SUBJECTS: Climate change; Shadow Cabinet.
TOM CONNELL, HOST: Richard Marles the Deputy Labor Leader joins me now, so this quitting only came a few weeks after this so-called peace accord on gas. Is it disappointing all that effort went into it and then Joel quits soon afterwards?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, I think the work that we did in relation to that is still really important. I mean Joel made his position clear in relation to the career he’s had and he’s still got a career that he wants to pursue. But he had made it clear and did so to the caucus, that this was a decision that he’d made some time ago and so, you know, we will continue to work through in relation to our positions on climate change, on gas. It’s an important conversation for us to have. But I think that work was important.
CONNELL: I mean, at the time it was pretty curious, though wasn’t it, his quitting?
MARLES: No look, Joel, I think, has made this decision –
CONNELL: The start of a sitting week after a big blow up with the Leader?
MARLES: Joel had made this decision some time ago and Joel informed me about this decision a number of weeks ago. So it’s a decision that he’s made in the context of where his career is at and he has had a fantastic career, he has made a mighty contribution to our party and we are very grateful for it.
CONNELL: He hasn’t just quit, he said things that need to change. He says that frontbenchers should have more liberty to speak out on issues, particularly involving their electorate, do you agree?
MARLES: Well, I think local Members of Parliament speak about the issues within their electorate. That’s always been the case. I mean, it’s obviously important that political parties speak with one voice. So you know and that’s what we seek to do.
CONNELL: So that seems to say no, you can’t just speak out on issues.
MARLES: Well, I mean, people understand the obligations when you become a member of a Cabinet or a Shadow Cabinet and there’s a responsibility to be working through issues together, and we move forward as one. That’s what we seek to do.
CONNELL: So that call from him, you essentially disagree?
MARLES: Well, I think there is a place to be speaking in relation to your electorate and issues relating to your electorate. We all do that as local Members of Parliament, I don’t think it’s particularly remarkable –
CONNELL: You’re saying if you’re part of the Shadow Cabinet in particular, you can’t contravene what the Party is saying just because it might play well in your electorate.
MARLES: Well, decisions and discussions in Cabinets or Shadow Cabinets are collective processes we all understand that and that means you accept the position that people arrive at.
CONNELL: He’s called this morning on Sky News for Mark Butler to move on from climate portfolio. Do you agree with that call?
MARLES: No, I mean I think Mark has done a fantastic job as the Shadow Minister responsible for Climate Change and Energy, it’s obviously a very difficult area. It’s one which is constantly changing as a function of both what’s going on, on the global stage and also where we’re up to in terms of our own emissions journey as a nation, and I think Mark has done a fantastic job.
CONNELL: What makes you say he has done a fantastic job, what’s he done well in this area, that’s been good for Labor at elections?
MARLES: Well, Mark, has been across his portfolio from the day he took it on. He is the authoritative voice within our show in relation to how we move forward in relation to climate change, and it is an evolving area. And I think climate change and meaningful action on it has been central to what we have been about as a party for a very long time. Those of us who went to Bob Hawke’s memorial, were watching him talk about this issue back in 1990. How we go about it, in terms of what the pathway is, is an evolving picture. It’s an evolving picture based on, you know, the evolution of the science, where we’re at in terms of our own emissions journey, as I said, and what’s going on, on the international stage. Now, Mark has guided us through all of that now through a number of elections in terms of the policies that we’ve had, and he’s been very good.
CONNELL: So, you talk about his ability to be across all the detail, but what he has taken –
MARLES: Well more than that he’s crafted the policies that we’ve taken in relation to –
CONNELL: But have they been effective at elections, those policies?
MARLES: Look, I think they have –
CONNELL: They have?
MARLES: No, I absolutely think they have.
CONNELL: What do you base that on?
MARLES: Well, I think that we have lived true to the positions that we’ve wanted to take in relation to climate change –
CONNELL: (Inaudible). The last one was supposed to be a climate election, and Labor had this very surprising loss. How do you square that with saying this has been a successful approach at elections?
MARLES: Being a Party that has sought to act on climate change, meaningfully has been central to what we have been about from day one. And Mark has led that very successfully for us since becoming the climate change spokesperson. You make a point in relation to the 2019 election, it’s a good point, you know what, we lost, and it’s required a lot of soul searching –
CONNELL: And climate was pretty central part of it, would you agree?
