SUBJECT/S: Barnaby Joyce leading Scott Morrison on Climate Change; Anthony Byrne
TOM CONNELL, HOST: Perhaps we’ll see the next election not one dominated by climate change policies in Australia. The two major parties have the headline policy the same, in terms of net zero 2050, after a deal of sorts was announced- details to come between The Nationals and the Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Joining me live is Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles, for more on this. Thanks for your time, what have you made of the developments over the past 24 hours?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, I think it raises more questions than it answers, Tom. I mean, I’m unsure as to really whether there has been a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 from The Nats. They still talk about not wanting to describe it as a target. We’ve got no idea as to what the price has been paid here by Scott Morrison-
CONNELL: We might find out soon.
MARLES: Well, we certainly don’t know now. One hopes we do find out exactly what has been provided to The Nationals in all of this. But I think the one thing that we have learnt is that the person calling the shots in this government is Barnaby Joyce. He’s the ringmaster, he is the person whose tune Scott Morrison is dancing to-
CONNELL: Is that true though? Barnaby Joyce is personally opposed to this, from what we understand and it’s still happening. And he also recognised the PM ultimately has authority along with Cabinet.
MARLES: We have all been watching the circus, which is The National Party, including Scott Morrison. Scott Morrison has been watching it as well. This is not a Prime Minister who is providing leadership. This is not a Prime Minister, who is in charge. And here we are, within a week of Glasgow, the Prime Minister going to the COP meeting, and it’s still not clear whether or not his whole government, his Deputy Prime Minister is actually committed to net zero by 2050-
CONNELL: He says he is committed, he says that’s what the party room says, that’s what the party’s going with.
MARLES: There’s a whole lot of weasel words around whether we’re talking about whether this is an aspiration, whether they hope to get there, what this actually means. And as I say, we don’t know what the price is. So, for me there’s a whole lot of questions that are being raised here, we don’t have the answers to them. But what we do know is that the person who’s calling the shots here is Barnaby Joyce.
CONNEL: The price spoken about is in terms of regions. What Barnaby Joyce said is we’ve made a deal to make sure the regions are better off and never worse off. Is that a position you agree with?
MARLES: Well, regional Australia needs to make sure that we have a strong economy. And moving to a position of net zero emissions by 2050 is how we do that, because unless we’re doing that, we risk the country being left behind. You know, I live in regional Australia and the electorate that I represent absolutely needs to have the cheap energy that is going to come from Australia really developing its renewable energy resource, and not just using it but being the leader in the technology of it. And being the leader in the export of it through the hydrogen industry. I mean, this is how we make sure that we stay ahead of the curve, how we make sure that we are not being left behind, and regional Australia will miss out, just as the rest of the country will if our economy gets left behind by not walking down this path.
CONNELL: So, and everyone understands there are opportunities for the regions and no one’s suggesting lets punish them unduly, but it’s a long road to get to 2050. We don’t know what it’s going to entail. There could obviously be costs for Australia for other countries. Why should the region’s be exempt from that?
MARLES: Well, there are opportunities for the regions and obviously we need to be managing this process. But you know, right now we don’t- we really have nothing from the government about how it sees itself getting to net zero-
CONNELL: We don’t have that from Labor either.
MARLES: Yeah, we’re not governing, Tom. And we’ve made it- but can I just answer that- we’ve made it really clear that before the next election, before the next opportunity that we have to be governing in this country that we spell out- and we will- a clear pathway from this moment through to getting net zero emissions by 2050.
CONNELL: Okay, but just on that principle in terms of the regions, are they special? Or is every Australian deserving a right of well, we won’t put undue costs on to you. Because if we say, there can never be a cost ever for the regions, and there is a cost overall, that goes on to every other voter and they’ll say, well, why am I punished because I live in a city?
MARLES: Look, I mean, well I do coming from regional Australia feel the special nature of regional Australia. But every Australian citizen stands equal, and we need to be making sure that we have a position which is fair for all, and one that that can be a benefit to all. But at the heart of that means making sure that we have an economy which is modern, which is seeking to be ahead of the curve. And that has always been the case. I mean, we’ve been making this case for a very long time now. And in part, it obviously is about Australia playing its part in the global challenge of dealing with the question of climate change. But a large part of this has been making sure that we have an economy which is ahead of the curve, which takes the advantages of it and that’s particularly through the development of renewable energy.
CONNELL: A couple of other issues to work through. I will talk about 2030 with you, but perhaps closer to the time and once we know the government’s projection might be more relevant then. But we have heard through IBAC, this keynote speaker fundraiser in 2016, you were the keynote speaker, Anthony Byrne says- your federal colleague- money was used for branch stacking for memberships. Did you have any knowledge of that at all?
MARLES: No, I didn’t have any knowledge. I spoke at that event, and, you know, others had spoken at that same event in – in years past, but I wasn’t aware of that.
CONNELL: Okay, so given that Anthony Byrne says that, basically everybody knew about where that money was going that was there. Do you feel betrayed that you weren’t informed?
MARLES: Look, I mean, there’s been a whole lot in this process that has obviously surprised me, and that goes right back to June of last year, when a lot of these issues were first aired in the media. I guess I make this point Tom; from that very first moment, Anthony Albanese acted very clearly in terms of the biggest intervention in the Victorian branch that we’ve seen in the Victorian branch’s history. And that intervention is still in place-
CONNELL: It also protected Anthony Byrne.
MARLES: Well let me just finish. We saw a review that was instituted by Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin, which has seen a significant audit of the membership and many, many people removed from the roll of the ALP. And now obviously, we’ve got the IBAC process, and I don’t intend to provide a running commentary of that, but it will play its part and it’s job.
CONNELL: Okay. But you went to this event, you gave a speech, and in hindsight, apparently, everyone was sitting there saying, oh, we’re just raising some money for some branch stacking. Do you feel deceived to be asked to give that speech and not be told about it?
MARLES: Well, I, I obviously didn’t know what was happening with that. It was a surprise to me when it was first suggested that that’s what that meeting or what that dinner was. And certainly, if I’d had any notion that that’s what it was, then I wouldn’t have been speaking at it.
CONNELL: And do you think Anthony Byrne still should be viewed as a whistle-blower?
MARLES: Well, Anthony’s evidence has been very important, obviously, in the IBAC process, that was something that the Commissioner himself made clear. Anthony has made the very difficult decision of stepping down from the Intelligence Committee and given his long service on that, I know how difficult that would have been for him. You know, his position in relation to his staff is currently being reviewed. That’s where it’s at.
MARLES: I don’t intend to give a running commentary-
CONNELL: But he was whistleblowing about something he was partaking in. Is someone still a whistle-blower in that situation?
MARLES: Well, I think we ultimately end up splitting hairs on terms. I mean, that’s-
CONNELL: That’s pretty simple.
MARLES: I don’t intend giving running commentary on it. I mean, the Commissioner made his own statement in relation to Anthony Byrne’s evidence, it is what it is.
CONNELL: But he won’t- they won’t rule on branch stacking- that’s something he’s confessed to. It’s black and white. Right?
MARLES: Well IBAC is considering this matter. Anthony Byrne’s, given the evidence that he has. It has obviously been important evidence, and the Commissioner made that clear.
CONNELL: Should his status be at least reassessed before the election as to whether he runs under the Labor banner.
MARLES: Well, Anthony himself has made the point that he will consider his own position when-
CONNELL: Right and that’s fine, but he might say I am going to run?
MARLES: Well, I think we’ve got to let the IBAC process play out and I’m not about to pre-empt any of that now.
CONNELL: Richard Marles, thanks for your time today.
MARLES: Thanks, Tom.