SUNDAY, 31 MARCH 2019
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan to make Australia a world leader in tackling plastic use and boosting recycling; National Waste Commissioner; Climate change and energy policy, the Budget; Women’s representation; Eddie McGuire’s comments; National Redress Scheme; Truck drivers protests and road safety.
ANDREW GILES, MEMBER FOR SCULLIN: Morning guys, I am Andrew Giles the federal Labor Member for Scullin. I'm really pleased to be here today, on a Sunday morning at Repurpose It, with my leader, Australia's next Prime Minister Bill Shorten and also our environment spokesperson, Tony Burke and of course Kim Carr, our spokesperson on industry and research.
I'm really excited that Bill is back in Scullin, I think for the seventh or eighth time but I am more excited that we are here today to discuss a policy announcement that is really revolutionary.
Something that is building on the great work that's happening here at this great recycling plant to create a greater vision for recycling and the sort of country that we'd like to live in.
So Bill, I'm really pleased to have you here today.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Andrew, I want to thank our hosts here to show us what Australia can do when we set our minds to becoming a recycling power. For me, today's announcement is all about answering the question what sort of country do we want to leave to our kids and our grandkids?
Will our kids and our grandkids get to see some of the sea life which we're able to see. Will we leave a more damaged environment for our kids and our grandkids? And I think it's long overdue, the last six years, for Australia to say we're not going to follow the pack when it comes to recycling. We're not going to follow the pack when it comes to a war on plastics. We're not going to follow the pack when it comes to handing on a better environment to our kids.
My niece who's 18 years old lives up near Nudgee Beach on Moreton Bay in Queensland. She told me a couple of weeks ago she came across the third dead sea turtle on the beach that had been washed up this year.
This was a fabulous sea turtle, I think it was called Hope, it was a well-known sea turtle in the local water environment. But when they opened up the stomach of this dead sea turtle, which had lasted the best part of a century, it was full of plastics. And what happens is that these sea turtles eat these plastics. It makes it harder for them to deep dive, to find the nutritious food that sea turtles need and of course floating up on the surface it makes them much more vulnerable to sea craft. Another dead sea turtle it lasted 90 years but it couldn't survive the current problems we have with recycling and plastic.
We've got to make sure that we preserve our sea life, marine life for the future and that we're a lot better at recycling all the materials that we use in our modern world.
Something like 90 per cent of all sea birds have plastic in them. A third of all the sea turtles around the world are dying from plastic poisoning and consumption. So we have a problem, we have a problem globally. We have a problem with plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean and we have a problem in Australia, that we're just using things once and then we're discarding it.
This country can't afford to be that unsustainable. We've fallen behind the pack. We're not doing enough as a nation. Individuals, families, councils, businesses they're all trying to do their bit to challenge plastic use, single use plastic bags and the microbeads but not enough has been happening. This country is falling behind when it comes to the challenge of recycling.
So that's why I'm pleased to announce today that a Labor government if elected, will declare a war on the use of single use plastic bags and microbeads. We want to - there's been a lot of talk, the time for talk has finished, It's now the time for action. The community expects leadership from the national government.
I'm going to get my colleague Tony Burke and my colleague Kim Carr to outline what we're going to do to become a much better nation at recycling. But the leadership needs to start now and it needs to start with us. We've got a great plan, we're going to have a National Waste Commissioner, we will have a national recycling fund, we will have a national container deposit scheme, we're going to contribute $15 million to tackle marine pollution in the Pacific Islands. We've got a range of exciting ideas along with our ban on single use plastic bags by 2021.
This is an exciting time, the community wants leadership on recycling. They want leadership on plastics. They want leadership on making sure that we pass on a better deal to our kids and our grandkids. They don't want to see more of our valuable and precious marine life washing up on our coasts poisoned.
I'd now like to hand over to Tony Burke to talk further about this exciting initiative and then Senator Kim Carr about how we're going to create jobs and an industry around recycling like we've seen here today with a very forward innovation of this very good company.
