ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB Q&A
WEDNESDAY, 24 JUNE 2020
SUBJECTS: National Press Club vision statement on science; energy policy; R&D investment; price on carbon; emissions targets; coal; Dyson Heydon; Eden-Monaro by-election; ABC cuts; Australia’s relationship with the US and China.
SABRA LANE: Thank you for your speech. I’m surprised at your observation about Facebook and mushrooms thriving on the same fuel. It was appreciated. I’m going to pick up on your point on R&D that you made in your speech. At the last election, Labor made a promise for R&D, three per cent of GDP by 2030. Is that a principle that you are still committed to? Or given the economic circumstances of the times now that policy is no longer achievable under Labor?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, we’ll make specific costed policies closer to the election. But in terms of the principle of an increase in R&D investment, absolutely. We consider it as just that, an investment, not a cost. It’s an investment that produces a return. And if we’re better at commercialising our R&D, we would have a growing economy, growing jobs. To use just one example, so much of solar technology that’s used around the world was produced right here at the ANU or at the University of New South Wales. What happened then was that it was offshored, and other nations got the benefit of those manufacturing jobs and then we imported it back. We supply all the ingredients that into to go a solar panel, but we don’t make them here. We used to. I visited the centre at Homebush. I visited a centre in Adelaide run by Origin. We need to be much better at it. And we need to see R&D as an investment.
LANE: Journalists, we have a long list of people wanting to ask questions today. Could I please ask that you ask one per person and also stay at the microphone until Mr Albanese’s finished giving his answer. Mark Riley.
MARK RILEY: Thanks, Mark Riley from the Seven Network. Thanks for your address. Ten years to the day since Labor ditched Kevin Rudd, a first-term Prime Minister, two ditched Prime Ministers, three successive election losses later. Isn’t this this just recognition that Labor can’t win a fight on energy policy, so you concede, and will that pragmatism extend to the big game, climate policy. Will you commit to ambitious medium targets towards the 2050 goal and a price on carbon?
ALBANESE: Well, what Labor put in place when we were in Government was a framework. A framework that could be a car, if you like, in which you could speed up by putting your foot on the accelerator or slow down, depending upon what the scientific advice was through an emissions trading scheme. The problem now is that there’s a debate about fuel and whether you should speed up or go backwards in terms of targets. But there’s no vehicle to put the fuel in. And what I’m arguing today, and what the experts have told us, that we have consulted with, is that you need a vehicle that has bipartisan support, that will be permanent, in place, that can be adjusted, that can be flexible. And that’s why we’ve said the proposals that we’ve put forward, we’re attempting to be cooperative here in putting forward two of the suggestions are ones that are the Government, that they themselves walked away from, the Clean Energy Target and the National Energy Guarantee. So, what’s obvious is that emissions were going down when we were in government. When you had the change of government, that process was reversed. And we’ve had, since 2013, no energy policy in this country. That’s not good for the national economy in terms of jobs given the recession that we’re in. But it’s also not good for action on climate change. So, I understand that we need to do better as a nation. This is a proposal seeking out bipartisanship on the framework. We can have our disagreements about how much the target should be. And we’ll base our targets upon the science. We have already said net zero emissions by 2050. I think it’s unfortunate that the Federal Coalition Government haven’t embraced that, unlike every single state and territory government, whether they be Labor or Coalition.
RILEY: Price on carbon?
ALBANESE: Well, we have put forward the mechanisms. And the thing about where we were in 2007, and indeed that policy was written under Kim Beazley, is that renewables at that time needed support in terms of a market-based mechanism. The fact is that the cheapest form of new energy in this country is renewables. It’s solar and wind. The circumstances have changed. What is being held back at the moment, and in 2019 we saw a 50 per cent drop in renewable investment. The biggest thing that drove change was the 2020 target, 20 per cent by 2020. I say that, I as the Environment and Climate Change spokesperson wrote that policy in Kim Beazley’s Climate Change Blueprint in 2006. That has been the single most effective mechanism in driving that change. Opposed by the Coalition at the time but has made an enormous difference. What we need today is a mechanism to drive investment. We’re prepared to sit down with the Government and work out that framework, go forward in a bipartisan way. Because what business tells us is that that would drive massive investment in renewables in particular. And that would drive a significant improvement in job creation at the very time it’s needed.
