Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Tullamarine - Abbott Government broken promise on the Renewable Energy Target; Iraq; Julia Gillard;






SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government broken promise on the Renewable Energy Target; Iraq; Julia Gillard; National security; Tony Abbott and Vladimir Putin; G20; China bank; Victorian state election


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be in Tullamarine at a remarkable company which didn’t even exist four or five years ago. What we see here in this warehouse, in this installation facility, is we see the combination of new jobs, better prices for consumers and we see significant investment in new industry, something manufacturing desperately needs in Australia. So today with my colleagues Gary Gray and Mark Butler, on behalf of Labor, I announce that Labor will protect our Renewable Energy Target. Four years ago, Renewable Energy Targets were introduced into Australia and there was bipartisanship, Government and Opposition, Liberal and Labor. At the last election, Tony Abbott went to the election asking for people's votes, promising that we would keep our Renewable Energy Target. But a multibillion-dollar industry worth tens of thousands of jobs and lower electricity prices, downward prices on electricity for consumers, was jeopardised in February when the Abbott Government stabbed the renewable energy industry in the back with a broken election promise.


There's been catastrophic uncertainty. We’ve seen a flight or a strike of investment in renewable energy which up to this point had made Australia one of the world leading destinations for investment in renewable energy. Tony Abbott has undermined certainty, he has changed the rules, and as a result tens of thousands of jobs are jeopardised. As a result, billions of dollars of investment has come to a standstill. And even most importantly, cost of living pressure on Australian families and Australians has gone upwards because we see uncertainty created in the renewable energy industry.


Now, what Labor has done is we have decided that trying to achieve bipartisanship, trying to put the bipartisanship piece back together again has been very important. So Chris Bowen, Mark Butler and Gary Gray have been sitting down and negotiating with Government representatives to see how we can try and accommodate, to the extent that we can without jeopardising renewable energy in the future, the Government because we think the bipartisanship is more important than politics. But I am sorry to say that in the last few days and weeks the Government is still committed to a 40 per cent cut in a Renewable Energy Target. So no-one can be under any doubt. A cut of 40 per cent in renewable energy will lead to the death of billions of dollars of investment and renewable energy. It puts the creation of new jobs at a standstill and of course it means that some of the downward pressure on consumer electricity prices will be removed which is not good for Australian families. We’ve made it clear in our negotiations, because we believe in trying to achieve bipartisanship, that we were willing to look at allowing the aluminium industry, the smelting industry to be exempted. We were open to discussions about energy intensive trade exposed sectors to be able to be exempted from renewable energy because Labor’s committed to jobs, most certainly we are.


We’ve made it clear and most recently my colleague Mark Butler in a letter to the Industry Minister, the Abbott Government Industry Minister, said that somewhere between the mid-and-high 30,000s in terms of gigawatts would be something which we believe would still provide certainty for the industry but it was a step towards trying to deal with Government concerns such as they are. But it's become clear to my skilled negotiators that the Abbott Government is not interested, is just not interested in the renewable energy industry. And what we’ve seen is there's no respect for the billions of dollars. When you see the Treasurer of Australia trashing wind farms, when you see the Prime Minister of Australia openly expressing scepticism about climate change, then what we have is a problem for the renewable energy industry, billions of dollars in investments, pressure on consumer prices and of course thousands of jobs. So Labor again today reiterates that with our best endeavours we formed the view that the Government only has one plan for renewable energy, that’s to destroy the industry. And even though we’ve tried our best to be bipartisan, we will not sacrifice the Renewable Energy Target and industry just because Tony Abbott is a climate change sceptic and and election promise breaker. We’re happy to take questions, my colleagues and I.


JOURNALIST: You’ve only been negotiating with the Government for three weeks now. Pulling out at this early stage, is that a bit of a stunt or a negotiation tactic?


SHORTEN: Not at all. Let me refer to what the real time period is. For four years, for four years, there has been, 208 weeks, there has been bipartisanship on renewable energy. Tony Abbott wilfully lied to the Australian people. He was arguing for them to vote for him and one of the promises he made in return for people voting for him is that he would keep the Renewable Energy Target. So Tony Abbott’s not fair dinkum on renewable energy or climate change, all Australians know that.


