ABC RADIO NEWCASTLE BREAKFAST
TUESDAY, 17 NOVEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Labor’s Working Families Childcare Boost; importance of early childhood education; Budget Reply; economic recovery; visit to Tomago; visit to Kurri Kurri; coal; renewables; importance of coal in the Hunter region.
JENNY MARCHANT, HOST: The Federal Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, is making a trip to the Hunter today's. He is visiting Tomago this morning, talking energy, and heading to Kurri later on to visit a local childcare centre.
DAN COX, HOST: It comes as talk of Labor's fortunes in our region are under the spotlight. Joel Fitzgibbon has resigned from the Shadow Cabinet. Mr Albanese joins you now. Good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning. Good to be with you.
COX: Will Joel Fitzgibbon be with you this morning in Kurri?
ALBANESE: No, because it's not his electorate. I'll be with Meryl Swanson this morning. I was with Emma McBride last Friday. And I'm using the week in between sittings to get out and about throughout New South Wales. I'll be with Justine Elliot on Friday, up the north coast. And today, actually, the first port of call is for Kurri Kurri Preschool, which is actually the preschool where Meryl went to, just a couple of years ago.
MARCHANT: She should be able to sign the honour roll, no doubt?
ALBANESE: Indeed. Well, we'll be talking about our policy to make childcare more affordable for 97 per cent of families. That was the centrepiece of our Budget Reply. And it's been well received. It'll really help for women to be able to participate in the workforce. At the moment, if they work a fourth or fifth day, it can often cost them money rather than earn money. And it's really holding women back. And we need to make sure, arising out of this pandemic and this recession, that we actually look at how can we recover even stronger than we were before. And one way we can do that is by fixing the childcare mess, frankly, which is there where so many families are just really struggling. I'm sure many of your listeners will have the experience where they themselves, or have heard others say, 'Thank goodness that our child has begun primary school now because we have a better standard of living'. Why is it that's the case that a kid who turns five is an economic boon for a family whereas before then they really struggle?
MARCHANT: The other focus of your visit today is at Tomago. Can you tell us about what the conversation is that you expect to be having there?
ALBANESE: Well, that'll be meeting the workers there. I talked to Matt, the CEO, yesterday. And we'll be talking about how it continues to ensure that it gets reliable and cheap energy that needs to be in the mix given that the closure of Liddell will obviously have an impact. And we need to make sure that it has access to gas, as well as to renewables and storage that will replace Liddell with the AGL plan that they have in place.
MARCHANT: Can you see a time when a plant like Tomago could be powered entirely by renewables? And is that something that Labor would support?
ALBANESE: Well, I think it needs firming capacity is what they need in terms of certainty. Because of the nature of the plant there, it's the case now, indeed, yesterday with the heat, there was a period in which there was a shutdown of one of the potlines. And in 2017, we saw major shutdowns. Each of the three potlines were shut down for 75 minutes each. And of course, if it shut down for too long, then what happens is the potlines start to freeze, and they get damaged beyond repair. So, we need to make sure that they do need that reliable power. In the future, it could well be that technology allows it to be with renewables. But at the moment, they do need that supply of gas in order to make sure that they have that reliability.
COX: One of the things we saw come to the fore again, with Joel Fitzgibbon resigning from Shadow Cabinet last week, this conflict between coal-based jobs and the environments. What is Labor's position on taking those workers into a sustainable future? Isn't the answer to that conflict to clearly and simply explain your plan?
ALBANESE: Well, the truth is that the world is changing. But of course, the Hunter coal mining industry is primarily for export. It's true that the domestic industry is changing now. One of the things that we did for many years, Joel himself included, was to say that Liddell would reach the period whereby it would be shut down around 2022/23. And that the plans needed to be put in place for that. Now, AGL certainly have done that. But what the Government was doing at that stage, the Coalition, was pretending that it could be kept open, demanding, indeed, that it be kept open into the never-never. Even though that wasn't a viable plan. So, Labor has been very clear. I don't believe there will be a new coal fired power station built in Australia. But what we need to do is to make sure that we do have access to energy. That it is reliable, that it is cheap. The state government, I must say, in putting forward the renewable energies zone, that will now include the Hunter and the Central Coast, something that is a policy supported by the Liberal Party, the National Party and the Labor Party. Seems to me that they've gone further in putting forward a practical, realistic plan that is sustainable, then is occurring at the Federal level where we've had 22 policies and nothing in terms of that has lasted more than a few months.
MARCHANT: So, Mr Albanese if I work in a coal mine in Singleton, say, under a Labor Government in 10 years from now, will I be working in that coal mine or will I be working in renewable energy? How do you see jobs like that going?
ALBANESE: Well, coal mines in the Hunter will continue to operate and continue to export coal for a considerable period of time. So, in 10 years’ time those coal mines will still be going. Because as the world does transition to clean and renewable energy, which is what we are seeing happening, the coal that is produced in the Hunter, because it is of such quality and is cleaner than coal from other potential mines or sites, will continue to operate. It will continue to operate certainly well beyond the next decade. All the protections are there. But the world is moving towards renewable energy. And that's why we've adopted the position of zero net emissions by 2050 along with, it must be said, all of our trading partners, all our major trading partners, have adopted that. Australia is the holdout there, continuing to pretend that the world hasn't changed.
COX: Anthony Albanese, thank you for joining us on Newcastle Breakfast this morning. And enjoy your time in the Hunter.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much.