SUBJECTS: Energy policy, Liddell power station, APVMA relocation, Barnaby Joyce High Court Matter, Barnaby Joyce rumours, Kevin Rudd’s memoir extract.
SKY NEWS KARVELAS
SUNDAY 22 OCTOBER 2017
PATRICIA KARVELAS: We have with us our first guest, Shadow Agriculture Minister and Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Thanks PK, good to be with you.
KARVELAS: There is this new energy policy that you have all been debating now for almost a week. Josh Frydenberg the Energy Minister said it was truly bizarre for Labor to ridicule the new energy policy’s clean saving of $115 per year because the clean energy target led to a saving of only $90. Don’t you want to support the bigger savings? And if this policy provides them, wouldn’t you get behind it?
FITZGIBBON: What is really bizarre Patricia is the way the Government has gone about energy policy. This is the fourth policy in 12 months if you count the proposal to extend the life of Liddell power station in my electorate. That lasted some 24 hours. But we are now I think five days after the announcement of this if you like seminal policy and the Government still can’t give us the detail. They can’t give us any modelling, they can’t give us any of the numbers that will be involved here. So it’s a really strange environment we are in. It is becoming a bit of a joke but I don’t think anyone out there in the electorate is laughing.
KARVELAS: Okay but they will provide you modelling, in fact Josh Frydenberg has said this morning that that is exactly what the Government plans to do and we have some preliminary numbers. The crux of my question is, if that modelling reveals the savings are bigger than they would have been under the Clean Energy Target, will you back this new policy?
FITZGIBBON: Do you mean savings to consumers?
KARVELAS: Yeah that’s right.
FITZGIBBON: Well let’s wait and see. It’s pretty extraordinary that the Government would announce a policy without being able to provide the details. Obviously price is one very heavy consideration, so is reliability. In electorates like mine, so too are jobs. But also important is a just transition to a low carbon economy. Malcolm Turnbull signed up to Paris, he needs to be able to demonstrate a capacity to fill that obligation, so there are many variables here and it’s pretty hard to have a debate or discussion when he’s not prepared to give us the facts. We have demonstrated so many times we are prepared to take a bipartisan approach on this issue, we want a settlement and we want investment flowing into the sector again. You won’t get bipartisanship if you haven’t secured the trust of the Australian people. If you are hiding information from them, then it’s a pretty bad start.
KARVELAS: I don’t think it’s a case of hiding information. I think the information is yet to be delivered and it will be delivered. So is it really a fair criticism to talk about it as if it’s sort of something sinister? It certainly isn’t is it?
FITZGIBBON: You said in your introduction Patricia, it is all about appeasing the rebellious types on his front bench. That’s what this new policy is all about. There has got to be a reason, there has got to be a way of explaining why a Government would announce a policy I think it was on Tuesday and come Sunday still not in a position to give any of the details. That’s a very strange environment we find ourselves in and it’s got to be about numbers in the party room. That’s what this policy is about.
KARVELAS: Wouldn’t this policy make a coal fired power station like Liddell have a potential longer future?
FITZGIBBON: No it doesn’t because Liddell is basically clapped out. Liddell is just about beyond its commercial life. I think those journalists who were invited by AGL to inspect the power generator (inaudible)…
KARVELAS: Sure but doesn’t this policy perhaps change those optics?
FITZGIBBON: No because Liddell would require up to a $900 million injection of funds to keep it going the five years beyond 2022 so nothing in this policy would change that dynamic. There is an inherit conflict in this policy. It is sort of mandating that the retailers buy X amount of base load and therefore putting aside hydro for the moment and gas and coal fired power generation, but at the same time claiming to work on the carbon abatement side. I want to see some details about how that is going to work. You would think in economics 101 if the Government was going to be mandating the purchase of a certain fuel, a more expensive fuel, then it would put upward pressure on price. I am looking forward to seeing these numbers and this modelling. There is a lot of explaining to be done.
KARVELAS: The Energy Minister says it’s possible Labor might agree on the mechanism but propose a more ambitious level of emissions reductions. So you agree on the architecture and you agree in this model but of course you go on an election campaign saying you’d like further cuts to emissions so the level at which you set it is different. Is that where the political context will move?
