ABC Radio Melbourne Drive with Rafael Epstein

Share This

Interviews

Tuesday, 20th April 2021

ABC Radio Melbourne Drive with Rafael Epstein

Discussing President Joe Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate and more.

SUBJECTS: President Joe Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate; addressing climate change; coal-fired power stations; exporting coal; vaccine rollout.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN, HOST: Climate change as an issue will ramp up as the American President, Joe Biden, hosts a climate change summit virtually later this week. The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, will be a part of it. Here is the headline, well, not the headline, but the part of the Prime Minister’s speech last night that caught the most attention.

RECORDING OF SCOTT MORRISON, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: We’re not going to achieve net zero in the cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities.

EPSTEIN: The Prime Minister there last night. Anthony Albanese joins us. He is, of course, the Leader of the Opposition. Thanks for having a word to us.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: G’day Raf, good to be with you.

EPSTEIN: What did you make of what the PM said last night?

ALBANESE: That his heart isn’t in this. That he couldn’t resist have a snipe at people who are concerned about climate change as being all somehow inner city latte sippers. That he still just doesn’t get it. He edged and is crab-walking towards announcing net zero by 2050. He’ll be on a virtual meeting later this week, convened by President Biden, whereby just about every single player, every country on that who’s participating, has adopted net zero by 2050, as has every state and territory government, as have major businesses, all four of the big banks, the major resources companies like BHP and Woodside, everyone, the National Farmers’ Federation, the Business Council of Australia, that he was addressing, have all adopted it.

EPSTEIN: It’s harder for us, though, than other countries, isn’t it? We’ve got more, our economy is far more reliant on emissions-intensive fuel and frameworks, much more so than other countries. It is tougher for us.

ALBANESE: Well we also have more opportunities to benefit than most other countries. We have the best renewable resources in the world. If you compare us with a country like Germany, the sun shines here, it doesn't shine quite so often in Northern Europe. And yet, we also have, of course, magnificent wind resources. I was in Tasmania over the weekend, talking to some of the operators who built, for example, a wind farm on the west coast there of Tasmania, that has perhaps the best wind resources in the world. And they're ready, as long as transmission is fixed, to be helping to power not just Tasmania, but Victoria and the ‘north island’, as they see it, as well.

EPSTEIN: The Prime Minister doesn't say he’s opposed to that. He calls that, I think, the animal spirits of capitalism, that if the price is right, it will get built. Is he wrong?

ALBANESE: The fact is that the market is speaking, and the cheapest form of new energy is renewables. So, at the same time as he says that, he's funded a $4 million for the proponents of a new coal-fired power station in North Queensland that we know won't go ahead because it doesn't simply stack up. The cheapest form of new energy generation is renewables. What we need to be doing is fixing transmission. Because, at the moment, the transmission system, the grid, isn't fit for purpose. It's for last century's technology. One of the advantages of renewables, of course, is that it’s distributional energy. That is, it can be produced in far more regions and areas in smaller lots than your old coal-fired power station.

EPSTEIN: Can I ask you a question about coal mines? The former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, actually lost his job in New South Wales. But he said we should have no new coal mines in New South Wales. Do you think he's right?

ALBANESE: Well, once again the markets will speak there. At the moment what we have, including in New South Wales, is the coal mines aren’t operating to capacity. So, in terms of risk mitigation, when people make investments, it is certainly the case in my view that there won't be any new coal-fired power stations.

EPSTEIN: But ‘there won’t be’ is different to opposing them. Malcolm Turnbull says we should say, ‘No, you can't have them’. Is your view to ban them? Or is your view that you let the market sort it out?

ALBANESE: No. My view is I’m not, as a general principle, I’m not into banning things. But what is of course happening is that the markets are speaking, and the markets are all headed in one direction. And that's a direction in which Australia has enormous opportunity. We can be a renewable energy superpower for the world. Just to take one example, Raf, the Sun Cable project, which is going to be the largest solar farm in the world, placed in the Northern Territory near Tennant Creek. It'll be connecting up to Singapore with a 4500-kilometre pipeline, be transporting solar energy from the Northern Territory to power Singapore. That’s the sort of exciting opportunities that Australia has. This isn't something in the future. No, this is something that’s happening right now.

EPSTEIN: Can I try and separate out some of the significant market opportunities and then what governments say yes or no to. Because they're two different things, what the market does and then the signals governments send. I want to listen to the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, because he is saying, if you rely on coal significantly, they're not happy. Let's just have a listen.

RECORDING OF ANTONY BLINKEN, US SECRETARY OF STATE: When countries continue to rely on coal for a significant amount of their energy, or invest in new coal factories, or allow for massive deforestation, they will hear from the United States and our partners about how harmful these actions are.

