SKY AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 29 MAY 2017
Subject/s: Paris Climate Accord; Climate Policy; Healthcare Funding.
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now is Labor frontbencher, Andrew Leigh. There has been a lot of speculation around Donald Trump, he's apparently told people close to him that the US will indeed pull out of the Paris Climate Accord as expected. The Government are pushing ahead with its targets on a broad policy sense you'd welcome although you'd disagree with the mechanism by which they want to get there?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well, Kieran the Government has no plans beyond 2020 and it's rejecting an Emissions Intensity Scheme which every expert supports. State Governments, the Business Council of Australia, the National Farmers Federation support an Emissions Intensity Scheme. It’s supported by the Australian Energy Markets Commission, by Prime Minister Turnbull's former energy adviser, the CSIRO, the Chief Scientist and of course Labor. So by putting their head in the sand on an Emissions Intensity Scheme the Turnbull Government are overseeing not only rising electricity sector emissions but also fast rising energy prices. We're paying more for electricity and having higher climate emissions as a result of Malcolm Turnbull still being captive to the far right of his party.
GILBERT: When the Finkel Report is handed down on June 9th at that COAG meeting, would you like to see both sides of politics try and be constructive here to come up with some sort of mechanism that is bipartisan to reach the various targets? You might have a fight about where these various targets should be but it would be good for business wouldn't it if there was some certainty here?
LEIGH: It would indeed, Kieran. Where Labor is is where business is. That's why firms such as BHP, Energy Australia and Origin Energy support an Emissions Intensity Scheme. Labor is in the sensible centre surrounded by business and the experts in the state governments. The Coalition is still off in the fringes, too much enthralled to the climate-denying wing of the Liberal Party. That's bad for Australia because we end up paying more for our electricity and not making those steady decreases in emissions which allow us to meet our climate targets. Josh Frydenberg has talked in the past about achieving our emissions target ‘over the course of the century’. Labor has committed to zero net emissions by 2050 which is where we need to get to avoid that 2 per cent warming ceiling that would be so dangerous for the planet -
GILBERT: Both sides need to try and work towards a bipartisan position now, it has been a subject of partisan politics for too long hasn't it and it's time both sides try and find some common ground here?
LEIGH: Kieran I certainly agree but there is no question here that Labor sits in the centre. We hold the position of the experts, the business community and the state governments. The Coalition needs to move away from the wacky fringe. To say that we ought to get consensus by Labor joining them out there on the tin hat outskirts of this debate is to miss what we need to do for Australia. Nations set their targets in Paris and they’re all committed to getting that climate change abatement that we know the planet so desperately needs if we’re going to save the Great Barrier Reef and avoid that catastrophic warming that could be so damaging to the planet. We’ve got half the Arctic ice now that we had a generation ago. It’s scary stuff.
GILBERT: Andrew Leigh, finally on this issue of health and funding reform. It’s reported front page of The Age and the Herald today and the Canberra Times. The government’s come out and said this is not government policy, just some work done by health bureaucrats, but it won’t be and is not part of the government’s plan. Do you welcome that position, which , if they were, according to this report, would have seen states have to stump up for more of the public hospital funding. The government says that’s not going to happen.
LEIGH: Kieran, this again shows that Malcolm Turnbull isn’t just in the same poll position as Tony Abbott, he’s also got many of the same policies. These are ideas from Tony Abbott’s discredited federation white paper. It comes on the back of Prime Minister Turnbull earlier this year raising the prospect that the federal government should cease funding public schools. These ideas would see funding decrease to public hospitals, the removal of a private health insurance rebate and they come from a government which put in place a Medicare privatisation taskforce. This so-called unfreezing -
GILBERT: But the Government’s ruled it out, said it’s not happening.
LEIGH: Well, these are ideas that are being contemplated by their top health bureaucrats. When you ask your senior health bureaucrats to look at measures that will see the cutting of funding to public hospitals, then again you see evidence that Malcolm Turnbull just isn’t committed to public healthcare and to Medicare. We’ve seen this time and time again. The Medicare freeze for many items won’t be lifted for three years. They’ve just turned down the temperature a bit in the freezer, they haven’t really stood behind the public healthcare system which Australians treasure.
GILBERT: Andrew Leigh, appreciate your time.