SATURDAY, 22 DECEMBER 2018
MARK BUTLER: Thanks for coming out this morning. Scott Morrison has spent his Prime Ministership assuring the Australian people that Australia, under his Government’s policies, would meet the 2030 emissions reduction targets under the Paris Climate Agreement to use his words, “in a canter.” Through that whole period, I’ve suggested Scott Morrison has been lying to the Australian people.
Just as they’ve done over the last several years this Government, very cynically as tried to sneak out the official greenhouse gas data on the eve of Christmas. Just at the time the Australian people are doing their last minute Christmas shopping. This data, released by the Government yesterday, confirmed that the Prime Minister and his Ministers have been lying to the Australian people about this nation’s performance on climate change.
This data confirms that after coming down by more than 10 per cent in our term in Government, carbon pollution levels have been rising ever since the election of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. This data further confirms that greenhouse gas and carbon pollution is projected to continue to rise under this Government’s policies all the way to 2030. This data confirmed that Australia under Scott Morrison’s policies will miss our 2030 target of a 26 per cent cut in carbon pollution by a full 19 per cent. The data confirmed now that Australia is pretty much the only advanced economy where greenhouse gases are now going up, rather than coming down.
Scott Morrison has been treating the Australian people like mugs. Hoping that he can sneak out bad news on the eve of Christmas that won’t be noticed. This data doesn’t lie. We heard this week from the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO just how serious a threat climate change is to Australia, particularly to our children, our grandchildren, and other future generations of Australians. But this Government continues to fiddle why the world gets hotter and hotter. They simply are hoping the Australian people won't notice.
JOURNALIST: Can you explain what it means when the Government says it is carrying forward credits, and why is this wrong?
BUTLER: Really because of the good work of the last Labor Government, and also work by previous Labor Governments in Queensland and New South Wales to get land clearing under control, Australia performed better than expected through the course of the so-call Kyoto period. Through the period up to 2020 we performed better then expected, we overshot our target if you like, which is a very good thing. It is a good thing for the local environment, it is a good thing for climate change. Now we understand that Scott Morrison is intending to carry over that surplus, to use that surplus through the last decade because of his failure to put in place a proper policy for the next decade.
JOURNALIST: Labor has also avoided saying whether it would also use credits to meet the targets. Isn’t that just another political game by the Opposition?
BUTLER: What I've said on behalf of Labor is that we want to see the rulebook that came out of the recent climate conference in Poland, that only finished several days ago, if we were elected next year, we would obviously as a responsible Government want to take advice about this issue. But I’ve also made my position very clear that my bias is very strongly against accounting tricks, copouts and other fiddles used to dodge the obligation we have to start to reduce our carbon pollution levels seriously.
JOURNALIST: Will you support the Government’s energy policy when Parliament resumes to put an end to the climate wars?
BUTLER: It depends on which policy you are talking about, we’ve counted now eleven energy policies under this Government since the 2016 election. Eleven policies in just two and a half years. Their latest policy appears to be an attempt to bust up energy companies in spite of the fact that the consumer watchdog expressly recommended against doing that. The consumer watchdog said that that would be an extreme measure likely to push power prices up, not bring them down.
The only other energy policy that this Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Angus Taylor have is to throw literally billions and billions of taxpayers dollars at propping up new coal-fired power stations. We won’t support either of these measures. We know what should happen on energy policy, the National Energy Guarantee should be put back on the table, just as the New South Wales Liberal Government argued last week and as every single business organisation has argued, till they are black and blue, over the last several weeks.
JOURNALIST: On the issue of George Christensen. He has identified himself on Facebook as the person at the centre of the claims that we are aware of. It now appears that it was Labor who referred the matter to police, why did you do that?
BUTLER: Can I just say about this matter, whether it is George Christensen or some other MP, I have seen George Christensen bringing himself out as the MP who is the subject of these stories, the proper approach to all these matters is to allow the Federal Police to conduct their inquiries. That is the view that the Labor Party has. As Mark Dreyfus, our Shadow Attorney General said yesterday, there are some questions about quite what the Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, knew about these very serious allegations that one of their own MPs might be the subject of extortion or blackmail attempts. So again, just as we’ve seen over recent weeks in relation to other matters, Scott Morrison and his senior ministers need to come clean with the Australian people about what they knew and when. As to whether or not the AFP was made aware of this through a Labor MP, a Liberal MP or a crossbench MP, I think the Australian people would expect any Member of Parliament, if they were made aware of serious allegations like this to report them to the appropriate authorities regardless of party allegiances.
JOURNALIST: Should he resign?
BUTLER: That’s a matter for the Prime Minister and, if indeed it is George Christensen, for him. We just think the appropriate thing to do is allow the authorities, in this case, the Federal Police, to conduct their proper investigations.
JOURNALIST: Is there a culture within the Nationals that the men are perhaps above the law, do you think?
BUTLER: There have obviously been a couple of serious matters raised in the media over the last couple weeks but as to the culture I’ll leave that to the Coalition leadership, the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and the Prime Minister to start to draw their own conclusions about this.
JOURNALIST: Do you think he is a victim or fair game?
BUTLER: Let’s let these investigations play out. Just as I said before until those investigations are concluded we don’t think it is appropriate to comment on the substance of the allegations that have been aired in the media. It should be left to the Federal Police.
JOURNALIST: We’ve actually been told that Tanya Plibersek was behind the referral. Can you confirm that?
BUTLER: I can’t comment on that. I have not heard that.
JOURNALIST: Can you rule out if it was Labor then?
BUTLER: I can’t comment on who might have referred this matter to the Federal Police. All I can say is I think the Australian people would expect any Member of Parliament, regardless of party allegiance, if they were made aware of allegations or suggestions that an MP might be subject to extortion or blackmail threats that those matters would be referred to appropriate authorities. Regardless, as I say, of Party allegiance.
JOURNALIST: So you don’t agree it is an ugly smear in terms of his description of the matter?
BUTLER: No I don’t. I think as Members of Parliament we have an obligation if matters are raised before us, particularly matters that raise the possibility of blackmail or extortion attempt against members of the Commonwealth Parliament, that those matters would be referred to the appropriate authorities. As I understand it that is what has happened.
JOURNALIST: Sorry Mark just jumping back to the other topic as well. Melissa Price is refusing requests for interviews. Is that good enough for an Environment Minister?
BUTLER: I think what we’ve seen over the course of this year is the Australian community becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of climate action under this Government. We’ve seen it in a number of electoral contests, we’ve seen it play out within the Liberal Party itself, particularly in Victorian after the state election results and increasingly in New South Wales as well - we’ve seen a very deep split between the Federal Liberal Party and the New South Wales Liberal Party in the Prime Minister’s own home state.
It is simply not good enough that a Cabinet Minister with responsibility for this very important matter is ducking media interviews and ducking the accountability that comes with it.
JOURNALIST: Electricity emissions are going to increase again from 2023. Do you think we need to address that? What do you think is the answer?
BUTLER: The answer is a 50 per cent renewable energy target, as Labor has been arguing since 2015. That is an ambitious but realistic target start to decarbonise our electricity sector, meet those emissions reduction targets that we owe our children and our grandchildren, but also to renew our ageing electricity infrastructure. Seventy-five per cent of our thermal plants, our coal and gas-fired generators around the country, are already operating beyond their design life. They need to be replaced and we only saw again from the CSIRO over the last day or two, confirmation that the cheapest and the cleanest way to replace our old and increasingly unreliable generators is renewables. That is what Labor will do if we are lucky enough to be elected at the next election.