November 08, 2021

DAVID EISENHAUER, HOST: Joining us on the line now, is the Member for Shortland and Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy. Mr Conroy, thank you very much for your time joining us on the local station live from Glasgow today.
EISENHAUER: I'm very well. Thank you for taking time - I realise it's just after half-past nine there were you are, in Glasgow, and fairly late, because you have had some really big days there.
CONROY: Yeah. It's a conference that takes it out of you, that's for sure. The days are long, the weather's cold, and it's pretty intense subject matter.
EISENHAUER: My word! Isn't that the truth. Obviously on the national news services, they've been running stories, and we saw the Prime Minister there. There's been a bit of a distraction from the actual theme there. A lot of people might just realise it's a conference, and people sit around in a big room and listen to speakers all day. It's not quite like that.
CONROY: No, there's sort of three different things going on at the same time. There's the detailed negotiations on, effectively, a new climate treaty, or the implementation of the Paris Climate Treaty. Then there's a giant trade show, effectively, showcasing countries and technologies and ideas. And then the third area, there's a massive amount of events and speeches, and so forth. So, for example, last Friday, while negotiations were going on, Al Gore gave a 90-minute presentation. Then tomorrow, President Barack Obama is giving a big speech, all at the same time as negotiations are bubbling away in the background.
EISENHAUER: One thing I noticed too, looking through some of the social sites of our local politicians, was some of the displays. I mean, we like to call them trade displays, but the eye-catching pavilions, these amazing things that people have put together. And it hasn't been just rushed together. Some of these displays have taken many months of work towards COP26.
CONROY: Yeah, absolutely. The Australian pavilion was showcasing some great Australian technology, particularly the LAVO metal hydrogen battery that includes lots of work from my home region of the Hunter, and MCi carbonate, which is a great company that captures carbon dioxide and stores it in rock and then make brick, effectively, masonry and plaster board out of it. So, great Australian ventures that if we are to combat the climate crisis will be very essential for that.
EISENHAUER: What we're talking there is the creation of jobs in this sector, and the creation of even further manufacturing industries, which leads to kids coming out of school learning new skills and trades, and this is a relatively new area with the field of renewable energy. What are we doing as a government to encourage this do you reckon?
CONROY: Well, I'll try not to be too political, but I think that this government is really missing in action in theory, and this conference has demonstrated it. It's not just about their failure to increase our 2030 targets, making us look poor internationally, it means that we miss out on those economic opportunities we're talking about. Because these companies have said to me that they've got much better markets for their products overseas, they can set up in Europe, and instantly have a ton of customers, because the governments of Europe are taking action on climate change, and therefore there's a demand for these services. So, we need a government that will actually take action on climate change. That will drive the demand for these new technologies that will create hundreds of 1000s of new jobs. Those jobs are real. A lot of them are in manufacturing and they're secure, high-paying jobs, which is exactly the sort of jobs we need in this country.
EISENHAUER: We're seeing - and we're right in the heart of Snowy Hydro territory as you know, of course 2.0 and the big project there, the renewable energy project, that's underway. But that's one of many that in the future could be very, very possible. There's a wind farm creation out here called Jeremiah wind farm, and that's just out the other side of Adjungbilly. These are all renewable technology devices, and they're amazing! The technology is just remarkable. They're going to need people to come along and do these things down the track, when the inventors are all retired and moved on. Kids coming out of school today, particularly as we watch our Year 12s in their final couple of weeks of school, they're looking at jobs into the future. The renewables sector really needs that big push along doesn't it?
CONROY: Absolutely. Worldwide, there are 10s of millions of clean energy jobs right now. Since 2019, there was an extra 500,000 clean energy jobs added around the world, and that's despite, obviously, the big, global COVID recession. So, there's a huge opportunity there, but we need action at the federal level to really help drive the demand. People don't realise for example, that 90 per cent of the world's solar PV cells that you see on people's rooftops are based on technology developed at the University of New South Wales. But Australia didn’t' get the jobs out of that, because unfortunately the Howard government at that time was anti renewable energy. So, we really need a government that can harness the inventiveness of Australian entrepreneurs and scientists but then drive the policies, create the demand for these technologies and that'll lead to the 10s of 1000s of jobs in places like Tumut, the South Coast, my home Hunter region that we desperately need.
EISENHAUER: Your fellow member there, the Member for Eden-Monaro, Kristy McBain, who we speak to each and every fortnight here on the station, echoes the same sentiments. She's in the region at the moment. She'd be listening to us today. She's in the Snowy Valleys region actually, today and tomorrow. We'll be speaking to Kristy tomorrow morning, just after 9 o'clock, listening to her constituents in the region. But one of the big issues we do talk about is the amount of jobs that have been created just for that one example of 2.0 there - over 1000 gigs already in the mountains and more coming along. Dean Lynch, you know Dean Lynch from Snowy, was speaking those last Thursday about the creation of jobs in these areas. Obviously, we're a rural district, we have a big shortage of trees, as Kristy has been talking in Parliament recently about. But these are all renewable projects when you're talking water and solar. I mean, every second house these days has got a solar panel on it. But, as you said, how much of that is staying local? How much of that has been to create more jobs? We talk renewable energy, but in amongst that the renewable job process that comes with that renewable energy?