EPSTEIN: That's the US Secretary of State. Anthony Albanese, your resources spokeswoman, Madeleine King, says Australia should still be exporting coal to be used in power plants in the second half of the century, beyond 2050. Can you do that? Can you export coal for power plants beyond 2050 and keep America happy?

ALBANESE: Well those decisions, of course, will be subject to the market. One of the things that will happen globally is that all of our major trading partners, Japan, Korea, for example, great recipients of our fossil fuel exports, they have net zero by 2050. China has adopted net zero by 2060. That will of course have an impact. It will of course have an impact on our exports over a period of time.

EPSTEIN: I just, it's not clear to me how you can be net zero by 2050, but your spokeswoman on this issue says we’ll still be exporting tonnes of coal to be burnt in power plants beyond that date. How do those two things reconcile?

ALBANESE: Because what happens is that the way that the international system works, including the one that's supported by the United States, is that just as Japan, for example, doesn't account for emissions in a Toyota car that's driven in Australia, the exporter of any natural resources doesn't account for the emissions…

EPSTEIN: Is that the right thing to do morally? If we're sort of talking about net zero by 2050, as a country, is it the right thing to keep exporting coal to be burnt?

ALBANESE: It is absolutely the right thing for us to participate in the international framework. And for us to have strong targets here. And for us to make sure that, over a period of time, as well, that framework is strengthened. I think the election of President Biden is an absolute game changer internationally. At this point in time, Australian doesn't even have a target of net zero emissions by 2050. What Scott Morrison says is that that should be extended out to the end of the century.

EPSTEIN: You’re not still split, the way you were split over the Adani issue at the last election? If you’re supporting coal exports, but also supporting net zero emissions. How do those two things reconcile with each other?

ALBANESE: No, we're not. No, we're not. Well, I've explained that, Raf. Because what we have is emissions here and our Australian domestic accounting for emissions that are conducted here. The international system that we’ll participate in counts emissions where they occur. That's the system. There’s no division on that. That’s the same system that every country operates on. I've attended the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, on a couple of occasions had that privilege, and one of the things that occurs though is that, when you go to an international conference, you really think that the debate here is way, way behind. Because Australia, at the moment, (inaudible) amongst advanced countries.

EPSTEIN: I just want to ask you a quick question about vaccines. If people want to respond to what you have had to say on these issues, 1300 222 774, and I'll get to some calls after the news. Just on vaccines and the number of vaccines that we purchased, we had four, one fell over, AstraZeneca has its issues. Either way, you say they should have purchased more. The experts told them to purchase those four. Why is Labor criticising the experts who are advising the Federal Government on this?

ALBANESE: That’s absolutely not right, Raf. All of the experts internationally spoke about five or six. All of the experts spoke about doing deals early…

EPSTEIN: Not the people who are formally giving advice to the Federal Government.  

ALBANESE: …which is what countries did. And this isn't something in retrospect, Raf. I would have said on your program, in any interview I gave last year, I would have spoken about the need for five or six.

EPSTEIN: I guess I'm asking you if you think the formal advice they received was wrong?

ALBANESE: I’m not about blaming the experts. I’m blaming the Government for the political decisions that they made. Scott Morrison said we were at the front of the queue. We weren't. We were at the back of the queue. Scott Morrison said that people would be vaccinated, four million by March, and everyone would be vaccinated by October. No one made him say that. And he said, when he made those public comments, he said that they’d taken into account uncertainties that could occur. And he was very clear about it. Just like he was very clear, saying that the app that the Government doesn't talk about any more, at a great cost, was another thing that the Federal Government were responsible for. Thank goodness the state apps have actually worked.

EPSTEIN: Appreciate you giving us some of your time today. Thank you.

ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Raf.

ENDS

Sign up to get the latest news from Anthony

See the latest News
About Anthony
Meet AnthonyAnthony's Story

Electorate Office

334a Marrickville Road
MARRICKVILLE NSW 2204

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

Parliament House Office

PO Box 6022
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Phone: (02) 6277 4022
Fax: (02) 6277 8562

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

DisclaimerPrivacyTerms

Electorate Office

334a Marrickville Road
MARRICKVILLE NSW 2204

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

Parliament House Office

PO Box 6022
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Phone: (02) 6277 4022
Fax: (02) 6277 8562

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734
Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which our offices stand and we pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge the sorrow of the Stolen Generations and the impacts of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We also recognise the resilience, strength and pride of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Authorised by Anthony Albanese. 334a Marrickville Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204.