SUBJECTS: US Election; Energy; China Trade; letter from ASIO to parliamentarians, Petition for Royal Commission into Murdoch Media
PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Richard Marles is Shadow Defence Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. Richard Marles, welcome.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good afternoon Patricia. How are you?
KARVELAS: Good. Is Joe Biden’s victory evidence that Labor can win government with a unified, progressive climate change policy?
MARLES: Well, I think we are very focussed on our next election and doing everything we need to make sure that we win that election. I wouldn’t want to overstate the significance of the American election on the other side of the world, we’ve got our own path to walk. But it is certainly a very welcome sign that Joe Biden has announced upfront that he will be taking the United States back into the Paris Accord and from the point of view of tackling climate change at a global level. This is profoundly important and it is something that we very much welcome.
KARVELAS: Ok, you say you don’t want to overstate it. Mark Butler, Penny Wong on your side of politics say that that is the message from that election. You don’t think it is the key message?
MARLES: I think what is really clear is that Joe Biden went to an election with a set of policies in relation to meaningful action on climate change, and more than that, talking about the way in which the transition to a lower carbon economy can be a process which gives rise to jobs. That is a message we have been making loud and clear for as long as I have been in the Parliament.
KARVELAS: Sure, but you haven’t had electoral success even if you have been making the point. That is the key part of the question, making the argument, winning votes after making the argument.
MARLES: I think since I have been involved in politics, there have been moments where we have had success. Back in 2007, I think it was a key component of winning the election back then under Kevin Rudd. But at the end of the day, we come forward to the Australian people with a clear sense of who we are and what we are on about and we have been about dealing with the issue of climate change for decades. Bob Hawke was talking about this back in 1990. It is fundamental to who we are-
KARVELAS: Ok, but –
MARLES: And it’s what we will argue, and if the fundamental question you are asking is whether or not it is possible to present those policies in a way which wins support, absolutely that is my view and has been for a long time irrespective of the outcome in the United States.
KARVELAS: Is Joel Fitzgibbon then, right when he says policy overreach on climate change is a recipe for disaster?
MARLES: Joel Fitzgibbon is speaking as the Shadow Minister for Resources and doing a fantastic role in that job and doing what you would he expect him to do and that is to speak up on behalf of critical industries in this country such as the gas industry, which is of course a critical industry in this country, and speaking up on behalf of the people who are in it. And that’s –
KARVELAS: Do you agree – Ok, that is his job – you are the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. My question is, do you agree with his warning?
MARLES: The point I would make is that it is completely possible and consistent to be supporting fossil fuel industries which are going to be around for a significant time to come and to support the people in them while maintaining a position that we need to get to, we need to see meaningful action on climate change and that includes getting to a point of net zero emissions by 2050 which is the fundamental commitment we make but also the fundamental commitment that comes out of the Paris Accord.
KARVELAS: But you can’t keep supporting those industries, Richard Marles if you want to get to net zero emissions, right? At some point, you have to make a call, you can’t kind of go, “ yeah, we can have both.” You can’t achieve net zero emissions without actually getting rid of fossil fuel industries in this country?
MARLES: We made clear, that we believe in getting to – that we are committed to getting to net zero emissions by 2050.
KARVELAS: And what happens in the interim? Kevin Rudd said you would need to, he was on Insiders yesterday. I’m sure you’re across that. He said you will need to articulate that ambition for 2035, before the election, will you be outlining where you’re going to be in 2035 before the election?
MARLES: We will be really clear in the policies we will take to the next election and they are going to be completely consistent with Australia’s obligations in respect of the Paris Accord and one of those obligations is to have a medium-term target. And so we will be setting out our policies before the next election but I just want to make the point, Patricia, to suggest that there is not going to be a place for the gas industry and indeed the coal industry for decades to come, is just not right. And so we do support those industries and we support the people within them and we support that consistently with a view that we want to see Australia achieve net zero emissions by 2050 –
KARVELAS: Malcolm Turnbull, the former Prime Minister who was also on Insiders yesterday, said this gas-led recovery rhetoric the Federal Government, the Morrison government had been using is BS. And we know what that stands for. I don’t swear, but I am directly quoting. Is it BS?
MARLES: The issue with the policy put forward by the Morrison Government is what it means in terms of actually providing jobs in the here and now. I can talk about companies in my electorate who use gas as a feedstock, who are very critical users of that. For them, more gas coming on in the future is one thing but they actually need policy and regulatory change right now to have some form of gas reservation to enable them to continue their work in the manufacturing sector now. That is the position we have. So, what we’re saying in relation to this is there needs to be policies in relation to this delivering jobs in the here and now.
