THURSDAY, 12 DECEMBER 2019
SUBJECTS: Visit to Queensland; coal; climate change; bushfires; bushfire COAG.
KIM LANDERS: The Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is in Queensland coal country, spending four days trying to reconnect with voters who walloped Labor at the election, leaving the party with only 6 of the states’ 30 federal seats. He’s visited the mining towns of Emerald and Rockhampton and joins us on the line this morning from Gladstone. Anthony Albanese, what do regional Queenslanders want from you and the Labor Party to win back their trust and political support?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, what they want firstly is respect. They want jobs. They want things that other Australians want as well. They want a better future for their children. They want strong education and health. They feel insecure in their jobs. There’s been a massive shift towards casualisation of the workforce. And it’s been very good to just connect with people one on one as well as in meetings here in Queensland. We began in Barcaldine where the Labor Party was formed way back in 1891.
LANDERS: You’ve been saying that you support coal jobs. Are you prepared to also say that there should be no further expansion of the industry beyond already approved mines in order to help tackle climate change?
ALBANESE: Well, very clearly, I don’t think there’ll be another coal fired power station built in Australia. There will be a transition that needs to occur here in Australia towards zero emissions, but there also needs to be strong international action. The truth is that a majority of coal exports that go out of this port here at Gladstone are metallurgical coal. It’s to build steel, not thermal coal. And that, of course, plays an important role in our economy and in our lives.
LANDERS: So you’re saying no more coal fired power stations. But what about the coal industry itself? What about the mines itself?
ALBANESE: What we’re seeing with the industry, of course, is that that is dependent upon demand. And what we’re seeing globally is a shift towards renewables. We need to do our bit here in Australia to move towards a clean energy economy. But we also need to move away from the embarrassment that we’re seeing in recent days with Angus Taylor arguing Australia is doing our bit when in fact, we’re ranked 61st out of 61 countries. We don’t have credibility on the international stage. And if we’re going to address climate change, we need to be serious players arguing for strong global action, and it is that that will reduce the demand for fossil fuel use globally.
LANDERS: You’re visiting mining communities when a lot of people are experiencing bushfires, record air pollution, and not to mention the drought. They’re worried, many people are worried that climate change fueled by fossil fuels is a major contributor to all of that. Is that a bit awkward for you?
ALBANESE: Not at all. The fact is that I’m visiting communities around the country and today, I’ll be in Bundaberg, Maryborough, looking at rail infrastructure manufacturing as well. I make no apologies for being here in Queensland and one of the issues that has been raised with me here as well is the impact of the drought. The impact bushfires course affected just outside Yeppoon just north of Rockhampton. This is a fact that every single local government area that I’m visiting during this week is affected by drought, is drought declared. And that no doubt is in part impacted by climate change. There’s always been droughts and bushfires in Australia. But what we are seeing now is the bushfire seasons commence earlier, be more intense. When the cyclone season comes later on we can we can expect that there will be more intensity there as well. There is no question that we need to act on climate change. That’s what the last Labor Government did. And that is what we will do as well.
LANDERS: You’re talking about the fires. The Federal Government’s come up with an $11 million grant to boost Australia’s aerial firefighting fleet. Meanwhile, we’re seeing fundraisers pop up on social media for rural firefighters in New South Wales and Queensland. Do you think most state and federal funding is needed for the fireys?
ALBANESE: Well, absolutely. What we’ve seen here is a Prime Minister who has refused to meet with Greg Mulles and other ex-fire chiefs. He should do so. Because they have a lot to offer.
LANDERS: But are you telling state governments, for example, Queensland Government to chip in more?
ALBANESE: All governments need to do more. We need to have a COAG meeting. I wrote to Scott Morrison and called for a nationally coordinated response with a special COAG meeting. He rejected that and said it wasn’t necessary. But the other issue that has been raised with me by volunteer firefighters themselves is fatigue. It’s the fact that many of them have been working, not for weeks, but for months on the North Coast of New South Wales and other areas. Scott Morrison has dismissed any idea of fixing up their leave or making sure they can afford to contribute as they want to be there. And I think they deserve a much better and fulsome response from the Government than they’re getting at the moment.
LANDERS: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much for speaking with AM this morning.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much Kim.