SUBJECTS: Gladys Liu, Paris targets
CHRIS KENNY: Alright, that is Michael McCormack the Deputy Prime Minister after our interview with him in the Sky News bureau he went outside – as you saw there in the corridor – he had a nice catch up with Joel Fitzgibbon, Labor’s Agriculture and Resources spokesperson, the two of them realising, I think, that they both lost their tempers a little bit in Parliament yesterday, and so making sure that they got together today, shook hands, slapped each other on the back – maintained their political differences, but showed that they could actually be personable about all that. Here’s that grab from yesterday.
(AUDIO OF QUESTION TIME PLAYS)
Joel Fitzgibbon and Michael McCormack have made up in the corridor outside the Sky News bureau. It’s all happening inside the bureau and outside the bureau in Parliament House Canberra today. Thanks for joining us, Joel Fitzgibbon. After that exchange yesterday it was a good idea just to shake hand, make sure that you’re not always screaming at each other.
JOEL FITZGIBBON: Always a pleasure to join you, Chris, and I don’t know whether Sky deliberately had us booked so close together so that could happen, but I appreciated the opportunity. I’m sure Michael McCormack did, but we had a bit of a stoush in the Parliament yesterday. We are both passionate about rural and regional Australia.
Obviously I’m disappointed about the inadequacies of the Government’s approach to drought, and I do get a bit upset when Ministers stand at the despatch box and spruik what they say they are doing. I don’t know who they are kidding because farmers know they aren’t getting the support they need, but what I just said Michael in the corridor is this – there are too few of us in the Parliament, across the political divide representing regional Australia. That’s pure arithmetic, based on capital city populations, and wherever we can, we need to fight together.
KENNY: Indeed, now I want to get to other issues in a moment, but first up I’ve just been interviewing Michael McCormack largely about the Gladys Liu situation. Now, you speak with some authority in this area because you once lost your front bench spot because of links to Chinese-Australian donors, as I recall. As I put to Michael McCormack, Gladys Liu, sure she gave a clumsy interview when it came to policy issues and Chinese interests, but she was 100 per cent wrong on her links to these Chinese linked organisations, and she corrected that the following day in a statement, surely she’s obliged to turn up in Parliament and explain herself to the Parliament.
FITZGIBBON: Chris I’m sure you’ll just let me, by introduction, make a point – I didn’t resign as Defence Minister because of any Chinese connections. It was about a perception, perception of a breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct over another matter. Now, that was in the days when even a perception of a breach was enough to cause people to do the right thing by their party and move on – something that hasn’t happened in recent years, and the matter that was written about in respect to me and Chinese connections was something settled in my favour in terms of defamation action. So, I just want to make that clear, it had no substance to it whatsoever. And I was very satisfied…
KENNY: I’m glad you did.
FITZGIBBON: And I was very satisfied with the compensation I received as a result of that – although never enough to compensate me fully for the pain I was put through, my family was put through, as a result of those false accusations…
KENNY: Yes. Look, but my point was politically you’re very personally aware of the volatility, the sensitivity, of this particular area. Now, Gladys Liu has got a clear problem here where said one thing one day, and entirely the opposite the next, and my point is that, really as a Member of Parliament, the Parliament is the place that she should go to explain herself.
FITZGIBBON: Well, she absolutely needs to, Chris. Putting out media releases is just simply not enough. People have a general understanding about privilege, and the like rules of the Parliament, but there’s another important side of privilege, and that is to mislead the Parliament itself is a contempt of the Parliament, and if she wants us to take her, her explanations if you like, for what’s been reported then she needs to give that explanation to the body to which she is elected, likewise to give the Australian community the assurance it is looking for, the Prime Minister has to make a statement to the Parliament if, you know, he needs to start defending her if that’s his desire in the Parliament, not just outside the Parliament. So, there’s a really important accountability issue, here, and if she’s not prepared to do this people will start asking the simple question – why not?
KENNY: Joel Fitzgibbon, we’re hearing now that Labor might abandon it’s 45 per cent emission reduction targets by 2030. I heard you outside in the corridor saying Labor should actually just settle on the Paris targets for now, in other words, in step with the Government’s targets.
KENNY: This is something I’ve been arguing all along, so I won’t disagree with you now – do you think that’s where Labor can get to as a policy option?
FITZGIBBON: Well, Chris, I’ve noted we agree on many things, but that’s not quite what I said. The point I made is the Coalition Government signed up to the Paris Agreement. It signed up to committing itself to playing its role, and to keeping temperature below two per cent rising. So, what I’ll say is that Scott Morrison should make good on that commitment – something that he is not doing. I mean, every day he claims he’s on target, but he always refers back to the Kyoto commitment, something he can claim was achieved. He avoids talking about Paris because the reality is that emissions are rising, year on year and have been for the last four years…
KENNY: Sure you want to make sure he keeps that target, but do you think that should be the same target that Labor signs up to in the first instance? Or, another words, get rid of that 45 per cent by 2030 target?
FITZGIBBON: What Labor needs to do is maintain its commitment to Paris, and then over the next couple of years, given that we lost six – you see Chris, this task just got a whole lot harder because we’ve lost this extension period of time under the Coalition Government where we haven’t made the gains. In fact, emissions are on the rise, so the task actually just got harder. So what we need to do is work out how we maintain our commitment to Paris without doing any harm to the economy. That is the outcome we are looking for, and the point I was making in the Parliament yesterday, which is why this was reported today, is that to get there we need to be smart and innovative. And I gave – we obviously need, in part, a market based approach, but we also need to do smart and innovative things along, across the industrial, agriculture and energy sectors. And I gave a very good example of that in the parliament yesterday, carbon capture and storage. Now, we are making slow incremental gains in that space, but in the absence of very clear government guidance and support, we’re not progressing to the extent we should be. We’ve got to make innovation like that part of the equation.
KENNY: Absolutely, Absolutely. When you’re talking about targets, you’re now in direct conflict with your colleague Tanya Plibersek who maintains that Labor should stick with what she calls its ambitious targets.
FITZGIBBON: No, not at all. I mean Labor’s – one of Labor’s core values is to make a commitment to Australia playing a role as a wealthy nation into an international commitment to keeping temperatures low. And that won’t change Chris, we maintain that commitment. But we absolutely maintain our support…
KENNY: Sure, sure, it’s about the target you take to the Australian people at an election. Do you take 45 per cent to 2030? Or do you say, as you seem to be intimating, first up let’s get to the Paris targets of 26 per cent by 2030 and talk about doing more after that.
FITZGIBBON: No, what is important is to take the next eighteen months or more working out how other policies to reduce carbon emissions in the economy can be progressed to sit alongside what might look more like a market-based mechanism. We’ve got plenty of time; the commitment is there Chris. But the commitment is also there to the coal mining industry for example. Our coal mining industry, particularly the export industry, both in thermal and metallurgical coal, is an important one to the Australian economy and we will continue to export coal to our developing neighbours for many, many years to come. So, that’s an important point to be made too. So, we’ll maintain our commitment to Paris, and we will spend the next little while working out what is the most efficient and effective way of getting there and working out how we can reach those targets without doing any harm to our economy. In fact Chris, I believe if we are smart enough, and we think outside the square, we can get there while at the same time benefiting our economy, and again our carbon capture and storage is a good example.
KENNY: Joel Fitzgibbon, thank you for joining us.
FITZGIBBON: A great pleasure Chris.