THE HON ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
ABC INSIDERS WITH DAVID SPEERS
SUNDAY, 23 FEBRUARY 2020
SUBJECTS: Climate change; Family violence, Political donation caps
DAVID SPEERS: Anthony Albanese, welcome.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be here, David.
SPEERS: Let’s start with a pretty important question about this target. Is it economy wide?
ALBANESE: Well, yes. Of course it is. Because emissions are about energy. They’re about transport. And what we know, David, is that the international scientists are all telling us – this is what we need to avoid dangerous climate change. And what does dangerous climate change look like? A 25% contraction in the global economy. A worse impact than the Great Depression.
SPEERS: The reason that I ask that is that Labor’s pre-election position, the 45% target by 2030 didn’t include farmers, in particular. Transport was treated differently as well. But you are saying this net zero target will apply to farming and transport as well?
ALBANESE: Indeed, and of course one of the things is, net zero, is carbon neutral. So it’s not just about reducing emissions. It’s also about practices that can make a difference in terms of going negative emissions, if you like. And you can do that through agriculture, through forestry and through a range of measures.
SPEERS: Well you can, but does it also mean less we’re going to have to do less livestock farming? Are we going to have to eat less meat and consume less dairy?
ALBANESE: Oh look David these things will be worked out on the way through but essentially no –
SPEERS: this is the point.
ALBANESE: No, the point is…
SPEERS: We’re going to have to, aren’t we?
ALBANESE: No, if you have a long-term plan, that is considered, that is measured, which this plan is. Backed by 73 countries, backed by the Business Council of Australia, and all those businesses. You can avoid a shock. And that’s why you need a long-term plan.
SPEERS: That’s what I’m looking at, the long-term. By 2050, we are going to have to change the way we farm and we’re going to have to change transport aren’t we, if all sectors are affected by this?
ALBANESE: Well transport is changing, David, you know that is the case.
SPEERS: So what does it look like in 2050?
ALBANESE: You know that more people are catching public transport. You know that the targets, for example, in New South Wales that were meant to be in 2030, have been met in 2020 in terms of public transport use. You know that there isn’t a car manufacturer in the world that is currently looking at research of any vehicle with an internal combustion engine.
SPEERS: And that may happen, but this is why I’m asking about farming. Because you’re sitting here saying we can still farm livestock, we won’t have to change anything, we just do a bit more carbon farming and everything is OK?
ALBANESE: Well, if you have a considered plan, over the long-term, you do it in a way which is measured, which is organised, and which transitions you through to that zero –
SPEERS: But you’ve also said… You need to be honest here with what you said in this speech. Isn’t it honest to say that there will be a need for transformation in a lot of sectors?
ALBANESE: Absolutely, you’re right. What it will be, though, by having a long-term plan – see Scott Morrison pretends that the world won’t change. He pretends, for example, his Government is looking at a new coal-fired power station in Collinsville, but he knows that’s a nonsense. That’s why they’ve had to give $4 million to the proponents of that project –
SPEERS: Let’s look at your plan for coal. What does a 2050 net zero target mean for coal?
ALBANESE: Well what it means, for example, is that one of the things we’re seeing is that there hasn’t been a coal fired power plant built or opened in Australia since 2007. There hasn’t been one announced since 2004. There hasn’t been one beginning construction since 2004, and there hasn’t been one commissioned since the last century.
SPEERS: So you don’t think that there will be?
ALBANESE: No, I don’t. The fact is that that is not me or you, that’s what the economists are saying, that’s what the market is determining.
SPEERS: What about coalmining? We contribute to global emissions far more through what we export when it comes to coal. Will we still be doing that in 2050 at all?
ALBANESE: Look I suspect we will –
SPEERS: Still exporting coal, even though it is looking at a net zero emissions target?
ALBANESE: It’s net. That is the point. And metallurgical coal, at the moment we do not have a replacement, there’s some research going on into hydrogen. We don’t –
SPEERS: Thermal coal?
ALBANESE: We don’t have a replacement.
SPEERS: Thermal coal? Thermal coal?
ALBANESE: A majority of Queensland exports are metallurgical coal. A majority.
SPEERS: But thermal coal mining employs about 38,000 Australians. Plenty of communities rely on it. Will that still exist?
ALBANESE: That will be determined by the market and by international agreements, and our exporting of thermal coal –
SPEERS: Can’t you be honest about this?
ALBANESE: I am being honest, David. The honest thing is, on the one hand, you have the Government that says we can just pretend it is all business-as-usual. On the other hand, you have some in the Greens party saying – we can just end it tomorrow –
SPEERS: I’m asking about the policy you’ve adopted for Labor. If we have net zero by 2050, are you saying we could still be mining and selling thermal coal to the world?
