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Transcript of interview with Patricia Karvelas: ABC RN Drive: 14 August 2018: National Energy Guarantee; Great Barrier Reef Foundation scandal; Fraser Anning's 'final solution' remarks

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SUBJECT/S: National Energy Guarantee; Great Barrier Reef Foundation

scandal; Fraser Anning’s ‘final solution’ remarks.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, JOURNALIST: Chris Bowen, welcome to RN Drive.

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Good to be with back with you Patricia,

good evening.

KARVELAS: Good evening. In the next fortnight the Government will introduce

legislation for an emissions reduction target of 26 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 for

the electricity sector. Well Labor support it?

BOWEN: Well Patricia there are a few points to be made here. Firstly, as you said

the Liberal Party room approved this today. I don’t think Liberal Prime Minister wins

vote in Liberal Party room is really a headline, it didn’t used to be but that’s one very

small step if you like in the process. Now the legislation to actually set up the National

Energy Guarantee will actually be State legislation, the potential framework will have

to go through State Parliaments. We have said consistently that we have been very

constructive about that, we hope there can be a bipartisan the level of support for the

framework. We would encourage that obviously States have to be satisfied, they’ve

got some way to go in the negotiations with the Commonwealth. It’s got to come out

at the other end at COAG indeed effectively any State on the grid has power of veto.

So we’ve got some way to go before that process ends. Now the legislation that

comes before the Federal Parliament won’t actually be about the framework, it will be

about the emissions reduction target.

KARVELAS: Yeah, that’s what I asked you. Will Labor support it?

BOWEN: No, you asked me whether we would vote for the legislation on the NEG.

KARVELAS: No, I asked you very specifically about this 26 per cent target in


BOWEN: Well I’m trying to answer your question Patricia but I’m just stepping it out

for your listeners as to the many moving pieces of legislation which have someway to

go. Now, while we have said that we are supportive of a bipartisan and readily

understood and agreed investment framework because that’s what’s really is going to

get the investment going is an agreed framework and that’s what will be dealt with

primarily in the state legislation, we have also made it crystal clear we are not

impressed with the emissions reduction target that the Commonwealth is proposing,

that the Turnbull Government is proposing.

Now they are proposing an emissions reduction target which is no step forward at all,

in fact is arguably a reduction of 2 per cent over the course of a decade in our

emissions reduction process. They’ve got a reduction target of 26 per cent, we think it

should be 45 per cent. So of course we will be moving amendments to reflect that.

Now that’s got a long way to go. You could ask the Government what would happen if

the Labor Party gets its amendments up, I wouldn’t really expect him to answer that

just at this point.

KARVELAS: But you won’t get your amendments up. How?

BOWEN: Well you might be prepared to predict what happens in this Parliament,


KARVELAS: How would you get your amendments up?

BOWEN: Well we are going to move amendments and we are going to argue for


KARVELAS: Okay but we know the numbers on the floor, the Government has a one

seat majority and if anything…

BOWEN: What about the numbers on the floor in the Senate Patricia? Anything can


KARVELAS: Yeah but it has to come back to the House.

BOWEN: Yeah, well look you know the point I am making to you is that we support a

framework, an investment framework which has got to go through state legislation.

We have been encouraging of that, this is a rare opportunity to try and get this issue

fixed but we are not just going to walk in and vote for a reduction in the emissions

reduction target which is a complete cop out. So of course we are going to move

amendments. Now that process has some way to go. We don’t even know, you said it

would be introduced in the next fortnight, okay well we will see. We haven’t seen the

legislation, we don’t know when it’s going to…

KARVELAS: Yeah but we know what it is all about. In fact it has been detailed, we all

know what it’s about. Labor wants a higher emissions reduction target, as you say 45

per cent, we know that you’ve made that very clear. Why wouldn’t you vote for a 26

per cent cut now and then increase the target if you win Government?

BOWEN: Well you’re asking us not to move amendments in affect which we won’t be


KARVELAS: No, I know you are going to move amendments but if you are

amendments are unsuccessful, are you prepared to support the legislation because

the States including Labor States say they want this to pass the Federal Parliament

for them to actually enact the National Energy Guarantee legislation.

BOWEN: Well we actually think before the legislation gets voted on in the Parliament,

the Federal Parliament there’s someway to go in the COAG process. Now it’s true

that this discussion can be advanced in parallel but we are a long way from that

discussion coming to an end Patricia, a long way.

KARVELAS: But it’s a yes or no proposition. Are you willing to support this?

