WEDNESDAY, 27 APRIL 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s Climate Change Action Plan; Manus Island; Labor’s positive plans for nation building infrastructure; 2016 Federal Election
JIM CHALMERS, MEMBER FOR RANKIN: Thanks very much for joining us today for a really important announcement here at the UQ Gatton Campus Solar Research Facility. We want to thank Paul and Janelle for showing us around today, for showing us this really ground breaking work that's happening right now in Gatton. We're pleased to be here to make an announcement which is all about cutting pollution, growing investment and creating Australian jobs.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Jim and thanks to the University of Queensland for having us here. Today I'm really pleased to announce that at the next election, the Labor Party will have positive plans to deal with the harmful effects of climate change. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges to households, to our economy and to Australia in the future. Not just our environment, but indeed our cost of living. We see that the world and Australia is prone to more extreme weather events than ever before. We see temperatures rising, we see the consequences in terms of drought and the cost of billions of dollars of drought to Australian families and to the Australian economy. We see the challenges to Australian tourism as our wonderful Barrier Reef is threatened by the effects of climate change. We see the challenge to Australian coastal properties and the insurance costs as we face the prospect of rising sea levels. That's why Labor is determined, not only to tackle climate change, but to also make sure that we are part of the renewable energy revolution in the future. There's $2.5 trillion up for investment in the Asia-Pacific region alone in terms of climate change, renewable energy, new technology and most importantly for Labor, new jobs. This is why Mr Turnbull and his policies have proven to be such a patent fraud. Mr Turnbull is a fraud on climate change, he's sold out everything he believes on climate change. He has now adopted Tony Abbott's policies of paying large polluters for poor environmental outcomes. Before he became the leader of the Liberal Party, he said Mr Abbott's policies were an economic fig leaf, a climate change fig leaf, to mask the determination of the Abbott Government to do nothing on climate change. Now he's the champion of the climate sceptics. Mr Turnbull needs to stop being a fraud on climate change and help secure Australia's economic future and the future of our environment in going forward. So he should look at Labor's positive plans. I'm going to get Mark Butler, my Shadow Spokesperson on these matters to talk further about Labor's positive plans, but let me reiterate one point, because I anticipate that Mr Turnbull and his team will trivialise real action on climate change. The Labor Party is not going to introduce a carbon tax, nor a fixed price on carbon pollution. We've got market mechanisms, we've got innovative ways to deal with climate change. We've got an overarching story of tackling climate change, but we'll do it sector by sector. We'll do it in consultation with industry, with workforces, with environmentalists because we are determined not to pass on greater costs and damage to our cost of living in the future decades by not acting on climate change. Mark, over to you.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND WATER: Well, thank you Bill and thank you Jim and thank you to the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland for hosting us here today. Labor has today released a comprehensive plan to get Australia's pollution levels back under control and to drive investment and jobs in renewable energy. Our comprehensive Climate Change Action Plan will drive very significant investment in jobs in renewable energy with our 50 per cent target for renewables by 2030, while ensuring the transition from coal-fired power, that is already under way across Australia and across the world, is an orderly transition with proper supports for communities and workers that are impacted. It will impose pollution caps on Australia's largest polluters. It will get control back again on broad scale land clearing, particularly here in the State of Queensland. And it will clean up pollution on our roads with the introduction of emissions standards for cars and small trucks comparable to the emissions standards that are currently being introduced in the United States and Canada. This plan has been the subject of very deep consultation with business and industry over the last few months and also with the environmental groups and climate groups. I've held about 50 different consultations over the last few months with a number of my shadow ministerial colleagues and we're very confident that this is the right plan for Australia's future. Malcom Turnbull's plan that he has happily adopted from Tony Abbott, is a plan that is seeing Australia's pollution levels start to rise again for the first time in a decade. Australia now is pretty much the only advanced economy on the face of the earth where pollution is rising rather than coming down, and his plan for Australia's future has also seen investment and jobs in the renewable energy industry collapse. We need a new plan for Australia for the future and today Labor is announcing that plan, and we want it to be part of the debate for the rest of the nine and a half weeks of this election campaign. Thank you again.
SHORTEN: Thanks. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, your policy document says 'phase one ETS won't involve a carbon price', will there be one in phase two?
