SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Same-sex marriage postal survey and its impact on mental health, religious protection, the energy crisis and the Clean Energy Target.
KIEREN GILBERT: On the program now is Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Your thoughts on that issue, which has been reported in the Fairfax papers and Patrick McGorry expanding on that this morning about their experience with particularly the youth services, that there’s been a spike in requests for assistance.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Really troubling, Kieran, and it isn’t just the statistics we’re seeing. We had Eddie, a 14-year-old with two mums come to Parliament last week to talk about the experiences that he’s felt as a child of same-sex parents. It’s not as though gay and lesbian couples don’t already have children – they do and many of those children are feeling the brunt of some of the nastiness in this campaign. We warned this would happen. This is why Labor never supported this notion of a national survey and thought the parliament should just do its job.
GILBERT: But it’s not all bad, as Professor McGorry pointed out in that interview. While there’s a short term spike and issue, by November 15, if the result goes as the polls suggest, this will be a big win for that particular group of people in terms of the community’s support, acknowledgement, their broader acceptance.
LEIGH: We could have had that win by just letting parliament do its job. The important thing now is to make sure those organisations are resourced. Bill Shorten has called on Malcolm Turnbull to provide additional resourcing to mental health services, particularly those supporting young gay and lesbian teenagers.
GILBERT: What are your thoughts on the broader issue of protections for religious freedom? It is a concern for a lot of people in this debate, it’s certainly be raised as part of the no campaign. But I think more broadly, there would be quite a large number of Australians but would be inclined to vote yes if those guarantees were given.
LEIGH: Kieran, I think the important thing is we don’t roll back existing discrimination laws. If you run a bakery and I walk in to buy a finger bun, you’re can’t say ‘I’m not going to sell you a finger bun because you’re gay’ and that would be true if I wanted to buy a wedding cake as well. Those laws will stay in place, but I think it’s appropriate to have safeguards for religious organisations. Right now, for example, if I want to get married in a Jewish ceremony, then the Rabbi has a perfect right to say ‘Andrew, you’re not Jewish, I’m not going to marry you’. So I think many of these things will just naturally sort themselves out and some of these issues are being used as a distraction from the basic question: ‚should we let people who love one another tie the knot?‘.
GILBERT: Do you see it in the same context if there’s this scenario that’s put, as you’ve suggested, with a baker if they then, that they can’t discriminate against people now based on their sexuality so why should they beyond any such legalisation of same sex marriage?
LEIGH: Absolutely. It’s different if you’re a religious organisation. I don’t think people would want religious organisations that don’t desire to perform the marriage to have to perform one under the new laws. But we don’t want to take our discrimination laws back to the 19th century. We want to make sure that we provide at least the protections that are there today.
GILBERT: Let’s look at a few of the other issues that are around today. Michael Sukkar, the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, says that the government should be open to providing government dollars to keep AGL’s coal fired power station open for longer. That seems to be a view held at least if not the majority, then at least a decent chunk of the Coalition party room are open to that. Is Labor, any chance of supporting an energy approach which would see government funds doing that?
LEIGH: It is extraordinary, isn’t it? The Government has no clean energy target, no renewable energy target that goes beyond 2020. In fact, the only policies they have into the 2020s is this idea of attempting to nationalise coal fired power stations. It’s a strange approach we’re getting from this supposedly free market Coalition-
GILBERT: But it’s about reliability. That’s what they’re worried about, because at this stage, renewables while there’s been a huge investment splurge really, surge in investment in renewable energy, there isn’t that dispatchable baseload power that we need to fill certainly Liddel at this stage.
LEIGH: Well, if you want certainty in investment, you’ve got to provide those parameters. The reason we’ve had an investment strike in renewables and other parts of the energy industry is that the industry hasn’t been sure of what the policies were going to be. We need bipartisan support around a clean energy target.
GILBERT: There hasn’t been an investment strike in renewables. There’s been a surge in renewable investment under the renewable energy target. That’s the problem, isn’t that? That we’re seeing renewable investment go up, but not in the baseload energies like gas or coal?
LEIGH: Not compared to other countries, Kieran. We’ve slipped dramatically down the world rankings of renewable energy investment. Yes, many Australian households are putting solar photovoltaic panels on the roof, but if you look at Australia’s attractiveness as an investment destination for renewable energy investors, we’re nowhere near where we were when we had long term policies in place under a market based mechanism, the sort that Malcolm Turnbull used to support – indeed, the sort he crossed the floor to support.
GILBERT: So under no circumstances would you see a place for government support to keep a station, a power station like Liddel open longer?
LEIGH: Let’s have a look at exactly what they want to put on the table, but that’s not a long term solution to Australia’s energy challenge, Kieran. The Government’s own Chief Scientist says we should have a clean energy target-
GILBERT: But you wouldn’t rule that out, you wouldn’t rule it out at these stage because obviously as the energy market operator pointed out, we do need to fix that gap in terms of the reliability of base load power in this country?
LEIGH: But it’s just not the main game, Kieran. The main game here is to get a national interest test on gas, to make sure we have a clean energy target with bipartisan support, ending the decade-long ‘climate wars‘, as my colleague Mark Butler has called them. We need bipartisan consensus to get that investment flowing into renewables, into gas, into those long term investments.
GILBERT: Ok, that goes to my question though – you need bipartisan consensus, therefore to get that, is Labor willing to come a bit further towards the Coalition in terms of supporting the legacy industry and keeping some of that baseload power going for certainty in our economy – not just the energy space, but industry more broadly?
LEIGH: We’ve been willing to move from our traditional support for an emissions trading scheme to supporting a Clean Energy Target, as the government’s Chief Scientist has recommended. But it’s not an energy strategy to say ‘look, we’ve got this power plant which is due to close after 50 years, can we stretch it out to 60 years despite the fact that the company itself thinks it needs to close and investors aren’t putting that money in?’
GILBERT: Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, appreciate your time as always.
LEIGH: Thanks, Kieran.
GILBERT: We’ll talk to you soon.