BOWEN: Well you were asking me to say what the Labor Party would do if our

amendments fail. Well firstly we are going to move our amendments, we will see what

happens and we will have a discussion in our Party room about handling. Now we

have been very, we could have just rejected all this from the beginning. That’s what

we could have done. We could have said no national energy guarantee, not on, no

way. If you look at what Bill Shorten said, Mark Butler said and I have said

consistently we’ve been much more constructive than that. We actually do want to

see a result here.

Now we do have a much more ambitious approached on the Government and we’re

not good just going to fold on our cards and give up like that. But nevertheless if the

COAG process can work and there can be a framework at the end that’s a good

thing. And we will have an argument, will have our argument with the Federal

Government, with the Turnbull Government about the paltry nature of their emissions

reduction target which is a complete copout, it doesn’t achieve anything. We want to

use the National Energy Guarantee If it is actually formulated and legislated to

actually get a decent emissions reduction target.

KARVELAS: If you’re just joining us the Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen is my guest

and our text line is 041827576. The ACT wants an assurance that the NEG

legislation will actually, that the legislation will actually pass the Parliament on these

emissions before they make any deal or agree to the NEG legislation passing their

Parliament. Doesn’t that put pressure on you?

BOWEN: I don’t think that is a fair characterization situation. I think…

KARVELAS: Well I watched the interview with the ACT Chief Minister, that’s what he


BOWEN: No, I’m not saying that’s not what he said I’m saying your characterization

of it putting pressure on us is not something I would agree with. I think this whole

process, in fairness to the Government of course they have to bring n COAG with

them and this whole process is a complicated one. It is not fair to say, it is not

accurate to say in my view that because the States and Territories want to see some

certainty from the Commonwealth and including whether they can deliver numbers on

the floor of the House given a number of them including a former Prime Minister have

indicated they may well cross the floor. I don’t think that is an unreasonable request

from a State or Territory. Other States and Territories have made additional and

different requests for certainty from the Commonwealth, I don’t think that’s

unreasonable. I don’t think that puts pressure on the Labor Party. We will be

consistent, we will be constructive but we will stand by our principles and our

principles have said that we want to have a more ambitious emissions reduction

target, we believe in 45 per cent we have made that crystal clear as you

acknowledged. But we have also said and I do think this needs to be acknowledged

Patricia, we have also said that we are up for bipartisanship to get a proper

framework. I mean we were up for it way before the Government, we supported the

Finkel Reviews’ recommendations, we supported the Chief Scientists


KARVELAS: Well this is what the Prime Minister said today. He said, you know he

quoted this letter from Bill Shorten asking for a bipartisan approach, here is the

bipartisan approach and really a chorus of support now.

BOWEN: Patricia, you have to get the Government…

KARVELAS: A chorus of support isn’t there for the National Energy Guarantee?

BOWEN: And as I stress to you and I have stressed to you several times in this

interview, we support a bipartisan framework, that legislation doesn’t get voted on by

me or any other member of the Federal Parliament.

KARVELAS: No but it does depend on the other legislation. It’s very complicated for

our listeners.

BOWEN: They are linked. I know and I’m doing my best to explain this as coherently

as I can in terms of the link between the two pieces of legislation but the fact of the

matter is the NEG is set up by legislation which will go before the state parliaments.

Not my parliament, not the Parliament I get a vote in. That will be a matter for COAG

and the state parliaments. The emissions reduction target will be voted on by the

Federal Parliament. We have a different view to the Government about the emissions

reduction target. You should expect us to vote for our view. You should expect us to

vote to move those amendments. Now it would be most unusual for a political party to

say ‘we are going to move the amendments it doesn’t matter what happens we are

going to vote for or against one way or the other. That's not how this building works.

KARVELAS: Okay so you're saying after that if you fail with your amendments your

party will consider whether to support the Government's legislated target.

BOWEN: Well we are going to move our amendments and we would be hopeful we

could get them up in at least one house of Parliament. You say it's only the House of

Representatives that count, that's not quite right.

KARVELAS: Well no, that's not quite what I said, you know what I mean and I'm right

on the fact aren't I? You need both houses to agree?

BOWEN: Well you're right that we don't have the numbers in the House of

Representatives but I'm also right in saying that the Government can't get their

legislation through if the houses are in disagreement. If we'd carried the day in the

Senate but not in the House, that is a problem for the Government. They need to

consider, I could say to you Patricia, you should be asking the Government how they

would respond to that circumstance.

KARVELAS: Oh look I would if I had them on. But you're on tonight.

BOWEN: Fair cop, but in fairness I wouldn't expect them to answer that question

because they would say 'oh well that's a hypothetical we are not there yet'. And we

are not there yet.

