E&OE TRANSCRIPT – SUBJECTS: Upper Hunter by-election; Gas; Energy.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI, HOST: I did want to speak, even briefly if it has to be, to Richard Marles, who’s the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, following the absolute trouncing that federal, that Labor- I’m sorry, state Labor – there in New South Wales underwent, there in the upper Hunter. And of course, it’s called into question now the leadership of the New South Wales Labor leader, Jodi McKay. But a broader question now, and it’s one that’s been raised yet again by Joel Fitzgibbon from the Labor Party, about how the party is losing its base and how it gets it back. Richard Marles, good to talk to you. Good morning.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Virginia. How are you?
TRIOLI: I’m well, thank you. Why did the Labor Party lose so badly? Why did its Labor vote- your primary vote plummet to 21 per cent in the upper Hunter? What happened?
MARLES: Well, I mean, it’s obviously a state by-election. There’s a lot of lessons to be learnt there. And I think Labor at a state level- and certainly we take all of these results seriously ourselves as well – but it’s a state by-election, there are a lot of independents that were running. The Nationals won it, and they- they’ve held that seat for a very, very long period of time. And so in that sense, the result was not particularly a surprise-
TRIOLI: Really, it’s not a surprise that your primary vote falls to that? Joel Fitzgibbon is not right when he says, ‘the Labor brand is in trouble.’?
MARLES: Well, when you have a lot of independents running and many more minor party candidates than you would have at a general election, that necessarily sprays the primary vote, I mean, that – that’s what happens. But if you go into it in, in detail that the – you know, Muswellbrook where our candidate was based, which is a coal town, our vote went up. In Singleton, which is where the One Nation candidate was, who was a publican, his vote went up. I mean, there’s a lot of local issues, which were at play here. And so obviously, we take these results seriously, and we have a good look at them. But I certainly wouldn’t be racing to conclusions that this has particular implications at a federal level. And obviously, state Labor, you know, will need to work through this themselves.
TRIOLI: I wanted to just press you on that because that’s the interesting challenge, as Joel Fitzgibbon and others are posing it now. He says, ‘you have to be clearly in support of the coal mining industry in order to win,’ and he’s speaking federally here. But of course, there’ll be Victorian Labor voters listening right now, Richard Marles, and looking at that vote in New South Wales, voters who reject new fossil fuel driven energy and committed to climate change, who do not understand their once fellow Labor voters, if that’s how they feel. So how do you speak to both of them?
MARLES: Well, it’s a good question. And it’s really important that we speak with one voice to the whole nation. I think that’s a critical first step-
TRIOLI: When you say it’s a good question, do you mean it’s a hard one to answer?
MARLES: Well, this is a difficult area, I’d certainly concede that. But there’s an answer to this question. I mean, we as a party have been committed to action on climate change for as long as climate change action has been an issue. Bob Hawke was talking about this in 1990. For as long as I’ve been in Parliament, it has been front and centre in terms of what we have been about. But even if you look at the most aggressive and optimistic timeframes in terms of reducing carbon emissions, mining coal, and the coal industry will continue to play a part in our economy for a long time to come. Now coal miners who participate in that industry do a wonderful job, they contribute to our economy. It’s right to celebrate them. And it’s right to be on their side. And we are.
TRIOLI: Except- sorry to jump in there we are short of time. But that’s the rub, isn’t it? Because if you pursue with that line, you alienate then a Victorian voter- Labor voter in particular – you chase them to the Greens, if you have those views.
MARLES: I don’t accept that. I think what matters is that we speak truth. And we and we talk to what’s actually happening here. Virginia, there’s been one period in our nation’s history where we’ve managed to decouple the rise in emissions from economic growth, and that was during the Gillard Government. Between 2010 and 2013 emissions fell, and yet our economy continued to grow- that was what we were seeking to do- it was a great Labor achievement. It’s a great achievement of that government. During that period, we were mining coal. During that period, there was a coal industry. And during that period, we were celebrating coal miners. So it’s actually possible to do both-
TRIOLI: But the world has moved on. And particularly Labor voters have moved on.
MARLES: Well, again, I don’t necessarily accept that. I mean, yes, in the journey towards zero net emissions by 2050, every year as we go forward, brings new developments, and one of the big developments here of course, is that renewables are now the cheapest form of energy in terms of building new energy. We need to support that, we need to let the market be our guide here.
TRIOLI: Richard Marles, I’m sorry our time is so short-
MARLES: That’s alright.
TRIOLI: But it’s great to talk to you albeit briefly. We’ll get you in the studio sometime soon.
MARLES: I look forward to it, Virginia.