ABC Weekend Breakfast – Quad, climate change, footy

Saturday, 25 September 2021

HOST: Let’s bring in our pollie panel now. We’re joined by Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman and we’re also joined by Labor MP Amanda Rishworth, who is the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Youth. Welcome to both of you. We heard last hour from the Prime Minister, who spoke in Washington after the Quad talks, and he was asked at the press conference afterwards, what was the message that he wanted China to take from these Quad meetings? His answer was that he wanted the Quad to be a partner for China and to largely just to make the region stronger. But, Trent, it is there to counter China’s power, isn’t it?

TRENT ZIMMERMAN, MEMBER FOR NORTH SYDNEY: I think it’s actually multi-faceted in what the Quad is trying to achieve. For example, you saw the focus of this meeting on things like the vaccine rollout, on the transfer of clean energy technology to developing countries. But obviously you also saw a focus on security arrangements, and what the goal of the Quad is to make sure that liberal democracies like ourselves, India, Japan and the United States, are very much focused on supporting the values that we hold dear, and also providing a security framework which ensures that we can meet any challenges that emerge in the region.

HOST: And Amanda, do you think that this was the right approach in signalling a subtle message, if you like, to China?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: I think if we want to look at a region that is prosperous, that’s stable, secure and peaceful, there does need to be a lot of multilateral engagement. The Quad is one example that allows like-minded countries that have an interest in the region, that live in the region, to work together on a whole range of things. There’s obviously also ASEAN, APEC, a number of different regional forums, and Australia needs to be an active participant in those to ensure that we have proper regional engagement. That’s the way that we can ensure that there’s a rules-based order, that there’s prosperity, peace, and security in the region. So, as much engagement with partners as possible is critical.

HOST: So, would you suggest, Amanda, then that it was mission accomplished for Scott Morrison in the last week with talks?

RISHWORTH: I don’t think any of this engagement is mission accomplished. You’ve got to keep working at these relationships and keep building them. So, look, this meeting is an important step. There’s a number of issues that were resolved. I imagine that climate change for our near neighbours is an issue that hasn’t been resolved, when it comes to Australia’s action when it comes to climate change, or “inaction”, as the world perceives it. We need to keep working at these relationships, but we’ve also got to take actions as well. And when it comes to climate change, the first basic action that the government can take here in Australia is commit to that net zero 50 target.

HOST: Climate change was a big focus, Trent Zimmerman, and the Prime Minister even mentioned that there would be this Clean Energy Summit to be held in Australia next year – not a leaders’ summit, but for those involved directly in the technology developments. Combining that with the comments that we had from the Treasurer this week, Josh Frydenberg, on the economic case for net zero by 2050, this seems to be a bit of a turnaround for your party?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, the Prime Minister has been very clear that our goal is obviously to get to net zero emissions, and that’s been his position for some time, and it’s not therefore a question of if, it’s about how we do that. And I think that this type of international engagement is a really important part of that. It’s the type of leadership that Nancy Pelosi referred to, and the Clean Energy Summit next year is a way that Australia can contribute beyond our borders, because we do have really exciting work that’s being done by our scientists and people involved in clean energy technology in Australia. We are the nation that really made accessible solar panels to the world. So, I think it is important that we play that leadership role and share that technology. And one of the challenges the globe faces is making sure that the options that are available to countries like Australia are shared with developing countries so that they can play their part as well. But I very much welcome the focus in these discussions on climate change. It is obviously the critical international issue of our times. And I hope that we can continue to play that positive role, both at Glasgow but going forward within our own region.

HOST: Trent, just staying on those comments from the Treasurer yesterday, saying Australia cannot be left behind on net zero targets and outlining the need for more ambitious targets. It seems that there are members within the party that support it, but in the Coalition, we had Barnaby Joyce come out and say he’s okay with it as long as there’s no economic pain to the agriculture and resources industry. What sort of deal will you need to strike with the Nationals?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, the point I’d make is, firstly, I welcome the Treasurer’s comments yesterday. And the argument that I have been making for some time as a supporter of the 2050 target is that not only is it the right thing to do for the globe, for Australia, because it is such an important issue, but the other flip side of that is that there are both economic opportunities and economic costs if we don’t play our part. The Treasurer talked about the importance of the global capital markets yesterday, and it was a very important point. And the point I’d make to anyone that is a little bit sceptical about this pathway is that sectors like agriculture stand to benefit if we get this right. And that’s why so many farming organisations have backed the 2050 target. So, I would hope that all my colleagues in the Coalition would recognise that this does present extraordinary opportunities for agriculture, and I think one of the things discussed at the Quad in the last 24 hours was obviously the role that Australia can play in the critical minerals supply chain, and those critical minerals are supporting clean energy technology. So, we can still be a country that still has a strong mining sector, but it will move from being one that relies on things like thermal coal to being one that relies on things like lithium powering the batteries that are going to support the clean energy revolution.

