October 10, 2019


PATRICIA KARVELAS: Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon’s called on his party to
adopt the Government's upper end of the climate change targets or the emissions
reductions targets. Labor took to the election this 45 per cent reduction by 2030. But Joel Fitzgibbon wanted that to be 28 per cent, and then said, look, if it works, we'll look later to whether we ramp that up. I'm joined now by the Shadow Climate Change Minister Mark Butler, who has rebuked this position. He joins me now Mark Butler, welcome.


KARVELAS: I know you've been critical of this suggestion, but there are supporters for this. How much support is there among your colleagues for the proposal put forward by Joel Fitzgibbon?

BUTLER: Well, I think broadly there's a very strong consensus within the Labor Party that now part of our mission really in the 21st century is to take all that is responsible, that is advised by scientists, that is consistent with our international commitments, to ensure that future generations are protected from the most dangerous impacts of climate change. And we know from scientific advice now that's been in place for many years that that means keeping global warming well below two degrees and pursuing efforts around 1.5 degrees. And the position I've been arguing now for years is that the Government's targets, they're not going to make them anyway, but the government's targets that were announced by Tony Abbott in 2015, is fundamentally inconsistent with that science. That's been the view of all the independent analysis of the Government's position. 

KARVELAS: The Coalition is now calling on Labor to adopt their emission reduction target has Joel Fitzgibbon made it easier for the Government to wedge you on this?

BUTLER: Well, I'm not sure anyone really will pay much attention to Angus Taylor’s pronouncements on this. I mean, this is a minister who's not able to do his own job, let alone give free advice to other political parties about their own position. We've seen from the AFR energy summit over the course of this week that the energy crisis that emerged under this Government in 2015 continues to rage unabated, wrecking household budget bills, and also jeopardizing the viability of business.
So I don't think anyone really pays much attention to what Angus Taylor says about this. But look, I think you will see some debate emerge within the Labor Party in the wake of a very devastating election loss. What I was doing yesterday, though, was trying to state as clearly as I possibly can, as the Shadow Climate Change Minister, what the bedrock principles in this policy area are. As Anthony Albanese has said, while we will be reviewing all of our policies, and our campaign performance from May and the period leading up to it, we're not about reviewing our principles and our values.

KARVELAS: Okay, how is this a review of your principles, though? It's a policy suggestion in terms of emissions reductions, how can you be so sure that Labor won’t adopt it? You are reviewing the whole policy? How can you rule it out before it's even considered?

BUTLER: Well, as I said, a core principle, the core principle in the area of climate change, for those who are serious about taking action against climate change, is to adopt the scientific advice, to comply with our international obligations set out particularly in the Paris Climate Agreement from 2015, and do everything we need today to keep global warming well below two degrees and pursue efforts around 1.5 degrees. Now, our targets were based on advice by the Climate Change Authority, a statutory authority about what was necessary to keep to those positions or those scientific thresholds. Tony Abbott's targets were dreamed up by Tony Abbott alone and are consistent more with global warming of
higher than three degrees - nowhere near the two degree threshold that we've signed up to in the Paris Climate Agreement.
KARVELAS: He suggested the 45 per cent target Labor took to the election is too high. So are you effectively looking at a compromise between that and the 28 per cent proposed by Joel Fitzgibbon?
BUTLER: What I've said is that we will be taking to every election, as I see it in the future, a position around climate change that is consistent with those principles and includes medium term targets that reflect the principles and reflect the best available scientific and economic advice about the way in which Australia complies with those principles. Now, the 2030 target that we talked to the last election and for that matter, took the to the 2016 election, was based on advice that the Climate Change Authority published in 2014. So this was advice now, five years old, more than five years old, it will be eight years old by the time of the next election, and it envisaged a 15 year period of implementation. Now, I would expect that over the course of the next two and a half years, there will be different advice about what medium term targets, in reality should be adopted by an alternative government. And I think it's proper that we keep an open mind about that advice over the next couple of years, as we move from restating principles, which was what I did yesterday, to a position of developing policies in lead into the 2022 election.
KARVELAS: So I spoke to the Shadow Assistant Minister for Climate Change Pat Conroy last night on RN Drive, and he thinks your climate change policy won votes, which wasn’t really my observation. Did it win you votes? That’s what he claims.
BUTLER: Well I think it did. I'm not going to pre-empt the outcomes of the review and various other pieces of analysis about what swing votes in particular areas and more broadly across the country. But I don't think our climate change policy in net terms was a vote loser for us. I think broadly it was a vote winner and I think it reflects the fact that you say in all of the research, including research being published since the election that the Australian community very broadly wants to see stronger climate action and is being delivered by this Government.
KARVELAS: But with respect if you look at the result in Queensland, in WA, particularly in Queensland where it was really a bloodbath for Labor, how was it possible that your policy actually won you votes? It obliterated the party, didn't it?
BUTLER: Well, I think as I've said before, and as Joel Fitzgibbon has said, who really is leading this part of the examination, there's no question that we have to examine our position in the coal basin communities of Queensland and the Hunter Valley. I don't think that reflects the reality of our climate change policy. But beyond that, I'm not quite sure what evidence you're looking at to suggest that some of the swings we saw in Western Australia, Queensland or Northern Tasmania, for that matter, were particularly reflective of our climate change policy. I mean, I think that is an analysis that that isn't yet completed, it certainly is an analysis that our review is undertaking.
KARVELAS: Okay so if it wasn't about climate change - the swings we saw in Queensland - what was it about?
BUTLER: Well, I think our review will start to flesh that out.
KARVELAS: What do you think? Because you said with confidence, you don't think it was about climate change. So you must have some theories about what it was about? 