SHORTEN: I'll get Mark to talk more about the specifics of our plan, but let me just state again for the record, because I predict that Mr Turnbull, having been on this journey of selling out what he used to believe, will keep trying to trump up a sort of rich man's Tony Abbott scare campaign. No, let's be clear. There will be no carbon tax under Labor, there will be no fixed price under Labor. What we are doing instead is we're working with the market to create an Emissions Trading Scheme. We are going to put a cap on pollution because if you don't put a cap on pollution you're just not serious about tackling it. But let me go through why we are doing these things. The world at Paris, 195 countries including Australia, have signed up to a commitment to try and restrict the growth in global warming to less than 2 degrees increase. Now If you want to do that, if you actually mean the signature you put down on paper, then what you've got to do is adopt policies which get you to restricting growth in global warming. And the reason we're so concerned about global warming is because the extreme weather events aren't just a threat to Pacific Island nations with rising sea levels. It affects Australian households. I really believe that one of the greatest challenges for Australian households and the Australian economy next 10 years is inaction on climate change. We see that the proportion of the world covered by extreme weather events is increasing. We see the terrible threat and pressure that the Great Barrier Reef is under. The Great Barrier Reef, and the tourism related to that, generates 65,000 jobs. We can't put that at risk. Mr Turnbull loves to talk about property prices at the moment, but he's got nothing to say, or no policies to say, to help protect Australia's coastal properties against the challenges of climate change. It is very important that we have policies in place which try and put downward pressure in terms of the frequency of terrible droughts which affect our food supply. Labor won't pass on to the future, we won't pass on to households, the inability of a Government to act which puts pressure on their budgets, on their standard of living. In terms of our second stage ETS, what we will do is in the event we are elected, we will sit down with industry and work out the details of our second stage. But what the good news for Australians is, is there is a clear choice at the next election on action on climate change. You can have Tony Abbott-style policies, which pay large polluters to keep polluting, by the way, using billions of dollars of taxpayer money to pay for poor environmental outcomes, and the evidence about the poor environmental outcomes is in because we're seeing Australia going backwards. Or you can vote for Labor with its real and sensible policies, negotiate and consult with industry and environmental groups and consumers. Now I might just ask Mark to talk further about your question.
BUTLER: Thank you, Bill. We've talked very deeply with business about this and decided to introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme that does not have a price on carbon. Businesses will not be required to purchase permits to continue to operate. It's very, very significant change from Labor's previous policies. Labor heard a very clear message from the Australian people about the carbon tax and we will not be returning to that model. The first phase imposes no direct carbon price on polluters that will be covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme. Bill is right, the second phase of the Emissions Trading Scheme will start in 2020 to align with the period covered by the Paris Agreement that was signed or concluded in December last year and we want to sit down and talk very closely with business and other stakeholders about what that scheme would look like. We also, if we win Government, will invite the Opposition to be part of that because there is no country or democracy on the earth that has a strong, sensible climate change action plan that is not bipartisan and ultimately the Liberal Party is going to have to shake off the legacy of the Tony Abbott right-wing agenda and recognise that business, more than anyone, wants a clear consensus about this so that they can start to invest again in clean-energy and clean technology and start delivering those jobs to Australian people.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, why is this carbon policy better than Labor's previous one?
SHORTEN: Because what we're doing is we're adopting a sector by sector approach, or in other words we're ensuring an orderly transition to modernise our economy. We will not have a fixed price because as Mark Butler just said, we've heard the Australian people loud and clear. Instead, we're going to work with industry, we're going to work with international markets to make sure that Australia keeps pace with the rest of the world. I noticed that Mr Turnbull says somehow that Australia's racing ahead of the world if they were to adopt Labor's policy. That's not right. The truth of the matter is, the sad story is that for the last three years under the Liberals Australia's slipped to the very back of the pack and there couldn't be a better illustration of how Australia's gone backwards than the number of jobs lost in renewable energy. The rest of the world in the last two years has added 2 million new jobs in renewable energy. Australia's lost nearly 3,000 jobs in renewable energy in the same time period. What Labor wants to do is to make sure that we're part of the future of renewable energy. Global investment is moving increasingly into renewable energy. Australia's a very lucky country. We've got a lot of wind, we've got the ability to access a lot of solar energy and we need to be part of that. What we also want to do, and this is an important point to stress, is that we're thinking through the consequences of change on workers so we're making sure there are resources available to help workers as we change and broaden and diversify our energy mix in Australia.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, your policy document mentions being able to buy cheap permits from overseas, will the policy do anything then to help carbon emissions, if you can buy those permits?