LANE: Sorry, did you get a clear answer on a price on carbon?
ALBANESE: Well, I have said the reason why you needed that mechanism was that the circumstances were different. That was about renewables. Renewables today are looking for a different framework. See if you ask are we going back to the old system, the answer to that is no. We’re looking forward, not backwards. And we’re looking forward at a mechanism that will drive that change through the economy. And what business tells us, and all the players in the energy sector, is that they can live with the Clean Energy Target, they can live with a range of structures we went to the last election with an emissions scheme. All those mechanisms are what is required given the commercialisation that we have seen in renewables.
STELA TODOROVIC: I wanted to ask you how important a feature of what you’re proposing is the ability for a Labor Government, or an incoming Labor Government, to upscale future target emissions in the future?
ALBANESE: It’s essential. It’s essential that targets be based upon the science. And it needs to be a mechanism that has that flexibility there. So, we don’t argue. I’m not naive about this. I don’t argue that the political arguments over climate change, that we can get agreement with the Government on it. Because, frankly, they are a whole lot of people who don’t even believe climate change is happening in spite of the facts and the science around them. So, what I’m arguing for, though, is that you can agree on a framework. And business say that they’ll factor in the potential of changes down the track. But that what they really need is that framework.
MATTHEW KILLORAN: Matthew Killoran from the Courier Mail. You’ve said in the past that you see a future for metallurgical coal in Australia and the future for thermal coal is highly dependent on international markets. Given the ALP National Platform from 2018 largely only mentions coal just in the context of transition and transitioning people out of the industry, what will you do to ensure that coal jobs within the economy are endorsed within the new national platform going forward, when the conference meets again in December?
ALBANESE: Well, when the conference meets we’ll determine a new platform. But those issues are stating the obvious. That they’ll depend upon markets and demand and I have consistently said that. I maintain that position whether it’s thermal coal or metallurgical coal. The way that all international agreements have been done is to measure emissions at the point in which they’re emitted, not in terms of, you don’t take Japan and say they produce a lot of cars so therefore they have to pay the price of the production of those cars. That’s a very simple proposition.
MATTHEW KILLORAN: Will you take an active role though in ensuring that is endorsed?
ALBANESE: I expect that it won’t be shocking to say that as Labor Leader I will be taking an active role in the development of the Labor platform.
LANE: Our next question is from Andrew Probyn.
ANDREW PROBYN: Mr Albanese, Andrew Probyn from the ABC. You’ve talked about the culture wars and the climate wars, how about the history wars? As Mark Riley was referring to, you’ve chosen the 10th anniversary of the Rudd coup to make this speech. Energy policy was a big reason for his fall. Do you think there was a sliding doors moment, and you watched this up close, when Kevin Rudd refused to go to a double disillusion in early 2010 given the defeat of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme?
ALBANESE: History can always be examined. And you don’t know what the result of that would have been. Can I say that if there had been a double dissolution in 2010 I think we would have won. I also think we would have won an election in 2010 at the normal time. The disruption that occurred ten years ago, and just by coincidence that’s today’s speech is after…
ANDREW PROBYN: It’s a curious coincidence.
ALBANESE: I beg your pardon?
PROBYN: It’s a curious coincidence.
ALBANESE: It is that. I’m firmly of the view, I stand by my comments on that night. I remain friends with both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. But I think it was an error to remove an elected PM in their first term and it led to a range of changes of Prime Minister. I said on that night, as I have said on the record, that if this happens we will damage two Labor Prime Ministers. And I think we did. Notwithstanding that, I think that Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard both led outstanding Labor Governments that made a big difference in terms of reform and it stands in stark contrast to the occupation of the space that we see from the current Government that’s been there for seven years. And at the end of the next election, I suspect, part of our spiel you’ll hear from me as you go around the trail will be what was the point of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government.
