SUBJECTS: Chaos within the Coalition; coal; climate change.
FRAN KELLY, HOST: I am joined by the Labor Leader now. Anthony Albanese, welcome back to breakfast.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Fran.
KELLY: Why did you come up with this plot to install Llew O’Brien as Deputy Speaker. It is just mischief making, isn’t it?
ALBANESE: Well, the fact is that this is an absolute wreck of a Government. It is chaos from their side. They don’t have a plan for anything. Just a plan marketing and spin. Clearly, if you can’t govern yourself, you can’t govern the country.
KELLY: Sure, but it is a tactical win for Labor. But how does the Opposition, stirring that leadership pot and that instability, equate to making a positive contribution to the way that the Parliament is run?
ALBANESE: Well, it’s not up to us to promote stability in the Coalition.
KELLY: No, but is it up to you to foment instability on the other side?
ALBANESE: Well, the fact is, Fran, that there is chaos on the other side. It’s difficult for us to know who to talk to or how to get things done. All you do is you ask a straight question and you get nonsense and spin. After Llew O’Brien’s win on the floor of the Parliament yesterday, Scott Morrison stood up and tried to claim victory. I mean, this is the ultimate marketing guy without an actual plan.
KELLY: But you set him up for it. I mean, we think five Nats sided with Labor in the ballot. Did you talk to any of them beforehand and tell them what was planned? Did you work with Barnaby Joyce? Tip him off about what was going to happen?
ALBANESE: Well, I didn’t talk with Llew O’Brien or Barnaby Joyce at all.
KELLY: Did anyone from Labor?
ALBANESE: I casted my vote on the floor of the Parliament.
KELLY: What I asked you was did your side cook this up with some of the Nats, with Barnaby Joyce or some of the others? Someone must have talked to Llew O’Brien to say we’re going to put you up.
ALBANESE: Well, Llew O’Brien wasn’t in the chamber when he was nominated. He came back and accepted the nomination. He had indicated a position of independence, or somewhat independence, by leaving the National Party room. He replaced someone, Kevin Hogan, who prior to the last election also went and sat on the crossbenches. And so, it’s like for like there. What’s extraordinary is that the Coalition didn’t seem to know, Scott Morrison or any of them, what was actually going on their own side. It’s not up to me, Fran, to organise the Coalition.
KELLY: No, what I am asking you is did you speak to, or someone on your side?
ALBANESE: I have said to you, Fran, I spoke to no one.
KELLY: I’m asking if someone from your side, Tony Burke or somebody else, spoke to the Nats and you cooked this up together?
ALBANESE: Well, I’d be surprised if there weren’t discussions around the chamber. There is all the time.
KELLY: Are you saying this wasn’t a strategy from Labor?
ALBANESE: I’m not saying anything about it, Fran. I’m saying private discussions are private discussions. I’m saying that I didn’t have a discussion with anyone about this. What’s extraordinary here is that the Coalition, Scott Morrison, Michael McCormack, all the leading Cabinet players there sat down the front, didn’t know what was going on in their own Coalition. And that is not my responsibility. That says something about the state of chaos that is there in the Coalition. And that doesn’t, in the scheme of things, in terms of who gets what position, doesn’t really matter. The problem, by comparison is, what really matters is they don’t have a plan for the economy, they don’t have a plan for climate change or energy, they don’t have a plan to take the country forward. They’re all obsessed with themselves. I mean, we had a leadership ballot last week for the National Party on the very day in which Parliament was convening, as a result of my request, to pay tribute to the victims of the bushfire crisis and to praise and give thanks to all those brave firefighters who put their lives on the line over recent months.
KELLY: You are right, what really matters is a plan to take the country forward. If Labor fuelling turmoil in the Nats helps embolden Barnaby Joyce and his supporters who are now in open conflict with moderate liberals over coal and emissions cuts, aren’t you just making it harder for the Government to take stronger action on climate change? As one listener writes in, if the new Deputy Speaker is a supporter of Barnaby Joyce, is he also a climate denier? If so, why would Labor look to promote him?
ALBANESE: I’ll give you the big tip, Fran. It is not Labor’s job, or my responsibility, to promote unity in the Coalition. What we have on one side of the chamber is division, is chaos, they hate each other, they can’t speak to each other, they can’t come up with a policy plan. On our side, we are united. We’re committed to doing something to change the country for the better. We’re working through, we have worked through the review after the election loss. We’re now working through, we have begun our platform process in the lead-up to our national conference. We’re working through issues. We’re holding the Government to account. We did that on the bushfire crisis. Yesterday we asked a range of questions, asking about the practical impact, how do small business get support, how do individuals get support?
KELLY: But don’t you think it is the job of the Opposition to try and work constructively with the Government to get better climate policies in place and that if you’re actively working with opponents of positive climate action, then you’re working against the national interest?
ALBANESE: That is the longest bow you’ve ever drawn, Fran. To suggest that yesterday’s vote for the Deputy Speaker was about climate policy is a very long bow indeed. It is about who is responsible for running the Federation Chamber, that was what it was about. It was about the chaos in the Coalition. And what we have done is continue to be constructive on policy ideas. Indeed, from time to time I’ve done interviews with you where some people have been critical because I had been constructive, because I’ve tried to find solutions rather than just arguments. I agree with you that people want solutions, not arguments. That’s something that I brought to the Labor leadership. And indeed, it is one of the reasons why I’ve said that I want to be known as the Labor Leader, not the Opposition Leader.
KELLY: Okay, let’s go to climate policy now. One of the points of difference within the Coalition that they’re arguing about right now is this $4 million for a feasibility study into a coal-fired power station, I get that mixed up all the time, at Collinsville in Queensland. Should the Government be funding a feasibility study for new coal-fired power stations?
