2SM MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 26 OCTOBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Glasgow climate summit; national integrity commission
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Our #JobKeeperWarrior, we catch up with him every Tuesday, Andrew Leigh, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Marcus. It's great to be with you.
PAUL: Thank you, mate. You, too. Look, the Prime Minister, I see today, has had his speech writers performing miracles in The Daily Telegraph. 'Australia will not force resources and agricultural industry to close and will incentivize heavy manufacturers to lower emissions under the federal government's plan to reach net zero by 2050. The PM says Australia will reject any mandate to force the closure of industries.' This is news to me, considering I thought we hadn't had the detail yet of what Nationals and Liberal MPs have been discussing behind closed doors. Albo, on the program yesterday, having a bit of a swipe at Coal Pitt - I'm sorry, Keith Pitt - on the program. He, of course, is being given a pay rise, as we're still yet to hear the Coalition's long-awaited plan to make Australia carbon neutral in less than 30 years. Of course, it'll be a part of the goodie bag that Scott Morrison takes to Glasgow. What do you make of it all?
LEIGH: Well, it's always the way with the Morrison Government, isn't it, Marcus? Big announcements, lots of ads, no follow through.
Australians know that the biggest danger to the farming sector is climate change itself, with the rise of droughts and extreme weather events, the unpredictability of rainfall, our agricultural sector has a huge interest in being part of the solution on tackling dangerous climate change. We've got plants flowering earlier every year, we've got the limits of agriculture shrinking back towards the coast. A global temperature rise of 1.2 degrees for the world but 1.4 degrees for Australia again showing that we're particularly vulnerable. We don't have any of the detail around what the Government plans to do, and no sense that they're grabbing the potential future here, Marcus. When you think about how we might compete with the rest of the world, well, you can either do it by competing on wages, being a low-wage country, or you can compete on energy prices and be a cheap energy country. I certainly know which one I'd rather be.
PAUL: All the talk has been about net zero by 2050, but won't a lot of the discussion in Glasgow be about cutting back emissions by 2030, by the end of this decade, rather than 2050? I mean, if you talk about 2030, we have next to no policy.
LEIGH: You've completely nailed it. Net zero by 2050 is, for most countries, a policy they signed up to years ago: done, dusted, settled. That's how every state and territory in Australia regards it, how the major business peaks regarding it. The conversation in Glasgow is going to be what are you doing? What have you announced to do by 2030 and how are you going to step up your ambition? We know when we look around the world and we look at what policies countries have announced that they're not sufficient to keep the world below that Paris target of limiting warming to two degrees or less, so countries are going to look for more ambition. I think they're going to find Scott Morrison is sadly wanting. All of his empty rhetoric is going to fall apart in the face of people like Boris Johnson and Joe Biden who have taken serious action on climate change, and these Conservatives who've worked on this. You look at Angela Merkel, a Conservative leader in Germany, being serious about climate change for all the time that Scott Morrison has been fearmongering, spinning and doing nothing.
PAUL: All right. What happened late last week in the House of Representatives that had your lot so frustrated? It's to do with Christian Porter. There was some kind of standing order that was being challenged. Effectively, as we know, we are a democracy, last time I checked, Andrew, and it means that, you know, opposition MPs and those on the crossbench, et cetera, from whatever party should be allowed to question the government, but don't we have ongoing issues here where the member is no longer heard?
LEIGH: The Government has constantly shut down debate, Marcus. For a government that bangs its chest about free speech they're awfully happy to shut down opposition members when they're speaking. The debate last week went directly to an issue that I think all Australians should be concerned about, which is the transparency that prevents corruption. One of the ways in which we ensure that people aren't on the take in politics is we require gifts over $300 to be disclosed. I have to do that. Every one of the 151 members of the House of Representatives has to do that. But now Christian Porter thinks that he can make an end run around that with what Tony Burke's called a brown paper bag sewn together by lawyers - this idea that he sets up some sort of a vehicle into which people dump money and that vehicle pays his legal costs. It's just outrageous, and if this is allowed to continue then you can imagine anyone putting money into that, whether it's crooks or people wanting to bribe or manipulate parliamentarians. And yet the Government's voted against sending this to the Privileges Committee, voted against referring Christian Porter's behaviour there. We're going to continue to pursue it because that's what Australians expect us to do.
PAUL: Now, I know you're probably unable to answer this, but does your mob have a fair idea where this money has come from?
LEIGH: None at all. People have speculated about rich listers in Western Australia and beyond, but people don't really know - and they have a right to. If I was receiving gifts from a billionaire you'd know about that. They would be listed on the parliamentary register. That'd be true whether they were giving the money to me directly or paying my legal bill. It just can't be allowed to stand, Marcus. I certainly don't think the Prime Minister is corrupt, but he is willing to tolerate an arrangement which could enable corruption.
PAUL: Well, then why is this occurring? Why can't the standing orders, I think it's standing order 80, why can't it be challenged effectively?
LEIGH: We don't have a majority in the House of Representatives. All of the House of Reps members on the Liberal side voted to not have the matter referred to the Privileges Committee. Now, many of them were pretty uncomfortable about it. They've spoken privately to newspapers saying they're uncomfortable about it, but when it comes to Parliament they vote with Scott Morrison.
PAUL: What about Pauline Hanson and her mob?
LEIGH She could certainly make waves in the Senate, but that's not going to change the way in which the House Privileges Committee behaves. We would like to get through a National Integrity Commission, but again, that requires a government that is committed to integrity, and that ain't the Morrison Government.
PAUL: All right, so obviously, I mean, I know Pauline's a senator, and Malcolm Roberts, but there's nothing that really anybody can do in the House of Reps to have this change?
LEIGH: No, we just need Scott Morrison to actually do the right thing. What he did last week, Marcus, was unprecedented. Never in the history of the federation has the Speaker said 'there's a prima facie case for this to be referred to the Privileges Committee', and the House of Representatives has said no. Every other time when the Speaker has said 'better send it to the Privileges Committee', the House has said, 'absolutely, Speaker', and off it goes. This is Scott Morrison being the first person in the history of the federation to thumb his nose at the Speaker and to thumb his nose at the standards that ensure integrity and prevent corruption.
PAUL: Where does this place Tony Smith? He's the Speaker. He's been lauded in the job. He's the 30th and current Speaker of the House of Representatives, and by all accounts he's done a very good job. But if he's saying that this money, this blind trust, should be referred to the Privileges Committee, then surely the Government needs to listen to him. After all, he is the Speaker.
LEIGH: He is, and he's been a very good one, as you say. He's a Liberal, but he's upheld the standing orders well, and so it's a clear snub to Tony Smith, the way the Government has behaved. But most of all it's a snub to the many Australians who believe that we need an integrity commission. Now, it's not just Labor voters who say that. A majority of Liberal voters would like a national integrity commission, and as the events in New South Wales and elsewhere have demonstrated issues of integrity do arise with parliamentarians and you need an independent body to tackle them. Scott Morrison doesn't want one because he knows that his ministers would not all be standing if there was a national integrity commission.
PAUL: Alright, a federal ICAC and the push for one continues. Thank you, Andrew. Good to chat as always.
LEIGH: Thanks so much, Marcus.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra