Transcript of Doorstop Interview, Parliament House, Canberra
1 November 2006
Subject: Howard retreats on climate change, Elliot Morley, Kyoto Protocol
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The glaciers are retreating and so is the Howard Government. Just as the dinosaurs were wiped out by the ice age there is a need for the dinosaurs in this building to by wiped out politically by the age of global warming.
No one can believe John Howard takes climate change seriously. Yesterday we saw him put seven different positions between 2 o’clock and a quarter to 4. The reason they are blundering around from position to position is because they simply don’t believe in climate change. They don’t have the courage to look towards the future and make the economic adjustments that are necessary to move us to a carbon constrained economy that the Stern Review highlights for the world as absolutely necessary. This is the moral challenge for our generation and the Howard Government has been found wanting.
Today we will see some more one off announcements. Labor welcomes any increased investment into clean coal technology and into renewables, but the Stern review makes it very clear that one off announcements aren’t enough. We need a whole of government, systematic, structural change in the way that we do business.
We need to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and be part of that global effort. We need a national emissions trading scheme that we can link with other schemes. We need market economic incentives to drive investment in renewable energy and in clean coal technology that is necessary.
This morning we heard from Elliot Morley. Elliot Morley is the immediate past Climate Change Minister in the Blair Government. He is now one of Tony Blair’s and the British Government’s key climate change spokespeople.
What Elliot Morley said was that the policies of the Howard government had us ‘sleepwalking towards oblivion’. Elliot Morley nailed the Howard Government’s offensive blame of developing countries for the lack of leadership that it represented. He nailed the fact that Australia is holding the world back, is a handbrake on global action to address climate change.
The Howard Government should listen to the Elliot Morley interview on AM this morning and should take action on the basis of it. It simply isn’t enough to have one off announcements. We need that massive structural change in order to transform Australia into a carbon constrained economy and in order turn Australia to a position of leadership which we had on these issues in the early 1990s.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, you’ve spelled out to us what needs to be done, but yesterday Labor confined the debate to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol but do you agree that it goes far beyond that?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well we didn’t confine the debate to that at all. We asked questions of the Howard Government about the operation of the clean development mechanism. We asked questions about the closure of renewable energy projects in Australia including those in Tasmania and South Australia from the Roaring 40s company – $550 million worth of projects that are not proceeding because of the failure of the Howard Government to increase the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target.
JOURNALIST: But do you concede that the solution goes beyond simply ratifying Kyoto?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We have a comprehensive plan. The first element of it is to ratify Kyoto. This is a global challenge that requires a global solution. That’s the first element. Then you also need a significant increase in the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target. You need to establish market based mechanisms such as emissions trading. You need to have a plan for transport including a green car plan. You need to look at sustainable cities, a whole suite of policies, and harness all of government to move towards action to reduce our emissions footprint. All that we have at the moment is one off announcements from the Howard Government.
JOURNALIST: Are you saying that this $60 million announcement today, this pilot program, will have little significance in the short term?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well we welcome any announcement of new funding. $60 million is worthwhile, but what you need is a systematic approach and that is what the Stern Review speaks about – making sure that we do more than pick winners and provide funding. What we actually we need to do is harness the power of the market so that you get the whole economy moving forward in a carbon constrained way, so that you establish mechanisms which drive a reduction in emissions in the least cost way.
Now we know that system should be an emissions trading system and that is why the government released papers supporting emissions trading way back in the last century, in 1999. That is why Peter Costello took a plan for emissions trading to the Cabinet in 2003 supported by Treasury, the Department of Prime Minster and Cabinet, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Industry, and yet nothing happened because the Howard Government was captured by sectional interests, because they were dominated by climate change sceptics and because they didn’t have the courage to make the decisions that are necessary, not just for this generation but for generations to come.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister said the government would be interested at looking at a new Kyoto which helped big developing countries like India and China to target. Doesn’t he have a point?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well what an absolutely absurd position from the Prime Minister. What we saw yesterday was an acknowledgement that Kyoto is going to continue.
In Nairobi in a couple of weeks there are two conferences. One is the conference of the parties, all the countries who have signed up to the UN framework on climate change. Australia will be participating in that but not the second meeting of the conference of parties of the Kyoto Protocol – 165 nations sitting around the table talking about making adjustments to the way Kyoto works.
The Prime Minister doesn’t understand it. The first commitment period of Kyoto is 2008 to 2012. The Prime Minister who said that Kyoto was dead is now saying the exact opposite. He is acknowledging that Kyoto is the main game. The tragedy for Australia is that we don’t have a seat at the table on Kyoto. Kyoto is the main game. Kyoto does involve India and China.
As Elliot Morley has made very clear, commonsense tells you that if you want these developing counties to engage in targets for reductions, then it is absurd to argue that the way you bring them to adopt targets is to opt out of the system yourself.
The truth is the India is in a situation whereby they say well hang on a minute, it is the developed world that has had the advantage of economic growth, it is the developed world that has created the emissions that has lead to global warming, and you want to lecture us to adopt targets when Australia, which has the second most generous target in the industrialised world under Kyoto, is saying ‘no’ and has walked away from the table.
People have got to understand the damage that Australia has done to the possibility of getting a more comprehensive framework to move forward in the international community.
JOURNALIST: Just a point of clarification from me, does Labor support the new version of the Kyoto Protocol?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: There is no new version of the Kyoto Protocol. John Howard made it up some time between two thirty and quarter to three yesterday afternoon. There is a Kyoto Protocol which has 165 countries in it – everybody except for Australia and the United States. Elliot Morley this morning, one of the Blair Government’s chief climate change spokespeople, has told the Howard Government very clearly of the damage that they are doing to the global challenge on climate change. We should be embarrassed as a nation by the fact that the Howard Government with its intransigence and by its climate change scepticism is holding the world back.
JOURNALIST: Press Gallery journalists have called for the Labor Party to use more of Peter Garrett. Why don’t you roll him out on climate change?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Peter Garrett has been a good advocate and he indeed asked a question of the Prime Minister yesterday on this issue. What you will see on this issue from the Labor Party is not just Peter Garrett, but is also Wayne Swan as Treasury spokesperson, Julia Gillard as health spokesperson, Jenny Macklin in Education and Science, Stephen Smith in Industry and most importantly Kim Beazley.
Kim Beazley produced a Climate Change Blueprint in March of this year absolutely consistent with the key recommendations and thrust of the Stern Review released just yesterday. Kim Beazley and Labor have been ahead of the game on this issue.