26 October 2021






SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s Tony Abbott impression on climate change


LINDSAY MCDOUGALL, HOST: Stephen Jones joins me now. He’s the MP for Whitlam, Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. Good afternoon Mr Jones.


STEPHEN JONES: Hey good to be with you Lindsay. 


MCDOUGALL: So, the Government has been criticised for a lack of details in their announcement today. This means you’ve been handed, the Labor Party’s been handed, a free licence to be even the slightest bit more ambitious. Will you be more ambitious in setting higher targets? 


STEPHEN JONES: Yes, we will. We intend to announce our policies after the Glasgow Conference which is only a week or so away. We’re encouraging the Government to do more in this area. What they’ve announced today is basically a reheat of Tony Abbott’s policies. It’s Tony Abbott’s target, it’s Tony Abbott’s policies. Nothing new in the glossy brochure released today. 


MCDOUGALL: I mean, the Prime Minister has announced everything he’s going to say in Glasgow. There’s nothing else coming. So the Government is not going to make any new announcements between now and then. Why not announce those low emissions targets now? 


JONES: We want to see the conclusion that all the other countries come to. In our view we’re at least four to five months away from the next election. We set ourselves a goal for our own policy development process. We don’t feel the need to rush to do it. Scott Morrison’s the guy who’s got Prime Minister written on his door. He’s the bloke who’s got to bring to Parliament, to the Australian people, the plan. He’s in Government. It’s our job to keep him honest on that task and find out where the shortcomings are. 


MCDOUGALL: Mr Jones? Yes, you’re there. The Government says we’ll reach a 35 percent reduction by 2030. The net zero emissions by 2050 is the entry ticket to Glasgow. The real progress will be made with the 2030 target. Thirty-five percent by 2030, that’s better than the 26-28 percent target set in Paris. So surely you’d agree that’s a good thing?


JONES: Yeah, here’s the thing. He hasn’t announced any change to his target. He said our targets are 26-28%, Tony Abbott’s target. But we hope we might do better than that and if we keep on the current glide path we will hit that 35 percent target. Here’s the problem with that. The 35 percent target is all predicated on 3 things. One, Labor’s renewable energy target, which, by the way, they attempted to abolish. They spent two terms trying to abolish that and many within the Coalition still want to do that. Secondly, the land clearing legislation which the Nationals are trying to unwind as we speak. And thirdly, the big reduction in emissions over the last 12 months because people weren’t flying anywhere, or driving anywhere. Those three things underpin their confidence that we will hit that 35 percent. You’ll forgive me if I was a bit sceptical about those things remaining true under this Government.


MCDOUGALL: Well according to the Government they’ll reach by 2030. Will Labor bring back your previous target of 45 percent  by 2030? 


JONES: We’ll have our announcements before Christmas but certainly before the election. Not long to wait yet. We do want to see what has been committed to by other countries around the world. We’re going to ensure that what we calibrate is in sitting with our international commitments. But we won’t have a hockey stick. I can tell you that. And what Scott Morrison’s got now is a hockey stick where all the hard yards have to be done closer to 2050 than 2030. We won’t be doing that. And a couple of local examples why that’s absolutely critical. Let me talk steel in the Illawarra. We’re in the process of doing a reline of the blast furnace. They’re considering that in Port Kembla at the moment at Bluescope. Generally a blast furnace lasts about 10 years, 10 to 15 years. That’s about the same time frame it will take to commercialise these decarbonised steelmaking technologies. So we know that we’ve got about 10 years, could be a little less, to be investing in the technology and the research to do decarbonised steel. That should be the centrepiece of a plan. It’s our single biggest emitter. Critical to the local region. We’ve got to have a plan to do that and it’s not there. 


MCDOUGALL: The Government said they weren’t announcing investment in regional communities today but it will be announced, saved until close to the election. Is that something that Labor would announce in terms of investing in regional communities?


JONES: We are absolutely working on policies around manufacturing, around the steel industry and around regional communities, and again we’ll have more to say on this, to use that tired expression. We don’t have to wait that long though. 


MCDOUGALL: No. Well what about you, as Shadow Assistant Treasurer, what do you make of the Government’s decision to increase the amount of incentives on offer, and this is to get investment going I guess, from $50 billion to $100 billion?


JONES: Look, incentives have got a role to play. We set up two funding bodies, one which operates like a bank and the other one which operates like a grant mechanism, when we were in Government. And they’re still in existence under this Government even though they tried to abolish them. Grants and funding mechanisms have a role but the most important thing that Governments can do, because investors want to put their money in, they want to be investing in offshore wind, they want to be investing in the grid, they want to be investing in large scale solar. The thing that is putting them off at the moment is chopping and changing in Government policy, which is why near-term targets are critical, why long-term targets are critical and why ensuring the obstruction to those investments are taken off the table. That is the most important thing we can do because business wants to invest. 


MCDOUGALL: If business is scared of chopping and changing then how would business feel about a change of Government next year? Isn’t that chopping and changing? 


JONES: Well what business wants is what Labor will offer, and that is long term certain policy on energy. Long term certain and stable policy which understands we’ve got to take the carbon out, we want our energy production to increase and our carbon emissions to decrease and that relies on renewables. The Government with its 20 plans over the last 8 years, talking on the one hand about a gas led recovery and building more coal stations and on the other hand this Damascus conversion on climate change, there’s a lot of uncertainty on that side. 


MCDOUGALL: What about the Nationals MPs? They’ve been vocal in their opposition to the move to adopt net zero by 2050. Matt Canavan says he’s going to continue to campaign against it. George Christensen isn’t a fan. I think I may have seen Matt Canavan dressed up as the Terminator today but it’s hard to tell. Even Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said he publicly didn’t support it but agreed to sign on anyway. You think something more effective in your opinion could have been announced today without that compromise to the Nationals from the Liberal Party? 


JONES: Look, the history of this is a long, sad, and sorry one. Whatever gets announced gets undermined and white-anted by the disaffected people in the Liberal and National Party backbench. So I anticipate that this will continue. On the one hand there’s billions of dollars in taxpayer handouts going to be going into whatever the name of this fund, let’s call it the National Party Pork Barrell Fund, that they’ve set up. We haven’t seen the details of it but we know it’s there. It’s going to cost taxpayers billions of dollars to keep the Nationals in the tent. Frankly it won’t work on many of them. They will continue to undermine whatever the policy direction is on this issue because they simply don’t believe in it. 


MCDOUGALL: Those billions of dollars would be going into regional Australia though, so would that have a benefit? 


JONES: There is more to regional Australia than the National Party. Take Sharon and mine and Fiona’s electorates as examples in the Illawarra and South Coast. But what we see is whenever they set these funds up over 95% of the money goes straight into the pockets of National Party seats. 


MCDOUGALL: Well you said that part of the price of getting the National Party to adopt net zero was getting Resources Minister Keith Pitt back into cabinet but if you were in Government wouldn’t you want a Resources Minister in cabinet as well when Australia’s national resources are integral to getting to net zero?


JONES: They would’ve been there from day one. Under Labor we’ve always had a Resources Minister as a part of the cabinet because we think it is absolutely a critical portfolio. Resource rich country, critical to our GDP, critical to our trading with other countries, absolutely we should have the minister responsible for that in the cabinet. Frankly it was bizarre that they ever punted him out. Even more bizarre that it had to be part of a deal with the Nationals on climate change to get him back in there.