TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC RADIO FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND DRIVE WITH ADAM STEPHEN
THURSDAY, 18 APRIL 2019
SUBJECTS: Real action on climate change; Adani; action on natural disasters.
HOST: We've got Deputy Labor Party Leader with us on Drive across Regional Queensland today. Tanya Plibersek has spent the day in Townsville and in Cairns where she joins us now on ABC Radio.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION:It's a pleasure to be with you, Adam.
HOST: It is an interesting conundrum at the moment, isn't it? We've got so many people that are so concerned about the environment and so many people that are so concerned about the economy and in regional Queensland. Does that place Federal Labor in an awkward position?
PLIBERSEK: No, I don't think so at all. And I actually think it's very interesting that you've talked about the two things people are interested in - the environment and the economy - and I think with good policy we can meet both those needs. I think it's clear that renewable energy is becoming cheaper and cheaper all the time; that if we get the settings right and we see substantial investment in renewables that means that we can continue to generate cheaper power all the time, support all of those businesses out there that need that cheaper power, reduce the cost to the family budget and have an environmental benefit.
What we've seen from the Government in recent years is 13 different energy policies, which means that pollution has continued to go up and power prices have continued to go up. We can't continue down that path. We need certainty when it comes to power generation. And, look, I think people have sort of, you know, worked this out for themselves. When we came to government in 2007, there were about 7,000 Australian homes that had solar panels on the roof. There's now 1.8 million homes in Australia who've made that investment and have seen the drops in their own power bills. That's, you know, we can be a renewable energy innovator. We're doing so much research and innovation here in Australia, and we've also got, we've got great gas reserves, we've got the potential for a hydrogen export industry. We've got other terrific options. Of course coal will be part of our energy mix for the foreseeable future. Of course it will be part of our export revenue for the foreseeable future, but the world is changing and we can be at the at the crest of that wave or we can be swamped by it.
HOST: Do you support the development of the Galilee Basin, starting with the Adani Carmichael coal project?
PLIBERSEK: Well, it's not a matter of how people feel about these things. It's a matter of judging the economics and the science. What are the economics tell us? What does the science tell us? We've seen a lot of companies pass up the opportunity of investing in the Adani mine and we've seen a lot of science coming back saying, most recently just today, that there might be questions about the modelling when it relates to the water, the information that the proponents of the mine have given to the Government about what's going to happen to groundwater and so on. So it's not about how we feel. It's not like, you know, ‘the vibe’. It's actually what does the science tell us? What are our legal obligations to check whether this mine is good for the environment?
HOST: Federal government did actually pass a lot of the last, sort of, remaining ticks that it needed to give to the Adani project or the proponents of the Carmichael coal mine just before, only a few weeks ago. Would you review those look you got into power?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we saw the Environment Minister being bullied by her colleagues in Queensland saying ‘You must sign’, and Josh Frydenberg, who's the Treasurer, refusing to say that the mine should go ahead. I think it's disturbing that the Environment Minister should sign documents in the in the last minutes of a government, under pressure from her colleagues, under threat that she would no longer be the minister if the government was re-elected and she hadn't signed. So I do, I am troubled by the process here. There are quite a few hurdles, I suppose, for this project still to jump, including things like the state government has some approvals that it still needs to give. There isn't a final agreement on royalties as far as I understand, and what we've seen from this project is substantial delays and missed deadlines and in many cases over-inflated propositions about the number of jobs that will be created as well. So we just need to calmly and methodically apply the science and obey the law.
HOST: You're hearing from Tanya Plibersek. She's in North Queensland today, Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. You're-
PLIBERSEK: -Adam, can I just say one more thing about this? What I do get is that people are worried about jobs. You know, as you say I'm in Cairns now, I've just come from Townsville. I'd get it that people are worried about jobs, and I think that the problem is we can't wait for-
HOST: -Well coal contributes a lot of jobs in Queensland.
PLIBERSEK: Well it does, as does, tourism, as does agriculture, as does construction, as does retail and hospitality. Like, we have got hundreds of millions of dollars of proposed infrastructure projects that would contribute to jobs during their construction, but also improve job propositions afterwards like the Rookwood Weir project has a flow-on benefit for agriculture, for example. Port access, improved port access is good for agriculture jobs. Roads, rail, airports, better water infrastructure for Townsville - all of these things have an economic impact. We can't wait for one company or one project to bring jobs. We have to be investing in jobs now. We've got a proposal to put hundreds of extra jobs, a hundred extra jobs in Cairns, just for an example, from the Department of Human Services to locate those jobs here and make them permanent. That has a huge impact on the local economy. Let's not wait for one project.
