23 June 2021

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Well, the energy chaos continues under the Morrison Government. Last night the Senate overruled Angus Taylor's outrageous attempt to take renewables, out of ARENA, to extend ARENA’s remit beyond renewable energy. The giveaway is in the name, the R in ARENA stands for renewables. This move comes after Angus Taylor had previously tried to water down the CFC by legislation and had to withdraw that legislation, we haven’t seen it, because of a National Party revolt. He thought he’d sneak around the Parliament by bringing down a regulation. A regulation that credible lawyers say is and was illegal. Well now, the Parliament has decided. The Parliament has decided that Angus Taylor is wrong. The Parliament has overruled Angus Taylor’s watering down of ARENA’s commitment to renewable energy. This was always wrong. It was probably illegal. It is just the latest attack on ARENA and CEFC by a Government which is prejudiced against renewable energy. A Government which overrides a wind farm, which would have created 250 jobs in North Queensland. A Government which hates renewable jobs in regional Australia.

Meanwhile, we see the chaos continue on net-zero as well. One major newspaper reporting today the National Party's open to net-zero, another saying they're not. Regardless of who's right, this is chaos. Net-zero by 2050 is the basics. It's an investment framework to encourage investment in renewable energy. Not supporting net-zero by 2050 is a betrayal of regional Australia. The world's climate emergency is regional Australia’s jobs opportunity. Barnaby Joyce and the National Party are refusing to take up that opportunity. They are letting down rural and regional Australia. Australia now has a Deputy Prime Minister who’s campaigned against the Liberal and National Government in New South Wales, making his area, a renewable energy zone, to create jobs in regional Australia. 

This is the extent they will go to in their prejudice against renewable energy. It's got to stop. But the climate wars won’t stop while Scott Morrison is Prime Minister, and Barnaby Joyce is Deputy Prime Minister, they will continue this war against renewable energy. The only way we'll get a proper investment framework, a commitment to net-zero by 2050, Australia joining every other developed country in the world who are committed to net-zero by 2050 and encouraging investment in renewable energy is an Albanese Labor Government. These guys just aren’t up to it. Happy to take questions. 

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] 2030 [inaudible]

BOWEN: We have outlined our commitment to net-zero by 2050. I've also outlined very clearly that over the coming period, I'll be outlining the roadmap towards net-zero by 2050, including importantly, the policies to achieve it, which we’ve started to do, and our policies on electric vehicles, on community batteries. We've got more to do, more policies to roll out. And I will outline on behalf of Labor and say very clearly what emissions reductions will be at various points along that road to 2050. We’ll only do so when the work is fully developed and the policies have been announced to show how we’ll achieve that.

JOURNALIST: Could that roadmap be that you will outline what your policies would be and then that will have a prediction based on 2030 and 2035 as to what your policy levers – a prediction as to how much that will lower emissions rather than a firm target, which could then be decided after you if you win the election?

BOWEN: I look forward to you being at the press conference when I announce the roadmap to 2050.

JOURNALIST: Angus Taylor has made the argument this morning that Labor’s decision to vote with the Greens on this issue will cost $192 million worth of investment, 1400 jobs and support for emerging new industries. How do you respond to that?

BOWEN: Angus Taylor doesn’t believe in renewable jobs. Now, if he wants to invest in things like carbon capture and storage he can look at restoring the Labor programs he cut, that the Government cut. If he wants to look at electric vehicles, he can look at adopting Labor’s policy reducing the cost of electric vehicles which combined with policies at state and territory level of both Labor and Liberal governments substantially reduces the cost of EVs with our tariff abolition and our FBT concession. If he’s serious, he can look at those policies. He's tried to undermine the CEFC, he’s tried to undermine ARENA, if he wants to invest in things that aren't renewable energy he can use other mechanisms that aren't ARENA, not taking away the money from ARENA.

JOURNALIST: Since you’ve been in the portfolio, you've gone out to coal power generators and coal mines and you've talked about not demonising coal workers. Mark Vaile has been forced out as Chancellor at the University of Newcastle from the campaign from activist groups simply because he works for coal company. What's your view? Are you disappointed by this campaigning, is it counterproductive to the cause of climate?