ALBANESE: Yes, we could. It could be determined by global action and one of the ways that global action occurs is that you look at nation states make agreements. You don’t measure the emissions where the original product comes from. I mean, Japan isn’t responsible for the emissions of every vehicle that’s built in Japan. But the truth is, that just as in Australia, renewables are becoming cheaper, just as new forms of energy, like renewable hydrogen are a way of the future, we can be an energy exporting superpower.
SPEERS: We could be. This is going to require a huge amount of investment, though. We are talking about an unprecedented transformation across not just energy but the entire economy?
ALBANESE: Well, the Business Council of Australia speaks about $22 billion of investment-
SPEERS: A year?
ALBANESE: A year.
SPEERS: Is that about right?
ALBANESE: Well, that’s the Business Council of Australia’s assessment and it seems about right.
SPEERS: The CSIRO has also done a bit of work on this. It has suggested in an earlier report, “The electricity system alone will require expenditure of almost $1,000 billion by current service providers, new entrants and customers by 2050 to get to this target. That’s $1 trillion. Does that sound about right?
ALBANESE: Well this is research that’s being done. And the CSIRO research, of course, like every other bit of research, shows that there will be higher growth, higher wages, lower energy costs, if we go down this road.
SPEERS: But only if there’s this massive investment. That’s what I’m asking you about.
ALBANESE: There will be. You know what that’s code for, when you say “massive investment”, massive job creation. That’s what it is code for.
SPEERS: Where is the investment coming from? The market or the Government?
ALBANESE: Largely from the private sector. The private sector have taken up the challenge which is there, because they recognise that action on climate change isn’t just a challenge, it’s an opportunity.
SPEERS: How do you harness that and encourage that? How do you incentivize that? Will you… Are you open to a price on carbon?
ALBANESE: Look, that’s not necessary David.
SPEERS: Are you open to this?
ALBANESE: At the moment, what you have is the cheapest forms of energy are renewable, are coal and solar… Sorry, wind and solar. When you look at what we introduced, as a policy in 2006, I was the climate change spokesperson.
SPEERS: Let’s talk about now. We know the history of this.
ALBANESE: We did the Renewable Energy Target.
SPEERS: We’ll talk about that.
ALBANESE: This is important, David. We introduced a mandatory Renewable Energy Target of 20% by 2020. At the time, the target was 2%. Guess what it’s been achieved. It’s been the most significant transformational impact on the economy. It’s resulted in lower energy prices, and the Government wanted to use the credits from that in order to aggregate its obligations …
SPEERS: But I’m asking you about now. Just to clear this up, you are open to a carbon price or not?
ALBANESE: Well, David, we will establish, well before the election, but we didn’t go to the last election with a price on carbon. What we’re open to David is plans like the National Energy Guarantee. Now, we would have supported…
SPEERS: I’m asking about a carbon price.
ALBANESE: We would have supported that. I’m telling you what we support rather than what we don’t support.
SPEERS: Before we move on, I want to make it clear… We’re not getting a clear answer on this. Are you open to it, yes or no?
ALBANESE: What I’m doing, David, is outlining very clearly to you the sort of mechanisms that we would be open to. One of the things that we need to do…
SPEERS: A carbon price?
ALBANESE: Well, David, we don’t believe that that is necessary. In terms of, we didn’t go to the last election with that commitment. And one of the things that you have to ask, David, is what is the cost of inaction? You need to get Scott Morrison to front up. He’s the leader of this country. He hasn’t shown much leadership lately, which is why people are so disappointed in him.
SPEERS: OK, let’s stick to your…
ALBANESE: He’s the Government, he needs to answer – what is the cost of inaction?
SPEERS: There is a cost to inaction. But you’re sitting here now as the one who has adopted this new Labor policy now. Will we see a 2030 target? This is much harder, of course, than a 2050 target. Will we see a 2030 target before the next election from you?
ALBANESE: We’ll determine our policy later on. Of course, when we determined the 2030 target last time, it was in 2015. So that was a 15 year target. The next election is in 2022.
SPEERS: Eight years before 2030. So will we see a target? I’m not asking you to give it now, but will we see one?
ALBANESE: We’ll see interim measures. Yes we will.
SPEERS: Does that mean 2030?
ALBANESE: We’ll determine that down the track.
SPEERS: So we may not even get a 2030 target?
ALBANESE: We’ll determine that down the track. And what we had last time was a 15 year target rather than an 8 year target. We’ll determine our policies…
SPEERS: Is an 8 year target too hard?
ALBANESE: One of the things that will happen in the next two years… We don’t want to let the Government off the hook. They have two years of further inaction, may well be what we’re seeing. But hopefully not. We have a conference coming up in Glasgow at the end of the year where as a result of our announcement on Friday, you had Mathias Cormann say they’d have a target. You had that contradicted by Angus Taylor.
SPEERS: We’ll get to that. I was asking about Labor’s position?
ALBANESE: We’re not the Government David.
