PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2020
SUBJECTS: Climate change; the economic benefits of renewable energy; Llew O’Brien quitting the Nationals; Scott Morrison’s lack of leadership.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. Australia is the advanced economy that is most at risk from dangerous climate change. We know that if climate change is left unchecked, we could lose the Great Barrier Reef. We know the extreme weather events will get more and more frequent. Ross Garnaut’s report in 2009 warned of increased flooding, hailstones, fires, lightning strikes. So we know that Australia ought to be leading global efforts on climate change, that we have a unique interest in increasing the speed at which the world moves. This excuse that we’re a small share of global emissions misses the fact that if every country with less than 2 per cent of global emissions did nothing, a third of global emissions would not be acted upon.
Australia has been experiencing severe weather events already. We've gone from an extraordinary bushfire season to immediate floods. This is not normal. Extreme weather events like Australia has been experiencing are not normal. Here in Canberra we've been experiencing record temperatures. Successive days over 40 degrees. From the 1970s to the 1990s, we had a 25 year period in which the Canberra temperature never once went over 40 degrees. Now it seems to have become the new normal.
Last year for Australia was both the hottest year on record and the driest year on record. And yet we see from Michael McCormack the suggestion that anyone who links bushfire risk to climate change is an “inner city lunatic”. We're hearing now from Matt Canavan that renewables are “dole bludgers”. We've got Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, a man who brandishes lumps of coal in Parliament.
Australia isn't just at risk from climate change, as the Reserve Bank was warning last week - but we're also an economy that stands to benefit from action on climate change. There are thousands of jobs in renewables, in solar and wind. There's huge benefits from expanding our renewables industry. There’s huge benefits globally from being a leader on climate change. But rather than acting, we've got a government that's in chaos. Where we’ve got Bridget McKenzie now having to step down as a result of the sports rorts scandal, in which we've got Matt Canavan going to the backbench as part of Barnaby Joyce's wrecking ball approach to the Coalition's. Llew O’Brien has now left the Nationals party.
This is a government in disarray at a time when Australia needs a government willing to act on critical issues such as climate change. Very happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: On climate change, Llew O’Brien is one of the members of the National Party that is agitating for more coal fired power. How much of a concern is that for you and the Opposition?
LEIGH: Labor believes there shouldn't be taxpayer money spent on subsidising new coal fired power stations. We know that coal fired power stations are economic now only because they are sunk assets. The private sector doesn't want to invest in new coal fired power stations. You've got investors such as BlackRock pulling out of coal fired power station investment. You've got the big banks saying that they won’t invest in it in the long run. The Bank of International Settlements has warned that this could be a financial risk, if governments invest in technologies that will the be left stranded as the world moves to decarbonise.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned Llew O’Brien quitting the National Party. What kind of message do you think it makes the public about the unity of the Coalition at the moment, given what happened last week?
LEIGH: The Coalition is in complete disarray and disfunction. They’re too busy fighting themselves to fight for the interests of Australians. They're floating thought bubbles such as the idea that they might go for a stronger climate target. Well, I might go for a spot in Tokyo Olympics, but let's wait to see whether I actually get there first. The fact is the government has no coherent climate policy. Labor has been consistently constructive. We’ve said with the National Energy Guarantee, a policy that's passed their own party room twice, that we'd be happy to consider it and give it careful, considered support. But the government can't even fight the renegades, the tin foil hat brigade within their own party in order to get serious action on climate change. The country is suffering as a result. Thanks everyone.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.