24 February 2020
ABC NEWS AFTERNOON LIVE
MONDAY, 24 FEBRUARY 2020
SUBJECTS: Labor's commitment to net zero emissions by 2050; Family violence; Bettina Arndt; Coronavirus.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Joining me on my panel is Shadow Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones and Liberal Senator James Patterson. Welcome to both of you. I want to start with you Stephen, why is Labour revealing its 2050 emissions reduction target before a 2030 target many years before, I mean that is a long time away, shouldn't you be telling us what you're going to do before that?
JONES: I think people have got to get a good sense of what we stand for. After the summer that we've just been through I think, collectively, Australia is asking for some direction and we, as an alternative government, feel obliged to say well we're going to give some direction, this is what we know the country has to do. We agree with every state Liberal Premier, in fact every Premier around the country and 73 other countries around the world and the major emitting companies here in Australia including Qantas, BHP and Santos, we agree with them. We're going to have a long-term target. In your introduction you said why don't we go to a 2030 target first and I want to respond to that. The fact is there's a couple of big things that are going to happen this year. We've got the renegotiation of the Paris Treaty, a big, international conference, at the end of the year. We want to see what the near-term objectives are of those international conferences. We also want to see what the Government is going to do to see what additional spadework is going to be left for an alternative Labor Government. Maybe the Government is going to adopt Labor's policies and makes the job more bipartisan and easy. We think is very important that we set long-term objectives, particularly for regions like mine. We’ve got high-manufacturing, we've got a coal mining industry in my region. We need a tong-term direction and a vision about how we're going to transform things between now and then.
KARVELAS: James Patterson, your Liberal colleague Dave Sharma says the world needs to get towards net zero emissions by the second half of the century. Do you agree?
SENATOR JAMES PATERSON: I think that voters should be very sceptical of any politician, including me and my colleagues in my parliamentary party, in the Liberal and National parties, who tell you what is going to happen in 30 years’ time.
KARVELAS: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I have to interrupt, it’s not about telling us what will happen, it’s not crystal ball stuff. It's saying if I'm elected, this is what I want to happen, this is my intention. That's the question.
PATERSON: Exactly right, Patricia, They are asking voters to judge them on something that won't happen for 30 years time when they will no longer be in the Parliament. They'll be off in a retirement home somewhere if they're lucky enjoying their years away. We can't be assessed on something that far out and it's just silly to think that we should be judged by that. What we should be judged by is things that we can deliver in the much shorter-term because you can hold us to account if we don't achieve those commitments and you should. But don't listen to us when we say in 30 to 40 to 50 years time this is what we'll be able to achieve. It's just nonsensical.
KARVELAS: But the question is about setting the target in the first place, and of course you'll be judged, so it's about intention right? Do you intend for a zero net carbon future for this country? Is that your intention?
PATERSON: But Patricia, think about how much technology has evolved over the last 30 years 1990 was 30 years ago, when there were virtually no mobile phones, virtually no one had the Internet and some people had fax machines. If someone had told you then what they would promise the country would achieve, or the government would achieve, by this year, rightly they wouldn't have been taken seriously and think about all the changes happen in that time. The next 30 years are going to be the same again. So don't assess us on meaningless, open-ended commitments over such a long period of time. Hold us to account on things we can actually have a chance to deliver on in the shorter-term.
KARVELAS: So you don't think you can deliver on reducing emissions dramatically, given the science says that you have to?
PATERSON: Let's say that Anthony Albanese wins the next election and has a very long term as Prime Minister. Even he will have no prospect of getting anywhere near close to 2050 as Prime Minister. So, no, he can't deliver on something in 2050. What he could deliver on, if he wins the next election, is something that in 2030, which is much closer, and of course, that's what he's unwilling to commit to an unwilling to say. I think we should be very sceptical of a politician who can't tell you what will happen in 10 years, but can absolutely tell you what should happen in 30 years.
KARVELAS: Stephen, it's a reasonable question that Labor is giving us a test, which is that far away, but can't really outline something on the way there because it's the thing with the zero net emissions you need to be reducing, reducing, reducing to actually make that deadline. I know you've already answered the question in relation to Glasgow, what the world might do and what the Government might do, but isn't it just really a sort of promise that's fairly meaningless without all of the meat on the bone?
JONES: Firstly, we didn't pull this number out of thin air. This is the number that Australia agreed to, that every serious scientist, that every Premier around Australia and all the major companies agree is the number we have to reach by 2050, if we are not going to have catastrophic climate change. So we didn't pull it out him out of the air. We said well, that's the place where I've got to get to,what do we need to do to get there. To James’ point, we do this all the time, we do it in defence policy. We are purchasing defence platforms today, whether they’re submarines, whether they’re fighter aircraft, whether they're frigates, which will have a 20, 30, 40 year life span. We do it when we build a dam. We don't build a dam and say we're building this dam for the needs of the next three years. We do it because we know what the needs are going to be over the next 50 years. If we know what we're going to have to do in 50 years’ time, it's incumbent upon us, it's responsible for us to say Australia, honestly, this is what we have got to do and we've got to get on that path. Otherwise, the rest of the world is going to leave us behind and we will be doing a massive disservice to our kids.