TONY BURKE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: Thanks very much Bill. Every piece of plastic you've ever used if it wasn't recycled is still on the planet somewhere. Every straw you've ever used is still on the planet somewhere. Any bottle top, if you live in one of the major cities or anywhere near the coast, if you threw it in the gutter or you saw someone throw it in the gutter, that's now in the ocean and it's been mistaken for food.
We - it is estimated now that by 2050 the plastic in the ocean will weigh more than the fish in the ocean and looking down the barrel of that we have a situation now where we can't go any longer with each level of government saying it's someone else's fault. Local government, state government, federal government everyone buck passing saying it's someone else 's responsibility. That's why if elected a Shorten Labor government will establish a Waste Commissioner to have someone who is charged with saying you've got to bring the parties together, local governments, state governments, federal government, industry because we can't keep living in a way that is throwing more and more pollution into the ocean, into landfill, in a way that's not sustainable.
What Bill described for sea turtles is true of fish, it's true of sea birds and ultimately - you know the whole idea when plastic was first introduced it was boasted about that it was indestructible. Well yes, that's also the problem and we need to take the lead on dealing with this. So we will finally get federal leadership from a Shorten Labor government if elected and with the Waste Commissioner we will set 2021 a ban on single use plastic bags and microbeads.
We'll also look at beefing up how the product stewardship - Stewardship Act is used. This legislation was put in place back when I was Environment Minister and under Don Farrell we set up a recycling scheme for televisions but it stopped there, it hasn't been used beyond that. We need to make sure that we extend it to deal with batteries, to deal with microwaves, to deal with white goods. You have and where we are right now is a classic example of saying hang on, these products aren't simply waste they can also be inputs for the next layer of industry. That also means we can provide, instead of relying on the rest of the world to determine how our recycling goes which is where we have been to start taking the lead on it ourselves.
We also want to make sure that Australia plays its international role. A whole lot of the waste that is in the oceans, including waste some of the waste that drops onto our beaches particularly in northern Australia has come from other parts of the world. That's why the international engagement both for the countries producing the waste and countries in the Pacific where plastic waste has had a massive impact on communities that rely on the ocean for their sustenance. We can make sure Australia plays its critical role.
So in short we end up with a situation where we play our role in recycling, where we have a Waste Commissioner providing federal leadership, getting around the problem that's plagued us for years where it was always someone else's fault and where on the world stage Australia becomes a nation instead of relying on someone else to solve it, where we're playing our role on making sure that we can't continue down this headlong path to where by 2050 as I say the plastic in the ocean weighs more than the fish.
I'll hand over to Kim Carr.
SENATOR KIM CARR: Thank you very much Tony, it's a great pleasure to be here today, to be part of yet another announcement demonstrating that a Shorten Labor government will show real leadership when it comes to dealing with environmental policies that will provide this country with real jobs, new jobs able to make the best uses of our science, the best uses of the technologies and make sure that blue collar workers are very much part of the future of a new sustainable industry policy in Australia.
Now we talk a lot about sustainability in industry but we haven't done much when it comes to actually changing the way we do business. Now, Repurpose It, the company we're here today with have shown us what can be done. Shown what can be done in terms of working together with different levels of government, the scientific community, the best technology that's available and redeveloping resources so they can be reused because things are too precious just to throw away.
It's too important for us to be able to treat our resources in the way that we have been and smart manufacturers know that. Smart manufacturers know that there is a lot of money to be made, new jobs, new industries to be created by repurposing resources making sure that we are able to create the sorts of jobs that we need for the future.
So it's a great pleasure to be able today to be a part of this announcement, the $60 million that we're announcing today allows a national Labor government to work with local government, state governments, with industry, with the universities, with the science agencies to get the very, very best out of our capabilities to secure the jobs and the industries for the future and to give real meaning to sustainability when it comes to manufacturing in this country.
This is about making sure that blue collar workers are very much part of climate change policies in this country.
SHORTEN: Thanks very much, I should have just thanked our hosts Repurpose It, this is a remarkable business success story. A few fairly bold individuals decided to back their savings on a new way of doing business, recycling contaminated soils and building waste and what we see now here is 40 direct jobs, 30 contractors, 150 indirect jobs from one business and I think that if we understand that recycling and our war on single use plastics - it's good for the environment, it's good for the world, it's good for our kids and our grandkids and it's good for jobs. That's how Labor sees it, leadership looking after people, looking after our environment and doing what as parents we are all fundamentally DNA hardwired to do, which is hand on a better deal to the ones who come after us than what we received. Any questions on this?
