Subjects: Adani coal mine, Batman by-election, Peter Dutton.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Welcome.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Patricia.
KARVELAS: Now Bill Shorten has said repeatedly that Labor will support the Adani mine if it stacks up. What does that mean? Paint us a picture of the scenario in which the ALP backs the mine.
ALBANESE: Well Patricia, you are asking the wrong question because the Adani Mine has been approved by the EPBC approvals. Not once, but twice. It was approved firstly and then they made a decision that what they would need to do is to re-examine it in light of the potential impacts on the Great Barrier Reef and again it was approved. It has received its state approvals – both of those rounds of approvals by the way under Coalition governments, not Labor governments.
What we have said though, and what indeed the conservation movement said to me repeatedly, was this project doesn’t stack up unless it gets some public subsidy through the rail line. Now we ensured that that would not occur and indeed the Queensland Labor Government has also said that they won’t support that subsidy and hence we have a project that doesn’t have any finance, doesn’t have finance here in Australia, unable to raise funds in the US, unable to raise funds in China. And therefore it is hard to see this project going ahead because of the economics of the project.
KARVELAS: OK. So if they sort out the economics, you talked about all the approval processes …
ALBANESE: Well, economics is the way that the private sector operates and is run. They are either profitable or they are not.
KARVELAS: So the question still stands. If the project becomes economically viable, then Labor would have to support it under your rationale.
ALBANESE: But that is absurd that you are asking. That is the wrong question.
KARVELAS: No, it’s my question. I ask the questions here. It’s not the wrong question.
ALBANESE: Yes and it is wrong because it has already been approved. The question that you might ask is would Labor go through a process of rewriting the Environmental Protection, Bio-diversity and Conversation Act? Will we rewrite the way that environmental legislation is conducted in this country? And certainly there has been no suggestion from Labor that that is something that we should do.
KARVELAS: So you don’t think that you should rewrite the environmental processes?
ALBANESE: What we think is good policy happens when you establish good, proper settings, be it in terms of energy – the Renewable Energy Target, putting in place a policy framework which then drives a change across the economy. What you don’t do is single out particular projects and then retrospectively change existing laws which would have ramifications across the board.
We haven’t said at any stage that we would do that. What we have said very clearly is because of what is happening in the global thermal coal market, which includes, by the way, India saying that they will not import coal after the next few years, is that there is not a market for this.
KARVELAS: So you are saying that project is dead, so it doesn’t matter what your position is. Is that what you are telling me?
ALBANESE: No. It’s not up to me to say that. I am saying that very clearly the economics of the project haven’t stacked up, otherwise the financing would have occurred, otherwise any one of the many deadlines which have been established by the company where they have said we will start certain operations by particular dates, would have been met. The fact is they haven’t been met. The financing isn’t in place for the project.
KARVELAS: Shadow Resources Minister Jason Clare, in response, has said that that Labor is not in the business ripping up contracts. Do you agree with that?
ALBANESE: Oh absolutely. The Federal Labor Party is in the business of making sure that you have proper policy settings in place and that you can have a proper economic policy operating as well. I do find it somewhat extraordinary that the Greens Political Party, who voted against having a price in carbon in 2009, which would of course have had an impact, had the CPRS been in place on projects like this one because of the fugitive emissions that come from the mining sector, that they are belatedly, after the approvals have occurred, have been running a campaign a long way after the approvals had occurred both federal and state.
KARVELAS: The national convenor of the Labor Environment Action Network, Felicity Wade, says that it is time for Labor to make its position on Adani clear. Have you made it unclear?
ALBANESE: Well, what we have said very clearly is that Labor will put in place mechanisms to drive energy policy, to drive climate change policy, to move to a clean energy economy and we will do that …
KARVELAS: But on Adani, I have put a very specific question to you.
ALBANESE: No, you have put a position based upon what should have been put five years ago when it was being put before the EPBC Act on any of the occasions …
KARVELAS: So you are saying it is just too late, the horse has bolted on Adani?
