SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION WITH PETER STEFANOVIC

SUBJECTS: Climate change; Government divided on climate; Labor’s National Broadband Network announcement; Morrison’s economic failures.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well the Labor Party is gearing up to announce an emissions reduction target ahead of next year’s election – that’s according to the Herald Sun this morning. Joining me live now, here in the studio for a change, Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, Richard Marles. Richard, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning.

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Great to be here, Pete.

STEFANOVIC: So can you confirm that 40 percent is your target for 2030?

MARLES: Well people will hear our plans in good time. What is clear is we are committed to meaningful action on climate change. People know that about the Labor Party, we’ve been committed to that for decades, and it was years ago now that we committed to zero net emissions by 2050. And we’ll make clear our plans before the next election. The real question here is, where is the Government at? Because, you know, they say they’ve committed to zero net emissions by 2050. But we really see no commitments, we see no plans, their heart’s not in it and they’re a party which is fundamentally divided.

STEFANOVIC: But 40 percent, is that wrong?

MARLES: You will see all of our-

STEFANOVIC: -it wasn’t a denial!

[LAUGHTER]

MARLES: Well, you’re just going to have to wait.

STEFANOVIC: Right.

MARLES: But, you know, like, we’re not governing at the moment. When there is the prospect of us governing after the next election, people will be really clear what our plans are to get to zero net emissions by 2050. But you know that Labor is committed to meaningful action on climate change, that’s what we’ve been about. No one has any idea where the Government’s at and what they actually will do.

STEFANOVIC: Well, the Government is 26-28 percent of 2005 levels, but it’s looking like it’s going to be 35 percent…

MARLES: Yeah, I mean, is it 26, is it 35? But there are no real commitments from this Government. What you see is a massive fight inside the government party room, particularly between the Nats and the Liberals. And as a result we’ve got a government which is fundamentally divided.

STEFANOVIC: But will your 2030 targets at least be more ambitious than 35 percent?

MARLES: Well again, you’re going to have to wait and see, we made clear that we felt the Government – what the Government was taking to Glasgow – was not enough. But we will make our position really clear in good time. But you know you’ll get meaningful action out of the Labor Party.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, is it going to be, as the Business Council of Australia hopes to be, somewhere around 46 percent or 50 percent? This is my last go!

[LAUGHTER]

MARLES: We can do this in a number of ways, people will just have to wait and see, but you will get an answer from us. It will be meaningful commitment and action on climate change when it comes to Labor, you don’t get that from this Government.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. NBN, you’re making an announcement today, some $2.4 billion worth of an injection into NBN. So can you say, or can I ask, how that’s going to work? That’s a question that Paul Fletcher has posed this morning.

MARLES: Yeah well again, Anthony will be outlining this in more detail in a few hours so I don’t want to steal his thunder. But I think the point to make here is that, you know, to be a modern country, you need a first-rate NBN. And what we’ve seen over the last eight years on this Government is billions of dollars being spent in rolling out copper. I mean, it beggars belief! And I think what has happened with the pandemic is the process by which our lives have been put online has, in a sense, been accelerated. People have seen the benefits of being able to work from home. I think various parts of the country, particularly regional Australia, has seen the real opportunities of being able to connect to the world. But you need to have a first-rate broadband in order to do that. And we haven’t got that right now. So we’re committed to that, we’re committed to it being in public ownership, and we’ll be announcing our plans this morning.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, if you win the election next year, will rates and petrol prices go up?

MARLES: Ha! Well again, what we’re seeing here is the Liberal Party going through its bag of tricks and trying to pull out the, you know, the playbook in terms of scare campaigns around the economy-

STEFANOVIC: -well it’s the election now, get ready for it, there’s more to come!

MARLES: And what you know is that with Scott Morrison, you have a first-rate producer of lines, but somebody who really has done very little in terms of governing the country. And this one is astounding. I mean, last month alone, in October we saw record average petrol prices in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. So that’s the record of this Government. I mean, under this Government, we have seen record low wage increases over the course of the last eight years. We’ve got a wage decline, in real terms, baked in over the next four years. I mean, that that is the economic record of this Government. So, you know, if Scott Morrison wants to walk down this path, let him. Because the simple question that people need to ask themselves is ‘are they better off after eight years of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government or not?’ And that’s a really clear answer.

STEFANOVIC: Rates will go up though, I mean, we heard it from Governor Lowe yesterday. They’re going to be going up sometime in 2024 possibly, probably even before then. But banks are going to move regardless. And when it comes to fuel, I mean, isn’t that set by the international markets anyway?

MARLES: So a whole lot of this is beyond the realm of what a future Labor government might do.

STEFANOVIC: It’s not going to matter who’s in government, they’re going to go up?

MARLES: Well, can I say the economy matters and this Government absolutely owns the question around record low wage growth. I mean, in terms of what movement or lack of movement on wages, this Government has presided over an economy which is not delivering real wages to Australians.

STEFANOVIC: That’s true.

MARLES: And that is because, you know, we have seen productivity go through the floor, and that’s absolutely on this Government.

STEFANOVIC: But our economy, to be fair to the Government, has done quite well through the pandemic compared to other nations. I mean, you’re looking at the US it’s got inflation somewhere in excess of 6 percent at the moment, we’re nowhere near that.

MARLES: Well, as I say, I think if you look at where wages are as against the cost of living, there’s a whole lot of Australians who would beg to differ on that question. But if economic management is the grounds on which this Government wants to fight the next election, well we’re very happy to do that. The economic record of this Government, in truth, has been woeful. Productivity going through the floor, debt and deficit growing – and that was before the pandemic hit – and real wage decline over the next four years. That’s what they have to show for themselves.

STEFANOVIC: Just a quick one here, President Xi and Joe Biden speaking yesterday, it’s a move towards soothing tensions. We’re not sure whether that’s going to happen or not, because there’s still the red – both have a red line over Taiwan. Does that change – should that change our approach at all?

MARLES: Look, I think we’ve got our own set of strategic circumstances to consider. I mean, it is fair to say that the world looks safer when China and America are in a dialogue. So it certainly shapes, in a very big way, the strategic circumstances that we face. But fundamentally, I mean, the things that we need to balance is this: you know, China is our largest trading partner on the one hand. On the other hand, there are a lot of challenges that China represents for Australia, and we need to be making sure that we are ready and prepared for them. And again –

STEFANOVIC: Well the announcement today, extra tech – quantum tech – I have no idea what quantum tech is, but it sounds pretty fancy!

MARLES: Well, it’s really good that the Prime Minister has discovered some words which are connected to science. But if you want to look at the critical technology that we need in defence, it’s a successor submarine to Collins. When this Government came to power that was meant to be in place by the mid 20s, in just a couple of years’ time. They have opened up an unforgiveable capability gap, where we are now not expecting a successor submarine to Collins for another 20 years. Now, given the complexity of our strategic circumstances at the moment, that is an epic fail. And this Government will be judged by history incredibly negatively for allowing that-

STEFANOVIC: -but cyber-warfare is a big deal, you know that-

MARLES: -of course it is! And look, these are absolutely technologies which need to be developed. Again, the question there is ‘what money has this Government put into public research?’ And the answer is they’ve cut it. Have they really dedicated themselves to defence science? And I don’t see any of that over the last eight years. It’s one thing to have a speech of this kind today. But Scott Morrison needs to be judged on his actions, and when it comes to the question of science, and developing science and turning science into jobs, this is one of the worst governments we’ve had in our history.

STEFANOVIC: Richard Marles, we’re out of time, good to see you in person though. Thanks for your time, we’ll talk to you soon.

ENDS

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