JOURNALIST: Under your plan will Australia be able to recycle all of it's recyclable material and not send it offshore?
SHORTEN: I will get Tony to supplement this, the reality is that other countries, we can't rely on other countries to take our waste in the future like we have in the past, so we have to do more. But we are part of the globe, everything is interrelated. What we're very committed to doing though is working with Pacific nations to help clean up the oceans but I'll get Tony to supplement a bit further.
BURKE: The government undertook some targets when they had no pathway to get there one of those targets was for 100 percent of packaging to be recyclable and 70 percent of it to in fact be recycled by 2025. The challenge was the government then offered no pathway as to how they would get there.
It was set in the target and magically it would occur. By establishing a Waste Commissioner and by having the money there for the industry development, within Kim Carr's portfolio the intention is to do two things, one, you want to be able to reduce use, you also want to be able to look at what products can be made of compostable, bio-degradable material as well. But then the second thing that you want to be able to do is to build up industry so that we are not only dealing with our own recyclable material but potentially there will be other countries in the region that would turn to us.
SHORTEN: One thing which we haven't directly addressed is that we intend to set targets for the Commonwealth in our use of recyclable products. We believe that we can use the power of government to help set the best example and even on a project like this, the reality is that it's the Commonwealth that helps roll out road projects, we should be requiring that they use more recycled materials in the construction of new roads.
So there's a great deal we can do, some days you look at the problem and you think it's too overwhelming but I'm a big believer that if you get everyone together those insurmountable mountains seem to shrink in size and we're able to get a lot more done.
JOURNALIST: So you think you can deal with all of our recycling waste in Australia by doing what you’re doing?
SHORTEN: Well we've got some COAG targets, we want to see that 70 percent of Australia's plastic packaging will be recycled or composted by 2025. We want to see that 30 percent of our recycled content will be included across all packaging by 2025. I'm not going to give a deadline when we can do exactly what you say but unless you set ambitious stretch targets you're never going to get there.
So we are absolutely committed for the federal government to step up and join households, businesses, communities in our war on single use plastic bags for example. On our commitment to create a recycling industry which is world class.
JOURNALIST: The European Union's just voted to ban all single use plastics by 2021, so going further than what you're announcing things like earbuds, straws, that type of product. Why not follow the European Union, if they can do it why can't we?
SHORTEN: I'll get Tony to supplement but you know as a general principle we are open to what the EU is trying to do but we're also conscious of unintended consequences. Quadriplegics might need plastic straws to consume liquids, so we're just conscious that we've got the goal of wanting to remove single use plastic but we've also got to be careful that there are particular groups, or particular examples that we haven't thought of and that there's an unintended consequence but Tony is right across this, I'll get him to supplement.
BURKE: The EU has been way ahead of Australia in this field and in Australia until this announcement today there has been no attempt to say we will - that the federal government will be the one that provides the full leadership here.
This is a fundamental shift today from what previously has been bouncing between states and local government with occasionally businesses like the one that we're at today deciding on making a commercial decision that they'll take the lead even though governments provided them with nothing. For example, if you buy a television set, it'll be filled with Styrofoam, packed with Styrofoam. You buy an almost identical television set in Europe. It'll be packed just as safely but with recyclable material - probably coming from the same factory. So Australia has been way behind, the sorts of changes that you've pointed to are changes that are only possible once you have federal leadership and one of the reasons for establishing the Waste Commissioner is so that you've got somebody charged with bringing all of that together.
So in terms of are we there on the first day that we decide is going to be federal leadership able to catch up after years of neglect from the federal government, with where Europe's already at? No, not on the first day but in terms of the direction and making sure that Australia is no longer a pariah when it comes to recycling, when it comes to recyclable material then yes today is a turning point.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, when will voters get details on your climate change policy?
