MONDAY, 16 OCTOBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Homelessness, Clean Energy Target, Malcolm Turnbull’s failure to tackle out of control power prices.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. Before I turn to matters energy, I just want to congratulate Major Brendan Nottle of the Salvation Army who has just walked 703km from Melbourne to put the issue of homelessness back on the national agenda. And I congratulate him and his support team.
There's no doubt that homelessness has been a neglected issue in recent years. It is unsatisfactory for the soul of the nation to have 100,000-plus people sleeping rough every night of the year. And there is much more that can be done and should be done. And I promise Brendan Nottle that Labor will take up a national homelessness strategy to the next election, because that's what Brendan and, more importantly, homeless Australians expect from their Parliament.
Having said that, I just want to make one brief comment about Turnbull and energy prices and the out-of-control nature of energy prices in this country. No matter what anyone says, we all know that Malcolm Turnbull supports a Clean Energy Target. Today we will find out if Turnbull has the courage to back what he believes in, a Clean Energy Target.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: If the Government dumps the Clean Energy Target, what kind of alternative is Labor willing to agree on?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, what is the point of asking the Chief Scientist of Australia to write a full report on climate change and energy, and then not follow the recommendations?
It is very clear that Turnbull faces a test in the next 24 hours. It is a test of whether or not he is running the Liberal Party and can back in what he believes, which is a Clean Energy Target, or if Tony Abbott is running the Liberal Party, and they'll dump a Clean Energy Target.
Labor has made it very clear, from even before the final report of the Chief Scientist, that we will work with the Government to do something to lower energy prices in this country. But what we see is the Government can't even work out what they want to do, and long-suffering consumers and business are the people paying the price, with higher energy prices, because this government is at war with itself.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, will Labor default back to its preferred position, which is the Emissions Intensity Scheme, if, as expected, the CET is dropped?
SHORTEN: Well, we've said that we were willing to compromise and back in a Clean Energy Target. We haven't changed our commitment to lower household energy prices, to lower energy prices for business, and to take real action on climate change. Our offer is on the table and we make it again today. Let us both work on a Clean Energy Target.
When the Chief Scientist's report came down, a simple scan of the media statements at the time, Mr Turnbull said that a Clean Energy Target had a great deal of merit. Nothing has changed. Not the science, not the rising prices. It's just that Turnbull is scared of Abbott and Australians are paying the price with higher electricity prices.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of reports that Michael Danby visited Israel while on sick leave during a sitting week?
SHORTEN: I'm not going to comment about a person's personal medical issues.
JOURNALIST: Is Labor going to take any action, raise any questions with him?
SHORTEN: The man gave us a medical certificate. I'm not a doctor. I'm not going to start second-guessing his medical prognosis and condition.
JOURNALIST: Just back on energy policy, we have the Irish President here today. Ireland has an ETS and a carbon tax for the non-ETS sector. Is that still the global standard, do you think, an ETS?
SHORTEN: I think most of the world backs in an ETS. And I think what's important is that in a rare moment of lucidity, Minister for Energy Josh Frydenberg said last Monday that renewable energy is getting cheaper and will continue to get cheaper.
For goodness sakes, Mr Turnbull, if you know that renewable energy is getting cheaper and cheaper and cheaper, why on earth are you listening to the knuckle-draggers of the right take us backwards?
The last ten years, and the last five years, we've seen energy and gas prices go up and up and up. The key contributor to rising energy prices is a lack of an investment framework to encourage industry to invest in new sources of energy, which therefore forces down energy prices.
The real test for Turnbull today, is he going to run the Liberal Party or is Tony Abbott going to run the Liberal Party?
JOURNALIST: Quickly back on Michael Danby, does that fail the pub test, though? Being on sick leave and going on a work trip, essentially, in your role as an MP, to Israel?
SHORTEN: I'm not going to add to the answer. He provided a medical certificate and I'm not going to start second guessing a person's medical condition.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, two pieces of legislation in Parliament this week – the citizenship changes, including English language tests, and the higher education changes. Is Labor open to negotiating on either of those?
SHORTEN: Well, on the higher education changes, there's no way we are ever going to sign up to a principle which makes it more expensive for working and middle-class kids to go to university. The last thing this nation needs to do is to be cutting university funding and making it harder for bright kids to go to university. So we won't be supporting anything that causes that problem.
In terms of the citizenship tests, we always said they were ill-conceived, and the Government has been shown up and they've had to withdraw what they were doing.
I would just say to the Government, can we start focusing on the big issues? Rising house prices, rising electricity prices, private health insurance companies who think they're a law unto themselves, an NBN which is manifestly disappointing people in suburban and regional Australia. These are the big issues.