MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Thank you for coming out this morning. The last 24 hours have again highlighted just how isolated Scott Morrison is globally on climate change and energy.
The Prime Minister has got himself into a bit of a state about being excluded from the speakers list for this weekend’s Climate Leaders Summit. He is beginning to act like the surly teenager who failed to score an invitation to the party of the year and is now pretending he didn’t really want to go anyway. The Prime Minister needs to understand this is not about him personally, what it is is a reflection of where his Government sits compared to the rest of the world.
The great trading nations of the world - the United States, China, Japan, all of Europe, the United Kingdom, South Korea and more - are all coalescing around a commitment to net zero emissions by the middle of the century. A commitment that, obviously, is critically important in the fight against climate change. But one that will also shape investment patterns and job creation over the next three decades.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world sees Scott Morrison stubbornly refuse to make that same commitment to net zero emissions – refuse to lift Tony Abbott’s inadequate 2030 targets - and continue to pretend we are on track to meet those targets in spite of the fact that his own data this week showed manifestly we are not.
And last night at the Pacific Islands Forum, Scott Morrison expected some sort of an award or commendation for giving a heavily qualified suggestion that he might not after all try to cheat the system by using Kyoto carryover credits.
Scott Morrison’s attempt this week to pivot on climate change has been shown to be all spin and no substance, and the rest of the world is seeing right through that spin.
His pig-headed refusal to commitment to net zero emissions will see Australia continue to be isolated globally and will come at a huge cost to Australians in lost jobs and lost investment.
JOURNALIST: Are you disappointed Scott Morrison didn’t renounce the use of Kyoto carryover credits to meet the Paris emissions reduction target?
BUTLER: These so-called “Kyoto carryover credits” are nothing short of cheating the system. No other country is going to try and use these. The rest of the world has said that they expect Australia to renounce them and, while we were pumped up to expect Scott Morrison to make that commitment, last night he refused to do so. He is still keeping open the option of cheating the system. That is why the rest of the world is continuing to isolate Scott Morrison and that will come at the cost of lost jobs and lost investment as well as a restricted fight against climate change for Australia.
JOURNALIST: Is it embarrassing Australia wasn’t invited to speak at the UN led climate summit this weekend?
BUTLER: Scott Morrison’s inability to address this summit reflects the fact that the rest of the world sees Australia as a laggard on climate change. That is obviously important in the fight against climate change, but it will also see Australia lose out on jobs and investment as the rest of the world transitions to a clean energy economy. He has got to start to face down his own party room and make the commitment that the rest of the world is making to fight against climate change, to net zero emissions by the middle of the century.
JOURNALIST: Liberal backbencher Jason Falinski this morning said he believes that ultimately the Government will commit to net zero emissions by 2050. Are you reassured by that?
BUTLER: I don’t feel reassured by a backbencher, that very few Australians would know, making that suggestion. We need the Prime Minister to make that commitment. All of the state governments in the country, Labor and Liberal alike, have made the commitment. The Business Council, the Australian Industry Group, the Farmers Federation, our largest airline, our largest mining company, our largest bank - everyone except Scott Morrison has made that commitment and that is why Australia is seen as so isolated around the world.
The rest of the world is in a race for the trillions of dollars of investment, the millions of jobs that will flow from this transition to a carbon neutral economy over the next three decades. Australia should be leading that race with the extraordinary renewable energy resources we have. But instead, we are at the back of the pack, restricted by Scott Morrison’s pig-headed refusal to make the commitment that the rest of the world is making.
JOURNALIST: Will you take the COVID-19 vaccine when one is approved?
BUTLER: I will definitely take a vaccine approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Australians are fortunate to have one of the best medicine approval systems in the world. We can be very confident, across the Parliament, across the country, that if a vaccine is approved by the TGA it will be safe, it will be effective and I will be one of the Australians taking it.
JOURNALIST: Do you support the Government’s decision to end the vaccine deal with the University of Queensland?
BUTLER: Unfortunately the work of the great scientists at the University of Queensland did not produce a vaccine that would be approved by the TGA. That is a great shame for the very hard work of those scientists. It is why Labor has been saying the Morrison Government should be keeping its options as wide open as possible. This means now Australia is down to three potential vaccines. We have been saying for some time that world’s best practice is to have five or six options open to Australia. With the loss of the University of Queensland option which has not been shown to be safe and effective, we are now down to three. We support the Australian Government’s venture with those three vaccines, but we encourage them to do more.