SKY AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 27 JULY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Marriage equality; refugee policy; emissions trading scheme.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, is my guest, to look at the various elements of this ALP conference. Andrew Leigh, first of all on the same-sex issue, wrapped up yesterday afternoon, a compromise deal with a binding vote now on the Labor platform. This is not really what Bill Shorten had hoped for.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Kieran, I think this is about how to get same-sex marriage done. Bill Shorten supports same-sex marriage, as does Tanya Plibersek and the vast majority of the Labor Party. We put it in our platform in 2011 and the question now is how to best marshal the numbers in the Parliament for a change which according to the polls has between two-thirds and three-quarters support of the Australian people. Tony Abbott just needs to give MPs and Senators a conscience vote.
GILBERT: So you're calling for him to give a conscience vote, just as you go to a binding vote, or at least plan one?
LEIGH: Kieran that question goes to exactly the considerations at play here. We'd like to see this done and in practical terms the best way to get this done is for Tony Abbott to unshackle his MPs and allow them to vote their conscience. So we're keeping open our conscience vote for this Parliament and next but if we can't get it done that way then the conscience vote will lapse.
GILBERT: Isn't it all a bit confusing though, if you're saying to him OK give your people a conscience vote yet we're going to, down the track, bind our MPs one way?
LEIGH: The means might seem a little complicated but the end is very simple. The UK, New Zealand, the United States, and Ireland have supported same-sex marriage. In half of those countries it happened under conservative leaders. The idea that people should be able to marry who they love regardless of whether they're same-sex attracted or not is a very simple one. And it won't threaten heterosexual marriages like my own. Indeed, the institution of marriage will be broadened to a significant group of Australians many of whom already have children.
GILBERT: What do you say to Liberal criticism, the Liberal Party criticism and from others, analysis around the place this morning, that the Labor Party is now bitterly divided on a number of key issues including on the boats issue for example not securing the support of three key frontbenchers, the deputy Labor leader in Tanya Plibersek, the opposition Senate leader in Penny Wong, and also Anthony Albanese?
LEIGH: Kieran, I think it's a mistake to confuse division for healthy debate. What we saw over the weekend was a debate in the great traditions of the Labor Party. One in which people had firm disagreements on the floor of conference but with a lasting respect for both sides. On the issue of refugees you had everyone united on the notion of doubling the refugee intake, giving another $450 million to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and treating refugees compassionately. Yes there were differences over turnbacks but when protesters invaded the stage on Saturday, both sides of the debate said this isn't how we do it at the Labor Party conference, if you want to win you do it on the force of your argument and the strength of your intellect.
GILBERT: So do you support the turn back move, were you supporting that?
LEIGH: I wasn't a voting delegate over the weekend.
GILBERT: What's your view on it, though?
LEIGH: Well, it's our party policy and I think it gives us a firm policy to stop people drowning en route to Australia. You saw Tony Burke in his speech talk about the thirty-three asylum seekers who drowned on the way to Australia, including a ten-month-old child. We can't have those drownings continue but I also believe we can be more decent and more compassionate in how offshore facilities are run and in taking more refugees.
GILBERT: How are we meant to believe though, you know Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese when they make this case now, when we know that they don't actually believe it?
LEIGH: Kieran, cabinets have disagreements all the time and the notion of cabinet governance is that people disagree within the room but then a united position is taken when they go out. Think of it if you like as like a sporting team who has a debate in the locker room as to whether to run left or right but once you decide what you're doing everyone plays the game the same way.
GILBERT: But Tanya Plibersek would be the Foreign Minister if you win the next election, you have a Foreign Minister who we know didn't vote for this policy of turning back the boats, which is, you know, fairly crucial to the success of operation sovereign borders.
LEIGH: Kieran, I think in a healthy political party it's OK to differ around the means by which you achieve ends such as reducing drownings at sea and treating refugees compassionately. In fact, I would have been horrified if the weekend’s conference was stage-managed, if there were no differences in any of the debates, I would have felt like I was at a Liberal Party conference.
