PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 24 FEBRUARY 2020
SUBJECTS: Prime Minister snooze; Economic stagnation; Cost of inaction on climate change; Integrity Commission; Coalition division; Bettina Arndt.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. The Australian economy faces significant challenges. Productivity fell in 2018-19. On many indicators the Australian economy is more stagnant than it was and is underperforming many advanced countries. We know we have challenges in meeting the Closing the Gap targets, on meeting our international commitments on climate change. On test scores, Australian school students are a full year of achievement behind where they were two decades ago.
Yet the government doesn't have a plan to deal with these issues. Scott Morrison had a plot to become prime minister, but no plan as to what to do when he got there. He doesn't have a plan for the economy. He doesn't have a plan for growth. He doesn't have a plan for climate change. Scott Morrison likes to talk about pulling the doona over your head, but when it comes to leadership, he is captain snooze. He has absolutely no ability to deal with the big challenges. He just wants to sit back, pull the doona over his head and not worry about the big issues.
Meantime we have backbenchers out there describing acting on climate change as ‘economic suicide’. The damage of not acting on climate change is significantly larger: according to Melbourne University, 20 times larger than the cost of acting. We know from the CSIRO too that there are significant costs of inaction. Jobs that will be lost around the Great Barrier Reef. Significant impacts to Australian agriculture. There is no advanced economy more at risk from climate change than Australia, as the recent bushfire season has shown us. Australia must act on climate change. It's in our national economic interest to do so.
I also want to say something about a bill which I'll be moving in the House today, a private member's bill which amends the ACT Self-Government Act to allow the ACT’s Integrity Commission to have full oversight over the Australian Federal Police. It is in the national interest for the ACT to have an integrity commission, as many other jurisdictions already have, and it makes total sense that integrity commission should cover the police. It shouldn't have had to come to this. The Morrison Government should have been willing to work with the Barr Government in order to make the necessary amendments so the ACT Integrity Commission can go ahead with full and proper powers, as other jurisdictions have. The Morrison Government has promised a national integrity commission since December 2018. They failed to act on the national integrity commission. The last thing they should be doing now is blocking the ACT from acting on its own territory integrity commission. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: In regards to climate change, the government’s critical that there hasn’t really been the economic modelling necessary to set those targets for 2030 and 2050. What’s your response to that, that for any serious action there needs to be a really thorough economic plan in place?
LEIGH: On a global level, we know that net zero emissions by 2050 is what we need to do to keep global temperature increases below the one and a half degree limit. We know that's absolutely vital for avoiding many of the worst costs of climate change. At a domestic level, we have the work from the CSIRO and Melbourne University telling us the cost of inaction is significantly greater than the cost of action. Anytime you see a Coalition MP standing in front of a microphone, you need to ask them what's their modelling of the cost of inaction? What's their modelling of the captain snooze policy to climate change?
JOURNALIST: But does Labor's policy need more detail?
LEIGH: Of course, by the next election we will have a range of costed policies detailing what Labor will do. But right now it's important that Australia moves with other countries on net zero emissions, that the Federal Government moves into line with the states. All the Australian states now have a net zero emissions by 2050 target, including Liberal jurisdictions. So it's extraordinary that you have the ratbags, renegades, the tinfoil hat brigades in the Federal Coalition holding back serious action on climate change.
JOURNALIST: What about particularly in WA, a resource reliant state, not the cost of inaction but the cost of action to them would seem very high indeed. What's your response to that kind of fear and apprehension from people in that state?
LEIGH: Western Australia will continue to be a significant exporter. The iron ore exports from Western Australia will continue strongly. Metallurgical coal is absolutely vital in producing everything from windmills to solar panels. So Australia will continue to be a significant commodities exporter, but we do need to get real, move with the rest of the world. Indeed, it's in our interest to be encouraging other nations to move more quickly, but we can't do that while we're pursuing a captain snooze policy on climate change.
JOURNALIST: But acting on a 2050 target would have an impact on those kinds of industries and jobs would be lost. Do you agree?
LEIGH: There's a huge benefit to jobs in moving quickly on climate change. There's jobs in the renewable sector, there's jobs in areas like tourism which benefit from strong action on climate change. It's in Australia's economic interest to act on climate change. According to Melbourne University, there are 20 times the benefits of acting than not acting.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of that Greens push for miners to pay damages for the impact on climate? Does that go too far?
LEIGH: I think we can be sensible on these policies. The Greens are not always taking the policies that will see Australia lead the rest of the world and will lead a sensible conversation. We need a moderate approach and that's what Labor is championing. Net zero by 2050 is absolutely the right way to go. It puts us in line with the states, with the rest of the world, and does what needs to be done in order to tackle dangerous climate change.
JOURNALIST: Is there division within Labor? I mean, people like Matt Keogh have said that the party needs to be a bit careful when it comes to these sorts of ambitions, specifically for his own state of WA. Is there a bit of disagreement regarding how this is achieved?
LEIGH: When you look at division, you look at the Coalition party room ripped to pieces, destroying leader after leader over the issue of climate change. There's no one sitting in the Labor party room that's arguing that climate change is a conspiracy run by the Bureau of Meteorology. Walk into the Coalition party room, you find those people. Alongside them, there’s people who were out championing John Howard's price on carbon in 2007.
JOURNALIST: So there’s no disagreement in Labor internally?
LEIGH: Labor has strong consensus that we need to have a 2050 target, that we need to move using the most economically sensible mechanisms, and that there are greater benefits from acting on climate change than not acting.
JOURNALIST: Just on one other matter, the Governor-General has received correspondence about Bettina Arndt onto the Australia Day Council for their review. Do you think she should keep her honour?
LEIGH: It's a matter for the Australia Day Council. No more questions? Thanks everyone.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.