KARVELAS: Would you like to see the Biden administration work to get the Iran nuclear deal back on track?
MARLES: We have supported the Iran nuclear deal, for what it’s meant in terms of reducing Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon and it is really important that the world works together to make sure that we get to that aim.
KARVELAS: Is an easing of US/China tensions under Joe Biden likely, given the bipartisan US view of China as a strategic competitor?
MARLES: I think what we get with a Biden presidency is predictability. A feature of President Trump, which he would have said about himself, is that he was very unpredictable and I think that from the perspective of an ally of the United States, there is the predictability that will come from a Biden administration and is something which I would welcome and I think does offer the opportunity to have a more settled set of relations between the great powers. And hopefully, a more settled set of strategic circumstances for Australia. But that is not to understate the significant complexity of China doing what great powers do and that is seeking to shape the world around it. And that does present a whole lot of challenges for Australia. I don’t see them going away, but I do think that a Biden Administration is going to bring a predictability about the way in which the United States engages with the world.
KARVELAS: Should a Biden presidency give Australia more confidence to join the US in taking a more assertive position on the South China Sea?
MARLES: Our view has always been that the South China Sea is very central to our strategic circumstances, that freedom of passage and navigation through the South China Sea is completely central to our national interest when you consider that most of our trade traverses that body of water. And that as a matter of principle, every measure should be on the table in terms of asserting the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. That ought to be Australia’s position irrespective of who is president of the United States.
KARVELAS: How seriously do you take Beijing’s threats of economic retaliation for participating in the Malabar naval exercises?
MARLES: I think what is important in relation to China is that there is effort from the government to seek to get what is a very difficult situation into a better place. Again, I don’t for a moment underestimate the complexity of the situation in relation to China. But we do need in relation to trade and all that has occurred in the last week, to hear from our government about how it intends to hold the Chinese to account against the China Free trade agreement which this government signed with China. It is very important that that occurs. And the starting point of that is getting the diplomacy right. I have made the point for a while that I find it astounding that we’re seven years into this government and the government can’t point to a single personal relationship of substance between itself and our largest trading partner, the government of our largest trading partner. That is an astounding situation and I think that has got to be the starting place in terms of trying to get this relationship to a better place.
KARVELAS: What did you make of the letter on foreign interference that has been sent to politicians from the head of ASIO?
MARLES: I appreciate the information that is in that letter, is probably the first way I would answer that question. As Members of Parliament, we engage obviously with people in the community but often we are not aware of the specifics of how foreign interference would occur. I think it is good for us to understand the difference between foreign influence and foreign interference which is spelt out in that letter, which is nicely spelt out in that letter, actually. And I think the more that we can be given information about how to go about our business in a way that makes sure we are not exposed to foreign interference, the better. And so, the information that was in that letter, I think actually was very useful for Parliamentarians to hear.
KARVELAS: Just finally, Kevin Rudd’s petition has been tabled in the Parliament, calling for a media diversity Royal Commission but also really a blowtorch investigation by Royal Commission into the power of the Murdoch press in Australia. Do you personally support it?
MARLES: Well, I will let Kevin speak for himself.
KARVELAS: I didn’t ask about his view, your view?
MARLES: In terms of Labor’s views in relation to this, that is not something we are pursuing.
KARVELAS: Why not?
MARLES: But it is a petition which has garnered a lot of support and it is appropriate that it be put forward in the Parliament.
KARVELAS: But why don’t you support it?
MARLES: We will again, we will determine our own policies in relation to media ownership –
KARVELAS: And why did you determine that you don’t need an investigation?
MARLES: And what we do, going forward is something that if we need to announce before the election, we will. We obviously support a diverse media and that is a matter we have been clear about for a long time. Kevin Rudd has made his particular views clear in what he has called for.
KARVELAS: Let me politely interrupt. You say you will make your position clear, is Labor considering a Royal Commission into the Murdoch media?
MARLES: That has not been a consideration.
KARVELAS: Might it become a consideration given the support, as you say, the support it has garnered?
MARLES: I’m not going to go further down that track, Patricia. It hasn’t been a consideration.
KARVELAS: But why not?
MARLES: We have been, we have talked about our position in relation to the media over a long period of time now. This is not something we have been considering. This is something that Kevin Rudd has been pursuing in his capacity as a private citizen. I mean, I obviously note it is a significant petition in terms of those who have signed up to it and it has been presented to the Parliament appropriately. That is where the matter is at in terms of the Opposition.
KARVELAS: Thanks so much for your time.
MARLES: Thanks Patricia.
KARVELAS: Richard Marles, Shadow Defence Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.