KARVELAS: I just want to talk about the minute's silence at that Parliament observed the issues around family violence, obviously in the wake of this horrendous murder of three children and a woman. There are a broader implications, of course, in terms of this nation's work on reducing domestic violence and taking it seriously. James, I want to start with you. Do you think this issue needs to be treated the same way, for instance, terrorism is treated, that it needs to be elevated a national level and then needs to be bigger investments and law reform?
PATERSON: I think we can pretty safely say, Patricia, that what we have been doing collectively, governments state and federal, Liberal and Labor, over the last few years has not been successful. That's not to discount the best endeavours and best intentions of everyone involved in this policy space, which is very complex and not straightforward. But clearly if women and children are still being killed in their homes by their husbands and fathers, then that's unacceptable and policy needs to change until that's no longer the case. So we should be open-minded to any and all good ideas and suggestions as to how we achieve it and we should take it extremely seriously at the highest levels.
KARVELS: Stephen Jones.
JONES: Firstly, I want to say we saw the best of Parliament in the first 15 minutes of Question Time and probably the worst of Parliament in the hour that followed that. But I think it was a unifying moment. I think the Prime Minister was, very genuinely, expressing the views of the Australian people and certainly the Parliament and Anthony Albanese in his reply. I think this is an opportunity for us to revisit some of the things that have been done over the last six or seven years. Whether it's cuts to legal aid services or cuts to emergency housing services. Not only to restore but understand where we have to take that further because it's one thing to say, we all are abhor family violence, we do, it's also important for us as leaders in this place to lead by example. There's some practical things we can do as well, restoring legal aid services, putting in place emergency housing and other services for people who need to get out of a bad situation and get their life back on track. I think all of those things need to be looked at.
KARVELAS: James, there has been a lot of controversy about Bettina Arndt and whether she should be stripped of her Australia Day honour in the wake of some controversial comments she made online. Some of your colleagues have said she should be stripped of the honour. Of course, it's done independently, but is it your view should be?
PATERSON: I think it's appropriate that the Australia Day Council, which hands out the awards, is considering it and they're doing so on the basis that honourees shouldn't bring the whole process into disrepute. I think that's the right criteria to assess any person against. I don't think generally we should have a political views test for honourees, they come from a wide variety of backgrounds and opinions and perspectives. But if they are becoming a real source of distraction and if the discrediting the awards and I think that need to be looked at very carefully.
KARVELAS: And in her case, is that what she's doing?
PATERSON: I'm not going to pre-empt the Australia Day Council, but I should just say, very clearly, I completely disagree with the sentiment she's expressed about the very tragic death of this young Brisbane family.
KARVELAS: And in that case, we all know they're independent, but your colleagues say and they've written to the Council some of them, and said this should happen. Do you think she should be stripped to the honour, given the importance of this issue and the message that it sends?
PATERSON: Well, most of my colleagues have just asked at the Australia Day Council assess it and I think that's the right thing to do. I don't think politicians should make the call about whether people should or should not receive these awards. They are independent of politics and I think that's a good thing. I'll have great confidence and faith that the Australia Day Council will carefully assess this and make the right decision.
KARVELAS: Stephen Jones, what are your reflections on this?
JONES: As a general point of principle I think James is right. Australia Day Awards have to have the respect and confidence of the Australian people, they should be independent of the political process. Sometimes they just get it so wrong and sometimes the awardee is just so out of step with the Australian values and what ordinary Australian people think about a set of situations that we just got a call it and I'm calling it. She shouldn’t have got the award and the comments that she made, after that terrible tragedy in Queensland a couple of days ago with the murder of a young woman her family, just confirmed my view, it’s totally inappropriate. It should be removed.
KARVELAS: Just before I let you go, some brief comments on coronavirus and of course more developments today in relation to the way Italy is responding, Japan the outbreak there. Clearly this is escalating in other places across the world. First to you James, and you've had some strong comments, Senator, to make about the way China is handling this. Should we be cautious about relaxing bans of people coming from China?
PATERSON: Yes, we should be extremely cautious, Patricia, particularly in light of the news that South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran are suffering quite severe outbreaks. I think the Australian Government should be extremely cautious about any further lifting of restrictions until the medical evidence is very clear that it's safe. I think the Australian people have to be aware that this is about to become, potentially, a very serious, very global pandemic and we will take the best medical advice and take the strongest steps necessary to protect the Australian people.
KARVELAS: What are your reflections Stephen Jones, because clearly there was a small cohort of students who were given an exemption, do you think there should be wider exemptions?
JONES: Point number one, we've got to take the advice of the medical experts and the Chief Medical Officer and our science agencies. On the point of our dealings with China, this is exactly the circumstance in which we need to have good, open, honest and trustful dialogue with our counterparts in China. I don't think megaphone-diplomacy, through politicians such as myself, is going to add to that. If anything, it will detract from it. We need have great relations and honest communications with all of our near neighbours, including China. They've done, I think, a pretty good job of the way they've been dealing with it in country to date and I don't want to say anything that's going to interfere with our ability to respond and respond appropriately.
KARVELAS: Thank you to both of you. Good luck getting through Parliament sitting over the next couple weeks.