HOST: Amanda, Labor has set a target for net zero by 2050. Are you encouraged by not only the Treasurer’s comments yesterday, but also what we’re seeing out of the Quad?

RISHWORTH: I have to say, forgive me for being a little bit sceptical about the Treasurer’s comments. This Government has been in power for eight years. Indeed, Josh Frydenberg was the Energy Minister. He and the Government have failed when it comes to setting a target. This is after all States and Territories have set this target, the National Farmers Federation has backed it in, BCA has backed it in. It’s still just talk from this Government, and we’ve had Keith Pitt overnight, who is a Nationals Minister in the Government, saying he doesn’t support it. So, there is a lot of talk here, a lot of pressure from across the world really coming on to Australia, and we only just have the Government still not committing, still just talking about this. So, look, I hope that we see some action taken in Glasgow. I hope we see that then backed up by a plan about how we get there. But based on the record of this government, based on the record of the Treasurer, and the fact that the Government really ridiculed Labor when we came out to support a net zero target by 2050, I’m not holding my breath when it comes to this Government’s action.

HOST: Just on that, Amanda, does Labor have some work to do in this arena as well? Because you just mentioned that Labor has a net zero target by 2050, but what is the detail in the plan? And where are the medium-term targets?

RISHWORTH: We want to see what the Government signs up to. It’s the Government going to Glasgow, so we’ll see. They haven’t told us what they’re planning to take to Glasgow. But in terms of actions already taken, Labor has already committed to a very big policy of rewiring the nation, to help renewables connect up to the grid. We’ve announced tax incentives to support take-up of electric cars, we’ve announced community batteries. So certainly this has not been an area we haven’t announced policy in. But we will continue up until the election to outline our plan, to outline how we’re going to achieve our program. But the Government is the one, whether we like it or not, going to Glasgow, and I would like to see the outcome of that as we move forward.

HOST: Trent, climate policy agreement has been a sticking point for governments time and time again. What is different this time around? Because it’s one thing to have comments from you or from the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, it’s a very different thing to have agreement within the Coalition Government.

ZIMMERMAN: It’s always been a challenge, that’s certainly the case. But, look, I think that there has been growing recognition that this is going to be a challenge that Australia does have to confront. And it has been the policy of the Government to achieve net zero emissions, I think that is an important starting point. I want to see a target for 2050 that locks that in as a commitment. Obviously, we have our 2030 target. I note that Amanda avoided your question on why Labor’s walked away from having a 2030 target. And we’re seeing a transformation well under way, particularly in the electricity sector, the transformation is just huge. And I’m very proud of the role that every Australian is playing in that. We do see that penetration of solar panels on roofs which is the best in the world, and we are the solar capital of the world, in many ways. And we just need to continue that work. And the point that I make and repeat is that this is not just the right thing to do for the planet, for the future of the planet, but it’s also in our economic interests to do it. Because the silver lining of the climate change cloud is that we do have the technical and technological know-how to really be playing a major role in developing new industries. And that’s why, for example, the Government’s focus on hydrogen is so important, because for communities that might have relied on fossil fuel-based industries in the past, this is a future for them. It is going to be a vibrant future as we continue this transition.

HOST: Well, we know many Australians are passionate about climate change. They’re also pretty passionate about the footy, particularly today. All eyes on the West coast. We’ve got to get your tips before we go. Amanda, are you tipping the Doggies or the Dees?

RISHWORTH: Look, I’m going with the Demons. Since 1964, you’ve got to hope they have a win today.

HOST: The underdog story. Trent?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, I know more about medieval church architecture than AFL. Like a good politician, I consulted my staff, who tell me I should back the Dees, because they’ve been a long time in the wilderness when it comes to a premiership. So I’ll take their advice.

HOST: We’re ending on a point of agreement. I like it. And the honesty is great as well. Thank you both, very much. Amanda Rishworth, Trent Zimmerman, for joining us here on Weekend Breakfast.


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