Jun 24, 2020







SUBJECTS: National Press Club vision statement on science; energy policy; Government response.


LEIGH SALES, HOST: The Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, used a major speech today to propose a reset to climate and energy policy in Australia. He’s written to the Prime Minister calling for a bipartisan approach and says Labor is willing to negotiate. Anthony Albanese, Labor’s made a lot of mileage over the years attacking the Coalition for its disunity on climate change and they’ve plenty of mileage back in the other direction. How realistic is it that the hard heads on both sides would ever down weapons?


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, we should because it’s in the national interest. For two reasons, and something that made it a little bit different in terms of the opportunity is that we’ve been listening to the science and experts when it comes to coronavirus. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve seen Australia through, or we’re getting through, the crisis better than comparative nations. So we should listen to the science and experts when it comes to climate change. Secondly, we’re in the first recession in three decades. We need to think about how we create jobs and a strong economic recovery coming out of this crisis. And one way we do that is by actually having an energy policy that drives investment.


SALES: In what way do you think about the recovery from the Corona pandemic and emissions reduction policies could be married together?


ALBANESE: Well, they’re married together because good policy on climate change reduces emissions but it does two other things as well; it creates jobs and it reduces power prices. It makes Australian businesses more competitive. And Australian business that we’ve been meeting with, whether it’s the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, they’ve all been crying out for some investment certainty. And last year in 2019, we saw investment in new renewable energy fall by 50%. We actually need to have a policy that drives that change through the economy.


SALES: But it’s one thing to say you want to work together but the reality is if you’re going to have to compromise as well as the Coalition. Would you be prepared to budge on your net zero target by 2050?


ALBANESE: No. Because that’s the right thing and the science tells us this. Because what you can have is a framework, be it a Clean Energy Target or an emissions intensity scheme or, of course, the NEG that the Government was spruiking, Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison, just a couple of years ago. You can have that with flexibility so that you can build in changes according to the scientific advice at any particular time. Business tells us that they’re not worried by that and they’ll factor in those changes. But they need the framework. So we don’t pretend that you can get a consensus about all the issues with regard to climate change, but what you can get is the framework in place at the structures that are needed to drive that change.


SALES: You confirmed today Labor will set a medium term emissions reduction target before the next federal election and you said it would be based on science. You look at scientists at the CSIRO, ANU, Macquarie University, any scientist you’d look at in the climate change space, saying the 2030 targets are too low and the 2050 timeframe is too slow for net zero emissions if we want to keep global warming below two degrees. Do you accept if you want to follow the scientific recommendations that Labor’s going to have to go for options that are quite a bit sharper than what’s on the table right now?


ALBANESE: Well, I don’t accept what you say about 2050, Leigh. The net zero emissions is what has been agreed and advocated by the IPCC, the — international body of scientists.


SALES: A lot of scientists are saying we need to get there before 2050?


ALBANESE: Some will say more, some will say less. The global consensus is that. That’s what we’ve adopted. Any interim targets need to be consistent with that. We’ll await, we don’t know what the starting point is. We’re two years potentially away from an election or almost two years. We’ll wait and make a decision based upon the science.


SALES: You were asked today if Labor policy would include a price on carbon, you were asked, and you said circumstances were different today from what the Labor government did have a carbon price but it wasn’t clear to me from that answer whether or not you’re still open to pricing carbon?


ALBANESE: No, we’re not because it’s not necessary. The fact is you needed a price on carbon when we were in government to drive that change of renewables. So the price on carbon and the emissions trading scheme worked with the Renewable Energy Target of 20% by 2020, to really lift up the amount of renewables in the sector. What we find now is that wind and solar, as I said today, are the two cheapest forms of energy. And renewables don’t just compete with fossil fuels; they beat them.


SALES: You could have renewables and a carbon price. It’s not an either or?


ALBANESE: It’s not necessary to drive renewables.


SALES: It still helps send a signal to the free market?


ALBANESE: You don’t need a signal. You don’t need a price signal when the cheapest form is renewables. That’s the point. And the cheapest form is renewables which is why you don’t need a price signal in order to alter behaviour. What you need is simply a framework that allows for investment certainty from the business community, and they’re crying out for it, Leigh. And it’s extraordinary that the Government, in response to what was a mature policy position put forward in the long-term national interest, came out with the same old juvenile politics as they have consistently at a time when after seven years they don’t have an energy policy.


SALES: Anthony Albanese, thank you for your time tonight.


ALBANESE: Thanks, Leigh.