SUBJECTS: COVID-19 in NSW; the need for purpose built quarantine and to vaccinate the population; Net Zero by 2050; Division within the Coalition; Brisbane Lions and Geelong Cats.
TOM CONNELL, HOST: Joining me live now is Deputy Labor Leader, Richard Marles. It’s an interesting test case, isn’t it? If New South Wales cannot lock down even with delta spreading, would you say they’ve got it right, up there? And maybe other states can follow suit?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, I think all states are trying to grapple with this situation. And, you know, I think we’ve been learning over the last 15 months now about how best to deal with this. I think New South Wales has been dealing with it pretty effectively previously. What comes through, though, from this, is that the fundamental problem, which underpins all of this, is the issue of proper quarantine system, and obviously, our failure to have a swift vaccination of our population. I mean, until those two things are in place, then we’re going to be dealing with these things frequently. And indeed, the federal government has assumed that in its budget papers, they’re imagining, we’re dealing with one of these every month.
CONNELL: The parameter originally was vulnerable Australians with the issue, hospitals not being overwhelmed. If we have at least the vulnerable Australians vaccinated, what happened to that conversation? Should we be having that again and saying, ‘well, we can’t keep locking down’?
MARLES: Well, we’re going to be living in the land of the lockdown until we have vaccinated our population. That’s the bottom line here.
CONNELL: When did it shift to all the population though? When was-
MARLES: Until we get some form of herd immunity- and whatever that number is, but it’s a big number, and that’s a number which has been discussed around the world, but it’s certainly a lot more than 3 per cent, which is where we’re at, at the moment. You know, we need to be getting our population vaccinated; that is completely clear. And until we do that, you know, we’re not in the game of having a conversation about how to move forward. And so long as we have comparatively few people vaccinated- relative to how the rest of the world is going- we’re going to be in a position where we are living in the land of the lockdown. Because the only way you can tackle this-
MARLES: Is to do what New South Wales is doing now, what Victoria was doing a few weeks ago.
CONNELL: It seems though that means the setting is that the tolerance is zero deaths, which isn’t the policy and a whole swathe of other areas, including influenza just for one.
MARLES: I think the point is this; that so long as we have a population, which doesn’t have a large degree of vaccination, and in an objective sense, that’s where we are at on this day. The vaccination program has been profoundly slow. As long as we are in that circumstance, then this disease is highly contagious, it can spread very quickly, and for people who have not been vaccinated, we know that the consequences for a significant number of people will be very dire. And that’s why we need to treat it in the way in which we are treating it. But the way we get to the other end of this is to properly vaccinate Australia. That’s not Gladys Berejiklian’s problem and that’s not Daniel Andrews’ problem. That is the job of Scott Morrison. And it is time he does his job.
CONNELL: A big conversation with the new Nationals Leader this week, which I’m sure Labor has been talking about, as well, around net zero. I mean, it’s easy to say for Labor, this is the easy part of the argument because you’ve committed to it- but you haven’t said how you get there.
MARLES: Nor are we in government. We will make our path to roadmap to net zero by 2050 very clear before we go to the next election- before we are next in a position of holding the levers of power. But this, the Liberal-National Party who are in government right now. Now, we don’t even- it’s not even clear what their ambition is. I mean they’re not even committing to net zero emissions by 2050. Despite the fact that that is really the proposition which underpins the Paris Accord to which they have signed Australia. And so, we need a clarity of purpose from the government, which we don’t have. Actually what we’ve got is division- we see with Warren Entsch’s article today. And it’s the kind of division which has been there to be honest, since the day this government came to power back in 2013.
CONNELL: The one that matters for both really is 2035. Labor’s looking at what will set there. You’ll have something before the election?
MARLES: We will articulate-
CONNELL: What will that be based on though? I mean, are you willing to say here’s a target for 2035, it’s more ambitious, it might cost the budget, or the economy a little bit, it’ll be better in the long run. Is that the sort of conversation yet, you’re willing to have?