SHORTEN: I'll pass that over to Mark, but the argument that the Liberals are running that we shouldn't have our climate change policies linked to the rest of the world is absurd. They can't on one hand say we're leading the rest of the world and then on the other hand say we shouldn't have any part to do with the rest of the word. We're very committed to market based solutions. But I'll let Mark go through the detail.
BUTLER: Thank you Bill. Australia is a free and trading economy that allows businesses to operate in all of the international trading markets and we see no reason why the same principles should not operate in relation to international carbon markets. The business groups have said to us very clearly they want their members to have access to robust, well governed international carbon trading markets. The Climate Change Authority did a review of this and issued a report a couple of years ago urging that the Government allow access to those markets as well. At the end of the day, climate change is a global challenge, it's not particularly an Australian challenge so if pollution reduction is achieved elsewhere and are sold to Australian businesses and that's the lowest cost abatement available to Australian businesses, well that's something that Australian Labor Party supports. We've always been a supporter of good robust global trading arranges and that should operate in relation to carbon as well. I'm confident you'll see strong support from the business sector about that aspect of our policy.
JOURNALIST: So, people will still use those offsets even though they can buy cheaper permits from overseas?
BUTLER: Well, particularly our emissions intensive trade exposed sectors like steel and aluminium operate in very competitive robust markets selling their steel, selling their aluminium. Labor takes the view that they should also be able to operate in global trading markets for carbon. That's something that those companies and their representatives at the Australian Industry Group and the Business Council have urged upon us very strongly. Now, the Liberal Party has not listened to those arguments. The Labor Party is listening to them and we will allow that access.
JOURNALIST: Labor's emissions target is much higher than Australia committed in Paris. If the rest of the world doesn't go as high, doesn't that dilute what Australia is doing?
BUTLER: Well, the Labor Party has decided to accept the advice of the Climate Change Authority, the expert Independent body here. Malcolm Turnbull has decided to accept the advice of Tony Abbott. If the rest of the world adopted Malcolm Turnbull's targets, every expert has said we would be headed for global warming of somewhere between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius. The experts have said that a 45 per cent reduction target by 2030 is the minimum position consistent with keeping global warming below 2 degrees and that after all was the central commitment that Malcolm Turnbull signed on to at the Paris conference. Even with the 45 per cent reduction target that Labor has announced today, Australia would still have the highest per capita emissions, per head of population, in the OECD in 2030. This announcement by Labor sees Australia return to the pack of countries to which we usually compare ourselves. The UK, which is still way ahead of 45 per cent, Germany, other European economies, we're confident by the time new Prime Minister Trudeau increases the Canadian target they'll be in the same ballpark as Australia. So this is doing the right thing. What we won't do, is what Malcolm Turnbull wants to do, which is simply to pass the buck to next generations. We're going to do our fair share, as the current generation to protect the interests of our children and our grandchildren, and to discharge the international commitment that our nation made at the Paris conference in December.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, is climate change still this generation's great moral challenge?
SHORTEN: Climate change is the great challenge to household cost of live and to our economic performance in the future. If we don't start acting on climate change and doing our bit along with the rest of the world to tackle the harmful effects of climate change, we'll pay the price. Increased insurance premiums, irregular and inconsistent supplies of food caused by drought, we'll see it through impact on tourism and loss of jobs. When we talk about climate change and in 2016, Labor's got its eyes on the prize. We want to make sure that the economy and households and families aren't paying increased costs for the next decade because you've got a government who's not willing to act. Labor believes that climate change is not just damaging our environment, and it clearly is. Labor believes that the science is in, which it clearly is. Labor believes that climate change affects the hip pocket and economic bottom line of the Australian nation and that's why we're acting because we don't believe that you solve tomorrow's problems by putting them off. You start dealing with them now so that Australians won't face greater costs in the future.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, we have a real issue in this region, particularly (inaudible). What's your stand on that?
SHORTEN: Well, I think it's important that communities have a say over the future of their energy policies and what - that communities have a choice about the impact of energy supplies and the extraction energy has on their communities. I'm not going to start second guessing the Queensland Government and local communities.
JOURNALIST: No, what I'm asking you is if you'll do something about (inaudible) emissions because obviously it has such a dramatic influence on farming land?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, Labor will always be guided by the best scientific evidence because we think that if you ignore the science you're ultimately undermining the economics of any proposition. We get also the importance of keeping farming land accessible for generations and generations rather than just short-term extraction but I'm not going to start competing or running for the Premier of Queensland, I'm going to leave Queensland State issues to them, but what I can say to people who are interested in our views about the future of climate change and policies, we've made it clear that we're not going to put any federal taxpayer money into Adani, we've made the clear also that when it comes to coal mining that it has a role in terms of Australia's energy supplies, but we want to help prioritise investment in renewable energy and new sources of energy.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, moving to the Budget, will Labor be happy to support all of the Budget bills by the end of next week before the election is called?