LANE: Kieran Gilbert.
KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert, Sky News, Mr Albanese. Thanks so much for your speech. I want to ask you whether Labor is still committed to not using the Kyoto carryover credits in order to meet the Paris targets. And if that’s the case do you concede that Australia would then have to double emission reduction efforts over the next decade to achieve that.
ALBANESE: To the first question, yes, it’s a rort. If it looks like a rort and sounds like a rort, it is. And that’s why the rest of the world is saying no to carryover. I mean there’s some irony, I’ve got to say, in a Government that completely opposed ratifying Kyoto and was opposed to what Labor put in place saying we want to use those credits when we had an energy policy in order to make up for the fact that we don’t. And what I’m putting forward today is a proposal in which we can have an energy policy in this country. We don’t have one at the moment.
LANE: Sarah Ison.
SARAH ISON: Sarah Ison, from the West Australian. Thank you for your speech. In sitting down with the Prime Minister to develop this national framework where does WA, the largest resource state, sit in this conversation? Do you think it’s inevitable that jobs are going to have to go in the future in this State? And if you were the PM how would you repair our relationship with China?
LANE: Sorry, that was two questions. Take your pick.
ALBANESE: I will take the parochial one for WA. This is a pro-WA speech. This is a pro-WA speech. This is a pro jobs speech and a plan for jobs and growth will benefit WA as a resource-rich state. But also, it will be about commercialising the opportunity some of which is happening already in the West. If you go to just in the inner suburbs of Perth you have a hydrogen exhibition facility, if you like, where they’re powering houses. They’re examining what can be done by looking and embracing science and new technology. And that at its heart will have significant benefit for WA. WA, along with Far North Queensland, is where there are vast deposits of rare earths including lithium. If we embrace that, if we embrace value adding and commercialising the opportunities that are there, we should be producing solar panels in WA. We should be producing batteries in WA. We should be making sure that we don’t just export minerals that will remain important but then import them back once the value-add is there and once the jobs have been created offshore. We should be looking at ways in which we can commercialise those opportunities.
LANE: Phil Coorey.
PHIL COOREY: Phil Coorey from the AFR. Just on your speech and you talking about the need for a mechanism to drive technological change that could be scaled up in terms of emissions, wasn’t that precisely what the NEG did? And there was the emissions reduction component that was used by the right-wing of the Liberal Party to neck Malcolm Turnbull so why would you think Scott Morrison is going to embrace a policy that maybe different in name but is precisely the same in mechanism?
ALBANESE: He said he supported it at the time. He voted for it and advocated for it at the time. Josh Frydenberg saw himself as the architect of it at the time. And they’ve been in Government now for seven years. People like you, Phil, will not let them go to the next election I’m sure saying, ‘We’ve been here for nine years, if you give us a fourth term we’ll come up with an energy policy’. That’s really what they’re saying at the moment. ‘Give us a fourth term and we’ll come up with a policy.’ We’re here to help. We’re being constructive. They have listened to the science and that’s one of the things that I saw as a breakthrough. They’ve listened to the science during the pandemic. How about we take that principle on to other measures as well, particularly climate change
LANE: Greg Brown.
GREG BROWN: Greg Brown from The Australian. Just following up from Phil’s question, given how internally divisive any sort of policy framework has been for the Coalition, involving any form of carbon trading, if you’re asking the Government to compromise and come to the table on that, would you be willing to consider your own compromise and consider accepting the Government’s 2030 Paris targets, so Australia has a decade of policy certainty ahead of it and then the scalability that you talk about can be implemented after 2030?
LANE: Sounds like a sneaky two-parter.
