THURSDAY, 25 JUNE 2020
MARK BUTLER: Thanks for coming out today. Scott Morrison said this morning that his total focus was on bringing people together to solve the country’s problems. Well if that is anything more than marketing spin he will accept Labor’s offer to come together and solve one of the nation’s enduring problems, and that is our energy crisis.
The Reserve Bank and all business groups in Australia have said that the lack of an energy policy is stifling jobs and stifling investment. The Reserve Bank has said that last year, before the COVID-19 crisis, renewable energy investment collapsed by 50 per cent. This morning the University of Technology in Sydney have said that the current policy settings, the lack of a policy, will mean that 11,000 jobs will be lost over the next couple of years in renewable energy alone.
Business groups and other groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation have backed in Labor’s offer to sit down with the Government and solve this crisis once and for all; but the Prime Minister sent his embattled Energy Minister out yesterday to reject our offer and to claim, with a straight-face no less, that this Government had “nailed” energy policy in Australia.
It is time for the Prime Minister to walk the walk rather than just talking the talk on bringing the nation together. The only reason he would reject Labor’s reasonable offer to sit down on energy policy is if he’s decided to keep putting party politics ahead of the national interest and ahead of jobs.
JOURNALIST: How can you have a bipartisan energy policy without having an agreement on an emissions reduction target?
BUTLER: Industry has said very clearly, the Business Council, the Australian Industry Group, all of the energy groups, said only yesterday that what they want is they want the rules to be agreed. They understand that there will be different views between the two parties about targets, about levels of ambition, about the pace of change, but what they can’t cope with is not knowing what the rules for investment are. That is what they want and that is what the two major parties can and should be agreeing upon.
JOURNALIST: How constructive can those talks be, how much do you actually expect to achieve from those talks if they go ahead if you can’t agree on things like reduction targets?
BUTLER: We’ve been very clear and the business groups have been clear. They don’t expect agreement on targets. They can deal with that risk of change into the future quite comfortably as they do with the risk of changes in commodity prices or currency movements. What they can’t deal with is the risk involved in not knowing what the rules for investment are, that’s what they want the Government and the Opposition to sit down and agree.
That’s why our calls for negotiations have been backed in by the Business Council, by the Australian Industry Group, by the Clean Energy Council and a number of other business groups as well
JOURNALIST: Do you think those discussions about agreeing upon rules could be constructive, that it could actually bring on rules?
BUTLER: Well it requires some authority from the Prime Minister. Anthony Albanese is able to deliver his party, the Labor Party, to those talks. If the Prime Minister can deliver his party room to those talks we can get this thing done. This has been a problem for years. It is stifling investment and it is stifling jobs at a time when we need a strong platform for economic recovery coming out of the COVID-19 crisis.
JOURNALIST: Just on another topic, the arts funding package is it anywhere near enough?
BUTLER: Our Arts Shadow Minister Tony Burke is going to be speaking about that package over the next hour so I will leave those comments to him.
JOURNALIST: And on the Qantas announcement of massive job cuts – should the Government be doing more to save the jobs of those staff members at Qantas and other workers?
BUTLER: Sorry to echo the last comment but Tony Burke is also the Shadow Industrial Relations spokesperson and he will be speaking about those issues over the next hours.