SHORTEN: Well, let's just see what's in their Budget. We won't block supply. Our concern about the Budget, though, is that Mr Turnbull is looking at giving tax cuts to large corporations. Our concern is that he's proposing tax cuts to the wealthiest, the very wealthiest of Australians, at the same time, he won't properly fund our schools including schools in the Lockyer Valley. That he won't properly fund our hospitals that he won't support our GPs with the cost of delivering that very vital front-line medicine which communities deserve. Our concern is that Mr Turnbull on one hand is weak on multinationals but on the other hand he is tough on terms of bulk billing and getting rid of bulk billing for pathology and vital blood tests. Budgets are about choices. Budgets are about making sure you do Budget repair that is fair. Now, Labor's already outlined sensible policies to help improve the bottom line of the Budget. We want to clamp down on excessive superannuation tax concessions for the very wealthy who already have millions of dollars in superannuation. We will tackle negative gearing, it won't be retrospective, in other words, if you've got an investment now, an investment property there's no change for you in the way it’s treated. But going forward, if there's a choice between helping a property speculator getting their 10th property subsidised by the rest of Australia's taxpayers or providing a level playing field for a first home owner to be able to buy their first home, we're on the side of everyday people. I don't know how many of you saw Mr Turnbull's interview last night but where he dismisses the point that negative gearing tax concessions, paid for by every Australian taxpayer, are disproportionately going to the very wealthy, he shrugged his shoulders, he said fair enough. That's the difference between Mr Turnbull and myself. I don't think it's right that the very wealthy in Australia are getting a disproportionate amount of taxpayer subsidies and you've got everyday Australians battling to put food on the plate and they've got to face the prospect of not having their schools properly funded, of not having hospitals properly funded. It is a matter of priorities.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on Manus Island. You in government (inaudible) that detention centre. Isn't the problem one that you helped create?
SHORTEN: I love the Liberals, whenever something goes wrong they try and blame Labor. The Liberals have been in power now for the best part of three years. When Labor developed the plan for regional processing, it was for 12 months. What's happen is that the Federal Liberal Government, the LNP Government in Canberra, have been asleep at the wheel for the best part of three years. When we reopened Manus Island to allow for regional processing, it wasn't on the basis there would be neglectful, indefinite detention of people in these facilities. Peter Dutton needs to get on a plane, he doesn't need to brief Malcolm Turnbull, he needs to get on a plane and talk to the Government of Papua New Guinea. He needs to sort the issue out. They've had three years of not dealing with this issue. It's a disgrace.
JOURNALIST: Where would you send the people of Manus Island?
SHORTEN: First of all, I would send Peter Dutton to Papua New Guinea to sort this issue out. Regional processing means you sit down and talk to the nations of our region about accepting some of these people. All we have seen for the Liberal Government is basically they have washed their hands and left people in semi-indefinite detention. They haven't lived up to their part of the bargain.
JOURNALIST: How would Labor deal with it if Labor wins Government?
SHORTEN: We would have regional processing and the first thing, if I was Prime Minister, I'd send my Immigration Minister over to Papua New Guinea to work with the Papua New Guinea Government to resolve these matters that. That's the first thing you do.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, on the funding announcement on the M1 upgrade is there a business case for that (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: I'm going to get Jim Chalmers, who's been campaigning incredibly hard, along with Des Hardman, our candidate for Forde, for the M1 upgrade but anyone who's sat in that traffic, it becomes a car park between Brisbane, Logan and the Gold Coast, knows something has to be done. And it's a Labor Opposition who has promised $168 million to match $42 million from the Palaczszuk Government because Labor is committed to getting rid of congestion, we're committed to making sure that families get to spend more time together rather than sitting in that's carpark. I'll hand over to Jim.
