ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
SUNDAY, 20 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Government’s changes to announcement last week; Government’s 21st energy policy; Business need for energy certainty; Government’s road to nowhere; market solutions to energy crisis; Net Zero Emissions; International action on climate change; Perth City Link project and Edith Cowan University; Scott Morrison’s pension freeze.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: What we heard from Scott Morrison today was that he has a plan to have a plan. Eight years into office, this Government still does not have a coherent energy policy that will drive investment. First of all we heard him prevaricate over the policy that is supported overwhelmingly by every state and territory government, by all major business organisations, including the Business Council of Australia, ACCI, the Australian Industry Group, the National Farmers Federation, all say what we need to do is move towards net zero emissions by 2050.
They say that to do that will create jobs, it will lower emissions, and it will lower energy prices. And yet from this Prime Minister today, he spoke about the aim as being ‘in the second half of this century’, even though he has signed up to the Paris Accord. It’s a bit like his commitment that ‘the budget was back in black already, next year’. And we know that the government will be bringing down the largest ever deficit in Australian history, at the very time they said the budget will be back in black. We also heard him change his position from the announcements that were made just this week. Their 20th energy policy has now become energy policy Number 21. On Liddell the Government has spent years since the announcement back in 2015 that Liddell would close, they have spent time saying that it needed to be kept open, and that they bring in another operator if need be to operate the coal fired power plant, even though it’s very clear was at the end of its life. This week, they changed that position and said that the Government would step in with 1000 megawatt gas-fired plant built by the Government. An extraordinary intervention from a government that pretends to support markets. Today we heard, actually, that that gap will be filled by batteries, by hydro, by gas that’s already underway. The proposals from Australian Energy from Australian AGL, which are already, the AGL one is at approval level, something that was ignored by the Government and has now Scott Morrison saying, well, it might be 250 Meg’s that are needed, and we’re neutral about what the technology will be to fill that void. The Prime Minister has to explain how it is people, companies, can bid for that process, if that’s going to be the one that he outlined today. And we heard again him defend Collinsville, the $4 million grant that’s been given to the proponents of a new coal-fired power plant that everyone knows is not going to go ahead. Taxpayers’ money being used in order to propagate this pretence from the Government that there will be new coal-fired power plants in Australia.
What we know is the cheapest form of new investment in energy in Australia is renewables. What we know also is that Australia can be a renewable energy superpower for the world, exporting solar and clean energy to places like Singapore, with proposals that are already underway, such as the proposal at Tennant Creek that will see an enormous, the largest ever, solar farm in Australia, with an enormous battery many times the size of the one that’s in South Australia.
What we need from this Government is policy certainty to drive investment. That’s what the business community saying they don’t need picking winners, what they need is a policy framework. And Labor offered to come to a bipartisan position on that policy framework, because that’s what the business community are saying they very much need. Whether that be a NEG or a clean energy target, we’re agnostic about what the process is, but business needs certainty. And the fact that the Prime Minister had different things to say, just a few days ago, from what he said today just underlines the fact that after eight years, what this Government is still about is all politics and not policy substance. And that’s what’s needed. If the policy certainly is there, the market will drive the solutions, the market will drive the right solutions, which will lead to lower process as well as lower emissions and lead to more job creation.
But the Government says that they are going to have a roadmap, but to a destination that they don’t have. Well, a road map without a destination is a road to nowhere. And that’s why the Government should adopt Zero Net Emissions by 2050, consistent with every state and territory government. It is only ideology that is standing in the way. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: You refer to the fact the Prime Minister says a shortfall from the closure of Liddell will be closer to 250 megawatts. Does that justify building the new gas plant?
ALBANESE: It should be, as he said today, it should be left up to the market to intervene in a way that produces the best solution. And we’re already seeing, something he ignored this week, batteries, hydro, renewables, filling some of the void. We’re seeing gas in terms of AGL’s proposition at Tomago and the other proposition on the lake, that is being conducted by Australian Energy. So we see a range of propositions already. What the Government needs to do is to have that framework, and it needs to explain exactly what the change means today in the Prime Minister’s announcement, and whether it’s the case that other operators can place a bid to fill any gap which might be there. AEMO are suggesting, the Australian Energy Market Operator, suggesting that this is not an issue. It’s up to the Government and the Prime Minister to explain the difference between his position on Insiders, which of course, it might have changed again. Because the interview, the Insiders interview took place on Friday, again, indicating in spite of their position on penalty rates there is a difference between Friday and Sunday when it comes to working. And I hope all of you are on penalty rates, but I doubt it under this Government.
