SUBJECT/S: Net zero by 2050; Skills crisis in Australia; Australian open; Relationship with France

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: For more on this, I was joined by the Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles a short time ago. Richard Marles, welcome.


KARVELAS: Good. Labor says it will release a more ambitious 2030 target. Will it be more ambitious than 26-28 per cent or the 35 per cent projection?

MARLES: Well, I am not going to pre-empt it now but we will release our policies in the lead up to the election, which is the next time we get the opportunity to govern, where we will obviously be seeking a mandate from the Australian people. And the Australian people will be in absolutely no doubt about our pathway to achieving net zero by 2050, in all its detail. But the government are governing right now. The Prime Minister goes off to Glasgow tomorrow. He is charged with the responsibility of putting Australia’s position to the world in respect of how we achieve net zero by 2050. And what we’ve seen in the last week, frankly, is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. He has made a statement but there are no plans, there is no detail, there are no commitments because ultimately his heart is not in it.

KARVELAS: Okay, but if Labor can’t articulate an alternative, it kind of weakens your attack on the government, does it not?

MARLES: We have made it clear that we believe the current target is not ambitious enough and that the government should take-

KARVELAS: Is that the 35 per cent as well? I’m trying to figure out if it is the 2015 version or the one that apparently is going to be delivered?

MARLES: The Prime Minister made it very clear in Question Time today, as recently as that, that the target that the government has is 26-28 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030. That is what he is going to take to Glasgow. That’s what he made clear again in Question Time today and what he’s been consistently saying. And our view is that is not ambitious enough. We will make clear our position in the lead up to the next election. That is what the Australian people will expect from us. That is the next opportunity for us to govern – but they are governing right now. They have the responsibility of taking Australia’s position to the world at this really critical meeting in Glasgow, and really what we have seen in the last week has been breathtaking for the absence of anything substantive at all. Indeed, the only substantive decision that the government has made in the last week is to elevate Keith Pitt to the Cabinet, a person who does not support net zero emissions by 2050. That is literally the only decision they have made. And you cannot get to any detail that this government is putting forward in terms of how it seeks to get to net zero by 2050.

KARVELAS: Moving to your shadow portfolio; international borders will open for vaccinated Australians from November the first. When do you want to see a return of skilled workers?

MARLES: That is a good question. I think it is important that we get to a position, ultimately where we are opening the border, because the closed border has a whole lot of impacts on the country, and one of those has been an absence of the skilled migration program. But I think one of the things that comes from that, one of the lessons if you like, that we learn from the experience of having had the border shut, over the last two years is that we are simply not training enough of our own people to meet the skills requirements of our economy going forward. And in all the meetings I’m doing with various businesses, large and small across the country, what is absolutely clear is that they are facing a skills crisis. I mean, Infrastructure Australia have made clear in the last couple of days that if you look at the infrastructure projects facing the country that the government has committed to, there are more than 100,000 positions that we will not be able to fill because we don’t have the skilled Australians able to do that. And when you ask the question of, why that is the case? This government has cut $3 billion out of TAFE since it has been in office. We have got 85,000 less trainees and apprentices today than we did in 2013 and that is going to have an impact.

KARVELAS: I know you say actually training our own workers is the most important thing, but I know you also believe in skilled migration. Do you have any number in mind and when they should bring these people back given we don’t yet have all of the workers to fill these shortages?

MARLES: I’m a believer in the skilled migration program that we have had and that we had in place before COVID. There is a lot of issues around the questions of – particularly in respect of those who were on temporary visas, and Kristina Keneally has been very vocal in terms of the way Labor would proceed in respect of that. But in the broad scheme, in terms of the skilled migration program, it played – it will continue to play in the future a really important part in Australia’s development, there is no question about that. And one can say the sooner we get to that position the better, albeit, that obviously in opening up the international border, we need to do that with safety in mind for all Australians. But I come back to the point, the closure of the border over the last two years has been a very illuminating lesson for the country, and the lesson it has taught us is that we are not training enough of our own people, that’s particularly the case over the last eight years and you can directly see the funding cuts that this government have engaged in which has given rise to that.

KARVELAS: The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, says he will not be allowing unvaccinated tennis players to come to the state for the Australian Open. As a Victorian MP do support that decision?

MARLES: Well I do support the decision and I think there is a sadness that a whole lot of tennis fans are going to feel. But obviously, what other decision could the Victorian Premier possibly make? I mean, imagine the message it would send if there was going to be exemptions made for particular tennis players. I mean, we love tennis, we particularly love the Australian Open in Victoria, it’s a really important part of the calendar, we want to see the very best tennis players attending. But, when you think of all that the country has gone through, when you think of all that Victoria has gone through, the sacrifices that people have made, it is absolutely critical that the decisions that have been put in place around vaccination and vaccination rules in terms of those coming from overseas, apply to everyone. And it doesn’t matter who you are. And that has to be the decision that the Victorian Government and for that matter, the Federal Government take, no matter how painful that might be in respect of any given tennis player but there is a greater issue here and it would be sending an appalling message were any other decision to be made.

KARVELAS: The Prime Minister was asked today whether he will try to reach out to the French President, Emmanuel Macron while in Glasgow. He says they will catch up at sometime down the track. Should he be pushing for a one-on-one chat?

MARLES: I think the Federal Government has a lot of work to do in repairing what is a critical relationship for Australia. I think absolutely, the Prime Minister needs to be reaching out to President Macron. And one of the concerns I have had all along is that we don’t really hear anything from this government about the importance it places upon the relationship that we have with France. And the fact of the matter is, our relationship with France is an absolutely critical relationship. France is present in our region, France has assets in our region. There is much that we share in common and there is many things that we should be working together on in the Pacific. And when you think about the various issues of geostrategic contests that are going on around the world, France is a natural country with whom we should be working, and they matter. And this is a relationship which needs to be repaired. And the Prime Minister absolutely should be first of all articulating why France matters, and secondly, articulating how he intends to repair this relationship.

KARVELAS: Thanks so much for joining us, Richard.

MARLES: Thanks Patricia.


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