SKY NEWS AGENDA
MONDAY, 10 SEPTEMBER 2018
SUBJECTS: The Coalition’s civil war on climate change, US-China trade, Peter Dutton’ eligibility, the divided and dysfunctional Coalition.
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Joining me now is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh. Thanks so much for your time. Before we get into the politics of the day, I know Labor wants to focus on Peter Dutton quite a bit in terms of the various questions around the Home Affairs Minister. But in terms of Labor's policy questions right now, a challenge for you is where do you go to climate change and the mechanism that will be put in place, because the NEG as it was known - the National Energy Guarantee - is not only dead, it's been pronounced dead it seems you know a handful of times in the last week.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: It's a challenge for the nation, Kieran. This was a policy supported across business and its dumping by the far right of the Liberal Party again shows how extreme the Liberal Party has become. It's been nearly a decade now since the British conservatives and the New Zealand conservatives dealt with climate change in a sensible market based approach using the advice of the experts. The Liberals have had multiple chances – the emissions intensity scheme, the clean energy target, the national energy guarantee - and every time the far right has dragged them off into the wilderness. It's a real problem for households. The government's own modelling said that the NEG would see power prices go down by $550 and in its absence power prices would rise $300. So we'll be continuing to engage with stakeholders. Mark Butler is doing a series of roundtables, I've been part of some of those business roundtables to work out a policy which is detailed, carefully calibrated, brings down emissions and brings down power prices.
GILBERT: I want to ask you about the point that was made by Simon Birmingham though in the first half of the program, where he was quite sanguine about the need to reduce emissions reduction and that the private sector is driving a lot of it. The example that we discussed was Sanjeev Gupta, the British billionaire who is introducing a lot of renewable energy into the Whyalla steelworks. What's your sense of the fact that there is a lot of money going into those sorts of energy sources and that's where the money is going - should we be a bit more relaxed about the broader emissions trajectory?
LEIGH: We're not going to make our internationally agreed emissions reductions targets. That's very clear now and we're not going to be able to get-
GILBERT: By 2030?
LEIGH: The government's own modelling suggested that it's not on track. We've got emissions rising since this government came into office and we've got this dearth of renewables investment. So while the rest of the world is getting a huge surge in renewables investment, there’s far less in Australia as a result of the policy uncertainty that the Coalition’s put in place. That means higher power prices and more emissions for Australia. When the change comes for Australia, it will be more wrenching than would have been if we'd been on a gradual glide path to reduce emissions.
GILBERT: This trade war that's unfolding between the US and China right now. It's obviously of huge concern, but in terms of the government's approach here by pushing ahead with the TPP negotiations with Indonesia, do you think that they've got the right approach when it comes to free trade to try and shore up the free trading framework as best as they can in the context of a protectionist US President?
LEIGH: Well, as an economist, free trade is in my DNA. My natural inclination is to do as multilateral an approach as possible. Labor’s in the past championed the Cairns Group of Agricultural Free Trading Nations, which helped bring home the last World Trade Organisation deal, and worked to strengthen APEC as well. We need to make sure we're getting broad based trade liberalisation, providing a sense of stability that's lacking in the world at the moment. This potential $36 billion hit to the Australian economy if there’s a full blown trade war-
GILBERT: It looks like that's where we're heading, doesn't it, in the sense that Donald Trump saying he's threatening basically to put tariffs on every item that China exports to the US. That will see retaliation from Beijing obviously.
LEIGH: Indeed and that's bad for the global economy. You see the international experts now starting to downgrade some of these international economic forecasts on potential of a trade war. It's particularly bad for a smaller and less diversified economy like Australia's. Our trade share is twice that of the United States, so if a trade war blows out, countries like Australia are particularly badly hit.
GILBERT: And if we turn our attention now resumption of Parliament. You and Labor more broadly will be focusing obviously on the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on a couple of fronts.
LEIGH: No minister has more personal discretion than the Home Affairs Minister, the Immigration Minister. They have the ability to cancel visas and as we've just heard in the press to allow visas in circumstances in which the department doesn't advise that an au pair should get a visa. All of those decisions could potentially be challenged if Peter Dutton’s eligibility to sit in parliament is in doubt. The government should do the right thing in referring him to the High Court, get this sorted out not just for their own sakes, but also for the sake of the stability of the ministerial decisions that Peter Dutton has made and may make in the future.
GILBERT: The other component, obviously it’s rich pickings for Labor right now after the debacle of the last sitting period for the government. But no doubt asking the question I think many people around the country would be asking right now and that is why, what was the reason for getting rid of Malcolm Turnbull?
LEIGH: It's the big unknown, isn't it? Scott Morrison says this is the Muppet Show and that would make him Muppet Number One. In the ministerial wing, I'm guessing that they're putting up names around the offices using magic marker, getting ready for the next leadership change. This is a dysfunctional, divided party. The Liberal Party simply doesn't know whether they are a mainstream party of Menzies or an extremist Tea Party. They need a spell in opposition in order to sort themselves out. Right now they're making the Addams Family look like The Brady Bunch.
GILBERT: Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. We’ll talk to you soon, really appreciate it.
LEIGH: Thanks very much, Kieran.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.