Bill's Transcripts

TV: Lateline - Paris COP21; Australia’s climate change policies






SUBJECT/S: Paris COP21; Australia’s climate change policies; Labor positive plan to tackle climate change; Opinion polls; Australia’s role in the Middle East


EMMA ALBERICI, HOST: Last week, Bill Shorten revealed further details of Labor's climate action policy, including an ambitious new emissions reduction target of 45 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030. The Opposition Leader travelled to Paris for a series of talks around the Climate Summit, and he joins us from there now. Bill Shorten, thanks very much for joining us.




ALBERICI: What will need to be achieved at Paris for it to have been deemed a success?


SHORTEN: Well, I think three things: I think we need to see the world committing to net zero emissions in the second half of the 21st century. I think it's important that we strike agreement on finance to help developing nations with their mitigation efforts around climate change. I also think it's important that we have a ratchet and review system - in other words, whatever targets and decisions get set now for 2030 and 2050, there needs to be a review every five years to see how we're going in achieving the targets and the goals because if we don't review it and indeed improve it, then we will I think be in a worse position in the future than we otherwise would. So finance, review and net zero emissions in the second half of the 21st century. That would be a good outcome.


ALBERICI: The talk is for a legally binding agreement. What does that mean for countries that don't meet their commitments?


SHORTEN: Well, I wouldn't necessarily view the success of the Paris talks whether or not we have a legally binding agreement. I think the truth of the matter is that nations who choose to set low expectations about reducing carbon pollution are going to find themselves increasingly isolated as the rest of the world moves towards taking real action on climate change. The whole reason for this Paris conference is because climate change is having worse and worse effects on our environment and even more importantly, on our economy. So nations who think that they don't need to change I think will get isolated in the future in trade and other arrangements between nations.


ALBERICI: What's on your agenda while you're in Paris?


SHORTEN: Well, in terms of myself, I will be meeting with hopefully leaders from the Pacific Island nations. They really do count on Australia as being a big brother in the best sense in the word for standing up for their concerns. I'm looking forward to talking with businesses. There's a lot of private sector interest in the decisions that will be made at Paris, and the decisions that nations make. See, if a nation like Australia sets ambitious goals, what will happen is that we can then encourage the private sector to step in and help deliver the solutions from technology to trade opportunities to investment in renewable energy. And I will also be talking with scientists. At the heart of Labor's view about climate change is we want to be guided by what scientists say has to be done. If we ignore the science then we're wasting everyone's time including future generations of Australians.


ALBERICI: Labor's new emissions target is significantly more ambitious than the Government's. How will you achieve a 45 per cent cut by 2030?


SHORTEN: Well, the announcement which I made on behalf of Labor last Friday at the Lowy Institute had three points to it. One is that we would commit Australia to zero net emissions from carbon pollution by 2050, that we're committed to policies which see us securing increases in temperature which are less than 2 degrees. We've also said that we will consult with industry, with the community, with the experts by the end of March 2016, and I've got Mark Butler leading that. In terms of some of the mechanisms going to that last point in your question - we think that an emissions trading scheme is the most sensible way of helping develop better policies on climate change. We believe an Emissions Trading Scheme should be internationally linked. We also think that there's opportunities in terms of renewable energy, encouraging greater investment in those energy sources. Also, looking at vehicle emissions standards, building standards, also having a look at land clearance policies. There are a range of mechanisms available and indeed the Liberals have sort of recognised that through gritted teeth when they say that technology will supply some of the answers towards reducing our carbon emissions in the future.


ALBERICI: You mentioned your emissions trading scheme. What would the price be?


SHORTEN: Well, I believe that as we work on our model of an emissions trading scheme, the price would initially be low. I also believe that one of the important design features is that rather than have this sort of crazy Direct Action policy of the Government, where the Government's using taxpayer money just to pay big polluters to keep polluting, that we should use market forces to set a price and I think by linking it internationally with other schemes, then I believe that we'll be able to keep our industry globally competitive and still start the journey towards lowering carbon pollution levels in Australia.


ALBERICI: Former Reserve Bank board member Warwick McKibbin reckons the economics of your proposal imply a carbon price of $200 a tonne, which is also 10 times Julia Gillard's carbon tax four years ago.


SHORTEN: Oh, it's just complete rubbish. I am not going to engage in that sort of - why stop at 200? Why don't they just make up a number and scare everyone?


ALBERICI: But you don't have -


SHORTEN: The truth of the matter is that - .


ALBERICI: You don't have an actual number yourself, do you?


SHORTEN: No but I can spot rubbish when I see it a mile off. Emma, you've been covering politics for a fair while. You know that the climate change debate has been one of the more toxic issues in politics. It would be easy for Labor to put it in the too-hard basket and accept Tony Abbott's policies and just have bipartisanship around the smallest, lowest possible policies. But we know Malcolm Turnbull is caught. He is caught in the middle of the road on this. He's playing in the traffic. On one hand he had to in order to become the leader of the Liberal Party, sign up to Tony Abbott's climate change policies, with their ridiculously low targets. On the other hand he should at least be honest with people and admit the consequences of not changing. That's the real issue here isn’t it? When we have a discussion about climate change and how we decarbonise our economy over time and reduce our emissions over time, do our bit to help the world from warming further, there's a cost of not acting and that never gets into the debate, does it? The truth of the matter is that if sea levels rise, property and infrastructure in Australia will become a lot more costly. We'll have more drought. We'll have more extreme weather events. So there's a big cost in not acting.