JIM CHALMERS, MEMBER FOR RANKIN: Thanks very much, Bill. Infrastructure Australia has identified the M1 as a high priority for easing congestion. It is one of the busiest roads in the nation and the busiest road in Queensland. As Bill said, the congestion particularly around Eight Mile Plains and through to Springwood and further south is acute. I was absolutely delighted to be on hand when Bill announced that significant funding for the M1-Gateway merge south-bound last night at a Town Hall meeting in Beenleigh. It will ease congestion for the families of Logan and further south who have spent too long sitting in that traffic when that time could be much better spent, much better spent with their families or with their businesses. So it was a great outcome. Malcolm Turnbull was in Logan City today and he was asked specifically about M1 funding and he said he'd have a think about it. The Liberals have been in Government almost three years now. They have not contributed a single cent to upgrading the M1 through Logan in that time. They've had three years, now they want to pretend they care about all those families and businesses sitting in traffic around where I live through Logan City. This Government is so out of touch that they want to have a Budget which is written by the top end of town for the top end of town, of the top end of town, when people in my community and right around the country are crying out for positive policies, crying out for infrastructure investment like the announcement that was made last night for $168 million to ease congestion at the Gateway M1 merge.
JOURNALIST: Are there any plans to extend that to widen the road even further? It's just a 4 kilometre extension at this point. Will there be any plans down the track to extend that down between the Gold Coast?
CHALMERS: That four kilometre stretch of road is highly significant. Anyone who's lived around that area for as long as I have knows that's really the most important priority when it comes to fixing the M1. We’ve described it as stage 1 because it is the highest priority. It is identified by all of the businesses along that stretch, identified by the Logan City Council and others as the key first priority for fixing. Of course, there are other pinch points along the M1. We've identified those as well. We've got a fully costed, fully funded plan for that key stretch which we think will give people the absolute best chance to get home to their families or get to their businesses quicker. We think it will have positive economic and social benefits not just for Logan City, as important as that is, but right through from Brisbane to the Gold Coast.
JOURNALIST: Wouldn't the real solution be a second corridor between the Gold Coast and Brisbane?
CHALMERS: There are all kinds of good ideas out there about how we might improve transport throughout south-east Queensland. Bill has announced, along with Anthony Albanese, a whole series of positive plans for infrastructure including things like Cross-River Rail which is just a crucial investment in public transport which will make such a massive difference to our roads as well as to the commuter experience for people who live throughout Brisbane. So there are already lot of positive plans on the table for infrastructure. South-east Queensland is a real priority for us in Federal Labor. We're making the investments, they're fully funded and costed and of course in the years ahead, we will look at other proposals as they come before us.
SHORTEN: Perhaps one more question.
JOURNALIST: The seat of Groom, Ian Macfarlane's been in it for a long time and he is gone now. Have you got plans or have you got anything you can announce for that area?
SHORTEN: I might use your question to sum up some of the points which we've heard today. For voters in Groom, there's a clear choice at the next election. One of them is climate change. We want to see renewable energy jobs brought to this part of Queensland. By contrast, Mr Turnbull is still backing in Tony Abbott's climate skepticism. We want to make sure also, that Groom has its fair share of schools funding. There are lot of poorer schools in Groom, just as there are across Australia. We fundamentally believe in needs-based funding and Labor's got fully funded policies to ensure that every child in every school gets every opportunity. For voters in Groom, just like voters elsewhere in Australia, we'll properly fund our Medicare system. Labor will defend Medicare against the privatisation attempts of Malcolm Turnbull. We'll make sure it's your Medicare card in Groom and indeed throughout Australia, not your credit card which gets you the proper medical care you need. We've also articulated that for people in Groom who demand upon penalty rates, it is a Labor government you need to protect them against constant attacks of the Liberal Party.
I might also add, when it comes to housing prices and housing affordability and the dream of older parents to make sure that their adult children can enter the housing market, only Labor's got plans to tackle negative gearing. I couldn't believe my ears last night when Mr Turnbull had his poor people don't drive cars moment and he says that of course negative gearing's just benefits the very wealthy but that's the way it should be. Malcolm Turnbull revealed a great deal of what his priorities are when he couldn't see the problem that every Australian taxpayer is subsidising the very wealthy. Today, in Groom, or indeed across Australia, it's the difference in climate change, it's a difference in schools funding, the difference in support for TAFE, the ability of working class and middle class kids to go to university, it is the difference in negative gearing, it's the difference in our view about what is a fair taxation system, it is our different approach to defending penalty rates to Mr Turnbull. This Budget will be a test for Mr Turnbull, it will be a referendum on Medicare, it will be a challenge for Mr Turnbull to put everyday Australians first rather than the top end of town. So far the signs aren't promising but I'm really pleased that along with Mark Butler, my spokesperson on matters to do with climate change, we're offering positive plans to help tackle climate change, tackle the effects that climate change has on the economy and household budgets, make sure we're doing our part to pass on a better future for our kids than a worse, more polluted future.