TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC MELBOURNE MORNINGS WITH VIRGINIA TRIOLI – MONDAY, 20 JANUARY 2020
SUBJECTS: Climate change; franking credits.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI, HOST: Joining me right now is the Federal Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese. He’s been speaking about changes to the emissions reductions targets by Labor that they had set going into the election and a number of other key policy issues as well. And I’m very pleased to introduce him to you for the new year for 2020. Anthony Albanese, Good morning and welcome.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Virginia.
TRIOLI: Good to have you on board. So, thanks for joining us today. After hearing your comments and interviews over the weekend about backing away from Labor’s established emission reduction target of 45 per cent by 2030. The question that occurred to me was this; that if right now, after catastrophic fires, state-wide droughts and steadily increasing temperatures, if now you back away from that emission reduction target, if you can’t commit to it now, then when can you ever?
ALBANESE: Well, I didn’t say that at all, Virginia. People actually look at the interview, look at the transcript. This is the greatest example of the frustration that you sometimes feel with social media whereby there’s a misleading headline, it then gets picked up and it goes over and over again, and it becomes a complete distortion of what I said. I was asked very explicitly, ‘Was the target too ambitious?’ I said, ‘I’m not saying that at all’. I indeed put out a tweet myself to counteract some of the nonsense that was on social media.
TRIOLI: Well, why don’t you clarify that for us now? It’s true to say, isn’t it, you’re not going to the next election with that target, that 45 per cent reduction target for 2030 in place. Correct?
ALBANESE: Not correct necessarily, at all.
ALBANESE: Well, we will determine our policy in terms of short-term targets before the election based upon what the starting point is. And that was the point of the long form interview that I gave. The fact is that policy was written in 2015. And what I said was, referring to all of our policies, is that between 2013 and 2019, what we did was we added on policies as if the 2016 election hadn’t happened and we didn’t lose that election. And I said that was a mistake to view two terms as one and to continue to add on to policies. And the review found that one of the things that occurred was that we went to the election with 284 policies that were fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office. The other side had just a few and they won, we lost. And that you can’t have policies announced after the 2013 loss that you then take to an election almost a decade later without considering them.
TRIOLI: So, just trying to get to the point here. So, what’s the mistake then? Was the mistake that figure? Or was it a mistake to have so many policies?
ALBANESE: The mistake wasn’t even referring to the that policy specifically. It is accurately reported in The Australian this morning, actually, a far greater level of the quote. The mistake was that up the 2016 we kept going and we just added on to policies. That was the mistake.
TRIOLI: Well then, let’s get to it. What do you think that target should be for 2030?
ALBANESE: You need to know what the starting point is, Virginia. That’s the point. And the analogy I gave yesterday in the interview was that it’s like asking what you think the final quarter strategy should be in an AFL game without knowing what the three-quarter time score is.
TRIOLI: Mr Albanese, when it comes to climate change and the situation in Australia, we’re almost reaching full-time.
ALBANESE: Absolutely. The target should be as ambitious as possible. But you need to know what the starting point is. That’s the point.
TRIOLI: What do you mean about the starting point?
ALBANESE: Well, where emissions are at, what level they’re at. And we established a policy in 2015 based upon where the emissions were at that point in time, what our level of carbon pollution is, to put it that way. And based upon the advice of the climate change authority of what would be necessary in order to avoid dangerous climate change, what the path was. And in 2022, it is a different time from 2015. We don’t have a Tardis. I want an ambitious target. I want strong policy on climate change. It was a 15-year target in 2015. And there’s been this somewhat silly debate, really, over whether in 2015, policy should still apply in 2022 as if nothing has happened in between.
TRIOLI: But emissions have been going up.
ALBANESE: That’s the point, Virginia.
TRIOLI: So, you are saying that’s not strong enough?
ALBANESE: Of course the policy, in terms of this Government, is not strong enough. That is the point. 2015 was based upon us winning in 2016, having a policy that would drive down emissions, and therefore would have been at a very different position in 2022.
TRIOLI: Anthony Albanese, I have got to jump in. I think this is the problem, this whole back and forth that we’re having right now is probably the heart of the problem.
ALBANESE: I agree because asking if having the same policy in 2022 that we had in 2015, when it’s based upon time frames, is the wrong debate.