HOST: How important is the environment? How important a battleground is the environment? We've seen a war of words over climate change between your Leader Bill Shorten and the Prime Minister today. It looks like a key battleground. How much do you believe the environment will play a role in determining who has the next government in this country?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think people who've lived through this summer and seen all those heat records broken, who have seen droughts, floods, bush fires across Australia, who listen to the scientists who are telling us that extreme events like this are becoming more frequent and more catastrophic - they want action to protect our environment and we've seen this government reverse some of the last Labor government's national parks that were set aside, the marine national parks and so on. I think most people treasure the Australian countryside and our waters. They're concerned about things like, you know, the fact that the plastic in the oceans will weigh more than the fish by 2050 and they want action and we're prepared to do that. We are talking about a Federal Environment Protection Agency and making sure that our laws are fit for purpose.
HOST: There's been a lot of discussion today, trying to get Labor to give an actual figure for how much the cap on the heavy polluters would end up costing if they exceed their emissions. There hasn't been a definitive figure given, why is that?
PLIBERSEK: Well, the proposal that Labor has to reduce pollution is modelled very closely on the Government's previous position for a very good reason. We want maximum bipartisan cooperation. The best modelling we have on the cost of acting on climate change comes from Warwick McKibben. It was commissioned by Tony Abbott when he was Prime Minister and what the McKibben modelling tells us is that Labor's policy and the Government's has the equivalent effect on the Australian economy because we allow the purchase of carbon offsets from overseas. So our plan to reduce pollution by 45 percent, the Government's plan to reduce pollution by 26 percent, have the same effect on the economy. The effect on the economy is to continue to see growth at over 2 percent every year. Can I say, we also saved $2 billion dollars straight up to the Budget by getting rid of the unsuccessful emissions reduction fund that has seen pollution go up and power prices go up. There is a saving of $2 billion for taxpayers straight off the top.
HOST: Just a final one. Climate scientists are saying the events of 2019 - the monsoon floods of the north and even the bush fires of 2018 and the heat waves - would become more common under climate change. What would Labor do if it was voted in to ensure that Queenslanders could better handle natural disasters?
PLIBERSEK: Well, there's a few things we have to do. We have to work with the global community to address the issue of climate change for a start. But closer to home, we need to make sure that our immediate response is effective. This is generally been pretty bipartisan. When I was Human Services Minister in 2011, I rang every member whose areas were flood affected and I asked them to make sure that Human Services were properly delivering immediate emergency payments and we sorted it out so many problems just doing that. I made quite good friends with Bruce Scott, who's the former Member for Maranoa that way. Actually, we were on the phone together a lot during those floods. So we want to be bipartisan when it comes to the immediate response and we've supported the Government on things like changes to the farm household allowance and so on.
But Labor has, in addition, committed $12 million to a flood science centre in Lismore. Southern Cross University are doing a lot of incredible work on reducing the likelihood and the impact of floods and better recovery afterwards. And just today I made with Cathy O'Toole, an announcement that we would invest $3 million at Central Queensland University in Townsville for what the CQU are calling ERIC. It's the Emergency Response Innovation Centre. And that's a place where Emergency Services Workers, Local Government, volunteers, police, ambulance, SES and others will be able to get training to do better initial response in situations, like floods, like fires, like natural disasters more generally, but also artificial disasters like chemical spills and things like that. So we think by investing in those sorts of things and working cooperatively with the Government on immediate responses, we can we can do better. One big change, of course, is we think we should continue to spend a $100 million on that resilience-building program, but we don't think it should come from the roads budget which is what the Government has done in the last Budget. They said that the Future Drought Fund should be funded out of the Building Australia Fund money, which is for roads and rail. We think we can do both.
HOST: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for joining us this afternoon on ABC Radio across regional Queensland.
PLIBERSEK: It's a real pleasure Adam.
HOST: The Deputy Leader of Federal Labor, Tanya Plibersek, in regional Queensland today. She spent the morning in Townsville. She's in Cairns this evening.