Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of interview with Michael Rowland: ABC News Breakfast: 13 July 2017: climate wars; SA battery; gas exploration; vehicle emission standards

Download PDFDownload PDF




SUBJECT/S: Climate Wars, SA Battery, gas exploration, vehicle emission standards.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Now to the issue of climate policy. As state and territory energy leaders prepare to discuss whether to back the Finkel Review, at that COAG meeting tomorrow, the Federal Shadow Climate Change Minister has released a book about the failure of our politicians across the spectrum to find a solution to climate change.

DEL IRANI: The book is called Climate Wars and Shadow Climate Change Minister Mark Butler joins us in the studio now; a very good morning to you.


IRANI: So in this book you are very critical about Australia’s climate change policy. You call it policy paralysis. Tell us about that.

BUTLER: Well that’s right; there really has been a lost decade of policy mistakes and ultimately policy paralysis, which I think has been characterised by a campaign of reckless vandalism in this policy area that has sought to build a case to do nothing, and because of that we are essentially doing nothing.

We’re seeing pollution going up; we’re seeing jobs particularly in renewable energy go backwards. But around the world, the private sector, and other governments are taking action and they are starting to reap the benefits of a shift to a low-carbon economy.

ROWLAND By speaking of the last decade you of course include the Rudd and Gillard governments. We all recall Kevin Rudd calling climate change the greatest morale challenge of our time and then quickly walking away from efforts to deal with it, so everyone is culpable here.

BUTLER: That’s right; I think Kevin has been honest about the mistake he made in dropping the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2010 and not taking it to an election. I think Julia has been honest about the tactical mistakes we made at the time. I also think we are proud of the things we did do in government that were good; a massive expansion in renewable

energy jobs, in rooftop solar for households, and in big renewable energy projects, and we saw carbon pollution come down. I think people must be honest about their role in the last 10 years, and the Labor Party has tried to be honest about that.

IRANI: In this book you also make the case for using less and cleaner energy. What is that case? How do we do this while keeping costs down?

BUTLER: Well in 2015 renewable energy investment around the world was larger than the combined investment in coal, in gas, in hydro, and nuclear. It has just continued to grow all around the world; not just in developed countries, but in China and India as well. It is now the cheapest form of new electricity. It brings jobs, it brings investment and it really positions Australia to be a leader in innovation as well. But particularly for the last three or four years, we’ve been hampered by these continual attacks on the renewable energy industry, while you’ve seen enormous growth elsewhere in the world.

ROWLAND: So how high will this figure into that meeting tomorrow with the Energy Ministers? We have this big battery proposed in South Australia but there are still different points of view from across the spectrum if such a proposal would work.

BUTLER: I think the broad response in industry, and in the community, certainly in my home state of South Australia has been very positive about Elon Musk coming to Australia and building the world’s largest battery.

There is a lot more to do in this area. The storage revolution is proceeding at an incredibly fast pace and it is going to change the way in which we can deploy renewable energy.

As for the meeting tomorrow, I think the Turnbull Government is a bit paralysed by their inability to get something through the Coalition party room. Hopefully that will change in August. We’ve indicated a willingness to sit down with them and finally put in place a bipartisan energy policy framework. As of yet, Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg haven’t got the authority to do that.

IRANI: One of the things that the Federal Government is doing in the lead up to COAG is ramping up pressure on states to basically lift those gas exploration bans. Is that something you agree with?

BUTLER: We think there should be a discussion on responsible onshore development of gas. But waving the Prime Ministerial finger from Canberra is not going to deal with the very significant community unrest you see in New South Wales, in Victoria, and other parts of the country as well. You need to put in place a framework that nurtures community consent to these developments, not simply tries to lecture it, and that has been my criticism of Malcolm Turnbull’s approach to this.

ROWLAND: There is a considerable amount of gas reserves in states like Victoria, and territories like the Northern Territory. If we are talking about all options being on the table, surely these bans should be looked at as the Federal Government is calling for?

BUTLER: The NT is going through a process of a public enquiry headed by a very eminent person. I think they should be allowed to continue to do that; that will be done by the end of this year. Victoria is already an exporter of gas, it already produces more gas then it uses.

ROWLAND: It could do a whole lot more without those gas reserves.

BUTLER: There is still a debate about how much onshore gas there is and how quickly that could be got out of the ground. But as I say, the sort of political attacks from Canberra are not going to help the Andrews Government, or federal governments work through the significant community opposition that you do find in Victoria to those developments. We need to try and nurture a framework that gives the community confidence that these developments can proceed in a way that doesn’t damage their water supply, in particular.

IRANI: There is another policy that has been discussed and that is for stricter fuel emissions on cars. Now Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has come out and said that this is something that he could potentially support. But you’ve got the automotive industry saying, if you’ve got to put these stricter emissions in place it is going to increase significantly the cost of family cars. If that is the case could Labor still support this?

BUTLER: More than three years ago the Government received a report from the Climate Change Authority that simply recommended that Australia bring its emission standards for cars and trucks into line with America. Now 80 per cent of the global car market has these vehicle emission standards.

Australian car rooms sell dirtier versions of global brands, like the Corolla and others, dirtier versions than you legally can buy in the UK, or in North America, or in Europe. This is just silly, we should just get on with putting in place emission standards that mean our car fleet is the same as the car fleet of every other advanced economy.

IRANI: But if these cars cost thousands of dollars more, in a country where we already have got very high energy prices, you’ve got record low wage-growth. How do people afford these lower emission cars?

BUTLER: I don’t understand how the Government has managed to muddle this up. I don’t know what the so-called carbon tax or the carbon penalty on these standards is. That wasn’t the recommendation of the Climate Change Authority; it wasn’t our policy that we took to the last election. It is simply the case of putting standards in place that would lead, we know from experience elsewhere, to very significant fuel savings for Australian consumers.

IRANI: Mark Butler great having you on the show, thank you so much for joining us.

BUTLER: Thank you very much.