Transcript - Television Interview - Sky News - Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Transcript - Television Interview - Sky News - Tuesday, 11 February 2020 Main Image

By Joel Fitzgibbon

11 February 2020

CHRIS KENNY, HOST: Let's duck back down to Canberra now and catch up with Labor's agricultural and resources spokesperson, Joel Fitzgibbon. Thanks for joining us, Joel, you ducked up from a division in the chamber. Tell us what's going on with coal-fired power here? We've had the Nationals and Liberals sort of arguing about it. The government's looking at a proposal for North Queensland. Does Labor support this if it stacks up economically or not?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Well, first let me say, Chris, that the National Party is creating, or trying to create, a fight about something that will never happen. There's no way in the world anyone is going to build a coal-fired generator in Queensland. Queensland already produces almost twice the power it consumes each year, the excess power is typically exported into New South Wales, its capacity in renewables is growing at a rate of knots. I just saw a promotion from Shell Australia, actually, about a 120 megawatt a solar facility in Queensland. So, it's not going to happen, and it certainly can't happen without some form of taxpayer subsidy. And the Labor Party has made it very, very clear. We're not going to have a bar of taxpayers' money being used to bring on a new coal-fired generator.
KENNY: So, it's a decision you don't want to make? Labor, you want to be ambivalent on whether or not you support a coal-fired power station because you just don't want to be confronted with that choice?
FITZGIBBON: And I've said many times, Chris, that if someone comes along with a lazy $3 billion because they've come to the conclusion, unlikely as it is, that they can make a good return over 40 to 50 years, and they believe they can jump the most strict environmental hurdles in the world, then good on them. There's nothing standing in their way, but the Labor Party is not going to use scarce taxpayers' money to make something economically commercial that is not economically commercial.
KENNY: Yeah, I mean, it looks like what they would want is some sort of government indemnity against the carbon price and that's almost impossible to deliver, because you can't control the politics effectively.
FITZGIBBON: Just on that – but that's important, that's important, Chris. Can I just make is an important point on that? The Queensland Nats, in particular Matt Canavan, George Christensen, and the rest, are saying that they want indemnity from a carbon price. But they are the government. So, are they now saying that the government is working on the implementation of a carbon price they want this station to have protection from? I mean, it's counterintuitive.
KENNY: Well no, they are suggesting a future Labor government might do that as it did in the past. But let me move on because I want to ask you still on the climate issue. I want to ask you the question that I asked Matt Thistlethwaite last week, and that is Labor saying that it will take to the next election an emissions reductions policy in Australia that will reduce the bushfire threat in Australia?
FITZGIBBON: Well, first point, of course is we will develop our climate change policy over the course of the next two years or so; we won't be rushed into that. But we certainly will have a meaningful climate change policy and the way Scott Morrison is performing, it's likely, very likely, indeed certain to be, more meaningful policy than anything the current government has thrown up or is likely to throw up into the future. There is no doubt that the bushfires were made worse by very dry and protracted hot conditions. I haven't heard anyone challenge that. And there's plenty science to tell us that those protracted hot and dry conditions are a consequence of changing global climate.
KENNY: Yes, but the point is, are you saying that emissions reductions policies in Australia can have any effect at all on the bushfire season in Australia?
FITZGIBBON: Well, global action on climate change – countries working together and that's why we have a Paris agreement – can hopefully stop the globe from further warming and if we can stop the globe from further warming then we can start to mitigate against the sort of bushfires that we've experienced over the course of this summer.
KENNY: Indeed. But you know as I do the global carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise and rise quite dramatically. So therefore, the question is, can Australian emissions reductions policies reduce our bushfire threat?
FITZGIBBON: And sadly, they've continued to rise in this country over the course of the last six years of this current government. But no, I'm always very willing to say that nothing Australia can do acting alone can save the planet from for the warming, which subsequently would help to mitigate against climate change. But as a wealthy developed nation, we have to do our part. And if we want to preach to others in the international forums about doing more of its big emitters, China, India, even the United States, if we feel they're not doing sufficient, we need to be able to tell them that disappoints us, but it's pretty hard to lecture to others if you're not my making or taking meaningful action yourself. So, that's what we need to do and we need to get on with it. It's not enough just to have a target on carbon reductions. You need to be able to show you have a pathway to achieving them, something Scott Morrison doesn't currently have.
KENNY: So, if you accept that Australian emissions reductions targets cannot affect the bushfire threat in Australia, it's been wrong for Labor politicians and Greens politicians to attempt to blame Scott Morrison and his government for the summer of bush fires?
FITZGIBBON: I think is absolutely right to blame Scott Morrison for not putting Australia in a position to urge other countries to do more because only other countries acting together can make the difference. And of course, there'll be a scientific link between a warming planet and the ferocity of as bushfires.
KENNY: I don't think you'd seriously argue, would you, that if Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard was still Prime Minister that global emissions would be lower than they are now?
FITZGIBBON: I absolutely argue that if Tony Abbott hadn't repealed all of our carbon constraint legislation, that carbon emissions would be lower today than they were back in...
KENNY: In Australia, not globally, not globally, not globally, there'd be no material difference to the climate, right?
FITZGIBBON: Well, it depends on how many countries acted together and how meaningfully they acted. But, if you're asking me whether you can reduce emissions today and expect that to make a difference to global temperatures tomorrow or next week, or even next year, the answer is of course not. But, you know, we've just lost seven years. Chris, we got to start acting sometime because it will make a difference over time. And now we're on the catch-up because Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull, and Tony Abbott before them, have failed to act.
KENNY: Thanks so much for joining us. Minister – Shadow Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.
FITZGIBBON: Minister sounds very nice, Chris.
KENNY: It did apply – it was right once upon a time. Joel Fitzgibbon there, of course, Labor's spokesperson on resources and agriculture.