Jun 25, 2020







SUBJECTS: National Press Club vision statement on science; climate change and energy policy; emissions targets; coal; carbon capture and storage.


NICOLE CHVASTEK, HOST: Anthony Albanese has addressed to the National Press Club this afternoon and joins us this evening. Anthony Albanese, good afternoon.




CHVASTEK: Anthony Albanese, is this a happy fantasy that’s never really going to happen? You can’t even agree on something as basic as emissions targets. How can you realistically construct an energy policy with a hostile Coalition when you don’t even get to first base?


ALBANESE: Well, the point here is that investors and business all agree that you can have a framework that is a rule for investment without having specific investment targets agreed and locked in forever. That as long as there is flexibility there, you can actually build into the system the fact that there are differences with regard to targets that have an enduring policy by having the framework agreed to. The problem at the moment isn’t how much fuel, if you like, you put in the vehicle and whether you press the accelerator or the brake. The problem is, there is not a vehicle at all to put fuel into. So, the problem here has been there since 2013. We haven’t had an energy policy. This is a genuine attempt by Labor to be constructive, to put out, if you like, the hand of a potential agreement, or the elbow, given we are not allowed to shake hands these days, and to invite the Government to participate constructively. And hopefully, they, as the Government, recognise that not only do we have paralysis when it comes to energy policy, climate change policy, but of course, we need policies that create jobs, given the fact we’re in the first recession in 30 years.


CHVASTEK: What sort of framework will it be, though, if you can’t agree on these basic fundamentals, you can’t agree on emissions targets? You can’t agree on the emissions reduction fund? I mean, these are fairly basic things, aren’t they? You’re not going to be drawn on whether or not you’re going to accept the Government’s 2030 targets. What sort of framework can this possibly be when the foundations are so far apart?


ALBANESE: No, because the foundation isn’t the target. The foundation is the structure and the mechanism.


CHVASTEK: So, what is the structure and mechanism that they will agree to?


ALBANESE: Well, the proposals that we have raised as options are ones that they themselves were advancing during the last term of Parliament, the National Energy Guarantee that was proposed by Josh Frydenberg that Scott Morrison said that he supported at the time, or the clean energy target that was recommended by the Chief Scientist when he was commissioned by the Coalition Government to come up with a scheme.


CHVASTEK: But they sacked their former Leader because of the National Energy Guarantee. Why do you think they would adopt that again?


ALBANESE: They did. Well, it’s not up to us to go through the internals of the Coalition politics.


CHVASTEK: No. But they disliked that policy so much that they let their Leader go.


ALBANESE: And you’re right. But it went through their Party room, not once, but twice. And the fact is that we can have two approaches to this. One is to despair, put our hands up and say that it’s all too hard. The second is to try to be constructive, to put forward this proposal. What we saw last year in 2019, we saw renewable energy investment, new investment, fall by 50 per cent. And what the sector are all saying to us is that they actually need a policy framework and they don’t have it. The Government knows that they don’t have a policy framework. That’s why they were trying to get one. They haven’t been successful in the past, but maybe just sitting down with us and the fact that you had a, if it’s possible to do to get there, to have a bipartisan framework going forward, then that will marginalise those people who basically don’t and won’t ever agree on any mechanism, because they don’t think that climate change is real. They don’t agree with the science. But I thought, particularly the fact that during this pandemic, Australians have listened to science and the experts, we are getting through it better than most countries because of that. This was a time where we could say, ‘Hang on, we need to listen to the science and the experts on other matters as well, particularly the issue of climate change’, and that there’s a potential for a breakthrough.


CHVASTEK: What sort of reaction have you had from the Government?


ALBANESE: Well, I must say it’s a little bit disappointing up to this point. We had Josh Frydenberg be reasonably negative this morning, given that he was the person who was advancing the NEG as the Energy Minister just two years ago. That was disappointing. But we will wait and see. There’s been a political response rather than a policy response so far. We’ve said that we wanted a sensible, flexible, enduring policy framework going forward. We’ve offered that to the Government. If they don’t want to sit down, well, that’s a decision for them that we can’t do anything about. But I do think that it is in tune with the times as well, where people really want politics to be put aside. And one of the things that is said to me by the population, I hope that places some pressure on the Government, they just want something to get done, where they know that temperatures are rising, they now also that in terms of energy costs are increasing or have increased over the life of this Government. And what we need to do is to have a policy that doesn’t just drive down emissions, but that creates jobs and lowers energy prices for business.


CHVASTEK: This is a bit of a hoax, though, isn’t it? Because this is never going to happen. They don’t want the NEG.


ALBANESE: No, they proposed the NEG.


CHVASTEK: Yes, but they don’t want it anymore. And they offloaded a Leader who tried to secure the passage.


ALBANESE: Well, they don’t have any policy at the moment.