BOWEN: I think, Greg, this is a symptom of the climate wars which Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals want to keep going. I don't want to see the climate wars keep going. I want to see a good climate policy and I want all of corporate Australia to be involved in that good corporate policy. Now, I happen to be old fashioned. I believe banks should lend to whom they believe it is responsible to lend to. I don't believe they should be told by Canberra. I believe universities should have Chancellors whom they want to have as Chancellors. I believe people should serve as Chancellors who want to serve as Chancellors of universities. I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of choice and free enterprise,  that's what I believe in. I believe this is a symptom of the climate wars and I believe those who want to perpetuate the climate wars (inaudible) or happen to live in cities. Not taking the opportunity for regional Australia for climate action. They are keeping the climate wars going. They are the ones who think in a cynical calculation they'd benefit politically from the climate wars, and this latest iteration is just the latest development in those climate wars.

JOURNALIST: Does it disappoint you though that obviously – I get the demonisation –

BOWEN: Look, I don't know the details of how Mr Vaile’s resignation came about. I don't know if that was a voluntary decision or how it came about. I'm not aware. I simply say that this sort of action is a continuation of the climate wars which should stop. We should have good climate policy.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] before the election [inaudible].

BOWEN: We'll be outlining our full roadmap towards 2050. It won't be starting in 2048, well before the election.

JOURNALIST: And will it be [inaudible]?


JOURNALIST: On 2030 though, I mean, isn’t there a risk that 2050 [inaudible] –

BOWEN: Well I agree with you, Josh –

JOURNALIST: Well considering that every other country we trade with, every other ally [inaudible] already at 2050 target and climate scientists are saying that we basically have to have a 2030 target to avoid years of irreversible climate change, so we have to follow that more long term goal rather than that far out one?

BOWEN: Josh, I effectively agree with you. Because net-zero by 2050 should not be remarkable. It should be a given. It should be the most basic climate policy. It is everywhere in the world. In Australia it's still contested because the Government doesn't believe in it. Now that is a problem. Yes, we should be talking more about the roadmap towards net-zero not whether we should be at net-zero by 2050. I agree with that but we're not. That's not my choice. It's not Anthony Albanese’s choice. That Scott Morrison’s choice that that's the contest we're having. We’ll continue to keep the pressure on the Government to adopt net-zero by 2050 because that's the essential starting point. Now you're right to say of course we need a strong roadmap to get there. Labor will give Australia a strong roadmap to get to net-zero by 2050. We’ve started outlining our policies. We started announcing those policies since I became the relevant Shadow Minister earlier this year. And we've got more to announce, more to do, including the roadmap towards net-zero by 2050. But until and unless you have that essential finishing line, then you can't agree on how you're going to get to the finishing line. We are the only developed country in the world without that finishing line agreed. And that is Scott Morrison's fault. He’s the Prime Minister of Australia, he's responsible for us being so far behind the game.

JOURNALIST: Shadow Cabinet is off to WA I think it was next week?

BOWEN: Next week. That's the plan. 

JOURNALIST: But obviously the gesturing towards the mining sector [inaudible]. APPEA this morning put out a statement condemning the vote last night in the Senate, saying it's not good for the oil and gas and mineral sector especially the carbon capture storage. So how – what measure [inaudible] – 

BOWEN: Well that’s no surprise Phil because they supported the regulation, they supported it when it was brought down, so it's not surprising they didn’t support it was defeated. I take a different view. And we have a difference of view on that, I believe, as I said, ARENA is for renewable energy. If they want to invest and have Government support for other initiatives, there are other mechanisms that can be explored, including the carbon capture and storage initiatives the Liberal and National Party abolished. On mining and oil and gas, more generally, I've made the point very clearly, Anthony has as well. That actually the transition to a more renewable economy is good for mining. We have half the world's lithium, for example. We want to add more value to that lithium and make more batteries in Australia. We want the world's climate emergency to be Australia jobs opportunity and mining is a very important part of that. And yes, we hope to go to Port Hedland next week, and to engage in that conversation as I've engaged in that conversation in Emerald, in Gladstone and at the Yalluorn power station about the jobs opportunities for areas which have traditionally powered Australia. They are the same areas that will power Australia in the future, in a renewable economy. The areas with the space for renewable energy with access to the ports, the power lines, the railway lines, the access to the export facilities. They are where Australia will continue to be powered from, and there'll be thousands of good jobs created if we get the policy settings right. And they won’t be gotten right under Scott Morrison.

