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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert: AM Agenda Sky News: 28 August 2018: letter from Pacific Island nations re Paris; Liberal leadership; new Cabinet appointments; Tony Abbott

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SUBJECTS: Letter from Pacific Island nations re Paris, Liberal Leadership,

new Cabinet Appointments, Tony Abbott.

KIERAN GILBERT: To Ed Husic now, Labor front bencher. And get your thoughts

Mr. Husic, first of all, if we start with his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Morrison

from Fiji and the Marshall Islands. Basically saying, look, not only stay in Paris, but

how about you focus more on emission reduction. It's a reminder, isn't it, that this is

a massive issue for those Pacific Island nations and at a time when China is

stepping up its presence there as we know and as we've discussed many times.

HUSIC: Absolutely. And in many parts of the world, climate change, its impact on

nations, is seen as a foreign affairs priority. The way in which countries react to it,

the impact that it has on the way that communities are able to survive or thrive is

really important. It's a reminder to us that we do need to act and the type of

squabbling we've seen and the politicisation of the debate needs to end so we can

get some certainty in policy and see us contribute our fair share in terms of

international effort to deal with, you know, one of the biggest issues confronting the


GILBERT: Phillip Coorey reports in the AFR today that, Scott Morrison plans to

stay in Paris. And I guess well, we've spoken about the Pacific ramifications, but a

senior source in the Government has pointed to the trade prospects with the EU, if

you were to pull out of Paris. It’s something that Steve Ciobo, the former Trade

Minister has said to me on this program, that this is a real threat. It's fine to maybe

reduce the focus on emission reduction, as the Government's done, but to then

scrap that treaty would an entirely different step and would obviously have those

trade ramifications as well.

HUSIC: And not a surprising reaction from the EU. I think if Australia did pull out of

its stated commitment, that it had made to the international community on

emissions reductions through the Paris agreement, the rest of the world would start

to question our reliability as a partner, as it were, on the world stage on matters

that the world community thinks need to be prioritised. So, the downstream impact

of that is; why would the EU then take us seriously in trade negotiations? And

seeing the domestic politics enter into larger issues, larger considerations, I think

that's an absolutely and utterly reasonable reaction or response or an expected

response from the other side of the negotiating table.

GILBERT: One of those who was part of that rebellion against the Turnbull

leadership, Angus Taylor, has actually been promoted to cabinet as the Energy

Minister and the Prime Minister and Treasurer, Mr Frydenberg, through their

discussions over the weekend decided to separate the two portfolios and to make

it easier to land some energy policy. Is he going to be a significant figure in this

portfolio given his experience certainly as a business person in the energy space?

He’s certainly well respected among his colleagues, Angus Taylor.

HUSIC: Well, I don't make a habit of complimenting Scott Morrison, but I will

commend him on his sense of humour. I mean when you look at Angus Taylor and

the resistance that he's put up in terms of energy reform, that's one thing to look at

and then see his promotion to this position as Minister for Energy that will need to

negotiate where we head, or actually land an energy policy. The second element

that surprises me is if you look at Angus Taylor’s track record, there's not much to

crow about. I mean, in the digital space where I followed him for quite some time,

there's been wreckage after wreckage. Digital project derailed after another, and

now they're expecting him to land energy policy. Well, good luck with that. So, I

think the sense of humour that Scott Morrison has had is to put him into a massive

policy area where his track record hasn't been that great and where his heart isn’t

in the policy area itself.

GILBERT: When you talk about his heart not being in it, are you saying that he's

not someone who recognizes the need to deal with emission reduction? Certainly,

that's not the indication I get from him. He says he's technology agnostic, as they

say, when it comes to the technology, but he still wants reform done.

HUSIC: When I hear people say that they are technology agnostic or neutral in this

space, it's basically a cover for their anti-renewable stance - generally speaking. If

I'm wrong, he can go out and prove it. But he's been part of that group, that’s

angling or agitating in the Coalition against an emphasis on renewables and this

has held up the landing of energy policy in this country for ages under the

Coalition. People know that renewables are the fastest and most cost effective way

to have a massive injection in terms of energy generation and to improve supply.

The inability to increase supply in this country has been one of the reasons why

power prices have gone through the roof and the fact that Angus Taylor has been

part of the group that's been resisting any sort of stabilisation in energy policy and

now he's the Minister for Energy is a thing in itself to watch.

