TUESDAY, 2 APRIL 2019
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY, MEMBER FOR PORT ADELAIDE: Yesterday the Labor Party announced the most comprehensive climate change action plan taken to a federal election by a major party in this country’s history. It comes at the end of another angry summer, where Australians are crying out for this Parliament to finally take climate change policy seriously.
2018 was one of the five hottest years around the world on record - the other four being 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014. Here in Australia we experienced the hottest summer on record and broke 209 weather records. We’ve seen floods in areas that don’t particularly flood, we’ve seen bushfires in areas that don’t particularly burn and Australians have had enough. They want this Parliament to finally come up with a climate change policy that will finally deliver on our responsibility to our children, our grandchildren and generations beyond to limit the impacts of climate change.
The target that Labor is taking to the federal election that we announced in 2015, for a 45 per cent emissions reduction cut by 2030, and net zero emissions by the middle of the century, is the position consistent with keeping global warming below 2-degrees, which is the commitment Malcolm Turnbull signed Australia up to at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015. It is absolutely the minimum commitment necessary to discharge our responsibility to future generations of Australians.
Our policy, announced yesterday, built on our energy plan of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030, tapping into technology like household batteries with support for 100,000 households to get access to those batteries with government support and our hydrogen policy which we announced in January.
Yesterday we announced that industry would have to do its fair share of reducing emissions in the economy after five years of getting a free pass by this Government. We are going to use the safeguards mechanism, introduced by Malcolm Turnbull, but we are going to make sure it actually works so that it actually reduces emissions in our big industrial sector - about 250 of the largest polluters in the economy.
Most excitingly out of yesterday’s announcement we are going to see Australia catch up with the rest of the world in the global shift to electric vehicles. A shift that is already underway in every country in which we compare ourselves to. Happy to take questions.
BUTLER: I don’t think there was any burying of our announcement yesterday. There was a very strong focus on our announcement. Bill Shorten, I and a number of other shadow ministers who have been involved in this policy were available to all of the media. The coverage yesterday and this morning has given this policy the prominent it deserves because Australians are crying out for climate change policy. They are crying out for this Parliament to finally take responsibility for the wellbeing of future generations of Australians and our policy does that.
JOURNALIST: Why did you choose yesterday?
BUTLER: We’ve said that we would announce our policy after proper engagement with business and stakeholders, and we have done that over the last 12-18 months, but also we would announce it before the election campaign commenced. Yesterday was the time we took to announce the policy.
JOURNALIST: Why can’t Labor say how many carbon credits it expects Australian businesses to buy and how much those carbon credits would cost those businesses and the Australian economy? When weeks out from an election how much will this policy cost?
BUTLER: As I said yesterday there has been substantial modelling of the economic impact of our emissions reduction target conducted for the Government. When Tony Abbott decided on a 26 per cent emissions reduction target, although it is quite clear on all advice that that target is consistent with more than 3-degrees of global warming, but that modelling showed there was no material difference in real GDP growth over the course of the 2020s between our target and Tony Abbott’s target, which Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison adopted. Indeed, to the extent there was any difference it was reflected in the fact that energy bills, according to this modelling, would be lower under Labor’s more ambitious target because of better energy efficiency and there would be a substantial positive impact on job creating investment under our target as well as we move to a cleaner energy economy.
Now in relation to credits that really depends on the degree to which companies are able to reduce their own emissions and that is up to a company. We’ve put in place a scheme that will effectively cap their emissions and require them to think about ways they can pollute less while continuing to keep the job creating work they do on. Now if they are not able to reduce those emissions, or decide not to for one reason or another, they will have to offset that pollution as is the case under the existing mechanism. Last year a number of companies covered under the same mechanism, exactly the same mechanism that Labor will use, had to surrender about 448,000 carbon offsets at a cost of about $12-$15, so it really depends on what action business takes. We’re putting in place the proper mechanism with a range of different offsets available to business to make sure they do their part in reducing pollution at the lowest cost possible.
JOURNALIST: Are you at all concerned that the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister jumped to calling this a carbon tax?
BUTLER: I’m not in the least bit surprised because the Liberal Party has shown over the last decade that all it has in this policy area is tired old scare campaigns as a thin disguise to do nothing on climate change. This is the Liberal Party’s approach to such an important issue, such an important problem that this Parliament and the country generally have to our children and our grandchildren. I wasn’t in the least bit surprised that the Liberal Party would do that.
JOURNALIST: The Government says it would cost Australian businesses tens of millions or tens of billions of dollars, is that correct or is it scaremongering?
BUTLER: This Government just don’t think deeply about this policy area. They just pull out the old playbook that Tony Abbott wrote ten years ago, the old tired scare campaign. You would remember that lamb roasts were going to cost $140 then $100, of course they didn’t. You would remember that Whyalla was going to be wiped off the map – well Whyalla’s confidence in South Australia is surging at the moment. It is surging on the back of a new owner of the steelworks in that city deciding the most sustainable future in job terms for that steelworks is based on firmed up renewable energy. These tired scare campaigns the Liberal Party have been running for a decade now, time and time again have been shown to have no substance whatsoever.
JOURNALIST: But on the specifics of this particular claim?
BUTLER: There are no specifics, it is just the tired old claim that tens of millions or tens of billions with no modelling -
JOURNALIST: But isn’t the problem you don’t have any modelling either?
BUTLER: We have put out the most comprehensive climate change action plan a major party has taken to the election. I encourage you to go and ask the climate change minister, if she ever does a press conference, what their policy to achieve the Paris target. We have multiple times more detail in our policy, we have engaged deeply with business over the last 12-15 months to ask them and engage with them what they think the most effective way to bring down emissions is over the coming decade. Thanks everyone.