ALBANESE: No we are not saying that. We are saying that the economics of the project mean that it is not proceeding because they haven’t been able to get the financing of the project. And indeed, indeed the conservation movement – what you can’t have is people come through your door and say if you stop this project getting public subsidy effectively for the rail line then the project won’t occur. That was the demand certainly in meetings that I had with the environmental al movement. Labor made our position very clear on that and that is appropriate because it is appropriate that the private sector operate the private economy but the public sector – the Government – determines whether there will be any government subsidy for particular projects and that the Government put in place economy-wide policies and programs to drive the change that we want to see in the economy.
KARVELAS: CFMEU national president Tony Maher says that if you oppose Adani and win Batman you will end up losing seats in central Queensland. Is he right?
ALBANESE: This isn’t about the politics of the project. This is about getting the policy mechanisms right. What you can’t do is look at any one electorate and say this is why we are going to determine national policy on something like mining or energy or climate change action. What you have to do is to get the policy mechanisms right and that is what we have done. We have because of Labor’s 20 per cent by 2020 renewable energy target. In spite of the efforts of the Government it will be met and when we determined that policy, I was the Environment Shadow Minister, the existing target was 2. So it was a tenfold increase that we committed to.
KARVELAS: OK Let’s just talk about Batman. You have been campaigning with Ged Kearney. You have built expectations that Labor is likely to win that seat. You have been campaigning there now. What do you think after being on the ground? Will Labor win that seat?
ALBANESE: Well, I have had a very positive reaction with Ged Kearney. She’s a great candidate. She is someone who has been a nurse for 20 years. She understands the services sector, She understands people and she understands that electorate and certainly the reaction has been very positive. Ged is someone who has stood up for working people her whole life, as a nurse, but then as a Nurses’ Unions official.
KARVELAS: So she will win that seat?
ALBANESE: Well I certainly hope that she will.
KARVELAS: I know you hope that she will. I am asking whether she will, your assessment.
ALBANESE: Well you can never judge things until the ballot papers are in the box. But what we can say is that historically it has been a Labor seat. We’ve got a fantastic candidate who understands the electorate, who I think is a very good fit for the electorate. Last night at her campaign office opening there were hundreds of people. They couldn’t fit into the campaign office. Her volunteers are very committed, not just inside the Labor Party. The great thing about a candidate like Ged Kearney is that she is bringing in community activists – people from the environmental movement, the union movement the feminist movement – who understand that she will be a voice in a Labor Government, not someone sitting back waiting until decisions are made and then trying to work out whether they will have a protest about it or not.
KARVELAS: The Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has spoken today at the Press Club. He wants school children of all cultural backgrounds to recite a US-style pledge of allegiance to uphold laws and people’s rights. Do you support the idea?
ALBANESE: It looks like Peter Dutton really wanted to have something to say at the Press Club after Tony Abbott pre-empted it last night.
KARVELAS: But do you support the idea?
ALBANESE: Well already in New South Wales schools, Peter Dutton mightn’t be aware of this, people sing both verses by the way or the first two verses of the Australian national anthem, they do that and they do that regularly,
KARVELAS: Yes but do you support a pledge?
ALBANESE: Well what pledge? Again this is a thought bubble from a minister who has had the former Prime Minister essentially try to bomb his portfolio in a speech to the Sydney Institute last night that he put in the newspapers yesterday morning.
KARVELAS: Do you think the national anthem is enough?
ALBANESE: Well I would wait and see what any proposal is. But I don’t think – you’ve got to identify what the problem is before you look for the solution. Is there a problem …
KARVELAS: Yes well he is saying civics educations should be stronger. Australian identity should be built. This is the framework.
ALBANESE: Australian identity is very important and Australian identity, from my experience as someone who has a son who is about to finish school this year and who has gone through the public school system the whole way, has had good civics education, has had the national anthem at every assembly, at every event. There is acknowledgement of country. There is here is a good position in my view in New South Wales in place. As to what the national situation is, I am not an expert in what happens in Victorian schools or Queensland schools for that matter, but I should imagine that similar things are in place in schools right around the nation.
KARVELAS: Anthony Albanese, I will let you go. But in Victoria we are definitely singing the national anthem at the school, or at least in my kids’ school.
ALBANESE: And it is a fantastic thing that it happens.
WEDNESDAY, 21 FEBRUARY, 2018