ALBANESE: Look, we’ll establish our own mechanisms based upon the science, not based upon politics. And the science needs to tell us where to go. That’s why the science is telling us net zero emissions by 2050. We’re putting forward, in detail, the letter to the Prime Minister. It was respectful. It put forward things that we would agree on and things that we wouldn’t. It’s the basis of sitting down and then having a discussion. If it can’t be worked out, well, so be it. That’s up to the Government. But the problem for the Government is that the Coalition have been held back by their internal divisions for so long. And what this is, perhaps, is an opportunity for the Coalition to break up that internal debate, to marginalise those people who say that the science of climate change is, you know, a matter of faith that they don’t believe in. Just like people who said that the pandemic was because of 5G or because of some other nonsense, that it was dealt with. This is an opportunity for the Government to put forward in good faith. One of the things that has happened during the pandemic as well is that I think the public have responded well to governments and oppositions across the board Federally, not across the board in state and territory governments, it must be said. But being constructive, looking at the science, listening to the experts. And when I haven’t seen, I don’t know if maybe you can answer this, Greg, but I reckon you could do a survey here about who the Chief Medical Officer was for Australia and who the two deputies were six months ago, and you could have given away a magnum of the best red at the National Press Club if anyone got all three answers. The fact is, that Australians today know it. How about we listen to the experts. But we’re providing the Government with an opportunity to sit down. They should take it up.
GREG BROWN: But you won’t negotiate on 2030 targets?
ALBANESE: One of the things that I’m concerned about is outcomes and directions. And we are prepared to sit down and talk about the mechanisms which are there. We’re not the Coalition. We’ll come up with our own policies and platforms in terms of measures and where we think Australia needs to go. And we’ll answer that at the appropriate time in the lead-up to the next election. We don’t know where the starting point is for 2030. We don’t know where we’ll be in 2022. As I have explained to you on multiple occasions, and I refer to my previous 73 answers on that question.
LANE: But on that question alone, I mean it’s been a long-held position by the Coalition to reduce emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent by 2030. You’re not even saying you support that now?
ALBANESE: That is the Government’s target. Are they going to meet it? What’s the circumstances in 2022? We’ll announce our own policies. We have said we support net zero emissions by 2050. It’s very clear that what needs to be done therefore in between now and then, interim targets need to be consistent with that.
LANE: Rob Harris.
ROB HARRIS: Rob Harris from The Age and Sydney Morning Herald Mr Albanese. A number of your Shadow Cabinet colleagues have called for Dyson Heydon, the former High Court judge to be stripped of his AC following an independent investigation into his behaviour. Do you support those calls?
ALBANESE: Look, I think the most important question here is, and my concern hasn’t been focused on Dyson Heydon, it’s focused on those brave six women, three of whom are taking legal action. And to have a debate, that hopefully this will facilitate an increased debate about power relationships in the workplace. The idea that a man, a High Court judge, in a position of seniority has engaged in this conduct against people who are in their first job, the best and brightest are the people who get to be associates to High Court judges, should be a huge wake-up call for workplaces throughout the country. Should Dyson Heydon have been given an AC? Well, clearly not, at the time. If you look at what Justice Kiefel has found and what she has said. But my concern at this point in time is for the women in this situation. And my concern also is that it’s a bit of a call for the nation, I think, to examine workplace harassment, which is always inappropriate. And to look at those power imbalances which are there and ensure that there are mechanisms so that there’s recourse. The bravery of these young women to come forward in a circumstance against a very powerful man, a High Court judge, is extraordinary, and my praise to them.
LANE: Our next question is from Michelle Grattan.
MICHELLE GRATTAN: Michelle Grattan from The Conversation. Mr Albanese, your energy initiative has been seen by some people as a pivot of Labor policy, but equally it can be regarded as a gesture to the new mood of the community about politics that you were talking about before, a gesture that you know that Scott Morrison is likely to reject. To what extent does this initiative represent any change in Labor policy?