GILBERT: You have a big focus, of course, in your areas of responsibility on

innovation and the digital economy. The government with its new front bench says

that it is maintaining its, focus in that regard. But you're saying and you have said

over the last 24 hours, that you feel they've dropped the ball on that. What's your

main problem with that?

HUSIC: Well, I think this; I mean, nothing shows you how much the innovation

agenda has slipped off the radar when innovation slips out of the Cabinet under a

coalition. We had a former Prime Minister tell us what an exciting time it was to be

alive and prioritise innovation. Well, we've now seen a humiliating end to those

exciting times in the way that innovation has been treated under this Government,

where they've now elbowed it straight out of Cabinet. It signals a lack of regard or

a failure to acknowledge that finding new ways, smarter ways for business to

operate in this country, new ways to generate jobs in the face of what is going to

have happen with regard to technological change in labour markets. It goes to

show you that the Coalition really doesn't have any regard for this whatsoever. And

it's just a stunning change. Just as it is that they’ve knocked out innovation from

Cabinet, they put small business back in to Cabinet purely to be able to keep and

placate Michaelia Cash who’s got fundamental question marks over her

performance in her last role. So I think it's a really serious issue and the whole

rotation of ministers in this area, their addiction to announcement and their failure

to get anything done. I mean, it's a big problem.

GILBERT: So if you were to win the next election, what's the main priority? You

talk about your gripes in this space, not having enough action, what needs to be

done? What's the main priority here?

HUSIC: Well, certainly we've made sure, and you've got in Kim Carr, an instant

Cabinet Minister in the area of innovation, in my portfolio space of Digital Economy

we’ll be focusing a lot on the area of skills, the fact that we've got massive skill

shortages in the tech arena. And the need to address that and to make sure that

people are on an sustainable employment pathway given the impact of technology

on jobs. I mean, I think at the forefront, the investment in human capital is a priority

for any government in the years ahead when you're looking in this area.

GILBERT: A couple of other broader questions. I want to ask you about the

political opponents you now face in terms of Morrison and Frydenberg, that ‘new

generation’ leadership. It'd be dangerous for Labor to take them to easily wouldn’t

it? I know that they haven't had the bounce. And you know, I think David Crowe on

Twitter said, if this is the honeymoon, I'd hate to see the divorce. But you wouldn't

want to take them to easily though, would you? In the sense that they both

experienced and a hard working politicians and I think it's fair to say with a better

political antenna then the individual they replaced.

HUSIC: Well, I think it's always important that you take, particularly at the national

level, if you're in the political arena, you take your opponent seriously. That's the

first thing. In regards to political antenna, just hasten to point you to the fact that

Scott Morrison has been part and parcel of many of the decisions that have been

disparaged. When you look at the way that people have bagged out the political

focus of the Turnbull government, Scott Morrison was right there in it. I mean, he

was voting for cuts to schools, cuts to hospitals, resisting the Banking Royal

Commission, his fingerprints are all over those things. But having said that, I think

your point's right. You can't take people for granted and they'll be trying to get new

focus. Let's see how it goes.

GILBERT: One person who's not at that swearing in today is Craig Laundy;

deciding not to take a front bench spot, bruised by the events of the last week.

You've been on the other side of these things, they can be tough experiences,

particularly when you're that close to a leader as Mr Laundy was to Malcolm


HUSIC: Well, he'll explain his position, but it does go to show you how deep the

divisions are there. And I think in not having Craig Laundy there, they've missed a

great political talent. But, again, that's something that’s worked out in their arena. I

mean, that was surprising. The other thing that was surprising is this whole thing

that Tony Abbott said yesterday “the era of assassinations is over”. I don't know

what he meant by that, I mean, everyone knew what he was up to. Assassins are

supposed to be stealthy and he's the first assassin who had a Google Maps pin

above his head. Everyone knew where this journey was beginning and ending:

“You have 45 votes until you reach your destination.” I mean, it was just

remarkable to see Tony Abbott out there yesterday saying that this was all done

and dusted and over with. While he is there, and this is the key thing; while Tony

Abbott remains in that party room he will be a constant source of destabilisation

because he prioritises politics over policy. Whenever he can advance his political

interests, he will. And I think this will remain. While it'll dim now, you can imagine it

inflamed at some point down the track when he gets energised and thinks he's got

to intervene. So I think this is a big issue.

GILBERT: Ed Husic I appreciate your time, thanks for that.



Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.