous climate change and research at institutions like James Cook is absolutely critical to that process.

So I’m deeply impressed with the work that I’ve seen here this morning.  It will help inform the Rudd Government into the future as we work with local communities to tackle the impact of dangerous climate change on our environment and on our economy.

I might just throw to Jim just to say a couple of things and then I’m sure we can talk about a couple of other issues.

TURNOUR:

It was great to get out here and have the University brief the Treasurer first hand on the threats to our Great Barrier Reef and our rainforest from climate change but also to talk broadly about the role of the University in tropical research.  Some of their specific projects relate to the threats to our tropical rainforests here and the potential impacts they will have going forward on our tourism industry and how tourism might adapt to those changes.  Similarly what are the threats to the Great Barrier Reef and how can we actually look to ensure we are doing all that we can to prevent that happening in the future.

So it’s been critical research that happens here at James Cook University.  This is a particularly important facility to provide us with the information about the threats to climate change but it’s also an important university to our local economy in terms of protecting the tourism industry and providing significant employment to the local community.

JOURNALIST:

What sort of research is done here that isn’t done elsewhere?

TURNOUR:

The University’s position here located next to the Great Barrier Reef, located next to our wet tropics rainforests enable researchers here to work first hand with those environments, to look at the historical coral cores in relation to the Reef, to work first hand with the rainforests and look at what are the threats to changes in cloud cover to the broader environment in terms of our rainforests, what are the potential changes that will happen in the future if we don’t tackle climate change which the Rudd Government is very serious about doing and that’s why we’re introducing our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, why we’ve got significant commitments in relation to doing things with people in their individual homes and also about introducing a mandatory renewable energy target that seriously introduces renewable energy into not only Australia more broadly but also into this part of the world and makes those sorts of investments a reality for these sorts of local communities.

TREASURER:

We’ve just been in there observing some of this very important research.  We’ve just had a look at the Banks Collection of material that was collected by Joseph Banks when they were stranded in what is now Cooktown.

This research into our plant life, how it’s evolved over time, is absolutely critical to understanding climate change and absolutely critical to understanding where we’re heading.

So this research facility here has real practical work being done on a daily basis that will inform us about the impacts of climate change particularly on the rainforests.  And understanding that can unlock vital information which is of great assistance for example to medical science.

Understanding all of these things is critical and that’s why the work here is so important.

JOURNALIST:

How much federal funding goes towards the research?

TREASURER:

There’s about $20 million of research funding coming in here and most of that is federal funding.

JOURNALIST:

So how important is it to come up here first hand and see this?

TREASURER:

Regional Australia is absolutely critical to our national economic prosperity and being here with Jim Turnour is part and parcel of recognising the fact that places like Far North Queensland play a vital role in our national economy. So from my point of view and from the Rudd Government’s point of view being up here, on the ground, listening to local business, looking at research institutions like this, is a very important part of forming national economic policy.

TURNOUR:

One of the things that we heard this morning is about the role that this University plays in protecting our local environment in terms of providing information and good science, but also the role it can play in terms of the tropical community internationally and we really have an opportunity to establish ourselves and grow our tropical expertise here in areas like climate change and areas like medical science.

We’ve heard first hand about those sorts of areas and those plans for the University for the future and it’s fantastic to have the Treasurer here on the ground to be able to hear first hand from Sandra Harding, Vice Chancellor, and others about the research they’re doing, about the tropical knowledge that’s being developed locally here in Cairns at our own University.

TREASURER:

Can I just make a couple of comments about national issues that are around this morning.  First of all I’d like to observe how irresponsible it is for the Liberal Party to try and blow a huge hole in our surplus.  The surplus that the Rudd Government put together is very important.  It’s a buffer against international economic uncertainty and for the Liberal Party to try and blow a hole in that surplus is the height of economic irresponsibility.

If the best the Liberal Party can do in nine months is to try and blow a very big hole in an important Budget surplus it shows what little credibility they have at all when it comes to economic policy.

JOURNALIST:

Why is it important for you to see it rather than Penny Wong?

TREASURER:

Well you see climate change and tackling dangerous climate change is an economic issue.  It’s not just an environmental or climate change issue.  Peter Garrett and Penny Wong are working constantly in the area of the environment and climate change, but at the end of the day if we don’t tackle dangerous climate change it will have a dramatic impact on our economic growth and our future economic prosperity.

So tackling dangerous climate change is as much an economic issue as it is an environmental issue because it goes to the very core of our capacity to create wealth and have a fair and prosperous society.

JOURNALIST:

What’s the Federal Government doing for tourism in the Far North now?

TREASURER:

We are working with the Queensland State Government.  We are working with the local industry.  Earlier in the year we made a commitment of an additional $4 million to the industry and that is being progressed as quickly as we possibly can.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

We made an additional allocation of $4 million.  The Queensland State Government has made an additional allocation.  We recognise that there has been an impact on the local tourism industry of international economic events.  As many people are aware, we have perhaps the most uncertain set of international economic conditions in over 25 years.  Australia is not immune from that and our tourism industry is not immune from that, and we recognise that there is a need for additional assistance to the local industry here which is why we made that allocation earlier in the year.

JOURNALIST:

You made the statement that you blame the Liberal Party for blowing a hole in the Budget but surely now the Independents hold the balance of power in the Senate, aren’t they the key to this decision?

TREASURER:

No.  The Liberal Party should, if they are economically responsible, pass our Budget measures in full.  Having a strong Budget surplus is an important buffer against international economic uncertainty.  Yesterday they announced that they were going to blow a huge hole in that surplus. That is completely economically irresponsible.

You see, we’ve been waiting for nine months for some responsibility from the Liberal Party when it comes to economic policy but they’ve just thrown all of that out the back door.

JOURNALIST:

What about the banks?  They apparently don’t want to do much with interest rates.  The Federal Reserve says they want to bring them down.  The banks are resisting.  Do you have a comment on that?

TREASURER:

Well if borrowing costs for the banks are going down, their mortgage rates should follow.  It’s really that simple.  I think what the Reserve Bank observed yesterday is that the impact of eight official rate rises in three years, and the impact of unofficial rate increases by the banks, have hit many Australian families for six. So that when rates go down the banks should follow.

You see the banks have been putting up their rates after official rate decisions in a nanosecond, so if rates are going to come down, and the Reserve takes the decision to bring them down, then the banks must follow.

JOURNALIST:

Isn’t it double dipping though?  They’ve cut saving rates on savings accounts but won’t drop their other rates.

TREASURER:

Well I’m very hopeful that we will see some responsibility from the banks.  Should the Reserve Bank take a decision to cut rates then the banks should follow.  And I’m also hopeful to see from the banks that we might see some reductions also in the unofficial rate rises that they put in place in recent times given that borrowing rates around the world have come down in recent times.

Thanks.