JOURNALIST: This regulation may not have been something Labor would have proposed in Government but it is unlocking funding for electric car infrastructure, it would have unlocked funding for hydrogen, and it would have unlocked funding for carbon capture and storage given that there is – moving forward is always difficult for the Liberals in climate, hasn't Labor just stood in the way of emissions reduction?

BOWEN: It was also almost certainly illegal. It was also almost certainly, it was certainly the case that it extended the remit of ARENA, beyond what ARENA was designed for. This Government has attacked ARENA at every opportunity and the CEFC. We've defended it and will continue to do so. They want to spend money on electric vehicle charging, for example, there's other mechanisms. They want to look at carbon capture storage, they can go back and look at the programs they abolished –

JOURNALIST: That's hard to get –

BOWEN: If Angus Taylor is serious about entering into steps forward, he's always welcome to talk to us. But if he's going to bring down regulations which undermine ARENA, which are probably illegal, he can face the consequences in the Senate as he did last night.

JOURNALIST: Just a question on the legality of it – we know that a Senate scrutiny committee raised questions and Parliamentary Library advice provided to the Greens, suggested there was real doubt. Did Labor seek legal advice on this and what does it mean – we know that ARENA funded $580,000 to Rio Tinto for renewable hydrogen – does that cast doubt over whether or not that grant should be allowed?

BOWEN: I had the same advice from the Parliamentary Library as the Greens did I imagine - that there's a very similar document provided to both of us on our separate requests. I also, saw the views of various environmental groups who had their own legal advice. I think the Smart Energy Council had announced they would launch a legal challenge if the regulation wasn't overruled. I think, at very worst it was arguable that it's illegal and probably worse than that for Angus Taylor. I mean, remembering how we got here - he couldn't bring in legislation because he was facing the same problem as he faced with the CEFC bill which is not facing the ignominy of bringing into the Parliament again. I don't know where it is. I mean is it somewhere in the building? We haven't seen it in Parliament. He said it was a milestone it’s turned into a millstone. We've got this continual climate war under the Government of Liberals versus Nationals, inner city liberals versus Nationals, no consistency and chaos, and now Angus Taylor has brought down a regulation which is almost certainly illegal and it's been overruled correctly. 

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

BOWEN: Well, if Angus Taylor wants to try and change the Acts Interpretation Act, he can try.

JOURNALIST: I mean money is money, it's the [inaudible] the same product. Well, where do you where to put money into CCS via a separate fund or via ARENA [inaudible].

BOWEN: No, that's not true Phil that's not right, because ARENA has a budget. ARENA has got an allocation. If you're taking money out of ARENA to spend on other things, you're spending less money on renewables –

JOURNALIST: But they were putting more money into ARENA –

BOWEN: - for a small number of programs, but they're also expanding the remit beyond renewables to reduce the commitment to renewables which would have meant that people like the University of New South Wales Photovoltaic Centre which relies on ARENA funding for all the good work they do, they basically, you know, reinventing the solar panel. A big part of the cost coming down with solar energy is ARENA’s investments with people like the Photovoltaics Centre at the University of New South Wales, would have been less money going to those sorts of projects. 

JOURNALIST: Do you believe Labor has a better chance of winning the election with Barnaby as Deputy [inaudible]?

BOWEN: I believe Barnaby Joyce is a poor choice for the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. I believe that he is a wrecker. I believe he's a betrayer of regional Australia. I believe that his destructive negative politics will come back to hurt the Coalition, because he is just, at its heart, a wrecker. If they want to put the wrecker second-in-charge, that’s a matter for them. That's a matter for them. And if he wants to run a campaign in central Queensland and other places about his wrecking, bring it on. We'll be there arguing with him. I'll be pointing out the jobs opportunities from renewable energy which he stands against. He's a betrayer of regional Australia. And he'll be held to account by us for that. 

Any other questions? All in all done? Thanks very much.