MONDAY, 16 APRIL 2018
LAURA JAYES: Joining me now is the Shadow Energy Minister, Mark Butler. Mark Butler thanks so much for your time. You’re the Member for Port Adelaide though, but for how much longer? We saw redistribution on Friday, what is your course of action from here?
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Laura as you allude to, the draft decision of the Electoral Commission around South Australia’s redistribution proposes to abolish the seat of Port Adelaide, which is the seat I currently represent. This is a draft decision so in the Party we will be considering that carefully and making some submissions, I guess about that. I’m not going to react too quickly to this. I’m going to take it one step at a time and discuss my options with Party colleagues and see what the final decision of the Commission is. So we’ll take it one step at a time.
JAYES: This is a draft change so what is available to you? Do you put in a submission to the AEC, they then go and consider it and then is there a final decision? Is that how it works?
BUTLER: That’s right, as I understand it. That is a matter for the Party, not me as an individual member of the Party. I’ll let the Party take the proper approach to that and we will see what arises from that and I’ll consider my options then.
JAYES: What are your options – of course you don’t want to bow out of politics so perhaps will you look at another Labor seat in South Australia?
BUTLER: I’m not going to get into hypotheticals around a draft decision. I think the proper thing for all members of the Party is to let this take its course and once the final decision is known we will all consider our options according to the best interests of the Party.
JAYES: But I know you Mark Butler you’d be looking at contingency surely/
BUTLER: Of course we are considering our options but I’m not going to hypothesise about them before the final decision is handed down by the Commission. And I’m going to talk to my colleagues about that Laura.
JAYES: Perhaps Steve Georganas in particular?
BUTLER: You are not going to get me on hypotheticals Laura, so why don’t we move onto energy policy.
JAYES: Okay let’s talk about energy policy. The state and territory energy ministers will be meeting on Friday; this is an opportunity to perhaps get some kind of bipartisan agreement. Are you hopeful there will be an agreement on Friday?
BUTLER: I don’t think there will be a final agreement on Friday. I don’t think anyone expects that. I think the best to hope for is that this thing continues to move forward; there is more work to be done by the Energy Security Board and by different levels of government between the meeting on Friday and a meeting which I understand is scheduled for August. That is the best outcome that we all hope for, but it is critically important that five years on from the election of this government we do make some progress towards a stable, enduring energy policy that will give investors the certainty they need to start to put an end to this very deep energy crisis that has emerged under Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. So we hope it does move forward. We think there are some positive signs that have emerged over the last few days. There are still some significant differences between the two major parties, the Labor Party federally and the government. But we’ve seen some progress over the last few days responding to concerns that I’d been outlining and had been outlined by the industry in its broadest possible sense.
JAYES: And we had seen some detail emerge today. There is some speculation that under the National Energy Guarantee the details might see that individual states and territories would not be able to set their own emissions reduction targets. Is that a deal breaker for you or is it something that Labor would accept?
BUTLER: I think that’s really a matter for the state governments to respond to and I’m sure they will over the next few days. They’ve responded to ambitions in their community to see more renewable energy deployed in states like Victoria and Queensland which have been substantially behind areas like South Australia, for example, in their deployment because conservative governments rejected renewable energy investment there for too many years. Those governments have been elected on a very clear platform in their states for ambitious renewable energy targets through the 2020s and they don’t want to see that stymied by the simple fact that Malcolm Turnbull won’t stand up to Tony Abbott and the hard right of the Coalition Party Room and do the same. So there is going to have to be some give and take, I think, from the Commonwealth and the different states. But I think there will be some negotiations over that leading into Friday.
JAYES: There is a lot of competing mandates aren’t there? We see Shane Rattenbury in the ACT argue along similar lines but as has been pointed out by Josh Frydenberg and others – it seems that at least in principle every other state and territory is on board, except for the ACT, this is ahead of this meeting on Friday of course. How would you view it if the ACT held out when they are such low contributors to the National Energy Market as a whole? Do you think that would be pretty frowned upon when you’re so close to getting something that is a little bit bipartisan?
BUTLER: I think the ACT is in quite a unique position. It has seen extraordinary levels of investment in that jurisdiction and it understandably wants to protect that investment that has already taken place. I guess the imperative for other states that haven’t yet seen that level of investment is to set up a position that would see that investment flow in the future. But I don’t think it is accurate to say Laura that everyone is on board with this, other than the ACT. Victoria and Queensland have also expressed concerns about the low level of ambition around renewable energy development in the Commonwealth’s design of this and what that might do to their targets. Now I don’t think those things are necessarily a deal breaker for this Friday but they are areas where there will continue to be pretty hard negotiations I think between the Commonwealth and a number of state governments, not just the ACT.
JAYES: That’s a fair enough point. Also we have some reporting around today that under the National Energy Guarantee energy intensive, particular energy intensive industries would be exempt. Now this is a similar apparatus to what was in place under the carbon tax, so is that acceptable to you?
BUTLER: I haven’t seen the paper that the government has circulated. It has not been provided to the Opposition but on the reports that I’ve seen in the newspapers who have been provided with it, it seems that the government is going down that direction, though hasn’t yet made a final decision about how the exemptions for emissions intensive trade exposed industries might operate. We have got a strong track record, as the Labor Party, of making sure the competitiveness of those industries is supported in any design around emissions reduction. We did it with the carbon pricing mechanism; we particularly did it with the Renewable Energy Target in a way that John Howard didn’t bother to do in his iteration of the scheme. And we argued in 2015, from the position of Opposition, that there should be an even more substantial protection to those industries through the Renewable Energy Target. So I guess our runs are on the board here - we obviously want to talk with them and have a look at the design of the government’s proposal. But we’ve always been pretty careful to make sure the competitiveness of industries that might otherwise simply move offshore, which wouldn’t be to the benefit of anyone, including the natural environment, is protected.
JAYES: Absolutely now before I let you go after a good discussion there on energy policy when can we expect a final outcome on your seat and would you rule out moving to the Senate?
BUTLER: Look I’m not going to respond to any hypothetical Laura, you tried it earlier in the interview and I’m not going to respond to it at the end of the interview. I’m going to take my time to consider the decision, to talk to my colleagues, and to make sure the Labor Party interests come first, that they make a submission to the Commission’s process and we will have a look at the final decision.
MEDIA CONTACT: LUCY CARUSO – 0408 803 428
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra