PAUL MURRAY LIVE
THURSDAY, 27 JANUARY 2022
SUBJECTS: Labor’s Power to the People plan; Labor’s plans to reduce cost of living pressures; Supply chain issues, Scott Morrison failing Australians on rapid antigen tests.
PAUL MURRAY, HOST: Joining us right now representing the government is the Resources Minister Keith Pitt. Representing the Labor Party is Andrew Leigh, who is their Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. Lads, hello. Hopefully you both had a good summer.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Paul. G’day, Keith.
KEITH PITT: It’s the electrician versus the economist.
MURRAY: Let's get in. Let's see what happens here. Alright. Well, let's talk about something that look I know, I know much of the media has high fived all the way through, but let's talk about Labor's climate policy here and what the actual costs are. Because even when Chris Bowen the shadow spokesperson for climate change was being asked about this at the National Press Club, well he didn't really push back on the details, which is despite the promise of 600,000 jobs falling from the sky – only 64,000 jobs according to the modelling would actually be in the creation of the new forms of energy between now and 2030. The Shorten target of 45 that was rejected in ‘19 has been turned into the target of 43, magically between now and 2030. So Keith, what is the actual consequence here? Because Chris Bowen was saying, ‘well, we'll cut your power bills maybe by $275 by 2025’. Is this just Shorten light?
PITT: It’s 43 per cent versus 45. Within the margin of error. Shorten, Albanese - it doesn't look too different to me. I mean, even Jennie George came out and said the numbers were nonsense. If you have a Labor luminaire like that that's against the policy, well, I think it's pretty clear it shouldn't be believed.
MURRAY: Now, the thing is, Andrew, cost of transition is frankly all I care about in this issue. Obviously, action on climate change, I’m in for all of that. I understand our role in the world. I also understand China can do whatever the hell it wants till 2030. So just how hard we put one hand behind our back is what I'm always focused on. A poll this week reaffirmed that about half of the country is not willing to spend an extra cent. So tell me why this is magically different than what was rejected a couple of years ago.
LEIGH: Paul, this plan makes sure that we get lower emissions, cheaper power bills and more jobs. As you said, $275 off your power bill by 2025. Some 60,000 jobs directly created, and some 600,000 indirectly. And then it moves us to making a contribution to climate reduction that's in line with other countries. So for example, Canada is 40 to 45 per cent reduction. This is very carefully modelled by RepuTex, and it’s backed in by the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The fact is business is crying out for a government that is going to take serious action on climate change. They recognise that when you put more renewables into the system, then you have zero marginal cost energy coming through. And so that means that households benefit, but it also means we can turn Australia into a clean energy superpower, which is why we're investing in things like green metals and ensuring that Australia beefs up the manufacturing industry, which we can do as energy prices come down. Because energy prices are a huge constraint on many firms.
MURRAY: So let's get to that. Because the headline number that Albo keeps pushing is $275 by 2025. That's the household cost. Is there an understanding of what the average business would get cut by potentially by 2025? Because it's pretty obvious you can't get a tradie to come around for two hours for $275, you're not going to end up hiring an extra 600,000 if all you're saving in a couple of years’ time is $275, Andrew.
LEIGH: Paul, just to be clear, the $275 is the benefit for households. And of course, there's a benefit flowing through for industry as well. You look at industries such as aluminium, which is basically solid electricity - an industry like aluminium benefits hugely as we bring down the cost of power. Something like offshore wind, for example, which Australia hasn't really done despite the fact that we have huge potential in that area. Install more offshore wind, and you get lower power prices. And Rewiring the Nation is one of the key bits of this. As we join up the electricity grid, we make it possible to rely on solar in one area, wind in another area - you get the flexibility in the system. Community batteries provide more sustainability as well, as do those community solar banks, which ensure that for communities where people can't have solar PV they're able to tap into solar banks, like the one in four Australian households who already have solar PV on their roofs and are benefiting from lower energy prices.