ALBERICI: Are you suggesting - sorry to interrupt you. Are you suggesting Warwick McKibbin is playing politics here in some way? I mean he's a very respected economist?


SHORTEN: Great. You're saying I'm attacking him, I’m not, I'm saying what he said is rubbish. It's not going to be the price which he nominated. I think at a certain point Australians want us to move beyond this gotcha politics, where everyone wants to scare people about -


ALBERICI: No, I think people want basic modelling, they want a bit of meat around the bone. They want to know how much it might cost households in terms of higher electricity prices and so on.


SHORTEN: That's what I'm coming to. I've explained to you six mechanisms in this interview already. Look at land clearance, technology, vehicle emissions standards, building standards, greater priority for renewable energy and an emissions trading scheme linked internationally. That's meat on the bone. But let me also go to the Climate Change Authority. They were an independent body set up to have a look at the various options and Bernie Fraser who's the head of the Climate Change Authority, he recommended an emissions reduction target of between 45 per cent and 61 per cent by 2030. What I'm doing is what people expect all politicians to do, which is to actually put the science first and the games and the gotcha politics second.


ALBERICI: Will all of Australia's -  sorry, we have a delay here. Will all of Australia's coal fired power stations need to close by 2030 to achieve your aim?


SHORTEN: No, I don't see that at all. What we're also going to do is to consult with industry. So we're doing what the Government's been too lazy or too climate sceptical and refused to do, which is consult with industry. The Climate Change Authority, an independent body, set up by government, has come down with a series of recommendations, including 45 per cent, and ever since that's come out, we've seen Tony Abbott and now Malcolm Turnbull carrying Tony Abbott's policies, not willing to go out and consult. We're doing exactly what people expect responsible political parties to do. We are relying on the science, we're taking note of what the rest of the world is doing and we're preparing Australia for the future and we're going to consult about the Climate Change Authority's target of 45 per cent reduction. Now, frankly, it is amazing, that Malcolm Turnbull who used to be a climate change champion is now hiding behind Tony Abbott's low targets.


ALBERICI: Bill Shorten, the latest opinion polls show only 15 per cent of Australians would prefer to have you as Prime Minister. Is that upsetting, to think that the public isn't warming to you?


SHORTEN: I'm in Paris talking about climate change. If you want to talk about opinion polls I'm happy to do that too but what I'm doing by being here in Paris is highlighting that Labor's got a much better approach on climate change than Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals. So I'm not at all perturbed about where the political debate is right now. But what I am concerned about is that Malcolm Turnbull, who before he became Prime Minister was all things to all people, he was promising to be a leader on climate change, is now sort of flipping and flopping and trying to rationalise Tony Abbott's low targets on climate change. That concerns me far more than the day to day opinion polls.


ALBERICI: We're going to run out of time and you have made that point already. I want to know, in what circumstances you might consider stepping down as leader to give Labor the best opportunity at the next election?


SHORTEN: I'm giving Labor the best opportunity at the next election and more importantly, Australians a real choice by concentrating on policies. That actually is what matters at the end of the day. And we've got better policies on climate change, we're going to stop and fight and oppose this rotten GST that Malcolm Turnbull wants to make all Australians pay more for the price of everything. We've got the better policies when it comes to higher education, schools, health care and indeed jobs for Australians. So I can't wait for next year and the political debate. Sooner or later Malcolm Turnbull's got to level with Australians on two things: one - what exactly are his plans for a GST, a 15 per cent price on everything?; and  two - what exactly is his plan for the Budget? I'm worried we've got a Prime Minister in charge who whilst he is a better spokesperson and a better salesman than Tony Abbott, is either just giving Australians Tony Abbott's policies reheated or indeed he's not doing very much at all and he's squibbing the big issues of the economy.


ALBERICI: Finally Bill Shorten, you went to Middle East on your way to Paris. Can you give us your assessment of Australia's current role in the fight against ISIS?


SHORTEN: I was able to see the Australian Defence Forces in the Middle East who are standing up and stopping ISIS spread their particular brand of violence and evil through northern Iraq and parts of Syria. I think the Australian Defence Forces are making a significant contribution to stopping ISIL being able to carry out its military aims and its terror aims against people in Iraq. If all Australians - and we're not a war-like country but if all Australians could see the professionalism and the calm understatement of people carrying out their job a long way from home, I think every Australian would be a little bit prouder of our Defence Forces. They're doing an excellent job. I understand though that military intervention is not going to sort out the problems of the Middle East or Iraq or Syria. So anyone who thinks that just expanding our military footprint is going to sort of bring a speedier or more effective resolution - well, I don't think we should expect that of the ADF because the problems are bigger than what one nation can solve through the contribution of our Defence Forces.


ALBERICI:  Bill Shorten, thank you very much for your time.


SHORTEN: Thanks, Emma . See you.