Feb 4, 2020


SUBJECTS: Sports rorts; National Party leadership spill; climate change.

LAURA JAYES, HOST: Let’s go live back to Canberra. Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, joins us now. Thanks so much for your time Mr Albanese. It must feel good for once not to be part of a leadership challenge?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, I think this is quite an extraordinary event that is occurring here. I wrote to the Prime Minister weeks ago saying that the first day of Parliament should be devoted to a resolution of condolence in the 33 lost lives that we have had over this horrific bushfire season up to now, must be said that it is not over yet, thanking the firefighters both permanent and volunteers, emergency service workers, defence personnel, all of those people who have shown such courage on behalf of their fellow Australians, putting their own lives on the line. And what we have here from the Coalition is a meltdown. Is a leadership challenge before Parliament has even had the bells ring for the beginning of the session. And the idea that if Barnaby Joyce is the answer, then what the hell is the question?

JAYES: What is the problem with Barnaby Joyce? And why would you even have a say or think to have a say in who represents the Nationals and who represents country Australia like he promises he would do?

ALBANESE: What we are talking about here is regional Australia has suffered from drought. Regional Australia has suffered from this bushfire crisis more than anywhere else by its very nature. Regional Australia is suffering from no wage growth, from the downturn in the economy that we are seeing. And we are seeing the National Party, that says that they are representing Australia, engaged in this ultimate act of self-indulgence to try to return someone who it dumped just a couple of years ago. Anyone who has a look at Barnaby Joyce’s video, the selfie video with the cows as the guest stars at the end of last year, speaking about climate change, will just shake their head. The idea that this bloke could return as Deputy Prime Minister.

JAYES: And perhaps a sign of things to come as to where Labor’s attack might be if Barnaby Joyce does retake the reins of the leadership today. You called for Bridget McKenzie’s head. That happened just a couple of days ago. We see Matt Canavan resigning last night and perhaps this has been underreported because of why he resigned, throwing his support behind Barnaby Joyce, but he has disclosed a previously undisclosed membership of the Queensland Cowboys. Is there a conflict of interest there? Barnaby Joyce this morning has told me that Matt Canavan, under his leadership, would go back into Cabinet. Would you pursue him? Do you think he is eligible to sit in the ministry?

ALBANESE: Well, I’ll tell you what, there’s a lot more to be seen from the sports rorts saga. The extraordinary statement of Scott Morrison on Sunday, which was that it was over, essentially, a misdemeanour over the non-disclosure rather than what we saw was the industrial rorting of this program in order to assist the election of LNP members. We’ve seen today revelations about the member for Longman saying that the strategic decision by the LNP to give a $500,000 grant by the Prime Minister the day before the election was what helped get him across the line. I mean, this was supposed to be a fund that was administered by Sport Australia, an independent statutory authority at arm’s length from the Government. And what we’ve seen is that worthy programs and volunteer groups putting their effort in to put in their applications thinking that there was a level playing field like there should be on the sporting field. And what we see, of course, is that it was absolutely rorted, that they were wasting their time, and that people were sitting around in the Minister’s office, including staff of the Prime Minister, and determining where funds would go as if they were Liberal Party funds. They weren’t.

JAYES: I want us to talk about policy. Because Barnaby Joyce, if he does become leader, could very well change the policy front when it comes to climate change as well. This morning as well as last night with Matt Canavan, were talking about a greater defence of coal-fired power stations and coal workers, particularly in Queensland. Would you have a problem with that?

ALBANESE: Well, let’s be clear about this. This mob say that they are going to build with taxpayer funds, a coal-fired power station. But they haven’t done anything about that. They’ve been in Government for seven years. And as for coal workers, they don’t defend coal workers. What we’re seeing happening in Queensland at the moment is contracting out, is people working side by side, some of them being paid $160,000 some of them being paid $40,000-$50,000 less than that.

JAYES: But where do you stand on coal because it was over the bushfire season, over this summer, that you cancelled a planned trip to do a tour of Queensland and to show your support of coal in this country.

ALBANESE: That’s not true. Laura that is not true.

JAYES: Do you want to see a new coal-fired power plant in Queensland? Is the Collinsville an option for Labor? Is that part of your policy platform?

ALBANESE: No, it certainly is not. Because the truth is that it doesn’t stack up economically. Renewables are far cheaper.

JAYES: Well, isn’t there a scoping study underway? How do you know?

ALBANESE: Because what the Government itself is saying is that they need to have subsidies for the station. The truth is, even this study is funded by the public sector. We’re not having that occur for other forms of energy production. Because the truth is that coal-fired power stations, in terms of the time it takes to build them, they can’t get capital, they can’t get finance, they can’t get insurance because of the risk factor. That’s just an economic reality.

JAYES: How is that a defence of the industry?

ALBANESE: Well, they are just the facts. Matt Canavan is conning, or trying to con, the Australian people. And I saw him last night in another interview on Sky admit that he had failed. He’s been in Government for seven years. They’ve been talking about this. Where is it? Where is the station?

JAYES: Okay. It’s two years until the next election. You say that you will formulate your climate change policy and your emissions reduction target. Given the summer we’ve just had and the pressure you’ve been putting on the Government, will you expedite that process? Does the Australian public deserve to know sooner rather than later what your policy will be?

ALBANESE: They’ll have all the detail about policy well before the election.

JAYES: So, not this year?

ALBANESE: Well, we will announce it on our timelines, not on the timelines demanded by the Coalition. We will have a policy framework out there that takes climate change seriously. We did last time we were in Government, every election, we’ve taken serious climate change policy to the election. I’m very proud of the fact that I wrote the policy in 2006 that went to the 2007 election that had the 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.

JAYES: But don’t your attacks on the Government fall flat when you don’t have a target yourself?

ALBANESE: No. They don’t.

JAYES: So, you’ve got no explanation that you deserve to give people? Your attacks on the Government, I’m sure you will continue them in Question Time today, and you still don’t have a target? We don’t know whether it will be a 50 per cent reduction or 100 per cent?

ALBANESE: Laura, what people need to do is to recognise that the next election is in 2022. We have a three-year plan to return to Government. I have outline that. We had outlined at the National Press Club last year our timeframe for all to see. The first was the review. We did that. We put it behind us. The second is the vision statements. Go have a look at the jobs in the future work plan, which I outlined in Perth as the first vision statement. It spoke about how good action on climate change will create jobs, will reduce emissions and reduce prices. That’s what I believe. That’s the policy framework that we will take forward. We have said on a range of issues, we have responded, we have said we don’t support the sort of nonsense that the Government put forward at Madrid of carry-over credits and all this. We support reducing emissions. We support action on climate change. We think it’s absolutely necessary. But if I announce it today, guess what Laura? It doesn’t mean I will be in Government next week. Because the next election is two years away.

JAYES: Well, you never know, Anthony Albanese. Didn’t think we’d be looking at a leadership challenge on the first day of Parliament for 2020 either. We will have to leave it there. Thanks so much for your time. We’ll speak soon.

ALBANESE: Thanks Laura.