SHORTEN: Very soon, very soon indeed but let me just remind voters of what we've already said. What we have already said is that our goal is that 50 percent of our energy mix by 2030 should come from renewables. What we've already said is that we're committed to the Paris targets, the international convention to reduce our carbon pollution emissions by 45 percent of 2005. We're committed to by 2050 we'll have zero net emissions. We've also said in what I think is exciting for consumers and households that we want to see the roll out of more batteries in people's households.
Did you know that over two million Australian households already have solar rooftop installed on their roofs? People do that, not for decoration but because it really makes a difference and I think a lot of Australians when they talk to their friends on the weekend who have solar would like to actually move down that track themselves. One of the missing links in helping Australians get lower power prices and also take individual action on climate change has been how do you store that energy if it comes at the daytime when you're home at night the washing machines on, the kids have fired up the computers, every appliance is going that's when you need that energy.
That's why I think as battery technology becomes more sophisticated, more slimline, more effective, then I think we're really in a sweet spot to take action on climate. That's why we're proposing to roll out 100, 000 battery installations for households who earn less than $180,000. Plus we've got other measures for renters and people who don't own their own home. So we've got a fair bit on the table. We've also said we want to modernise our energy infrastructure, a $3 billion dollar fund to help with the interconnectors to make sure that we can get the energy where we need it in our national energy market.
So I think we've actually got a bit out there but I promise that we're going to have a lot more in the very near future.
JOURNALIST: What about Kyoto carry over credits (inaudible) can you say much on that?
SHORTEN: Well we've certainly been considering that question and this is a particular accounting technique which only the Australian Liberal Party and the Ukraine use, a lot of other nations have turned their back on it. We'll give a decision on that very soon. But certainly as I'm aware it's only the Australian Liberal Party and the Ukraine proposing to use these carry over credits that I am aware of.
JOURNALIST: The government is today announcing one off payments for concession card holders to help with rising power prices (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: Listen, it's about $1.45 a week, a one off payment for 12 months you get this cheque in the mail. This government though seems to think that energy prices only go up in election years. So, do I think $1.45 a week for 12 months, it's better than nothing but it' not an energy policy, $1.45 a week for 12 months is not an energy policy it's an election con.
Does anyone think you'd even be getting this if we weren't six weeks before an election? I suppose one good thing about it is the fact that the government is offering $1.45 a week to pensioners for 12 months, $75 for single pensioners, it shows that the government knows that they don't have an energy policy, that they want to pretend to have one. Well, it's a con and I don't think anyone is fooled by it.
Everybody knows when it comes to energy policy what you need is a long term plan. You need long term certainty. Today's announcement is the exact opposite. I mean if this government really want to lower energy prices and action on climate change, Malcolm Turnbull would still be Prime Minister of Australia. See he proposed a measure called the National Energy Guarantee which Labor is willing to take up, the benefits of that are that it was apparently going to reduce your house bills - your energy bills by about $500 a year.
But the current government scrapped that and instead are offering people something far less so I think that the people will be the judge but is $75 useful, sure it is but as an energy policy and doing something about energy prices that have risen 20 percent since this government was elected, it's just a drop in the bucket.
JOURNALIST: Federal Labor said that if elected it wishes to put a woman into the role of Governor General. How that has any, or what impact on Mr Hurley?
SHORTEN: Sorry I missed the very last part of that?
JOURNALIST: What impact will that have on Mr Hurley?
SHORTEN: Oh well, no. The government's nominated the New South Wales Governor to be Governor-General we accept that's happened but I think that the next Governor-General after that should be a woman.
I mean there are dozens and dozens of candidates. The fact of the matter is that we should have more women in senior positions and I think it's common sense if I say that if we get the opportunity to appoint a Governor-General I'm going to appoint a woman.
JOURNALIST: Even if she's not as good?
SHORTEN: Oh, I don't buy that Scott Morrison argument that the only way women should get ahead is if it's not at the expense of a man. I put it a different way for the last hundred and twenty years why have so many good women missed out and men been appointed instead?
JOURNALIST: To take you back to this the container deposit scheme when would you envisage that being introduced and would you be modelling it on say, South Australia's how would that work?
SHORTEN: I'll get Tony to answer that question.