KARVELAS: And I would tell them I still want an answer.

BOWEN: That's your job.

KARVELAS: I want to go onto another issue. It's been revealed today that donors to

the Great Barrier Reef Foundation were treated to a three night of luxury resort on

Hamilton Island. The Foundation says the cost of the trip was largely covered by

membership fees. What's wrong with that?

BOWEN: Well this whole thing is a scandal, Patricia, the whole thing. From beginning

to end. Now this was a grant of $444 million dollars. I mean we are not talking about

a small grant here. $444 million. The Government says they got a proposal from the

Foundation. We found out under questioning in the House of Representatives

yesterday the proposal came in after the grant was given. I mean this thing stinks.

The Government keeps saying that they chose this organisation because they can

raise funds from the private sector and this so called conference held at this very

swanky resort, was part of that alleged raising of funds when you raise these funds

and then it's part of your membership, you get access to this conference at this

resort. Now this is just one part of it. This is a big problem without the resort or

without the conference. This is a terrible abuse of process, a breach of process.

KARVELAS: Yeah but that's a separate issue, if this -

BOWEN: It's not.

KARVELAS: But if this organisation tries to lure donors by offering them some perk,

is that just a way that -

BOWEN: It's all very cosy. It's all very cosy. The Prime Minister, the Minister, and the

Chairman of the Foundation have a meeting. No public servant is present. It appears

that the Prime Minister and the Minister say 'would you like $444 million' and the

Chairman unsurprisingly says 'oh that would be nice thank you very much'. No tender

process. No opportunity for other people to say what they would use the money for

on the reef. CSIRO totally excluded. James Cook University, totally excluded.

They've now got to go through the Foundation to get any funding. This is a scandal.

There's is an utter lack of process here. Look, we are not talking about $1 million. We

aren't talking about half a million. We are talking about close to half a billion dollars

here. And this is money to be spent over the next, as I understand, six years. And it's

all been transferred in one lot. Where are the milestones? A basic house contract for

$500,000, you get milestones. You don't get the money paid until you've actually

achieved the milestones, until the first storey is up or the second storey is up. This is

giving over the entire lot of money in one go. I mean what happens if the Foundation

doesn't deliver? They've already got the money. I mean this is a breakdown in public


KARVELAS: There is an agreement with the Government about the way that they

spend that money so that's not quite accurate is it?

BOWEN: Well I think it is Patricia. This is an egregious breakdown of the standards

of public administration. This is, I've not seen anything like this with this scale of

money in my time in Parliament.

KARVELAS: Chris Bowen, just finally, a pretty significant and extraordinary, I think

it's fair to describe it as, speech has been delivered. Queensland Senator Fraser

Anning has used his first speech to call for a return to a European Christian based

immigration system, and he's also used the speech and the term the 'final solution' in

reference to calling for a plebiscite about ending non-European immigration.

BOWEN: Well if that's the case Patricia that is utterly unacceptable. Firstly, we have

a non-discriminatory immigration program in Australia and we always should, and

that will always be the case as long as the Labor Party has anything to do with it. If

that term was used, that is an unacceptable, you don't use that term, that is an

unacceptable use of the term. And of course it has connotations and meanings in

history which are deeply offensive to right-minded thinking people, not only in

Australia but across the world. I haven't seen that speech but if that's the case, and

I'm sure it is given that you've put it to me, that is breathtaking and utterly


KARVELAS: And of course that is the sort of speech that will be reported across the


BOWEN: You would expect that it would get world-wide notice and how could you

blame the rest of the world for paying attention.

KARVELAS: How does it reflect on Australia when an elected Senator says

something like this?

BOWEN: I think it reflects on the individual Senator in fairness. It's incumbent on the

rest of us to point out that it does not speak for Australia. It is not a reflection of our

values and perhaps it's an opportunity for everybody engaged in this debate after the

events of the last few weeks on Sky News et cetera, just to reflect on when we are at

in this debate. These are important issues. We can have a debate about immigration,

we can have a debate about population numbers, that's all legitimate. Whether

infrastructure is keeping up. But let's keep in perspective. The success of Australian

multiculturalism, the importance of respect, and an utter rejection of racism in all its

form, which have been a hallmark of Australian politics on a bi-partisan basis,

certainly since the 1970's and embracing of multiculturalism. And anybody who plays

with the fire of those sorts of words and the politics of racism and worse are doing

themselves a disservice and their country a disservice.

KARVELAS: Chris Bowen, many thanks for your time tonight.

BOWEN: Thanks Patricia, nice to talk to you.



Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.