CHVASTEK: So, they don’t want that. They want an emissions reduction fund, which you don’t want. They don’t agree with you on emissions reductions targets. And Josh Frydenberg looks at you with lemon lips when you suggest that there may be some sort of energy policy that you may strike on a bipartisan level. So, once again, the reality is that those who are living out here in real people’s land don’t have an energy policy, the price of energy continues to go up, climate change is a real clear and present threat, and we actually haven’t moved forward at all.


ALBANESE: Well, I agree with you. If the Government says no, that will be precisely what’s happening. But there’ll be pressure on them from the Australian Industry Group, from the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation. From across the board, we’ve had a very positive reaction.


CHVASTEK: That has never bothered them before, though, Anthony Albanese.


ALBANESE: Well, what you are pointing towards is some of the weaknesses in the Coalition and it’s not my job to sort them out. What it is my job to do, though, is to be constructive. I am doing that. I am putting it forward. And what’s lost if the Government rejects it, well we have tried. We’ll go to the next election with our own policies. We’ve already said we want net zero emissions by 2050. And that’s an example of politics just holding back common sense. Every state and territory government, including the half of them that are controlled by the Coalition, including my state of New South Wales, all support net zero emissions by 2050. But you have this nonsense from the Liberal Party Federally, saying that somehow that’s going to damage the economy when they know that is not true.


CHVASTEK: One of the chief cheerleaders for coal is in fact Joel Fitzgibbon, who leads a subset of your Party to agitate on behalf of coal mining in his state and his electorate in the Hunter Valley, who spoke just recently.


GRAB OF JOEL FITZGIBBON: We are three years in Opposition now. There’s nothing we can do for three years. The Labor Party wants more meaningful action on climate change. And I pose the question, why don’t we put all the focus on Scott Morrison by simply saying, ‘Well, for the next three years, we’re just backing your target’. And if we were able to successfully get to 26 to 28 per cent without causing any harm to the economy, then that would be a great platform from which to argue we can do better.


CHVASTEK: So, Anthony Albanese, is this Labor now? That you just do what the Coalition does? Joel Fitzgibbon says, ‘Why don’t we just adopt their target?’ So, you hold out an olive branch to the Coalition saying, ‘Let’s talk about a energy policy’. Based on Joel Fitzgibbon’s claims that you should simply do what they’re doing, how does that set you apart as a Labor Party? Do you go from being Albo to being ScoMo Lite?


ALBANESE: No, we’re not saying that at all. We’re not saying that. And the discussion we’ve just had for the previous five minutes shows that we’re not saying that at all. I believe in strong climate change action. I believe that the future energy needs of the country will be met with an expansion of renewables, primarily. And the market says that as well. We have set a net zero emissions target by 2050. We also, in terms of the Government’s targets are the Government’s targets, but we will set our own targets consistent with the science and consistent with the measures leading up to be able to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.


CHVASTEK: I’m speaking to Anthony Albanese, who is the Leader of the Opposition. Anthony Albanese, you have also said that you endorse carbon capture, the so-called clean coal, but experts say there’s no such thing as clean coal. And all this does is lock in a dirty technology into our future when we are seeking to, in fact, eliminate all coal-fired power stations around the world by 2050.


ALBANESE: Well, carbon capture and storage is not as you defined it. The largest carbon capture and storage project in the world is actually Gorgon in Australia, off the Western Australian coast, that’s taking place right now. There are also proposals for carbon capture and storage which deal with manufacturing and deal with other production of emissions not through coal-fired power plants. It’s quite true that the costs of carbon capture and storage, when it comes to coal-fired power stations up to this point, have proven to be uneconomic. And therefore, they haven’t gone forward. And that is why we say in the statement, that it needs to be, there’s a panel of experts and scientists that looks at proposals, that was established when we were in Government, that is still were. And that looks at those proposals. What we have said today is that we reject the idea that the existing renewable energy vehicle, ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation should be raided for carbon capture and storage. We’ve said that if CCS wants to, if the Government wants to set up, or reset up, re-establish the body that was abolished and defunded by Tony Abbott in 2014, we would support that. But that’s very separate from support for renewables, which should not be raided.


CHVASTEK: The West Australian Premier has defended Chevron’s actions following revelations that the continuing failure of the carbon storage facility at its Gorgon LNG project in the Pilbara has exposed workers to toxic chemicals. This is not a glorious example of the success of carbon capture.


ALBANESE: But the Gorgon project is just proceeding. It’s certainly not true to say that it’s a failure. And the Western Australian Premier does not say it is a failure.


CHVASTEK: Well, he does in that article. The other article that I see also in The Guardian, which is that carbon emissions from the nation’s largest LNG development were meant to be captured. And more than two years on, the storage still hasn’t started. This is an article by Adam Morton in The Guardian.


ALBANESE: In terms of CCS, what we’re saying is that we don’t believe that the renewable funds, which is what the proposal from the Government at the moment is, should go forward. But CCS, when we were in Government, we put $1.7 billion into CCS and into research and development. There is a structure in place that would recommend, subject, any approval of financing to that body. And that would look at both the science, but also look at the economic costs.


CHVASTEK: Anthony Albanese, thank you for your time.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much.