BURKE: That would be worked through the Ministerial Council with the help of the National Waste Commissioner. We're serious about wanting to get the consultation through on that. Each of the systems that's in place has a level of merit. The problem is for industry, if you don't have a consistent way of dealing with it then if they're trying to run a business off the recycling and the feedstocks all prepared to a different level you have a real challenge.
So that's something that will be worked through the Ministerial Council and so I'm not going to set a deadline on it but I'm confident that we get there relatively quickly.
JOURNALIST: Would you expect those states to have the national container deposit scheme? We're working on the basis that it's opt-in and on an opt-in basis we want to make sure that we get over that initial challenge, that we have, which as I say is where if you're trying to set up a business to do the actual recycling not just to do the collection then everything at the moment is prepared to a different grade.
JOURNALIST: So how do you convince states like Victoria who have so far resisted a container deposit scheme. What do you have to do to get them over the line?
BURKE: Work on the basis the merits of the argument.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Chris Bowen said that if elected a major economic statement would come out in the third quarter. What do you have to say to this?
SHORTEN: Chris is right. The reality is that this budget which is being brought down on Tuesday it's a political document. Normally budgets are brought down in May, the government is going to bring down a budget early in the hope that they can get you to forget about the last six years and in the next six weeks promise you stuff they haven't done in the last six years.
But of course the nation needs to go on, there will be an election if Labor is successful we will bring down a Budget in the third quarter of this year. Chris is saying it's a major economic statement, that's spot on.
JOURNALIST: It's not far away is Labor really ready for it though?
SHORTEN: We're ready. We're ready because we're stable. We're ready because we're united. We're ready because we have a more talented team. We're ready because we've done the policy work. We're ready because we understand that everything in Australia is going up except workers’ wages. We're ready because we need to undo these cuts to hospitals and schools and TAFE's and childcare and universities. We're ready because this nation can't afford another three years of inaction on climate change.
Today this government's roster rushed out an election con, $75 for pensions that's nice but that doesn't make up for six years of rising electricity prices. It doesn't make up for increases in the cost of living, it doesn't make up for the increase in the cost of seeing a doctor or a specialist. We're ready because we've done the work. We're ready because we're united and we're ready because this nation needs a vision. Today we're backing in blue collar industry by backing in recycling. Today we're backing and taking long term action for our kids and our grandkids because right now as we speak those single use plastic bags and microbeads are killing our marine flora and fauna, it's just a disaster. We're ready because this nation can't afford another three years of the six years of disunity of the Liberal Party.
JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on Eddie McGuire's comments yesterday about Cynthia Banham?
SHORTEN: Yeah, listen I know Cynthia and Michael I thought those comments were devastating. As I understand he had no idea about the identity of the person throwing the coin and so he has made clear that he apologies and if he had any idea about the circumstances he wouldn't have said it. But nonetheless, the words have been said I am sure that like all of us, he wishes he hadn't said what he said.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask another recycling question, sorry you've broken a record here. Obviously the industry particularly in Melbourne hasn't had a great run in the last few years with some fairly devastating fires. How do you ensure that the industry, if it's to grow, grows in a way that isn't going to put the community at risk?
SHORTEN: I'll get Kim to supplement but you've got to have good environmental health and safety, you've got to have good occupational health and safety. I think there have been lessons learned. Having said that we can't ever compromise safety. What I like about this plant, for example, is that if you look at where it is geographically it's got a big buffer zone, so even though the suburbs of Melbourne are expanding this is a big footprint.
It only used 80 of its 150 hectares, there's 1200, there's a buffer around the area. So I think good planning makes a difference but I've got to stress to Australians we need to tackle recycling. I guess I'm like a lot of Australians who take your waste, your household waste down to the transfer station. You do your best you can in your own home, you put your recyclables in one bin and your food waste and your other in the other bin.
But we know that councils are struggling, like the status quo isn't working. Ask anyone who takes their rubbish down to the tip. Ask any construction company trying to sort out what it does. We have the level crossings here you and have to use all of that recycled land and you've got to move that soil and so we need a plan. And again it was interesting we had Earth Hour last night and I don't know how many of you had kids who made you turn off your electricity for an hour. Kids get it, our kids get underestimated. People think they're just on computers and they're just on social media and not thinking about the future.
