SUBJECTS: The Coalition divided on energy policy; Vaccine rollout; a Royal Commission into Veteran Suicide.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Okay. Let’s bring in the Deputy Labor Leader now, Richard Marles joining us live from Brisbane. Richard, good to see you. Thanks for your time. So over to you. What did you make of the PM’s push last night?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, I think what’s clear from the interview with Matt Canavan, and what we’ve seen with the Prime Minister is that the government party room is at war with itself- and it’s been that way since 2013. I mean, the fight then between Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull is now being carried on by Scott Morrison and Matt Canavan And until the government party room sorts itself out, you’re not going to have settled energy policy in this country, which is obviously what we need in order to encourage the development and uptake of renewable energy. I think what we all want is for the government to actually commit to net zero emissions by 2050. I’m not sure why that’s such a hard thing to do, given that’s at the core of the Paris Accord which this government has signed up to, they need to be doing that, that’s where Labor’s at with complete unanimity on our side. And we then need to see what the pathway looks like to get there.
STEFANOVIC: Is Matt Canavan right, when he says that you can’t carve out agriculture, if you want to get to net zero by 2050?
MARLES: Well, I don’t think that’s right. And I think that we need to be not thinking about this in terms of how we harm the economy, but actually the benefits to the economy, of walking down this path. And what we need is settled policy. And we need consistent policy. And that’s, you know, what we have failed to have. And instead we’ve got the Prime Minister playing politics. I mean, you know, when I hear the Prime Minister talk about animal spirits, it’s a reminder to me of exactly what kind of a goose this Prime Minister actually is. We need not that kind of rhetoric, what we need is practical policies going forward, which map out a pathway to net zero emissions by 2050.
STEFANOVIC: What’s wrong with that rhetoric? What’s wrong with animal spirits?
MARLES: I just think you’ve got the Prime Minister out there desperately trying to turn this into a low rent political game, instead of actually sorting out the internal fight within his party room. You know, it’s actually about working out what the pathway forward is. It is about making a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. It’s about living up to the commitments that the nation has made under this government to the world through the Paris Accord. And it’s about seeing the economic opportunity that comes from the development of renewables- economic opportunity, which will see the repowering of manufacturing and industry in this country. It’s not about that kind of language and that rhetoric.
STEFANOVIC: Madeleine King said this week that Labor wont stand in the way of new coal mines. Do you believe that coal will be exported beyond 2050?
MARLES: I think coal has a significant part to play in our economy for a long time to come. And I think, you know, metallurgical coal will be part of the making of steel for a long time to come. And I think thermal coal, there is still very much a market for that overseas as well, and that’s fine. And we’ve made it absolutely clear that we see that as a critical part of the Australian economy, and that those people who work in that industry need to be celebrated for the role they’re playing in the economy of Queensland, but the economy of the nation. And so you know, it is an important part of where we’re going. At the same time; we should be developing renewable energy in this country, so that we can do what we can to get to net zero emissions, but also because that’s a cheap form of energy. And that’s the way forward in terms of repowering our industry and our manufacturing in this country- so much of which we have lost over the last eight years.
STEFANOVIC: Just a couple of quick ones, Richard, before you go; National Cabinet agreeing in principle, to speed up the rollout of AstraZeneca for those aged over 50. What’s your reaction to that? Particularly at a time, as you know, that confidence for a lot of people has been shot?
MARLES: Well, I think it does need to be sped up. But, you know, we need to not forget that the Prime Minister actually said; 4 million of us were meant to be vaccinated in March. That hasn’t happened because we have had an incredibly slow rollout of the vaccine across the country. If the Prime Minister’s got one job this year, it is to vaccinate Australia. Right now that seems imperil. It is not just a matter of speeding up the distribution of what vaccines we have, although that is very important, it’s about actually getting the supply of vaccines. And our criticism, fundamentally of the government is that last year, in the midst of their self-congratulation, they were completely complacent. And rather than placing Australia in an appropriate number of queues of the various vaccine projects that were under away at that time, they really bet the house on the manufacturing of AstraZeneca here and on it doing the lion’s share of the work of vaccinating Australia. Well, now are in a position where they’re not going to use AstraZeneca for people under 50. And that’s placed the country in a really difficult situation. You know, we risk the rest of the world, vaccinating- North America and Western Europe getting on the other side of COVID-19 while we’re being left behind, and if that happens, that’s going to have an enormously negative economic impact on the country.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, and just finally, I’ve only got a short amount of time but your role Shadow Defence- your previous role as Shadow Defence, you must be pleased, they’re pushing ahead with the Royal Commission into vets suicide?
MARLES: Look, really pleased. We’ve been calling for this for a long time now- much more than a year. It’s taken a while for the government to get there. But I’m really pleased that the government finally has. It’s a really difficult issue. The rate of veteran suicide is twice the national average. It’s a really complicated issue. It’s why we need a Royal Commission to get to the bottom of it. But this is a really important step.
STEFANOVIC: Richard Marles live from Brisbane, thanks for your time, as always, talk to you soon.
MARLES: Thanks, Pete.