The great tragedy of the Turnbull Government - Transcript, Sky AM Agenda





SUBJECTS: Renewable energy, Bennelong by-election.

TOM CONNELL: Welcome back to the program, joining me now is Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. There's a report today by the Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel saying that an easy and painless way to get to your 50 per cent renewable target would be rooftop solar with batteries, what do you think about this?

SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER, ANDREW LEIGH: 50 per cent renewables by 2020 is eminently achievable for Australia. It will mean lower power prices, lower emissions and more jobs in renewables. There's a range of ways we can look to get there. We need to bring on more wind and solar, we need certainty in the system – which we haven't had under the Turnbull Government – and then we need to be open to a range of generation options.

CONNELL: So, less about the grid and more about homes? And maybe some more subsidies there?

LEIGH: There will certainly be a role for batteries, there's a variety of ways of doing this of course. You can have typical batteries of the kind that Tesla is building in South Australia, you can have batteries which involve hydro which is a form of ‘wet battery’ or you can get the same effect by joining up to a national grid. The more interconnectors you have, the more you're able to have wind in one area making up for a lack of solar in another.

CONNELL: We've got the National Energy Guarantee set to come to a head this week with the COAG meeting. Are you watching this from the stance where if there is agreement, we like some of the modelling that's coming out, you're ready still to come on board?

LEIGH: We've just got to see more detail, Tom. This is an 8 page document which is attempting to be all things to all people. It's attempting to say that coal is a form of dispatchable power against every bit of scientific evidence I have seen. It looks like there is a carbon price embedded in there but it's not quite clear how it will work and it's attempting to provide some measure of energy security which is certainly needed in the system. But, we need to get beyond what my friend and colleague Mark Butler calls ‘The Climate Wars’ into a set of clear bipartisan systems in which we just get the relative prices right.

CONNELL: So to that end, you're agnostic about this policy? I understand the concerns you've outlined but you are watching this with an open mind?

LEIGH: Watching it like a hawk. But, we would love if the Coalition came where the scientists and economists have been for decades. Let's remember that an emissions trading scheme was pioneered by George HW Bush, a Republican President. They dealt with acid rain in the US splendidly – low cost and made sure they got the environmental outcome. There’s no reason that people on the left or right should be scared about market based approaches. It’s just the simplest way of getting lower energy prices, lower emissions and more renewables jobs.

CONNELL: We’ll see what comes out of it. Interested yesterday as well, Bill Shorten was at a big launch – it wasn’t the Queensland state Labor launch, it was Kristina Keneally. Is this a sign you think you can topple the Government in Bennelong?

LEIGH: Even Bill can’t be in two places at the same time. I’m sure he would have loved to have been at both launches, but look – Kristina Keneally is a fabulous candidate. Somebody who embodies the best response to nasty right wing populism. Of course, your viewers would know her as a terrific host of Sky in the past, but she’s a former leader in NSW and I think the people of Bennelong – having had a prime minster and a parliamentary secretary as their local member – want somebody who is not just a great on-the-ground representative, but can also make a big contribution to the national policy debate.

CONNELL: Sure, you said he can’t be in two places at once, sure – but he’s chosen Kristina Keneally. Is this is a sign Labor sees this as possibly the first step in toppling the Government if it costs them their majority?

LEIGH: We’re the underdog, but gosh – if you’ve got to be the underdog, why not have a candidate like Kristina? She’ll make a strong case for the progressive policies Labor stands for, from strong Medicare to investment in schools, as she did during her time as Premier. But she’ll also be somebody who’ll be there to listen. You see that just in her direct engagement with voters in Bennelong. You would know her well as somebody who is familiar here at Sky. She is a knockabout person who’s willing to take up any issue, big or small, for the people of Bennelong.

CONNELL: She is. She’s fair game now though, I’m not interviewing her so I won’t have a crack. Can I just ask you finally - would Labor, if the Government tried to continue on after Bennelong with the guarantee of supply, would that be fair enough? You’d be nowhere near a possible majority. They’d be 75 plus one. Is that a tenable situation?

LEIGH: I think we’re jumping ahead of ourselves there, Tom-

CONNELL: Not very far. This is not a crazy hypothetical.

LEIGH: To say ‘what happens when the government gets into chaos and dysfunction?’ is to say ‘what has happened with the chaotic and dysfunctional Turnbull Government?’-

CONNELL: But what happens if they lose the by-election? Is that a tenable situation, to govern like that?

LEIGH: They would continue to lurch from crisis to crisis, Tom, and that’s the great tragedy of the Turnbull Government – almost Shakespearean in its downfall. It’s a government which came in with so much promise and possibility, but has squandered that in endless deal making and failing to take on the big issues-

CONNELL: We’re out of time. In one word, do you want to say whether it’s tenable or not?

LEIGH: I doubt it very much.

CONNELL: Andrew Leigh, thanks for your time today.

LEIGH: Thanks Tom.


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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.