MURRAY: Ok. Look, I understand this as an away game and I appreciate you being here. Please be here all year. Okay. I want to hear, I want to hear both sides on all of this, right. But Keith, here's the deal, right? Which is $20 billion for rewiring the nation. The CSIRO says that the total cost of rewiring the nation, turning into full renewables is $1 trillion. It's only $990 billion off. Private industry, yes, they step up and do a lot of it. But that means the customer ends up paying. Of the, of the power reductions, how do 600,000 jobs come out of it?
PITT: Well, I mean, they're all very good points, Paul. I’m pleased Andrew raised Canada, because we've actually reduced emissions by 20 per cent and that is more than Canada, more than New Zealand, more than South Korea, more than the US. So we're actually getting results. I mean, we've, we've made commitments, and you've made exactly the right point. Quite simply, $20 billion is not enough to do what's been suggested. This is something I used to work in, something I used to do for a living. They are miles off. So when it comes to the election, Paul, the question for each voter to determine is a, do you believe them, and b, do you think that'll actually become a reality, and c, will the opposition, an Anthony Albanese led opposition actually keep the lights on? We talked about aluminium and what they need. Yes, they need an affordable supply, but it needs to be reliable for their continuous operation and the idea that they can just punt in and out of the electricity system and still remain viable in this country is wrong.
MURRAY: So Andrew, again, just, just that fundamental point about rewiring the nation. Is the CSIRO wrong? It's only $990 billion difference.
LEIGH: I'm not sure what the CSIRO has modelled. We're talking about putting $20 billion into things like interconnectors, making sure that we're joining up the east coast grid. Sure, there will be continual work to be done over the course of coming decades. But I don't think anyone imagines that we won't be better off for joining up the east coast grid. And let's go back again, Paul, to who endorses Labor's policy. This is a policy endorsed by business and unions, and that's what an Albanese Government will deliver: business and unions working cooperatively together, ending the climate wars, creating jobs, driving down power prices, and ensuring that Australia meets our emissions targets. Now we are ranked bottom of the world in a whole range of climate policy indices. I don't think anyone seriously imagines that the rest of the world looks at Australia and says, ‘well, you're a shining example as to how to reduce your emissions’-
MURRAY: But China can do what it does till 2030. But, but somehow we're gonna, we're gonna- remember IPA researchers saying that yeah what, within 16 days the total output of Australia is replaced by what China does, you know, in, that quickly. That, that's reality, right. And-
LEIGH: Australia is one per cent of world output, we’re about one-third of one percent of world population, but we still make a contribution to international peacekeeping. We still make a contribution to foreign aid. We still step up on big global challenges. We don't behave like a global litterbug, saying, ‘well, we can just throw our garbage wherever we like and other people will pick it up’. We contribute our fair share, and that's what Labor's policy does-
MURRAY: Isn't that the whole point, that we are already doing that?
MURRAY: That we are already beating countries like, beating countries like Canada and have to deal with the reality that if you want first world wages, that are going to be higher, to have a manufacturing sector here, that it means you compete with places like China when it comes to pollution, who can do whatever they want till 2030.
LEIGH: There's an easy test as to whether Australia is stepping up to the plate. When Boris Johnson held climate meetings, he didn't even give Scott Morrison the chance to address them because he knew, as other advanced countries do, that Australia hasn't been pulling our weight. But the thing is, we don't have to suffer in doing that. We can actually benefit from those clean energy jobs, from those lower power prices. So we're missing out on a great opportunity, which is why business is so enthusiastic about Labor’s plan-
MURRAY: I’ve no doubt the Chairman's Lounge is loving it, but the customer is all I care about. They're the ones watching us right now.
LEIGH: Me too, absolutely. And they’re the ones who will benefit-
[inaudible - guests speaking over each other]
PAUL: Well, we'll wait, watch and see. Alright, let's talk about, let's talk about the supply chain. Because this is something that we've all seen over summer. There's no sort of, you know, just like I talked about lefties with their magical sort of Jedi mind trick, you can't see it. I'm not going to pretend that you can't see that it's been tougher to get things moving around the joint in the next little while. Now whether that is about our connectedness to the rest of the world, blocks all over the rest of the world, whether it's about a million people being in isolation when it comes to COVID. I'll take that over a lockdown, though. Keith, what is the plan? How do we make sure that the next month is better than the previous month? Because again, we can't pretend that it hasn't been noticeable around the country.