SPEERS: Let’s move on. A few other things. This latest fund, the Urban Congestion Fund, a lot of taxpayers money that went to Coalition seats and target seats and so on. Don’t both sides do this though ultimately? Is it election commitments, this isn’t some scheme that bureaucrats have?
ALBANESE: These aren’t election commitments, David. This was a fund that was created in the Budget, and money allocated, so it’s real money, it’s not a commitment, “If we’re elected…”, these were announcements made and funding allocated in the budget, and 83% of it went to either Liberal and National Party seats, or target seats. So if you look at the electoral map, seats like mine in Sydney got not a dollar, nor did other seats that happened to be held by the Labor Party in Brisbane, in Melbourne, in Perth, in Adelaide.
SPEERS: What would you do about this? Is it time to end these sorts of discretionary funds altogether?
ALBANESE: That’s why we had Infrastructure Australia, to recommend projects based upon cost benefit analysis.
SPEERS: So you won’t go to the next election committing money to marginal target seats?
ALBANESE: That process has been abandoned. What we’ve seen here is the sports rorts affair, and then we saw sports rorts on steroids with their so-called women’s sports program. This is a nuclear level of rorting. $3 billion announced with an electoral map rather than a guide to urban congestion.
SPEERS: Will you go to the election saying – here’s the money we want to spend on transport? We’ll let Infrastructure Australia decide where to spend it?
ALBANESE: We, undoubtedly, will make some specific commitments during the election.
SPEERS: You’ll target marginal seats?
ALBANESE: We’ll make some specific commitments based upon cost benefit and based upon not an electoral map. The problem is that it is counterproductive. Common sense tells you that if you’re dealing with urban congestion in a city like Melbourne, you can’t just target some seats.
SPEERS: A couple of other things I’d like to ask you about the issue that’s shocked the nation this week – the mother and her three young kids who were set on fire and killed at Camp Hill. It has put a renewed focus on the need to tackle domestic violence. On average, one woman in Australia each week is being killed. What needs to be done? What would you, as a leader, want to change on this?
ALBANESE: The first thing that needs to be done is it needs to be called out. And it needs to be called out for what it is – a terrible murder and a scourge on our society. This is an epidemic that we’re seeing. We saw this weekend, a woman in Townsville lose her life, be murdered. And we saw when this incredibly horrific incident happened with a young woman and three kids. You know, it’s a crime, it’s murder, it needs to be called out. There are no excuses, no weasel words required for this. When I became leader of the Labor Party, I called for a National Summit on Domestic Violence. And I believe that would be an entirely appropriate move.
SPEERS: Can I just ask you, on a practical front. One thing that Rosie Batty has been arguing for a while is there needs to be change to the Family Court. There were laws passed under the Howard Government in 2006 that required the Family Court to have an assumption of equal, of shared parental responsibility. She wants that to change. Do you agree?
ALBANESE: Well, the Government is trying to get rid of the Family Court. That’s one of the things that’s going on here David that needs to be resisted. And so…
SPEERS: What about this, though? Shared parental responsibility. Should that end?
ALBANESE: What courts should be able to take into account is records, for example, in last week’s tragedy. The fellow had a history.
SPEERS: I’m asking whether they should have this assumption, under law, to go for shared parental responsibility?
ALBANESE: What I’m saying to you is – they should be able to take into account the specific circumstances rather than just assume, because quite clearly, we know what a threat this man was to his family.
SPEERS: A final one – I just wanted to ask you on electoral reform, something that really goes to the integrity of our democracy. A couple of weeks ago, we found out that Clive Palmer donated more than $80 million to his United Australia Party in the election campaign. Is it time to put a cap on donations?
SPEERS: So that’s a new Labor position?
SPEERS: Any idea what the cap should be?
ALBANESE: Well, we’ve argued, of course, for greater transparency. It’s quite clear that Australians are losing faith with the political system. And when an individual can spend $80 million, our democracy shouldn’t be for sale. And common sense tells you that when you look, for example, at the states. My state of New South Wales has a cap on expenditure and has real time disclosure rules. That hasn’t happened at the federal level.
SPEERS: If you cap donations, you’re talking about not just individuals but corporations and unions?
ALBANESE: You need to have a sensible discussion about people being able to participate in our democracy. They should be able to donate. But what they shouldn’t be able to do is to spend an obscene amount of money, which is what we saw in order to change a political outcome.
SPEERS: Any cap would have to be across-the-board with unions as well?
ALBANESE: Caps will need to be, of course, they’d need to apply to everyone. But I don’t know of any union that spent $80 million on a campaign, or any individual, or any business, apart from Clive Palmer. This is an extraordinary abuse. But what we need is transparency. So we need real time donation reforms and disclosure. Why is it we’re finding out now how much Clive Palmer put in? We know that we found out about Malcolm Turnbull’s contribution to the Liberal Party at the previous election well after that had occurred.
SPEERS: Anthony Albanese, we’ll have to leave it there. Thank you.
ALBANESE: Thank you.