22 June 2021

LAURA JAYES, HOST: Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, joins us live now from Canberra. Good to see you. Did you miss Barnaby Joyce?

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Well I don’t think the Australian people missed Barnaby Joyce's negative, destructive politics of identity, holding Australian jobs back, holding renewable jobs back in Australia and holding Australia back from committing to net-zero by 2050 – the only developed country not to do so. We should expect him to continue that sort of negative, destructive approach. I'll be pointing out, the Labor Party will be pointing out that that is a betrayal of regional Australia because the world's climate emergency is regional Australia's jobs opportunity and Barnaby Joyce and his ilk are standing in the way of those renewable jobs.

JAYES: Yeah, we see net-zero emission aspiration from the Prime Minister. He had been slowly moving to maybe a target but that was all just speculation, wasn't it? 

BOWEN: Yes, yes it was and very clearly, any vague chance or sniff of a chance there might have been a for any sort of real action there is gone because the National Party didn't change leaders for no reason. They changed leaders because they want to destroy any potential move towards net-zero. Now what is net-zero by 2050? Essentially, Laura, it's an investment framework, it's an encouragement to invest in renewables, in storage, in transmission and most of that investment will occur in rural and regional Australia. That is why the National Party is so out of touch with the people they're meant to represent. The National Farmers Federation gets it, AgForce gets the need for proper climate change action. Regional councils get it. I got a letter yesterday from Wagga Council in Michael McCormack's electorate committing to net-zero by 2050, calling on the Federal Government to do more on social housing renewables just for example. Barnaby Joyce's Armidale Council declared a climate emergency in 2019. This guy is completely out of touch with the opportunities for job creation of sensible climate change policy.

JAYES: Well you mentioned the Farmers’ Federation who have a net zero emissions policy by 2030, I mean, they're ahead of the Labor Party. Are you going to set a 2030 target? 

BOWEN: I've been very clear all along that not only will we be setting out targets in a roadmap towards net-zero, we’ll be announcing the policy levers to achieve it. We started that with our electric vehicles cost policy, with our community batteries policy, our new energy apprenticeships policy, our rebuilding the nation fund with a focus on renewable manufacturing. That's what we've announced so far. We’ve got a lot more to announce. We'll be announcing the mechanisms, the policies and we’ll be announcing the roadmap to 2050. But the essential starting point is net-zero 2050. I mean, that's the essential starting point. That should be the basics, that should be just the bare minimum and this Government is simply not even committed to the most basic minimums of good climate change policy.

JAYES: Sure but we saw when the Government dropped its targets on the vaccine rollout, many on your side said if you don't have targets, you don't have a plan. Labor does need targets towards 2050 because I think what you're talking about this morning is just announcements that would get you there but they're not targets, are they?

BOWEN: Well you need both. You need the policy mechanisms to get there and you need to provide the roadmap to 2050 – as I said to you in an interview before we're not going to, you know, start getting there in 2048 or 2040 or even 2037, we're going to have to start now and we're gonna need very clear roadmap to net-zero by 2050, but you've got to start with net-zero 2050 as the essential starting point. That's the fundamental difference. Every developed country in the world committed to net-zero by 2050. Every state and territory in Australia – Labor and Liberal – and the vast majority local government, all peak business groups, APPEA – the representative of oil and gas, National Farmers’ Federation, all there. All there. Barnaby Joyce, now the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia – way behind and way behind rural Australia.

JAYES: Do you support or does Labor support these carbon border adjustment mechanisms that's been spoken about?

BOWEN: Well that’s not an Australian policy. It's a European policy and it's increasing looking likely to be the policy of more countries. This is my point. There will be a carbon tax in Australia that’ll be imposed not in Australia, but on Australia by other countries. This is another element of the economic cost of the lack of action on climate change which is only going to be made worse by Barnaby Joyce's elevation. It's already very bad under Scott Morrison’s leadership. We're going to miss out on hundreds of thousands of new jobs that can be created by having that investment framework of net-zero by 2050. We know that the vast majority of those new jobs come both in regional Australia and a majority in Queensland. If Barnaby Joyce wants to – you know – says he's good for Queensland, he's bad for Queensland jobs. That's what he's bad for. He's bad for Queensland jobs, he's bad for renewable jobs, he's bad for regional jobs, there's nothing to re-joyce about in relation to Barnaby Joyce’s elevation. 

JAYES: We see some of your colleagues today maybe warning that an election could be really close now, so when are we going to start to see some detail from Labor? When are we going to get some of the meat and the bones when it comes to these interim targets before 2050?