FITZGIBBON: Consistent with our determination to strike a bipartisan approach. We have been arguing energy policy and carbon policy for too long now. Consistent with that, we are prepared to sit down and look at embracing the model. But it is pretty hard to be prescriptive about that when you don’t really know what they’re architecture and model looks like. We do know, by their own admission, that this is going to slow investment in renewables technology. I think we also know the majority of Australians support greater investment in renewable technologies so that is part of the conversation we have to have. We need an assurance that the architecture Malcolm Turnbull is talking about can deliver our commitment on Paris. There is no point signing the agreement and then not delivering on it.
KARVELAS: Just moving to another big issue that could land this week. If the High Court decision lands to essentially say that Barnaby Joyce the Deputy Prime Minister has been elected without constitutional validity and he has to go to a bi election, what would Labor’s strategy be? How are you going to play that out?
FITZGIBBON: Well first of all, Barnaby Joyce should not have been sitting in the Parliament while waiting for that High Court decision. Basically with all the legal advice and the public commentary, I would be very surprised if the High Court at some point doesn’t declare Barnaby Joyce ineligible to be sitting in the Parliament. We would then go to a bi election and the Labor Party will run hard in that bi election. We will be there to win, we will run hard and will finance our campaign.
KARVELAS: Well it’s pretty unlikely you are going to win in that electorate isn’t it?
FITZGIBBON: We go into these things to win and to state our case, to be in there fighting for those people who in every electorate turn out on polling day to vote for us. We will be there and we will run strongly.
KARVELAS: I know there was a story in the Daily Telegraph about rumours circulating around Barnaby Joyce. Is that fair game in this campaign to talk about so called rumours? I don’t even really know if we know what we are talking about here. Is that appropriate?
FITGIBBON: Well I am certainly not going to run commentary on that Patricia, but I do know Barnaby Joyce is already very heavily distracted obviously by the case in the High Court and spends all of his time fiddling around with his boondoggles, you know, the relocation of the Pesticides Authority to his own electorate, the establishment of this ridiculous Regional Investment Corporation in Orange where of course the National Party had that disastrous election result last year. He spends too much time fiddling around with these boondoggles and not enough time dealing with policies that go to the big picture in agriculture.
KARVELAS: Okay so you think it would be too grubby for people to be using these type of smears in the campaign. Is your message for people not to be playing on those grounds.
FITZGIBBON: I don’t even know what that article is about. It is all fairly vague and cryptic. I will leave other to comment on that. Obviously I prefer to see people’s personal lives left out of the political battleground. Of course I do, but it seems it’s not the world we live in today.
KARVELAS: And back to your pesticides argument. I know you have been getting new evidence on this saying you don’t think that the department needs to move and that it can still be stopped. How can it still be stopped? I know you are against it moving.
FITZGIBBON: Because no soil has been turned in Barnaby Joyce’s electorate in fact the whole thing has been a disaster. This is an authority that does very important work. The farmers can’t get their crop protection for example in a timely way without this authority working efficiently. It can effect exports and can go all the way to the protection of human health. Vets can’t get animal medicines if these things aren’t approved in a timely way. This organisation is full of regulatory scientists and regulatory lawyers who are highly qualified people. You can’t just pick up overnight and since Barnaby Joyce announced he would move the authority to Armidale, people have been leaving the place in droves therefore their workload has been falling through the floor. People can’t get pesticides or veterinarian medicines approved, not in a timely way at least, and if someone doesn’t intervene and do something about this sometime soon, it’s going to have a disastrous impact on the farm sector.
KARVELAS: Just a final question, Kevin Rudd’s book extracts are out. Have you read them?
FITZGIBBON: I saw a little bit in the newspaper, yes Patricia.
KARVELAS: You’re quoted as providing some kind of commentary on whether Mark Latham wanted to put Wayne Swan in as treasurer as a sort of booby trap. Did you really provide that information?
FITZGIBBON: I’m not going to run a commentary of every memoir that comes out nor am I going to challenge anything Kevin says in his book. It was a long time ago and I think I will just let that one pass Patricia.
KARVELAS: Do you need this now? I’m sure there is going to be more, I wait with bated breath for the Bill Shorten parts of the book extracts for instance. Is this what you need right now?
FITZGIBBON: Look I’m not focused on it Patricia. I saw the extract on the weekend and the book will produce what it produces and I have no doubt it will be an expansive overview of Kevin’s time in politics. He has a proud record and is entitled to do it. We will wait and see what he write.
KARVELAS: Joel Fitzgibbon, thanks for your time.
FITZGIBBON: A great pleasure.