WEDNESDAY, 14 JUNE 2017
SUBJECT/S: Finkel report; Liberal Party civil war; foreign donations
MIKE KELLY, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Well good morning everyone, welcome again to a nice fresh Canberra and Queanbeyan morning. It is great to have with us here today, our good friend Mark Butler who is in charge of navigating Labor's policy on climate change and renewable energy, and of course Bill Shorten, a great leader, who is taking our interests to heart in terms of the success story that our small and medium enterprises can be, need to be, should be with proper government support.
And that of course means making sure that our businesses here have reliable, secure energy supplies into the future that they can plan with, that they can work with and that are affordable.
Also the support that our small and medium enterprises need in relation to being more aggressive in ensuring that Australian businesses get a fair slice of the work that is available in this country in our defence contracts and other government procurement.
And in addition, we have had a really serious situation in Eden-Monaro these last few years where our apprenticeship numbers have dramatically dropped, and it is really a crying shame when you see over 700 of those positions disappearing in this time. We need to get behind our apprentices, get the plan back in place to make sure that we have that addressed for the future. Labor has that plan.
I'm very grateful for Labor and the team for taking that seriously and working on supporting our small and medium enterprises.
So thanks for coming guys, and over to you, Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Mike and good morning everybody. I'd like to thank SRA for hosting us today. Labor is here at a local manufacturer because we are committed to jobs. We are committed to making sure that when the Commonwealth Government allocates contracts, that we show preference and priority to Australian made and to local made. We are also committed to backing local manufacturing by investing in more support for TAFE so we train more apprentices in the skilled workforce of the future.
But of course, every business is also operating under the cloud of policy uncertainty about the future of energy prices and climate policy. Policy paralysis is driving energy prices through the roof, which is threatening the viability of businesses, and of course, the cost of living for households.
Labor has said that we are prepared to compromise in the national interest. We like an Emission Intensity Scheme, we think that is the best way to help drive more jobs in renewables, downward pressure on energy and electricity prices, and of course tackle climate change. But the Finkel report has proposed a Clean Energy Target. We are prepared to give it full and fair consideration and analysis. A coalition of business, ACOSS, environmental groups, the unions, have all asked of the Parliament of Australia to give fair and full consideration to a Clean Energy Target and examine if it can work.
Labor is prepared to work in the national interest. The climate change wars of the last 10 years have got to end. We need to have certainty about our energy policy and our climate policy. All of the experts know that a lack of a clear energy policy is the greatest contributor to rising energy prices, wholesale prices.
Wholesale electricity prices have doubled under the Liberal Government and all we are getting is more argument from within the Liberal Party. I say to Malcolm Turnbull, if you can organise your party, we are prepared to give full and fair consideration to a Clean Energy Target. We'll examine the detail. But we need to put the people ahead of the politics, Malcolm. Labor's up for that challenge and we hope the government is capable of that too.
I'd now like ask Mark Butler to talk further about the need to have a coherent, sensible energy and climate change policy.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Thank you, Bill.
Australian households and businesses absolutely require the nation's Parliament to end the policy paralysis in energy. This is a critically important time for the Australian economy and it's critically important, as Bill said, that we listen to the message from business groups, environment groups, unions and ACOSS last week, that everyone in the Parliament give full and fair consideration to the thing to report.
The Coalition party room discussions over the last 24 hours has put us in a very dangerous position. We've seen before, in 2009 and in 2011, what a major party walking away from energy policy does to the economy. Wholesale power prices have doubled in the four years of this government. And as Mathias Cormann said himself yesterday, if we don't come to grips with the Finkel recommendations, power prices will go up and up and up. We can't afford for the Coalition party room either to reject the Finkel report out of hand or to try and rig the definition of clean energy to bring in new coal-fired power stations – something that would make a complete mockery of the Finkel panel's recommendations.
So we've committed, as Bill said, to giving this report full and fair consideration. We're studying it carefully. We're engaging with stakeholders carefully, and we remain committed to row working constructively with the Turnbull Government and state governments to put an end to the energy policy paralysis that is driving up power prices for Australian households and for businesses like this one.
SHORTEN: Thank you. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, is it fair to say that coal would be a deal breaker in any consideration of a proposed Clean Energy Target?
SHORTEN: I'll give an initial answer and I'll ask Mark will supplement it. Coal is part of our current energy mix and it will be in the future. But if we are going to have a discussion about clean energy, the proposition that that includes all forms of coal, well that is just a con. So I understand that the Government want to sort of be, sort of, all things to all people, but if we're going to have a Clean Energy Target, it's got to be a fair dinkum Clean Energy Target. And I think that's what everyone reasonably expects, but I might get Mark to supplement.
BUTLER: Well, you can't rig the definition of clean energy to include new coal-fired power stations just to placate Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce. That would make a complete mockery of a very serious process that the Chief Scientist and his panel followed over months. Alan Finkel himself said over the last 24 hours that it would be, in his words, ‘surprising’ if the definition of clean energy was set to include new coal-fired power stations.
SHORTEN: Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you've made a big fuss of offering bipartisanship on this, but are you only offering to have a look at whether the policy the Government comes up with. How is that any different to what you normally do?
SHORTEN: Oh no, let's not get too cynical here. If we were saying we were against it, we would be accused of oppositionist. If we say we are open to consider it, somehow we are not allowed to do that either. No, let's just end the climate change wars.