ALBANESE: Well, it certainly is consistent with everything I have said as Labor Leader. When I came and became Labor Leader on day one I said Australians were suffering from conflict fatigue. I said I’d look for solutions not arguments. And that’s what I’m doing here. Looking for a solution, looking for an outcome, not looking for an argument and conflict. Not because it’s an academic argument but there’s real-world consequences. Renewable energy investment falling off a cliff by 50 per cent in 2019, as a direct result of the fact that the Government doesn’t have an energy policy. Now, what I want is a mechanism, and I want it sooner rather than later. I hope to be in Mr Morrison’s position at the end of next year or the gunge of 2022. I want there to be progress before then. I don’t want the country to just stagnate in between now and
then. That’s the spirit in which it’s put forward. I must say it’s the spirit that I have put forward consistently as the Labor Leader and indeed one that I advocated and put forward in various speeches prior to the 2019 election as well.
LANE: Katharine Murphy.
KATHARINE MURPHY: Mr Albanese, Katharine Murphy from Guardian Australia. I’m just asking this question because I have not heard a straight answer to it in the course of this address. Mark Butler said immediately after the election that Labor would set a medium-term target before the next election which was consistent with the science. Does that remain Labor’s policy?
ALBANESE: I have said that. And, yes, we will set targets based on science.
LANE: Brett Mason.
BRETT MASON: Brett Mason from SBS. Better late than never. In 2018, Malcolm Turnbull said that by-elections are a test of leadership. Eden-Monaro heads to the polls on 4 July. How big a test is this of your leadership?
ALBANESE: This is a huge opportunity for the people of Eden-Monaro to send a message to the Government. A message about whether they think the lead-up to the bushfire crisis last year was adequate, about whether they think the response and the recovery has been adequate. I noticed Scott Morrison yesterday making an announcement about support for industry, forestry and orchardists. Yesterday. Ten days before an election is held and indeed while polling booths are open, they have discovered the industry that was damaged during the catastrophic bushfires needs support. I think it’s a test of Mr Morrison. Mr Morrison has circumstances whereby he is at a considerable boost if you look at the published polls for him. We have coronavirus whereby you have unique circumstances or perhaps unique, unique in a century, literally, whereby the entire country wants the Government to succeed because the health and the economy is up for grabs. They’re concerned about it. So, the whole country has been cheering on our leaders, whether they be federal or state. But the test and the opportunity that’s there in this by-election is for people to send a message about the bushfires and what occurred there, about as well JobKeeper and all those people who missed out, the million casuals, the arts and entertainment workers, the people at Dnata. Whether, also, it’s acceptable that the Government has the new economic figures about the state of the economy, they know it’s now 95 days until JobKeeper is withdrawn. If they don’t want JobKeeper withdrawn, vote against the Coalition on Saturday, July 4. Because at the moment, the Government has those economic figures and guess what They’re not telling you until after July 4. That’s not a coincidence. That’s a strategy to rip out support for people who need it, who are vulnerable, but not tell them until after the by-election is held and that’s why people should cast a vote for Kristy McBain. She’s the outstanding candidate. She’s the only person as well who, I will get a chance for an ad here, the only person who their party wanted. The truth is that the Libs and Nats were too busy fighting each other within and fighting against that went on for weeks which is why the by-election was delayed. Kristy McBain was our first choice. She’s the best choice for Eden-Monaro.
LANE: We’re close to time. Have you happy to take a few more questions.
KATINA CURTIS: Katina Curtis from AAP. We have just seen in the last couple of minutes, or you haven’t because you have been up on the podium, but police have been asked to investigate the allegations against Dyson Heydon. And in slightly less recent times, we still have Malcolm Turnbull’s bonk ban in place on ministers, Members of Parliament. What signals do these kinds of things send to woman who want to aspire at the top of their profession in law or politics or elsewhere in society?
ALBANESE: It sends a terrible signal. Not just for those people directly affected but for women everywhere and in particular, young women. As I said before, to be an associate to the High Court judge, you’re pretty smart. You have done very well at university, you’re aspiring to be a senior person in the legal profession. And three of those young women have dropped out of the legal profession. That’s a tragedy. It’s a tragedy for them, but also a tragedy for the nation because we’re losing that talent, in order to get to that position of an associate to a High Court judge. Nicola Roxon was one and went on to become the Attorney-General of this country. And I just think it sends a terrible message. And it sends a message, as well, to men to change behaviour. To call it out when we see inappropriate behaviour as well. You know, I find it astonishing, the revelations, they’re disappointing, they’re shocking. And no doubt there’ll be further action as a result.