The kids now expect the adults to do more on the environment, to do more on recycling. It's up to us we can't just let them down. Kim, if you wanted to supplement?
CARR: Thank you. Traditionally these issues have been regarded as matters for local government or for state government. We have to change the way we do business in this country. That's why we're saying there has to be national leadership.
Now we have to work with state and local governments to change the way we do business. We have to change the way we do business, not just at the individual level and Bill's outlined how each and every one of us have responsibilities but each factory in this country has a responsibility. We're going to make sure that in that process, that working people don't pay the price for it. We've got to make sure there is a just transition and make sure that the economic prosperity that we know this country has, is actually shared and maintained and that all the technologies that we know determine modernity are able to be maintained but to do it properly. And we know that we can do that if we have the proper policy framework and that's what Bill Shorten’ offering - national leadership where we actually set about dealing with problems and not just trying to push them away, let someone else worry about them. And I'm absolutely convinced that the sort of problems we've seen in Melbourne can be dealt with and we can make sure the sort of hazardous fires we've seen in Footscray, with those sort of - quite clearly the rogue operators are driven out of the industry and that decent people, ethical practices are followed and that we ensure that proper industrial practices, the best science, the best technology, proper ethical practices are maintained.
That proper political leadership, that's what's needed in the country and that's what Bill Shorten is offering this country.
JOURNALIST: On a final separate note if I can. There are advocates on the steps of Parliament today to advocate for victims of sexual abuse who want change to the National Redress Scheme. How is Labor moving towards that, would it support such an indication?
SHORTEN: Yes I would. First of all to those survivors and their supporters I accept what you are saying. That the Royal Commission made recommendations on redress and this current government didn't go far enough. Now, we were left with a complex choice, do we vote against what was put forward and wait for something better. Or do we get on with some form of redress? So Labor nailed some of our concerns that we would like to improve if we form a government but we still wanted to see some of the compensation some of the redress start now and I think on balance people agreed with that.
But what I'm not going to do is tell the survivors and the advocates that this current government properly implemented the Royal Commission, because it didn't. One example, only one example of this is that the government said cap the compensation for survivors at $150,000 and the Royal Commission recommended $200,000.
To people sitting at home you might say, oh well that's not much of a difference. Let me just say back to you to explain the case of survivors, none of them want compensation. They would just rather that this never happened to them. But if you are going to have compensation it seems to me, appropriate that we go with the Royal Commission best practice rather than try and second guess the lives of survivors and there's a number of other similar amendments we would seek to make. The difficulty of course, we would have to negotiate with states, got to get all the institutions and religious institutions on board. But I'm prepared to try and improve the deal. But what I wasn't prepared to do is hold up any deal whilst we sought the better arrangements.
JOURNALIST: What would be the first thing on our agenda if you were elected on this matter?
SHORTEN: Well we will talk to the advocates, we want to get on with how we could create a consensus to improve redress.
JOURNALIST: Truck drivers are protesting across the country today, what would Labor do to help reduce the truck (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: Well, one of the issues about reducing the truck road toll, is better roads. The other issue is of course fatigue, I fundamentally believe that if you pay truck drivers smaller rather than better rates for driving their trucks it creates unsafe circumstances.
This current government denied the link between low rates of pay and poor safety but I live in the real world. The reality is that if you’re getting a rate of pay to carry a load from one part of Australia to another part of Australia and that rate doesn't meet your living costs, you might be tempted to drive faster, you might be tempted to take some pharmaceutical assistance to keep you awake for the long distance driving.
In other words, I believe that there is a correlation between an unsafe rate of pay and a lack of safety. And this isn't just about truck drivers, it's about all of us who use the roads and our families who use the roads. So there's got to be a better way. So I do believe in safe rates of pay. Now the previous mechanism was one which didn't work as was intended so we are going to have to work on what that looks like but health and safety is everyone's business. And if you pay people very poor rates of pay you will have an effect on health and safety. And that's not just the drivers, that's everyone. Heavy vehicle collisions are a problem it's a real issue. It's not a theoretical debate on the roads it's a matter of life and death.
Alright everyone thank you very much.