Australians are sick and tired of politics as usual. And business as usual and a lack of energy policy is bad for business. The fact of the matter is that we have got power prices are going up and up and up. At the same time we have more pollution happening than before and we are missing the renewable jobs surge around the world. So we need a policy with certainty.
Now, the report has come out last Friday. Labor said that we are not automatically going to put it in the bin and we're not trying to redefine everything so it becomes meaningless like some elements of the Liberal Party. What we are offering Mr Turnbull is we're not putting down a series of demands, you must do this and you must do that. We're trying to take politics out of it as best we can. We need to see the Government to tell us what they think and come up with a proposition. Are they for a fair dinkum Clean Energy Target or not?
We're not trying to make Mr Turnbull's life harder. What we are saying is we are prepared to compromise from an Emission Intensity Scheme to a fair dinkum Clean Energy Target. Now we need the Government to show leadership. Mr Turnbull needs to step up and show some leadership. He needs to stare down the recalcitrants who have held back climate policy in this country for 10 years.
And the problem is that when we don't have a clear position from the Government and a fair dinkum Clean Energy Target, and something to talk about with Labor, the losers are households with increasing prices. AGL in New South Wales, their prices for electricity are going up 16 per cent for next month. You have got industry with rising gas bills. You've got a lack of, almost an investment strike, in many aspects of our clean energy because of a lack of policy certainty.
What we are offering Mr Turnbull is a safe haven to at least have a discussion about a Clean Energy Target. He just needs to tell us what he's capable of talking about.
JOURNALIST: You say you're not putting down any demands but isn't that exactly what you are doing by saying that it can't include consideration of new coal?
SHORTEN: Well, if somehow us saying that we are up for a conversation is making an unpalatable list of demands, I don't know what would make people happy. We are saying we are willing to have, as the community is asking us to do, a full and fair consideration and conversation about a Clean Energy Target. But also when we talk about clean coal, Professor Finkel didn't even model in his report clean coal for the future because he understands that if you're going to have something that is fair dinkum in a Clean Energy Target, that's just not realistic. So when the Government says you can have all sorts of new investments in coal, even Professor Finkel didn't even model that.
I might get Mark to supplement.
BUTLER: People shouldn't underestimate the degree of shift that federal Labor has taken over the last couple of weeks. To be clear, only 10 days ago the markets commission, the Climate Change Authority commissioned a report, commissioned by the Government reaffirming that an Emissions Intensity Scheme was the best model. This was the model supported by CSIRO, by the business council, by every energy group in the country, and by federal Labor.
But we have said, in spite of the fact we took that policy to the last election, that are willing to put that aside and consider what everyone has described as a second best model, which is the Clean Energy Target. If that is the price of finally ending the climate wars and getting some energy policy that will bring through investment, then we have said we will sit down and do that. But it has to be a Clean Energy Target. You can't redefine or rig the definition of clean energy to include new coal. It makes a mockery of the whole process. It's like trying pretend that day is night or black is white. It simply won't work.
We have also been very constructive about the other things that come from the Finkel report, whether it is the reliability of obligation on generators, whether it is the governance changes. Obviously we've not reached a final position about them because we do want to talk with stakeholders and state governments, but we have tried to be as constructive, I think, as anyone could reasonably expect us to be. Whether it is business groups, environment groups or state governments.
What we need though is for the Coalition party room to allow for the Government to have a sensible approach to this, which is what everyone in the community, I think, wants after 10 years of policy paralysis.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can you explain what has happened within the New South Wales branch of the ALP over the resignation of Simon Zhou, on a gold trade donation?
SHORTEN: I haven't followed all the ins and outs of that matter, you'll have to ask New South Wales Labor. But let me state very clearly, the time has well passed to have a ban on foreign donations.
I have written to Mr Turnbull, following the Four Corners and the Fairfax revelations, or story, of last week, and said that we need to get our powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to have a look at how we can better safeguard against foreign interference in elections and our electoral process.
I think the Liberals need to stop relying on foreign donations to fund the Liberal Party, join with Labor, ban foreign donations and see what other measures we can reasonably take to ensure that confidence can be maintained in our democratic process.
JOURNALIST: On that story, could a reasonable person think that Senator Sam Dastyari changed Labor's policy on the South China Sea based on a $400,000 donation?
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison this morning appeared to pour cold water on the idea of the Parliamentary inquiry. Is there anyway that Labor can do something within Parliament on foreign donations?
SHORTEN: We are leading by example. I've said that we don't want to accept foreign donations. Why is it the Liberals need the lowest common denominator of the law to not ban foreign donations and not accept them? Why don't they join with us and go for best practice? Why do they want foreign donations?
JOURNALIST: So Labor is going to stop –
SHORTEN: We have said that in terms of foreign donations, we don't want them and we think the Liberal Party needs to make clear that they don't accept it either.
JOURNALIST: What are you doing at this point to ensure that corrupt foreign donations aren't being taken now by Labor?
SHORTEN: Well, we've had discussions within the party in recent weeks. We have made it clear that we don't want to accept foreign donations.
And by the way – why doesn't Mr Turnbull just bite the bullet and stop accepting foreign donations? Why does he need a law to tell him?
JOURNALIST: And just quickly, you mentioned that you weren't following the details on the Simon Zhou case but if that's the case, you said you were being quiet serious about this issue, why weren't you following the details on –
SHORTEN: I said it's a matter for the New South Wales branch, how they resolve the matter.
Thanks everybody. See you later.