LANE: Jane Norman.
JANE NORMAN: Hello, Mr Albanese. Thank you for your speech today. I’m from the ABC. So, putting that on the record before I ask this question, while you were speaking our managing director has announced up to 250 jobs are going to be cut from the organisation and part of a longer-term plan up to 75 per cent of the content maker which is are journos’ producers, will be outside of Ultimo. I’m just seeking your response to that? Do you think that the ABC is too Sydney centric?
LANE: That’s a sneaky two-parter as well.
ALBANESE: That is okay. There’s no-one in the queue behind. The ABC cuts that were made by this Government have had an impact on jobs and have had an impact on the quality of services provided. During the bushfires, the ABC literally saved lives. Because of the shoddy telecommunications that exist in places like Eden-Monaro and some other places as well, Kangaroo Island and parts of the north coast of New South Wales, this was an issue as well. People were relying on the ABC to tell them whether to go or leave and tell them what’s happening, it saved lives. And it seems to me it is appalling that the Government hasn’t recognised that. The ABC is not too Sydney-centric, the ABC in particular provides essential services to rural communities and at a time when we have seen the demise of regional newspapers, the ABC, in many cases, along with some other local radio and community radio, is all people have got to rely upon. It’s also the case that the ABC consistently rates highest in terms of people’s reliability about honesty and authenticity of the news broadcasts, and that’s really important. The other thing it does is it trains people who then go on to work perhaps for other networks as well as a bit of an exchange, and in the media. This is my sixth vision statement today, my third was on democracy. This was due to be given, I think, in April. I think we were doing it but because of the coronavirus, it’s why it was put off. The ABC, in terms of our media landscape and the role of voices in our democracy is, democracy can’t be taken for granted. It’s fragile in many parts of the world. I think the ABC has a critical role, and I’m very sorry to see job losses at a time like this. The Government surely should be stepping in and saying, ‘Now of all times is not the time to lose 250 jobs at the ABC’.
LANE: Our next and final question is from Mark Kenny.
MARK KENNY: Mark Kenny from the ANU Democracy Sausage. Congratulations for your last answer, spoken like a true Sydneysider. You spoke a bit in your address about global warming, the temperature around the globe. There’s a lot of temperature in global politics at the moment, I wonder if you could give us your view about that, particularly the heightened temperature between the US and China, and do you look forward to the voters taking some of the temperature out of that by electing Joe Biden in the election later this year?
ALBANESE: Well, I don’t have a vote in the US election, so I will leave that up to the good people of the United States and have faith in their capacity to make an appropriate judgement. In terms of the conflict in the world, it is of concern, the rising tension between the two global superpowers, and the impact that has potentially on Australia. We need to always look after our national interests. There are three pillars of our foreign policy. One, our alliance with the United States. Two, our engagement within the region. And three, our support for multilateral forums. It is good the Government shifted its rhetoric recently away from negative globalism and has recognised that there is indeed a need for Australia as a middle power to engage and show leadership in those global forums. We live in an interdependent world and we saw, of course, with the change in barley entering into China, that that provided up an opportunity for US agriculture to benefit as a result. So, we need to be cautious about ensuring our national interest is always put first. But those three pillars have served Labor well over a considerable period of time. We need to engage in international forums in a way that is constructive. In a way in which we again play a positive role. I go back to when we hosted the G20 here, and given the theme of today’s speech, when the then Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, proudly proclaimed to world leaders that they had got rid of action on climate change and they scratched their heads, frankly, and thought that was a rather odd thing to be proud of. We need to be a part of international processes, including on climate change. Because one thing that is true is that action by Australia alone won’t make a difference. We need to reduce global emissions, and that means building relationships, that means playing a constructive role in international forums.
LANE: Everybody, please join me in thanking the Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese.