THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
SATURDAY, 15 NOVEMBER 2014
Subject/s: G20; Climate change; Inclusive growth.
DAVID SPEERS, PRESENTER: Joining me now is the Deputy Labor leader and the Shadow Foreign Minister, Tanya Plibersek, who was there watching Barack Obama’s speech and is still there at Queensland University. Thank you very much for joining us this afternoon. Can I ask, on this climate change announcement from President Obama, do you think Australia should now also be making a commitment to this green climate fund?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well of course Labor supported a commitment to helping developing countries with climate change mitigation when we were in government. Of course Australia should be part of this. It’s extraordinary that Tony Abbott in his opening remarks to world leaders today was boasting about the fact that Australia is the only country going backwards on climate change. We now have the United States and China, two of the world’s largest polluters and largest economies talking about the action that they will take, deeper cuts, faster cuts to carbon emissions and today’s announcement of course saying that developing countries won’t have to choose between economic development and climate change mitigation, or reducing their carbon footprint, they’ll be able to do both, of course Australia should be part of that.
SPEERS: Alright, but to what extent are you able to put a dollar figure or as some have suggested, a percentage figure? I think there are some suggesting Australia should make up 2.7% of this international $10 billion fund. Are you able to put any sort of ballpark figure on where you think Australia should land here?
PLIBERSEK: Oh no, that would be something that would need to be thought through, discussed, I don’t have a particular number in mind. But here we- the very reason that Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd promoted the G20 as the premiere economic decision making body in the world was because there are some problems that are too big for any one country on its own to fix. At the time, the Global Financial Crisis required coordinated international action. Climate change is not just an environmental issue, it’s an economic issue and today President Obama said the world should act together to reduce the effect of dangerous climate change on countries that are bearing the worst brunt of it. Poorer countries, particularly in our region. He mentioned Asia and the Pacific region in particular as areas that are feeling the effects of climate change and will feel the effects of climate change in the future. This is an issue where global cooperation is absolutely vital and Australia has to be part of that global cooperation instead of being as we are now, an outlier. Not just behind the pack, but heading in completely the wrong direction.
SPEERS: Alright, but as you know, many have pointed out that China’s commitment here allows them to keep increasing emissions for another 16 years, in the meantime that could well and truly not just surpass entire Australian emissions but entire American emissions as well in that period. Is that good enough from the world’s biggest emitter?
PLIBERSEK: China is a country of well over a billion people, it’s not surprising that their emissions are higher in total than Australia’s. But Australia is one of the highest emitters per person in the world of carbon pollution. We can’t get away with doing nothing. Yes, of course China should act. They’re sourcing a greater proportion of their energy from renewables, they’ve made further commitments, they’ve gone further than any international observers expected. Now it’s time for Australia to do the same.
SPEERS: Well when it comes to doing the same, and you did refer to Australia as falling behind the pack, do you think we should match at least what the Americans have committed to now in terms of a post 2020 emissions reduction.
PLIBERSEK: Well I think our goals and targets should be a matter for discussion but at the moment we’ve got a government that has thrown out the window an emissions trading system that was working, a price on carbon that was working to bring down our carbon pollution. And they’re also trying to trash our renewable energy target and what we’re seeing because of that is job losses in renewables, we’ve slipped in terms of attractiveness as a destination for investment in companies that focus on renewable energy. We are going backwards as a nation on climate change mitigation and carbon pollution reduction, completely out of step with the rest of the world.
SPEERS: Okay, but let me ask you this, is it important to you that countries, when they make commitments like we’ve seen here, show how they’re going to deliver it? Because at the moment it is unknown how the Americans, how President Obama will be able to deliver on that commitment he’s made for 2025.
PLIBERSEK: Well can I say I’ve got an awful lot of faith in both the United States and China to be able to do what they say they are going to do. Unfortunately, what Australia says it is going to do is go backwards on climate change. I mean we’ve got the two largest economies in the world saying that they will take decisive action to cut pollution deeper and faster than anyone imagined. Today we’ve got an additional commitment that countries will help our region to reduce the effects of climate change and reduce carbon pollution in our region, that’s unequivocally a good thing.
SPEERS: Let me turn to some of the other elements of President Obama’s speech there today, he’s talked about an even deeper American military commitment in this region, the majority of its navy and air force will be in the Pacific by the end of the decade, do you welcome that?
PLIBERSEK: Look I think it was a very good opportunity for President Obama to reemphasise that the United States has a long and strong bond with Australia and with other countries in our region too. The President also talked about the areas of commonality with China and the work they’ve done for example on climate change more recently. I think the other very important message from today’s speech was the importance of inclusive growth, of aid and development, making sure that other countries in the region, poorer countries, have the opportunity to develop their people by investing in health, investing in education, investing in more productive agriculture. This was a speech that of course talked about US foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions but spoke about so much more, spoke about growth, but the quality of growth, saying that growth should be both environmentally sustainable but also inclusive and really that’s the bar that we set for this G20 meeting. We hoped that climate change would be on the agenda and President Obama has put it firmly on the agenda. We hoped that inclusive growth would be on the agenda and again President Obama has put it firmly on the agenda.
SPEERS: But he did talk about the need for the security, order of this region not to be based on spheres of influence, coercion or intimidation where big nations bully small and he talked about the need for international law norms to be upheld, peaceful resolution of disputes. Do you share all of those views? And are you concerned about China’s behaviour when it comes to some of these disputes?
PLIBERSEK: I think it’s always worth emphasising that we need to uphold international laws and norms. Of course all countries should expect to be held to account in that way. But I was also very, very pleased during the week that the United States and China could come to this agreement on climate change because it shows that the channels of communication are very open, that there is a lot of room for constructive negotiation and coming to agreement on the issues that matter to all of us.
SPEERS: Final question Tanya Plibersek, when you talk about growth and I hear that you share, and certainly the President does as well, the need for inclusive growth in this region and around the world. Do you give the Abbott Government a tick for at least being able to drive on this G20 agenda this two percent target to boost growth adding two trillion dollars to the global economy?
PLIBERSEK: Look I think everybody would agree that economic growth is good. But economic growth has to be environmentally and socially sustainable and inclusive as well. What we’ve heard recently from the IMF, from the OECD, from economists like Joseph Stiglitz is the firm evidence that countries that have a smaller gap between the richest and the poorest have longer and stronger and more durable economic growth. The proof is there in the numbers that inequality is bad for growth. Inequality within countries and inequality between countries is bad for growth. So it’s terrific that the G20 is talking about growth but from the President’s speech today, from the comments of other world leaders including people like Christine Lagard from the IMF we know that it’s also the quality of growth. Not just the number in front of the percentage point.
SPEERS: Shadow Foreign Minister Tanya Plibersek, thank you for joining us from Queensland University, we appreciate that.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you very much.