SUBJECTS: Drought; Barnaby Joyce; climate change.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Anthony Albanese is now in Warwick. Anthony Albanese, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning.
LEVINGSTON: Good morning. Do you see drought as a disaster?
ALBANESE: Well quite clearly it is. Anyone who visits this region of Stanthorpe or Warwick where we’ve been yesterday afternoon and evening and this morning will know just in talking to people, it’s having a devastating impact on people’s lives and their needs to a confirmed need for a national drought strategy could be put in place.
LEVINGSTON: What have you actually seen this morning as you’ve made your way around?
ALBANESE: Well we went to the major dam outside of Stanthorpe, Storm King Dam, that’s at 22 per cent of its level. You just look at the properties around, what you can do when you talk to people as we did in the main streets of Stanthorpe, and talked to people in Warwick. You can find farmers who hadn’t been able for example to even plant their crops of tomatoes and capsicums because they simply don’t have the water. You see communities set up that are really starving, and talking to the mayor and her team in council chambers at Warwick, talking about how they’re having to deal with this real issue. It’s an issue of people’s mental health where one of the issues that leaders in the community have to confront is that many people get isolated and (inaudible). So we’ve talked about families where there might be three families on a particular property, two of them have moved away so the families that are left are isolated and we need to make sure they’re connected up as well, that they’re looked after as well as of course, the land is being looked after as well.
LEVINGSTON: Anthony Albanese, leader of Labor federally, in Warwick at the moment having visited Stanthorpe earlier this morning. People in drought affected communities, Mr Albanese, are saying that all levels of government need to be doing more to combat drought. The Labor Party is in power here in Queensland have been for a number of years, are they doing enough?
ALBANESE: Well see, the council was certainly very grateful for Annastacia Palaszczuk’s commitment for example to contribute the $800,000 a month that’s being required to essentially bring in water into those communities to make sure that there’s security there and they were very positive about the actions of the State Government. What there is concern over, is that we’ve had at the federal level, a national drought coordinator, we’ve had a drought committee we’ve had a drought envoy. We haven’t seen the report of the drought coordinator which I think we need to see. And I think it is pointing a way forward, one would hope. The drought envoy, Barnaby Joyce, has said that he produced some text messages to the Prime Minister as his output. But importantly, if you have a drought strategy, that you will have occurrences; like the funding of Moyne Shire that came out over the weekend, a community in Victoria that not only isn’t in drought, it has an abundance of water; receiving drought funding at the same time as communities here like the one that I’m looking at now which are dry and devastated.
LEVINGSTON: Are you suggesting that there’s pork barrelling going on?
ALBANESE: Well quite clearly there’s been inappropriate funding. It speaks for itself when you’ve got a mayor putting his hand up there in Victoria saying: ‘not only did we not ask for the funding we don’t need the funding and it should be given to someone else’. At the same time as the councillors I met with including the Mayor Tracie Dobie this morning. Those communities are doing it really tough, the communities just across the border. Terri Butler was with me this morning in Stanthorpe. She now is in Tenterfield. She headed south, I headed north, to get as much contact with communities as possible and ultimately find out the fact that both Tenterfield and Stanthorpe have not only suffered of course from drought but they also suffered from the fires that occurred. These things don’t recognise state boundaries for the reference of history. We need a national approach to these issues.
LEVINGSTON: And many experts are saying a national approach that also mitigates the effects of climate change. Anthony Albanese here in Queensland you would be very well aware, in fact it’s probably part of the reason why you lost the last election, of the debate that’s going on around thermal coal. At the same time we have a Premier and you as well talking about getting serious on action on climate change. Can you do that and support more thermal coal mines?
ALBANESE: Well it’s not either or. And of course the majority of Queensland coal exports aren’t thermal coal, they’re for steel production.
LEVINGSTON: Correct. But what we’re talking about here is the opening up of the Galilee Basin for more thermal coal projects which quite clearly the science says is the biggest source of greenhouse gases, those fossil fuels. Do you still support those thermal coal projects and at the same time can you say that you’re serious about action on climate change?
ALBANESE: Absolutely you can. Because what happens in terms of the export in support of coal is determined by what is happening on international markets and that’s what will determine what happens around the globe. If a country like India or China is not receiving coal from Australia there is an abundance of coal including in India and China itself that can be burnt that will add to global emissions.
LEVINGSTON: If that’s not an ideal thing you’re still happy for Australia to contribute that coal though.
ALBANESE: What I care about is outcomes which is reduction in global emissions, is what we need to do.
LEVINGSTON: Well if you care about that how can you support opening up of more thermal coal mines?
ALBANESE: If you listened to my answer you would have heard that the opening up of coal mines in Australia doesn’t necessarily lead to a reduction or an increase in the amount of coal that is actually used in terms of thermal coal. What determines that is international frameworks, what is happening in the global energy sector and indeed if Australia stopped exporting coal tomorrow, take it to its logical conclusion. There would be an increase in global emissions, not a decrease. Australia needs to participate fully in global energy discussions including on climate change. When I was the climate change spokesperson I attended two of the United Nations conferences. We need to be engaged in the community. It’s very disappointing that Scott Morrison didn’t bother to turn up to the climate summit even though he was down the road from New York where it was held just a fortnight ago. But those decisions are a part of the global debate and we need to participate in that. But we need to do it with credibility as well. And at the moment while our emissions are rising not decreasing then that has a negative impact on our capacity to argue for global action.
LEVINGSTON: Anthony Albanese always good to have you in Queensland, thanks for your time this morning.
ALBANESE: Thanks for having me on the program.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.