TRIOLI: But you’re making something far more complicated at a time like this. If I may ask the question. At a time like this, when the country is crying out for leadership and clarity on this issue, we’re having the most complicated backwards and forwards about what, at the time, was an agreed Party position that might serve you well quite now.
ALBANESE: I agree, Virginia. But we lost the election. And it’s now not 2015. And that was the starting point. That was the starting point then. In 2022, it may well be, I have explicitly rejected the idea of weakening our position on climate change. I’m saying that. But we will establish a target based upon where we are, what we need to do. The other thing is, we should not let the Government off the hook and pretend somehow, as some in the media did during the last lead up to 2019. As if the Government didn’t exist. As if the Coalition didn’t exist, and the whole focus was on Labor. What I want is for climate action now.
TRIOLI: And when I get Government members on, I’ll be speaking to them about that. In particular, Scott Morrison when he finally agrees to our many requests to come on the program. But, let’s move on. Let’s move on if we can. You said that if we stopped exporting coal from Australia, that would not reduce emissions. But from a statement like that, and also from the fact that you’re backing away from the 45 per cent target at the moment.
ALBANESE: Again, you say I’m backing away from it.
TRIOLI: But, you’re not saying that you’re going to the election with it? I mean, you’re not giving us a figure.
ALBANESE: Because 2022 is the next election.
TRIOLI: But as part of this national discussion, you can talk about a figure. Nothing precludes you from doing that right now. And actually exhibiting the leadership that Australians say they want.
ALBANESE: Except for the truth. And the truth is that the starting point will be different. We don’t know what the Government will do between now and 2022. What we need is a policy and a framework that drives down emissions. Australia was, the last time we were in Government, we were the best in the world in terms of what we were doing. I was the climate change spokesperson who wrote the policy for an Emissions Trading Scheme to ratify Kyoto for the renewable energy target of 20 per cent, for the framework in terms of the green buildings plan, and the framework across the board, the comprehensive plan that we had to deal with climate change. We will have a comprehensive plan to deal with climate change at the next election. But what we won’t to do is pretend that we’re going to be in Government tomorrow. Because the next election is 2022. We will hold the Government to account. We will push them to actually do something that reduces emissions. We have said, for example, that they shouldn’t be taking into account the Kyoto credits from when we were in Government in terms of their targets. They need to actually have a plan to reduce emissions. We are seeing renewable energy investments reduce, not increase. And that’s going to have an impact in the next couple of years in terms of where we find ourselves.
TRIOLI: I want to take you to your position of coal. Because, of course, it was a very high profile and rather controversial tour of coal electorates in Queensland in December, as there were fires burning in New South Wales during that time. You have said that if we stopped exporting coal from Australia, that wouldn’t reduce emissions. But from a statement like that, I think you have to conclude that you don’t see Australia playing a leadership role on this issue, do you? You want to be able to be seen as being strong on climate change, but you also want to have your hands wrapped around coal at the same time. Do you see how that presents a rather confusing image and also one that does not show leadership on this issue?
ALBANESE: Well, only because you’re confused about what Queensland is, Virginia. Queensland is not just a coal mine. I visited, in Maryborough I went to a rail manufacturing plant. I went to a farm in Gympie, I went to tourism facilities in Hervey Bay, I went to the aluminium refinery in Gladstone which is moving towards 100 per cent renewable energy. Once again, that tour of Queensland, I didn’t go to a coal mine. In spite of what’s been written a number of time. I looked at actually, firefighting. The fires started in Central Queensland, Virginia. One of the things that I did was sit down in Rockhampton and talk with people who had plans in terms of aerial firefighting and an aircraft that could be gotten, transferred that information through to the Government. One of the things we talked about there, the first time it came up with me, was support for volunteer firefighters and joined the campaign. Once again that was in Rockhampton and Central Queensland where the fires began. And, of course, in the Sunshine Coast where I visited the area that was impacted on by fires as well. But on international arguments, my position is clear. That the problem Australia’s got is that we have no credibility internationally. Not only are we not doing anything on domestic emissions, we went to Madrid, and we’re one of the recalcitrant nations that argued for less action, not more. I want to see strong domestic policy on climate change. And I want to see Australia take the position that we used to take, when Labor was in Government, of being a leader in arguing for stronger action, globally.
