ABC NSW COUNTRY HOUR
MONDAY, 16 SEPTEMBER 2019
MICHAEL CONDON: The Federal Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, is saying that the National Party on water is all talk and no action. He says they’ve had seven years in power federally to come up with a drought policy, and still have nothing. He says in NSW they’ve had nine years in power while not building any dams and for the most part refusing to improve water management and compliance. he says the Federal drought fund is too little, too late.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: The National Party have been very complacent on these isues. We have quite horrific statements saying that Dubbo could run out of water as soon as November. But, as well, smaller regional towns: Nyngan; Narromine; Cobar; Warren – early next year – Forbes; Parkes; Cowra and even Tamworth. So the National Party have now been in government for seven years. They’re in their seventh year federally, and they’re in their ninth or tenth year in New South Wales. So what we have is circumstances whereby there’s been a whole lot of excuses, there’s been statements made about dams being built, but they haven’t built any, and we have complacency with regard to climate change. We have had scandals regarding the management of the Murray-Darling Basin and water purchasing there and the Government has National Party people, as Deputy Leader in both New South Wales and federally and they continue to be complacent about these issues.
CONDON: So what would Labor change if they got in power in New South Wales or federally?
ALBANESE: The first thing we need to do is to actually have a drought strategy. We need to look at mitigation we need to provide support for farmers. In July I went to Dubbo to attend the Daily Telegraph’s drought summit. Now, it says something that it took a newspaper to organise that summit rather than a government and there the Prime Minister made an announcement about a drought fund. But what will happen there is, they have taken $3.9 billion from infrastructure, they won’t provide a single dollar this year. The funding will start to flow in the following financial year, and will be only $100 million, with $100 million the year after. So, given how serious this issue is, we’ve had a drought envoy; a drought coordinator; a drought taskforce and with all of those we asked in Parliament last week – Joel Fitzgibbon – to table those reports and the Government has refused to do so. One wonders whether they exist or not, and whether it was just a title to give Barnaby Joyce for example as the drought envoy to travel around and campaign in marginal electorates. Because I don’t understand how you can have someone with that title and not produce a report to the Parliament, let alone even to the Government that is then made available.
CONDON: So, would Labor then support the building of new dams?
ALBANESE: Certainly, where appropriate we would. And we need to make sure that infrastructure investment is made. We need to make sure that we properly manage the Murray-Darling Basin properly. We need to make sure that we deal with the issue of climate change. Our farmers know that this is a serious issue; that they experience it all of the time. And we need to – you can’t say that any specific weather event is, point to it and say: ‘that’s climate change’. What you can do, though, is look at the trends. Look at what the science is telling us, and to react to it rather than be complacent about it. We have a real concern over issues like, dairy and fruit producers are pleading for help. They’re crippled by a combination of reduced allocations of water and temporary water prices that are hitting $800 a megalitre. Now, that is of real concern. The Government in 2013, under Barnaby Joyce, abolished the COAG committee that was dealing with drought reform, and they took that as a cost saving measure when they came to government. Now that just doesn’t make sense.
CONDON: You’ve also, in terms of over the weekend, there was talk about a review of the ALP’s climate policy in regards to emissions and talk about maybe a reduction and looking to 2050, to a zero emissions position at 2050. But how is that going to improve things if Labor is rolling back a policy on climate change that many scientists say we need in terms of reducing carbon emissions?
ALBANESE: Michael this was just journalists talking to other journalists.
CONDON: So, that’s not going to happen then?
ALBANESE: That was just journalists talking to other journalists. What we had was in 2015 we set a target for 2030. Now in 2022, it will be, before we have an election. We will have strong targets. We’ll have them based upon where we are at that point in time, which is obviously different from where we were in 2015.
CONDON: So, no watering down of the policy?
ALBANESE: No one except for journalists talking to other journalists. We are three months past an election. We will set our targets at the appropriate time based upon where we are at that time. Which is by definition different from where we were in 2015. No reduction in our commitment whatsoever to deal with the challenge of climate change; to reduce our emissions; to have strong targets and strong policies in place.
CONDON: And Mark Butler was saying that the ALP policy, regardless, would always be stronger than the Coalition policy?
ALBANESE: And it will be. Labor takes climate change very seriously and we will have in place well before the election a comprehensive plan, but it will be one based not on where we were in 2015. The question here is, though, what we want to happen is for the Government that is in office right now. These towns are potentially running out of water right now. The Government needs a plan for that and to take action, not just in the short term, in terms of infrastructure investment, in terms of support for farmers who are struggling. But also to take action in the long term by taking the challenge of dealing with climate change seriously.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.