BOWEN: Well you've already started to see policy announcements and whether the election is in November or March, they're still plenty of time for Labor to roll out more policy as we absolutely intend to do including the roadmap to 2050. But as I said the essential point is that you have to know the destination to 2050. You've been very clear about that. The Government doesn't even have that very most basic of destinations.

JAYES: Do you agree that even without a target, we would reach it anyway on this trajectory?

BOWEN: No. No, and it's important to have that investment framework from the Federal Government. I mean, the states – both Labor and Liberal – are doing a good job, but they're filling a void. They're filling a vacant space which should be filled because you need a nationally consistent approach to getting to net-zero there is absolutely no guarantee that without that nationally consistent approach, we’ll get there. It's up to the Federal government to provide national leadership. National leadership which has been so wanting and only an Albanese Government will provide.

JAYES: How much will your already announced policies reduce emissions by? And how much more do you need to do?

BOWEN: Well as I said Laura, it'll be very clear, I'll be announcing a roadmap towards 2050 with what it will look like at various points along the way including our policies, including what those policies will achieve. That is work that is well underway. We started – I mean, there's more climate change policy from the alternative government out there already than there is from the Government of the day. That's not as it should be. And the alternative government has been providing more policy detail. We’ve got more to do. You’ve seen at regular intervals, you’ve seem Anthony Albanese and I standing up and announcing policy, whether it's at Labor's National Conference, at other announcement opportunities – we've been announcing policy – Budget Reply, we had more and you'll just keep seeing more of that from us. 

JAYES: Okay, well we do talk about this a fair bit. And I know in at our last interview, we talked about this roadmap, whether you would have a 2030 target. So will you exactly? 

BOWEN: Well, I'll be outlining at various points, including 2030 and others, what our policy impacts will be on the road to net-zero by 2050. That's more than whoever the Emissions Minister tomorrow will be able to tell you. I'll be able to tell you that on behalf of the Labor Party.

JAYES: I mean you talk about the alternative government Labor having a better climate change policy and target but some argue that that's the problem in the electorate, is that by doing this you are actually isolating many in the regions. Do you buy that? 

BOWEN: No, totally wrong. Totally wrong, Laura. I've been in my time as as Climate Change Shadow Minister, I've spent a lot of time in regional Queensland, I've been the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland, I’ve visited the Yallourn power station, visited the Callide power station, met with the Mayors of the Bowen Basin in regional Queensland about jobs opportunities. Regional Australia understands, sure it's a big task and a big challenge but it is more than anything else a huge opportunity for regional Australia. Those areas which have powered Australia with cheap and reliable energy for so long will be the same areas that will power us into the future and export energy to southeast Asia and beyond if we get the policy settings right. Regional Australia understands that, as I said mayors are leading whether it’s the Mayor of Wagga who's written to me yesterday saying “we’re committed to net-zero by 2050, how about some more federal action on renewables for social housing and rental housing to help us get there?” The mayors are leading and getting it. State governments are leading and getting it. There is a complete vacuum of leadership from the mob in charge of the Federal Government as we speak. 

JAYES: What inspired you to bring that solar panel into Parliament? Scott Morrison?

BOWEN: Sorry Laura, you broke up there.

JAYES: I said what inspired you to take that solar panel into Parliament? Was it Scott Morrison that gave you the idea?

BOWEN: Well, clearly it was a response to his his stunt and you know, renewable energy is not something that the Federal Government should be running from, scared of or afraid of. They are. You saw Keith Pit overriding a wind farm investment in North Queensland because he said it didn't have a battery. It did have a battery but he clearly has a prejudice against renewable energy. There are questions to be answered by Susan Ley and her refusal to approve the Asian Renewable Energy Hub in the Pilbara. Perfectly appropriate for her to work through but there are serious questions to be answered in relation to what is a very major export opportunity for Australia. Again, if she's got good reasons to reject that, I'd like to see them and you know, they'd be respected but this is this is a very important job creating opportunity – a renewable energy hub for the Pilbara and Susan Ley needs to provide more detail about that. We are entitled to conclude this Government is simply prejudiced against renewable energy. 

JAYES: I should have asked her about that but I want to ask you about Rex Patrick's amendment on the fuel security bill. I'm told this is time critical so that two refineries in Queensland and Victoria will stay open do you see it as time critical and will you be supporting it? 

BOWEN: I think I've lost you, Laura, I'm afraid. I'm not getting any sound.

JAYES: That is very disappointing indeed but we will leave Chris Bowen there. We’ll try to pick it up with him later, it's pretty hard to push him on things when he can't hear me.