MARLES: It was certainly part of that story no doubt. And there are lessons for us to, to learn in relation to that which we are seeking to do. I think one of the things that became clear to me in relation to the 2019 election, is that in terms of who we were speaking to,
you know, we’d become narrow. And I don’t think that’s actually a function of the specifics of our policy, I think it’s about how –
CONNELL: Selling the policy, not the policies is what you think?
MARLES: No, I think it’s, what I think it’s about also, who we speak to, and speak on behalf of. Now where I think we failed in 2019, was to speak on behalf of a lot of people who work in industries which have involved, which involve fossil fuels, coal, particularly in terms of the 2019 election, it’s clear that we need to be speaking on behalf of people who work in the gas industry as well. Now, that’s, that’s an important lesson for us that we must heed. And I actually think that’s what Joel has been trying to say. And it’s been an important thing to say. And I accept that in the last little while, it’s been messy in terms of what has come out from Labor. But there is a process that we’re going through, and we need to go through that process. And I think we can actually see a settled position there and the work that we did, which you mentioned at the beginning of this interview was important to that. But Tom, getting there is not going to happen without some bumps. But it’s important, and we will get there, but it’s much better that we’re going through that process and getting to a point where we can speak to the broadest range of Australians than what we see on the government side whereas there was no attempt to settle what they’re doing. I mean they’re onto the 22nd energy policy, and they’re actually governing the country at the moment. So, we’ve got work to do, we’re doing it. It doesn’t happen without some bumps and you’re witnessing them.
CONNELL: But there are going beyond bumps in the view of Joel Fitzgibbon, he thinks you would be the best alternative as a leader, do you agree?
MARLES: I think Anthony Albanese has done a remarkable job as the Leader of the Labor Party. He has led us through the most difficult period that I can remember.
CONNELL: But sometimes that’s a transitional leader isn’t it?
MARLES: No, but both in terms of dealing with, really the crushing letdown of the defeat in 2019 and it’s hard to overstate the significance of that. I mean, it’s to state the obvious. There’s a whole lot of people who imagined very different futures for themselves than the ones they’re currently living and that’s a hard reality to work through and Anthony’s led us through all of that. The election review was a really important document and let me also say, in terms of leading us through the period of COVID, you know, it’s been an incredibly challenging year for Australians all around the country and that’s obviously the focus. And it’s been difficult for oppositions.
CONNELL: It is hard to be oppositions. The murmurings now, though, he might –
MARLES: Anthony is doing a great job –
CONNELL: The murmuring now, is he might have until March, once there’s a deadline, it’s trouble, isn’t it?
MARLES: I think all of that is just people writing column inches to be frank, there is no issue here.
CONNELL: It must get your mind wandering every now and then, you’re the Deputy Leader, the logical next cab off the rank.
MARLES: Anthony has done. Look I’ll tell you my ambition. My ambition is to become the Deputy Prime Minister of this country. That’s what I really, really look forward to. The person who needs to be worried here is Mick Mac, because he’s the one I’m coming after.
CONNELL: Never want to be Prime Minister?
MARLES: I want to see Anthony Albanese become the next Prime Minister of this country and I deeply believe that is what’s going to happen. I think he’s been leading us through a very difficult period and I think he’s been doing it admirably, like incredibly well.
CONNELL: What issues do you think he’s really cut through on?
MARLES: Well, Anthony has, well, first thing is he has got us to a place, by the end of last year, where, you know, there was a sense of unity and almost, you know, after the difficulties of the 2019 election, and you know, people went into the end of last year and the beginning of this with a sense of optimism about our ability to contest –
CONNELL: But where? I’m asking what issues you think he has had cut through on do you think?
MARLES: -and that remains the case. I’ll answer that. The election review was a critically important step, he managed all of that and I think over the summer, Anthony spoke fantastically, not just for us, but for the country, in the way in which people needed a voice as they were going through the trauma of that bushfire season. We have been constructive as an opposition during the COVID-19 crisis and that’s been incredibly important for the country. And in relation to the budget reply, Anthony has announced a reforming position in respect of childcare, which has got attention all around the country, which actually is important in a time, right, like a really important piece of reform, but also sends the message that this is a moment to reimagine Australia. And it’s not good enough when you’re spending 100 billion dollars on a single night, and we get that money needed to be spent to have nothing to show for it. And so what Anthony was saying in the budget reply is we’ve actually got to do reform, which will make a difference to this country I think, he cut through on all of that.
CONNELL: Ok. We were going to talk US but what we got bogged down and other things my fault entirely, perhaps next time Richard Marles, thanks for your time.
MARLES: Thanks Tom.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.