ALBANESE: No. Exclamation mark. This is quite outrageous. Here we have, essentially, the Government pretending that the world isn’t changing. What we need is a transition to a clean energy economy. And the truth is that no private sector operation will touch a new coal-fired power plants with a barge pole. It can’t get the proper insurance, they can’t get financing. And that’s because renewables are cheaper. And the risk factor with regard to investing in a new coal-fired power plant means that it simply doesn’t stack up. And what we have with this $4 million is essentially you can add it to the sports rorts and add it to the other areas whereby the $150 million program for women’s sports that didn’t actually fund women’s sport, as $4 million just for political purposes. This is hush money. Hush money for the climate change deniers in the Coalition. I mean, Matt Canavan yesterday made the most extraordinary comment about renewables as the dole bludgers of the system. The fact is that the cheapest new energy sources in Australia today are solar and wind.
KELLY: So, let me put this to you because you don’t support the feasibility study money, but your Deputy, Richard Marles, struggled on Sunday to answer whether Labor would support new coal-fired power generators if they were funded by industry. You have just said what we need is a transition to a clean energy economy. If it stacked up, if industry was prepared to back it, would a Labor Government support it, allow it?
ALBANESE: You may as well ask me, Fran, if I support unicorns.
KELLY: This is important. Because do you have a position on this?
ALBANESE: Fran, we have a position which is that it does not stack up. It will not proceed. It doesn’t stack up. No private sector operator, Fran, right now, there is nothing to stop a private sector operator establishing a coal-fired power station.
KELLY: I understand. But why can’t you say that a Labor Government would not allow any new coal-fired power stations to be built? Why can’t you say that?
ALBANESE: Well, because it’s not happening, Fran. It won’t happen. We do know that, Fran, we do know that because it’s reality. It’s like saying, ‘do you know if the sun will come up this morning’.
KELLY: Alright, let me change it slightly. Because Professor Will Steffen, a leading climate scientist, said that if Australia is committed to the Paris commitment of keeping global warming to below two degrees, there can be no new coal-fired power, no new fossil fuels, no extension of coal, no new gas. If Labor was in Government, would you allow any extension of coal? Would you allow any new gas?
ALBANESE: Well, the fact is we have practical plans that we can see, Fran. Whether it be a new coal-fired power plant at Collinsville doesn’t stack up, which is why it doesn’t have financing, which is why it hasn’t preceded. Liddell, yesterday there was a leak of the report. What that found was that for $300 million if can be kept going for three years. But guess what? It will not increase reliability of the system because Liddell is at the end of its life. So, it won’t add to that. And it will stop investment in new energy. What Labor wants to see, is investment in clean energy. I don’t think there is a place for new coal-fired power plants in Australia. Full stop.
KELLY: The BCA has said last night that what it wants to see is a commitment from a Government to zero emissions by 2050. It says that will assist investment. The Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, has confirmed the Government will adopt a long-term emissions reduction strategy before the climate summit in Glasgow in November. It will commit. Will Labor commit this year to zero emissions by 2050?
ALBANESE: We will commit to a long-term target.
KELLY: Zero emissions by 2050?
ALBANESE: We will commit to a long-term target very soon, Fran.
KELLY: And will it be zero emissions by 2050?
ALBANESE: Fran, I’m not about to, with due respect to you, Fran, as much as I love this program, I’m not about to announce policy which circumvents our proper democratic processes including the Caucus that will meet in about an hour.
KELLY: With due respect to you, zero emissions by 2050 is essentially what the Paris commitment builds into.
ALBANESE: Fran, I know you’ve been paying attention. So, I know that you know that is the commitment that we have taken to past elections.
KELLY: So, why don’t you just say it now.
ALBANESE: Because we have a process, Fran. We have a process. The process is we have a Shadow Cabinet process, a Caucus process, and our internal democratic processes, that I intend to respect at all times. But I have said very clearly, Fran, that there will be no retreat when it comes to our objectives of tackling and avoiding dangerous climate change under my leadership. I have a record on climate change policy going back to 2006, where I was the Climate Change and Environment spokesperson who wrote the policy for 20 per cent by 2020 renewables, ratification of Kyoto, the whole range of policies that made a significant difference and had Australia, when we were in Government, at number one in terms of the industrialised world for action on climate change. That’s the objective that I have, it is to have strong climate change policy. We have got till 2022. We will announce a long-term target. And then we will proceed to announce a series of other climate change measures. But, you know, what we’re not going to do is to announce everything at the beginning of the term, and without proper processes.
KELLY: Okay, we’re almost out of time. But I should ask you, we spoke yesterday with Independent MP, Zali Steggall, about her climate change act, the private member’s bill that she’ll bring in, which would set the country up for zero emissions by 2050. Will you back her bill or allow a conscience vote for allowing your MPs to back it?
ALBANESE: Well, we are unlikely to have a conscience vote on climate change. What we’ll do is support action on climate change.
KELLY: So, do you back the bill?
ALBANESE: Fran, you’ve been around a while. I’ll repeat, you know that bill will never be voted on. Because that’s what happens with private member’s bills in the House of Representatives. Unless the Government agrees to allocate time for the bill, it will not be voted on. The way that you change climate change in policy in this country is to change the Government and elect a Labor Government. That’s what it needs to change policy and to have the sort of objectives consistent with Zali Steggall, whose bill is very well intentioned. And I respect her for that. But the truth is, it’s very clear that this Government will not act. The only way that you will get action is to remove this Government.
KELLY: Anthony Albanese, thanks very much for joining us.
ALBANESE: Thanks Fran.