GILBERT: No I understand that point but this is the would-be Foreign Minister, you know, any other individual you'd say OK but the would be Foreign Minister whose got to go on to the international stage and make the case and do the deals in the region to make this all a success and she didn't support this key part of the policy.
LEIGH: Kieran, it's a very difficult conversation part of the challenge is we don't know exactly what the Government's doing on turnbacks, which they have shrouded in secrecy, as they have done with so many other areas of government. So reasonable people can disagree over that means but we had a sensible debate at the conference. It was a debate, I think, is a great credit to the Labor Party. In the Labor Party you see these things out in the open. If this had been a Greens Party conference it would have all been held in secrecy behind closed doors. But we have our differences and the quality of the speeches there, so many people I spoke to, even people who were not Labor Party members said that they had been impressed by the speeches on both sides by Andrew Giles, Richard Marles and the other speakers.
GILBERT: On the emissions trading scheme/renewable energy target or goal, Joel Fitzgibbon yesterday on television said you call it a tax if you want, call it whatever you like, he made that concession, did he not get the memo?
LEIGH: Its simply not right to refer to an emissions trading scheme as a tax. This is a scheme which has international linkage, puts a cap on pollution and the price floats. Its a little complicated in its economic architecture, but its effect is very simple: we reduce carbon pollution at the lowest possible cost. You look at the carbon prices that are trading in the emissions trading schemes in over thirty countries, none of them are as high as the $66 a tonne that Greg Hunt is paying polluters through his slush fund to get emissions abatement.
GILBERT: Why is $66 a tonne?
LEIGH: Because paying polluters is a very expensive way of doing things.
GILBERT: But they want to argue it is much less than that, it is nothing like that, in terms of the price per tonne. Where does the $66 coming from?
LEIGH: I'm doing a very simple exercise, Kieran. I am taking what they paid and how much abatement they got and dividing the first by the second. They're paying significant amounts of money out and getting very little abatement – as every serious economist would expect. Direct action is an expensive slush fund, that isn't scalable, which is why Australia is the only country which hasn't put in its post-2020 targets for the upcoming international climate change talks. It is why no one around the world take Tony Abbott and his gang seriously when it comes to climate change.
GILBERT: But your renewable energy plan, that is only a goal, it's an ambition, it's not a target, it's not bound, we haven't seen any modelling on it, you can see why people are worried the impact of electricity prices, when we just don't know how you are going to achieve that goal.
LEIGH: Kieran, you ask anyone who has got solar panels on their roof: has that brought down their electricity bill? I suspect they would tell you yes. The Government set up a Renewable Energy Target review headed by a climate sceptic and even that review was reluctantly forced to concede the Renewable Energy Target put downward pressure on power prices. Renewable energy also creates jobs. We have a range of jobs coming out in wind and solar and other renewables and they're an increasingly important part of our energy mix as well as moving along the curve towards lowering emissions…
GILBERT: We still don't have any detail do we? it's just on a hope and a prayer, isn't it? Set the goal and fingers crossed.
LEIGH: You want to know for our targets are for 2020? We can be absolutely clear. Then for 2030, we have a clear aspiration to hit 50% renewables, I expect that that is going to be achieved through a range of different sources. We will see more and more Australian households putting solar panels on their roofs –
GILBERT: But how soon will we get the details, in terms of the modelling and just how you're going to go about trying to get to that goal?
LEIGH: Let's not put the cart before the horse, Kieran. The Government are yet to release their own post-2020 targets. We are talking from opposition about a policy that is 15 years away. We have been very clear with the Australian people that Labor supports renewables, that we believe we need to move down that curve to reduce Australia's carbon pollution, and the early we start, the earlier we set those long-term targets, the smoother the change can be. As an economist, I want us to pay as little as possible for breaking the links between carbon pollution and economic growth.
GILBERT: Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, as always appreciate your time.
LEIGH: Thanks Kieran.
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