BUTLER: As I said I don't want to pre-empt the review. I have said my own view is that climate change policy in broad terms was a net positive for us. But, you know, having said that, I don't want to pre-empt the outcomes of the review that Jay Weatherill and Craig Emerson are leading, I think that's going to be a very important deep, broad piece of analysis for the Labour Party.
KARVELAS: One branch of the Queensland Labour Party is past a motion condemning the fast tracking of laws that target climate change protesters, expanding police search powers and banning locking devices. Do you think these laws are fair?
BUTLER: I haven't looked at the data of those laws. I've seen a reference to those stories. But look, ultimately, the enforcement of laws allowing protest activity is a matter of state governments. And I don't think there's much value in a Shadow Federal Minister from Adelaide getting involved in a debate about Queensland laws.
KARVELAS: I’ll tell you why I think there is because you are the Shadow Climate Change spokesperson and this is a movement about climate change. And these are activists who were calling for bigger action or more action on climate change. The Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk says she's fed up with disruption. But critics say the right of striker protest is a core Labor value. What do you think?
BUTLER: Well, I'm happy to talk about the protests, more generally just not particularly about the detail about what one state government or another is seeking to do to deal with it.
I understand the frustration that many Australians feel about the lack of climate action on the part of this Government. And I'm a very strong supporter of the right of Australians to participate in peaceful protest activity. I think, most recently, we saw the impact of that, in
the school strikes. I've attended both of the school strikes that happened here in Adelaide, they were consistent with our tradition of peaceful protest. The arrangements for the protest were negotiated carefully, as far as I could tell, with police authorities and rolled out in a manner that was consistent with those negotiations. And I think you see the effect of those protests in a very significant lift, in momentum, in sentiment among young people in particular, for stronger climate action.
These extinction rebellion protests I think are different. These are protests that I think are more deliberately designed to disrupt ordinary Australians going about their everyday activity, whether that's going to work or dropping kids at school, or perhaps visiting family members that
they need to care for. And they're diverting particularly important emergency services resources away from the work that they otherwise would be doing. Their suggestions of activity that is positively dangerous, either for the protesters themselves, or for others. And I think that that is the sort of protest activity I'm not particularly supportive of in principle. But in this area as well, not just the principle of this sort of activity, I think if the objective is to build a strong coalition of support within the within the community for stronger climate action I fear that these protests will actually have the opposite effect.
KARVELAS: Just finally on the Turkish decision to invade Northern Syria, should Australia condemn this military action by Turkey? I mean, Australia has condemned the action but should Australia have done more to also criticise the US withdrawal of troops?
BUTLER: Well Penny Wong has talked about this deeply concerning situation emerging in the north of Syria over the course of the last several hours. We are of a position of the Australian Government should condemn the unilateral actions being taken by Turkey. But Labor also thinks that, as reflected really in a very fierce debate within the Republican Party over in the United States, that the decision by the Trump administration to pull out of Northern Syria was not a correct decision, and the Australian Government should make that position clear. First of all, it runs the risk of freeing many hundreds of ISIS fighters that have been detained, essentially by our allies, our Kurdish allies in the north of Syria. And just as concerning its exposing those people, our Kurdish allies, to very real risk of an unfolding humanitarian disaster. So we're deeply concerned about this and we think the Australian government needs to make those concerns known, as I said, the Turkish government for their unilateral actions in Northern Syria, but also to the Trump administration, reflecting the concerns you're seeing from some very strong Trump allies like Lindsey Graham.
KARVELAS: Do you think the Australian Government has an obligation to show more support for the Kurds who made huge sacrifices, of course, to help the US and help us I suppose the Western world if you like, defeat Islamic State?
BUTLER: They’ve been steadfast allies and I think they deserve our ongoing support, which is why Labour has said what we've said over the course of today.
KARVELAS: Mark Butler thanks for coming on the show.
BUTLER: Thanks Patricia.