But Labor has a higher duty. We’ve got an obligation to reach for higher ground so we sat down with the Government. But of course the Government’s been putting its position since February. They commissioned a report to investigate the matter and they wanted, they already had a preordained outcome, but the evidence in the actual report didn't support the direction Tony Abbott wants to drag Australia to. So we’ve been working with the Government and we've within working with the former opposition on renewable energy for four years.


But there is no point in leading people up the garden path. You can’t have negotiations with people who don't even want to negotiate. You can't resolve certainty in renewable energy with people who want to create uncertainty. Let's not waste the time of investors, let's not give false hope to people. This is a political issue now. Labor stands for jobs in renewable energy, investment in renewable energy, lower prices for consumers with renewable energy and we stand for certainty. What we realise is the Government stands for none of those things.


JOURNALIST: But by walking away from these negotiations doesn't that create continued uncertainty for this industry?


SHORTEN: No, it is the Government who is creating uncertainty. What we have made clear is we support the status quo. We support what both major parties said at the last election. We are the party of certainty, the Abbott Government are the vandals creating uncertainty in renewable energy. If you want to create certainty, the Abbott Government’s got a simple path, just keep their promise. Tony Abbott, for once since you've become Prime Minister, just keep your promise when it comes to renewable energy.


JOURNALIST: There are reports that the Government’s considering sending up to 400 extra troops to Iraq, has Labor been consulted and would they support such a move?


SHORTEN: We believe in trying to take a bipartisan position when it comes to important matters, crucial matters such as national security and also dealing with the scourge of terrorism. And our record in the last year I think measures up pretty well. The Government to now has been good at consulting us. We haven't had any formal meetings about any additional requests. I’m not going to create politics in a national security debate by speculating on hypothetical questions, but we remain ready and able to work with the Government to hear what it is that they would be asking of the Opposition.


JOURNALIST: Do you agree with Julia Gillard that the carbon and mining taxes would come back under Labor?


SHORTEN: No. Labor certainly believes in action on climate change, very clearly. If you think that climate change is real, you shouldn't be voting Liberal at the next election for Tony Abbott or LNP, because they don’t and their policies are just about paying big polluters, trashing renewable energy. I mean it is a bit of a joke isn’t it, internationally. We’ve got the G20, all the other major countries of the world are moving forward with acting on climate change and then we’ve got the, you know, the poor old Australian Government fronting up with very little to show in terms of climate change. In terms of real action on climate change, we believe in an emissions trading system and we’ve made it clear it's on those principles that we’ll take to the next election.


JOURNALIST: Saying you don't want to play politics with national security issues, the job of the Opposition is to scrutinise though. Can you ensure the public that you are indeed scrutinising all of these national security issues?


SHORTEN: Absolutely and I appreciate your question, as a matter of fact. It was Labor who made 36 changes to the most recent legislation. It was Labor who proposed I think around 17 changes to the first national security legislation. Labor understands that we need to maintain a balance in this country between being strong both domestically and abroad, but also preserving the things which make Australia a great country. When it comes to fighting terrorism, we are all in it together. What Labor also understands is the reason why we're all in it together is so we can preserve the Australian way of life, not damage it. We will be doing exactly what we have, which is strong on our debate and strong on our principles.


JOURNALIST: Was the Prime Minister - when he said that he should shirtfront Mr Putin - do you think he lived up to that promise?


SHORTEN: I understand some of the emotions which might have led Tony Abbott to have his brain snap. I understand - talking to families, I am a student of international politics - that I believe that the Russian Federation and Putin need to be a lot more transparent and honest with the rest of the world to explain that tragedy. So I understand Tony Abbott's personal and emotional frustration. My fear is that because of his brain snap, where he was going to shirtfront Putin, somehow we've made the diplomatic faux-pas. The issue to deal with and we’re spending our time now resolving Tony Abbott’s silly words, and we’re letting Putin off the hook about the issues. I talked to -


JOURNALIST: Was he robust enough -


SHORTEN: Sorry, this is an important question, so I just want to talk through the implications. I make it very clear, I understand the emotions which might have motivated Tony Abbott's brain snap, but I am worried, speaking straight, because he had that reaction that somehow we have left Putin off the hook a bit and now we're all focussed on Tony Abbott, will he shirtfront, will he wrestle, will he have a big altercation with Vladimir Putin, where the real issue is the families and getting to the bottom of what happened.