JOURNALIST: Does Labor have a preference as to how that shortfall should be made up?
ALBANESE: Labor’s preference is that markets should be allowed to operate. That’s Labor’s position, that you have a policy framework and the market then drives the change through the economy. That’s Labor’s preference, not some Brezhnev era, state socialist model that Scott Morrison seems to have adopted. Labor believes that the best allocator of resources is markets, that the problem with the Prime Minister’s position is that he’s creating massive uncertainty as well which is disincentive to invest. The investment would have already happened, were it not for the Government chopping and changing its position. I mean, Labor has been arguing, for example, when it comes to manufacturing, we’ve been the party that has been arguing for domestic gas reservation to provide cheaper energy for manufacturers for many, many years. It’s a policy that we’ve taken to a number of elections that’s been resisted. And in this week’s announcement, essentially, it’s about a plan to have a plan, there’s nothing different there at all. There’s very light touch. They’ll consider some sort of intervention in terms of regulation down the track, if there’s not a voluntary Code of Conduct adopted by some of the businesses. This is a very confused position. What we need is certainty. We’re not getting that from this government.
JOURNALIST: In terms of certainty, Labor is committed to Net Zero Emissions by 2050.
JOURNALIST: Will you take a medium-term goal to the next election? Do you have a specific target?
ALBANESE: Well, I’ve answered that question a number of times, and we’ll get the same answer. The next election is a while off. Before the next election, the reason why they the Government has a 2030 target is because of Paris. What is happening in the meantime, is that is likely to be further international negotiations, that will have a major impact on what targets are. And it’s likely the international community will come up with a different time frame before the next election changing the position. So as I said, it’s very clear what our destination is, all of our policies will be consistent with reaching that destination. The problem for the Government is that says it has a road map without a destination. And that’s a road to nowhere.
JOURNALIST: Joel Fitzgibbon has warned against being too ambitious, telling Sky that Australia shouldn’t run ahead of the rest of the world. What’s your response to that?
ALBANESE: Well, I actually saw the interview and saw what he said. And what he said was that Australia needed to be bold and to be taking action, have a climate policy, because that would put us in a position to argue that the rest of the world should also take a position. At the moment, the problem is in international negotiations, that when Angus Taylor goes to international negotiations, he’s there in the naughty corner with Saudi Arabia, and a few other pariah countries who argue for less action on climate change, rather than more action. The problem with that isn’t just our responsibility as good global citizens out of some goodness position, and feel-good position. The problem is Australia as a continent is particularly impacted by climate change. We saw that last summer. We need to prioritise action on climate change. Our Great Barrier Reef will be impacted. Kakadu will be impacted. Our entire standard of living will be impacted, as we saw with the devastating bushfires over the summer period, had an impact in terms of loss of life, had an impact in terms of loss of environment including flora and fauna, had an impact also which was economic. There’s a huge economic cost here as well. And that’s why the economic cost in addition that followed the economic cost of the drought. Australia needs to be a part of the world and we need to be encouraging global action. At the moment we’re out with a few other states in terms of not taking action. And the US election could well have a major impact as well on that global debate. The United States’ Joe Biden is saying that there will be tariffs and penalties placed upon countries which are not taking climate change seriously.
Can I just add something as well? To talk about a West Australian issue, which is the announcement that projected today that Edith Cowan university will be building a major facility as part of a city deal. I say this, Labor welcomes any investment. Particularly, we welcome the fact that this is only possible because of our support for the Perth City Link project. That was an important project as part of our investing in public transport, record investment, more in public transport when we were in government than all previous governments combined from Federation right through to 2007. The Perth City Link project, funded by Federal Labor in partnership with the WA Labor Government, was aimed precisely at projects like this, enabling the city to be united, enabling that public sector investment facilitating massive private sector investment in the Perth CBD, uniting Perth with Northbridge. And this is a very welcome development. Labor looks forward to this project succeeding.
We do point out though, that at a time when universities are really struggling, including the loss of 11,000 staff, the contradiction that’s there with the Government purporting to support this university while excluding universities from JobKeeper.
And one final message is today’s the day that pensions have been frozen. For the first time in 25 years, there won’t be that bi-yearly increase in the pension. This is not good enough. Pensioners are struggling. Many of the essentials of life that they rely on are increasing in cost. And that’s why the Government needs to fix this and should have fixed it before today.
Thanks very much.