MARLES: We’re doing a lot of work on that now. And we will we will announce all of that in good time before the election. And we want to do it so that we know exactly where the world’s at, prior to the election. I mean, part of the issue here is that the world is moving at a particular pace and we need to, you know, understand the circumstances as best we can- as we put forward to the Australian people what our proposition would be over the next three years of government post the election, in terms of getting to what needs to be the global ambition, which is our ambition of net zero emissions by 2050. The government are the ones who are governing now. Scott Morrison is governing now. It is for him to actually articulate what his mission is to start with. And then how he’s going to get-
CONNELL: And we are asking them that when they’re in that chair. So that that’s fair enough. But I’m just interested in Labor’s sort of guiding principles or guardrails. Do you think it’s incumbent on Labor, not to say this will cost the economy a bit, but to sort of compensate industries? Is that the politics in this country, that you can’t say, yes, this industry is going to be a bit worse off, that’s what we have to do?
MARLES: The guiding principle here is, firstly, to say what you seek to do, and we’ve made that clear. And we make it clear, in terms of our ambition because it is what underpins the international Accords to which Australia is now a party. And it’s also important, that as we move towards greater use of renewable energy, for example, that we are maximising the economic opportunity that’s associated with that, to actually maximising the jobs that come with renewable energy.
CONNELL: And that’s fine-
MARLES: And that’s a really important part of this as well. Now, we will, you know, we don’t shy away from the fact that there are difficult decisions as you articulate a roadmap-
CONNELL: There will be effects on industries. I guess my question is; do you think you’ll need to compensate those industries for the decision the federal government makes?
MARLES: Well, all of that are matters that we will make very clear in terms of-
CONNELL: Well what’s your view on that? Because you know, both the climate policy but the politics in Australia. Do you think if you’re going to have something more ambitious, you’ll need to say, and we’ll compensated it. So Australians aren’t scared off?
MARLES: Well, as I come back to the point that I made; you need a very clear ambition, which is the one that we’ve got. We don’t want to be left behind the rest of the world. And we don’t want to be left behind the rest of the world from an economic point of view. We need to be making sure that the employment opportunities that arise by virtue, of for example, taking up a greater use of renewable energy are opportunities that this country benefits from. You know, that forms part-
CONNELL: Does that mean, there’ll be winners and losers? Is that what you’re saying?
MARLES: Well, what I’m saying is that there are opportunities here that we need to be making sure that we don’t miss out on. But the world is moving to a position- we’re not shying away from the fact that that will be the ambition which underpins the policies that we take to the next election. And we will articulate those policies in good time-
CONNELL: But there’s been a lot of discussion of this surely, already. So have you formed a view on whether you need to win the argument you need to compensate industries?
MARLES: But I’m not- we’re going to go through our process and we’re going to announce this in good time. You know, I’m not about to ventilate that here, today. We will make sure that we have all of that in place before we go to the next election. But, you know, we have been very clear about what we’ve been on about for a very long time-
CONNELL: But The Nats seem to be saying, well, we could do it but don’t make the regions worse off. Is that a principle you agree with?
MARLES: I don’t know what The Nats are saying, I really don’t. I mean, The Nats are all over the place, as is the government.
CONNELL: Do you agree with that principle though?
MARLES: The Nats- you can’t get a coherent position from The National Party or from this government about whether they even commit to the proposition of net zero by 2050. I mean, you’ve got, you know, really important entities within regional Australia like the National Farmers Federation, who see the importance of net zero emission by 2050, from the point of view of the agricultural sector. But you don’t get any of that coherence in terms of anything that The National Party are saying.
CONNELL: We might know more soon. It’d be remiss of me not to mention, I see you’ve got effectively a Geelong tie. I found this in my desk. Big clash tonight, of course. Brisbane Lions and The Cats.
MARLES: So are we going to have a wager, Tom?
CONNELL: I’m not very confident, but I can’t turn it down on- you’ve put me on the spot now.
MARLES: Well, I reckon 20 bucks. But I just want to know how many goals you’re giving me?
CONNELL: No. Well no. There is none of that.
MARLES: But you go in as the hot favourite?
CONNELL: Yes, but we’re scarred. Geelong have the wood on Brisbane. I’m happy for $20. Even money.
MARLES: It’s done.
CONNELL: Alright. Go Lions!
MARLES: Go Cats!
CONNELL: Richard Marles, thank you.