All I want from the Russians is for them to tell us, and I mean the Russian Government, not the Russian people, is to tell us what they know about the separatists, how it happened. I have spoken to families and they're not interested in the politics and the headline-grabbing language of Tony Abbott. They just want closure. That is what we should be pursuing.


JOURNALIST: Do you think Mr Abbott was robust enough yesterday in his discussions with Mr Putin?


SHORTEN: It's the results which will tell us if Mr Abbott was robust enough. Again, I don't want to make Tony Abbott's brain snap the issue and how robust he is with Putin. When you are running a country, what really matters is the results. What really matters is making sure that you are standing up for our citizens. I don't want to make our foreign policy a series of clean up jobs after faux-pas from our political leaders.


JOURNALIST: What would you say to Vladimir Putin if you came across him at the G20?


SHORTEN: Nothing. I don’t think - the way we have to handle this is Putin has massive popular support in his own country. He, I don't think, frankly cares about what Australia thinks. What I do know is that we need to be speaking to the rest of the world to put pressure on, to make sure that we get the information we want. Surely there's information that the Russian military have, that people close to the separatists have, which can tell us what happened, why it happened, and what’s going to be done who’s responsible. It's results that count, not headline grabbing brain snaps.


JOURNALIST: So just to clarify, you wouldn't seek to talk to Mr Putin?


SHORTEN: Not in the first instance. I think what we need to do - the reason why I say that is normally I believe talking resolves most matters. I think we have handed away initiative on this issue of what we say to Putin. Now we have given Putin the opportunity to look strong and he is not going to be ‘shirtfronted’. We can't go down the path of silly word games, what we now need to do is work through international agencies, work through with other countries and indeed work with the Russian Government. But I think this well has become sufficiently contaminated that talking about these matters isn’t doing to resolve it now, directly at APEC or at G20.


JOURNALIST: Do you support the Government's decision not to sign up to the so-called China Bank deal?


SHORTEN: I think we need to not be dismissing the China infrastructure bank deal out of hand. I understand there may be concerns from America or other places but we have got to pursue Australian foreign policy, not be the deputy sheriff of any other country in the region. We obviously have to make sure the governance is right. We have to make sure that Australia's interests are right. But if you are being invited in at the ground level on a new infrastructure bank for Asia, I think we need to think carefully before we reject the opportunity. Of course we shouldn't rush into it. It seems the me that the Government has got itself all over the place on this matter. We see division between Joe Hockey and Julie Bishop. I think Tony Abbott needs to just pull his Ministers into line and clear up where we're going and how we're getting there. It is possible for Australian foreign policy to maintain our strong, traditional, historic alliance with the United States and work with emerging nations of Asia, in particular China.


JOURNALIST: Have do you think Daniel Andrews is going in the Victorian election campaign?


SHORTEN: I think that Denis Napthine has failed the test of being a leader of Victoria because he hasn't stood up to Tony Abbott when it comes to fighting the health cuts and the education cuts. Everyone knows that Tony Abbott is proposing massive cuts to Victorian hospitals, Victorian schools. Now the test for a Victorian political leader is you're either loyal to your own political party in Canberra or indeed you stand up for Victoria. I am confident that if Daniel Andrews is elected he will stand up to Tony Abbott and take Tony Abbott on. That is what we need. I will stand alongside Daniel Andrews every day to make sure that we stand up for a better health system, a better education system. Australia's future in the world doesn't rely on wrecking our hospitals and our wrecking our schools.


JOURNALIST: We are going to be seeing you today with Daniel Andrews. Are go you going to be out on the Victorian campaign a lot more over the coming week?


SHORTEN: I have already been out on the Victorian campaign trail. The fact is I've spent more time in the Victorian campaign trail already than Tony Abbott will spend in the next three weeks. He is the sort of person whose name must not be spoken in the Victorian election by the Liberals. Not only are the Victorian Liberals trying to air brush the fact that they  are Liberal candidates in the election, they're certainly trying to pretend that Tony Abbott is not in the same party. Tony Abbott spent 45 minutes at Tullamarine airport, that is not really a Victorian campaign. I look forward to campaigning with Daniel Andrews over the next three weeks. I live in Victoria – I know that a Liberal Government backing Tony Abbott is not in the best interests of Victoria.



Thanks everyone, see you a little later.