TRIOLI: Well, we’ll see what the listeners may make of whether they’ve heard that leadership this morning. It was interesting to me though, Anthony Albanese, that last week, BlackRock, the largest asset management firm on Earth, dumped more than half a billion dollars in coal shares last week. Why is business, both overseas and here, we have to say, increasingly, so far ahead of both Government and Opposition in this country over the future of energy investment? They’re moving to decarbonise completely. Many businesses talking about going negatively when it comes to carbon emissions. Why so far ahead of both the Government and the Opposition do you think?
ALBANESE: They’re not ahead of the Opposition, Virginia.
TRIOLI: Of course they are. They are. I’m going to jump in there. I’m sorry, Mr Albanese, but I’ve been speaking to business consistently on a daily basis on this program and on my previous one for 11 years. And every leading business figure and every leading business organisation has been saying they’re going at it alone in the absence of consistent policy. Now that takes in both Opposition and the Government.
ALBANESE: Virginia, I really wish that were true. But I’m sorry, the Business Council of Australia ran a significant campaign, as did the business community, against our climate change policies at the last election. So, if you’re going to say every business is there, unfortunately, that’s not true. It is true that significant sections of the business community are well in advance of where the broader debate is on climate change. But I believe very strongly that we do need to move to a low energy future, a clean energy future. And I’ve said that in terms of consistently, for example, I’ve said there won’t be another coal-fired power plant built in Australia. What we need is the mechanism that drives that through the economy. Globally, that will happen over a period of time as well.
TRIOLI: Well, it’s happening in Germany right now. It will happen by 2038, according to Angela Merkel.
ALBANESE: And that’s a very good thing. That’s a very good thing.
TRIOLI: So, Europe’s largest economy can get there by 2038. But it’s not something we’ve actually got a time frame on?
ALBANESE: Well, I’m not saying we haven’t got a time frame at all. What I’m saying is that we need to have a policy at the next election which reflects the timing of the next election, not in January of 2020.
TRIOLI: Let me ask you about a couple of other issues. I know from my sources that even the Coalition acknowledges that the budget burden that is franking credits, reimbursing someone for a tax that they haven’t actually paid, is going to have to be dealt with eventually. That can’t be sustained. It can’t continue. So why abandon it?
ALBANESE: Well, I’ve just said we won’t have the same policy that we took to the election. And I have said that based upon feedback.
TRIOLI: What does that mean?
ALBANESE: Well, it means exactly that, Virginia. That we won’t have the same policy.
TRIOLI: No, to detail please. What does it mean?
ALBANESE: Well, I don’t announce the detail on ABC in Melbourne, to be frank. What we do is we have processes in our Shadow Cabinet and our caucus whereby we debate the detail and then we announce it all out there for all to see, in plenty of time for people to make their decisions. But one of the things that I got in terms of feedback from people is that people who had made their financial arrangements based upon existing rules, who relied upon a relatively small amount $2,000, $3,000. I met a woman in Caboolture, she said that they relied upon that $2,000 payment every year to pay for the Christmas lunch for the family when they all visited, to buy presents for the grandkids. And that was something that they had factored in to their living sense.
TRIOLI: So, the policy should have been grandfathered, really?
ALBANESE: Well, we’ll look at that detail. But I said we won’t take the same policy to the election.
TRIOLI: Very quickly, it was interesting to me, Anthony Albanese, that when Scott Morrison during the last few weeks was being roundly criticised during the fires for being missing in action, or seemingly lacking in empathy, and for seemingly failing to take the fire disaster seriously enough, you seem to be at pains not to be critical of him. Do you have a tendency to hesitate when it’s time to politically execute?
ALBANESE: No. What I have is a tendency towards decency. And at a time when people were really doing it tough and hurting, what I didn’t want to do was to get into a slanging match between politicians about, for example, whether it was appropriate for Scott Morrison to go on his Hawaiian holiday or not. I said that was a matter for him. People will draw their own conclusions on issues like that, or on the handshake. People aren’t dumb. They’ll draw their own conclusions there. What I reckon people are sick of is politicians just opportunistically bagging each other on a personal level. It is one of the things that drives down, as you would be aware, something we can certainly agree on, is that the standing of politicians isn’t what, I think, we would like it to be in a democracy. And one of the reasons for that is easy shots being made against each other, particularly where, in Scott Morrison’s case, it involved a holiday with his family. I’ve always had a really firm view that families and those issues are off limits.
TRIOLI: Well, we’ll get to the view of politicians when I get to read out some of the comments following this interview. But, I’m very pleased to join us today, Anthony Albanese. I look forward to talking again.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Virginia.