SATURDAY, 31 OCTOBER 2020
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGER AND ENERGY: Yesterday 600 Western Australian families were thrown onto the unemployment que because Scott Morrison has been asleep at the wheel on fuel security. For years now, bipartisan committees of the national parliament, business groups, national security experts have been warning of the depth of Australia’s fuel security crisis, but we got no action at all from the government. Six weeks ago we finally had an announcement from Scott Morrison, but yesterday’s closure of the BP refinery at Kwinana in Western Australia shows it was too little too late. Another devastating consequence of this government’s utter failure on energy policy. Angus Taylor’s statement yesterday that the closure of the refinery in WA would not negatively impact Australia’s fuel supplies was a slap in the face for those hundreds of Western Australian families and just shows how out of his depth he is in the energy portfolio.
Can I also say that yesterday was also a very difficult day for many thousands of survivors of last summer’s bushfire emergency as we saw the release of the much awaited Royal Commission report. The report reminded us that Scott Morrison failed to prepare for a disaster we were all warned was coming. He failed to turn up when the disaster finally hit, and since that time he’s failed to deliver the proper post disaster relief to affected communities. Communities that still have people sleeping in caravans, sleeping in sheds, with not a single dollar having yet been spent from the emergency response fund. This report contains some really, really important recommendations that must be acted on swiftly as we approach the coming disaster season. But it also confirms, just as the drought report did twelve months ago, that climate change will drive more frequent, more intense, and more wide spread bushfire emergencies. And you simply can’t be serious about protecting Australians from bushfires, from droughts, and other disasters, if you don’t have a serious climate change policy.
JOURNALIST: What policy changes does the federal government need to make in regards to the Bushfire Commission?
BUTLER: Well it does need a serious climate change policy. We were told twelve months ago by the drought coordinator, Major General Stephen Day, that unchecked climate change will drive more frequent and intense and wide spread droughts. We know the same is true of bushfires. We need a serious climate change policy. There are also really important specific recommendations about our preparedness for these disasters that need to be acted on swiftly by this government. We’re already seeing bushfires in the northern part of the country already, and we also know from the Bureau of Meteorology that this coming summer is likely to see very serious flood and cyclone threats in the northern part of the country as well. So there’s no time to waste here. There are a number of important recommendations that must be acted on swiftly by the Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: There weren’t any recommendations about an emissions policy. Do you think that’s a missed opportunity?
BUTLER: We know there is a debate about the need for serious climate change policy in this country. Over recent weeks we’ve seen major trading partners like South Korea, Japan, and China move to net zero emissions by the middle of the century commitments. It’s a commitment supported by all state governments, Labor and Liberal alike. All business groups. And we know that you can’t be serious about the preparedness for disaster like this without a serious climate change policy, and at the core of that policy must be a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
JOURNALIST: The report said that global warming is inevitable over the next twenty years or so, so do you believe that if changes are made, that there will be a difference that can be made?
BUTLER: Well really, what we’re grappling with is the scale of global warming. That’s why we’re committed to net zero emissions by 2050. We also know even if we do take strong action against climate change there is already global warming baked into the system. We’ve seen this with the terrible droughts over recent years. We saw it with last years bushfires that were worse than any that we’d experienced before. So there is already substantial threat to Australia’s prosperity and security baked into the system. That’s why we were so critical of the Prime Minister 12 months ago for not heading the warnings of the Bureau of Meteorology, not meeting with ex-service chiefs from the fire authorities that had good advice to give him about how the country could have been better prepared for the emergency when it hit.
JOURNALIST: Just back to the BP refinery. What are the national security implications of the closure?
BUTLER: Well they’re pretty obvious frankly. We’re now reliant for a majority of our fuel supplies on imports from overseas. As an island nation with very substantial security and economic reliance upon fuel obviously, if there are interruptions to those fuel supplies, we’ll be in very, very serious trouble. There was a bipartisan committee of parliament that recommended two and a half years ago, Labor and Liberal Members of Parliament, a serious response from this government to are fuel security crisis and we saw absolutely nothing from them. Six weeks ago they finally woke up to the depth of this crisis but it’s simply too little too late. We know there are threats to the remaining three refineries. We absolutely need the Prime Minister to intervene, to act, to get BP to reverse this decision in Western Australia, not only to provide job security for those hundreds of Australian families, but to provide the economic and national security that a domestic fuel refining capability gives a country like Australia.
JOURNALIST: Just on another topic. The Qatari Government has released a statement finding that there were illegal actions involved in the examination of women passengers at the international airport in Doha. Are you satisfied with that response and what do you believe needs to happen next?
BUTLER: Well this has been a horrific episode for those Australian women, and we expect justice for those victims. We welcome the decision by the Qatari authorities to refer those perpetrators to prosecutors, and we welcome the apology from the Qatari Prime Minister. But we again call on the Australian Government to act firmly to ensure this never happens again. And also to provide every possible support to those Australian victims to recover and get the justice that they deserve.
JOURNALIST: Have Qatar authorities been too slow to act on this?
BUTLER: We’ve said the Australian authorities, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, were tardy in proper reporting to the Australian people about this horrific episode almost a month ago now, but we only heard about it at the beginning of this week. And were tardy as well in their engagement with their Qatari counterparts. So we welcome the decisions over the last 24 hours by the Qatari authorities, but we think the government needs to act properly and needs to act decisively.
JOURNALIST: What are the diplomatic implications here?
BUTLER: Well I think what this shows is that we need to make sure that we act decisively and swiftly in engaging with other countries when our own citizens are the subject of horrific assaults like this. We have to ensure that this never happens again, and proper support, every proper support is provided to these Australian women to help them recover and get the justice they deserve.
JOURNALIST: Are you happy with the way Australia handled it?
BUTLER: Well we’ve been critical over the last several days. They were tardy in publicly reporting these assaults to the Australian people, and tardy in first of all, the discussions between the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to work out a proper Australian response, and in their engagement with Qatari authorities. This happened on October the 2nd. We’re now almost into November, and we’re only getting the action, supports for those Australian women, that should have come much more quickly.
JOURNALIST: I have a burning question Mr Butler. Should the Australian Government be doing more and imposing sanctions?
BUTLER: I’ll leave that for people with portfolio responsibilities to respond to.