PITT: It's been very challenging. If we look at some of the fundamentals in terms of international trade, the cost of 40 foot containers. I mean, I got a report this week just gone, $20,000 US. I mean, I'd heard seven and eight and 10 and 12 and 14,000. But 20 is just off the scale. So there's some challenges there. We know we've had significant issues around absenteeism. It's been running at about 20 per cent. That's coming back quickly. And the fundamental here is pretty straightforward. If you're sick, stay home. If you're not sick, go to work. We need you to be in your jobs and delivering the things that every Australian needs every day. And that's improving rapidly over, over the last few days and in coming days, it will get better still. I know there's been a combination around the RAT tests, for example. There are millions that have been delivered in the last week, literally. There'll be millions this week, they'll be millions next week, and that shortfall will be addressed in the very short term. But we do need our economy to keep moving and I'll come back to my portfolio, Paul. The resources sector has been absolutely outstanding. I mean, we've seen media reports today, and I've made some comments as well around Australia's gas supply because we are reliable. We are recognised around the world for our logistics and supply chains, the fact that we continue to deliver regardless of a worldwide pandemic, regardless of what's happening in other nations. And we have almost single handedly kept the lights on in a number of other countries. And I once again want to recognise those hard working men and women. They're out there in their high vis and their hard hats and their boots. They're doing it tough, and you and I have talked about this before, many of them been away for many, many months. And the results speak for themselves. Record exports, some $379 billion is expected this year. And that is how we pay for roads and schools and hospitals, and not through tax increases.
MURRAY: Andrew, you won the fake coin toss in my head just before the show, so you get the final say.
LEIGH: People know in Australia over the last few weeks, it's been easier to catch COVID than to get a RAT. The fact is the lack of rapid antigen tests is just the latest step in Scott Morrison’s bungling of the response to COVID. We had the slowest vaccine rollout in the world, now we've got one of the slowest booster rollouts in the world. The bungling of quarantine-
LEIGH: We've had more and more problems with COVID through the community. And the fact is that the lack of rapid antigen tests means that businesses can't be asking their workers to simply take a test before they come in. That option hasn't been available, and that's why when I went to my local supermarket this afternoon, there were signs up apologising for the lack of food on the shelves. We shouldn't be in this situation. But the Prime Minister again doesn't hold a hose, doesn’t give a RAT's, isn’t willing to take the steps that are necessary in order to control the pandemic - which starts with making sure you get access to rapid antigen tests. You've got a company in Brisbane that is exporting rapid antigen tests to the other side of the world because it doesn't have an Australian Government willing to buy their output. That is a national scandal. That they were striking those deals back in February, no interest from the federal government. The Australian Medical Association-
PITT: I think they want to make sure-
[inaudible – guests talking over each other]
LEIGH: And they just haven't stepped up on RATs, as they didn't step on the step up on vaccinations, as they didn't step up on quarantine. And Australians-
MURRAY: I love the quarantine one. I love the quar- I love- Look, I'm fine with talking points, but the quarantine one always does my head in. Last time I checked-
LEIGH: No new purpose built quarantine.
MURRAY: What, so you would agree with me that the quarantine failed in Victoria in 2020, which of course led to 800 people dying. They ran that quarantine system different than any other state in the country. Andrew.
LEIGH: Pick up the Constitution, Paul. Quarantine is there as a federal responsibility. Scott Morrison wants to duck and weave and dodge responsibility for everything. The Constitution’s got it down in black and white. Quarantine is a federal responsibility-
[inaudible – guests talking over each other]
LEIGH: -no purpose built facilities being put in place at a scale that we needed to keep the pandemic at bay.
MURRAY: Alright, lads. Do appreciate it. Keith, it'll be your turn to go last next week. Alright. Thank you, lads. Do appreciate it.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.