CONROY: Well, that's exactly right. That's the challenge that we've got, that governments around the country and around the world have failed on. That's why, for example, we've announced a $20 billion Rewiring the Nation fund, to put in place that critical transmission infrastructure to allow Snowy 2.0 to be hooked into the grid, to allow the new wind farms and solar farms. As part of that policy, we're making it a requirement that the new transmission, the new lines, use Australian steel, Australian copper, all Australian materials where possible, that they use Australian labour, paid good Australian wages, they don't use backpackers being exploited. That's an example of a good policy where you join it up, you don't just throw cash at a project. You say, 'that project has to use Australian materials and Australian workers'. Unfortunately, we've got an example that does involve Snowy Hydro where the company is building a new wind farm and they didn't require or didn't provide preference for Australian workers.  That means that jobs are being lost in Victoria at a place called Keppel Prince - a fate we have to avoid in future. If there's a taxpayers' dollars involved, we should be using that to leverage Australian jobs and get more apprentices in the system. I remember the old days when, whether it was Telecom or the Power Commission or the railways, they would train up 10s of 1000s of apprentices. They would just stay there, they flow out to the rest of the economy. The massive investment in renewable energy provides a really good opportunity to repeat those efforts. But, as I said, we need governments with vision and commitment to achieve that.
EISENHAUER: Mr Conroy, when you're travelling home in about a day's time from Glasgow, what's one thing that's going to stand out for you from this particular journey across to Scotland there for this trip?
CONROY: It's that the rest of the world is really doubling down on taking action. Sometimes you hear stories about 'no one else is doing anything, and the rest of the world is sitting on its hands, and Australia's going one out'. We are lagging the rest of the world in global warming and climate action. The commitments that were made at this conference, for the first time, mean that we can keep global warming under two degrees. We need to keep it under one and a half degrees. That's because countries like the United States and the United Kingdom have doubled their targets. They're aiming to reduce their emissions by 50 per cent by 2030. Mr Morrison refused to increase our target from 26 per cent. That will hurt us economically with loss of job opportunities but also potentially facing carbon border tariffs for key exports, whether its minerals, farm products, manufacturing. So, the thing I'm taking away from this entire exercise is that the rest of the world is moving quickly and i's in our own economic interest for us to catch up. At the moment, we're not doing that and that means we lose the opportunity for 10s of 1000s of new jobs.
EISENHAUER: So, on the plus side, there's some exciting prospects, some exciting opportunities if we see them, if we let them through the keeper. We see with the generation projects that are happening around the country, and particularly in our local region here with the new wind farms going in, with 2.0 maybe three, maybe four, they come with their problems. They come with their issues, as we're seeing with land access and the discussions happening with the transmission lines here, which has been discussed quite often, which you'll be very much aware of. But then, you've got to look at the positives, haven't you Pat and you really look forward to those positive stories and those job creations. Let's hope that's the way we move forward - positive thoughts.
CONROY: Absolutely. Change is coming. We've just got to try and shape it and bend it to our will. We just can't bury our heads in the sand. There are huge opportunities, with some compromises, but we've got to shape it. Otherwise, we'll just get left behind.
EISENHAUER: My word. It's coming up to news time, Mr Conroy - anything you'd like to add while we're chatting live from Glasgow this morning?
CONROY: I think my other main message for people is that, unfortunately, Australia's reputation did take a bit of a battering at the conference. Mr Morrison's speech, where he effectively told the assembled world leaders that they weren't going to be able to solve climate change, that they didn’t matter and it’s the scientists working by themselves that will solve this was offensive to the rest of the world, and also wrong. Because it's only when countries work together and take concerted action, that we can solve this climate crisis, which is definitely possible. So, that's the other message I've picked up here is that, unfortunately, Mr Morrison's trip was a bit of a diplomatic disaster, both the Glasgow conference and with the with the French incident. Unfortunately, that's hurt our reputation, and we're going to have to rebuild that trust with other countries. That's not just about being nice and being nice to other countries, it affects us economically. It affects our ability to grow jobs if we don't have trust and good relations with our major allies and trading partners.
EISENHAUER: One thing that struck viewers in Australia was the empty room when our Prime Minister was speaking, that was a bit concerning.
CONROY: Yeah. Other international speakers had audiences. Now, the audiences were spaced out compared to previous COPs because of COVID. But I think symbolically you just have to look at, for example, the photographs of the G20 in Rome, where Mr Morrison was often on his own. This isn't about being superficial. But I think it's fair to say that our reputation has taken a battering over the last week and a half because of actions of Mr Morrison, and that has real world implications. It effects our trading relationships and effects our security relationships, and we need to rebuild trust. Like I said, independent, commentators say this has been the worst international trip by a Prime Minister since the 1930s, were some of the comments. That's not just about me being a Labor politician and sledging Liberals. This is independent people saying this and we need to work together to repair the damage that's been done.
EISENHAUER: Indeed. That working together is a terrific message. Mr Conroy, thank you very much for taking time. I know it's been a massive time that you've had there. A big thank you to your assistant there too, Amanda, who's been wonderful in communications. It's amazing with technology isn't it. We can talk to you at half-past nine, quarter to 10 at night in Glasgow and sitting here in Tumut at, what is it, 10 to nine in the morning it sounds like you're just next door. It's a wonderful thing. Thank you very much for your time.
CONROY: My pleasure David and have a great morning.
EISENHAUER: Indeed, and of course a big thank you to Mr Pat Conroy, Member for Shortland and the Shadow Minister for International Development and Pacific, making his time there available for us here around the region. Very much appreciated to Pat there. Terrific stuff.